[MUD-Dev] SOC: Will company sanctioned cheating hurttheMMOcommunity?

Barry Kearns barrykearns at qwest.net
Thu May 12 16:56:22 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


Jaycen Riggen wrote:

> Right.  Why not create a system where those players administer an
> accepted form of justice, instead of "their own"?

Perhaps because there's a wide spectrum of player opinion in what
people consider to be "accepted forms of justice", and which
infractions warrant which degrees of penalty?

> Yeah, there's the big difference in mind-set, I think.  What you
> call a "split in community attitudes" I call "being a jerk".  The
> players know it's "being a jerk".  The player perpetrating it
> knows he's "being a jerk", but developers make up terms like
> "split in community attitudes" and forget what it's like to be on
> the receiving end of someone else "being a jerk".  That's what I
> mean by "vacuum of developmental pontification".

Your overwrought use of unwarranted condescension is duly noted.  I
play a wide variety of games as well as design them, thanks.  I know
perfectly well what it's like to be ganked and griefed.  This is
fundamentally a problem precisely because people often *don't* agree
on whether someone is being a jerk, or simply playing the game as it
was constructed.  For a great percentage of player-reported issues
that arise in such an environment, you'll find an entire spectrum of
opinion as to whether or not someone is justified in their behavior.

You'll see everything from PK mindsets, to guild wars, to
cross-faction troublemakers and instigators.  Some see these as
entirely legitimate, some see these as people being jerks.  Players
want the ability to do whatever they personally consider legitimate
or justified, but they want everything that someone *else* does that
they think was unjustified (often because they were on the losing
end) to be punished.  There tends to be no universal agreement
regarding how borderline cases should be resolved... so you'll see a
huge amount of GM petitions and customer complaints for uneven
enforcement.

On a game with a million subscribers, how many GMs are you going to
have to have working 24/7 to try to process that?  What are the odds
that every one of them are going to judge the outcome the same way?
If they don't, how is this alleged alternative anything like
"justice"?

Are people who corpse-camp in WoW being jerks?  How about sets of
people who declare an entire guild KOS, and actively hunt them 24/7?
People who raid towns and corpse-camp NPC quest targets and flight
masters?

> "Enforced freedom" is a gentle euphamism for facism.  It's not
> necessarily bad.  In fact, I advocate enforcement of certain
> social mores through facism.  I think that GMs/Admins could more
> effectively handle these situations if they just made a judement
> call and removed those players who were killing for the sake of
> griefing.  I know I just made a faux pax by using the word
> judgement, but someone had to say it.

This is fine in a trivial setting, where you have only a handful of
players.  Now try scaling it to a population base of a million or
more, and see how well it works... especially at the borderline,
where things get really interesting.  The call as to whether someone
was "killing for griefing" gets much stickier.

> In fact, I would submit that even if it didnt' work at all, you'd
> still have people logging in.  People need their fix.  They want
> interaction on this level, and for whatever reason, they don't get
> it in the real world.  I'd say that faced with the choice of not
> logging in at all, and possibly logging in to be berrated/PK'ed by
> some jackass that many of your subscribers would take the risk.

> One could speculate that this means PKing really isn't that bad.
> Or one could take the position that some people are so desperate
> for the kind of community and interaction they find in these
> games, they're willing to walk over broken glass to get it.

See, silly me, I'm not trying to build a game that people will play
despite it being unpleasant for them.  I'm trying to build a set of
environments where people will actually *like* to play, without
having to deal with the more outlandish disruptions to their chosen
playstyle.  How stupid of me.  I should have know that the way to
maximum profits wasn't to offer variety and choice, but instead to
make sure I get the most pathetic and addictive personalities
possible to play... so they'll keep playing while hating the game.
Brilliant!  Gotta write that one down, thanks Jaycen!

> No, I'm saying that many (not all) would like to see GMs punish (I
> don't understand why you put that in quotes) players who engage in
> PvP for the sake of being an ass.  Pure and simple.  Do you know
> WHY most of the guys who run free servers left the pay-for-play
> servers?  Do you have any idea?

Do you have any idea how much of an ass you're being right now?
News flash, Jaycen: you don't speak for everyone and their reasons,
nor a majority of them, nor do people's motivations fit nicely into
whatever convenient box you might want to construct.  Sorry, but as
you mentioned, "someone has to say it".

> No, it wouldn't.  "You've been banned for being an ass.  Here's
> your money back, pro-rated for the days you've used this month.
> Thank you for your patronage."

And what set of magic crystal balls are you going to issue to the
army of GMs responsible for policing a game with a subscriber base
of a million users, which lets them consistently discern which
attacks by players are legitimate retribution, roleplaying, fighting
the existing faction war, or cross-guild politics, and which are
just someone being an ass?  How are you going to have them quickly
and consistently distinguish those situations, especially when both
sides tell an entirely different story?

How are you going to handle the flood of paying customer complaints
of unequal and unjust enforcement by your army of GMs because they
can't possibly do the job you've set up for them?  It's often not
nearly as easy as you seem to imagine it, Jaycen... not by several
orders of magnitude.

That's why, in general, we see server splits for the largest aspects
of playstyle conflict, where people must opt-in to a particular
ruleset.  Implicit in that opt-in is acceptance of the natural
consequences of that environment... for non-consensual PvP rulesets,
you're accepting that people are going to be attacking you for (in
general) whatever reason they like.  If you don't like it, get
friends and kill them back, or start a character on a non-PvP
server.  Don't like it that people won't share spawns with you on
the no-PvP server?  Switch to PvP and when that happens, you can do
something about it.

If you tried to force all of the pro-PvP and anti-PvP folks onto the
same server, and then have GMs enforce some "global standard",
you're basically guaranteeing that you're going to be handing out
results that a large fraction of your player base is going to
consider unjust (from their perspective).

> I don't know how to approach this in a way that you'll understand.

You could start by pulling your head out and realizing that you
don't have the first clue as to how much I understand.  You're
making a grotesque logical error if you think the reason that I
disagree with you is because I can't understand the explanation.
You've brought a pocket knife to a gunfight, son.

> I think it's interesting that you said "ruins their game" when
> most of those same people really think that it "ruins THE game".
> You don't see the distinction, so we will probably never see
> eye-to-eye on this.

I don't accept the silly notion that you somehow know what "most of
those same people" really think, yet somehow I don't.  And I'll
thank you to stop telling me whether I see a distinction or not.  I
can see it just fine and still not agree with your underlying logic
or your conclusions.  You're thoroughly unqualified to speak about
what distinctions I can or cannot see.

>> If everyone in an environment agrees that a practice is OK *in
>> that environment*, how is it "cheating"?  Isn't it then just a
>> different set of rules for that specific environment?

> No, it's not.  Maybe there is no reasonable arguement I can give
> you.

Hint: that might be a big clue that you should closely examine
whether your argument is actually rational or not.

> I think that most people are simply hard-wired to understand it.
> If it's cheating, then it's cheating no matter where you go.  It
> doesn't matter that 5 billion people are calling pigs, chickens.
> Pigs are still pigs.  I'll always call them pigs, even if the rest
> of the world has gone wonky and starts calling them chickens.

If you haven't done so, I'd recommend studying a few books on
elementary game theory.  Each instance of a game is defined by the
ruleset that governs it.  If you change the rules between instances,
you provide essentially two different games.  So long as a player
conforms to the rules of their game instance, they cannot be
meaningfully said to be "cheating", by definition.

You might personally object to the *existence* of multiple rulesets,
but that doesn't make that ruleset somehow illegitimate or
"cheating".  You can render whatever moral pronouncements you like
about whether you think people "should" play under that ruleset, but
it's still a perfectly legitimate game *by definition*.  If you
don't understand that, I'd suggest that perhaps you really don't
understand what the word "game" means in this context.

As an example, we have a Monopoly game set at my house, and play
from time to time.  There are clearly delineated rules which are
supplied with the game at the time of purchase.  We don't play by
those rules.  We instead modify them into "house rules".  In our
house, players are allowed to take loans from the bank even if they
have no property to mortgage (but they have to pay 5% interest per
turn until they pay it back).  Everyone also gets one free
"mulligan" per game, where they can re-roll a single throw of the
dice.  You can put double hotels on your monopolies once the last
property is sold from the bank.  We also put money under "Free
Parking".

By the logic you've presented, we're "ruining the game", and we're
"cheating", because we're clearly not following the rules as they
were designed.  According to game theory, we are simply playing a
different *variant* of the game, because everyone understands and
has agreed to the house rules.

If I go to a friend's house, we'll tend to play under their house
rules, which are often different.  As long as everyone understands
the rules in effect for that instance, though, it's still a
legitimate or "fair" game...  again, by definition.  Failing to
understand that won't make it any less true.

> By existing, the two cultures affect each other.  The culture that
> sees itself on the moral high ground will loathe and despise the
> other culture and the game company that makes the other culture
> possible.  They will migrate away from that game.  The culture
> that gets what it wants at any price doesn't care about morality
> and will do whatever makes them feel good.

This strikes me as something of a "jihadist" mentality with respect
to game rules... as if there is only one "true" ruleset, and the
mere existence of someone else somewhere out there playing under
different rules is anathema, and justification for loathing and
despite for an entire organization, not to mention quitting the
game.

Wasn't it H. L. Mencken who defined a Puritan as "a person who was
worried that someone, somewhere, someplace was having fun"?  Is this
attitude of "attack the fact that it even exists, even if it's
somewhere else" the militant form of Puritan thought with respect to
game rulesets?

My experience with mainstream MMO player populations is radically
different, Jaycen, especially when it comes to offering different
rulesets on separate shards.  The existence of choice tends to lead
(in my experience) to a lowering of overall player dissatisfaction
and complaint volume, through the simple expedient of knowing that
you're playing with like-minded individuals, and the most divergent
of playstyles from your own won't be intruding on your own play.  I
don't know that I've ever met someone (until now) who considered the
existence of no-PVP servers being offered alongside PvP servers as
somehow "fascist".

Good luck with that, Jaycen.  I'm sure industry leaders and
designers the world over will be lining up to implement this "choice
is cheating" philosophy right away, now that we've been properly
educated.  *eye roll*

Barry Kearns
http://vektor.blogs.com
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