Over in Everquest II, they’re trying an experiment at the moment – what’s that? Yes, Everquest II. People are still playing it. The original as well. I know, I’m surprised too, but never mind. Specifically, they’ve created a prison server called Drunder. The idea is that instead of banning trolls, griefers and cheaters (presumably up to a certain point), they can simply throw all the troublemakers in server jail and let them play together with no possibility of escape. Nothing can possibly go wrong! If you want to indulge in the anarchy then you can request to be sent there, but again, it’s a one way trip for your account. Has Daybreak finally discovered the ultimate fix for bad online behaviour, though? Let’s ask our special ethics correspondent, a snowball in Hell.
Well, while we wait, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at how a few other RPGs have decided to have a little fun with their dodgier elements, both online and off.
I’ve always been fond of this kind of thing, both because the results can be funny, and because I love when games take a little time out to acknowledge edge cases, be they as silly as having NPCs respond to a naked hero running up to them, as pointless as a little message in a secret room asking how the hell you got there, or best of all, in-game acknowledgement of something that you did, like how The Nameless Mod for Deus Ex’s characters know all about climbing a wall with grenades. It can be a little nod of respect, a fun secret (particularly in the days before YouTube, where something like a birthday celebration in a certain game would have been a birthday surprise instead of ruined by news stories), or just a chance to pop a quick joke or finger-wag somewhere all the funnier for being unexpected. Some developers have taken things, uh, a little bit far, especially given that these things can occasionally fire by accident. But never mind that. Here’s a few of the amusing ones where the punishment more fitted the crime.
Second Life: The Cornfield
One of the most famous gaming examples. Troublemakers in Second Life, the game that gave us enough of a glimpse of the much-hoped for Metaverse to reveal that a) people would ruin it and b) it wouldn’t be as much fun as it seemed, were politely invited to chill out for a while in this eerie otherworld. For entertainment, they had a tractor, and a TV playing an old public information film about avoiding a life of crime. The whole thing is a reference to a Twilight Zone episode called It’s A Good Life, about an evil child capable of warping away any adult who displeases him. Like most culture, there’s a fair chance you know it better from The Simpsons. But never mind.
The Cornfield approach has been used by a few different games over the years. Runescape (Run! Escape!) had a location called The Black Hole that was impossible to escape from until the GMs decided the player had served an appropriate sentence. In that case, it was removed after being integrated. Second Life’s Cornfield however developed somewhat mythical status, to the point of people recreating it in the main world so that everyone could simulate the experience of being cast out of society. That probably doesn’t say too much for its effectiveness as a punishment system.
World of Warcraft: The Cleaner
MMOs don’t have much sense of fair play. Find a spot where you can attack a monster and they can’t attack you? Watch them go invulnerable and wander off back to their spawn point. But when YOU decide to try and break the rules, everyone just complains. One of World of Warcraft’s more pointed ways of stopping it was The Cleaner, whose job was to insist that players on class quests proved they could handle things alone. If someone else joined in, he’d pop up – an elite, unkillable demon bellowing “You dare interfere with this being’s testing? The battle must be fought alone!” and pretty much just murdering everything. Spoilsport. Luckily, his appearances were restricted to just a couple of locations, and he’s yet to become a raid boss to wipe the smiles off those players who find the modern game too easy. (Not without cause, but it could be worse – that’s the kind of complaint easily fixed should Blizzard choose…)
Vampire Bloodlines: You Don’t Know, Jack
A simple one, but bonus points for keeping it within character. Normally, you finish the tutorial to this amazing game and find Smiling Jack (former pirate, current Man of Awesome) standing outside to give you the basic rundown of both being a vampire and being as screwed as you are, which needless to say, is ‘very screwed indeed’. If you’ve cheated though, he instead takes the time out to mock you for boosting your starting stats. Unlike most of these examples though, he lets it go, and the player can fight back – both by saying they’re just using a mod, therefore it’s okay, or if they’re a Malkavian, that Malkav himself probably liked them and gave them a boost. Either way, neat.
Guild Wars: Public Executions
Generally, developers keep their anti-griefer measures relatively quiet, or try to. The reason is pretty obvious – if they’re cool, they draw people wanting to push their luck. ArenaNet tends to go the other way. In Guild Wars, instead of banned characters simply vanishing in a puff of GTFO, those around would see the scythe-wielding god of death and destruction Dhuum manifest in the world to cut them down in a single blow.
Fast forward to Guild Wars 2, and… I said, fast forward to…
…and ArenaNet opted to take control of a botter’s account and exact a bit of capital punishment by stripping him down to his pants, throwing him off a bridge, and then deleting his characters. Poor guy. He had several crates to open too.
Former Daybreak Person Who Worked At Daybreak John Smedley subsequently picked up on the public humiliation idea, though in a more real-time sense. If you got banned and wanted back in, having learned the error of your ways (by which I mean being a jerk, not playing H1Z1, though that arguably DOES qualify too), you had to post a public YouTube apology. Five players were unbanned as a result of this, out of around 30,000. So, not much progress, but more than King Canute ever managed. Not sure what Smedley would demand in apology for the time hackers brought down a plane he was on with a bomb threat, but it’s got to be at least a really nice chocolate gateaux.
Dark Souls: Pre-Emptive Strike
Lucky enough to get your hands on an early copy of Dark Souls in Japan? The boring thing for a company to do is to shut down the servers, or ban players, or other things along those lines. Instead, From Software decided to get their revenge by using the ability to invade players’ games to send in crazily high-level enemies to whomp anyone who tried it and make progress less likely than the first time Twitch tried to play the game. This wasn’t the PC version unfortunately, so technically I probably shouldn’t list it here. But it’s fun, so I thought I would. And I did. So there.
Ultima VII: A Stern Telling Off From Lord British
Ultima is the series devoted to honour, to goodness, to justice, to virtue. So, cheating in it is just slightly taking the piss, even if it is as easy as climbing into a building in the first town and finding a room with literally everything in the game all laid out for your snaffling. But, if you did do it, you had to be careful. An accidental slip and you’d end up with Lord British himself chewing you out with “Busted, you thieving scoundrel bastard!” Death not being a huge problem in Ultima VII though, he needed a little more oomph behind his disapproval. It came in the form of every dialogue option from then on being replaced with simply ‘oink’, much as failing the copy protection check in the second game led to everyone just talking gibberish. Not even the ye olde kind.
The Witcher 3: Bovine Defence Force
All sufficiently complicated games have exploits. One that people quickly found in The Witcher 3 was the ability to kill cows, take their pelts, sleep for a while until they respawned, and repeat until they had literally all the money and could demand Emhyr var Emreis dance in his pants for them like a Guild Wars 2 cheater. Maybe not that last bit. CD Projekt of course stepped in, but rather than just being boring and making cows invulnerable or stopping them dropping pelts after a while, decided to remind everyone of that old expression “Pick on someone your own size and/or ability to kick arse.” Post-patch, attempting to kill cows led to the spawning of the BDF – a huge demon monster to get revenge. They’re tough, but not TOO tough if you’re already a high level. But they will keep coming, charged with putting the ‘chort’ into ‘chortle’.
Those are just a few of the RPG attacks though. Other genres have had plenty more too, including anti-pirate techniques like Serious Sam’s pink scorpion, Game Dev Tycoon’s ironic take on piracy, Titanfall’s Wimbledon of aim-bots, and Metal Gear Solid’s infamous don’t use auto-fire, I’ll know! Though Metal Gear never did worry all that much about breaking the fourth wall. It’s always a little more fun when the game steps out of being serious to get a little bit silly, isn’t it? I think so, anyway. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be games, though few other mediums go to quite such lengths.
And after all of these, all bad things in gaming have been stopped, forever!
Just to be safe though, I should probably go refreeze this snowball.