Monday, May 4, 2009

I had an interesting discussion in-game last night...

To the one griefer:

They better fucking come to take me away, at the rate things are going. A few more weeks of this...


Now, to much more interesting discussions:

I was farming in the Promyvions last night, and got a tell from a player on Leviathan named Hohenheim who had been reading this blog (with several of his friends), and they were talking about me behind my back.

No, this isn't quite to the level of grief that many desire, as it sparked a very interesting discussion.

And it started with his first question: Hohenheim asked if I've always been this pissed off about cheating, or whether it was something I started now?

To answer that more completely, I want to tell you a little story about a former passion of mine: Magic: the Gathering.


I not only dabbled in playing the game, but I followed, fairly religiously, the early months and years of professional Magic: the Gathering. (Yes, it exists, in the form of a multi-million dollar tour -- or at least it was as of the last I remember it.)

However, almost immediately upon it's inception, professional MtG was basically hit with a serious controversy. In it's second professional event, the final match of the tournament (Hovi vs. Mills -- I forget which player was involved in the foul) was terminated after a player committed a cheating offense (of some form I also forget without significant USENET research) for the second time in the tournament.

The rules of professional MtG, at this point, were ironclad in this case. For this foul, a repeat offense was expulsion from the tournament without prize. The player was going to have to forfeit a five-figure check because he could not abide by the rules of this tournament.

The players were prepared to revolt. I sat here, reading this, days after the fact, dumbfounded -- not only at the arrogance of the players, but that the Duelists' Convocation International (the sanctioning body -- essentially a marketing arm of the company who made and sold the game (Wizards of the Coast)) caved to them and altered the penalty to a penalty which would end the tournament, award the title to his opponent, but the guy still got his money.

I went postal. If the guy is already "on one yellow", and if he cannot abide by the rules and is about to be tossed from the tournament, stripped of over $10,000, and probably banned from pro Magic, he has but one recourse -- resign from the tournament, take your prize, and cut your losses. And for the players to throw a shit-fit because the DCI was actually going to have to enforce it's rules, and for the DCI to cave, was even worse.

(And, worse yet, at some point in the (IIRC, near) future, they made the rule that, essentially, allowed the Tournament Director or the DCI Director of Organized Play to abrogate any rule they found inconvenient.)

One of the worst-kept secrets, over the course of time, is that it became necessary to cheat to (consistently) win at Magic: the Gathering. This, basically, could take the form of illegally false-shuffling, adding cards to the deck, manipulating the ratings system, etc., etc., and so forth as reiterated.

The fact is that I could not, in any way, understand how players could create decks that, even when fully randomized, would be so efficient, especially decks which, when successfully activated, had, without recourse to the opponent, "lock conditions" in which people could "go off" and win the game as a construction of the deck.

I could understand that kind of stuff happening a percentage of the time, but not all of the time, unless these players were rampantly cheating, and their opponents being "fish" -- suckers -- who were oblivious to the process and, hence, irrelevant to the tournament.

So, I became a judge -- and that didn't go well. I did one qualifier tournament, and the person running the tournament publicly said that, if I continued as a judge, I would've killed competitive Magic: the Gathering in my (then) hometown of Milwaukee, WI.

Frankly and bluntly put, it was little sweat off my brow for him to say that, because, if the level of cheating I was witnessing in MtG was any indication, then competitive MtG had already been, functionally, destroyed.

(Additionally, it should've come as no surprise that, within a couple months, two top area players (and I believe they both fore-went a professional tournament to attend the Milwaukee event -- not wanting to attend "Pro Tour: Cursed Scroll") were banned from competitive Magic for rigging the ratings system...)

By this point, in trying to talk up my concerns to the judge community and to WotC, I got one sad impression: Wizards of the Coast and the Duelists' Convocation International were as corrupt as many of the top-level players of the day. Their ONLY concern was card sales.

Faced with the prospect that I was not going to be able to get through to a company who, bluntly, was willing to rig tournaments to allow people to cheat (as long as they didn't cheat "too much"), in the name of promoting these "elite" "gamers" (more like "gaming the system") so that people would buy cards by the box when the new expansions and series came out, in the guise that, with enough dedication, they could make that kind of money too.

What a fucking joke...

I resigned shortly thereafter. I was in jail within 60 days of that for the rest of the year and into 1999.

After a couple false starts of interest after my release, I quit Magic: the Gathering entirely within a couple years after, because it became evident that one had to cheat, steal, rob, connive, and thug their way to victory.

(Not unlike some of the gamers I've seen on ESPN when they show the elite Madden players and their "posses" basically getting in each other's face like a tournament game of Madden would be akin to a gang fight!!)


What was the point of that entire story? The answer to Hohenheim's question: Cheating has always been a problem with me. Part of the reason is that if I held myself to the same standard many of you hold, I would be taking active measures to Denial of Service your connections to Final Fantasy XI. I'd boot your asses right off the game. There would be NO limits.

And that also comes from something that I felt Hohenheim was saying in much of our discussion last night: I got the impression that Hohenheim was basically saying that the players could completely nullify the Terms of Service (the rules of the game, as it were) through mass action to ensure that, if the ToS were upheld, there would be no FFXI.

My position stands: If that's the case, close down FFXI. Now.

The worst part of this is I truly believe we are going down the road that Square-Enix is basically going WotC on us, and basically stating that nothing matters, at the end of the day, as long as they get their money.

You want more opportunities at decent gear? $9.99 every 3 months for the rest of the year.

You want a real expansion of your inventory?? $9.99, in the guise of a "Security Token" that most any intelligent person knows is useless to the process, since much tampering actually can go server-side, if the people really want to steal characters and what-not.

And who knows what else they're going to try in the name of Tidal Talismans and all that crap.

Basically, FFXI is Square-Enix' $2 whore, pimped out to us with no meaning or ramifications whatsoever.

I got the impression that Hohenheim was saying, end of the day, that the ToS was meaningless, since there was no real-life force behind it. A ban means NOTHING at the end of the day.

I've made it clear: RMT is theft. Duping is theft. Any action which gains an unfair advantage and results in the acquisition of gear or the like in the game is theft.

This is true for the one simple concept: YOU OWN NOTHING OF YOUR CHARACTER.

Square-Enix has the exclusive rights to allow you to play the game, how to gain your equipment and items, etc. and so forth.

The fact is that the actions you commit when you cheat are civil and criminal illegalities -- and, for what it's worth, need to be prosecuted as same.

Of course, then the argument comes down as to thinking that the players, through their mass illegality, either nullify the ToS or close down the game.

At that point, why is RMT even illegal? I would strongly assert that the majority of players who play this game with any real frequency would want the ability to make RL money through the game.

Why is 3rd-party software illegal? Estimates are that half the players in the game use Windower.

Why is there even a Special Task Force, who is powerless to deal, in reality, with the issues at hand? If most of RMT are Chinese, and they have no legal power to go into China and shut them down, do they really, then, have the right to go after RMT at all, since any real action against RMT would be, at best, superficial and selective?

Again, it gets back to the question I asked earlier: Of what benefit is it for me to play by the rules in any realistic capacity?

But last night was a meaningful and interesting discussion, and it gave me the opportunity to talk about not only how long I've railed against cheating, but when cheating becomes essentially so institutional that it becomes part of the corporate business nature of the game involved.


Tuufless said...

With regards to the Mills-Hovi incident, if memory serves me correctly, you're talking about one of the first PT-Los Angeles on the Queen Mary.

Mills was disqualified (or ejected, I forget which) from the tournament because his play was technically sloppy- he announced a spell, then tapped his lands to pay for it. Under the rules at the time, this was incorrect, and he had received several reminders and warnings about it throughout the PT.

The situation is awkward because there is no advantage Mills could have reaped from announcing his spell first, as opposed to tapping his lands first (and even Hovi was on Mill's side.)

Ironically, when the DCI later cleaned up the rules for Sixth edition (which are what the rules are now), Mills actions would be perfectly legal.

Starcade, now from Leviathan said...

I think you have it right -- it was definitely the first PTLA...

And you jogged my memory on the rest of it.

The point I was making, though, was that this, at the time, was an ironclad disqualification without prize, because he had been previously penalized for the same foul.

I just think if you're going to play for thousands of dollars, you had best be right with the rules without question nor hesitation.

Anonymous said...

I know agreeing with you is so popular these days, but, um... I agree with you. Entirely. Cheers. Keep up the good fight.

Starcade, now from Leviathan said...

*hands over asbestos suit*

You'll need it, ereblog.

Ryuusei said...

Nice saying about how we talk behind your back? How else can we talk to you? In front on an online game?

Talking behind a back implies a negative attitude..I thought it was all quite civil and mellow...


Starcade, now from Leviathan said...

Well, Ryuusei, yeah...

I guess it might've had a negative connotation, but, given how most people on FFXI feel about me (with the feeling being entirely mutual, in most cases), I think that was a fair representation to say that they were talking about me behind my back.

That it was civil was unusual for that kind of talk, but doesn't change that it was behind my back. :)

Ryuusei said...

I still wouldn't consider it as "behind the back" talk.

Anonymous said...

Y'know what? Thanks, Hoho-... um... *flip-flip-flip* Hohenheim, for asking Starcade this question. Makes it easier to understand where Starcade is coming from with this rants (and makes them more enjoyable for their bite, lol).

Starcade, now from Leviathan said...

My "bite" is not necessarily meant for entertainment purposes.

It just simply is there because there are many things which need to be "bit".