Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Do you 'win' if you 'cheat'?

But only because I cheat...

Sven's post here made me realise that actually I've got too much to say about this to fit on his comments page, so I thought I'd give him some link love (which he's been lacking lately, poor baby) and write a response on MY blog.  Go read his post then come back, m'kay?   And just to be clear from the start - I'm not  aiming to tear Sven's post apart, mainly because he'd beat me hands-down in a battle debate but also because I think he writes highly thoughtfully and intelligently about game design (and other stuff).  Like, waaaaaaaaaay better than I do.  I excel at sparkly stuff and ranting.  Not necessarily at the same time.  That said, I am going to take each of his statements and put my spin on them...  

"I’d like you to join me in a simple thought experiment. Imagine a simple change to WOW: each player is given an additional ability, called, simply, Cheat. It’s not bound to any key by default, but it’s there if you want it.  It does one thing – it instantly kills whatever (non-player) mob you are targeting."  Righty-ho - let's start with that then shall we?  Why would you want this?  Oh, because of this: "Finding a particular encounter too difficult or annoying ? Simply press Cheat and carry on with the rest of the game. Getting tired and frustrated after banging your head against a particular boss for weeks? Don’t let your raid guild fall apart - just press Cheat and there’s automatically a raid wide vote on whether to kill the boss and move on. A single veto and you carry on as before."

Ok, I think I get this.  Rather than getting cock-blocked by a (raid) boss you have an insta-death button.  So when you're grouped you vote to decide whether that will happen and the majority rules.  Oh no they don't: "A single veto and you carry on as before."   Ok.  Leaving aside (for the moment) any sense of personal accomplishment, can you think of an easier way to divide a group and make people rage-quit?  Surely there's enough entitlement/resentment towards epixx and the loot divide anyways?  What happens when your raid team is split with 50% (approx) wanting to do things the good old-fashioned way and the other half wanting free epixx NAO!  But Sven's view that: "As a result, this change wouldn’t affect people who enjoy raiding for the challenge it poses: they can get their fun as before, with the personal satisfaction of knowing they did it the hard way."  Pre-empts me.  Or does it?  I guess you could just say that this would make PuGing easier - rather than having your 'go-go-go' (wo) man you'd now have your 'cheat-cheat-cheat' (wo)man.  If you just wanted to blast through for your phat lootz you could at least do so with a group of like-minded souls... 

"People have been using cheat codes in single player games for ages, to avoid content they dislike. What’s the difference? MMOs aren’t a zero-sum game. By getting the shiny epixx from Mr Bigboss, you aren’t preventing anyone else from getting them."  No you aren't.  But really, if you want to play a single-player game... go play one.  I don't care what haxx you use when it's just YOU (and I know that's rich coming from a player who's currently choosing to play an MMO like it's a SPG, you don't need to point out the irony.)  Haxx when it's just you are one thing.  I've watched Daughter plug cheat codes into various Sims and have all the Simoleons she could spend in two lifetimes roll into her bank (or whatever) but it doesn't impact on anyone else.  I guess that you can argue this point with MMOs as well - if I'm happy to stride round with the "Mighty Halberd of Foozlecide (with New, Improved, Shadowfire Animation!)" equipped as a result of just hitting my 'cheat' button, why should this impact on anyone else's game? I guess the short answer is that it doesn't.  You can purchase BoE epixx after all, so what's the difference?  And this is where I start to get into the muddy waters of 'morality' or the 'deserving' vs. the 'undeserving'.  Which I'm not sure I'm equipped to do, but I'll give it a shot.

Imagine two guilds -  Guild LolGiefEpixxNao (LolGEN) (which, by the way, will be my guild's name, should I ever create a guild on a PvE server...) and Guild WorkPlayRaid (WPR).  Guild LolGEN pile through all the raid content in one night every week and have epixx rained down on them by the benevolent gods of the cheat button.  All their players are equipped with the leetest of leet gears.  Guild WPR choose not to cheat and each week progress slowly through content.  Their players have to 'earn' DKP (or whatever) and take their chances with Lady RNG. They have to know tactics, be able to not stand in The Bad, come raid ready etc etc.  They will be badly geared when compared to Guild LolGEN.  Which guild is 'better'?  Which guild is more 'deserving' of epics?  Sven's point: "The only people who might be bothered are those whose real reason for raiding is to collect status symbols to show off to other players. If everybody gets the Mighty Halberd of Foozlecide (with New, Improved, Shadowfire Animation!), how is anyone to know how insecure and attention-seeking superior the status-raiders are?"  might be valid.  But I'm not sure it is to all players.  I'm not convinced that raiding is all about flexing your e-peen.  It's about overcoming challenges in a group.  It's about tenacity, comradeship, grit and determination.  Does that make Guild WPR more 'entitled' to their epixx?  My view: yes it does.  Sorry, but having a button that allows loot to rain down on you is taking the concept of 'privilege' a step too far.  There's no measurable impact, this goes without saying, but to me it 'feels' wrong (I can imagine Sven rubbing his hands in glee as soon as he reads that sentence...)  And not just 'wrong', it's... pointless.

Because if you have a big total annihilation button what else are you going to do?  Why are you even playing?  There's no challenge at all.  There's no point in levelling.  You can take your level one character 'Rawrrpwn' to any zone, take on any mob and win.  Is this even playing a game?  Cos it sure as hell doesn't sound like one to me, and not because I'm an e-peening raider. Because I haven't been (a raider) for a long time now.  But because I, or Himself as I guess it now stands, don't pay my subscription fee every month to hit one button.  I'm not really sure if anyone does.  But it's certainly an interesting thing to think about.  I'd love to hear your thoughts (and I bet Sven would as well!)     


  1. A couple of points:

    1. I agree that it "feels wrong" for LolGEN to have more rewards than WPR, but I can't actually justify that, beyond a vague puritan feeling that hard work morally *should* be rewarded more than cheating. The trouble is, that only applies when the two are competing for loot. When there's an infinite digital supply, I'm not sure that applies. Hence the (rather provocative) post.

    2. As for the game being boring, that depends on how much you use the button. If your lack of willpower spoils the game for you, then tough. But if someone is genuinely stuck (not all players are equally able), having nowhere to go is pretty dull too. Of course they can learn and improve, but we all have an upper limit to our capacity.

  2. 1. Heh - I knew you'd jump on that point as I was writing the post ;) As soon as I can format a coherent, well thought out argument I'll get back to you ;p

    2. " lack of willpower" - have we met?? Have you noticed the theme of deeply-specc'd-into-willpower running through my posts? No? That's because I got none ;) But on a more serious note, I genuinely think that having a 'win' button is one HELL of a temptation. We've all had moments of being deeply, teeth-grindingly frustrated with certain quests/fights/bosses etc and if you had a button to kill the King Foozle... yeah he'd be dead, but would you regret it in the morning *wiggles eyebrows suggestively*. Getting cock-blocked is a bloody nightmare, I agree, but I'm not sure that placing a button of temptation there is a good thing. And yeah, basically saying "man up princess and get more willpower" might be true but it isn't necessarily helpful!

    In MMOs I'm not sure that it's possibly to get genuinely 'stuck' in the way you're describing. Maybe we're a bit used to being a tad OP, but if you need help killing something/doing a quest group with someone and do it that way? Everyone is muttering about how the community is dying on it's feet at present - surely encouraging people to group up is better than giving everyone a 'beat the game' button?

  3. I'd look down on people who used to cheat button. I would think I'm better than them if I killed the bosses legitimately. And I think that's not unusual... after all, we don't appreciate someone who gets a promotion by sleeping with the boss, do we? We like it when they work for it.

    That being said, I would die for that button when I'm playing my alts on PvP servers. I know I'm fair game, but I absolutely hate it when I get ganked while I'm not hurting anyone. Being able to kill those people would be SO SO satisfying.
    (I'm a carebear who only ended up on PvP servers because of friends.)

  4. Hey Jen

    I do agree with you. And thank you for your honesty!

    Re PvP. *shudders*. That is all!