It's up to us

in Splinterlands3 months ago

It's been a few days since my friend and guildmate @azircon wrote this article discussing botting, human scholars, and the future of Splinterlands, and over a month now since I spent time with him in person at Splinterfest and first heard him speak at length on the topics.

For a little background on me, I curiously poked at the game for a day or two in early January 2022, and by the end of the month had fallen so much in love that I'd built a Diamond deck and joined Shield of Glory, then a top 20 guild. I then had some interesting personal life changes, returned to school full-time in June, and decided by July that I just didn't have the time to play any more, but I really wanted to keep my guild seat. Fast forward to now, when my Archmage-run account is placing better than I'd ever fathomed -- 60k DEC in leaderboard rewards in one season is just stupid unheard of for me -- and all I really do in this space now is chase ROI.

Now, if you're like what the fuck, Rogers, how'd you go from falling in love to chasing ROI, I ask myself that every time I log in to see what my SPS balance is. Naturally, we're all here, at least in some part, to leave with some bit of wealth, or to stay and grow ours along with Hive and Splinterlands.

But I remember those first few months, trying to grasp the game in general, freaking out when I was matched against any member from Immortal Gods, just working to understand everything and wanting to take in more, dreaming to someday be half as good as Bubke...

... who's apparently a bot? Wait, what?? Wait, like half or more of IG bots?! AND in tournaments and in brawls, too??? WHAT?? I looked up to these people...

... and now, when someone's like "hey man gg," and I have to be all like, "uhhh naw man, that's an algorithm," and can't even use the school excuse with any honesty, since I know deep down I make way more botting than playing manually...

... and when I do try to play manually, I end up matching against my friends who also bot, and it's (shocker) no fun trying to play against whatever machine learning model is armed with an entire database of matches, rulesets, mana caps, and continuous cycles of constant learning and parameter tuning.

**And for the record, the Archmage guys are hands-down fucking amazing. Don't let anyone tell you different. They've found and reported exploits they could have milked for god knows how long, and
run a transparent business on top of it.

Anyway, so here I am, loving the game, significantly invested in it, but pretty sure even that though I'm earning the most I ever have from it, I am, in my own small way, fucking it. I still don't have the time to play manually with any real consistency, so what to do?

Enter scholars. I only have Archmage billing to go from, but depending on which token tier you have, you pay 15-35% of the total SPS their bot earns you, which I've always found completely fair. They deliver. With scholars, you typically pay 50%. Considering the incessant bitching people have done re: Archmage billing, I imagine most aren't willing to consider a scholar arrangement.

However: a human scholar plays an account containing your delegated cards. The scholar plays in ranked, brawls, tournaments. You are literally employing this scholar, with funds that mean a lot more to the scholar than they do to you. A scholar is also a lot more likely to spread the word about Splinterlands to friends, family, and fellow gamers. I don't pretend to know all the scholars in the ecosystem, but the ones I do know are absolute beasts. They earn their damn livings off this game.

So when you meet my account from now on, please rest assured it's my mopey bum hand-selecting the cards. And maybe if you're unfortunate you'll get a chance to meet a fancy new account rising the ranks in the Aegis of Glory guild, too 😎

But seriously, think about it. If everyone bots, who plays?

If I'd known there were so many bots in this ecosystem, I'd never have stepped foot in, let alone invest what I have.

In the end it's up to us to make the game we want to play.

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I have never used a bot 😜

When I realized that the thought of "going back" felt... well, unthinkable, I knew it was time to reassess where I was heading.

Thanks for sharing! - @azircon

What a story!!

Great article and insight. Thanks for sharing mate!

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I enjoyed your first post and every post from that point onward. From the day I first played the game I enjoyed a personal conversation after win-loss. I love getting a DM, or sending a DM… “like GG, I really messed up that one” or “Dude! You didn’t see that magic led Zaku coming, did you?!”. As you said, these conversations are far and few these days!!

I still remember our first one-on-one virtual conversation!

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I wouldn’t miss these things for anything else!

That was a great night. I was ready to throw in the towel and you were patient and cool as hell. It's funny, another great aspect of the game that's been absent from my life.

You see many of the things we experience here goes well beyond the ‘game’ which is why I am so fond of it. It has always been about the people and that’s why this is our home.

This is spot on! I love talking about battle-picking strategy!

Can you please make a post to simplify this splinterland stuff for me how it all works like I'm so interested in it but Right now I know next to nothing about the whole it and how the system works... please help a friend out

Thanks for sharing

Oh wow, I'd love to. Have you played yet? If so, for how long? Have you ever played a deck-building game before (like Magic the Gathering)?

I got here in January knowing nothing about anything and was so fortunate I met good people who steered me in the right direction.

Azircon has a great point below, though - there are so many great tutorials and videos out there. Bulldog1205, for example, has some fantastic material on YouTube.

I haven't played any of those games.....

And thank God I found you 😊

Aww thanks man, and I got you:

At the most basic level, Splinterlands is just about outfoxing your opponent by playing better cards. The cards, also known as Monsters, fight each other automatically after both players have selected which cards to play, and the cards' attack order is determined by each card's speed and type of attack. There are 3 attack types: melee, ranged, and magic.

Every Monster card belongs to a "Splinter" (or element) with the exception of cards that are 'Neutral.' To even play a Monster card, it first must be summoned. There are a number of special 'Summoner' cards that belong to a single Splinter. For example, the summoner Tarsa is from the Fire Splinter, while the summoner Lorna Shine is from the Life Splinter. Following this example (and keeping in mind I can only play one Summoner per match!), if I select Tarsa as my Summoner, I can then only play Fire Splinter cards or Neutral cards. Alternatively, should I choose Lorna Shine as my Summoner, I would then only be able to play Life Splinter or Neutral cards.

If you choose to progress in the game, play in higher leagues, and level up your cards, you'll also discover that the Monster cards change rapidly, becoming stronger and developing all sorts of interesting abilities. The game itself becomes wildly complicated, crazy challenging, as well as being enormous fun.

If the game still sounds interesting, I'd 100% encourage you to spend some time watching people like Bulldog1205 on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/Bulldog1205) or even spend some time watching the Splinterlands TV streamers - they're all super cool (https://splinterlands.tv/).

I hope this helps!

Incredibly well thanks a whole lot

Please consider using your wonderful observations and intelligence to look around hive blockchain and you will find the answers. Also a simple google search will do the job

Lol. Man, this has been an ongoing debate since day one and I, too, have found myself on both sides of it, and have decided bots bring a lot to the table, both good and bad, but ultimately, I like the devs approach of building in ways that encourage human players natively, rather than having an opinion one way or the other.

As long as bots are used this debate will persist so unless the devs ban bots or finally develop an environment that makes them less competitive I see no need to stress over the morality of it, since it doesn't matter down in the trenches, anyway.

I hear you, but my hunch in all of this man, is that the ongoing debate says that it does matter in the trenches.

It doesn't matter enough for the devs to change their position on it so they must feel like they add some value they'd like to exploit while keeping them in check so they don't eat the game.

The debate is whether or not they are succeeding.

Also, you lucky bastard. My bot drops me a tier every time I try to use it on my main account. :P

I don't disagree, but the devs' approach leads one to 1) git gud 2) bot 3) scholar ... or 4) leave, hence my position and argument (and article title). Based on our time, inclination, and funds, what can we as players choose to do to best position our account to benefit not only ourselves but the game?

I want to invite @willendorfia to this conversation. She recently came into the ecosystem and opened my eyes to how a lot of the changes I hadn't really noticed impact new players.

Point by point...

  1. Get Good
    I presume this means grind your ass off, drop a fortune into building a deck, or a combination of the two. Isn't that the way gaming works in general?

  2. Bot.
    If you're here to play, this is a moot option, and if you're here to farm you should have to drop a small fortune into it. If you want to mine more gold buy better equipment.

  3. Scholar.
    If you're budget doesn't have room to drop a 40 or 50 $$ investment into a crypto mining operation like nothing else currently in existence this is a great option from what I've gathered. I can see why it's not the most awesome because you don't get to keep all rewards, but having a ready to go deck handed to you isn't the worst case scenario

  4. Leave.
    Man, I've said it before and I'll say it again, and again, and again... (and I believe @mattclarke would agree) This isn't just a game. It's an experiment that is currently, as we speak, changing the fundamentals of gaming, work, finance, and governance as we know it. There are plenty of ways to participate without playing the game itself and if one doesn't enjoy it maybe they should play in other arenas within it.

When it comes to bots I feel like that's a part of the experiment. Banning accounts is nothing short of playing whack-a-mole. It's time, energy, and resources wasted with no solid resolution to the problem. I feel like it'll probably come to verified accounts getting incredible benefits over anonymous or bot accounts, to put real players in a different tier with higher rewards, but even that is problematic. I guess what I'm saying is I don't think there's a solution so much as a balance to strike.

Thanks for tagging me in, @sinistry, though I'm not sure how much I can really add to this particular conversation. After all, until reading this post (and the one by azircon that led to it), I didn't even know scholars existed. I will pepper you with questions about that in DM, though. :)

Thus far, I've been in the grindy-grindy class, and it's been extremely difficult. And the only reason it's been difficult rather than discouraging me to the point of quitting the game, is because sinistry has done so much hand-holding. Otherwise, I likely wouldn't have stuck around long enough to even figure out that you cannot advance AT ALL without buying, renting, or having someone delegate cards to you.

It was insanely frustrating those first few days to play game after game, and win multiple times, only to receive 0 reward points each and every time. It should REALLY be made clear to newbies that buying the spellbook gets you nothing on its own. If you don't use the $3 in credits you get on cards (renting or buying), you will never earn a single reward point because playing with starter cards cannot earn RP.

Thanks to sinistry's explanations I understand why this was done (to thwart farming with no investment), but folks who have been in the ecosystem a long time, and didn't have the restriction of earning 0 RP when they came in, don't seem to realize that it is incredibly frustrating to newbs who don't have the benefit of a friend with a huge deck who can afford to loan them a bunch of cards to get started. I know I wouldn't have hung around if I didn't, and I probably would've trash-talked Splinterlands to anyone who would listen, because the onboarding process (as well as the onboarding process for hive in general) has been an absolute nightmare. Add in the disappointment of being unable to advance without going above and beyond the initial investment, and I would've given up long ago.

I don't know if this helps anyone, or even really speaks to the issue at hand (if I ever get enough cards to try a bot, maybe I can form an opinion). But for those of us in the far bottom rungs, bots are the least of our worries.

Hi! Welcome! I'm really glad Sinistry has taken the time to show you around and help you out. I swear, the game needs about 50 volunteer 'ambassadors' or something to help onboard new players.

The new player experience was not fun when I joined in January 2022, not without making a solid investment, and with all of the changes since then I imagine it's pretty miserable now.

According to the team, they are focusing on solidifying the economy before shifting focus to the new player experience. I'm not a business person, but this choice seems to be like picking between eating and drinking when you should do a little of both every day.

I'd encourage you to look at your opponents' names - even just the ones you've recently played. It looks like you might have a bit of a bot problem, too.

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I'm not really sure what I can add here, man, I think we're getting tangential. I never mentioned or have advocated for banning accounts, but since you brought it up, that ties in with point 1, ironically, since in every other gaming platform banning would occur as a response to botting - which is viewed in every other gaming platform as cheating - so why bother 'getting gud' if you're going up against cheaters - why bother even talking about 'governance' if the game underpinning it all is in a broken-ass state for a good portion of the player base - who, in turn, are usually treated with a hefty dose of sarcasm and dismissal ("maybe they should play in other arenas within it") when they speak on the topic.

I didn't mean to come across as sarcastic or dismissive. I was just pointing out that this isn't an average game and it's appeal extends beyond the typical gamer mindset, and crosses into realms that aren't historically associated with gaming.

I just think there's something here for everyone, but that doesn't mean just playing the game is the thing that everyone will be into. There are a lot of fun and profitable ways to engage and if newcomers aren't digging what they're playing with there are options to mix it up.

I'll probably re-read your original post tonight and add more, but I have to get ready for work now and I'd like to think about what exactly we're talking about (or at least what I'm talking about) before I ramble farther.