Disclaimer: While this is an independent review, the writer was given a small amount of ETH by vDice.io to use in order to test the site.
As far as games and betting go, I’m certainly not one to spent my leisure time that way. Maybe it’s because I got whomped on by all my friends playing Super Mario when I was a kid and figured I’d be better off developing my skills in other areas. Regardless, I typically avoid delving into digital games of any sort, especially those where money is at stake — that is until I discovered the vDice.io betting game which is based on Ethereum smart contracts.
I am a blockchain nerd who keeps up on developments in the space on social media, so when the owners of the site reached out unsolicited on Twitter and offered to let me play with some of their own funds to get an honest review, I decided to give it a go. What I found out quickly about this betting “game” is that it’s easily as effective a tool for educating people on how to transact with Ether and how smart contracts work as it is an entertaining way to pass the time.
The “house edge” and fees are clearly stated up front in the FAQ and in running about a dozen bets to try out the service, I found the ratio of winning to losing with respective smart contracts to be honest. Each smart contract has its own odds and conditions that are clearly stated as well. What’s cooler is that this entire website operates anonymously and does not require a user account or any info. You only interact with the site through your Ethereum wallet.
The site is cleanly built and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Well, except for the creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin’s head, quoting famous one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger action films. If you leave the browser open with the volume on, this is an amusing feature you’ll hear every minute or so. You can turn that feature off as well from the homepage. Having said that, one thing I’d love to see on this is site in the future is a more dynamic feature showing transaction data, such as recent bets and wins, without needing to refresh the page and continually turn off the Vitalik talking-head.
The site recommends that users play using either a Jaxx browser wallet which is available for Chrome or the Mist wallet built by Ethereum. However, any wallet of any brand that supports Ether will do. They have an easy to follow set of instructions for both Jaxx and Mist. The Jaxx wallet is definitely the simpler and more straightforward process of the two; however, the Mist wallet tutorial is actually rather educational. As someone who has downloaded the Mist wallet on their personal machine and invested in The DAO using it, I can say that the tutorial on how to use the contracts feature in Mist is useful and appreciated, in case I wish to interact with other smart contracts related to other things besides betting in the future.
Not only is there the option to bet on specific contracts listed at the bottom of the homepage, but there’s also the option to invest in contracts. The difference between betting and investing in these smart contracts is that if a user sends an amount of Ether to the contract address within the specified amount range, a random number will be assigned to that user. If that random number is higher or lower than the specific figure of that contract, which is all transparent and open source, then the user wins their money back plus a percentage. They’ll receive their funds almost instantly. Currently, their confirmations take about 15-30 seconds; however, they’ll be launching 0-confirmation transactions in July. When a user wants to invest, they’ll receive partial profits from the income received as people play a certain contract and lose. All of the contracts are verified and openly available for auditing on Etherscan.
COO of vDice.io, Steven Sager, talked about how this particular game is unique not only in the realm of Ethereum, but in cryptocurrencies and blockchain-related websites as a whole:
“Implemented as a Smart Contract, it’s completely on-chain. Also, it’s the first live, commercial dapp, connected to the main-net, using an Oracle. As a result, it’s trust-less. We don’t touch funds. There are no accounts (such is the power of Ethereum). Bettors send their Tx to the smart contract address. The smart contract computes and returns the result. Essentially, it functions like classic Satoshi Dice. But, unlike Classic SD for BTC, there’s absolutely no server…not even for randomness. Instead we use random.org.”
Besides plans to make betting transactions much quicker with 0 transactions in the summer, there is also a crowdsale planned at a date yet to be determined in July.
With the existing situation with the DAO being compromised and potentially destroyed by current events, Sager commented on the importance of truly simple but useful Dapps being built and implemented such as vDice.io:
This illustrates why the simple Dapps need to come first, in my honest opinion — even if they happen to be ‘betting’ Dapps. Higher-level stuff can build on simpler projects at the right time. Ethereum is only one year old!
With vDice.io’s straightforward build and the transparent nature of how the site works, it’s an exciting way to show how a Dapp can be used in real world applications through betting. It is also a great opportunity for those who are less than expert in blockchain, smart-contract and Ethereum technology to learn in about it in a safer environment where the most at stake is as low as a fraction of Ether per bet.