SplinterGlossary: What is Splinterlands?
Splinterlands is a blockchain-based collectible card game (CCG) running on the Hive blockchain, where users own their in-game digital assets and earn rewards by playing and winning against their opponents, by trading or renting them out.
For players' capability to earn rewards with real value while playing the game, Splinterlands is a play-to-earn type of game.
Splinterlands was launched on May 26th, 2018, as Steem Monsters. This is the official announcement.
At launch, the game was not playable, had no marketplace, had a basic website, and a reduced number of cards in the first edition they launched (Alpha).
But the two co-founders, Matt "Yabapmatt" Rosen and Jesse "Aggroed" Reich benefited from the trust and support of the Web 3.0 community they were part of (called Steem at the time, Hive now), and which looked with great eyes at such an innovative idea.
And so, the game grew and the initial expectations of the co-founders were surpassed. Only a few months later they released a second edition (Beta), a reprint of the cards from the first edition, plus neutral cards, and epic and legendary summoners, for the first time.
One month later the gameplay begins for Splinterlands (the ranked battles system). Shortly after, the daily quests are introduced too (which now have become the daily focus missions).
The game continued with its initial name for almost a year, after which it was rebranded as Splinterlands in April 2019, a protocol-neutral name to easier cater to a wider audience than its native blockchain.
During the summer and fall of 2021, and in a favorable situation with the bull market at its peak, the SPS airdrop in full swing and nothing to buy from the primary market, the growth in the Splinterlands ecosystem exploded.
Everything rose at an exponential rate, from lots of new users joining every day and being active (at one point there were 400k+ MAU), to prices on the secondary markets that went through the roof.
The sentiment was extremely favorable. Everyone seemed involved in the game.
Current Situation (last update: March 2023)
We are currently closing in on the end of Q1 of 2023.
Splinterlands has a number of deadlines ending in Q1 that haven't been released yet:
- surveying for the land expansion
- high-level but detailed whitepaper for land
- SPS delegation (this may have been pushed for Q2)
- closed testing for SoulKeep (significant pack buyers from the presale can participate)
- node validator licenses release for GLS
Of the list of items on the Q1 roadmap that are very likely to be completed in time, maybe the SPS delegation won't make it until the end of Q1, but everything else has been pre-announced and will almost surely be introduced this month.
Overall, it was a very good Q1 for Splinterlands when we judge the roadmap and what was already delivered.
We have likely entered a period of pre-hype period, that will probably culminate with the release of land expansion 2.0 (toward the end of the year, probably). Of course, that is closely correlated with what happens in the crypto market, as a whole.
The original gameplay for Splinterlands was inspired by games like Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone, as the co-founders often mentioned. They also emphasized that they wanted to create a game where the players own their digital assets, as opposed to the traditional games, where they have no value outside the game environment and often they cannot be traded either.
They also wanted the games to finish quickly, so they last a few minutes on average, from searching for an opponent to the results of the fight, going through selecting a deck, and watching the battle (optional).
It is said that the Splinterlands gameplay is easy to understand but difficult to master.
Introduction to the Gameplay
Splinterlands cards are of two types:
Every card has a rarity and a foil type. Based on them, cards have a max level and a total number of base cards (BCX) needed to combine to max level.
A summoner's level determines the maximum level of a monster that can be used with that summoner. A monster can have a higher level, but its level will be capped to the maximum permitted level by the summoner, for the monster's rarity.
That's why it is recommended to upgrade summoners first and follow with monsters next.
For monsters, higher levels improve their stats and abilities.
Base Battle Mechanics
The base battle mechanics revolves around the strategy each player chooses when selecting their deck. Once a deck is submitted, a player cannot intervene anymore (note: that will change when the full gameplay for land and its integration into battles will be released). All they can do is watch the battle unfold.
To submit a valid team, you need exactly 1 summoner and at least 1 monster (up to 6).
The first monster you place on your team (they can be reordered) is called a tank or first position/line.
Everything else goes to the second line, which is called the back line.
Unless the rulesets or the abilities allow for it, Melee attackers only attack from the first position. Similarly, Range attackers do not attack from the first position, unless the rulesets or abilities permit it. Magic monsters can attack from anywhere.
The strategy should take into consideration:
- rulesets of the battle
- active splinters to choose from
- daily focus, unless you want to rise in rating as quickly as possible
- mana cap for the game and the mana costs for each card
- recent history of games played by the opponent
After the decks are submitted by both players and the game starts, its development is in rounds.
Initially, the summoners apply their abilities at the beginning of the game (and some, like Heal, at the beginning of every round).
Then, each card has one turn every round, starting with the quickest and finishing with the slowest. In the Reverse Speed ruleset, slow cards go first.
Splinterlands has a series of similar game modes, based on the same battle mechanics:
Ranked Battle System
The main gameplay of the game (and the first one added) is the Ranked Battle System, where players are grouped in leagues and play against each other on a random selection basis, from the players seeking opponents who are relatively close to their rating.
The second game mode that was introduced was tournaments. There are different types of tournaments and rules by which they are played, but the end goal is the same: be on top to win rewards! And of course, to feel the excitement of winning against better opponents or the disappointment of losing to less competitive ones.
Brawls is the latest game mode that was added, suitable for team play in the guilds.
While the battle mechanics is identical to ranked battles, having specific rules for each fray makes them more similar to tournaments than to ranked battles.
The Brawls are also one of the only places where gladiator cards can be used.
Upcoming Game Mode: Land Expansion
One huge game mode that has nothing in common with the other already existing is represented by the land expansion.
The land expansion is in the early phases of being released, and the associated gameplay won't come in until later on.
It will be practically a separate game, but the products of this land game (items and spells) will influence the existing game modes.
The current situation with the land expansion is this:
- non-card market released (including land plots, totems, titles, etc.)
- claiming land possible in land expansion 0.5
- high-level map of Praetoria added
The next step which is expected in March 2023 is:
- publishing a high-level but detailed whitepaper for land
- surveying land deeds added with land expansion 1.0
- more detailed map?
- starter packages that can be purchased when deeds are surveyed
Other gameplay-related elements
Players can challenge each other without affecting their ratings.
Automated Play (Bots)
Bots represent a necessary evil in a game like Splinterlands.
On one side, they can be used to extract value from the Splinterlands game economy to the detriment of real human players, on the other side they provide round-the-clock opponents to human players, which otherwise would be difficult to achieve. At the same time, most bot farmers provide continuous demand on the rental market.
Historically, bots in Splinterlands were rather basic and played in lower-level leagues. They still exist to this day, but the various updates to the game economy by the Splinterlands team brought some of them down.
Nowadays, there are all kinds of bots present in Splinterlands, playing at every level and being competitive against human players.
Like any other place where there is a benefit to running automation, even if human players don't like it, they have to coexist with these automatically played accounts.
The Splinterlands team is reluctant to set any barriers (other than in specially designed tournaments), based on the possibility of an account being played automatically. The main argument against such a measure is that it would transform them into gatekeepers, which is not what they desire as they design a blockchain game, which theoretically could be developed and maintained in the future without Splinterlands (the company) at the helm if they don't assume a controlling role, but instead, decentralize more and more of the platform (as a first step, SPS node validators, and the SPS DAO).
The other argument against imposing such barriers is that they proved ineffective over time against bots, and they mostly impact the user experience of regular players/users.
Splinterlands has what was described to be a complex game economy, based on 2 primary tokens, SPS and DEC. To them, the VOUCHER tokens were also added. That is on top of credits, which are soulbound assets.
The game economy expands on 4 protocols (Hive, Binance Smart Chain, Ethereum, and WAX), it features several liquidity pools and its tokens are available on multiple platforms.
But Splinterlands is mainly a card game, and for that, there is both a primary market as well as secondary markets.
Not only that but cards can also be rented from the rental market.
Almost all Splinterlands assets (that are not soulbound) have a market of their own, whether they are cards or non-cards. That includes land plots, tracts, or regions. It is to be expected that land plots will have a rental market as well.
As part of the Splinterlands game economy, the inflation or deflation of assets plays an important role. That is now controlled to some degree by Splinterlands, the company, but also by asset holders and their decisions (to buy and open packs, to combine cards, to burn assets).
In time, some of the game economy responsibilities will shift from the company toward the SPS node validators and the SPS DAO Foundation.
Credits can be regarded as the first soulbound asset from the Splinterlands ecosystem.
They can be purchased on the Splinterlands website only via third-party intermediaries like Paypal or other cryptocurrency gateways.
Credits can also be earned in the referral program.
Credits only exist inside the Splinterlands website and they can be used to make purchases from the Shop.
They are valued at 1 USD per 1000 credits.
Splinterlands is designed to have a dual-token game economy, one token relatively stable (DEC) and the other to take over most of the volatility (SPS).
The pair of tokens has yet to function as intended regarding volatility and stability, but many actions have been taken or thought out with this goal in mind.
SPS represents the reward token in the Splinterlands ecosystem, meaning all rewards are paid in SPS, whether for playing the game, providing liquidity, or other types of rewards (rewards for holding different asset types, for example).
SPS is also the governance token of Splinterlands, namely for the SPS DAO through its proposals and for the votes on SPS node validators.
Dark Energy Crystals (DEC)
Unlike SPS which is by design volatile, DEC is slated to have a value of around 1000 DEC per 1 USD. When this design desiderate for DEC will be accomplished, it will become an excellent transactional token for the Splinterlands ecosystem.
A burning mechanism exists to prevent DEC from pumping above its intended value. When the value of DEC goes above 1000 DEC per 1 USD, it becomes profitable to burn 1 USD worth of SPS for 975 DEC, thus reducing the supply of SPS and theoretically making it more valuable and inflating DEC and consequently reducing its price.
If the price of DEC is below the shop value and there is demand for Splinterlands products, this should incentivize purchases because there is a growing discount, the lower the price of DEC goes.
In reality, we have seen that during the bear market demand is not high enough to sustain the shop value for DEC. Actions have been taken to reduce to almost zero the inflation for DEC, other than by burning cards or burning SPS (mainly these two). That theoretically will help in situations when demand is low, once the existing high supply of DEC on the market is reduced considerably.
DEC can be used to:
- buy products from the primary market (from Splinterlands)
- buy and sell cards from the secondary market
- rent cards from the rental market
- upgrade guild buildings
- add to liquidity pools on Hive-Engine, BSC, and Polygon, and earn rewards
- in various sinks on the land expansion
Vouchers were introduced on the presale of the Chaos Legion edition as a way to limit the purchase of new packs to the number of vouchers one had.
The decision was made to keep vouchers after this event and use them for various future promotions.
While initially the distribution of vouchers was limited to SPS stakeholders when SPS node validator licenses were put on sale, vouchers were rewarded to license holders as well.
In time, the number of vouchers in the game economy grew and their value declined. Solutions were searched, but since their role should have been for punctual and not ongoing use cases, continuous inflation would keep growing their numbers.
There was the idea (not materialized as an actual proposal) to reduce the inflation for vouchers.
SplinterTalk Interface (SPT Token)
Hive started out as the only blockchain with blogging support at the core level. In the meantime, its capabilities were found suitable for different other types of dapps, including games.
Since Splinterlands runs on Hive, it is normal that it has some sort of support for its users to blog about the game and their battles and strategies, right?
Well, yes it does! SplinterTalk is an interface developed initially by few of the same developers who are behind Splinterlands. It is linked to both Hive and Hive-Engine, the sidechain to Hive developed by the same team.
While the SplinterTalk interface hasn't been updated in a long time, like most front-ends on Hive, they are interchangeable, for many use cases.
Besides being a front-end, SplinterTalk also has its own Hive-Engine token (SPT) and reward pool that is distributed daily to authors who post using the #spt tag, and curators who upvote their content, respectively.
You should note that the post doesn't need to be created (or curated) via the SplinterTalk interface to share from the reward pool. It can be created from any other Hive front end you prefer (PeakD, Ecency, Hive.Blog, Leofinance, etc.).
Liquidity Pools (LP)
An important part of the Splinterlands economy is represented by the liquidity pools.
Splinterlands has liquidity pools on 3 protocols (Ethereum, BSC, and Hive, via its sidechain, Hive-Engine).
On Uniswap (Ethereum):
On PancakeSwap (BNB Smart Chain):
- (unincentivized by Splinterlands) SPS-BNB
On Hive-Engine (sidechain of Hive):
- others, unincentivized by Splinterlands
All SPS-incentivized LPs can be seen and SPS rewards can be claimed from the in-game interface, on the Pools tab of the SPS Dashboard page.
3rd Party Services and Markets
Secondary markets are a big piece of the Splinterlands economy.
They can either be found on specialized 3rd party applications specialized in Splinterlands (the biggest ones being PeakMonsters and Splex.gg) or on wider markets like Hive-Engine (accessible via different interfaces like Hive-Engine.com, TribalDex, LeoDex, BeeSwap, etc.) and WAX (for example, via Atomic Hub).
The list of websites that offer information or services regarding Splinterlands is way more extensive. For example, one of the services aims to improve the new user experience on Splinterlands by providing entire playing decks to use (NftyArcade.io).
Decentralized Governance and DAO
The plan for decentralized governance and DAO was laid out for the first when the whitepaper of Splintershards (SPS) was made public.
Basically, SPS transactions and decisions involving it will become decentralized.
SPS Node Validators
The software that will make possible the decentralization of the SPS transactions and governance will be known as SPS node validator.
Each of them is an instance of specially designed, open-source software. They were promoted to have the option to be installed on different operating systems and with relatively low hardware requirements, to assure a wider distribution.
The consensus model chosen is DPOS, similar to Hive.
Unlike Hive, incentivization for node validators is combined:
- based on the SPS stakeholders' votes (same as on Hive)
- based on the SPS node validator licenses held
SPS Node Validator Licenses
Licenses for SPS node validators give access to one of the reward pools, for node validators, which is not based on votes from the SPS stakeholders and a good position in the ranking.
While the SPS node validator software is being developed and tested, license owners receive SPS and VOUCHER rewards for holding them.
Although it's too early to see node validators in action, it's been mentioned that license owners will be able to earn rewards after the SPS node validators are launched even if they don't run their own instance of the software.
SPS DAO / Foundation
The SPS whitepaper also mentions the creation of an SPS DAO or SPS Foundation.
Part of the SPS inflation goes to the DAO every month.
The SPS DAO is controlled by the SPS stakeholders via votes on SPS DAO proposals, which are the subject of the following section.
After 65 months from the creation of the SPS token, the SPS inflation stops after which the DAO will become responsible for all SPS rewards in Splinterlands unless the stakeholders decide to create more SPS inflation. SPS was launched in July 2021, so about one and a half years ago at the time of writing this.
SPS DAO Proposals
The way the SPS DAO is governed is through DAO proposals, which can be voted on by SPS stakeholders.
66% of the voting SPS stake needs to vote 'for' a proposal to pass it, but only if at least 10% of the total staked SPS voted on the proposal either for or against it.
The proposals can affect where the DAO's funds are invested, how funds are spent or distributed (and how much), where to spend them, on what, proposals that may influence the priority of developments, and, of course, decisions regarding in-game parameters for the game(s).
Other Games Being Produced by the Same Company
While the company behind the Splinterlands game started with this game and this is their flagship, they started to develop other games too.
They started working on an e-sports platform that will mirror the Splinterlands platform (with some differences, learned from their experiences with Splinterlands).
That platform is called Genesis League Sports. On this platform, they envision a number of games being launched, each with a different partnership. This is the whitepaper for the platform.
The first such partnership was realized with MLSPA, to create the Genesis League Goals game. This is its whitepaper.
A different game genre they have partial involvement to develop is a tower defense game (name decided at SoulKeep) which will run on the Splinterlands platform and was described as a 'game within a game'. Does that mean it will have a connection with Splinterlands? We'll see. Rewards will be in SPS and Splinterlands cards can be staked in towers, so there is this connection, at least.
Elements of Splinterlands History
Here are a few major milestones in the history of Splinterlands:
- 26 May 2018 - Steem Monsters was launched
- July 2018 - p2p market opened
- October 2018 - gameplay starts; shortly after daily quests start
- December 2018 - manual tournaments start
- February 2019 - automatic tournaments start
- March 2019 - card delegation and tokenized packs are launched
- April 2019 - rebranding from Steem Monsters to Splinterlands
- May 2019 - DEC launched
- July 2019 - Guilds launched
- February 2020(!!) - First glimpse into Land expansion
- June 2020 - Splinterlands migrates to Hive
- July 2020 - weekly AMAs with co-founders start (later changed to town hall format)
- November 2020 - stage 1 land presale
- July-November 2021 - incredible Splinterlands growth by almost all metrics
- July 2021 - SPS launched; SPS airdrop starts
- August 2021 - Guild Brawls 2.0 released
- August 2022 - SPS Governance voting is implemented
- October 2022 - First Splinterfest (in Las Vegas)
A more complete list of Splinterlands' history can be found here.