Friday, February 29, 2008

Cheaters are evil, …

… aren’t they? Generally, cheating is considered as dishonourable behaviour. This makes of course sense, as every game, may it be an ancient board game like chess or a modern online game only provides fun to all players, if everyone sticks to the rules - rules that have been predefined and agreed upon. Doesn’t that sound strange, providing fun by sticking to rules? No, it doesn’t. In my opinion, games to a very large extend imitate basic concepts of the real world and life. As in real life, you loose all your respect and honour by breaking the rules. Just think of the saying: “Gambling debts are debts of honour”. At times, where everybody has a bank loan of € 150.000 a gambling dept of € 25 is still considered a question of honour.
Cheating on your fellow players is considered as bad. A 5th ace, a short look in your opponents cards – men have been killed for less.

In an interview I gave to one of our fansites, I said: “I don’t understand cheaters, as I don’t see the benefits. Achieving my goal is only satisfying to me if I had to work hard for it.” Or as my father always used to say: “No pain, no gain.”

So, cheaters are evil, aren’t they? In our own game we do have a lot of people that don’t seem to share my opinion. Now I can ask myself, why is that? I am quite sure, they wouldn’t cheat in chess, but they do in Tibia. Why is that? Is it because they don’t have to look into their opponents eyes when they stab them from behind? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, right now they get punished in accordance with our rule enforcement policy. Hell yeah, good so. No mercy. We make the rules – don’t break the rules.

On the other hand, I am getting paid for trying to take the customers point of view and to understand them – and NOT to condemn them. So, once again: Why are they cheating?
Because they don’t like certain aspects of our game play! They think those aspects are only time consuming, useless or even boring. Boring, now that’s an association I don’t wanna have in one of my customers’ head. Well, if it’s boring, they’re adjusting it to their needs. That’s what they do.

Can we punish this kind of behaviour? Yes, we can. Can we ignore the reasons behind this kind of behaviour? We most definitely cannot.
We are making a game for our customers, not for ourselves. If a fair amount of our players think that some aspects of the game are boring, we should think about how to make it more interesting. That’s our bloody job. That’s what we get paid for. I could say: Cheating is a very blunt and risky way of our customers to tell us that our game needs improvement.

This doesn’t mean that we are willing to follow all customer requests. I hate to say that, but sometimes they just don’t know what’s good for them. Most players of our game hate the pretty harsh death penalty. If we asked them, they would tell us to get rid of it, and if there was a cheat to countermeasure the death penalty, it would be sold on the black market for the price of 10 Premium Accounts, believe me. So, should we lower our death penalty significantly as so many of our players seem to hate it? Nope, not at all. That’s part of the Tibia experience, which makes the game so unique. Abandon it and you killed the game.

So, too conclude: If you wanna improve your product, listen to everybody, even the cheaters. In the meantime: Prosecute them! They're cheaters after all - and men have been killed for less. ;-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's a girl ...

... I think. Well, you can never be that sure. No, I haven't become a father. If I had, I guess I would have a rather clear idea about the sex of my baby.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple in the virtual world. Don't get me wrong, it is an important part of online communities to be able to hide some aspects of your real personality. It gives you freedom, lets you interact with people you'd never talk to in the real world. And let's be honest, everybody tries to hide some things. You do that on a real date too. At least I do.

So, why should it be any different in online communities? However, hiding some aspects (like "Oh no, I am not balled") cannot put you on a totally wrong track as changing your sex can. I mean, imagine you're meeting a "sexy, trendy wendy frappachino" babe and after you've sent her 7867 cute kiss smiley's she tells you: "Oh, by the way. My name is Frank the Tank".

That is really embarrassing. Even more, if you're head of marketing department and known in your community. I could as well flush my reputation down the toilet.
Well, I've just read a forum signature that suits here:
"Welcome to the internet, where men are men, women are men and teenage girls are FBI agents."

I guess, the only thing I can be absolutely sure about is my own sex.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stupid ...

... attacks. I don't know if anyone of you is familiar with DDoS attacks and their consequences. I don't wanna go into detail, but roughly spoken, some guy gets control over hundreds of computers and commands them to send useless bits of information to one single server at one specific moment. This either causes the addressed server to crash, as he has to process all this useless information, or the inbound connection to this server gets jammed, so no other valid information can come through.
Well, I am no technician, so actually I don't care about possible defense mechanisms as long as they come in quick.

The problem I am having is: What is the suitable amount of information to give out to your community. They are very well aware that we have a problem with those kind of attacks and understandably they request answers from us on how long this situation will last and how long it will take us to put sufficient countermeasures in place.
I would love to tell them everything about the situation, about purchases of new hardware, about sophisticated software solutions we've developed, you name it. BUT, isn't that already motivation enough for the attacker? If he sees us running about like headless chickens, couldn't that cause him to try to deal the final blow?
On the other hand, if we don't inform the community sufficiently, there will not be any community left to protect, as they will all - at least a significant amount - leave us for another online game.

I've talked to one of our customers today. He was really upset and disappointed by our performance. I've written him a long and extensive email, trying to explain the current situation and the limitations we are bound to. Interesting enough, he replied shortly after and was totally at ease and calm. So this is telling me, talk to the people and they will understand and sometimes even support you in your battle.
Once again, how to solve this dilemma? I am faced with a Hobson's choice. Informing the community to keep them happy always comes along with informing the attackers about our current state. Damnit!!!!