MMO column on bugs, hacks draws readers’ comments

Zoned InMMO column on
bugs, hacks draws readers’ comments


Michael Lafferty

Readers respond to the issue of
hacks and bugs stealing entertainment and enjoyment from MMOs

At the
beginning of the month, I penned (and GameZone published) an opinion piece on
how players can hack a game and take advantage of bugs on a player-versus-player
server in EverQuest II to make the experience less than fair and ruin the
entertainment value.

reference, the column can be found at:

Bugs, exploits hamper
an MMO, but the fault is mostly with players breaking the rules

Since that
was published, I have received a few e-mails – most agreeing with what the
column stated. After several communications with a couple of the respondents, I
feel it necessary to publish the e-mails and their opinions – which they have
given permission to publish in this format.

The first
was from Jack ‘Shiznit.’ This is a transcription of the conversation we had via

nature of playing games well is to take advantage of the rules operating the
game. In the case of video games, all the rules operating the game are contained
within the game itself. Devs set the rules by coding the game. If their code has
faults, don’t blame players for taking advantage of them, when it was the dev’s
mistake. My opinion is simple, if the devs want their game to have certain
parameters, then it is their responsibility to correctly code them, and it is
NEVER a player’s/fan’s fault playing a game to the best of their ability even if
it goes against the INTENTIONS of the devs. Period.”

The response was …

“I tend to
agree that it falls on the devs, but when players hack a game to create a
situation (the speed hack) that is outside what was in the game, that is on the
players … If the faulty design issues allow players to ‘bend’ the rules, then my
thought is either the devs have to state ‘Ok, new rules – there are none’ and
make players aware of that, or take action. If you enter a zone that says PvP
limit is 10 levels, and you see a player 26 levels above you coming at you, you
don’t think twice. Never mind that even if you wanted to attack them, because of
the level difference you would never hit them, but when that upper player knows
they can one-shot the unsuspecting player, who is playing within the framework
of the game, and does so, that falls on both the player to not be such an ass
and the devs to make sure their ruleset works.

though, was hoping to generate some comments, and I appreciate your’s.”

To which Jack replied …

“I absolutely
agree about your first example. Players using third-party software to alter the
way the game itself works, or displays, giving them an advantage, is absolutely
cheating and the blame falls squarely on the those players’ shoulders. Your
second example is more like what you were describing in your article, and I
still feel, that the full responsibility falls on the devs. Creating a rule
(like ‘this area is for players of X level’), but not having the game itself
enforce the rule, is a bug or oversight that needs to be addressed by the
developers via a software fix, not player sanction, and allowing the bug to
exist is irresponsible, and can cause quite a bit of trouble between fans of the
game, who all like the game, but don’t share the same philosophy about playing

“This is an
issue close to my heart because it has effected me personally. I have for years
played a game called Day of Defeat, and I have played it all the way from a
greenhorn newbie, who downloaded it one day out of sheer boredom, to the top
level of competition available. The game started out as a free,
community-developed modification for the original Half-life. As you can imagine,
a game made in such a way, has flaws. Despite its flaws though, the game became
wildly popular, and was even bought, dev team and all, by Valve Software. The
nature of the game made it ideal for league play, so as with others games of
this variety, the game developed a serious league following, and a just as large
following of people who play it casually. As I said, this game has bugs. Every
revision of the game that has been released has bugs. Members of the development
team have gone on record numerous time over the years about what they feel are
bugs, and that players shouldn’t ‘exploit’ this bug or that bug. Most of the
time however, they don’t fix the bugs, they just say, ‘you shouldn’t do that.’
Most all of the leagues, including the Cyberathlete Amateur/Professional League,
know that these rules of intention are unenforceable, and thereby do not include
them in their league rules. For this particular game, the issue has totally
split the community between league players and casual players, making it very
difficult for a league player to enjoy a casual game. On one hand you have
players like me, who play the game competitively, and share the philosophy that
the game creates its own rules, and on the other you have the casual gamer, who
reads the developer’s forum (DoD has a huge fanbase at their developer forums),
and sees posts from the makers of the game stating they are against X behavior,
and shares their view without thinking about what is really going on. In this
particular game, this difference has created great animosity between the two
groups. One group plays under a certain philosophy, and one a totally different
philosophy, and when they clash, a group of teen to thirty-somethings can create
quite a caustic situation. All of it could be avoided with a few simple lines of
code. To be clear, many of the bugs survive through revision after revision of
the game, and sometimes the development teams restates their objection to
players exploiting them, yet fail again and again to eliminate them.

“Since the
ball is always in the developer’s court, I will never side against a player/fan
over a stated versus actual coded rule, even if the rule is stated within the
game itself (as is a possibility with MMOs). As for your example of the high
level players exploiting the fact that the game allows them to attack and kill
players of a substantially lower level, I would think of them in conjunction
with the players who fall victim and complain, as necessary to the bug
reporting/fixing aspect of developing a very complex game.”

Matt, aka
‘splynncryth’ had this to say:

don’t know how much mail you receive, or if you will have the time to read this,
but I would like to try an attempt and convey some of my thoughts.

“The problem
is the weak view of rules. Perhaps it is time for the concept of law to be
introduced into the MMO world. The problems you bring up with players in the
game world are valid for human nature in general. We developed systems of laws
to deal with people who refuse to see the life and emotional state of another on
par with themselves. Because they have proven that they have a desire to
interact with society in a way that is directly detrimental, we remove their
ability to interact with society.

“While the
issue of prison is a whole different issue, I think the lessons in the evolution
of civilization can be reapplied to the MMO game environment. The problem, as
you state, is the issue of manpower. Who really wants to play a lawyer in an
MMORPG? How about a police officer? By the nature of what they do, the very
concepts of the game would need to be thrown aside. Then there are the money
issues of supporting the people doing this work.

“So what’s
the solution? I don’t really know, or have a great idea. I do think there should
be real game law, but you might as well not have it unless you enforce it.
Paying people to do it does not seem like a good option but the alternatives
seem equally distasteful. Either continue with a system without rules, or
develop some sort of AI to handle the law enforcement. As for lawyers? I have no
idea how this would play out. Perhaps there are those who believe a world
without them would be a wonderful place, even if it is only a virtual one. But
there is a need for mediators, and that is what a lawyer is supposed to do.

“But the
thing that is ultimately the most depressing is, even if you catch them with one
account on one credit card in one game, how can you ensure they are also dealt
with for their criminal action on another account, with a different credit card,
in a different game world?

“It feels
like a sci-fi detective movie.”

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