The gaming discussion over what an exploit is, and why players use them has raged over many an internet forum. Usually with absolutists from both side weighing in, usually with examples of Godwin's Law being evidenced in great amounts. I was shocked to learn the other day that I apparently exploiting in DCUO. Really, me, I was shocked too!
One of the powersets in DCUO (Sorcery) has a pet summoning ability were you summon an ikkle eye which follows you around. When in Healing mode, the ikkle eye heals, when in damage mode the eye attacks your foes. However, and it was pretty funny when I noticed this, the eye is bugged. It retains the abilities of the role you were in when you summoned it first. So you can summon it in a healing role, switch to damage role, and effectively glide through the solo content as a high DPS killing machine with a personal healer. This, to use a technical MMORPG term here, is BA-ROKEN! I can see the point here, while it may be extremely fun for the player to stride through the game solo and pulling large packs of mobs hammering out vast amounts of damage, I’m obviously belittling the solo experiences of other players by doing so… Apart from the fire powerset players of course, to whom walking through the game as self healing high damage AOE monstrosities is the norm.
So... In short... I broke the rules because a game designer messed up somewhere and the game engine ain’t clever enough. And it is obviously my fault, completely my fault, that this occurred. How should I be punished? Should my account be disabled? Should a bug which has never been reported to me before suddenly mean my hours of investment in the game get thrown in the bin by the company? The Terms of Service and End User Licensing Agreement are explicit after all, I’m an exploiter, and deserve to be punished.
More seriously, just how do, or should, you punish your paying customers as a company for breaking the rules in an MMOG? How do you make sure the paying customer isn’t so upset as to cancel their subscription? Or do you just ignore all that and see the “bigger picture” and accept the loss as part of maintaining a working MMOG game? Is this just the stuff which “happens” when you try and maintain your rules within an online environment?
A good attempt to bring together the various stands of what cheating or exploiting really is can be found here in the Proceedings of DiGRA 2009. The article defines cheating well, but isn’t as detailed on punishment. Another article here, talks about the problems of taking action, but again, isn’t that detailed. The legal framework has even been examined in detail, but seriously, what sort of company wants to punish potentially paying customers? The problems are pretty awful!
Maybe me just feeling bad about it will be enough?
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