Ever since the 18th and 19th century, countries in Europe and North America have seen unprecedented economic growth. This can largely, if not entirely, be attributed to technological progress. The First Industrial Revolution happened because of a change in how goods were manufactured. Machines were used to exponentially increase productivity. Similar for the Second Industrial Revolution, where improved transportation and communication (in the forms of railroads, telephones, and radio) led to a significant increase in productivity.

This trend has continued. Progress is seen as the greater good. If anything can be done more efficiently through automation, you can bet your money on it we’d try our absolute best to automate it. However, some things are very difficult to automate. Often, these things are still quite mundane and routine too. How many people still wake up every day to stand in front of a fast-moving conveyor belt in the hiss and bang of a factory? More than you’d think, considering today’s technology. While the technology is quite probably already available to automate such routine tasks, it might still be too expensive, or other societal pressures might stop companies from automating these tasks.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that society has become increasingly interested in gamification. Gamification means incorporating typical game elements into often routine, boring or simple areas of life, to engage people using the gamified product or service. It’s a great way to encourage people to become more productive for the things that cannot be automated entirely yet. If you’ve ever downloaded an app that’s not a game, but that incorporated a leaderboard, gave you a hi-score, or patted you on the back when you achieved a 5-day streak, then you’ve downloaded a gamified app.

Gamification presents a great marketing opportunity too. After all, in today’s Brave New World of instant gratification and pleasure, wouldn’t a consumer prefer to interact with a brand in a way that’s fun and engaging over dry and boring? Eventually, it seems to me that brands who don’t gamify their product or service might lose an edge over their competitors. However, not all brands have the resources to effectively gamify their products or services. And that’s where Lordless comes in.

Lordless is a task distribution platform on the Ethereum blockchain, presented as a game. There are three main parties in Lordless: hosts, tavern masters, and bounty hunters. A host is someone who posts a quest on the Lordless platform for the bounty hunters to complete. A tavern master is the owner of a tavern, an ERC-721 asset in the game and the place where bounty hunters can go to look for quests. Anyone who enters the game is a bounty hunter. They’re the players who complete the hosts’ quests.

From left to right: the hosts, tavern masters (who look like vampires), and bounty hunters

So hosts post quests in the Lordless taverns and are rewarded with attention or with the completion of a particular task, while bounty hunters are rewarded with whatever rewards the hosts give them (often cryptocurrency tokens). The tavern masters are the intermediary between both. They own the digital real estate of the game, i.e. the taverns, and get a slice of the reward that bounty hunters receive for completing the quests in their buildings.

In this way, tavern masters are incentivized to attract hosts with valuable quests, but also to attract as many bounty hunters as possible. The developers of Lordless believe that this will ultimately enhance the popularity of their project, as the tavern masters will earn more the more popular Lordless becomes.

The red dots on this map (of Shanghai) are where the taverns are located

The idea behind Lordless started in a Starbucks in Shanghai in August 2017. As such, it should come as no surprise that the taverns available today are all based on real-world buildings in Shanghai. Some of the tavern’s value is based on the value of the equivalent real-life building. Strangely, the Lordless team mentions in their white paper that, if the location of one of the buildings changes in real life, they’ll make sure its location changes in-game too, which made me raise an eyebrow, as I can’t see how any of these buildings will drastically change location in real life.

When one such building gets destroyed in real life, however, it will keep on existing in the game. And that’s reassuring, because buying a Lordless tavern is incredibly expensive. There are currently thirty Lordless taverns available on OpenSea. You can place an offer on all of these, but only a few are for sale. The cheapest one is going for 3.5 ETH (over $900) and the most expensive one, Shanghai’s famous Oriental Pearl Tower, is currently for sale for 256 ETH (over $65,000). Despite the prices, it seems like many of these taverns have switched hands a few times already.

Eventually, Lordless wants to release 4,000 taverns. Each of these taverns will have a level. From high to low, the levels are: SS, S, A, and B. Of the 4,000 taverns, 2.5% will be SS, 17.5% will be S, 25% A and 55% B. The higher the level, the better the quests and the more frequent bounty hunters will be able to start quests.

Apart from level, taverns also have a certain number of action points. This is the amount of reward a tavern can assign to a quest posted by a host. Every time a bounty hunter starts a quest, these action points will be consumed. When the action points reach zero, tavern masters will have to wait a few hours before they’ll be able to assign new quests again.

Finally, a tavern has an influence level too. This is mostly determined by the tavern’s activity. The more bounty hunters visit a tavern and take up quests, the more influential a tavern will become. In the Lordless white paper, they say that the appearance of a tavern will change as its influence increases too.

Inside an S-level tavern

As it stands today, the quests in Lordless aren’t very exciting, nor are there many of them. The easiest quest is called “bottoms up” and can be completed by clicking on the bubbles inside a tavern (such as shown in the screenshot above). You’ll receive tokens in return: mostly ZRX (0x’s token), OMG (OmiseGo’s token), and LESS (the Lordless token). It’s not very engaging, but it’s still money. I received around $0.11 worth of crypto moving from tavern to tavern and clicking the bubbles. You also get rewarded by referring others to the Lordless platform and by following Lordless on social media.

From what I understand, completing these quests is done off-chain. There’s no need to sign transactions or pay any gas fees. In their white paper, Lordless talks about integrating with Loom for their games, which it seems they’ve done for the few quests already available today.

However, the transactions that are on-chain and require a gas fee seem to require an inordinate amount of time. When I played one of the gambling games (more on that later) it took over ten minutes before my transaction went through. Similar for authorizing my account. I don’t quite know why. It didn’t seem to be a problem with the Ethereum blockchain itself, so it might be a technical issue with Lordless’ Solidity contracts. Thankfully, such on-chain transactions are few and far between.

Apart from action points for taverns, bounty hunters have a limited number of action points too, which means that there’s a limit to how much they can earn. I’m currently on 35 actions points, which means I can click 35 bubbles in the bottoms-up quest before I need to wait around 3 hours for my action points to refill. However, the more quests you complete, the higher your level becomes and the more action points you’ll get. Eventually, you’ll gain access to more valuable quests too.

A 51% chance of doubling your money isn’t a bad bet imho

Apart from the quests, and seemingly unrelated to the vision of Lordless as a task distribution platform, there are also a few gambling games you can play. Blockchain gambling in quite popular in China, and it seems like the developers want a little slice of that market too. If you look closely at the game to the far left on the above screenshot, you’ll notice you have a 51% chance of winning double the amount of Ethereum you spend and a 70% chance of winning 60,000 HOPS.

You need HOPS to withdraw your earnings from the platform. That’s right, the developers of Lordless haven’t made it easy to withdraw the money you earned, which is a big red flag and something I hope they remedy quickly. In order to take your tokens out of Lordless, you need to wrap them in a “bounty chest” that’s worth at least 0.1 ETH. That’s around $25 in today’s price. I’m currently on $0.11, so I have a long way to go still.

That’s not all either. When you have 0.1 ETH worth of tokens wrapped in a bounty chest, you need to use HOPS to unlock that chest. Unlocking a bounty chest currently costs 16,892.43 HOPS. The only way to earn HOPS is either through the gambling games described above or by depositing LESS into the Lordless bank for a certain amount of time. The more LESS you deposit and the longer you decide to hold LESS in the Lordless bank, the more HOPS you’ll receive in exchange.

For example: if you deposit at least 10,000+ LESS for 9 days, you’ll receive 20,000 HOPS in return (a 2x return). If you deposit 400,000+ LESS for 180 days, you’ll receive 12,000,000 HOPS (a 30x return).

The HOPS multipliers for depositing LESS

Suffice to say I can’t be positive about this. Why would you install so many barriers for users to withdraw their tokens? First, they need at least 0.1 ETH worth of tokens, then they need to wrap them in a bounty chest, then they need HOPS to unlock that chest, which they can only get when they gamble or when they deposit LESS, which they’ll either need to get in-game by completing quests or through buying it at a decentralized exchange like DDEX. Who will ever go through all this effort? Am I missing something here?

It’s also the single biggest reason why I have strong reservations on Lordless. Gamification is a growing societal trend, and the developers of the Lordless team should receive props for trying to surf this trend using blockchain technology. I like the idea of a task distribution platform and I genuinely believe there’s a big market for it, if you get it right.

I also appreciate that the Lordless team wants users to buy their cryptocurrency LESS and deposit it in their bank. It’s quite likely this is the way they make their money and how they can keep developing and growing their platform. But offer it as a separate option to players. Don’t integrate it into the withdrawal mechanism of the players’ hard-earned tokens. Blockchain technology should make sending and receiving money easier, not harder.

Lordless is a well-built, nicely designed game. It certainly has potential. But until the developers make it easier to withdraw tokens from the game, it’s hard to see how it’ll gain the traction it requires.

Do you agree with this review? You can visit the Lordless page in The DGaming Store and give it a go.