It is still not publicly known who purchased the original SatoshiDICE site from Erik Voorhees in July for 126,315 BTC, but a representative said that the firm was adding enhancements into the new game. It will include session-based accounts and a developer API, they told CoinDesk.
“Casinos that haven't integrated bitcoin are really doing their players a disservice. They might as well take down their website and offer bets via carrier pigeon,” joked Kat Brown, head of product and marketing for the firm.
The new game, which cost between $100,000 and $1m to produce, was in development before Voorhees sold the firm, said the source. The development (which was handled by contractors, as SatoshiDICE has no full-time employees) was all paid for via bitcoin.
What did all those bitcoins buy? One of the new features is called ‘Tribute’, which gives a portion of every roll’s wager to the top three ranked players on the site (rankings change all the time, and are reset to zero daily).
The firm didn’t say what the Tributes would be, but claimed that players could earn “hundreds of bitcoins” through Tribute payments.
The session-based accounts mean that Tribute is played off the block chain, as opposed to the original SatoshiDICE, which at one point accounted for between a quarter and a half of all block chain transactions. Deposits and withdrawals are still handled via the block chain, as zero-confirmation transactions. Brown said:
“The block chain demonstrates irrefutably that a transaction took place, but it doesn't by itself verify a calculation related to that transaction. Verifying the calculations of a gaming roll is the tricky part, and that's where the provably fair bitcoin games (whether SatoshiDICE or others) have really innovated. Consumer protection is now accomplished via math instead of via bureaucrat.”
Specifically, the system uses a value called a ‘daily secret’, which changes every 24 hours and is revealed the day after betting. This is combined with two other numbers: the client seed, which is a string of digits provided by the player, who can change it at any time. Another number, the account seed, is a random value attributed to each player account.
All of these are combined with a bet number, tied to each account, which increases by one for each bet.
The result is a ‘lucky number’, produced by running them through a SHA-256 hashing function and taking the first four bytes of the result. The idea is to produce a number with input from the player that therefore cannot be rigged by SatoshiDICE.
Interestingly, SatoshiDICE uses math to justify not revealing the identity of its owner (who has other gaming interests).
“There is no benefit to revealing who we are. The legitimate purpose of knowing a business owner is to know whether he or she is trustworthy,” said Brown. “Bitcoin technology, and the provably fair system SatoshiDICE uses, goes far beyond that – demonstrating trust through mathematics instead of identity.”
Neither will SatoshiDICE reveal its figures anymore. Although it stopped shortly before the sale was announced, when Voorhees owned SatoshiDICE it would publish its monthly financials.
“This was done for the sake of transparency with SatoshiDICE's anonymous, individual stakeholders (there was no way to directly communicate with them),” said Brown. “After the sale, this is no longer necessary, though we admit it was economically interesting.”
The Tribute game will not replace the original SatoshiDICE, which is now called SatoshiDICE Classic.
The feature set is different enough that the original stands on its own, argues Brown:
The session-based nature of the new game means that it could theoretically be more susceptible to DDoS attacks.
Previously, a DDoS on the SatoshiDICE site didn’t disrupt gameplay because transactions were handled by the block chain. With everything happening off-chain, that is no longer the case, so the firm has had to sign with an anti-DDoS provider.
Like the original, SatoshiDICE Tribute will be closed to US players, said Brown, citing uncertainty about US attitudes to bitcoin-based gaming.
The firm takes a contentious approach to US regulation. Brown, who likes the slogan "entertainment while fiat crumbles”, argues that the US is behind the curve when it comes to bitcoin.
“Watching how other countries are taking an open and tolerant approach to bitcoin innovation, while the US goes around subpoenaing, fining, and imprisoning people, we wonder whether the US itself, like banks, will become irrelevant?” she asked. “We hope not. America has so much potential to be a great country.”
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