The VP Monthly #3: Oct.-Nov. 2018
This month’s update will be slightly longer than our usual updates as we will be providing an update on our development roadmap and timeline to launch.
When we built out our final development schedule last year, we had three overriding concerns (above and beyond building the world’s best place to play poker online). We knew we needed to build a network that ensured that players’ funds were secure and that financial transactions were transparent. We needed a system that allowed players to feel that the games they were playing were fair and safe, with a system for generating and encrypting cards that ensured that no one could cheat. And we needed a system that could operate at speeds rivaling our competition. As we built out our team and developed the groundwork for building our new network, we focused on the hardest of these problems — the first two. The third, performance, we knew would be the most challenging because we are working with new innovative technology that has not been used in production systems previously.
We learned early in the process that we needed to optimize our system to limit blockchain transactions on Ethereum, both for cost and performance reasons. As currently implemented, transactions are submitted to the Ethereum network for each hand that is played on the platform. The submission process by players is asynchronous with the gameplay, meaning that players can move on to the next hand before the previous hand is verified on-chain. This is a great performance solution as it allows the game to be played at speed, but unfortunately is too costly for us to deploy to a production environment for real money gameplay, as players would have to pay fees as high as $0.50 a hand. This cost is clearly too high for a viable online poker product.
In addition, the current state of the Ethereum blockchain allows it to process about 20 transactions per second. While gameplay itself would not be affected, Virtue Poker could generate hundreds of thousands of transactions per day at scale, which would create a backlog of transactions leading to potential payout delays.
To address these issues, the Virtue Poker development team spent much of the summer researching viable options to help us launch both at speed and at cost. We tapped resources both within Virtue Poker and at our parent company, ConsenSys, as well as consulting with industry experts.
There are several well publicized level 1 (on-chain) and level 2 (side-chain/off-chain) scaling solutions, namely: sharding, state channels and Plasma (Cash).
Our first approach was to look at a Layer 1 (on-chain) solution. Unfortunately, these solutions have been delayed beyond a reasonable timeframe to suit our business goal of bringing the Virtue Poker platform to market next year.
After looking at Level 1 solutions, our team began looking into Plasma. Unfortunately for us, the current Plasma implementations don’t have Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) capabilities, so we’d be unable to run smart contracts on a Plasma chain. With Plasma, Virtue Poker would need to keep player funds in a Virtue Poker wallet during gameplay, as the current Plasma is an Unspent Transaction Model (UTXO) sidechain, where you can only move tokens or ETH between addresses.
The Virtue Poker team is committed to using a smart contract-based scaling solution that will allow players to be in control of their funds. We have therefore decided to use our own Virtue Poker sidechain as a Level 2 solution.
It has become a common practice in the Ethereum ecosystem to use the Ethereum Main Network as the core layer of trust, namely facilitating high value transactions while using a sidechain or an off-chain solution for higher frequency lower value transactions (e.g. gaming transactions). We are adopting a similar approach.
The Virtue Poker sidechain is an Ethereum EVM Chain using the Proof of Authority consensus mechanism. In order to fund an account on Virtue Poker, players will send VPP/ETH to a smart contract on the Ethereum main network. Players’ VPP/ETH will be immediately available on the Virtue Poker sidechain and will remain under the players’ control.
Gameplay on the Virtue Poker Sidechain will be the same as in our current implementation. Smart contracts will be deployed on the sidechain to which players will send their buy-ins. The smart contract will escrow funds, and all players will submit transactions to the sidechain smart contract for each hand played. When a game is complete, or when a player leaves the table, the contract will pay the winning players to their address. When a player wants to access their funds held in the Virtue sidechain (for example, to transfer to an exchange for conversion to another currency), the player simply submits an exit transaction and their ETH/VPP will immediately become available on the Ethereum main network.
This scaling solution allows the Virtue Poker platform to launch at scale and at a low cost to players. The only Ethereum gas costs that will be paid by players are the network charges for entering and exiting the Virtue sidechain.
Development of our sidechain is well underway. More information will be released regarding validator nodes, and other core facets of our sidechain in a subsequent update.
Unfortunately, due to the unexpected delays in other scaling solutions, we have shifted our roadmap back.
Our revised target limited release date for our Mainnet MVP is March 2019. We have confidence in our team’s ability to meet this date. We will provide detailed information in each of our monthly updates moving forward.
Token Listing/Trading Capability
We are looking to enable trading and list our token 30 days prior to our mainnet MVP launch.
We are happy to report that the Virtue Poker team has successfully incorporated in Malta and has retained local legal counsel to begin the application process for a gaming license. The timeline from submission to completion is approximately 3–6 months. We will keep our community updated regarding progress as we move through this process.
We are pleased to report we’ve hired a Head of Game Security, David O’Connor, who will be managing the Game Security Product in building out anti-cheating and fraud systems. David previously has previously built out anti-cheating systems across the PokerStars and Full-Tilt platforms. The Virtue Poker team is excited to welcome David to our team.
In addition, we’ve hired an additional 3 developers and plan on adding two additional QA engineers to our team rounding out our planned hiring for the year.
For the past month, our 60 ETH Giveaway promotion has been extremely successful in helping our team discover bugs, garner invaluable product feedback and, most importantly, reward our most loyal and dedicated players. The results of the promotion follow:
Daily 1 ETH drawing winners
October 1: Villain
October 2: Ether
October 3: Virtue
October 4: Random_Bet
October 5: glxrw
October 8: Morpheums
October 9: CmdrLlew
October 10: sylks
October 11: Markisyan
October 12: Ether
October 15: Morpheums
October 16: Xenitron
October 17: Morpheums
October 18: L5–3000
October 19: Random_Bet
October 20: Muckiavelli
October 21: Bee926
October 22: glxrw
October 23: TBA
October 24: TBA
October 25: TBA
Bust-a-Host 0.5 ETH winners
Overall, we are extremely pleased with the progress our team has made over the past few months. However, we are very aware that there is a stake for our token buyers in our release date, and that this delay in our mainnet release may inconvenience some in our Alpha community. We are committed to providing you with a fully-functional production system as soon as we can responsibly release it. We have been greatly encouraged by our players’ reactions to the Alpha test system, and there is much more good stuff to come in our upcoming Beta release. We will continue to update you monthly here on our blog, and are happy to answer any questions you may have — please email our CEO, Ryan (email@example.com) or our CMO, Dan (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any concerns or issues.