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

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at bellsouth.net
Wed May 11 03:44:48 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Jaycen Rigger wrote:

> 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.

> 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.

It seems to me that much of your argument here stands on assertions
regarding what is and is not a problem or what is or is not socially
acceptable.  Your use of the word "cheating" implies that you see
this as a moral issue, but I'm still at a loss to understand how
this is so.  Until I can see this as a moral issue involving
socially unacceptable behavior, the Broken Window Theory doesn't
seem applicable to me.

> 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.

For me, this is where I have the most difficulty seeing this issue
from the "cheating" perspective.  I would think that MMORPGs are
already havens for kids and immature adults who have too much time
on their hands.  As a cumulative character game, the player with the
most real-life time to invest always wins.  Players with lots of
free time seem to think that is entirely fair, but players with less
free time...not so much.  In my entirely unresearched estimation,
I've always imagined that basing game success on real-world time
would select for more kids and "immature" adults than basing succes
on real-world money.  My possibly flawed reasoning for this stems
from my impression that a greater number of mature adults with a
family and career simply cannot invest 40 hours of their week into
an MMORPG.  But perhaps by investing $20 dollars here and there, the
playing field can be leveled to the point where they can almost keep
up with those who do.

 From this perspective, I see the move to support ebaying as a
 design decision to allow those who don't have 40 hours of free time
 per week to still play and enjoy the game.  I see it as an attempt
 to balance the game by moving away from succes based solely on a
 player's disposable time.  I think that many players, frustrated by
 their inability to play and compete because, through no real fault
 of their own, they have less time to invest, have already
 discovered ebaying as a means of balancing the game enough to allow
 their survival.  Others (like me, fatally flawed by my stubborn
 adherence to the ToS) choose to neither ebay nor invest in a futile
 endeavor to keep pace with the 40-hour-per-week crowd.  We are
 forced to write off MMORPGs as simply a style of game that,
 although quite appealing, is not really suited to being crammed
 into our lives.

Of course, there is at least one other design choice that could
address this issue.  One could move advancement away from its
dependence on player-time by allowing characters to advance
off-line.  Here, advancement is neither totally dependent upon
player money nor player time.  Instead, the emphasis is more on
character time and player skill.  Unfortunately, it seems that
players opposed to ebaying often don't like this idea either.  They
tend to insist on making MMORPGs entirely dependent upon time
invested and are not interested in any sort of alternatives.  Are
these players inventing rules of conduct that prevent them from
winning the game?  (Another poster pointed out that this was
Sirlin's claim.)  Or are they inventing rules of conduct that are
aimed at giving them a perpetual advantage in the game?

> 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.

I disagree.  Time is money.  Some people have more disposable time.
Some people have more disposable money.  Basing a game almost
entirely on a player's disposable time isn't what I'd call equal
footing.  To me, it is no more or less equal than basing the same
game almost entirely on a player's disposable money.  (Of course, I
suppose it is much more culturally acceptable to look askance at
those with extra disposable income.)  If MMORPGs were based more on
a character's time than the player's, then I think you would have
something closer to equal footing.

> 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.

>>From my perspective, as MMORPGs are currently designed, players
acquire power/wealth/stuff through the out-of-game disposable time
that exists in their life.  That one factor has the greatest inpact
on success or failure.  It exerts an enormous amount of influence on
the game.  I'm not sure that the answer is to introduce an
additional outside influence with its own enormous ability to
further impinge upon or corrupt the "magic circle" in which the game
exists, but I think that ignoring how the investment of disposable
time currently skews the balance of the game (and put's it
out-of-reach for many potential players) is akin to sticking one's
head in the sand.  From my pespective, player's buy on ebay in an
attempt to bring a semblence of balance to a design that is
otherwise impossibly unfavorable toward those with little free time.
I find this entirely understandable.  Perhaps it is misguided.
Perhaps it leads us down a slippery slope.  And while the ToS
forbids it, I would even call it cheating.  But I cannot fathom how
it could be called such when instituted as a design choice.

--Paul "Phinehas" Schwanz
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