Should Devs Play Their Own Game?

Recently, in EVE Online, allegations have arisen about the possibility that the most powerful alliance in the game had gained benefits due to having several CCP employees playing in their various corporations. The accusations revolved around things such as finding out about events ahead of time, getting valuable items handed over to the corporations, and gaining inside information that might help advance a war against another alliance.

CCP has investigated these claims and so far has only admitted to having employee characters in many alliances and since they have now been “outed”, they will be removed from the game (or maybe just revised to have a different name and corp history – my thoughts only, not something CCP said they would do).

I don’t want to get into a debate about what may or may not have gone on in that particular case but it does bring up some issues I had not really considered prior to these events.

Should a dev play the game they are making? If yes, should there be any restrictions on what they can do inside of the game? If no, how can players expect them to truly understand the problems everyday players are forced to cope with while playing the game?

I think devs should be allowed to play the game, in fact it should be expected. However, there needs to be restrictions in place. I feel that the employee’s character should not be allowed to give anything to another player, no matter how the employee’s character got it. I feel that they should avoid being put in positions of power inside player guilds/corporations/whatever. They should not be allowed to lead the strike party or plan the attack. They should be a foot soldier at best, taking commands and following orders. If they lead an assault, who knows what inside information they could have used to help plan things?

An employee’s character should remain anonymous and if it is ever found out in any way to be an employee’s character, the character should be deleted along with everything it owned. All employee characters should have regular log checks to make sure they aren’t doing anything inappropriate.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

– Ethic

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Ethic

I own this little MMO gaming blog but I hardly ever write on it any more. I’m more of a bloglord or something. Thankfully I have several minions to keep things rolling along.

14 thoughts on “Should Devs Play Their Own Game?”

  1. I think its important for devs to play their own game – but even more important for them to play other MMOs on the market. Comparison = quality IMO. There is always room for improvement, and what better way to initiate change than to see something you do done better by a competing company? ;)

  2. The problem is not devs, CSR’s, whatever, playing their own game. The issue is their affect on other players. If employees work together to raid BWL, no one should care. But if they try to sell objects they gain in anyway on the secondary markets, people should care. If they aid other players over others, people should care. Employees are not players, and they should never be allowed to think of themselves as so.

    In the case of Eve, it feels like employees were manipulating things along to build up BoB in order to help give momentum to other corps. In other words, they used their spare time to assist in game design and world development. Clearly, this is stupid and shouldn’t be allowed. Particularly in an open PvP sandboxy game. But “/shrug” is the usual response from CCP. And I met their head of PR at the AGC, and “shrug” is her best response to a lot of things.

  3. Wooohoo, hold on there a second.
    “they used their spare time to assist in game design and world development”
    followed by
    “Clearly, this is stupid and shouldn’t be allowed.”

    Am I missing something here? Is there a line in the EULA that says “Game experience may change during online play”? (I don’t know, is there? I expect there would be). Or does CCP have a contract with their players that state that CCP or its employees – whether as representatives or not – shall never attempt to influence the world in any way, directly or indirectly, because it may offend those players whose characters do not directly benefit from the change?

    CCP has made it explicitly clear that Eve has story lines and events run by GMs. I do not know if they have an external policy that states what exactly constitutes a GM, or how exactly CCP determines how a story line should progress (by committee, arbitrarily, GM’s discretion, etc). If they do not, then whatever these devs or CSR’s may have done – on or off company time – is none of the players’ beeswax. If the players do not like the outcome, then the player is welcome to cancel their sub and play a different game, hopefully one where there are no GM run events at all like World of Warcraft or Tetris Online.

    I’m not sure how many of you folks are aware, but MMOs were not dreamed up by Richard Garriott (UO) or Brad McQuaid (EQ). They evolved quite organically from text-based MUDs, MUSHs and MOOs, that has been around almost as long as computer gaming itself has. Player designed content (like housing and clothing) comes largely from MOOs, roleplaying largely from MUSHs, and combat systems and standard concepts (quests, stats etc) from MUDs. A very, very large percentage of MUDs and MUSHs (not so much MOOs) have GMs, often trusted volunteers, that to an extent varying from game to game run events that change story lines and even the state of the world. The integrity and impartiality of those GMs, along with creativity, rule familiarity and so forth, is what makes the MU* a particularly good or bad one. If your team is a corrupt bunch of immature dweebs that only care about picking on their players with their uber-powerful characters, in time nobody will play that game. On the other hand, if your team is exceptionally creative, fair and work well together, the game will be fantastic and will attract a ton of players.

    If some dev within Eve has indeed abused their insight into the game mechanics to favour himself or his group to the detriment of other players, then certainly he will either get reprimanded, or CCP will send a clear signal that they do not care about their player experience and players will leave as a result. If, on the other hand, the dev made an honest attempt at improving the overall game experience for the majority of players by implementing some story line which happened to benefit one party or another, then frankly the rest of the players should do one of three things:
    1) Realize that CCP is trying to improve the game by “doling out plot” to individuals, that the people they employ care enough about the game and the players to make such attempts (even in their spare time), and that their time to benefit will come around eventually,
    2) Shut up, or
    3) Leave the game.

  4. I feel that the employee’s character should not be allowed to give anything to another player, no matter how the employee’s character got it. I feel that they should avoid being put in positions of power inside player guilds/corporations/whatever. They should not be allowed to lead the strike party or plan the attack.

    I don’t see the problem. Personal initiative shouldn’t be forbidden.

    If an employer does something within the realm of possibilities of any other player, respecting the same rules that apply to all other players, then I don’t see absolutely any problem.

    The problem with Eve is the grey area due to some mechanics not being absolutely “passive”.

  5. As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s no problem with playing the game. There’s a serious problem with them winning the game, playing favourites, or handing out very very useful valuable items to specific players for no good reason.

    The problem is compounded by the T2 lottery system being totally closed: there’s no way to be sure that these valuable items are being handed out fairly at all.

  6. “There’s a serious problem with them winning the game, playing favourites, or handing out very very useful valuable items to specific players for no good reason.”

    If CCP’s staff are immature enough to play a game like Eve to “win”, then they shouldn’t have been hired on in the first place. Just like in MU* land, when the server owners’ hiring practices turn nepotistic and immaturity and corruption ensues, players should leave the game since the game’s administrators has made it clear that the world exist for their enjoyment alone.

    I have not seen enough proof to indicate that this is a case of corruption – as Tide mentioned above, it seems more like a case of amateurish unsanctioned world building, something CCP may or may not have a policy against. Judging by the recent “disciplinary action” handed out by the head GM (as reported on Terra Nova, f.ex) it seems as though they might – so let’s sit this one out and see what comes of it, instead of screaming foul and calling for the immediate execution of all manner of plot and dynamism in our games for the sake of predictability and repetition.

  7. I recall one of the senior devs saying that they were mostly ex-UO “griefers”, which is why they set out to make a hardcore PvP game in the first place.

    Describing it as “plot” seems like a gross mischaracterisation to me – one of the selling points of EvE is that you can do your own worldbuilding, making outposts in space, and so on; if that gets taken away from you and crushed by another group of players who’ve not had to work for their equipment but been handed it, then it’s hard to see that as “worldbuilding”.

  8. In Eve’s case, I’m just going by face value of Tide’s statement:

    “In the case of Eve, it feels like employees were manipulating things along to build up BoB in order to help give momentum to other corps. In other words, they used their spare time to assist in game design and world development.”

    Everyday space building, corporation administration and so on is one thing – Eve handles this very well on its own without interference. The rolling out of new (patched in) tech, on the other hand, is not an everyday occurrence and could definitely warrant plot. In the situation Tide’s referring to, a CCP employee – possibly a rogue employee, possibly not – determined (rightly or wrongly) that the game would be more enjoyable for players in general if a particular player faction was bolstered.

    I’m not saying he was justified or made the right call, but to call for his and every game dev’s head if he was actually trying to make the game more enjoyable by taking some personal initiative will just serve to make the game worse by making companies afraid of bettering their game (much like the fear of nerfing, or conversely, the fear of having any unbalance whatsoever).

    And again – if this was just some dweeb that, in his spare time, has so little of an actual life that he uses godlike powers to improve his own avatar or those of his in-game friends, then he deserves to be roasted on a really large, uncomfortable spit – but the only way other players can enforce this is by lodging the complaint to CCP, let them deal with it, and leave the game if they don’t. Players should not be trying to rewrite the rules of how devs can run their own game, much like players shouldn’t sit around and whine over the latest nerf, the labour/payoff ratio of an instance, or whatever.

  9. So a group of BoB players found an exploit in the Passive Targeter that allowed it to target ships behind a POS shield, equipped their ships with such a device, and proceeded to blow up a bunch of “innocent” players who were camping in their POS.

    While in an ideal world, what they should have done would be to contact a GM to report the bug, and have the bug fixed.

    In the end, the victimized players complained and got CCP’s admittance to a heartoforth unknown bug in the system, all their stuff back, and the bug was fixed. The thread on the official forum – which was undoubtedly full of whining, accusations and inaccurate information from both sides – was removed, since CCP had already changed history and fixed the bug.

    What would have been your preferred solution? To see the – obviously very dedicated, likely long-time – subscribers making up the BoB fleet permabanned? To leave an inflammatory and largely incorrect thread about the incident on the official board?

    Can you imagine the fallout of a number of formerly dedicated, well-known players campaigning against CCP because they “in good faith” used a “functionality” that CCP “later determined” to be a “bug”? What good would it do to leave a message thread about an event erased from history and a bug that no longer exists on the official board, to irritate players who were not involved and potentially turning off potential subscribers?

    I’m sorry, I’m not convinced of the cloven hooves and horns you’re attributing to CCP. It seems to me they were perfectly justified for their actions in the case you’re mentioning.

  10. Devs should absolutely play thier own game. If they don’t play it, how can they fully know what the mechanics are and what the fallout of any addition/enhancement/nerf will ultimately impact?

    EVE’s problem early on was that the devs didn’t play the game AT ALL. This was evidenced during development and that’s why I made it a mandate for all the EVE team to play the game at least once every two weeks for at least 3 hours at a time. I cannot begin to tell you how quickly annoying bugs and game features were cleaned up. :)

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