Hacks vs. Exploits: When Should Devs Ban Bad Gamers?
ArenaNet saved face by allowing the 3000 banned players to submit an appeal to have their ban reduced to a 72-hour suspension by submitting a support ticket with a promise to delete the offending items from their inventory. However, this was far from a mea culpa — ArenaNet offered this “second chance” with a furrowed brow and arms folded across its chest, admonishing all players that no one would ever again be extended this “courtesy.”
The result? Players now live in a regime of terror, afraid of touching anything in-game that shines a little too brightly. They’re even afraid of picking up too much loot.
There’s a reason our society has evolved a judicial system based on innocence until guilt is proven; to employ a backwards system in which we kill all offenders and let god sort them out results in a population fearing authority rather than feeling protected by it.
“This is a first and final warning. Moving forward, please make sure you that when you see an exploitable part of the game, you report it and do not attempt to benefit from it.”
So now, customers must not only play a dangerous guessing game to determine whether the developers intended a given feature, but they’ve also paid $60 to have the privilege of working as ArenaNet’s Quality Assurance department.
Of course, this is all assuming that players follow the news. The players most likely to accidentally abuse exploits are those least likely to see the warnings that developers choose to issue via forums, websites, and other media outlets. This means players are not just being punished for developer mistakes; they’re also being punished for not being devout enough fans to follow every official announcement.
Without a doubt, any players caught hacking or running third-party applications such as bots should rightfully be banned, because there is deliberate malicious intent behind their actions. But exploits have always been a grey area — yes, in many cases, the developers can prove a player had malicious intent, which would lead to a rightful ban. But it’s often not that clear-cut, and players shouldn’t have to divine developer intent when they discover something advantageous.
It is a developer’s responsibility to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for its players, but the means by which they do so shouldn’t come at a cost to the players. There must be a better solution than a police state regime.
Rather than punish players who use exploits, why not reward those who report exploits? Rather than devote manpower to catching and banning exploiters, why not divert additional resources to the team that fixes the exploits in order to eliminate them as soon as possible?
When players found an exploit in Starsiege: Tribes that allowed them to ski, the developers took that idea and made it a gameplay mechanic in Tribes 2. Fourteen years later, we’re banning people for being thrifty shoppers.