Polygon Under Accidental Attack From Swarm of Sunflower Farmers

A popular new blockchain game is congesting Polygon, sending gas prices soaring.

Jan 6, 2022 at 9:48 p.m. UTC
Updated Jan 6, 2022 at 10:07 p.m. UTC

A blockchain normally known for its high throughput has been hobbled today by a surprising foe: a simple blockchain-based agriculture game called Sunflower Farmers.

Since at least Tuesday, Polygon proof-of-stake chain users have been taking to social media to gripe about failed transactions and degraded performance across the blockchain.

However, instead of a complex financial product taxing blockchains like Solana or an NFT drop clogging Ethereum for hours at a time, Sunflower Farmers is a simple resource-gathering game that uses blockchain transactions for in-game actions – a dynamic some have likened to an unintentional distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. A Sunflower Farm team member didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

The blockchain-wide slowdown is reminiscent of the early days of CryptoKitties, a 2017 non-fungible token hit that clogged the Ethereum network for weeks at a time with “breeding” and trading-related transactions.

Both Polygon’s throughput and the strains Sunflower Farm is placing on the blockchain are orders of magnitude larger than 2017′s game-related blockchain clog, however.

A transaction on Polygon now costs roughly 500 gwei, or $0.50, up from fractions of a cent. Additionally, the number of active addresses on Polygon’s proof-of-stake chain has spiked 60% in a single week, with more than 200,000 accounts transacting on the chain. Current speculation is that many of those addresses are “bots.”

“Botting” play-to-earn games – creating accounts that are controlled programmatically to earn in-game rewards – is endemic in the blockchain gaming industry, with titles like Axie Infinity and Alien Worlds struggling to differentiate between players enjoying a game and computers farming digital cash.

Dan Elitzer, a co-founder of Nascent, a crypto investment firm, wrote on Twitter that Polygon’s normally high throughput might be partly to blame for Sunflower’s transaction-heavy mechanics, saying, “If you make global state&computation ~free, people will do stupid shit until it breaks or the price increases enough to make them stop.”

Likewise, one Delphi Labs developer said that the incident is a prime example of why more games should have dedicated, application-specific chains, such as Axie Infinity’s Ronin.

Polygon’s MATIC token is up 1% on the day to $2.24, while Sunflower Farm’s SFF is down 59% to $0.613760.

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Andrew Thurman is a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.