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Gaming To Hell In A Handbasket

The trials, tribulations and musings of an MMO veteran trying to find the next holy grail.

Author: Strayfe

EULA Monkeys; A Question for the Community

Posted by Strayfe Wednesday December 5 2007 at 6:51PM
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Just a short entry today.  It needs to be said though.

EULA Monkey is a derogatory term that I've developed for a certain subspecies of MMO gamer.

A EULA Monkey is roughly the MMO equivalent of the teacher's pet.  This person (generally an older, religious type), reads through and can quote any section of the EULA at any time.  They then antagonize other players, bending and weaving their way around rules, expertly taking potshots and inciting arguments.  If someone attempts to retaliate, defend themselves, or otherwise counter in any way, the EULA Monkey will immediately report them to a GM, and use their intricate knowledge of the EULA to get said player banned, despite the fact that it was the Monkey who initiated and provoked the conflict.

Let me tell you something.  This may be only my opinion, there may be others who share it, I'm not sure.

In my opinion, there are few people worse in an MMO than the Thin-Skinned Snitch.  The EULA Monkey.

A friend of mine received a suspension from FFXI recently.  The EULA Monkey in question initiated the argument with my friend by essentially suggesting that all thieves (thief is an FFXI class, basically equivalent to a rogue) are useless, mean-spirited people who ruin the game.  Initially, my friend responded with incredulity and surprise, but not with any venom.  When this person went on to suggest that all people who play a thief in FFXI were also thieves and liars in real life, my friend took the gloves off.

He called this person a "f__king b__ch".

The EULA Monkey immediately reported him to a GM, ostensibly for "harassment".  He received a one week suspension from the game.  This other person received no punishment, no warnings, and proceeded to brag about it on a public forum that we both frequent.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that my friend is a the main puller for our Dynamis runs.  Dynamis' are difficult, instanced raid-type encounters in FFXI, for as many as 64 people, though they can be cleared with as few as 20-25 if the players are extremely competent.

So, essentially, a single EULA Monkey snitch managed to disrupt the entire inner working of a week's worth of Linkshell events, with a single, turbid, disgusting display of snitching.

Here's the kicker.  There is an ignore function in FFXI, just as in almost every MMO out there.  Further, there is a chat filter built into the game that can be disabled if the player so chooses.  This person purposely had to leave my friend unignored, and disable the chat filter manually in order to see these "offensive words".

My question to the community is this:

Do you believe that this is acceptable behavior?  Should GMs be reduced to policing little middle-school scuffles where someone is actually offended by the F word?  And finally, where does the EULA Monkey stand in this?

This is 2007.  We have chat filters, we have ignore.  Grow up and realize that words are just words.  If you start an argument, expect a response.  If you start an argument with the sole intention of staying within guidelines and provoking the other party into an impulsive response, you are garbage.

If you are the EULA Monkey.  You are garbage.

My opinion of course.



Dev Chats, NDAs and Secrecy: Why?

Posted by Strayfe Tuesday December 4 2007 at 1:02PM
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From time to time I like to sit in on various Dev chats just to keep abreast of what's happening in the wide world of game development.  I think, in theory, it's a really good idea to foster a solid community with your playerbase, as opposed to remaining that distant and aloof entity responsible for game changes.  Often times people forget that there's a person, or a whole team of people who are responsible for that recent class nerf, or that new endgame raid, or those new abilities.  Reminding your player base of this fact contributes positively to the gaming environment.

However, having said that, I have to wonder about the recent effectiveness of this strategy.  It seems to me that, as a developer, if you're going to voluntarily offer to field questions from the community, you have to be ready to answer them.  Having sat in on the LOTRO Dev chat yesterday, I watched the whole thing with a mixture of amusement and incredulity.

It was like watching the recent Republican primary debate.  A heavily moderated environment with carefully selected, unsurprising questions, which had already been addressed in the last chat.  The Devs had legitimate answers for, at most, 3-4 of them.  The rest of them were ignored, deflected, or evaded as skillfully as any Capitol Hill veteran could hope for.

But why?

"Here we are, we're taking an hour to answer questions that we've already covered.  Don't ask anything else, though.  We're running out of one-liners."

At first, the reasoning behind this may elude you, but if you stop to think about it, it's really quite basic.  There are only a couple motives behind refusing to offer information, and those are fear and control.

Of what?  

Well, it's the same reasons NDAs exist.  It's the same reasons that, for many game developers, the features in that upcoming expansion are as closely guarded as Area 51.  One can imagine a few possibilities, but the main ones that spring to mind are rather disquieting for those who choose to read into it.

Are they afraid to tell us what they're working on because they don't have confidence in their vision?  Because they don't have confidence in their ability to implement these features in a timely manner?  Because they don't have confidence in the features themselves?  Do they think someone is going to steal their revolutionary idea?

All of that is part of it, of course.  But those are all symptoms of the larger virus:  Accountability.

Game developers do not want to be accountable to their subscribers. 

If they tell players that they're going to implement X, but for some reason, perhaps hardware limitations, they are unable to implement X, and instead they implement Y, the player base has a collective meltdown because they were all expecting X.  They head out onto forums and proclaim their displeasure with the "lying, manipulative game devs".  Eventually, word of mouth spreads, old subscribers cancel, and new gamers are reluctant to subscribe because of said company's reputation as liars.

This is pretty much why NDAs exist as well.  Games in beta do not want their beta testers heading out on forums and running down a list of gameplay features, mechanics and videos showcasing the game, because that would make the developers accountable for that content.  When the game goes live, people would expect to see the same things they saw in the videos, the same features that they were told would be there.  It would get the ball rolling too soon.  It would put them out there for criticism.

By enforcing absolute secrecy about the new game, or new patch, or new content, or new expansion, game developers can then easily fool the sheeple with clever ad campaigns, double talk, propaganda, legalese, and other intricately contrived crap designed to get Joe Gamer to drop down his money before he realizes that Feature X is watered down and Feature Y is nothing more than a copy of Feature Z from that other game.  Hell, Feature X may not even be implemented on initial release.

It would prevent people who don't like features X or Y from buying the game.  So, there you go.  When all is said and done, the god damned dollar is responsible for more semantic nonsense. 

Not all companies do this.  Square-Enix is very good about releasing information in advance of release and sticking to it.  Yet, so many companies are dreadfully afraid of being accountable for the garbage they crap out.  So much in fact, that they're willing to pull out all the legal stops to avoid the spotlight.

Darkfall listed all of their proposed features from the beginning.  What they intend to do is well known in the MMO community.  Whether or not they'll stick to it, and have everything they said they would on release... who knows. 

But I can tell you this. 

It's better to set high goals and fall short than it is to hide your goals and brag to people that you've met them.



Thrice Damned

Posted by Strayfe Monday December 3 2007 at 1:58PM
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I clicked new entry, intending to write a Part 2 on my goldseller rant, when it occurred to me that it wouldn't do the least bit of good.

Occasionally, I have bouts of idealism, where I feel like if someone were to merely point out the obvious, everyone might suddenly wake up and realize that what they're doing is wrong.  Then I realize that all these people know what they do is wrong, and they simply don't care.

Amidst the hail of straw man and false cause arguments in the comments section of my last goldseller blog, there were a couple points that did stand out.  Most prominently: developers don't care.  That's the one that really hurts to think about.  The idea that Jianggongchung and Qfdsfds' $15/month is worth just as much as yours.  The almighty dollar trumps common sense, decency, fair play and logic, once again.  In the back of my mind, I wonder if there was ever a time when principles won out over money.

And... in the back of my mind, I realized exactly why RMT bothers me so much.  In real life, you can buy anything and anyone.  Everything has a price.  When I go to a virtual world to not have to think about real life for awhile, it's disconcerting to see that everything in my game has a real world price as well.

So, for the hell of it, and for the sake of being objective, I went to IGE, which is apparently the most popular goldselling website.  I decided to see exactly what sort of price is put on my gaming, what I could afford on my budget, if I wanted to taint my gaming experience.  Now I realize exactly why these people do such good business.

I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, I work as a Paralegal for a Los Angeles law firm, and I make a decent amount of money, but certainly nothing extraordinary.  I can comfortably afford to purchase nearly 7000 gold in World of Warcraft.  Per month.

That's without cutting into any portion of my savings, affecting any of my bills in any way, or using my credit cards.  Theoretically, if I wanted to make a significant investment, I could probably swing 10000-15000 per month.

You can go out and buy 1000 gold for nothing more than the cost of a newly released game.  If you're a gamer and you spend all of your time playing WoW anyway, I can see where it's easily justifiable to spend that.  Does that mean that I will?  Not on your life.  But I do have a better understanding of exactly why it's so lucrative.

Unfortunately, until game developers release a game that's self-policing, you can expect to see gold farmers continue their rampage, unabated, until the value of game currency is next to nil. 

The new crop of games looks promising for this, most notably Darkfall.  I don't imagine RMT will have much luck trying to farm when a contingent of angry players descends upon them, slaughtering them wholesale before they have a chance to spam one broken-english laden sentence.

But anyway, on a lighter note, we now move to the title of this entry, "Thrice Damned". 

In case you're wondering what that refers to, that'd be me.  I resubscribed to World of Warcraft again. 

I started playing when it was released.  I too thought it was the best thing I had ever played, but for me, that didn't last.  I never much cared for the bureaucracy involved in raiding, so I had a 60 warrior with mediocre gear, most of which I got from PvP, because, toward the end, that's all I really did.  I quit well before BC was released, when they removed PvP titles and merged all the servers into battlegroups.

I resubscribed when BC was released.  My friend bitched at me until I did.  My warrior made it one more level to 61, before I got fed up and cancelled again two weeks later.

Now, almost a year later, I've done it again.  Thrice damned.  My third time in WoW. 

I've ranted and raved against it for a long time now, but I must say that Blizzard has made a lot of positive improvements to the game since I last played with any regularity.  My friend, needless to say, was shocked that I came back.  Hell, I'm shocked myself.

And then again, maybe I'm not.  While I wait for Age of Conan and Darkfall, WoW seems just as good of a place as any to game.  Vanguard was pretty, but the magic didn't last.  LOTRO was pretty, but the magic didn't last. 

WoW isn't pretty, but for some god forsaken reason, it keeps drawing us back, time and time again, after we swear and swear that we'll never play the stupid thing again.  And we sigh, and endure the cries of "Hypocrite", as we walk the familiar paths that we know and not necessarily love.

With little to do over the weekend, I started a Mage on Friday night, and quickly leveled to 30 by the time I left for work this morning.  I wouldn't have believed someone if they'd told me that Blizzard made it even EASIER to level, but the proof is in the pudding.

It's also worth noting that WoW seems to be a lot more acceptable to people, overall.  I wasn't able to convince most of my friends to try Vanguard or LOTRO when I started playing them.  Yet, as soon as I came back to WoW, they were more than happy to start new characters with me over the weekend.  Something just becomes so ingrained in your mind that you can't help but be biased towards it, I guess.

So I'll wait for Age of Conan and Darkfall.  The latter I'll probably be waiting for 3 years from now, but... meh.  I, like everyone else, will try Warhammer when it's released.  I may try PotBS, but chances are the heavy use of instancing is going to make me hate it.  Until then, however, I'm going to reluctantly gobble down my WoW dog (as someone so eloquently put it), and remain thrice damned.

We'll see how long it lasts this time.