[MUD-Dev] SOC: Will company sanctioned cheating hurt the MMOcommunity?

Jaycen Rigger jaycen.rigger at sbcglobal.net
Sat May 7 17:31:16 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


<EdNote: Quoting fixed, I think.  I wasn't sure what was quoted and
what was original text, so errors are likely mine.>

Barry Kearns <barrykearns at qwest.net> wrote:

> As a designer, I think the Station Exchange is a logical
> development, and more of a stop-gap measure to reduce customer
> service nightmares than anything else.

I don't see it as a logical development.  I think it would attract
the most annoying players (the ones most admins and Game Masters
complain about) and drive off the casual gamers.

I'm guessing the customer service nightmares you reference are
related to policing the problem?  In that event, I can see how you
view the entire process as a logical development.  I still disagree.

> The primary flaw in the segregation concept (as implemented) is
> that it is entirely voluntary to move to an Exchange-enabled
> server, and therefore commodification is still possible on
> non-Exchange servers... and will continue to take place at least
> some of the time.

If commodification means "cheating by buying and selling virtual
property to players who didn't actually do in-game stuff to earn
it", then I agree.

> Will it improve things for those who dislike commodification
> altering the competitive landscape in their game?  Hopefully, it
> will reduce the incidence, so it should be a net improvement, but
> the cross-cultural friction will remain for those opposed to these
> sorts of landscape-altering behaviors.

But if it's true that when authority ignores a problem or makes it
okay in one instance, then it implies it's okay in all instances and
the bar has been lowered for all behavior across the board and in
all places.  I think you'll see that all socially unacceptable
behaviors will increase.  The games will become havens for kids and
immature adults who have too much time and money on their hands.
The "kind of player" most developers say they want to attract will
be driven out of the game, since they can't or won't compete with
those willing to blow the cash.  Like in the broken-windows thing,
those with the means to get out of Dodge, will move on or stop
playing on-line games altogether, if they see all the games picking
up this form of trade.

> Ideally, we should be looking for design solutions that allow us
> to enforce our desire to separate player behaviors into distinct
> environments.  It's clear to me that EULAs and TOS/ROC documents
> are not stemming the tide in any significant fashion.

I don't think I've seen anyone yet who's said that segregating
player behaviors works well in any instance.

> I've been developing a position paper for a
> commodification-resistant gaming model (following the lead of
> Randy Farmer'd "KidTrade" proposal), which attempts to preserve as
> many aspects of typical MMO gaming as possible, but still prevent
> the harmful and over-the-top levels of commodification of in-game
> currency that we see today.

Good luck.  I read Randy's proposal, including the links to the
other systems these were based on, as linked from Damion Shubert's
blog.  I really think the idea is going to be niche, at best.  I
can't begin to fathom most players "wanting" to play under a system
like that, not for all the fairness in the world.  We'd rather the
chance for criminal actions be present for others to pursue than
lose our own freedom within the game.

I think that's what it's all about in the end.  I recently played on
a freind's UO server.  He made it insanely easy to buy up skills via
training from vendors.  All you had to do was dump gold on to a
vendor and then go about your day.  Occasionally, you'd get a
message that your skills were going up regardless of whether you
were using the skill or not.  I was disgusted when I first found out
it was implemented and being used on a grand scale.

I swore I'd never do it.  Then I found out players on less than a
week were more than twice my own skill ratings in areas where I'd
focused my time and energy.  I went out and started buying skills.
If everyone else is doing it, and everyone has access to it, then to
compete, you have to do it.  It's stupid because if everyone can do
it, and all it's doing is cancelling the effect of a standard skill
gain that might be too slow, then why have it at all?

If people who are nimrods are buying their way through the game,
then the rest of the players are going to be frustrated and feel
like they have to buy their way through in order to compete.  It's
like setting up little MMORPG gambling casinos.  People are going to
lose their houses buying useless bits of digital fluff.  Virtual
Worlds Anonymous will have to create a 12 step program.

I (and people like me) don't want a facist state where it's
"impossible" to cheat.  We want a place of expressive freedom where
it's possible to be a cheat, but I choose not to cheat, and the
authorities punish those who are caught cheating.  I want justice to
exist.

When I pay my monthly fee to play a game, I am on an equal footing
with every other player who enters the game world.  My own
character's success depends on my own ambitions and time management.
Regardless of what choices I make, I acquire power/wealth/stuff
through the in-game systems that exist.  I don't step outside the
game and profit by the labors of others.  If I did that in-game,
then good for me for being inventive and using the in-game systems
in an inventive way.  If I do it outside the game, I'm cheating.

Thanks,

Jaycen
http://holisticworlddesign.blogspot.com/
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