How to Build a Better Game of Stakes

The original Cosmos Game of Stakes (GoS) broke new ground in the staking world. It was the first adversarial testnet of its kind. Since then, most staking networks I speak to have plans to launch their own.

As an early Cosmos validator and GoS finisher, these project leads often ask me to share my experience participating in GoS. While they're curious what worked well, most focus on how they can improve on the original. These are my suggestions.

Set Intentional Outcomes

Think about why you want to run your GoS. What is its purpose? What do you hope to achieve? What behavior do you want to discourage.

Start with these questions. Think them through. Write down your answers. Define why they are important to your project.

Design to Achieve the Outcomes

Once you know why you want to run your GoS, design it to achieve these outcomes. Specify the actions you want validators to take that will make the outcomes happen. Determine the activities you'd rather validators not engage in.

Design your incentive and penalty system to encourage validators to take the actions you want them to take, penalize us for doing what you don't want us to do.

Communicate Clearly and Consistently

Clear communication is critical when establishing healthy validator relations. Validators have an expanding number of networks to validate on.

Every day it gets harder for us to keep up with the chat overload this causes. Communicating clearly with us goes a long way toward generating goodwill and reducing frustration.

Choose your primary communication channel. Communicate its existence to the validator community. Use a single communication channel for critical updates.

Then, stick to and be consistent communicating through that channel. Establish the confidence among validators that this channel is the single source of truth for critical updates.

Clearly communicate your goals and the incentives. Give enough notice before requiring validators to take action, e.g. 48 hours. Be consistent in using the notification window. For example, don't give 48 hours notice one time, then less than 12 hours notice the next.

Be present in the specified communication channels in predictable and consistent timeframes. Make it known when and how validators can contact your team. Give us predicable response times.

Reward with Transparency and Predictability

Define your incentive program BEFORE your GoS starts. Be clear and transparent about how you will reward validators. Give us the confidence that if we do X, we can expect to earn Y for our efforts.

Stick to this program for your GoS' duration. Don't change the rules mid-stream.

If you're uncertain about certain design aspects, break your GoS into stages. Define and communicate incentives on a stage-by-stage basis.

Publish the rewards. Restate the incentives when you do. Be clear about why people earned what they did.

Open an appeal window. This allows validators to appeal your decision, within a reasonable timeframe.

Rewards should be consistent with what you communicated at the beginning of your GoS or GoS stage. There should be no surprises at this point.

Your Better GoS

It's hard to be the first at doing anything. That's why the original GoS was so groundbreaking. It was an innovative idea and remains an inspiration to future staking networks.

While it got many things right, there's always room for improvement. My hope is these suggestions help you build your better GoS, so that yours achieves your desired outcomes, while evolving the concept itself.

P.S. - Would you like my help building your better GoS, like I've done for Regen and Solana? Please contact me here to start the conversation.