23 February, 2007
There’s one dichotomy I’ve found fascinating about online games: people get all bent out of shape if you cheat in terms of achieving. Botting is generally frowned upon by companies, and the mere hint of the possibility of buying items/characters sends people into a frenzy.
Yet, the equivalent behaviors relating to exploring aren’t as vilified. Heading to a site to find quest location? Not a problem. Buy a strategy guy? Go right ahead!
In other words, as the title says: cheat while exploring, but not while achieving.
Why is this?
Now, I have some pretty obvious biases for people that read my site: I’m a pretty hard-core Explorer type. I love going out and exploring new areas, filling out the map, and figuring out how things work. I consider this one reason why I’m a pretty good developer: I can take a look and figure out how things work. A good trait for most people with an engineering mindset.
Of course, I understand some of the motivation here. Meridian 59 disallows botting because it causes social problems, especially on a small server. If the people you try to talk to are botting and therefore not responding to tells, then the game seems less friendly. In a PvP game, botting is also a way to circumvent dealing with other players. A person who gets a bunch of reagents to bot up spells in an inn is much safer than the person who has to run around avoiding the random PKers to collect reagents to practice out in the wild. In a PvE-focused game, this means that you have assholes that go around stealing kills and being a nuisance to the “real” players who happen to be in the same area.
But, what about people who “automate” quests? You could argue that the person heading to Thottbot to look up quest coordinates isn’t exactly participating in the game. This person could also mindlessly blow by people legitimately trying to figure out a quest and disrupt some aspect of the quest that they’re trying to accomplish.
Part of the problem is that part of the Explorer mindset, as Dr. Bartle describes it, is to be the source of novel information. The Explorer type enjoys explaining some obscure observation or explaining how to do step X in a tricky quest. So, the nature of the Explorer makes it easier to accept that exploration can be automated to make it easier to share information with others. On the other hand, achieving is significant because it assumes the player has invested the time and effort required to “earn” the levels and status. Botting violates that assumption, because it allows the person to skip the time and effort.
But, here’s the part where it gets interesting: people I respect sometimes claim that people willing to RMT to gain more power to skip playing the game show “bad design”. Yet, I don’t see a similar accusation leveled against quest hint information. Isn’t the fact that people want to skip figuring out a quest mean that the quest is flawed as well? But, this brings up a strange contradiction: people said that WoW’s quest design was one of the absolute best. But, would the existence of quest help on Thottbot invalidate that?
I think one of the root causes here is the tremendous focus on achiever-style gameplay in current games. This is why it’s forbidden automate or bypass achievement, but doing the same for explorer-type content is accepted and even praised.
What are your thoughts? Why is bypassing explorer content so accepted, whereas bypassing achiever content vilified?