Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Delusions of Right, or "Stupid Until Proven Guilty"

Human beings are masters of deluding themselves. It is rare to see anyone admit fault. Most of the time, those at fault bluster and make excuses and explain all of their rationalizations until listeners are left with a massive pile of word vomit and no resolution to the original problem.

One thing I like to keep in mind as a writer is that no one thinks they're the badguy of the story. Everyone who does something wrong justifies it to themselves one way or another. Whether the rest of your team is too stupid to deserve loot, your guild screwed you over so you might as well take their bank, or you just don't think you'll get caught . . . bad things happen when individuals act selfishly.

I Didn't Know It Was Against The Rules

I cover WoW offenses and their punishments here. Some people work under the false assumption that "I didn't know" is a free pass from judgement, or at least that it will get them a softer sentence. Some may even avoid reading the rules so they won't have to face what rules they're breaking.

The best example of this is the Martin Fury scandal, when Blizzard accidentally handed a "kill anything" shirt to a player while returning his hacked goods and he used it to help his guild one-shot (and, yes, I mean kill everything in one shot) raids. They used it 14 times, and we won't go into the level of culpability for everyone -- it varied.

Their defense was that they'd thought the item had been given to them intentionally. They did not see it as exploiting since it was an item given by the gods of WoW, nor did they ask if they were given it as a present. They assumed and, in my opinion, didn't want to know the truth.

They got caught when the guild leader logged off with the shirt on and it showed up on armory, which the guild leader used to back up his claim that he didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I suspect that he had niggling doubts and left it on when he logged as a way to double-check without putting in a GM ticket. If he logged out and no one noticed, it would be further proof that they were meant to have it and further reason Blizzard shouldn't take extreme measures if he and his guildmate were mistaken.

WoW Insider had a poll and half of voters would have used it just like they did.

And they would have gotten permanently banned for it just like they did.

If you didn't read the punishments post, let me quote:
exploiting, abuse of game mechanics, use of third party software, malicious UI mods, and data manipulation/mining. Penalties are based on the player's awareness and use of the exploit, how badly it hurt the surrounding players or server, and whether or not the player tried to conceal their use of the exploit. (source)
  • Penalties: Warning, temporary suspension, and actions up to and including account closure.
Their actions fell into the perameters for account closure. And, no, ignorance was not a good enough excuse. Kind of like if you stick bills under the bed and act surprised when they reposess your car. Not opening your bills is not going to make them give you leniency.

I Thought I Could Get Away With It

We've had a bit of hooplah last night and today in IVV. A 25-man raid killed KT and the master looter piped up (after rolls) with "My UI won't let me hand out loot. I'll ticket a GM."

Suspicious. IVV and BFO (the guild a subgroup of IVV raiders politely left for after Wrath, so we have a strong acquaintance with them) suspected him of foul play. A small number of IVV and BFO stayed in the instance to make sure the master looter didn't return and ninja everything off the boss.

He did return. The players who stayed (until the server and raid reset) confronted him.

Mr. Master Loot did (afterward) speak to a GM, who put all applicable items into the correct hands -- except one. An IVV rogue had won Calamity's Grasp (screenshots of roll available if needed), which the Master Looter took for himself. The GM noted that he'd been master looter and gave it to him without further questions. Mr. ML defended this later by saying he took it because he'd been "harassed" and accused of ninjaing.

The friend who spoke to him suspects that ML's guildmates encouraged him.

It degenerated from there with whispers, ML creating alts to harass the above-mentioned friend, even to the point where our guild leader had to ban ML's IP in our Vent.

The friend who spoke to him, a former member and even guild leader of accomplished hardcore raid guilds, championed the cause. I've asked him to write an article for me on how to handle a ML who loots in spite of the loot system in place. He told us he's dealt with this sort of thing more than once and the reason it doesn't get justice more often is sheer laziness on the part of the victims.

But the point is that "well, you were mean so this is my prize" is not a defensible position, nor is "you called me a ninja so I'll just ninja this." That's facepalm logic. Face. Palm.


If you break the rules, whether you know them or have "reasons" for ignoring them, don't whine and harass the people willing to call you out.

I have always known (even as a little girl) that if I don't want to get in trouble, my actions should be above reproach. Period. There is no other way to avoid punishment.

Just be good.


  1. Totally agree, the whole "I didn't know" logic just strikes me as someone trying to justify their own wrongdoing. If someone handed you a gun, that doesn't make it alright to go shooting people at random...you tell the judge "But they gave me the gun!" won't get you out of a long long sentence.

    Plus, when he got the item, why wouldn't he put in a ticket to clarify it? Because he knew if he did they'd take it away.

    I wish there was an alternative to ML in the game, something like "Democratic loot" that could be toggled on and off by a vote or something (so no switching it off suddenly), so that when an ML sends an item to someone EVERYONE has to approve it (or at least majority or something) Maybe the ability to have "Co-Raid Leaders", others who have to hit an approval switch for an item to get ML'ed...too tedious I suppose.

    The groups I run with are pretty much all part of our guild-alliance, and we're pretty solid on self-monitoring...haven't had any issues I can think of yet. Sure, some people have not always gotten the items they want (myself included) but in the end it's just a game and it will drop again. Better to gear a raid than to gear an individual (IMHO).

    Removal: Had to fix a glaring typo >.>

  2. I think their motives can be argued and picked over until we're blue in the face. They claim it was an innocent joy ride. But just like getting the wrong car from a valet and taking it for a spin, the authorities still get grouchy about it.

    A lot of people on WoW Insider said "I would have done the same, they don't deserve to be banned! lol" but the end of the argument is this: They fulfilled the requirements to get banned. Their feelings and impressions don't play into the situation beyond that, no more than grand theft auto would be slapped on the wrist by a judge because they "thought" the valet gave them the car.

  3. I'm sorry. If Blizzard handed me a cool item that let me kill things in their game, it wouldn't even occur to me that I was breaking the rules by using it. It would not even occur to me that using an item I had received from "the Gods of WoW" (great way to describe them, btw), would be "exploiting a game mechanic". And it wouldn't occur to me to even try to hide the item they had given me by, say, taking it off when I logged out.

    I would be, like, "COOL!!! Check out what I can do!". BAM! "Hey, guildie, make a raid with me, I'm gonna' solo Hyjal!"

    I hadn't heard of the Martin Fury scandal until reading your post here. So I did some google, read the wowinsider articles about it. The e-mails explaining the ban do a good job of explaining why it is an exploit and why it is bannable. Me not being a competetive WoW player, not getting into the whole gotta-get-all-the-achievemnts-first thing, not being part of the whole e-peen-who's-the-biggest-baddest-best scene . . . it just wouldn't have occurred to me that I was somehow being "unfair" to anybody.

    Is it still bannable? Yeah, I suppose. I got a speeding ticket for going 5mph over the speed limit once. Was it against the law? Yeah, I suppose.

    I mean, you're right, ignorance is not an excuse. I didn't contest the speeding ticket either. But I'm not convinced this necessarily falls into the category of blatantly wrong willful ignorance that you've put it in. I could totally understand using the shirt if I had gotten it.

  4. This is not at all like hiding bills under a bed or taking a car the valet gives you the keys to for a joy ride. It is certainly not like going on a murder spree.

    This is a game.

    The only thing that makes it bannable is that there are people who play the game competetively and it is possible to gain an unfair advantage over them by use of this item. And, in fact, the guild used it in such a way that gave them that advantage in competetive raiding. Or could potentially do so, whether or not they were participating in the "competitions" themselves.

  5. "This is a game."

    This is ironic, because I just read this:

    I don't think it's like a murder spree, but I do think it's like assuming a valet gave you a car for free. If anything in WoW can be compared to a super-hot-car, it's that shirt. Just scaled down to game size.

  6. (Also, what are the people who return items to players other than game valets? They work for management and they don't have the authority to hand out anything beyond what the customer owned to begin with.)

  7. "Breaking it down to game size" is where the analogy is lost. If the valet hands you keys to a car, an IRL car, that car belongs to someone. If you take it for a joy ride, you are stealing it. Maybe just for a short time, but for that time, you are in stolen property. You are putting someone else's property at risk, putting wear on their vehicle and, just knowing the types of people I do who have done that type of thing, I'd bet you don't fill up their tank when you're done.

    And that's what I'm getting at when I say WoW is a game. I totally agree with Larissa that it's not just a game. Like her, I feel that the phrase is too trite, too dismissive of something into which I/we put enough time and effort to make valuable. But it is a game.

    The Martin Fury shirt is, fundamentally, fancy electrons. Blizz can make as many as they want at the drop of a hat and pass 'em around like, well not even like candy . . . easier than candy. If I use it to go oohh and aahh at the coolest new content in the game, and an awesome Serilas, Blood Blade of Invar One-Arm drops, I haven't taken it away from anyone. It didn't belong to anyone, it didn't even exist until the moment I opened the loot and the program behind the game generated it.

    Keep in mind, I'm not trying to argue that the people who exploited the shirt shouldn't be banned. This is a competetive game, there are people for whom being the first to hit the Ulduar achievements is important, for whom some measure of guild ranking that includes raids cleared, achievements won, whatever . . . there are people for whom that is important. And there are actual competitions involving the game, with prizes!, in which upgrading your weapon to 171.5dps can give you an advantage over players still using 143.5dps weapons. Whatever their intent was, using the Martin Fury shirt tainted their accounts. It's not Blizzard's job to try and figure out intent. I absolutely agree that the accounts should be banned in the name of keeping the game fair.

    It doesn't mean their actions were malicious. I would have done the same thing and gotten myself banned out of pure ignorance.

    The analogy I would use would be that someone invited a professional referee to the neighborhood's Tuesday night pick up soccer game. I mean, sure, we're breaking lotsa' rules when we play. This is America! Half of us don't even know if soccer has rules. And the ref is going to call us for offsides? I mean, I suppose it is against the rules . . . so yeah. I suppose. The problem is not that we were trying to cheat by constantly passing offsides . . . the problem just arises from how we always play conflicting with the expectations of a professional.

  8. Jack, the point you are missing in "it's just a game!!" is that the punishment was also just for the game. They didn't get a fine or a prison sentence...they broke the rules of a game and aren't allowed to play anymore. I don't know what could be more fair.

  9. Your initial argument assumes that Martin Fury is not the property of Blizzard as a car would be the property of its owner.

    I have a law student friend (and former GL) who told me a little about digital property rights in video games and where the law tries to cover these things. I don't know as much as he does, but I learned that the law system is struggling to carve out exactly how to cover property rights with possessions that don't "exist" outside of the virtual -- particularly game-related possessions. It's supposed to be a very complex issue, but I understand that the law gives a nod to electronic possessions as possessions. Thus, in the American judicial system, Martin Fury is Blizzard's very real pixelated property.

    I also want to agree that their actions weren't malicious and the punishment was fair. I wouldn't like being banned for it, either. I can sympathize with how they got into that scrape and might have done the same thing myself 10 years ago.

  10. Found an article on Virtual Property Law:


  11. Reinforced Cobalt Chest. Cost 4 Cobald Bars, which are 4 Cobalt Ore and is a Level 77 green item. It was obvious, that the costs to produce a Level 77 item should be way above 4 Cobalt Ore.

    I produced a ton of them to disenchant and made a fortune out of dust/essences. Peak was 22'000g during one weekend. (But it was a lot of work... I was disenchanting the whole weekend :-)

    Months later, Blizzard patched it and the costs more than doubled.

    I stayed within the rules of the game but it was clear that this chest wasn't in the game to make easy money by disenchanting.

    Should Blizzard ban me? Where's the difference to the shirt?

    The only difference I can see is that everybody can do the smithing/disenchanting. It wasn't a GMs fault (which is obvious with the shirt) but something in the game they did not consider... I think I just try to believe that to not be the bad guy. :-)

  12. I think if you're using your crafting ability to make money in a way everyone else can, and the economy lets you sell what you produce for obscene amounts of gold, more power to you. That's entrepreneurship. My sister-in-law is a tailor/enchanter and enjoys crafting items for cheap that she can disenchant and make bags of gold. One difference, but not the only difference, is that you use the AH and there's no guarantee that consumers won't decide to turn up their noses at your prices. Also, there's no guarantee you won't get undercut by competitors.

    Business on the AH is a totally different scenario from pretty much everything and can't be compared to this situation.

  13. Addendum: Perhaps I should say "It's its own beast." I'm sure it can be compared to something.

  14. > I also want to agree that their actions
    > weren't malicious and the punishment was
    > fair.

    Actually, the only reason for punishment is to get people to stick to the rule. If we all agree that we would have done the same because we didn't even consider it might be a bannable offense, then the punishment does not fulfill a role and cannot be fair.

    And no, it's not just a game. It's a hobby you might have invested 5 years of time to improve your account/char.

    It is like working 5 years on restoring a car and when you take it for the first ride you forget the number plate.

    Will you get a ticket? Sure
    Will the police destroy your car, completely wasting your previous 5 years of work? Probably not.

  15. I think the reason for the rule is to get people to stick to the rule.

    Please let me say for the record, I wouldn't have done it. I said I might have 10 years ago, but according to WoW Insider's poll only half the gaming community would have used a free "win" button, whether or not they knew they'd get in trouble.

    Think of it like this -- to us, it's a hobby and a game and a way to keep in touch and a time-sink. To Blizzard, it's a business. They enforce their rules to keep the players happy -- not the players who get enforced on, mind you, but the players who get hurt. In this case, the progressive raiding community. It would take a lawyer, judge, and miles of paperwork to define what "damaged" means in terms of a competitive virtual world, so I'm going to stop here.

    I think the key to the situation is seeing fault as more than just using a fake item in a fake setting to do fake damage. It's a real game with real people and a real corporation involved.

  16. That's not what I meant:

    The item, costing only 4 Cobalt Ore, was way cheaper compared to other items.

    Blizzard patched the price for the same item to 8 Cobalt Ore and 2 Crystallized Water in a later patch. So, they also thought it was way to cheap.

    I noticed that this item is extremely cheap. I'm also able to notice, that if something is cery different than something else in WoW, it's normally a bug.

    I assumed that an employee at Blizzard made the mistake while creating this recipe, but didn't create a ticket or forum post. I just produced this item.

    Clever use of game mechanic? Or abusing a bug?

    The people kissing the frog in front of ZA were allowed to keep Mojo unpunished, althought it was a bug.

    The people wo got the Shaman T6 belt without a token from the vendor... did they get banned?

    What about that? If your T8 vendor would bug and give you an item without requiring the token. Would you take it? What would you do?

    It's obvious a bug, there is no free meal in WoW.

  17. Did you know that you could get an account suspension for using aoe effects in crowded places? Or noise effects?

    That's actually written in the rules and qualifies for a 3 day ban.

  18. Cheap recipe: They hotfixed it? Then it's no worse than them giving a class an unfair ability and nerfing it. They nerfed your recipe. Nobody ever calls that exploiting and never will.

    Mojo was a pet. They could have gone either way, they were lenient, yay them.

    The T6 belt was obvious. People who weren't morons realized they would get it taken away (best case scenario) or get in trouble (worst case) and didn't pick it up. It might just be that I'm not obsessive about loot, but if T8 bugged, I'd avoid the T8 vendor and shake my head at everyone who got hit with the punishment stick when Blizzard found what happened.

    I go around this game assuming I'm going to get in trouble if I do something stupid, so I keep my eyes peeled for stupid and then I run the other way.

    Crowded areas:

    I know, per this post -- http://birdfall.blogspot.com/2009/01/taboo-or-are-ignore-and-report-ever.html

    The rule applies to spamming aoe and/or sound effects and/or anything else in a crowded area in order to cause lag. The intent of the player action is lagging other people out and thus disrupting gameplay on a wide scale. I once had to play against a guy with a lag macro in WSG. We reported him and he deserved it.


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