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Verifiable Random Functions: Fair Play in a Decentralized World

January 26, 2023 - 11 min read

Random number generation with publicly verifiable proof fosters transparency and fairness in gaming, and will unlock new use cases for the automation of chance events.

supra vrf and rng

Verifiability in the Age of Decentralization

Traditionally, participants in games or other chance events have to use the operator for providing randomness when requested, and therefore provide transparency with regards to the process of randomness generation. This could include drawing cards, minting NFTs (rarity of characteristics), picking lottery winners, etc. In practice, the generation of randomness often happens behind closed doors, without much transparency whatsoever. This is a pain point for which Web3 can provide some relief.

Of course, organizations often try their best to do things in public and make a big show about how they have acted honorably, but until recently no standards have been in place for the distributed and public auditability which is offered by smart contracts. One example of this has come in the form of ‘proof of reserves’ audits and other shows of good faith on the heels of several high-profile crypto collapses and the outright fraud of FTX and its contagion event which may still be unfolding.

In addition to these gestures, apps can build transparency and fairness into their own infrastructure, and in the case of random number generation (RNG), can be given assurances that chance outcomes are determined randomly and without external manipulation, because verifiable random functions can provide public proofs that can verify that each and every number generated was done according to an algorithm. 

VRFs allow for the public to audit the RNG process at any time and therefore gives much needed transparency to guarantee the fidelity of its outcomes. In the case of Supra’s VRF, it is designed in such a way that while a public key can be used to publicly verify the RNG function, it nevertheless cannot be reverse engineered by bad-faith actors looking to exploit the system; nor does it reveal private unnecessary metadata which could compromise the identity of users or their wallets.

VRF- verifiable randomness generation
Transparency has never been so important given the mishandling of customer’s funds by major crypto custodians, and the ripple effects that their collapsing has had on the industry’s reputation writ large. Trust may only be restored via full transparency.

With VRFs being overseen and given certification from Web3 auditors, GameFi apps can make use of publicly verifiable RNG events. Game devs can therefore leverage Supra’s VRF to increase transparency for participants and gain an edge over their competitors. The clock is ticking, though, as major brands are already on the move

For now though, there are only a few uses of RNG and their models are fatally flawed without transparency. Verifiable randomness gives players satisfaction to know that their gaming outcomes were not unfairly manipulated against them. 

With the implementation of transparency via verifiable RNG, a number of use cases arise as immediately obvious, which we’ll explore below. We expect that more use cases than those listed will continue to emerge as DeFi evolves towards standards of privacy-preserving transparency like what researchers have been working on at SupraOracles. Innovations like this only come along every few decades, and with blockchain technology still in its infancy, the ramifications of such progress are difficult to fully appreciate.

Problems with Incumbent RNGs

Random numbers are incredibly useful for a variety of things, like lotteries, raffles, video games, and other giveaways which demand unbiased fairness. However, RNG can be done transparently, opaquely, or anything in between. 

Currently, Web2 RNGs do indeed generate randomness, but they nevertheless cannot offer the sort of transparency that public blockchains do. If the random numbers are generated in the darkness, so to speak, then players cannot verify that the activities in which they participate are conducted fairly. Thus, innovation is needed in the form of Web3 VRFs which provide public proofs of randomness, ensuring both transparency and integrity in the generation of on-chain randomness.

Unless carefully mitigated, what some consider RNG is actually better described as pseudorandom. You see, pseudorandom number generation is characterized by the use of mathematical functions in order to generate randomness. Unfortunately, while these are indeed both scalable and efficient in terms of their speed and complexity, they can also be reverse-engineered and then taken advantage of by attackers.

The problem with the status quo is that they are not computationally complex enough, and can be exploited by clever attackers or shady business operators. This has prompted developers to build more robust safeguards into their code, adding more computationally complex VRFs that use sufficient entropy in the seeds which are used as inputs for generating randomness. That is, if the seed is lacking entropy, it could potentially be reverse engineered- making it less robust against attacks. 

Supra’s VRF therefore makes use of high-entropy seed constructs, and more complex randomness parameters built to make them more unpredictable without adding to the overall cost to users requesting randomness. That is, Supra has devised a way to quickly and efficiently generate transparent randomness while keeping costs low and protecting user privacy. 

This stands in stark contrast with existing pseudorandom number generators which do not provide publicly verifiable cryptographic proofs and often lack the proper amount of entropy in the seed’s generation. Lacking this transparency requires trusting in the entity which generates the randomness, and having faith that attackers can’t find cracks in the code which allow them to exploit or front-run the process. The ethos of Web3 calls for transparency at the base layer, and that is exactly what Supra’s VRFs provide in the generation of randomness.

Provably Fair Random Number Generation

Fairness is the foundation upon which games rely, and in the case of chance events, NFT mints, or swag giveaways- randomness is the secret ingredient which acts as the great equalizer amongst participants. Undoing the fidelity of the randomness at any point of the process could manipulate in-game outcomes, robbing participants of their fair shot at winning or, say, minting the most desirable NFT of a collection

Web3’s value proposition is that it is better than TradFi as a result of its properties of transparency and decentralization. It synergizes and leverages public blockchains, automated smart contracts, and decentralized oracles to bridge blockchains with the rest of the world’s data. Supra offers simple plug and play solutions on a variety of L1 blockchain networks.

Companies will increasingly find themselves needing to build out this complex infrastructure themselves, or else commission such services from robust third-party oracle and RNG providers. Fortunately, they can incorporate Supra’s cutting edge RNG services with privacy-protected transparency qualities since they are easily integrated into developers’ toolkits.

vrf and rng happy paths
A bird’s eye overview of a typical request for randomness and the paths that transactions might take if the randomness is consumed or refunded after a cancellation.

Further, VRFs work by combining a seed from the current block’s metadata when the RNG request is made with a pre-committed private key in order to generate a random number and a corresponding public proof. This is crucial to the RNG’s properties of randomness since the block data can’t be known beforehand, ensuring that the random number remains unpredictable to bad actors. It also enables users to publicly and independently verify the integrity of the RNG.

SupraOracles also offers highly scalable, decentralized Oracle services which deliver incorruptible data and verifiably random computations with extremely fast finality. That is, transactions are settled within a matter of seconds. Combining Supra’s computational power with verifiable proofs and such speed to finality is a potent mixture when considering that the network can fetch and validate price feeds for any asset around the world; thus making it an ultimate intralayer solution which facilitates cross-chain and multi-chain composability.

Use Cases and Opportunities For Adoption

It is important to note that verifiable randomness has clear benefits for a variety of games, businesses, and mobile apps. While cryptographically secure RNGs are commonplace, its integration into regular gaming, lotteries, and contests enables users to participate with the confidence that the process is done with the utmost integrity, without trusting the word of any entity, but rather by publicly verifying the results. 

Growing your brand’s reach and driving community engagement can be gamified via chance events and customer giveaways, which are most effectively applied by using verifiable randomness. Supra’s VRF removes any obfuscation by providing transparency to the RNG process associated with chance events, as users can verify that participants were competing on an even footing, were assigned randomness based on the principles of equality and equal access, and that steps were taken to remove the ability to cheat the system.

Therefore, a provably fair source of randomness is a must-have for any organization wishing to prove to their users by a process of public verification instead of asking for their trust and goodwill. Supra’s VRF can help ensure they’re distributed randomly, preventing dishonest players from gaining unfair advantages over honest ones.

Some games depend either partially or entirely on luck. Think of a simple coin flip. Now extrapolate the possibilities across a spectrum, including concepts like turn-based battle games like Final Fantasy, with players encountering chance events from rare-item discoveries to landing critical hits for dealing double damage in battle.

In the case of a coin flip, skill has nothing to do with the game, but the player is trusting that each flip is generated randomly and that there is no way to affect the outcome of any flip. Even if, say, the player were to go on a hot winning streak. Many video game players have felt the sense of injustice that comes from suspicions that AI leaned on the RNG software to affect game outcomes when players are winning or at crucial moments of the game, say with time running low towards the climax. 

Given that integrating Supra’s VRF is relatively easy for developers, companies who can distinguish themselves from the competition with verifiable integrity will be sure to stay ahead of the curve. For instance, Starbucks has already begun implementing loyalty programs with Web3 tech, making their marketing approach more unique and giving users added flexibility with regards to using their rewards or transferring them via the blockchain. 

In terms of how VRFs are relevant to a rewards program, Supra’s VRF can compute and randomly assign participants one of the potential rewards when they initiate a request to claim them. In multiplayer games, players need to spawn in random game map locations, with some inherently offering advantages over others by being closer to powerful weapons, armor, or simply having the high ground relative to their opponents.

Playing against other players with the same skill level as yourself is crucial for “stickiness” in the sense that players are retained when they are engaged and having fun. It’s hard to do that when your opponent is absolutely destroying you due to mismatches in skill level. Optimizing the matchmaking process by using Supra’s VRF provides verifiable proof that opponents are matched with each other to maximize fairplay and optimize user enjoyment. 

Furthermore, the discovery of rare in-game items or the occurrence of chance events can yield players transferable assets. In GameFi applications, NFTs with desirable aesthetics, special abilities, or other unique characteristics could be obtainable with some element of chance, like with loot boxes. Supra’s VRF can be utilized to generate the randomness needed to guarantee fair play and equal access in such instances.

Supra’s VRF Addresses Status Quo Pain Points

Traditional financial services and security industries which rely on random data selection to identify fraud can also use VRFs to provide transparency regarding their protections of user privacy. Auditing services like the IRS could also utilize VRFs to provide public assurances that audits were not conducted in targeted manners or politically motivated.

Given the massive trauma that crypto users have collectively suffered over the previous year or so, there’s an obvious need for tamper-proofness and transparency more than ever. Supra’s network is arranged so that it cannot be front-run or gamed; with a simple integration, the randomness derived from Supra’s VRF takes the fidelity and fraud detection capabilities of any protocol to the next level. 

Customers deserve to know that their assets are being handled with care, and that no one has the ability to put their fingers on the scales of justice. Supra VRF empowers companies with cutting-edge transparency, and makes the necessity of Web3 technology more obvious as it contrasts with the pain points of the status quo. Integrating Supra’s VRF can give companies competitive advantages over their peers.

Supra’s VRF is set to become the gold standard for randomness generation and scalable oracle solutions. Web3 and Web2 applications alike could use a bit more transparency, and the early movers will soon take the form of the major players in this industry as their network effects grow exponentially via the massive adoption taking place behind the scenes. 

There are opportunities everywhere for early adopters to separate themselves from the crowd by leading the industry forward with the values of decentralization, transparency, and equal access to the global financial system. Integrations using Supra’s VRF will demonstrate their brand’s commitment to these principles of Web3 which separate us from the ivory towers of traditional finance.

References

  1. Bodley, M. (2022, 3 May). Quantum mechanics-based random number generator to enable blockchain gambling. Blockworks. 
  2. Bycer, J. (2018, 12 Mar.). The impact of RNG on game design. Informa Tech.
  3. Harris, J. (2010, 18 May). Analysis: Purposes for randomization in game design. Informa Tech.

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