Three Fixes to Improve the Collection Power Fix

in Splinterlands9 months ago
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:
  1. Implement a metric that measures the value of the playable portion of each player
  2. Impose limits so that low-value collections are not allowed to advance past a certain point
Collateral Damage
Very 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 #1
The 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 #1
Don'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 #2
The 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 #2
Use 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 #3
The 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).
Summary
These three fixes make it so that collection power removes the reward problem (and thereby also reduces the incentive for bad behavior) without heavily annoying that part of the player base that truly wishes to compete rather than being focused upon pillaging Splinterlands for their own private short-term gain (with very little investment and thus very little to lose). This is particularly important because it should suppress much of the anti-SL buzz that is likely to scare away what we need the most (new players).
Postscript 1 - Booster Draft
Though it has little to do with collection power (except by allowing new players to painlessly increase it while getting the full SL experience -- and selling more booster packs to boot), booster draft is one of the most popular formats in Magic:The Gathering. I've been repetitively making the case for Splinterlands Enhancements I: Booster Draft -- and have always received very favorable comments (including a good number where other players have said that they had already tried to push the idea), particularly in the Discord forum. If each card drafted is (only for the duration of the associated tournament) treated as the max level for the league of the tournament, new players can get the full SL experience and get cards (and also increase booster pack sales at the same time).
Postscript 2 - Special Offer
I'm continuing my Special Offer: Double your money back if you try eXode and don't like it. If you are interested, details are at the bottom of my Economics & Rewards in EXODE and Splinterlands post.

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Amazing write-up again @digital-wisdom.

It will be incredible to take advantage of such analysis if (or "once") eXode gets into a difficult strategy about its valuation.

We have no bot system and don't encourage multi-accounts to avoid mixing up player activity and player interest. But no wisdom comes without some first experience.

I like how you are thinking about Splinterlands, and while I can no longer play SL I wish the team the best in managing it's upgrades!

As part of the "collateral damage" group, I disagree with Fix 1.
I don't have leveled up summoners to use my leveled up cards so I could care less about increasing them. It took me months just to get a single copy of all the summoners I wanted in order to feel like I could compete regardless of the scenario. When I go to the market I look for inexpensive summoners first and gold cards second. I need the gold cards to increase my extremely slow DEC gain.

I'm not sure I understand fix 3. What cards would be ineligible for rewards? Would having a single shadow card make the entire team worthless? How would we avoid using these cards? Currently the "no neutral" quest is by far the hardest simply because there isn't a good way to avoid picking a neutral card... Its a reflex to include the chicken after all! ;)

Aside from that I am reserving my judgement until I see what happens after the change. I agree something needs to be done and expect there are better solutions than the collection power fix.

My personal solution would be two fold.

  • Gut the daily quest rewards. Give out 5 rewards regardless of tier to everyone who completes a daily quest.
  • Make bots ineligible for season rewards above a certain level. This has the same impact as trapping them in lower tiers without punishing real people.

Thanks for posting! As usual I look forward to what you share next :)

These are really valuable points to discuss within the community. I hope many people will find this on the trending page of Splintertalk.io and consider throwing in their own thoughts.
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Fix #1 would cut the GF value a lot so I don't see it a good solution as they're already undervalued in many cases, I would implement a limit in the number of matches per season, that way many of the bots will fall down as they're incapable of maintaining a good % of win rate, especially the weaks.

I love the truth bombs in your posts in the past week. I am very interested to see how the month of September plays out for Splinterlands.

Great analysis and suggestions.

I am in the category of having high level decks but not the time to play them regularly, but also too busy to set up rental.

I want Splinterlands to succeed and hope they listen to your suggestions.