Monday, January 06, 2014

More On Cheating

On Thursday I posted about a situation that came up in Path of Exile where a streamer used his wealth in the nemesis league to buy a powerful item in the one week race. I said I didn't like it, but that it was only going against the spirit of the rules and not the letter of the rules so there wasn't much that could be done about it. I took that stance by listening to Helman's discussion with his programmer friend on voice chat where the programmer didn't know about any rules forbidding it but thought it was super sketchy.

Well, it turns out that it wasn't so much against the spirit of the rules so much as it was flat out against the rules. Back in October they posted about how exchanging currency between types of leagues is flat out forbidden. You can't trade into a week long race was even an explicit example in the post outlining what you could and couldn't do. (You are allowed to trade between nemesis and domination apparently, and between standard and hardcore, but not anything else.) Not only is it against the rules but an awful lot of people complained about this specific instance so the two people involved had their accounts suspended for 5 days. The head GGG guy said something like it probably should have been a permanent ban but because of the confusion with the programmer they're just locking the accounts until the week long race ends. Helman promptly made a new account and while he's passed me I don't think he'll get into the top 40 unless a bunch of people in front of him die.

Helman was pretty vocal about being against the punishment. His argument took the stance that lots of people were doing it and he was told it wasn't an illegal action by someone who works at the company. But I was listening to that call and he really, really had to browbeat even that much out of the programmer. It felt a little at the time like he was trying to set up an alibi and not that he was trying to figure out the actual rule.

I'm not sure how I feel about the whole thing. On the one hand I'm a big, big, big fan of black and white rules. I strongly believe people who break the rules should be punished. So from that point of view I'm happy that he got suspended. But on the other hand I look at this rule and recognize how completely unenforceable it actually is and I get angry. To be blunt, Helman didn't get suspended for cheating. He got suspended for cheating stupidly. All he needed to do was turn off his stream while he worked out the details of his trade and it would have gone off without a hitch. He only got in trouble because he did it all in such a public manner. But since he's getting people to pay him money for streaming I wouldn't be surprised if he's fine with this outcome anyway. He certainly had a lot of viewers during the whole debacle as people were tuning in to figure out what was going on with the item.

I hate people who cheat, and I hate bad rules, and I hate inconsistent enforcement of rules. I lost a lot of interest in NHL hockey when they didn't suspend Malkin in the 2009 finals, for example. I don't know how GGG could have handled this thing differently. The problem here is they can't police smart cheaters. Not with their current tools and I don't know how they could do it with any new ones either. People are allowed to give stuff to each other. If Sceadeau had been playing a flameblast witch in the week race and had one of those maces drop he probably would have given it to me. And I've certainly given him stuff in other leagues in the past and will again in the future. So any sort of automated monitoring to check for this sort of cheating is going to require a lot of intervention or is going to hit innocent people as well.

It reminds me a little of the way to cheat in Magic Online from 8 years ago or whenever it was. You could spam invite someone to a trade to keep them from interacting with an ongoing match in order to time them out. Obviously cheating but I had no way to monitor things to keep people from doing it. Eventually the developers added in a toggle so you could auto block people from trade requesting you to keep it from happening but there was a while where there was nothing that could be done. What I tried to do when someone complained about it happening was talk to the person they claimed was doing it in the hopes of scaring them off. It generally worked because they didn't know I couldn't tell what they were doing but if they'd called my bluff I would have been screwed. Though at least there just getting them to spend time typing to me would generally be enough to let the other person break out of the lock. (They've changed clients twice since then so I'm sure this doesn't happen anymore.)

At any rate, I do hope GGG can come up with some solution other than just getting people to cheat less obviously. Because people are going to cheat if they think they can get away with it.

1 comment:

Sthenno said...

I think this is partly a problem with making rules through blog posts. Online games shouldn't need to have a whole lot of rules because the rules can mostly be enforced through the game client itself. When they do need rules to be spelled out, they need to be in a prominent location that everyone can find. People need to be made aware of them. If the employees of the company are confident enough to speak in a public forum inaccurately about the rules, then the rules are not clear enough and shouldn't be enforced.

I've had this problem with other games before. "Hey, that's against the rules." "No it isn't." "Didn't you read the forum post from September 17, you noob?" It's super frustrating.

I, like you, like rules and don't like them being broken. But what I really don't like even more is rules that are unevenly enforced, or not enforced until suddenly they are.

They should have used this incident to say, "Look, obviously we haven't communicated this well."