Let’s Talk About Exploits, Shall We?

January 31, 2005 by at 10:22 am • Filed Under Etc., Noteworthy 
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Let’s talk about what is and what isn’t.

Back in Star Wars Galaxies, my guildleader wanted to compile a list of definitive game exploits (a list, not a how-to, ffs) so he could point to the list and say “don’t do these.” Ya, like we have 195 hours to write up every little thing … it just can’t be done. So, we settled on making a short list of activities that were FOR SURE exploits: duping credits, double-slicing weapons or armor, yadda yadda. All the “gee, ya think?” type exploits.

On the surface, this seems like something you shouldn’t have to write down for people, but you really do. The Stupid, they live among us.

Anyways, I have my own internal system for deciding if I’m exploiting or if I’m just being incredibly clever. I have made a VISUAL AID for the discussion.

visual-aid

It’s all so simple when it involves professional graphics.

Now, usually, it’s that proverbial gray area that produces all the problems. Game company says That Part of the gray area is an exploit; the players say That Part is not. Some games allow perching for example, most do not. I can promise you that Overlord Sony most definitely frowns on perching.

I, as a general rule, don’t perch ever because, c’mon, beating on a mob when it can’t hit you back is akin to doing Ovaltine jokes.

However, there was one game when I just didn’t give a shit: Anarchy Online missions. Maybe they finally fixed this, I don’t know, but back in AO early days, some of the mission zones had these water rooms with multiple mobs, so unless I wanted to get my ass beat down and fast, I’d inch along the wall into the room to get a single. Most of the time, this worked just fine and the mob would beat me, I’d beat him, and eventually he’d die (or I would, depends on my skeelz that day).

Some of the time, the mob would get hung up in the water and I could beat him (well duh, I’d move around until I could hit him), but he’d stand there swinging at air, apparently hung up on the geometry. I’d manuver around a bit to give the mob a fighting chance, but there was no way in hell I was going to aggro the other room mobs to compensate for piss poor pathing.

To me, that was gray area and most of the time, I judge the gray area in my favor. If I was intentionally aligning my character so I could beat him without getting beat upon, that would be cheating — this was gray area.

Over the weekend, our Blizzard overlords suspended a bunch of players for exploiting high-end content (Blizz words, not mine). Quoting Fangtooth, Blizzard handmaiden:

Recently, the Game Master staff found certain players repeatedly exploiting specific high-end content in Molten Core. The raid participants continued this exploitation after being asked to stop. At this time, we are issuing suspensions to all accounts involved.

We encourage players to actively explore and defeat these encounters, but we ask that it is done in a manner intended by the design of the game. Using exploits is not something we tolerate. When possible, we will educate players on what is and is not intended by game design. If this education goes unheeded, action can and will be taken against those involved.

CHEATERS!!! Right? Not so fast. More details per Blizzard’s Maleki (post #21):

To be a little more specific, the guild in question was using repeated line of sight exploits which prevented the mobs from attacking back. Also, using a pulling exploit which allowed them to only agro boss mobs. Both are considered exploits, and the guild in question was previously warned the night before. We want to reiterate that exploitation of high end content will not be tolerated.

Hmmm. Still sounds bad. Probably over in that Cheating area on the chart. No wait!! Player Felzen in post #48 gives details of the encounter (which Blizzard subsequently responds to, so I’m guessing this is a fair player account of the whole mess):

This is what oyu guys are wanting to know.

The guild in question was warned not to do it. They did NOT ever repeate it after the warning. They did not use line of sight exploits ever.

The guild pulled by having a warlock summon a rogue who tagged a mob. The mob then ran to the raid group and the guild killed him with his guards present and offtanked as the encoutner was intended.

So, No pulling using warlock summons. No pulling using hunter snare traps followed by feigning.

And Maleki responds in post #59 (excerpted):

Ok, so basically your saying the guild in question must be warned for every variation of the exploit? Last night, the GM let you all off with a simple warning. Less than 24 hours later, you proceed back to do the same thing.

You left out pulling the boss mob across the entirely spawned zone. Sounds to me like this is exactly how the encounter was designed. Not to mentioned you where warned less than 24 hours previous.

I enjoyed post #44 by player Solanthious of the Lightbringer server:

So, basically, what you’re saying is that the hunter “exploit” and the old EQ CoH pull tactic are exploits because you “Blizzard” wants the adds killed at a boss or before a boss?

Do I need to remind a certain dev about pulling AHR without clearing?

(I don’t even know if that certain dev ever used that … technique, but still is funny.)

From my skimming of the 20+ page thread, it seems Blizzard has an issue with players using class abilities to selectively pull shit. Like rogues and warlocks working together (GOD NO!) and hunters using feign death and snare to snake out the mobs they want. Reading the greater details of the incident, it seems like it’s not line of sight at all, rather it’s players being clever, once again.

If Blizz doesn’t want players to be clever in this particular manner in this particular encounter, then disable the damn abilities in that zone. Or, redesign the whole thing. They can’t run around suspending people for being clever. Well, they can, but they look like COMPLETE idiots.

We needed to get our hunter to a particular quest mob, buried deep in this dumass elite zone. We could have killed every single mob along the way and in an hour or so arrived at our destination, but why would we when we don’t have to?

The rogues stealthed through and waited in the quest room, the hunter feigned his way through, and at the final room, hunter popped up, called the pet, the rogues unstealthed, and we commenced the killing. Was that how that encounter was intended?

How the fuck would I know.



Comments

12 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Exploits, Shall We?”

  1. Saccia on January 31st, 2005 11:18 am

    Post #50 from Enum on Dragonmaw:
    “Wait, so it’s OK to exploit line-of-sight against neutral town guards (Booty Bay and Gadgetzan), but not this?”

    The same goes for Astranaar and the people who dive in the water to escape guards which spams the WorldDefense channel and has me looking for the WorldDefense off button.

    If the excuse is zero tolerance for LoS exploits then everyone who does this should be suspended. However, if Blizz is just trying to cover their own ass because people are starting to take out the high end content before the game is even 6 months old, then Blizz needs to take a look at themselves and ask if there isn’t some other way to handle the situation.

  2. Grouchy Gnome on January 31st, 2005 12:41 pm

    A company should never ban or suspend accounts if their players use game systems in a clever manner. The appropriate response to such an issue is to “fix your game GM!” Honestly, if players are using game systems as they were put in the game in a manner you did not intend, you dropped the ball, not them. It is the developer’s job to fix it.

    You could argue that all exploits, then, are not something that developers should ban for. True, but the exception to the rule is the following: anything that is detrimental to the enjoyment of the game for others is punishable. That includes duping (economy problems), causing other player characters to get stuck/die/etc, gaining a completely unfair advantage over others, etc.

    What Blizzard needs to learn as an MMOG developer is that banning or suspending an account is not unlikely to remove a customer, and has the potential to take others with it. If you get a bad reputation for banning or suspending accounts, your long-term success will suffer.

  3. Oz on January 31st, 2005 1:32 pm

    Amuses me to no end how soon they go from loving their players to Sony’s EQ Year One methods. I mean, I’d love their game to succeed, the market is starved for innovation, but it’s far easier to swing the banning stick than go “damn, players figured out a cleverer way around my clever trap” and try and find a creative way out of it.

  4. Mannox on January 31st, 2005 5:55 pm

    #2 said…(No pun intended)

    “You could argue that all exploits, then, are not something that developers should ban for. True, but the exception to the rule is the following: anything that is detrimental to the enjoyment of the game for others is punishable. That includes duping (economy problems), causing other player characters to get stuck/die/etc, gaining a completely unfair advantage over others, etc.”

    Well allow me to retort.

    If I had to EARN my through the same area fighting, clawing and scratching my way to the mob and you walk in and do a little summon trick you would be damn right to say that your “exploit” has ruined a piece of the game for me.

    Was the Foton example the same thing? Not in the slightest. He went TO the mob and proceeded to kill it. He didn’t bring the mob to him through some clever scheme.

    However, Blizzard should have seen this coming. No one at Blizz is a gaming Noob. CoH pulling was common place in EQ. They had to know that it would be tried here. There are 2 simple solutions in my opinion.

    1. Make it so that when Pissed_Off_MOB_01 passes by any non-pissed off mob it aggros them. Go ahead and do your lil rogue summon just be prepared to fight the whole zone at once. Don’t like it? Then stop being lazy and move through the content.

    2. Make it so that the CoH like spell clears all aggro created by the person being CoH’d.

    Either solution works.

    To me exploitation in MMOG terms mean knowingly and purposefully using a glitch or lack of foresight in the game to gain an advantage over the game.

    With that said…If you pull a mob with the intention of fighting it and it gets caught on geometry and you kill it. The first time you did this you didn’t KNOW and therefor you didn’t do it on purpose. The second time you do it you knew and did it on purpose. The first time isn’t exploitation the second time is. If you tell your buddy what happened and he runs over and does it he is exploiting even if he is “just seeing if it was true”.

    It’s a pretty simple concept really. MMRPGs evolved from table top RPGs like AD&D. Good, bad, right or wrong the developers are trying to reporduce that environment for the masses. If you ever played a table top game you know that the little trick that this guild tried to pull would never work with a table top game. But since there is no 24/7 intelligent GM capable of watching all the players in all the areas at all times people will find cheap tactics to circumvent some, most or all of the content. In cases like that the offenders need to be told “don’t do that”. If they ignore the request and continue it is pretty much like being told “Fuck you I will do what I want”. Now if someone told me that in my house they too would be suspended..From the tip of boot.

    Another way to look at it is like this…Let say the content is a tree house you built for your . Now you come home one day after a few months and discover that the very person you built this tree house for has decided to sell crack out if it. Now that is not why you built the treehouse. Wouldn’t you put them on punishment? I would.

    I doubt this will be very popular so I will don my asbestos suit.

  5. Brask Mumei on January 31st, 2005 7:11 pm

    If I had to EARN my through the same area fighting, clawing and scratching my way to the mob and you walk in and do a little summon trick you would be damn right to say that your ‘exploit’ has ruined a piece of the game for me.

    You may want to look into deriving your sense of worth from internal metrics rather than external ones. I presume you *enjoyed* fighting all the mobs to get to the big mob at the back? That is why you were doing it, right? How could that enjoyment be nullified by the knowledge that there was another path? If it wasn’t enjoyment, but suffering, then perhaps one should find a more rewarding pasttime?

    Back in the Ultima Online days, people used boxes to block Balrons so they could fight them relatively safely. We would pick up the boxes and fight them the way the Dev Team Intended. For some odd reason, the game wasn’t “ruined” by those box weilding fools. If we did not want to fight Balrons, we could always not go to where they were.

    Maybe we were just crazy. We’d earn our way through Covetous, clawing and scratching the way to the Lich level, whilst most players would just teleport to the bottom.

    If you ever played a table top game you know that the little trick that this guild tried to pull would never work with a table top game.

    Most table top GMs I’ve been involved with are quite willing to reward clever strategems with reduced fighting. It’s a poor GM that says: “You can’t do that cause I got all these monsters I want you to fight!”

    – Brask Mumei

  6. Abalieno on January 31st, 2005 10:46 pm

    Honestly, if players are using game systems as they were put in the game in a manner you did not intend, you dropped the ball, not them. It is the developer’s job to fix it.

    Well, yes. I’d expect them to close the instance on ALL the servers and reopen it only when it’s fixed.

  7. Aufero on January 31st, 2005 11:59 pm

    If Blizz doesn’t want players to be clever in this particular manner in this particular encounter, then disable the damn abilities in that zone. Or, redesign the whole thing.

    Or watch what’s going on, say “oh, hell, we never thought of that” and ask the players not to do it while you redesign the encounter and/or class ability.

    The first time, it was clever. I’m sure it was irritating to find a great new tactic and have a GM show up and tell them it was an exploit.

    Trying the same kind of thing the next time, after a warning – that’s not clever.

  8. Tranixx on February 1st, 2005 3:52 am

    “Was the Foton example the same thing? Not in the slightest. He went TO the mob and proceeded to kill it. He didn’t bring the mob to him through some clever scheme.”

    How about this tactic we use…

    Four or more rogues, one warlock. One rogue unstealths and pulls all the mobs in the way (using evade to avoid getting hit much). Warlock runs after him with a clear path. Rogue vanishes just before he dies, mobs all go back into place. Repeat process using the next rogue. Once we get to our target the warlock then summons in the rest of the group.

    According to your logic, this isnt an exploit.

    “The first time, it was clever. I’m sure it was irritating to find a great new tactic and have a GM show up and tell them it was an exploit.

    Trying the same kind of thing the next time, after a warning – that’s not clever. ”

    Heres the deal, the two things that they did were completely unrelated. There were no similarities between them. The first night they were warned was for fighting the boss in his own area. They used a hunter trap pulling technique (remember, nobody had been told that it was an exploit) to split the main boss from his two linked mobs. For this, they got warned not to do it again by the GM.

    The next night, they cleared about half way into the instance and had a rogue smack up the boss then the warlock summoned him back to the group. The boss came through the zone to the group, his linked associates cam with him. The raid party fought the boss and the other mobs exactly as they would have done had they been in the boss’s room.

    For this they were suspended.

    The guild in question is, unsurprisingly, an Everquest ‘uber’ PvE guild. They were well known and developed strategies for boss fights that are still widely used today. They have a very creative raid leader who knows how to think outside of what the designers intended. Unfortunately, unlike some of the other superguilds, they dont have anyone who works at Blizzard.

    Its like Foton says, there is a grey are, and Blizzard have done nothing to define it.

    “When possible, we will educate players on what is and is not intended by game design.”

    Hows about right now!! Read the whole first comment from blizzard, they explain that people have been suspended for repeatedly exploiting molten core. Yet they give zero indication of how they were exploiting it. If it wasnt for the guild in question posting the tactics they used, then nobody would have a clue and there would be more suspensions soon for using exactly the same techniques. All Blizzard needed to say, in public, was that using any pulling technique that deliberately separates and un-aggro’s linked mobs is not allowed. Any deliberate use of a technique that drags a boss through other, unlinked, mobs without aggroing them, is not allowed.

    “Back in Star Wars Galaxies, my guildleader wanted to compile a list of definitive game exploits (a list, not a how-to, ffs) so he could point to the list and say ‘don’t do these.’

    Your guildleader should not have to. Blizzard must have a GM policy, a guidebook if you will, that tells the GM staff what it is that players are not allowed to do. They probably updated it yesterday with the above examples. This needs to be made publicly available.

  9. Zhaneel on February 1st, 2005 12:24 pm

    If it is an exploit to seperate the Boss Mob from link associates in any way, then most people I know exploit ULD just to get it done. If we can’t have one guy just tanking the big boss and everyone else keeping the rest of the mobs he wakes up away, then I don’t really see how we’re supposed to do that fight.

    I think it was poor design that Blizz let the boss run through the instance without aggroing the creatures in Molten Core. Non Boss creatures help pull each other all the time if you try to skip content, like in Gnomeregon [thanks to my Imp for showing that] or Dead Mines [again, thank you Mr. Imp] or Zul’Farrack [not my Imp, some hunter’s pet].

    So, a switch needs to be flipped that if a Boss runs through he grabs everyone. Simple.

  10. Foton of AFKGamer on February 1st, 2005 1:46 pm

    Is the Blizzard Collective out of their frigging minds? Do they honestly expect that we’ll ditch aggro on a boss pull that doesn’t grab the guards too? The whole of gaming strategy can be summed up thusly … One is easier than more.

    “goddamit, I didn’t get the guards, let me die, get rezzed and try again?”

    At any rate, I think it’s safe to say, The honeymoon is over.

  11. final fantasy fanboi on February 20th, 2005 11:38 pm

    Very entertaining read.

  12. amateur male gamer on February 24th, 2005 9:33 pm

    I disagree with you on just about everything.

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