Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cheating in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Seth:
I agree that many people can, but let me restate: I don't think a statistically significant number of players would even know what a bot is or how to obtain one, and those who did would have no significant effect on the average player, who, by the way, would be mostly unaware of the botting practice. I think it's a case of a minority faction (anti-botters) complaining about another group of minorities (botters).
Seth, you might be right that only a relatively small number of people would cheat in this way. But I think you may be ignoring the disproportionate impact that even a small number of successful cheaters can have on a game.

It's not just that they unbalance gameplay wherever they go, although that's important. (And at larger scales, it can put a real dent in a game economy.) What is worse is that tolerating cheaters sends a message to every other player: It's OK to break the rules.

When it's clear that the developers will tolerate cheating, a non-cheating player has three choices: turn to cheating himself, keep playing the game even though he knows he'll never do very well, or quit the game in disgust that it's not possible to play it as originally designed. Furthermore, if a developer winks at breaking the rules in one part of the game, why shouldn't a player conclude that it's OK to break other rules?

None of these outcomes is desirable. They are, IMO, so undesirable that it's worth the bandwidth hit or packet analysis overhead to detect the cheaters and whack them immediately with the ban stick -- that's a far better message to send to players.

So I don't think we're talking about some petty slapfight here. A consistently enforced anti-cheating policy pays meaningful dividends to every honorable player because it insures a level playing field.

That said, I'm with you 100% concerning macros. A game that's more about thinking before acting (in other words, a Star Trek MMORPG) shouldn't be about who can mash the F2 button the fastest; it ought to be about using the right skills at the right time in the right way, not just spamming them as rapidly as possible. In which case, Star Trek Online doesn't need character-control macros.