This article provides a recap of dfdao’s experience in v 0.6 Round 2 of Dark Forest, including our approach to gameplay and the events that led to our second place finish in the round. At the end, we provide a summary of our key learnings for the round.
Suppose a vast number of civilizations are distributed throughout the universe, on the order of the number of detectable stars. Lots and lots of them. Those civilizations make up the body of a cosmic society. Cosmic sociology is the study of the nature of this supersociety. — Ye Wenjie in The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
There are many parallels between the gameplay structure of Dark Forest and its source text, The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu. Perhaps one of the most compelling correlations is how the game adheres to the Axioms of Cosmic Sociology that the character Ye Wenjie outlines in the first chapter of the text.
Dr. Ye proposes two axioms for the study of cosmic civilizations:
- Survival is the primary need of civilization.
- Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant.
She argues that two other important concepts to keep in mind when developing this theoretical framework will be chains of suspicion and technological explosion.
There are many ways to frame the story of dfdao’s journey in v 0.6 Round 2 of Dark Forest, but constructing a narrative around these axioms is the best way to also convey our thesis for the potential of this game.
Axiom 1: Survival is the Primary Need of Civilization
In the source text, this axiom means that for all civilizations, big and small, striving for survival is inherent to being.
The same is true for those active civilizations in zkga’s Dark Forest. Following this axiom, and drawing from experience in v 0.6 Round 1, we prepared plugins and explored the Round 2 map in advance to set ourselves up for success.
Map exploration prior to round start was made possible due to open source data from a Dark Forest community member. By utilizing Perlin values (deep space, dead space, etc). This meant a Dark Forest pilot could dependably discover spawnable areas. Pilots could then utilize the built-in API to select their spawning planet instead of being randomly assigned a planet, as in previous rounds.
We also leveraged a remote miner to explore large swaths of the galaxy early on in the Round.
Given our top 31 finish in v 0.6 Round 1, the time available to our members for piloting, and the immense talent of our competitors, we set what felt like an ambitious goal of a Top 10 finish for this round.
Axiom 2: Civilization Continuously Grows and Expands, but the Total Matter in the Universe Remains Constant
To expand our civilization, we made use of several open source plug-ins and adapted/developed our own as needed. Some of these are:
- Remote Explore
- DAO Planet Crawler: to support our parallelized client, we modified the existing planet crawler to run with df.move() instead of player phated’s move function. This allowed for parallel transactions and faster moves. This may require a bit of tweaking to optimize in future.
- DAO Generalized move UI: We started building this but did not complete for this round
- Custom Distribute Silver Plugin: This improved on the community Distribute Silver plugin and added some delays to ensure we weren’t making too many moves at once.
- DAO Custom Find Planet: Locates optimal spawn locations.
Some members were working independently on their own civilizations independently from the DAO, and the DAO made use of multiple whitelist keys to spawn in ideal locations near large foundries. For future rounds, we will make more efficient use of whitelist keys by sharing with new individuals who would like to join us all in the Dark Forest.
This concept holds that at any time, a cosmic civilization may experience an extraordinary leap in technological advancement, scaling their capabilities exponentially.
dfdao experienced such an advancement when we realized the extent to which Dark Forest is hackable. Diplomatic relations between players can also be hacked. Of course, we were not the first to make this discovery.
Significantly, a civilization’s potential to achieve a technological explosion means that all civilizations must view each other as a dire threat to their ability to realize Axiom 1: survival. This conflict arose in Round 2 when dfdao began climbing the rankings as a result of our approach to community cultivation.
The shift in our strategy began when a highly-seeded player transferred their empire to us in order to increase the amount of silver our Empire was able to withdraw per hour.
Almost immediately after this tweet, two things happened:
- Other players tweeted at us and DM’d us to ask if they could gift their Empire to our cause.
- We realized that all of the data we needed to figure out how to secure our victory mathematically was available on the blockchain.
We underestimated the appeal that trading or gifting an Empire would have for players who felt they wouldn’t crack top 63 or top 31. Some were eager to be a part of our potential victory, even before we started hinting at a community built around The Remembered.
Of course, we were reaching out to and trying to negotiate with owners of large Empires during this time, but we felt inclined to build a narrative around making dfdao a rallying point for players with smaller empires, who were unlikely to rank highly given the time left in the round.
“Gift us your Empire and you will be Remembered” became our call to action in the final 48 hours. Behind the scenes, what it meant to be “Remembered” was turning into a true verb as we made plans to reward all those who contributed to our victory (more on this later).
Chains of Suspicion
In the Dark Forest, if both Axioms hold true, and a technological explosion is possible for any civilization at any moment in time, chains of suspicion are inevitable, with disastrous consequences. In the source text, The Dark Forest, the chains of suspicion become existential threats to cosmic civilizations because communication across the boundless expanse of space is too time consuming. By the time you check to see if someone is a threat, your civilization has been vaporized. This is, in essence, what is meant by “the Dark Forest.”
This dynamic wasn’t replicated exactly by the top competitors in Round 2 for a few reasons. For one, communication between two beings on Earth can occur instantaneously. Particularly if those beings are a part of the same blockchain gaming community on Twitter or discord. Another reason is that the various civilizations playing Dark Forest did not have to suspect that other civilizations were a threat; the nature of the competition ensured that chains of suspicion were baked into the game.
Due to the open nature of the blockchain, we suspect that our opponent, and the eventual winner of v 0.6 Round 2, was able to do the appropriate calculations and beat us at our own game.
In the final days of the round, ghst_gg was gifted the empires of several top-10 players to exponentially increase the amount of silver he was able to mine per hour. The writing was on the wall hours before the round closed, and despite a lucky mythic artifact that we discovered a couple hours before midnight, we were not able to overcome the deficit.
Key Learnings from v 0.6 Round 2.
As players, our key learnings from Round 2 fall into one of three categories.
The power and enthusiasm of the community being built around darkforest_eth is immense. Leveraging this enthusiasm to expand the impact of the game in the crypto space will be essential to increasing value of time invested in the dark forest. Building goodwill in the community and making strong connections between players will continue to be a fundamental component of gameplay going forward.
Thus far, the game hasn’t incentivized conflict to a high degree. Round 2 did amplify the incentive a bit, as the need to rack up points from high-level foundries grew. Players mobilized plugins and game mechanics to come up with novel ways to steal foundries at optimal times.
dfdao made two attempts to steal high-level foundries using photoid canon/bloom filter combo to capture the planet & quickly mine its artifact. The first attempt was a success. The second attempt was a trap set up by another player who filled the foundry with energy and mined it as our attack traversed space. Mercifully, we only have a screen recording of the successful attempt.
The scoring mechanic from Round 1 was altered to include points per artifact mined in addition to withdrawing silver. In the first days of Round 2, a legendary or mythic artifact was enough to catapult a player up the rankings. This is how dfdao made our initial ascent. On June 30, we climbed from 107th place to 4th.
Eventually, like other high-ranking players, we realized that maximizing our ability to efficiently mine silver would still be the deciding factor in this round. It is at this point we began negotiating with other players to gift us their Empires in order to increase the amount of silver we could mine per hour. Thus, The Remembered was a project initiated based on a mathematical need — rather than burn resources trying to take over surrounding Empires and increase our silver capacity, we opted for diplomacy and peaceful acquisition of Empires.
In the end, we found more mythic artifacts than any other player. If the scoring balance had been adjusted, say, mythic artifacts were worth 40m instead of 20m, we would have claimed victory. Both of these numbers are arbitrary.
There is much to build in preparation for v 0.6 Round 3. We will see you in the Dark Forest.