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Being Above Reproach

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#1 Cougar

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:34 PM

Hey all,

I want to take a minute today to talk to you all about something extremely near and dear to my heart; Ethics in operating an MMO. There is a point to all of this, but at times I do ramble a bit when I'm trying to explain stuff.

 

I will reference the following link a few times, so feel free to take a moment to familiarize yourself with the t20 incident  -- additionally, although far more "gossipy" you can click this for more background.

 

Everyone knows that developers have all the power in the world when it comes to their game, after all, we couldn't MAKE the game (let alone test it) if we didn't have cheat commands. Many games in the past have been plagued by rumors, suspicions, and allegations of improper cheat use on the live servers. In some cases it is true (the aforementioned t20 incident) but in many more cases it is not. Many times these issues are found and dealt with immediately without the players knowing, and sometimes they aren't. Rarely are they as transparent as the t20 incident.

 

For those of you who don’t know my role at Carbine, I’m responsible for the successful operation of WildStar and all of the departments that are integral in that role either report into me or I work extremely closely with. As such I take cheating, and reports of cheating, extremely seriously. This is especially true given the fact that I identify closely with the Lawful Neutral alignment. (Am I showing my age/geek upbringing a bit here?)

 

I want WildStar to be above reproach when it comes to claims of developer unfairness. I want players to never have reason to fear that a developer at this company would use our powers to benefit them personally in the game. I want WildStar to have an even playing field between the customers and us. I believe that you want this too, because I (and many of us here at Carbine) are gamers too.

 

I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and it is common practice that during beta that in game benefits are given out to various people; developers, press, investors, you name it. Beta is typically a Wild Wild West for things of that nature. We have largely avoided this. Devs do not have cheat access on the beta realms (with the rare exception of very few people who need it to investigate issues, like our server guys, my team, etc.) We have a “secret” cheating server that is accessible to our partners who need to fly around the game and view the zones for various reasons, or for developers that need to test things on a “live” environment, or for demos that we bring to conventions that require artificially leveled characters and the like. That’s not a problem. The problem lies when those things start happening where players are spending time and putting effort into their characters (i.e. the Beta/Live realms).

 

I think everyone, players and developers, understands that Beta is Beta: the characters are going to be wiped, that special things happen on the Beta servers will never happen on Live, and that generally things we do (like summoning a thousand Rowsdowers) wouldn't be acceptable after launch. But if we're okay with doing it under the radar in Beta, how can players trust that we won't do it after launch?

 

The answer is simple: transparency. If the Community team wants to run a PvP event on the live servers, we'll support the request. The operations team will create all of their characters on the live servers, we’ll spec them out with appropriate (but not overpowered) gear and elder gems, we’d give those characters to the employees for the duration of the event. Most importantly, we’ll make a post on the forums CLEARLY outlining the names of the characters, the gear we are giving out, and why we are doing this. At the end of the event, we'll reclaim the characters and either delete them, or store them for a future similar event. As an additional benefit, this gives you the opportunity to call us out if we DID accidentally give them godly gear so we can fix it beforehand! We aren’t perfect, why pretend to be!

 

At the end of the day, the community team gets to run their event (which we can all agree that the players generally like), and we don’t compromise our integrity because we aren’t hiding anything. We tell the players that we are doing this, we do exactly what we say we are going to do, and then we remove the artificially leveled characters from the general public. The overall game benefits from this developer-player exchange.

 

An example of this (which we didn't properly communicate due to lack of notice and time) was the characters used during the Battlegrounds/Arenas livestream a few weeks ago. Those were given to Scooter and Bardic as pre-leveled characters with level-appropriate gear, and were reclaimed by us after the stream. Moving forward, when we need to do this again, we'll be sure to communicate exactly what we're using and why. Beta is a time to refine our policies and procedures as well as the game itself.

 

So with all that, I’m here today to talk to you about the first "official" instance of this program. We are going to be giving out a few (anonymous) artificially leveled characters to members of the gaming press so that they can review content in the game that would be otherwise unattainable during the limited remaining beta periods. These characters will be playing on the Beta realms, but will not have any cheats themselves. We are artificially leveling/gearing them up, and then moving them to an account the media have access to during the review period. After the reviews have been completed (no later than head start), we will reclaim those accounts.

 

Attentive readers will notice that we said we’d post the names of the characters in the PVP example above, but we aren’t doing this for this first official instance of the program; seeing as how the goal of these characters is to review the game, we felt that giving out their names would open them up to unwarranted harassment.

 

At the end of the day there is the possibility that I’m completely off base and that no one cares about any of this. That I’m spending all of this time talking to you all about this, fighting against industry standards vs. my Lawful Neutral nature, and no one really cares about it. I don’t choose to believe that as true. I believe that our players want an even playing field without the fear that the developers are giving themselves unfair advantages with cheat powers. I believe that our players want an even competitive field, be that in raiding, world firsts, pvp, housing, or many other avenues of play. I believe our players deserve our trust that we can be open and forthright with them. I believe that transparency at the beginning, and consistently throughout, will set us all on a path to success and enjoyment as WildStar enjoys decades of success.

 

I believe in our players.

 

 


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#2 Czernobog

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:46 PM

This right here is why I absolutely love you guys. Marry me?


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Shut up Oly.


#3 Rustynail

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:51 PM

This is really a U.S. company? This is why I will be gladly paying each month.  Thank you Cougar and Thank you Carbine.


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#4 Lemurian

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:56 PM

Great post Cougar. I for one appreciate it, and feel this is a good plan.


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#5 MongoBongo

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 04:57 PM

ZOMG! FAVORITISM! y dey git awesum t00ns 4 free?!! y not me?!!!! NOT FAIR!!!111 CHEEEEET!!!

 

 

Ok not really. It's great that you want to make us aware and be transparent and all. But I think it might be a bit overboard to let us know for Beta instead of Live. And even if it was Live, and you didn't let us know, and they weren't Press, and it was actual favoritism & cheating.... would it really matter in WS? Until characters can control access to critical resources in-game, it can never reach the level of the T20 incident. (Note - I am not in any way suggesting that WS should implement that sort of gameplay.) If a Dev gave a character a full set of super Raid Gear for free, it still wouldn't change anything. That being said, it is great that you guys are standing for Truth, Justice, and Fair Play.



#6 Typrop

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:02 PM

It's actually somewhat difficult for me to reply to this really as it's unusual to see an actual dev post something of this nature in my time playing games.

 

However if I may be so bold you and Carbine have generally been very transparent overall with what is going on and rather responsive. Myself and some friends hope that you maintain this level of communication and trust with your palyerbase as the strong community is really what will carry you guys further. In this post alone informing us of the characters you're giving to press is information I would not expect to be given at all, but it actually does provide more of a sense that when something important happens whether I'd be outraged or not that I'd at least be aware of what is going on. You've done a great job so far and admittedly while I feel some thing can be communicated on a bit better(such as the costuming changes in patch notes which in the grand scheme is very minor), but in my time being here on these forums every person like yourself, Scooter, the moderators, Buiden, etc....and even the palyers have gone well above and beyond.

 

I could cite a lot of examples like last week with the server issues on Friday, Cougar looking into the naming functionality, devs clearing up confusion on matters, Anlith helping people with their support ticket issues, the lsit goes on. Some may write off a couple of these things as normal, but it goes a long way.

 

but damn....wow, this was  an unexpected and lovely read. I can't and won't try to speak for others, but just as much as you believe in your players they'd like to beleive in you as well. You guys have been as open as possible with some honestly welcomed surprises. I won't speak for other people, but personally I feel like I found a company that actually cares not jsut about their game, but their players as well and hope you guys continue to maintain the  level of awesome and get better in time!

 

Thank you Cougar for this post and thank you Carbine for Wildstar and its community.


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#7 Lethality

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:08 PM

You had me at "Hey all."

Awesome words sir.



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#8 Hansslowlo

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:10 PM

Thank-you. This player appreciates your time to explain it all and trusts Carbine to maintain the integrity of WildStar.


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#9 FreddyK

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:11 PM

I... Thank you for this. As someone stated earlier, this is one of the reasons I have no issue giving money to play WildStar.

 

As an aside, I really hope a review pops up on Forbes. I tend to weigh their game reviews more than others. I believe it's their writing, but I'm not 100% sure why.


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#10 treetop444

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:12 PM

Thanks for being upfront and caring, as players thats all we can ask for from you the developer of this fine game.



#11 Twisted_Raehne

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:14 PM

Why, oh why can we not like Dev posts?! Because all that above was just awesome! I have to say that I absolutely love 'over-explainy-Cougar-mode!

 

I may not have been aware of what had occurred in Eve Online with the T20 incident but it is so good to hear about how Carbine feels about it.

 

I have to say that I believe in you all at Carbine!



#12 Rex_Marksley

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:17 PM

Every time you guys make these posts I cant help but think "huzzah!". Its refreshing to have transparency in regards to the devs thoughts, feelings, creation processes, etc...

Thanks for the post.

#13 Kenjer

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:18 PM

Bravo!



#14 Raikun

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:19 PM

An earlier post about the future success of the game touched upon something essential: Building a community beats Building Hype.

 

The cynic in me might think you're doing this as part of a Marketing Stunt, but the realist in me has seen your  (and your team) interaction with the players, potential costumers and experienced Beta Testers, and quite frankly, it became one of the key reasons I decided to end my MMO exile and adopt Wildstar as my home.

 

Cougar, I commend your plea for transparency and believe it or not, this will go a long way into building the kind of community that stays away from toxic and hazardous behaviour.

 

Once again, not only are the Devs Listening but also They're Also Speaking their Mind.


nepheliad, on 22 May 2014 - 09:55 AM, said:

Sarcasm is by nature a sword, and if you're going to play with bladed weaponry, you need to understand that the sword cuts both ways.

 


#15 Brysse

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:23 PM

This is why you are amazing cougar! 


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#16 Scarling

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:24 PM

This is a complete 180 from other games I've played. Usually it's filled with pretense of transparency and everything gets ignored or swept under the rug. I'm really impressed with your post, and this is why I'll be sticking around. Thank you.


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#17 Jatlantis

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 05:33 PM

Well said, Cougar - appreciate the honesty and transparency.

 


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#18 erebuss

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:13 PM

This is the exact reason why I respect Carbine and suggest your game to all my friends.  I've never seen devs more passionate and caring about their game, and it really shows in everything you guys do.  /cheer Cougar



#19 Derail

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:16 PM

Awesome! THIS is Carbine WINNING!


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#20 Yiazmat

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:21 PM

I have been playing MMO's for years and never have seen such a post from devs. I already have been throught situations like this in some games (edits/cheats) [Ragnarok to be more accurate], and also I've been accused of having edited characters and like you said, these rumors are not always true. and after reading I had to post that I appreciate it and I believe in your words.

 

Wildstar is amazing and posts like this make it even better, thanks.

 

P.S.: Sorry for my english.