I've been thinking (and writing) a lot about the hole that Splinterlands has gotten itself into and the necessary "collection power" fix that they are trying to use to get out of it. In previous posts, I've written about Why Collection Power is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Splinterlands and done a detailed examination of the Economics & Rewards in EXODE and Splinterlands in hopes of finding a complete solution. Writing that last post triggered a number of new ideas which I'd like to share now.
Problem Statement:Current economics allow the Splinterlands ecosystem to be flooded with low-level bots which then allows those bots to collect rewards far in excess of their collection cost and what Splinterlands can afford. Worse, this is an economic death spiral as the profits encourages ever more bots to join in the pillaging.
SL Team's Proposed Solution:
- Implement a metric that measures the value of the playable portion of each player
- Impose limits so that low-value collections are not allowed to advance past a certain point
Collateral DamageVery unhappy lower-level players who believe that they are playing well enough to deserve to compete at a higher level higher and gain higher level rewards. This damage is particularly grievous as it is yet another discouragement to new players (which is already SL's "Achilles Heel").
Underlying Error #1The Splinterlands team consistently overvalues investors over players. This is precisely the cause of the current mess. As I started my post yesterday: "People who buy into blockchain games are looking for two things: game-play and an investment. Unfortunately, unless the game design carefully avoids it, the investment aspect can turn into a "Tragedy of the Commons" that destroys game-play (and thus eventually leads to the cratering of the investment)."
This is particularly evident in part 1 of the solution. The next logical counter that bot owners will make in this "Red Queen" race is to expand their collection with gold foil (GF) cards and start joining the GF tournaments for even more rewards -- thus ruining them as well. The GF cards will also increase their collection value sufficiently to be able to bypass many of the new restrictions. Their percentage profit will be less but, I believe, still more than sufficient to encourage the creation and continuation of such game-wrecking bots.
Fix #1Don't count gold cards in the collection power calculation. Real players are likely to want to increase their regular cards to higher levels before going gold so that they get a better play experience. Bots which are solely concerned with profit are going to go the other way.
Underlying Error #2The critical problem really isn't players being able to compete where they shouldn't be competitive. The critical problem is that the rewards they are being given are impossibly unsustainable and the direct cause of the uncompetitive bot flood death spiral.
Fix #2Use the collection power metric to cap reward amounts (or, better yet, give them a fractional multiplier like the DEC Capture Rate) for ranked play. Let players play anywhere they can reach. Once the profit motive is gone, the bots will disappear and players with low-level collections will discover that they truly can't compete at higher levels except due to the rising tide of the bot flood.
With regard to tournament play, there are a lot of options; however, the first question that must be answered is "Are any really low-level collections getting any rewards from the higher league tournaments?". If the answer is no, then just leave the collection power cap in place -- or, indeed, raise it so that it until it just barely doesn't include those who are winning rewards. If the answer is yes, then both reduce reward amounts exactly as they are reduced for ranked play -- but also cap them at a lower level to exclude those who aren't currently getting any money.
Underlying Error #3The Splinterlands team either doesn't realize or doesn't care how much the high dollar value barrier-to-entry and pay-to-play attitude is harming SL. They continually cite maintaining early adopters' (like themselves) investment (long paid off with multiples of profit) and the drain of rewards going to those who don't invest. I agree with both points, but vehemently deny that all of these requirements and desires can't be fulfilled simultaneously with a bit of creative thinking.
Fix #3 (The Super Fix)Implement "shadow cards" that are incapable of receiving rewards. This will make SL more competitive at all levels, yet current players will continue to get the same rewards. It will also serve to brutally suppress those bots who aren't playing with shadow cards in hopes to make a profit. Players interested in the full game-play experience get to experience it at no risk while investors aren't harmed at all (indeed, they are assisted by both additional bot suppression and a much better new user on-ramp).