Space Drama: Fair or Foul?

Ethic posted recently about the troubled fall of Ars Caelestis in Eve online. I am not going to rehash the details or even summarize it here. You can just click the link and read about it yourself.

Why did this happen? Was it fair play or foul play? I think many people reading and commenting on Ethic’s post are missing something critical and important.

If something happens solely inside of a game, within the context and limitations of the game’s rules, mechanics, and community expectations for what is fair, then fine. But if something in-game is affected by actions out of game, then it is an entirely different situation.

If you create another character to join an enemy guild, corporation, clan, whatever, and use it to gather intelligence, sabotage their efforts, seed discord, steal their items, and let their enemies in the backdoor, then I would say that you are a cheater of the worst kind. You have no honor, no spine, and you are not as sneaky or clever as you think you are. Anything you do should be undone, and all of your accounts should be deleted, and you should be banned permanently.

Making multiple characters, accounts, and forum IDs for this purpose is the lowest of the low. This is not part of the game.


1) Limit accounts to ONE character.

I am sure some of you are going to get pissy with me over this one, but you should only have one character per account in an MMORPG. This would solve a lot of problems.

Why do people need or want multiple character slots?

Most MMORPGs are so static and linear, that you need extras to try different approaches for developing your character. How many times have you heard someone complain about “gimping” their characters and feeling frustrated at the amount of time they now feel was totally wasted.

Another reason for creating a new low level character is so you can play with a friend that just joined the game. This problem is because of the huge disparities between two characters of different levels. Sounds like linear gameplay and more ladders to me.

Mule anyone? Limited inventory can be a real pain in the ass…even more so in a game that doesn’t have a balanced economy. If I have to create another character simply to hold some of my loot, the game has a problem.

Exactly what problems does one character per account solve?

Well for starters, you make it more difficult for some spineless immature Machiavellian wannabe to cheat. If they want to, they have to make another account, and pay more fees. Sure, this approach won’t stop them from doing it, but it makes it a little harder, and that might be enough to limit how often it occurs.

MMORPGs are meant to be immersive and centered around the character. One of the key signs to look for as a measure of how well a game is immersive is whether or not the player identifies with their character. When they talk about the game, do they say “Oh man, I got into a fight with this huge creature the other day and I got my butt kicked!” or do they say “Oh man, my character got into a fight with this huge creature the other day and it got its butt kicked!”

See the difference? Multiple characters on an account makes it easy to thwart the immersion. Less value is placed on the characters, social relationships, items, and so forth.

2) Link Forum and Game accounts to characters.

The first problem here is that publishers and developers act like the Forums ARE the community. In reality, only a very small percentage of actual players even read the forums, much less post there. Even so, the forums are visible to everyone and certainly an influencing factor to the silent majority.

Would you be surprised that the most vocal troublemakers on a game’s forums most likely aren’t even playing the game?

I think that forum IDs, game accounts, and characters should all be linked. If you click on someone’s profile, you should be able to see ALL of their characters (even if they have multiple accounts). This will add a measure of accountability and transparency, not to mention that people will be a LOT more careful about what they say. Anonymity makes it too easy for people to lie, slander, troll, and flame. If you are going to open your fat mouth and harass someone on the forums, you better be ready to back it up in-game with your character.

3) The Family Tree

Ok fine, you want multiple characters, and you want to be able to use them to infiltrate your enemies. Well then do it the right way, which is in the context of the game. All of your characters need to be related or have some other common bond…otherwise, how can you possibly justify how they know each other, or why they would share information and betray their brethren? After all, spying is risky business and you can’t trust anyone…

Fine, they are distant cousins and blood loyalty runs deep in your family. Ok. But if you want to go that route, other player characters need to be able to know that you have these ties and are a possible security risk. Publish the family tree! Your character profile should list all of your “relatives”.

Anyway, I don’t buy the argument that “this is just a game, get over it” because cheating is cheating. If a character wants to leave whatever organization they belong to, and join another one as a spy and feed back information to their friends, fine. I get it. The game is supposed to be played like that. But creating alts, gaining access to private forums, joining voicechat servers, and every other out of game method (particularly creating secondary characters!!!) is just wrong.

Play fair.

Posted by “Achilles” (as quoted by Ethic in his post):

1. Only join alliances that were heavy users of forums. Get at least one members into an admin capacity asap. Once there, give members access to leadership and restricted section of the forum. Once inside, members were to obtain as much vital information as possible
2. Get members into admin roles on whatever voice server said alliance used. Admit members of opposing alliances into the voice server under non-threatening names. Once there, the enemy would have a distinct advantage in any battle.
3. Place alts in every corp in the alliance to further funnel Intel.
4. Place alts in leadership positions in the alliance and in the individual corps. If possible, attempt to funnel money and assets away from the corps. Use fake logs and screens to blame other players in said corps, further causing a rift between members.
5. Seed discontent where possible. This was done mainly by raising issues and causing internal strife, while attempting to make it look like we were the victims.
6. Make contacts in enemy alliances with alts and funnel all Intel to their leadership. Sit back and watch as every battle is lost and the alliance falls apart.
7. Rinse and repeat.

Everything listed here is totally against the spirit of mmorpgs, and none if this was intended by designers as a valid means to play the game or succeed in it. Regardless of whether or not this stuff occurred in the particular history of Ars Caelestis, it does happen frequently in Eve and many other games. It needs to stop. Either the players need to start acting like adults and learn what honor means, or the developers are going to start putting more restrictions on games to keep this type of cheating from happening again.

Grow up kiddies. No one likes a smarmy cheater. Particularly not Nicodemus.

Anyway, thats my two cents and a quick rant on the subject.

14 thoughts on “Space Drama: Fair or Foul?”

  1. This is essentially what I was trying to get across in that discussion. That there is a difference between playing the game and just being a jackass who uses faults in the developers scheme to screw over other people

    Suggestion number one however I don’t agree with the overall suggestion, while agreeing with part of it. The part where you say

    “Mule anyone? Limited inventory can be a real pain in the ass…even more so in a game that doesn’t have a balanced economy. If I have to create another character simply to hold some of my loot, the game has a problem.”

    I agree thats a busted mechanic. WoW irritates the hell out of me because I end up with so much junk running around (not to mention running around with different sets of armor, which is also busted and asinine). To top it all off some idiot of a developer at Blizzard said he considers inventory management a kind of mini game thats fun….W T F. All that tells me is he either doesn’t play the game or he’s never leveled a toon past 20 in a traditional manner.

    You did leave out one reason for multiple accounts and the main reason I have a full slate of characters in WoW. The different way the different classes play. It let’s me run around on a characer that plays differently than my “main” and does add a lil extra life in to the game (although running the same instances over and over does get…old).

    I don’t hide from people on my various characters either. Ever single character’s name starts the same way (all variations of Karnak in WoW) no matter what game I play(ed) in. It let’s people know who I am no matter the character.

    Suggestion number 2 I whole heartedly agree with. The forum boards for WoW (or any game for that matter)wouldn’t be near as bad if people couldn’t just roll up a level 1 alt and proceed to flame away because now no one knows them. Why Blizzard even allows you to switch characters you are posting from is beyond me.

    “ALL of their characters (even if they have multiple accounts).”
    I could see that working if the multiple accounts were paid for with the same credit card, but would it work with accounts paid by prepaid cards?

    Suggestion 3

    I think thats what a lot of people are missing. These more infamous scams in EvE weren’t done in a role playing fashion. They were done using underhanded means which there is NO defense against because all the checks and balances you suggested are not there in EvE. Seriously with how EvE (or just about any MMO is run) how does one stop the outline of actions that Achilles gave? Simple answer is they can’t due to the anonymity allowed. What sets EvE apart is the scale of what these actions can hurt.

    If our Guild Leader in WoW did something along the lines of Achilles, sure the rest of us would be pissed but we would carry on without him because he couldn’t take anything from US as individuals. We would still have our gear, and our personal gold. All he would get is gold out of the deal, which to be honest isn’t that big a deal in WoW (I haven’t bought anything outside of my mounts and components since I started the game)

  2. A friend of mine (who doesn’t play EvE and thus has his perspective right) just had a great idea – one that works perfectly well within the theme of EvE and which I wholeheartedly endorse.

    Solution: For 100Mn ISK and the sufficient level of Criminal Connections, a corp like Genolution will provide a clone which entirely changes your avatar’s appearance, and they’ll handle the altering of your name, callsign and any other things identifying you as you – essentially leading you through character creation, but preserving your skill points. All your assets, except your ISK and the limited number of assets you brought with you to the cloning station, will be lost as you are no longer able to claim ownership of them.

    Instead of trying to figure out ways CCP could police out-of-game matters, bring the functionality of pulling such scams in-game. There would no longer be a reason for scammers to play with eBay accounts and asset transfers, and no reason for scammed players to complain as the scam was entirely in-game and entirely “legitimate”.

    In addition, it would bring entirely new gameplay element of spying and infiltration, which would further reduce the need to do such things by underhanded, out-of-game ways.

    I think it’s a great idea and definitely right up CCP’s alley.

  3. Good comments Rand.

    Lachek, that is exactly what I was thinking. The failure of some MMORPGs is that they want social interaction and gaming to be important or necessary, but they fail to create the mechanics for it in-game, and leave it to occur out of game.

  4. A good solution Lachek IF everything was done in game under your own name. Also there should still be a way in game for the people wronged to be able to track the person down (not fair to give the thief a “free” ride out of dodge). That adds a bit more to the atmosphere, to me what fun would there be to get away with no chance of retribution..that’s boring, unless one is only doing it to be a jerk.

    But with the anything goes attitude in EvE from CCP there would be no incentive to use that system. Also it still leaves the game open to what happened to Ethic’s Corp which wasn’t a scam, but one player deciding to take the ball and go somewhere else, regardless of the fact that he didn’t pay for the ball by himself. He didn’t do any spying, he didn’t try to get them in a war, he just stole the money/items and ran. That’s not role playing, that’s being a jerk.

    You are assuming the people who pull these stunts WANT to role play them, they don’t, they in general, wanted to be jerks about the whole deal and screw someone else over. As long as the ability to xfer huge sums and items to other characters exists the people who want to be jerks will continue to do so.

    As long as people can post under different names/accounts, sell there ill gotten gains and then purchase an in game character with anonymity the idea won’t work.


    Short form of the above:

    If you want that idea to work all the out of game stuff would have to be stopped completely.

  5. In Guild Wars, once you add someone to your friends list you can see whatever character they are currently playing. Thats a pretty simple thing you could do to address the problem to a limited degree.

  6. Hm. Well. I think people who lay around cloaked in sub 0.5 space, then appear to kill an unsuspecting miner and hold their egg at ransom (happened to me early on, hehe) does it to *play* a pirate, not to be a griefer. I don’t think it would’ve given him and his friends the same kind of pleasure to figure out my IP address and then DDOS my computer while I’m being killed by NPC rats.

    Similarly, I think the people who pull scams in EvE does so because the game endorses it, and they’re willing to work within the game rules if the game rules support their method of play.

    As far as a “free” ride, 100Mn ISK, the loss of all your unsecured assets, the loss of Security Status and faction, and the destruction of all your jumpclones, I’d hardly call that “free”. Yet there would still be an incentive, for those who are really trying to *play* being a scam artist.

    A further mechanic, to address the “there should still be a way in game for the people wronged to be able to track the person down” could be to add a Genolution Agent that rarely and randomly provides information as part of the reward for high-level missions. Such information could be valuable to someone, even if it’s not immediately valuable to the person who receives it.

    Can people still cheat the system? Yep, but they can in any MMO, not just EvE – this will just give those folk who legitimately play scammers in EvE an outlet that isn’t underhanded in an out-of-game fashion.

  7. “As far as a “free” ride, 100Mn ISK, the loss of all your unsecured assets, the loss of Security Status and faction, and the destruction of all your jumpclones, I’d hardly call that “free”. Yet there would still be an incentive, for those who are really trying to *play* being a scam artist.”

    THat’s my point though Lachek the people doing these things aren’t. Your friends idea addresses the few who do role play it, but leaves out all the people who use the out of game stuff to cause issues. The idea basically let’s them say “Oh I was role playing” so everything is ok.

    I didn’t literally mean “free” when I typed that but if one has stolen billions from a corp what’s the big loss?

    And no just having it in game is not incentive enough. If people can do everything you describe but do it for free with no repercussions why would they ever use this agent? Most humans will always take the path of least resistance.

    I think it’s a nice game play mechanic that would be a great addition for those of you who DO role play it. But those aren’t the ones that irritate me. Those role players would most likely stay on the same toon, it’s the griefers/account hoppers I want to stop.

    “A further mechanic, to address the “there should still be a way in game for the people wronged to be able to track the person down” could be to add a Genolution Agent that rarely and randomly provides information as part of the reward for high-level missions. Such information could be valuable to someone, even if it’s not immediately valuable to the person who receives it.”

    This idea I like.

  8. @Lachek

    I wouldn’t say randomly, there should be an entire skillset to get into the group (so as to be “changed”) and there should likewise be an entire skillset to get the information, possibly along with a series of quests or errands.

    When people steal, scam, etc. over 1 billion ISK, 100m is a drop in the bucket for them, barely a toll fee on their way out. Not only should such an action not be instantaneous (possibly 24-72 hours ONLINE), they should also be made to go through the motions of questing/errands all the while being unable to join or be part of any corp/guild so that they were somewhat “free-for-all” killable.

    Something as drastic as this with fake paperwork should also permanently label you a pirate and you should never be able to enter “safe” space again (0.5 or above off limits), making this much more of a lifelong descision than something they could do over and over if they so chose.

    @Rest of Article

    Back to the article’s points, this somewhat mirrors SWG, where you can only create one character per server. The game USED to also allow customization and re-customization of a character to any profession allowing someone infinite replayability (I’m very sad to see this go, I quit when it changed). Tapping forums to characters also isn’t very hard and is likely already done in some game that I’m not aware of because I rarely if ever even visit forums. As for a family tree, I hear LoTRo is doing something, but I’m not sure what. I don’t think a family tree is nearly as important as a single character though, as the tree structure allows you to still do whatever you want by switching off. Now a structure in which you could get more characters by retiring your main (maybe get a few benefits) and others could see your lineage line would be interesting to see.

    Lots of ideas out there, I’m sure were going to see more as I believe we’ve seen the end of the cookie cutter genre after the tragedy of SWG and return to niche based games, which some may like and others dislike ;)

  9. I really pulled the 100Mn figure out of my hat, but I believe it would be fairly accurate – it is within reach of people that wishes to engage in high-end espionage missions, a major expense but certainly not unachievable for a larger corp that wishes to place a dozen or so sleeper agents in an enemy camp, but certainly high enough that you wouldn’t want to do it just because the mood hits. Another idea that’s been floated is to make it variable depending on how low your current Security Status is. I’d be against providing massive penalties for people using the system – as I mentioned, I’d like to see Security Status completely reset to 0.0, and all your Faction erased back to starting points so as to simulate the Tabula Rasa nature of your new avatar – because if the barrier of entry or subsequent penalties were too high it would be less likely that the system was used at all.

    As far as human beings following the path of least resistance, I can’t help but believe that basically, most scammers in EvE are scammers because the game endorses it, and only fall back on using alts and eBay characters because the game currently does not offer any other way for them to retain their character while altering their apparent identity. If such a system was implemented, and the barrier of entry was sufficiently low so as to make the system actually usable, then those that still used alts and other out-of-character methods for their scams would be the same folks that scam their guild mates in WoW – that is unstoppable on a game system level, and best dealt with on a case-by-case basis as a breach of EULA.

  10. I don’t know what to say. I have opinions that are contrary to yours, and therefore don’t want to sour the discussion and your productive argument.

    In short, I feel that the negative things that this CEO did were NOT okay, and very rude. BUT.. I feel like they shouldn’t be stopped by devs. There is a player base of MANY in EVE.. if there is some rude, cheating, and evil political move made by a player, surely players can mobilize against that player and make him pay. Whether it’s a passive aggressive tactic or not. This kind of stuff is what drives the gameplay in EVE.

    That being said, I don’t agree with this players tactics, and I whole heartedly agree with your comment that all players should only have 1 character. I think that’s a great idea. It makes cheaters have to be responsible for their actions.

    EVE players need to be ready for what goes on in the game.

    Any kind of person who takes beefs outside of the game has problems. Never should anything amount to real life actions. If it does, that individual has issues.

    Excellent post and great MMO journalism. You guys always deliver!

  11. “if there is some rude, cheating, and evil political move made by a player, surely players can mobilize against that player and make him pay”

    How can they if he transfers everything over to a new character?
    That’s the simple question that started this whole discussion.

    These people aren’t staying on the characters they made infamous. They are popping out on forums to rub the noses of the people they scammed in it, and then they disappear with no recourse for the players who were scammed.

  12. I am all in favor of rude, cheating, scamming, and evil *characters*. In games where the gameplay facilitates and encourages it, ok fine. After all, these ARE *role-playing* games. Sure, sometimes the characters people play are nothing more than reflections of their own personality, just within the context of the world, and others play characters of “how they wish they could be” or how they perceive they are in the real world (aggressive, leader, male/female, passive, friendly, arrogant, heroic, tormented, etc.), and finally we have the true role-players where their character always *stays* in character and responds to situations *how the character* would, and not themselves.

    Anyway, my big beef here is that the rude, cheating, scamming, and evil is related to the player in the real world context (forums, email, voicechat, whatever). I’ve seen this happen in way too many games (from the perspectives of a player, a GM, and a designer), and the end results are never happy.

    For some people, MMORPGs are something special. They are an escape from real world pressures, problems, or even handicaps. Many years ago, I knew a passionate, articulate, intelligent, and clever as hell natural leader of a guild. He was a solid leader and inspired incredible loyalty from other people in the guild. His big secret was that he was confined to a wheelchair and tremendously handicapped. His days were either sitting in a wheelchair and watching TV while other people cared for nearly all of his needs, or he could spend a lot of time being someone that was influential and wielded a measure of natural power.

    Imagine what it would be like, for someone like that to experience a rich and fulfilling experience through a MMORPG only to have it grossly ruined by some jerk that decided his guild was a little too wealthy and destroyed it from within using multiple “alts” and betraying trusts (similar to the story we see happening in Eve and other games over and over). Yeah, it might just be a game to you, but sometimes it is much more to others. No, this doesn’t mean that they are total nerds with nothing better to do or that they place too much value in the virtual, but we build relationships that are important to us with other people…

    Quick side note…some of my best friends (and at least four girlfriends), as well as probably close to a dozen people I have hired over the years, all met me in a MMORPG.

    Anyway, moving on, the arguement about using alts to get around non-existent game mechanics is a bit weak I think…mostly because it is never treated that way. They are always played as a group of temporary or throw away characters trading information and access around for the sole purpose of benefiting the “main” character.

    It is time for mmo designers to spend a little time and thought about this topic as a whole. The smart people out there are trying to innovate and evolve MMORPGs…one of the areas that is ripe for innovation is this stuff right here.

    The next 5-10 years are going to be quite interesting I think.


  13. As mentioned previously the problem with MMOs is there is no way to fake who you are, your name stays the same and is above your head.

    In order to allow the intended behaviour in EVE you need a way to generate false identities and disguise yourself. In RL this is possible though you leave a trail, but this trail isn’t easy to follow and it is quite possible to fake who you are and scam people.

    In order to remove the ‘need’ for alts in the scams undertaken in EVE you would need such a system where you can ‘almost’ become a different person, unless someone with enough patience and the right skills / contacts tracks you down.

    The fact that the Alts used are throwaways is realistic because a false identity is also throwaway.

  14. I’m in favour of some sort of account tieing and player monitoring of other players, but I don’t think it should be entirely free. It should cost a little to find out about someone’s alts.

    Metagaming/gamesmanship/outright cheating has got out of hand in the “big” game of EVE. TBH, I think this is partly due to the size of investments that are now possible. People will do a lot to protect their titans and outposts, that they wouldn’t bother if it were just sporadic opportunistic clashes in space.

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