Bots in Blockchain Games : The sooner it is addressed the better for the Game Ecosystem

in LeoFinance5 months ago

Botting is likely The single most controversial topic when it comes to blockchain games. And mostly in favor of botting are, well...the Botters. Don't take my word for it...go the most successful blockchain game on HIVE so far Splinterlands and ask their thousands of players. The very recent ugliness with a major bot owner is not unknown to anyone who keeps up to date with what's happening around.

But....it's allowed. Speaking strictly by the rules, it is completely legal...but that is not enough to stop either me or thousands of other players on Splinterlands from disliking bots. Same applies to Rabona, except we don't have thousands of players, yet. Soon though! ;)

I don't think I need to go on and address why botting is controversial, but when someone regards botting as the same thing as manual intellect...I think I should address that, especially when it's directed directly at me.

Full Disclosure : I was the one who initiated it :)

But as dada says, if you leave the stage empty, the stage won't stay empty. Someone will take the stage. Rabona is still in the early days and there is already some major dissent regarding bots. But because we are in the early days, there can still be a fix and it was pleasant to see that this one thing we all agreed on.

So when I publicly decided to speak about my dissent towards bots created by Emre (very good bots by the way...quite strong so no doubt about the good work there), he gave the following explanation :

here is a good summary:

- simplifylife exploits the formation mechanic and wins championships. (checks opponents' formation from blockchain then sets a counter-formation just before the game)

- emrebeyler codes a bot doing the same thing.

- emrebeyler wins championships

- simplifylife is mad at the game and quits 

So basically he just falsely accused me of exploiting, without doing his proper research or without even understanding what he was saying because only a little bit of common sense into thinking would be enough as to why his logic is wrong. But it was pretty, pretty late last nigh so I'll give him a pass on that for now, I guess. But I will address the issues and clarify my stand here.

1

emrebeyler codes a bot doing the same thing.

Yes, I change formation in the last minute in "certain specific" (coming back to this in point number 2) matches and even in doing so, I HAVE NO IDEA what my opponent is doing at the same time. In changing formations what I am doing is simply speculating on what my opponent MIGHT be doing. The fact is I HAVE NO IDEA what they are doing and there is no way in hell to find out exactly what they did until AFTER THE MATCH IS ALREADY DONE because the explorer shows transactions 1 minute after the transaction has been completed.

Now ask yourself, does this apply to your bot?
a. Your bot know EXACTLY what the opponent is doing
b. Your bot knows IMMEDIATELY what the opponent is doing

So to conclude to your point quoted above, Not the same thing!

2

simplifylife exploits the formation mechanic and wins championships.

checks opponents' formation from blockchain then sets a counter-formation just before the game

I change formation last minute in "some" games against "specific" players. Why? Because I know for a fact these specific teams have done it to me in the past and continue to do so. There are 3 players specifically (besides the bot) who I need to watch my back against...the fact that at some point these 3 players owned 8 out of the 16 LoC teams is none of my business. One of the 3 is actually a very good friend of mine and we enjoy our little tussles before the games...and after the game we will go and congratulate the one who came out on top.

Knowing someone is poisoning my water and not drinking the anti-venom is stupid, no? You have not been in the LoC for as long as I have been. So before you go on and accuse me of EXPLOITING something, I'd say go do your research...read up on ALL my matches since season 4 (That's when I have started playing the LoC) and then tell me if I am EXPLOITING or simply staying cautious and RESPONDING to having my ass handed to me by these last minute changes by certain teams in the first place.

Again, not saying the teams that have changed formations in the last minute has done anything out of the rules, just saying I will keep watching my back in those certain games. If ALL teams comes to a general consensus that we will not do these last minute changes anymore, I will stop along with them...EVEN IF IT STAYS ALLOWED. I don't need rules to tell me what is right.

The rules are not always right :))

I have enough experience in my small medical career when rules have often gone against my ethics regarding what is best for my patients. So pardon me for not being a Rule book Fanboy :))

3

Similar to how you don't see yourself posting your scoreline as bragging, I also didn't see me as attacking you. Now that I have slept over it and think of it now, I was rude in my approach. I apologize for the way I said stuff last night. I'll never stop admitting my mistakes when it's pointed out correctly. So attacking you...? Yes, my mistake. Exploiting the game...? Never in hell!


As things calmed down a bit later on, Emre made some really good points. I'm quoting them here :

If I won't bot it, somebody else will bot it.
maybe there are already more people

we're in early stages
if bots are a problem, let's solve it
it's better to solve it early then 1 year later

We understand the game DEVs are a bit overworked at the moment and are focused more on getting the tournaments out at the moment. But as Emre said, this is an issue that needs to fixed sooner than later. We all enjoy the game and I'm sure none of us wants to be in the middle of a Splinterlands-like showdown on Rabona. We have clear examples of what can happen if not addressed soon, we need to all agree on learning from the mistakes and try to find a solution if there is one...or to at least limit Bot advantage to a fair extent to the point that it is not a cause of dissent among the users.

The major issue this season

So one thing that needs fixing straightaway is the formation submission time discrepancy. There have been multiple occasions where the bot's team submission at a given time was accepted but players who submitted manually....their submissions didn't count. This is the major beginning point of discontentment among the players. Emre's teams has botted for a few seasons now...but the issue has become a big problem this season only because of this discrepancy in formation submitting time.

Exploring further options

Once the time issue gets fixed, that will give the game devs a breathing space to think about further options for a linger term solution. Else the complains regarding this will keep flooding in. we understand Tim is a bit busy with his life right now, but we hope once he gets the time to, this will be the first thing on his to-do list.

Further options that has been suggested

  • Not Revealing formations before match
  • Removing/decreasing Formation advantage
  • Different formation submitting times for home and away teams

There are certain Pros and Cons of all which continues to be discussed in excruciating details over at the Rabona Discord. One this I was thinking was whether adding a Captcha for submitting teams could be a solution. I have no idea really if that is feasible.

But while we explore further solutions, the issue at hand needs to be addressed ASAP.


P.S. : A lot of these have been discussed on discord..but I think these are important discussions that should stay on chain rather than on discord.

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I see some good discussion here and I talked to @simplifylife about this and also to @emrebeyler about his great bot work - a role model, if i would have the skills I probably would do the same.

Here only comes my soccer heart in place and that i am not a a guy that wants to lose, especially not in soccer :-).

I totally appreciate we have an open discussion on that one as it shows we are more than just the folks in LoC that are interested to make this game successful - I will comment with a bit more thinking tomorrow.

I agree, and I also like to have an open discussion about this. I feel this is good both for the publicity and the balance of mechanics of the game. Blockchain games will have bots, that's a fact. There is not enough players otherwise. It is important to have control over them and make sure, that they do not have any special advantage. I am not personally as invested in the game as many of you. But I had situations were the bot did something that was not in the rulebook. We discussed it, and hopefully solved it. That is the way it should happen.

Yes absolutely, open discussions are essential. The game is still new and no one has a clear idea yet as to what direction we are headed. The DEVs sure have a road map planned...but there will be hiccups and it is essential that the players are incorporated in the decision making. This is what I really like about Tim and Oli that they have always been open to suggestions from the players.

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First of all, thank you to everybody for the controversial yet insightful discussion.
My view on bots is relatively simple: I think they are not good for a game in the long run, but I would not want to use technics such as captcha etc which would require users to use the official UI. This would be against the spirit of a blockchain game.
At the moment, there is a problem in the sense that a bot has an unfair advantage as it can react in the last second - which is difficult to achieve manually - and also very inconvenient, especially during night time.
When I designed Rabona I thought about bots quite a bit - and I actually did think about this here as well. My initial idea was that it can be changed when it becomes an issue - and this is clearly what has happened now.
I think the solution going forward will go in the following direction:
The formation is no longer sent in an unencrypted way but instead will be sent encrypted with a nonce. This nonce will be added to the transaction son - encrypted with the public key of the game.
The backend will then decrypt the formation and save it.
When the game is played, the game details will include the nonce so that everybody can check that the formation was valid.
I think this should work well, even though it involves some other problems such as the API, which needs to output the formation also in an encrypted way.
Overall, this might take a little while, but I am sure that we will get this problem sorted.

Thank you @rondras , I think this is a great initiative!

Yes, completely understand your stand on why you don't want to take a hard anti-bot route. Bots will continue to exist in blockchain games....so as long as it's a fair playing ground for everyone, I think it's all cool!

We gotta come together from time to time to talk about controversial topics ;) It's an essential step in moving forward.

Well, playing Rock-Paper-Scissors via posting moves in plain text on blockchain is a bad idea.
Having a RPS element in the blockchain game is fine, but you should implement it carefully.
Devs underestimated it and learnt the hard way. There will be a fix. Sounds standard to me.

Drama is not created by bots. Drama is created when people that have a personal sets of rules/guidelines are sour about other people not following them.

Fortunately, the game is not centered around drama and the discord is cool 29 days a month.

Drama is not created by bots. Drama is created when people that have a personal sets of rules/guidelines are sour about other people not following them.

If you bothered to read the post you would know that "existence" of bots is not the issue, neither is my standard of what is right or wrong. Quoting myself :

There have been multiple occasions where the bot's team submission at a given time was accepted but players who submitted manually....their submissions didn't count.

This is from a comment I wrote earlier.

For example a match starts at 8:16:03. If the bot submits a team at 8:16:06 or even upto 09 seconds, it gets accepted. For humans it didn't count.

If the same times were accepted for both the bots and manual submission, it's all fine. I'm not stupid. Bots will exist.

And the remaining of the issues is between Emre and I on a personal level, nothing to do anything else.

I do not think you need to insult people that bother to comment on your posts.

Not insulting...but the "personal standard and getting sour" seemed like a clear jab at me. If not, apologies.

I might be guilty of the same approach, thinking the consensus among Rabona veterans would be I read too much, so that is why it felt like a cheap shot.

As for my post, I was bashing the practice of turning Open Beta gameplay into personal issues. Your reply insisted on doing it with Emre, which is fine, I am not involved. I cannot tell if my stance bothers you or not, I am not involved either.

Jab at you? I do not know. It is a comment on something you do, but others do it too. I do it by definition because I cannot prevent anyone from being offended by my post. You draw the line.

The reason I was bashing it under this post is basically lack of other opportunities as I have been in the spotlight on previous RBN-related occasions. No intention to pick on you.

Honestly, I adressed people standing outside. I left feedback for the devs at the appropriate place and any direct feedback for the protagonists felt unsolicited. Hope this clears it up.

See Jelly, I had this discussion with you previously and I remember this very, very vividly that I cleared up that my personal moral standards does not have to "make" you do anything as long as the thing is allowed. Multi accounting is allowed, botting is allowed. Period.

I have not for one single time asked you "Hey jelly, stop multi accounting." Yes, I don't like it...but I don't understand why that would concern you. Similarly botting is allowed and I have not for once to emre "Hey emre, stop botting." Yes, I don't like it too.

But guess what! Last time I checked, having moral standards is also allowed. You may not like it, but it's allowed. So similar to how you may not like something that is allowed, I and everyone else too is allowed to not like something that is allowed.

We are all adults and we can all have our personal POVs, no need to go calling people sour and stuff unless I'm specifically telling you stop doing something that is allowed but doesn't match my moral standards.

So this is why it felt like a jab.

But if you say this is not something personal and just a misunderstanding, I am going to take your word for it. You are a valuable member of the community and despite having our differences (which is 100% fine, no one is same), we should establish mutual respect and the end goal is the same for everyone....advancement of the game and the blockchain in general.

Cheers.

We discussed stuff in a quiet corner of Discord. I am glad you made Rabona appear on the Hive trending page again. When you take your play to the big stage you cannot ask the rest of the cast to stay home.

But guess what! Last time I checked, having moral standards is also allowed. You may not like it, but it's allowed. So similar to how you may not like something that is allowed, I and everyone else too is allowed to not like something that is allowed.

This is not the way to estabilish mutual respect, so I am fine with my current strategy of keeping distance.

Fine by me if you wanna keep distance, I can respect your choice but this was not how you keep distance :

Drama is not created by bots. Drama is created when people that have a personal sets of rules/guidelines are sour about other people not following them.

This is a thought provoking post, doc. I think it reaches out beyond Rabona to most blockchain games. I think we both agree that blockchain games WILL have bots. This is simply because, there is not enough human players. This is a fact.

That being said, we saw what mis used of bots can do to Splinterlands, and how it was handled, I would argue quite effectively. Any game runs of balance of rules, and proper distribution of in-game wealth.

I think our cumulative suggestions will address this problem in a effective way. From my point of view, I see a lot of blockchain players/developers do not have a long term vision. This is an endemic problem. It should be our constant effort to think about the greater good of the blockchain. We need to make any/all games more appealing to the masses, so that people play more. People use more, enjoy more and use this blockchain as much as possible.

Absolutely dada. There will be bots and that's fine. Even splinterlands still has bots but see how the complains about bots has gone down to zero. That should be the ideal balance....bots can and will exist, without any "unfair" advantage. Bots will have certain advantages, that's a given, but as long as it's not unfair we don't really have any problem.

Even regarding the issue at hand, rabona, there has been botting for a while now and it's an issue only now because of the unfarness in the timing. Once that gets fixed, I'm sure we'll move forward.

Splinterlands is indeed set the standard and showed a resilient way to handle bots, there's lessons to be taken from there.

From my point of view, I see a lot of blockchain players/developers do not have a long term vision

This needs fixing and the way is to stop looking at blockchain games as "money making games." I know it's hard to ignore that when there's an opportunity to make money, but playing for the fun of playing is healthier for any ecosystem.

a. Your bot know EXACTLY what the opponent is doing
b. Your bot knows IMMEDIATELY what the opponent is doing

If a bot could know this then a human relying on a better tool than the explorer could know the same thing, right?

Right, only there is no better tool than explorer.

Secondly, transactions on the hive blockchain takes 6 seconds to broadcast, the bots responds within 3 seconds. So no matter what better tool is created the bot keeps getting the 3 second advantage.

there is no better tool than explorer.

But there is. A bot.

To be fair, I don't have anything vested in this controversy — but from a distance it seems like this is inherent in the structure of the game, and I think that's the point @emrebeyler was getting at in your summary. Even if there were some off-point nuances I think the gist of his argument holds.

Except where a game is specifically designed to exclude it (e.g. Captcha), automated play will just make sense.

In the long run I predict we're going to have plenty of both types of games (or leagues within games), based on humans with different definitions of fun.

No, his argument doesn't hold.

Yes, what he is doing is legal. No, what he is doing is not the same as doing it manually. You'd have to play the game yourself to understand. If not, you're just making a statement based on assumption without testing the actual fact. That is a dangerous thing to do and ignites further controversy.

But there is. A bot.

As I've stated clearly, bots being allowed doesn't stop me hating it...that's my moral stand. So this logic will not move me from my moral stand. But I see your point.

I think that's the point @emrebeyler was getting at in your summary.

He was just angry (rightfully so) for me attacking him personally and just wanted to accuse me of something, which is false. Again,, not something you can fairly judge from a distance :)

EDIT:

Except where a game is specifically designed to exclude it (e.g. Captcha), automated play will just make sense.

Automated play was not the problem. As stated clearly in the post, the problem began this season only where the bot was being able to submit teams after the match has begun but humans were not. That is UNFAIR.

For example a match starts at 8:16:03. If the bot submits a team at 8:16:06 or even upto 09 seconds, it gets accepted. For humans it didn't count. We have tons of evidence on the blockchain itself. I'd give you a few screenshots, but I'm busy at the moment.

if a bot can submit after a game has started, so can a human. it is a blockchain game. maybe cutoff times need to be adjusted a bit, but that doesn't seem to be a botting problem.

if a bot can submit after a game has started, so can a human

That should have been the ideal case, but because that didn't happen, it was annoying to most users. I can personally confirm you it happened to me twice. One time my team was not accepted at 09 seconds but the bot's was in the right next or a few games later.

Just a day before the final day of the season the bot submitted at 06 seconds which counted and it didn't count for me at 06 seconds which in the end turned out to be the title decider. So that is UNFAIR. All the evidence is on the chain.

So basically he just falsely accused me of exploiting, without doing his proper research

This is not a false accusation. The initial version of the bot was not reactive, and I saw you beat me by changing your formation in the last minutes before the cutoff time. So you were the inspiration for my bot's latest version.

I really don't want to get into this bots vs humans drama. So, I'd be happy if you don't mention my name in future posts.

This is not a false accusation.

On second thought, let's keep things civil. if you say that you didn't exploit the game like this, I would like to believe in you. Sorry about the misinterpretation on my side, maybe I don't remember it well.

Cheers.

I really don't want to get into this bots vs humans drama. So, I'd be happy if you don't mention my name in future posts.

Fair enough.

Just curious because I have started Rabona recently and do see alot of bots there. They are ok to do because you can do them?
And secondly when we all watch football in real life, changing formations to counter an opponents one is not exploiting. It's strategy.
I don't like bots being in the game because its not a human being pitting themselves with me. I actually don't like the immersion factor of it.
I like the game mind you. It slow but in depth enough for me to bounce in and out of.

They are ok to do because you can do them?

Right, botting is allowed not only in Rabona...but essentially in every blockchain game. Bots can not essentially be banned because then that goes against consensus of the chain.

I don't like bots being in the game because its not a human being pitting themselves with me.

Well there are a lot of reasons a lot of us do not like bots, but it is allowed and can not be banned. So they will stay which is fine and we all accept it. The only thing the game needs to ensure is that the bot is not getting unfair advantages like being able to submit teams after the allocated time.

I think Splinterland's favoured bot (not like that they ignored it and it become a problem.) They are happy that human player always have someone to play. They are becoming number of dapp also as it do not measure the bot transaction versus human transaction.

But Rabona do not need bots like SL team needed ( as rabona is not real time game) but can we avoid them?

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but can we avoid them?

No we can't avoid them. Bots will always be there. But we can surely try to make sure that it's a fair playing ground for everyone, bots, humans. As long as that is ensured, bots can exist just like human players.

The devs are trying to find solutions, so let's hope they can come up with something that will only take the game forward.