Tobold's Blog
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Should developers play?

Sane Mike was bringing this article about EVE to my attention. Apparently some developers were actively participating in the game as players, and used their privileged access and tools to cheat in favor of their guild. Which in a PvP game is pretty serious.

Should developers be allowed to play their own game? On the one hand I would even like to *require* them playing their game, because that would get the most annoying bugs fixed a lot faster. On the other hand a developer can't help having a big knowledge advantage over the average player, and he might have access to cheating tools at work. The temptation to use these advantages for their own good or the good of their guild must be great. Imagine some developer creating millions of virtual currency and then selling them, that would be a lot worse than Chinese gold farmers. The above mentioned case of the dev giving 10 blueprints to his guild (thats like 10 legendary items in WoW) is serious, but not quite that game-destroying.

I think developers should be allowed to play, but of course shouldn't be allowed to cheat. That is difficult to monitor, but if you can monitor other forms of cheating it should be possible to detect developers creating stuff out of thin air. In games with more than one server, they shouldn't even have GM access to the server they are playing on.
Well, how about making it so it's not codes to cheat, it's the program? Or even just set log-ins?

I'd imagine that "god accounts" would be the simplest way...
I'd think they'd be required to play, but would do so on a company provided regular account. They would also, of course, be bound by an NDA on developer known content and issues, violating it would result in the termination of their employment.

All accounts and log-ins in the work place should be logged and checked against a schedule of maintenance and operations, so that any major discrepancies could be identified and handled.

Example Log:
Developer Smith
Log-in 21:40:23 on 11 February 2007.
Entered area Hellfire Peninsula.
Killed trash mob.
Killed trash mob.
Mined Ore.
Killed trash mob.
Distributed 2.7 million in gold to user account hakztoon.
If I were a Eve-online subscriber, I would be very mad if the developers give their friends unfair advantages.

During the hey-days of Ultima Online, the original Origin developers were known to help their friends gained unfair advantages over other players so they could help make the game more challenging. I wonder if this was the case for Eve-online developers power abuse

It is ok if the developers play the game they are involved in as normal players but NOT OK if they abuse their power.Eve-online players should say no to bullshit like this and move on.
MBP here - (formerly known as Sane Mike). Remember that EVE is Hard Core PVP and the big corporations actually control large areas of space preventing others from getting access to valuable resources. As I understand it those blueprints allow a corporation to build bigger more powerful ships with which to whomp their opponents. In circumstances like that I can't see anyway to allow developers to play as normal players and still keep a level playing field. Even if they never blatantly cheat they still have access to inside information (knowledge of what materials will become valuable next expansion perhaps or the locations of rare resources). Given human nature I think that the moral hazard of allowing employees of the developer to play as normal players is too great. I can't see any solution other than banning all employees of the developer from playing as normal players. I know this robs them of a valuable chance to experience the game but I really can't see another resolution. World of Warcraft has many more constraints on individual power than Eve but even so imagine how pissed off the community would be if it transpired that the uber-guild who get a world first on a new raid boss has inside information on its special weaknesses.
As a sometimes Eve player, it should be noted that the BPO's in question were ammo, so were not as game breaking as some may have implied.

Not to say that what he did was OK, but in many cases you need to assess the harm to assess the punishment.
Thank you for the clarification Chris - I stand corrected. My point remains the same however. Having a more powerful type of ammo than your opponents could still swing a battle. I hold to my assertion that employees of the developer should not be allowed act as ordinary players at least not in any competitive aspect of the game whether that be PVP or high end PVE.
While I agree with the statement in the post that it might be dificult to prevent cheating by devs in MMOs... it should be fairly easy to track it down after the fact. The number of devs playing the game must be fairly small... and it seems that just one or two people could check logfiles on occasion (or even write programs to do it for them)to determine what the devs have been doing.
I also find it hard to belive that the only thing this guy ever spawned for his buddies was ammo...

Whistleblower: " I caught devs cheating look **proof** "
CCP: " we will look into it fully. Please stop talking about it untill we tell you what happened."
Game Players: " Uhh.. but what abou..."
CCP: **Thread Locked****Whistleblower banned from game and forums**
**Jeopardy Music**
CCP: Ok we looked into it... and the transgression that Mr. Whistleblower found was the only time that devs have ever cheated on Eve.
Game Players: But how can we trust that? After all this incident calls into question the character of you devs.
CCP: Do you have evidence of any other transgressions?
Game Players: You just BANNED the guy who was getting evidence!
CCP: What he did was wrong. Hacking other peoples forums is a not nice thing. And he was being a jerk.
Game Players: Riiiiight... so what happened to the dev who cheated?
CCP: He is very very sorry.
Game Players: ... um... did you fire him?
CCP: Oh no. Hes a good guy. We dont want to fire him.
Game Players: Sooo... the only person actualy punished here was the whistleblower.
**Thread Locked**
**Thread Deleted**
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