June 2001

WARDEN NAPS TO CRUSH [Author: Lum the Mad]

Warden’s latest explanation for why Shadowbane isn’t out yet, spotted on Shadowbane Warcry:

Lazy? of COURSE we’re lazy, we’re game developers! I’m suprised you didn’t know this about game development — most game developers typically only work about 3 or 4 hours out of any given week. The rest of the time we spend watching movies, hanging out by the pool, and basking in the endless praise of our readily-satisfied fanbase.

I’ll let ya in on a secret, too. All that stuff about crunch mode, sleepless nights, thankless tasks, wasted youth…? Lies! All lies. We’re just one small part of an industry-wide conspiracy to garner undeserved sympathy. I’m kinda surprised you fell for it, actually. I mean we’re making GAMES. How hard could that be?

I guess the cat’s out of the bag now, though, huh… Oh well. If you’ll excuse me, it’s just about nap time. See ya.


SHHH don’t wake him

YOU SPIN ME ROUND ROUND LIKE A RECORD BABY ROUND ROUND HERE I COME [Author: Lum the Mad]

First, Absor posted a note from the nameless “Everquest Customer Service Team” that reads:

There appears to be some confusion regarding the second part of our Account Security Statement. We therefore would like to take a moment to clarify our position.

“(2)Any and all stolen and/or compromised accounts that are reported to SOE will be banned, and no items will be reimbursed. Any player found to be involved in an account theft will have any and all of his/her accounts banned.”

Prior to banning any accounts reported as compromised, we will conduct a thorough review of the accounts in question and determine the appropriate course of action on those accounts. Accounts will only be banned based on information gathered through our investigation and not merely as a result of external allegations.

This convinces us that the Everquest Customer Service Team is really this guy. Translated into English, the note reads:

Holy shit, actual journalists are asking questions about this now. OK. Let’s say something. Um. OK. If we ban your account we promise we’ll only have to ban it if we look at it first. Wait, no. Um, we won’t ban an account if someone else tells us to, unless we look at it. Hmm. Oh hell, run it by legal, they’ll come up with something.

Seriously, what they’re not telling you (and God only knows why, unless the folks in EQ CS are violently allergic to actually making sense) is that the problem trying to be alleviated with a Verant-style sledgehammer is that of ebay scammers trying to get their account back by reporting it “stolen”.

So remember – ebay bad, you can’t tattletale someone into a banning, and Lady Daegarmo is scary. Next up on the Price is Right…

Conquest! That’s right, just like Mystere and Tweety, Conquest is one of those one word reasons why people don’t send Verant money now. This bothers Verant, since for some reason they’d really like you to send them money. Maybe it’s so they can save Trivial Pursuit. In any event, Brad McQuaid has been waxing positively eloquent on the subject of exploits and why you should not like them.

From reading all of the public info on the Conquest incident, it seems to me that these guys simply took advantage of holes your programmers left in the game. If an NPC can’t summon or move for X seconds or due to Y geometry, um, tough titty to you, Kitty–fix it. If you leave it in, you can’t ethically blame someone for taking advantage of it. It’s your responsibility, and you’rs (Verant’s) alone, to make the game unexploitable.

Agreed to a point, and expanding on that, it’s Verant’s responsibility to make sure we are offering an entertaining and fair play environment for our customers. And so we fix bugs, and we also crack down on players who would use bugs to cheapen the playing experience of others.

And I disagree it’s unethical to blame a player for taking advantage of a bug. If a person leaves the door open at their place of business, thereby creating a hole in the company’s security, yes, it’s the person’s fault for doing this. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok for someone to come along and enter the building, taking advantage of the open door. He gets blamed too.

Now, if players change the code, hack it, or abuse other players, disciplinary action seems warranted. But to even bother suspending players whose only real “crime” seems to be to take advantage of coding problems on your end–well, you’re asking way too much of your customers.

But taking advantage of coding or data problems can in some cases ABUSE OTHER PLAYERS, which is the point I apparently failed miserably to communicate, because it keeps coming up, not just in your email but in others.

Once you create the world, it isn’t yours any more, just like when a novelist writes a book. If someone wants to interpret The Stand as an allegory about French cooking, there’s nothing Stephen King can do about it. Yeah, an online game isn’t as passive as a book, but it’s the same concept. You guys seem to be holding on way too tight. Who cares if they “exploit” the flaws in the programming? Turn off the zone, fix the flaws, and go on. Every single exploit you guys identify should be seen as an opportunity to improve the game or refine it–that’s good, and it’s your right. But to discipline players for finding your mistakes\’e2\’80\’a6 man, that’s pretty low.

Again, reading a book is not a shared, community based experience. Misinterpreting a book, and for a better analogy, cheating in a single player game does NOT hurt the play experience for others. But, and this is the key point here, cheating in a shared community based online experience DOES.

Thankfully, enough email came into Verant that they were able to select ones that completely missed the point… namely, at what point does something no longer become a tactic and becomes cheating? It seems with uber-level encounters, the answer from Verant is “when you don’t die”. I eagerly await kiting, using jboots as an instacast spell item, twisting bard songs, feign death pulling, and signing up for Anarchy Online to all be declared exploits.

UO NEWS AND WHIRLED REPORT [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]


PAGE ONE: Sometimes you wanna go where every NPC knows your name

Fast on the heels of nothing else going on, EA-Austin announces another update to please the upper classes. If you are among the Ultima Aristocracy and own a house, you will soon be able to hire your very own bartender. Check this out:

The barkeeps will serve as a method for players to support and announce their own events and quests. The barkeeps will have the following properties:

Saying “news” to a barkeep will give a scenario hint, just like a town crier.

The “tip rumor” will be optional and customizeable by the player owner. Amounts of gold under 50 gold will cause the Barkeep to speak this rumor.

Amounts over 50 gold will be returned.

In addition to the one tip rumor, players can put 3 “oracle style”

rumors with keywords on the Barkeep. (oracle style rumors are spoken once certain keywords are said by the player. The rumor and linking keyword are added to the Barkeep by the player owner).

Now we have a solution to the question of what to do when you run out of cheap foreign labor from India. Why, you program a seer NPC to do the job for nothing. Holy Cow, indeed! But not to be entirely filled with HATE-HATE for EA, I have to admit that so far, there has been little in the way of controversy since the in-game support was relocated to a run down old motel somewhere in Asia. When was the last time you went a week without a “counselor story”? Maybe EA-India should consider hiring developers. That would nearly double the in-game holidays overnight. If you thought green mugs on Saint Patrick’s Day was cool, wait until next Ramidan.

PAGE TWO: Latest Update bombs. Players ask, “where’s the new duds?”

The “we’re full time employees, Biatch” ongoing content team has unleashed another distinctly hued orc upon the lands. Pictured at the top of this issue is the scarlet “bomber” (Sorry, I don’t have a Third Dawn picture, and no such pictures are known to exist). They are reported as having “extra regs and some gold”. A few are rumoring tales of special cloaks. I’m not sure if I’m excited about that or not. I suppose for Third Dawn users, it is something to get hyped about, but given that I prefer to use the “less broken” client, all my new orcs look like they were dipped in candy coating. Maybe in 4 or 5 months, when they figure out that most players still use the old client, we’ll find a way to allow that client to download new artwork. I tried to ask a few veteran players for their comments, but the cheer-leading “Hey! Ho! AO!” in the background made it difficult to follow.

PAGE THREE: Developer asks, “So what is wrong with treasure maps these days?” – reports indicate he drowned in a sea of feedback.

On the heels of the “Hey, anybody aware of any problems with factions?” announcement comes another “Darned if we have any ideas” post. This thread might have some good ideas, but when the first six didn’t address the NUMBER ONE PROBLEM, I gave up on it. All this “hey how about making it so when you decode it, you know the level” is just polishing the rails of a sinking ship. How about fixing the CONTENTS of these maps, first. Remove all level one maps for being a waste of resources. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t either place them as carpet or sell them for chump change on a vendor. Reports from the field are coming in, and it does appear that Grandmaster fisherman are in fact using level 1 maps. So to those FIVE PLAYERS, more power to ya. Enjoy that COWBOY HAT OF AGILITY, pard’ner. Five minutes later, when those fifty charges are gone, you’ll wonder why you ever put it on in the first place.

If you ask me (and no, they don’t), I have yet to see a pirate movie where they look at a tattered old map and say, “well Captain, by my best eye, that looks to be a level three map. I suggest we roster up a few additional hands before we go digging that booty.” No. You find a map, you follow the map, you deal with its “booty” when you get there. I hesitate to call this a dumb idea because well, read page four.

PAGE FOUR: From our “News of the Dumb” file – The final vestige of realism is removed as EA-Austin forces vendors to franchise.

I’m not sure if this was the stillborn brainchild of EA itself or if they have taken to listening to their customers again. Note to EA: if you can hear them, they are crybabies. Here’s the spic-and-span version:

NPC shopkeepers will no longer inflate the prices of their inventory

when their stock begins to run low, and prices of items will be consistent on all shopkeepers.

Shortly thereafter, they will all require that you get your very own Sam’s Club ID card in order to shop. Part of the “discovery” of Ultima Online is learning when the market was good for buying regs, and where you could find the best deals. Purchasing regs was a speculative market – and if you knew what you were doing, you could turn a handsome profit by buying low and selling high. Or, you could operate at a loss if you didn’t do your homework by studying the patterns and learning what vendors offered discount rates.

I guess in Korea, they aren’t comfortable with a free marketplace.

Or any attempts to simulate actual market fluctuation. What’s next? All vendors named “A mage: reagents”?

Add another pinch of “suck” to the big Ultima Online soup. On the one hand, EA-Austin is quick to agree that part of the problem with the UO economy is that there is too much gain and not enough pain. You don’t have to earn anything – you can make millions of gold from the safety of town. So why then, are they attempting to remove every last “hassle” and every little “annoyance” that players whine and bitch about? In chess, you have pieces to play with, and no amount of whining and bitching will change the way the game is played. While it is a challenge to master, it is that challenge that makes being a rated Grand Master so honored. You don’t rush out and change the game because of that challenge. On the other hand, if the game were easier maybe you’d sell more chess sets.

FINAL PUNCH:

This week’s word Jumble: htis diae sukcs!

ANARCHY ONLINE TESTS FOR STRESS, FINDS IT EXISTS [Author: Lum the Mad]


“Does this outfit make my butt look fat?”

Anarchy Online’s open beta continues, with over 100,000 people according to Funcom all yelling in the “lvl 10-50 auction” channel that zoning doesn’t work. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten dropped in on the development team during these final crunch days.

Sales director Nicolay Nickelsen was reluctant to concede Funcom’s future was totally dependent on the game’s success. “If you take on (competitors such as) Microsoft and Sony, you have to take chances. This is a calculated risk. We feel we are well prepared and anyway, we have other legs to stand on,” Nickelsen told Aftenposten Interactive.

Still, given the level of interest in the beta, AO looks to be a sure sales hit in 2 weeks when the game reaches store shelves. The development team is pretty honest that, like every other MMO, the first days of release will be hell. And, like every other MMO, the game has apparently already gone gold to meet a pre-determined ship date despite still having serious problems, although it’s impossible to tell at this point what problems in the game are a result of the server stress-testing and what are still bugs in the game’s code.

Still, the game’s come a very long way from earlier betas, and a few core differences that make AO stand out from EQ remain. The mission generation system, when it actually works, does in fact create small individual adventuring areas that should eliminate crowding issues entirely. Soloing is less of a cruel joke, and downtime is minimal.

Trade skills? Player vs player combat? Depth of the game world? You got me – since I haven’t been able to actually leave the newbie zone yet thanks to zoning problems, it’s impossible to say. What is safe to say is that we’ll have a great deal more to say about the game in the future. Assuming we can actually leave the newbie zone.

OLD SIERRA HEADS ROLL, ‘SHOTGUN’ DAVE GRENEWETSKI STEPS DOWN, TO THE REJOICING OF FOOTBALL FANS WORLDWIDE [Author: Arcadian Del Sol]

Changes in the Middle Earth Online lawsuit seem to be hitting Sierra’s upper management. On 5/24/01, the case was promoted from Los Angeles county circuit court to the Federal level. Only weeks later, the following internal memo was dispatched to all Sierra associates, including our little chatty blue-bird:

From:

To:

Sent: 6/*/2001 *:** PM

Subject: An announcement from Mike Ryder

Hello,

In an effort to keep you informed, I want to announce to you today that Mark Hood is no longer with Sierra. As most of you know, Tolkien was a key focus for Mark and it continues to be a very important business for us. In the weeks to come, you will hear more about our plans to move forward on the development of this exciting project. While we continue to develop our strategies, I will be managing the Tolkien business.

Thanks for your support and I look forward to working with you all on building great games!

Mike Ryder

In an effort to keep you informed OF THE TRUTH, be aware that this departure comes with absolutely no prior notice or warning – which can mean only one thing. All compasses are pointing to magnetic FIRED. Sierra’s compasses are all spinning too fast to get a reliable reading. Trust me on this one.

The next move might indicate certain reluctances by Sierra VPs to so much as poke the Middle Earth Online documents with a ten foot pole, as displayed in Sierra Internal Memo #2:

From:

To:

Sent: 6/*/2001 *:** PM

Subject: ANNOUNCEMENT FROM KEN CRON

All:

It was with great enthusiasm that we announced a few weeks ago the arrival of two new Sierra executives -Tom Hernquist and Mike Ryder. I am disappointed to announce today that for personal reasons, Tom will not be making the move to Sierra and he and his family will remain on the East Coast. We wish Tom all the best. Effective immediately and until further notice, Mike will oversee the Sierra team.

Ken Cron

CEO

Vivendi Universal Games

“what me take responsibility for THAT?! Are you nuts?!” “fine, we’ll stick Mike with it.” The afforementioned conversation actually took place….inside my head. Something similar was taking place inside at least two other heads inside Sierra-On-Line (and can we drop the On-Line now, given that you haven’t had an online product since you fired The Realm team, and even your own website is online roughly 65% of the month?).

Whose job was he afraid to take, why none other than the scourge of computer gaming, the demon of dysfunctional software, the ORIGINAL “T-Shirt” scam-artist, David “Shotgun” Grenewetski has STEPPED DOWN.

Those of you who remember Dave’s claim to fame know full well the saga that was Front Page Sports: Football 99. A product so horribly bad, that David issued THREE PUBLIC APOLOGIES, and dispatched a COMPLETE AND TOTAL RECALL OF THE PRODUCT. Of course, the fact that every retailer was sending the copies back prior to this recall has been lost to history. Dave had a plan, tho. He spoke directly to his most staunch supporters and promised that for the next year, until the 2000 release, the FPS: football ’99 dev team would work with those who kept the product, allowing free access to patched builds, and beta testing boards – to ensure that football 2000 would not be the horrible FRAUD that the 1999 version was. He created “The Home Team” and offered, brace yourself T-SHIRTS TO ANYONE WHO SIGNED UP.

Yes, that’s right – keep the game instead of getting a refund, and you too can wear a white hanes undershirt with a $2.99 iron-on logo that tells the world, “I AND MY MONEY ARE SOON PARTED.” or “I GAVE FIFTY BUCKS TO DAVE GRENEWETSKI AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT.”

Notice to Mr. Grenewetski I STILL DONT HAVE MY FUCKING T-SHIRT!”

Oh – I simply *MUST* give you the end of this story: one month after initiation this “Home Team” system, Dave Grenewetski cancelled it, and fired the ENTIRE SIERRA SPORTS DIVISION. He issued yet another apology (FOURTH). If you’re wondering, this cancellation came exactly ONE DAY after the final valid day in which you could exchange your football ’99 for a full refund. He waited until the most devoted (read: gullible) fans of his products were stuck with it, and then cashed their checks. Thanks, Dave!

So good riddance to one of the pioneers in the “sell them a box of wet rocks” method of software publication. I promised then that I would dance a happy jig of victory when he was finally gone. Too bad that there is nothing left of Sierra, now. He’s leaving scorched earth in his wake. I don’t fault Tom Hernquist one bit for staying very far away from Shotgun’s office.

God bless you, Josh Mandell, wherever you are.

—–Original Message—–

From: Dave Grenewetzki

To:

Sent: 6/*/2001 *:** PM

Subject: A note from Dave Grenewetzki…

Friends,

On today, my last day in Bellevue, I want to thank each of you for giving me the privilege of working with you over the past three years. It’s been a great ride with both ups and downs – but always fun and challenging. I will miss all of you and the Vivendi Universal Games organization and I’ll have fond memories of my time with Sierra.

My immediate plan is to spend lots more time with my family and a lot less with United Airlines! I’ve also been told by my wife that this will be an excellent opportunity to jump into a number of projects around the house that haven’t gotten much attention in the last few years!

Anyhow, thanks for being great partners and I wish you all well going forward.

Best,

Dave

*EMAIL DELETED*

This is a banner day for THOUSANDS of old timers

Just go already. now. leave.

and stay gone.

What does all of this mean?
Why, that SHADOWBANE suxs, of course.

MORE FROM BRAD MCQUAID ON THE LANYS CONQUEST DEGUILDING [Author: Lum the Mad]

Hello,

After our first statement regarding the Conquest guild issue, several things happened. First, I began a dialog with two members of Conquest (the leader and an officer). Second, I began a very detailed investigation of what occurred. Third, the public interest in this situation continued with both public posts and well as emails to various Verant employees.

The following is a lengthy email exchange between me and the two guild members, and I\’e2\’80\’99m releasing it (with their permission) as sort of a \’e2\’80\’98second, more definitive statement\’e2\’80\’99, in that much of the feedback we received and read indicated that many players were not satisfied with the depth (or lack thereof) of our original statement. That and, after further investigation on my part, there were a few errors in the original statement I wanted to clear up.

I think these various emails explain in detail both Verant\’e2\’80\’99s position and Conquest\’e2\’80\’99s regarding this issue. They are presented \’e2\’80\’98as is\’e2\’80\’99, except for spelling fixes and the deletion of email addresses and guild member names. Also, the last couple of emails between us are omitted in that they deal with some other issues not really related to what happened.

In any case, I hope this clears some things up and helps and doesn\’e2\’80\’99t merely \’e2\’80\’98throw more fuel on the fire\’e2\’80\’99. I leave it to all of you to come to your own conclusions, but at least you have details on both sides of the issue as well as a good faith effort from both parties to get to the bottom of this situation.

———————————————

Brad McQuaid

Vice President, Premium Games

Sony Online Entertainment/Verant Interactive

———————————————

—–Original Message—–

From: McQuaid, Brad

Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 6:57 PM

To: ‘Gtath’; McQuaid, Brad

Cc: “Itzlegend”; Butler, Jeff

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

Hi guys,

Just to let you know, I’ve personally spent many hours today and yesterday investigating what apparently happened that night you were all suspended. It was complicated enough that I involved all sorts of people: the GMs who witnessed the event, Jeff Butler who also witnessed the event, Kendrick who designed the zone, the programmers who wrote the AI NPC code, and the GM who is in charge of investigating and recreating these events. I also read through both the logs you’ve provided and our logs of the event (which show the battle, the status and location of the mob, who he was mad at, where he was trying to go, how many HP he had, etc.).

First, I’ll say that our original public statement was too vague and it also contained a mistake on our part: it turns out the data on the live servers WAS wrong such that the sleeper when awakened did NOT show the correct model (and instead displayed the default model, the male human). We apologize for this.

That said, our investigation and logs have lead us to creating the following account of what we believe took place and the methods by which the encounter was exploited. If you feel any of these are in error or are inaccurate, please feel free to respond accordingly.

The exploits were performed as follows:

1.\tab Garner high amounts of hate on PCs who are positioned in a location the NPC cannot walk to (in this case, under the bridge).

2.\tab Begin attack

3.\tab NPC then takes enough damage to start summoning

4.\tab Players who are summoned (once every 18 seconds) immediately jump off bridge, returning to the safe point (knowing NPC is unable to damage them, follow them there, or summon for another 18 seconds.

5.\tab During this cycle, the other PCs who are not on the top of the hate list get multiple free rounds of attack without fear of retaliation

6.\tab In the rare event that the topside PCs generate enough hate to get turned on, they are Call of Hero\’e2\’80\’99d or Resurrected out of danger.

7.\tab In summary, the key to this exploit is that during the majority of the 18 seconds the NPC is waiting for his summon to recycle, he is unable to follow and/or damage the PC he wants to kill, creating an opportunity for the other PCs to deal free damage.

This is safe zone exploitation, similar to standing on a wall and blowing up an NPC who cannot reach you because of a pathing bug, the only difference being that in this particular case every 18 seconds the NPC had a brief albeit ineffectual opportunity to deal damage.

In addition, the majority of PCs in the immediate area have spell effects (e.g. the res effect, snare, etc.) that render them immune to the NPC\’e2\’80\’99s area breath weapon, further enabling them to deal damage to the NPC with impunity as well as offer support to the other PCs in the area.

———————————————

Brad McQuaid

Vice President, Premium Games

Sony Online Entertainment/Verant Interactive

———————————————

—–Original Message—–

From: Itzlegend

Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 7:42 PM

To: bmcquaid@verant.com

Cc: Gtath; jbutler@verant.com

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

Brad, that isn\’e2\’80\’99t an accurate account of our tactics and you know it. You can plainly see by looking at our chatlog that was NOT our intent and definitely not what we were attempting to pull off. In fact i made many statements about how we could keep the clerics off the list so they wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be summoned in the first place – and so the mob would stay on me (the main tank).

Sure, what you said would work that way – the cleric MIGHT be able to get back off the bridge before dieing after a summon, only to be summoned up seconds later and promptly killed. It just isn\’e2\’80\’99t feasible – i.e. it would NOT work. Beyond that point we weren\’e2\’80\’99t even attempting what you describe – how can you be banned for an exploit that doesn\’e2\’80\’99t even work? The only people able to maintain hate while jumping off the bridge is clerics and other healers. These people are also killed off quickly.

If you can really see who the mob is aggro on – then you can plainly see that 80% of the time that mob is aggro on ME.

If you are so convinced you have figured out the exploit – then simply try it yourself – because it WILL NOT WORK. Any priest class who is jumping off the bridge will be killed in very quick fashion. And any melee class who tries that would simply fall off the haste list in no time at all.

I\’e2\’80\’99m sure you have seen our sleepers video. I tanked first, second, and third warders 99% of the fights, with 3 clerics healing me. The 4th warders melee is NO MORE powerful then any of the others – quite weak to a warrior of my caliber in fact. With the clerics I had there in my group I can tank a warder for a solid 7-8 minutes with no chance of death.

This is so simple. The ENTIRE challenge of the fight (once the AE’s were mitigated) was keeping the warders on ME the entire fight since i was having trouble holding up my aggro with the AE slow effecting me. If the warder was summoning clerics – we were LOSING. And never would have won using those tactics, exploit or no. Again, HOW can you be banned for an exploit which DOES NOT WORK.

We fought this warder the EXACT same way we fought the other warders, accept for this one we kept rez effects on the tank.

-1 warrior (me) tanks.

-3 clerics, a bard, and a magician are in my group

-The rest of my group goes below the bridge to avoid the AE

-I build up hate before the rest of the melee add.

-The 3 clerics heal me, and occasionally get coh’d by the magician to keep their aggro LOW

-Rest of the melee add, and kill while I get healed.

This is the strat we used for all 4 warders. Clerics can keep me alive NP, and with the melee immune to the damaging and slowing AE – we were able to do a decent chunk of damage. Why did we lose? Well, the people under the bridge got aggro’d , and summoned up and killed. We planned on trying again after I got some self-healing items to build up my own hate more, so that I could tank 100% and so the clerics wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t get killed.

You and I both know it isn\’e2\’80\’99t fair to ban 28 players for using an exploit that doesn\’e2\’80\’99t even help you with victory…. even if we WERE trying to do what are you saying.

If you still think they are “exploitable” the way you say – please please just try it out yourself. If the clerics get summoned, you are SOL and will never win the fight. The mob does its AE’s when it is meleeing (wont cast its AE from a distance like a spell). So your clerics will get quad 500+ most likely for 2 rounds of attacks and either a 750 DD or a 250dd silence which will stop them from being able to cast for a while. 1 summon will totally devastate even the best equipped clerics. 1 Summon will even devastate a melee if they don\’e2\’80\’99t have the proper system of heals already in the process of being cast on them.

Could we have killed the 4th warder using rez effects on tanks?

Yes, definitely. But it would have required the 4th warder being on the main tank 100% of the time. This exploit you speak of only means you are losing the fight if it is working the way you say it is….

If any of this isn\’e2\’80\’99t coherent (I know I’ve rambled a bit) let me know and I will try to further elaborate on why, even if we were using this exploit, it would only hurt the raid rather then help… please let me know.

-Itzlegend

—–Original Message—–

From: McQuaid, Brad

Sent: Friday, June 08, 2001 4:10 PM

To: Itzlegend; McQuaid, Brad

Cc: Gtath; Butler, Jeff

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

Hello again,

Well, we\’e2\’80\’99ve taken into account your description of what happened combined with our logs and have come to more specific conclusions as to what occurred. Before I list them, however, I\’e2\’80\’99m also trying to solve another problem, and that is why you all seem so confident you\’e2\’80\’99re not exploiting \’e2\’80\ldblquote I can only conclude that what you did in your minds wasn\’e2\’80\’99t exploiting a safe zone.

From approximately 20:46 to 21:07 we have the NPC on top of the bridge, aggro to several different members of the party, and NOT moving. Our logs indicate he wanted to move, but his x,y,z stays the same for over 15 minutes. This means he was stuck because of a pathing bug (no route to under the bridge). This pathing bug, btw, has been reproduced internally.

Then, some time after 21:07 the attack is called. Occasionally during the battle the aggro of the dragon would switch to the clerics under the bridge. When this happened, again, the mob could NOT walk down under the bridge and kill the clerics. It had to resort to summoning them (which, as you stated, is very dangerous to the cleric and what eventually warranted an abort) once every 18 seconds IF they were still most hated.

Here are the events in order as we are able to determine:

1.\tab Tank aggros dragon

2.\tab Tank retreats under bridge (safe zone).

3.\tab THIS IS EXPLOIT #1. Tank probably uses items to gain hate during the approx. 15 minutes the dragon is stuck on the bridge (our logs indicate the dragon was attempting to move towards several players but it\’e2\’80\’99s coordinates were NOT changing \’e2\’80\ldblquote thus, those to whom it wanted to move were in the safe zone).

4.\tab HP of the dragon is kept relatively full such that it doesn\’e2\’80\’99t summon. Once tank has sufficient hate built up, he signals to begin all out attack

5.\tab Tank is then healed by clerics under the bridge as damage is being dealt to dragon. The strategy here is to keep the tank most hated so the dragon doesn\’e2\’80\’99t aggro the clerics. This is valid as long as if the clerics ARE aggro\’e2\’80\’99d, the mob can move to them.

6.\tab Clerics are immune from breath weapon as long as they remain under bridge (this is a valid tactic as long as the area is not a safe zone).

7.\tab Once a cleric complete heals a couple of times, he is COH\’e2\’80\’99d to relatively the same location (under the bridge) to remove hate. (We are not calling this an exploit, but COH might be changing in the future because this goes against the spell\’e2\’80\’99s intent).

8.\tab When the group makes an error and a cleric is most hated, the dragon summons a cleric every 18 seconds or so, but does NOT move to the cleric, because they are in a safe zone. THIS IS EXPLOIT #2.

That you aborted once some clerics were summoned and silenced isn\’e2\’80\’99t relevant in our opinion. Also, that you consider you are losing once clerics are jumping off the bridge after being summoned isn\’e2\’80\’99t, in our opinion, relevant.

Now, again, the emails I\’e2\’80\’99ve received from you two indicate to me that you don\’e2\’80\’99t believe you were exploiting. Perhaps you thought that since you hadn\’e2\’80\’99t attacked in force yet you were not exploiting? And then later because it could summon, you were not exploiting?

If this is so, please let me know. And of course please respond to anything in our account to find inaccurate.

Lastly, it is worth noting that using the stacking bug to nullify the effect of the breath weapon on the tank (which you freely admit to) is ALSO an exploit, albeit a less severe one, which in and of itself would probably have resulted in simple warnings. Coupled with exploiting the safe zone, however, is what led to the suspensions.

———————————————

Brad McQuaid

Vice President, Premium Games

Sony Online Entertainment/Verant Interactive

———————————————

—–Original Message—–

From: Itzlegend

Sent: Friday, June 08, 2001 8:35 PM

To: bmcquaid@verant.com

Cc: Gtath; jbutler@verant.com

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

First, I’d like to apologize for beginning the last email with “that isn\’e2\’80\’99t what we were doing and you know it”. I didn\’e2\’80\’99t mean it like that – which sounds like I was calling you a liar. What I meant, was you should be able to figure out that isn\’e2\’80\’99t what we were trying to do, based on screenshots and other evidence which you already have at your disposal.

Ok, now we’re rocking… We both understand each other\’e2\’80\’99s point of view and we both understand the aggro issues.

Anyways, sorry it took so long to reply – I had people logging in to check the summoning time. 18 seconds seemed far too long.. It has been “common knowledge” at least in our guild, that a mob summons once per 10 seconds – and its true it seems. A friend logged in and got summoned 3 times by a mob before zoning. This is the log:

[Fri Jun 08 20:07:46 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not evade me Valent!’

[Fri Jun 08 20:07:56 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not evade me Valent!’

[Fri Jun 08 20:08:07 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not evade me Valent!’

Twice for 10 seconds once for 11 (not sure why the difference here, maybe there is sometimes a small period of time when summon is “ready” and the mob just has to choose to use it). All mobs summon at the same frequency \’e2\’80\ldblquote I\’e2\’80\’99m pretty sure on that. Feel free to test this yourself…

I\’e2\’80\’99m not trying to get you on technicalities here – but there is a large

difference between 10 and 18 seconds.

However, you are going to say “it doesn\’e2\’80\’99t matter how much time”, and for the sake of argument I will agree to that now. You could, theoretically, make small blotches of time (1-2 seconds? or so – every 10 seconds…) where the mob doesn\’e2\’80\’99t melee using the tactics you pointed out. I just wanted to clear that up… Because it\’e2\’80\’99s pretty important in understanding why its useless to assume you can “exploit” this.

BTW, I\’e2\’80\’99m assuming that in order for something to be considered an “exploit” it has to benefit you… Or, as an alternate approach – I ask that you assume that we wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be silly enough to use an exploit that would lower rather then increase our chances of winning…

Before going on let me clarify a few things about hate… based on your

statement: gaining hate for 15 minutes.

Hate fact 1: All hate decays – and it decays rapidly on high level mobs. These mobs care about “who has made me angry recently” not “who has given me the most aggro total”

How to test this: Find that one mob that has 32k hp and regens 32k hp per tick. Do 50,000 damage to it over the course of 15 minutes or so. Then have someone else start doing damage to it. That person will not have to do anywhere near 50,001 damage before it switches off. This is even more true on end encounters.

Hate fact 2: Any and all hate over ~5 minutes old(I don\’e2\’80\’99t know the exact time, but it is around 5 minutes) is removed from the mob completely.

How to test this: When you found the safe spot in your tests, you probably noticed the mob would just get up and walk off after 5 minutes(forgetting you 100% completely)… if you bothered standing there long enough. In fact, you cant even keep the mob on the bridge for more then 5 minutes without 2 people aggro’d, and doing something to hold their individual aggro (i.e. healing each other – or in the case of a bard, the bard just sings).

Hate fact 3: End encounter ubermobs will only add very VERY low amounts of hate from spells unless they are hurt (and in summoning mode).

How to test this with offensive spells: Have an invulnerable GM cast

tashanian (a huge taunt spell) 50 times on the warder. Have a melee walk up and hit one time. Watch the warder attack the melee…

How to test with healing spells: Have one person aggro warder and jump off the bridge. Have a cleric ch them 10 times (have them use their entire mana pool). Have a melee fight the warder. Watch the warder turn on the melee after 15 seconds tops. Ok, so doing this can get you 15 seconds of free hits as a melee… What you need to look at, however, is how that mana can be (and was in our case) put to much better use. One cleric can keep me alive 120 seconds strait, with 0 chance of me dieing – with coh to clear their own aggro. This seems to be, by your admission, a non-issue though since having clerics at top of hate list serves no function other then to get yourselves killed.

Now allow me to respond to your email with this in mind…

>1.\tab Tank aggros dragon

>2.\tab Tank retreats under bridge (safe zone).

>3.\tab THIS IS EXPLOIT #1. Tank probably uses items to gain hate during

>the approx. 15 minutes the dragon is stuck on the bridge (our logs indicate

Step 3 is 100% critical to this entire thing… The problem here, is it is impossible for me to have built hate while under there. First of all, no matter where u stand, you cant shoot arrows at the mob, so you can toss that idea out.. Using offensive spells, such as blind orb from the CS fish, or bracer of Fenin Ro generate practically no aggro at all (see above).

You could build up some aggro with complete heal items tho. For example if a warrior bothered to do the soul fire quest they could complete heal them self to keep aggro – and it would probably last to maybe (if you’re lucky) the dragon has had 15% of its life taken off. The problem with this? Just go through my saved logs… Not only did I not have a complete heal sword from befallen or a soulfire that night, but I HAVE NEVER owned either of those items, ever… It was just an idea I threw up in guildchat, so our clerics wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t keep getting summoned and killed, and to keep the mob on me. It is 100% impossible for me to have built aggro while the mob was standing there for 15 minutes (not to mention the logs should clearly show that I didn\’e2\’80\’99t….)

Also, if you check the logs, you should see the warder shout his aggro

message every 5 minutes or so. This happens when the warders aggro list has been cleared 100% and it re-aggros on the bard.

>>THIS IS EXPLOIT #1

Are you trying to justify the suspending of 26 people and the banning of 2 because the mob, before the fight, was trying to get to someone it cant? If that is so – why aren\’e2\’80\’99t the thousands and thousands of people who have ever been on a vox raid suspended when vox repeatedly tries to get to them, but cant – while they buff in the safe hall?

>4.\tab HP of the dragon is kept relatively full such that it doesn’t

>summon. Once tank has sufficient hate built up, he signals to begin >all

>out attack

How exactly do you think I built up aggro? There are hundreds of warriors out there who would LOVE to know how to build a large amount of aggro at the beginning or before a fight… Currently the only method known is by using a complete heal item – and like I said (and this should be easily verifiable) I didn\’e2\’80\’99t have one that night, and I have never owned one.

>5.\tab Tank is then healed by clerics under the bridge as damage is being

>dealt to dragon. The strategy here is to keep the tank most hated so the

>dragon doesn’t aggro the clerics. This is valid as long as if the clerics

>ARE aggro’d, the mob can move to them.

Why? Ok, I can see why, just not in this specific case… Mobs don\’e2\’80\’99t summon people unless they are out of their reach – so the “main tank” is rarely if ever summoned while they are fighting the warder. Thus, the very second a cleric is aggrod, they are summoned. I\’e2\’80\’99m also pretty sure that once summoned, none of our clerics survived unless they got a timely COH.

BTW, why wasn\’e2\’80\’99t this made known to the public?? And how do the nag or vox raids get away with this DAILY when they are doing the EXACT same thing.

There was a big(huge) argument a long time ago whether or not it was an

exploit to have healers before the gates on nagefen, or in the safehall for vox. After a long time the general assumption was that it was perfectly fine since they could just summon. Heck, it is even a common tactic to manasieve vox while she is in her lair and cannot reach you.

>6.\tab Clerics are immune from breath weapon as long as they remain under

>bridge (this is a valid tactic as long as the area is not a safe zone).

Same thing… Nag/vox… This is the very tactic which is all over the web for both of these dragons, and is WIDELY accepted as a perfectly valid tactic.

>7.\tab Once a cleric complete heals a couple of times, he is COH’d to

>relatively the same location (under the bridge) to remove hate. (We are

>not

>calling this an exploit, but COH might be changing in the future because

>this goes against the spell’s intent).

No…. if the mage was under the bridge when they COH’d, the cleric would be summoned to the very bottom of the world there (deep under the lava-water).

The clerics were summoned back to the gate (the entrance to the warder area – this was so they would be out of range of the AE when coh’d – so they don\’e2\’80\’99t get silenced). Then they floated back down under the bridge with DMF up.

>8.\tab When the group makes an error and a cleric is most hated, the dragon

>summons a cleric every 18 seconds or so, but does NOT move to the cleric,

>because they are in a safe zone. THIS IS EXPLOIT #2.

10 seconds but… Again, after getting summoned once – our clerics either

a) died

or

b) got coh’d just after getting summoned

There really is no in-between on sleepers tomb warders – clerics just cant take the hits. Yet running Back down the steps at nagafen, or back into the safe hall on nag or vox remains a perfectly valid tactic and isn\’e2\’80\’99t challenged by VI…

>That you aborted once some clerics were summoned and silenced isn’t

> >relevant in our opinion.

The clerics that were silenced, got hit while being under the bridge. Under the bridge doesn\’e2\’80\’99t have a very big area where the AE doesn\’e2\’80\’99t hit – so with the melee pushing the dragon around, some of them got hit with the AE while down there. We didn\’e2\’80\’99t abort because clerics got silenced… silence only lasts like 15 seconds anyways iirc. We aborted because they were dieing.

>Also, that you consider you are losing once clerics are

>jumping off the bridge after being summoned isn’t, in our opinion,

> >relevant.

I cant recall any clerics jumping off the bridge, but assuming they did how isn\’e2\’80\’99t that relevant? You are saying that an exploit that doesn\’e2\’80\’99t help in the slightest is bannable? How can you justify that?

>Perhaps you thought that since you hadn’t attacked in force yet you >were

>not exploiting? >And then later because it could summon, you were >not

>exploiting?

I\’e2\’80\’99m defending us based on the assumption that you have to >>take advantage<< of game abnormalities in order to be suspended for exploitation and your guild disbanded. We did not TAKE ADVANTAGE of either of these abnormalities. When the mob was standing on the bridge for however long it was, we did not build up any hate, and we did NOT benefit from it any way.

As far as later when it could summon, we did EVERYTHING in our power to

prevent that abnormality – and didn\’e2\’80\’99t benefit in any way to that as well.

>Lastly, it is worth noting that using the stacking bug to nullify the

>effect

>of the breath weapon on the tank (which you freely admit to) is ALSO an

>exploit, albeit a less severe one, which in and of itself would probably

>have resulted in simple warnings. Coupled with exploiting the safe zone,

>however, is what led to the suspensions.

Cant refute this… However I would like to remind you of CT, Aarynar,

Yelinak, and the third warder which were and some still are killed by dozens of guilds using similar tactics with spell stacking. Yet no action is taken for this.

Fight logistics aside.. I hope with this email you can at least agree with me that the action taken against us was far overboard. Guilds aren\’e2\’80\’99t supposed to be disbanded unless they have had previous incidents – yet we were disbanded on our first. The original punishment was supposed to a warning to everyone, and a suspension if people had prior warnings. Yet 15 minutes after we were removed from the zone we were then summoned to the arena and told our punishment was to be doubled, and that we were to be all suspended, and banned if we had previous warnings.

It is our understanding that this is precisely what a warning is designed to do: Inform the violator(s) that they are indeed breaking the rules. As far as we understand it, suspensions are reserved for those who have already received warnings, yet have ignored those warnings and continued their illegal activities. Finally, our understanding is that banning is reserved for those who habitually break the rules despite warnings and suspensions for *the same infractions*.

In our opinion, and apparently in the opinion of the public at large, the suspensions we have received, and in two cases, the bannings we have received, are not justified. After your own statement, “I can only conclude that what you did in your minds wasn’t exploiting a safe zone” how can you honestly justify the punishment that has been delivered, particularly when in the guide handbook it clearly states:

“8.5.4.2 The key to determining whether a person is exploiting is not in the activity, but is the intent. A player that is using a rain spell to kill masses of monsters may not know it’s an exploit, but instead believe that this is simply the function of the spell. It is the responsibility of the Guide to educate the player and ensure that the intention to exploit is present.”

-Itzlegend

—–Original Message—–

From: McQuaid, Brad

Sent: Friday, June 08, 2001 11:27 PM

To: Itzlegend; McQuaid, Brad

Cc: Gtath; Butler, Jeff

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

Hello,

First, comments to your email as follows:

> Anyways, sorry it took so long to reply – I had people

> logging in to check

> the summoning time. 18 seconds seemed far too long.. It has

> been “common

> knowledge” at least in our guild, that a mob summons once per

> 10 seconds –

> and its true it seems. A friend logged in and got summoned 3

> times by a mob

> before zoning. This is the log:

>

> [Fri Jun 08 20:07:46 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not

> evade me Valent!’

> [Fri Jun 08 20:07:56 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not

> evade me Valent!’

> [Fri Jun 08 20:08:07 2001] Andad Filla says ‘You will not

> evade me Valent!’

>

> Twice for 10 seconds once for 11 (not sure why the difference

> here, maybe

> there is sometimes a small period of time when summon is

> “ready” and the mob

> just has to choose to use it). All mobs summon at the same

> frequency \’e2\’80\ldblquote I\’e2\’80\’99m

> pretty sure on that. Feel free to test this yourself…

You’re correct — we were wrong there. Summon recycle times vary by zone, and Sleepers has a 10 second recycle to make it more difficult.

>

> I\’e2\’80\’99m not trying to get you on technicalities here – but there

> is a large

> difference between 10 and 18 seconds.

I agree, but I think there’s an even bigger difference between 10 seconds and constant melee.

>

> However, you are going to say “it doesn\’e2\’80\’99t matter how much

> time”, and for the

> sake of argument I will agree to that now. You could,

> theoretically, make

> small blotches of time (1-2 seconds? or so – every 10

> seconds…) where the

> mob doesn\’e2\’80\’99t melee using the tactics you pointed out. I just

> wanted to clear

> that up… Because its pretty important in understanding why

> its useless to

> assume you can “exploit” this.

This is an area it’s pretty hard to quantify — that is, just HOW much of an advantage did it give you. Our opinion remains, though: if the dragon went under the bridge and attacked the clerics there directly, you’d have a significantly harder time keeping the tank alive.

>

> BTW, I\’e2\’80\’99m assuming that in order for something to be considered

> an “exploit”

> it has to benefit you… Or, as an alternate approach – I

> ask that you

> assume that we wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be silly enough to use an exploit that

> would lower

> rather then increase our chances of winning…

I’ll agree with that — an exploit is using a bug to your advantage. It’s still my opinion that in several cases here, that is exactly what you did.

** a seemingly accurate description of hate decay (I’m at home now, so I don’t have all my people here to check this out), etc., deleted **

> Now allow me to respond to your email with this in mind…

>

> >1.\tab Tank aggros dragon

> >2.\tab Tank retreats under bridge (safe zone).

> >3.\tab THIS IS EXPLOIT #1. Tank probably uses items to gain

> hate during

> >the approx. 15 minutes the dragon is stuck on the bridge

> (our logs indicate

>

> Step 3 is 100% critical to this entire thing… The problem

> here, is it is

> impossible for me to have built hate while under there.

> First of all, no

> matter where u stand, you cant shoot arrows at the mob, so

> you can toss that

> idea out.. Using offensive spells, such as blind orb from

> the CS fish, or

> bracer of Fenin Ro generate practically no aggro at all (see above).

We assume(d) you had items that healed, etc., allowing you to build up hate there. In fact, one of the GMs has been instructed to look at your character in the backups and examine your inventory. In the meantime, I’ll take your word for it, however, that you did not.

> >>THIS IS EXPLOIT #1

>

> Are you trying to justify the suspending of 26 people and the

> banning of 2

> because the mob, before the fight, was trying to get to

> someone it cant? If

> that is so – why aren\’e2\’80\’99t the thousands and thousands of people

> who have ever

> been on a vox raid suspended when vox repeatedly tries to get

> to them, but

> cant – while they buff in the safe hall?

That is part of the justification, yes. As for players using similar tactics on Vox and Nagafen, we are aware they do, and my understanding is that players are warned for it, and repeat offenders are suspended. There is an important difference here, however: Vox and Nagafen have been done many times. What you were trying to do has not. Therefore, if you were to accomplish something this rare and difficult by exploit, you are cheapening the game for others far more than someone exploiting Vox or Nagafen. This fact influenced the severity of the punishment.

*more stuff about building up aggro deleted *

>

> >5.\tab Tank is then healed by clerics under the bridge as

> damage is being

> >dealt to dragon. The strategy here is to keep the tank most

> hated so the

> >dragon doesn’t aggro the clerics. This is valid as long as

> if the clerics

> >ARE aggro’d, the mob can move to them.

>

> Why? Ok, I can see why, just not in this specific case…

> Mobs don\’e2\’80\’99t summon

> people unless they are out of their reach – so the “main

> tank” is rarely if

> ever summoned while they are fighting the warder. Thus, the

> very second a

> cleric is aggrod, they are summoned. I\’e2\’80\’99m also pretty sure that once

> summoned, none of our clerics survived unless they got a timely COH.

This is true. Summon was put in on higher-end mobs to make them more difficult to evade AND exploit. That said, getting one stuck so that he can only summon is not OK just because he can still summon. This is a very important point (and probably an area we’re not seeing eye to eye on).

> > BTW, why wasn\’e2\’80\’99t this made known to the public?? And how do the

> nag or vox

> raids get away with this DAILY when they are doing the EXACT

> same thing.

> There was a big(huge) argument a long time ago whether or not

> it was an

> exploit to have healers before the gates on nagafen, or in

> the safehall for

> vox. After a long time the general assumption was that it

> was perfectly

> fine since they could just summon. Heck, it is even a common

> tactic to

> manasieve vox while she is in her lair and cannot reach you.

Again, to my knowledge, CS does enforce exploiting Vox or Nagafen as such. Again, however, I don’t think the punishment is a severe because of the nature of the encounter.

>

> >6.\tab Clerics are immune from breath weapon as long as they

> remain under

> >bridge (this is a valid tactic as long as the area is not a

> safe zone).

>

> Same thing… Nag/vox… This is the very tactic which is all

> over the web

> for both of these dragons, and is WIDELY accepted as a

> perfectly valid

> tactic.

Understood, but if it’s using a safe zone, it is still an exploit, regardless of which zone or which NPC is involved.

>

> >7.\tab Once a cleric complete heals a couple of times, he is COH’d to

> >relatively the same location (under the bridge) to remove

> hate. (We are

> >not

> >calling this an exploit, but COH might be changing in the

> future because

> >this goes against the spell’s intent).

>

> No…. if the mage was under the bridge when they COH’d, the

> cleric would be

> summoned to the very bottom of the world there (deep under

> the lava-water).

> The clerics were summoned back to the gate (the entrance to

> the warder area

> – this was so they would be out of range of the AE when coh’d

> – so they don\’e2\’80\’99t

> get silenced). Then they floated back down under the bridge

> with DMF up.

Agreed — we were wrong there, overlooking the fact that you’d fall to the bottom of the world there. This was an assumption because the logs aren’t THAT detailed.

>

> >8.\tab When the group makes an error and a cleric is most

> hated, the dragon

> >summons a cleric every 18 seconds or so, but does NOT move

> to the cleric,

> >because they are in a safe zone. THIS IS EXPLOIT #2.

>

> 10 seconds but… Again, after getting summoned once – our

> clerics either

>

> a) died

> or

> b) got coh’d just after getting summoned

>

> There really is no in-between on sleepers tomb warders –

> clerics just cant

> take the hits. Yet running Back down the steps at nagafen,

> or back into the

> safe hall on nag or vox remains a perfectly valid tactic and

> isn\’e2\’80\’99t challenged

> by VI…

Again, I believe it IS challenged by us. I just called Michelle Butler and talked to her about this. When they do catch people exploiting Nagafen or Vox in this manner they are warned and often removed from the zone and told they can’t do the dragon this spawn. If they are on record as repeat offenders in this area, they are suspended. She also said I was welcome to review warning and suspension logs for this on Monday, so I’ll probably take a look at them then.

>

> >That you aborted once some clerics were summoned and silenced isn’t

> > >relevant in our opinion.

>

> The clerics that were silenced, got hit while being under the

> bridge. Under

> the bridge doesn\’e2\’80\’99t have a very big area where the AE doesn\’e2\’80\’99t

> hit – so with the

> melee pushing the dragon around, some of them got hit with

> the AE while down

> there. We didn\’e2\’80\’99t abort because clerics got silenced…

> silence only lasts

> like 15 seconds anyways iirc. We aborted because they were dieing.

Ok — we got this from the guild chat logs, and it was hard to tell exactly why you aborted. I’ll take your word for it.

>

> >Also, that you consider you are losing once clerics are

> >jumping off the bridge after being summoned isn’t, in our opinion,

> > >relevant.

>

> I cant recall any clerics jumping off the bridge, but

> assuming they did how

> isn\’e2\’80\’99t that relevant? You are saying that an exploit that

> doesn\’e2\’80\’99t help in the

> slightest is bannable? How can you justify that?

Again, we feel it WAS helpful, both before the main assault and during.

>

> >Perhaps you thought that since you hadn’t attacked in force

> yet you >were

> >not exploiting? >And then later because it could summon,

> you were >not

> >exploiting?

>

> I\’e2\’80\’99m defending us based on the assumption that you have to

> >>take advantage<<

> of game abnormalities in order to be suspended for

> exploitation and your

> guild disbanded. We did not TAKE ADVANTAGE of either of these

> abnormalities. When the mob was standing on the bridge for

> however long it

> was, we did not build up any hate, and we did NOT benefit

> from it any way.

> As far as later when it could summon, we did EVERYTHING in

> our power to

> prevent that abnormality – and didn\’e2\’80\’99t benefit in any way to

> that as well.

Advantage before assault: Assuming you were not building up hate as well using items, it is still a huge advantage setting up logistically before the encounter. You were able to get everyone in place while the NPC was stuck. Perhaps you could explain from your perspective what you were doing for those 15 minutes and WHY you held the mob stuck there for 15 minutes before attacking?

Advantage during assault: The clerics (when they would reach the top of the hate list — we realize you were doing your best to avoid this) were hit for far less damage because the dragon was not going under the bridge to melee them, but rather was just summoning them every 10 seconds or so.

> > >Lastly, it is worth noting that using the stacking bug to

> nullify the

> >effect

> >of the breath weapon on the tank (which you freely admit to)

> is ALSO an

> >exploit, albeit a less severe one, which in and of itself

> would probably

> >have resulted in simple warnings. Coupled with exploiting

> the safe zone,

> >however, is what led to the suspensions.

>

> Cant refute this… However I would like to remind you of CT,

> Aarynar,

> Yelinak, and the third warder which were and some still are

> killed by dozens

> of guilds using similar tactics with spell stacking. Yet no

> action is

> taken for this.

Detecting spell stacking is far harder for GMs to do than detecting safe zone violations. In fact, had Kendrick and Jeff Butler not been watching, this aspect of the event might have been missed for a while (they were more familiar with the encounter, the details of the dragon’s breath weapon, etc.) So, unfortunately, punishment for spell stack exploitation probably does occur less often. This doesn’t make it any less of an exploit though, and quite simply, it allowed the tank and others to deal MORE damage during the encounter than they were supposed to and receive less. This is why you were able to kill the other warders and get as far as you did with this one with FAR fewer players than the encounter was designed for.

>

> Fight logistics aside.. I hope with this email you can at

> least agree with

> me that the action taken against us was far overboard. Guilds aren\’e2\’80\’99t

> supposed to be disbanded unless they have had previous

> incidents – yet we

> were disbanded on our first. The original punishment was

> supposed to a

> warning to everyone, and a suspension if people had prior

> warnings. Yet 15

> minutes after we were removed from the zone we were then

> summoned to the

> arena and told our punishment was to be doubled, and that we

> were to be all

> suspended, and banned if we had previous warnings.

This really is the key here, guys. These encounters were designed for 60 or so players, and you were doing pretty well with 28 or so. Couple that with the fact that these encounters hadn’t really been done before and are still very exotic (you guys knew this, which is why you were all so very excited to do this — bragging rights, and such). This is why the punishment was as extreme as it was: multiple exploits used to prevail over some of the most exotic encounters in the game that are attempted VERY rarely. And it remains our opinion that exploiting these types of encounters severely cheapens the game experience for others. So we came down pretty hard on you all.

** argument that the punishment should be less than it was deleted — I already addressed why I disagree **

Lastly, I’d like to point out a final factor that was taken into consideration when the severity of the punishment was devised. Let’s look at the following guild chat snippet (which certainly is NOT taken out of context):

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:04 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘not if they nerf 3rd tomor ;( heh’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:21 2001] Guildmember #2 told the guild, ‘they plan on nerfing 3rd?’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:25 2001] Guildmember #3 told the guild, ‘yes tommorow syc’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:27 2001] Guildmember #3 told the guild, ‘this is our LAST CHANCE’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:29 2001] Guildmember #2 told the guild, ‘gah fuggin BS’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:35 2001] Guildmember #3 told the guild, ‘so lets make sure we do it tonight’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:36 2001] Guildmember #2 told the guild, ‘so no snare sploit?’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:39 2001] Guildmember #3 told the guild, ‘nope’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:40 2001] Guildmember #4 told the guild, ‘what are they doing to 3?’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:44 2001] Guildmember #4 told the guild, ‘Killing snare sploit?’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:48 2001] Guildmember #3 told the guild, ‘changing it so we cant snare sploit’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:49 2001] Guildmember #5 told the guild, ‘LoS! Rez! Pathing! Agro! With our powers combine, we summon forth ITZLEGEND!’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:56 2001] Guildmember #6 told the guild, ‘hehe’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:56 2001] Guildmember #7 told the guild, ‘ROFL’

[Mon Jun 04 20:28:57 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘we dont know that’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:00 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘its a rumor’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:09 2001] Guildmember #2 told the guild, ‘i hope not sigh’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:12 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘dont go afk long’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:15 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘this isnt going to take long’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:21 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘we are just buffing healers and me’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:22 2001] Guildmember #8 told the guild, ‘how would 3rd warder die then? zerg?’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:29 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘it wouldnt’

[Mon Jun 04 20:29:39 2001] Guildmember #1 told the guild, ‘not without 60 people anyways’

This tells me:

1. You knew the snare bug is an ‘exploit.’

2. You’d heard a rumor that we were going to fix it soon and therefore wanted to exploit it ASAP

3. That Guildmember #1\’e2\’80\’99s ‘clever tactics’ include using pathing problems/bugs

4. That you knew the encounter would take 60 people were it approached conventionally

So, in summary, we feel:

1. You knew the spell stacking bug was an exploit and planned ahead of time to use it

2. You knew attacking the mob conventionally (‘zerg’ing it — I like the Starcraft reference 🙂 would require 60 or so people, which, btw, is pretty close to exactly how many players the encounter WAS DESIGNED FOR.

3. You imply that Guildmember #1 in general uses pathing bugs as tactics

4. You used a safe zone prior to combat to position the target mob where you wanted him, and to allow you time to logistically set up your forces

5. You used a safe zone during combat such that your primary healers could only be summoned every 10 seconds or so as opposed to being melee\’e2\’80\’99d. This gave you time to preemptively CoH and res people out of danger. Had the target mob been able to reach your forces under the bridge, the combat would have worked very differently.

6. You used a spell stacking bug to avoid the major effects of the target mob’s area effect breath weapon, allowing you, amongst other things, to deal MUCH more damage over time to the target mob than was intended.

And, in making our determination as to the extent of the punishment, we used the following details:

1. The encounter in question is supposed to be one of the most difficult encounters in the game, designed for 60 or so level 55+ players, and could even semi-accurately be described as part of the game’s ‘end game’ (were such a description valid for a game we keep adding content to 🙂

2. You knew this was a very exotic encounter, and you planned ahead of time to use exploit(s) you knew were exploits.

And, while we do believe that most in your guild probably did not expect punishment as severe, you DID expect us to do something were you discovered (I reference the guild chat where players mentioned that were you discovered doing this by a GM, he’d probably kick you out and shut down/reset the zone).

You must understand that this knowledge, the type of encounter, and the actual exploits used are all factors. Keep in mind that many game designers spent a lot of time setting up these final Sleeper encounters, and we feel a guild using exploits to take on these encounters with far fewer people than designed cheapens the encounter, and thus the experience for future guilds who might experience the encounter with a force capable of defeating the encounter without exploit.

Because of all this, I am very much inclined to let the disciplinary actions stand. I am also inclined to publicly post much of what I’ve disclosed to you because it bothers me greatly that this has turned into a situation where many of our players believe we acting wrongly, and out of malice, ignorance, or both.

If we are guilty of anything, it is not investigating the details to the extent that I have, and for posting some of the assumptions we made earlier on that were inaccurate. I also believe that our policy of not publicly commenting on warnings, suspensions, and bannings severely inhibits the flow of information such that many of our players don’t know how seriously we view exploitation and how often and to what extent players ARE disciplined for exploiting. I intend on addressing these issues in the very near future by working with our CS department to revise some of our policies.

As always, please feel free to address these issues and make comment.

———————————————

Brad McQuaid

Vice President, Premium Games

Sony Online Entertainment/Verant Interactive

———————————————

—–Original Message—–

From: Gtath

Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2001 2:07 PM

To: McQuaid, Brad; Itzlegend

Cc: Butler, Jeff

Subject: RE: Response to your letter dated 06/06/2001

Brad,

\’e2\’80\’9cThat is part of the justification, yes. As for players using similar

tactics on Vox and Nagafen, we are aware they do, and my understanding is that players are warned for it, and repeat offenders are suspended. There is an important difference here, however: Vox and Nagafen have been done many times. What you were trying to do has not. Therefore, if you were to accomplish something this rare and difficult by exploit, you are cheapening the game for others far more than someone exploiting Vox or Nagafen. This fact influenced the severity of the punishment.\’e2\’80\’9d

With all due respect Brad, if there is ever any disciplinary action taken during these encounters, it is extremely rarely. We feel that the target monster is irrelevant if you are going to be applying punishment to tactics used to defeat them. In short, you should punish all instances of a given tactic that you deem illegal, or you risk condoning their use by inaction, which is what we feel you did. It would be very difficult for you to argue that these instances are difficult to detect, because both Vox and Nagafen are killed within hours of the conclusion of each patch. Given the relative commonality of these kills, it’s impossible to say that they aren’t being punished because you don’t know when or where they are happening.

\’e2\’80\’9cDetecting spell stacking is far harder for GMs to do than detecting safe zone violations. In fact, had Kendrick and Jeff Butler not been watching, this aspect of the event might have been missed for a while (they were more familiar with the encounter, the details of the dragon’s breath weapon, etc.) So, unfortunately, punishment for spell stack exploitation probably does occur less often. This doesn’t make it any less of an exploit though, and quite simply, it allowed the tank and others to deal MORE damage during the encounter than they were supposed to and receive less. This is why you were able to kill the other warders and get as far as you did with this one with FAR fewer players than the encounter was designed for.\’e2\’80\’9d

Our argument here isn’t that the spell stacking conflicts are missed because they are difficult to detect. Our problem with this statement is that spell stacking conflicts have been *applauded* by SOE employees, thereby giving them legitimacy in the eyes of all who play.

\’e2\’80\’9cThis really is the key here, guys. These encounters were designed for 60 or so players, and you were doing pretty well with 28 or so. Couple that with the fact that these encounters hadn’t really been done before and are still very exotic (you guys knew this, which is why you were all so very excited to do this — bragging rights, and such). This is why the punishment was as extreme as it was: multiple exploits used to prevail over some of the most exotic encounters in the game that are attempted VERY rarely. And it remains our opinion that exploiting these types of encounters severely cheapens the game experience for others. So we came down pretty hard on you all.\’e2\’80\’9d

We again think that the rarity of the encounter is irrelevant. If you are going to apply the rules, the rules should be applied consistently and regularly. The simple fact that they are not applied consistently and regularly significantly weakens your argument. We do agree with you that the punishment was, in your words, “extreme”, and that you “came down pretty hard on” us.

\’e2\’80\’9c1. You knew the spell stacking bug was an exploit and planned ahead of time to use it

2. You knew attacking the mob conventionally (‘zerg’ing it — I like the Starcraft reference 🙂 would require 60 or so people, which, btw, is pretty close to exactly how many players the encounter WAS DESIGNED FOR.

3. You imply that Guildmember #1 in general uses pathing bugs as tactics\’e2\’80\’9d

We regularly use the terms, “exploit”, “sploit”, and “Itzploit” to describe tactics in the game that we feel are unique, and are not in regular use by others. Given this recent turn of events, I have a feeling that this habit will change.

\’e2\’80\’9c4. You used a safe zone prior to combat to position the target mob where you wanted him, and to allow you time to logistically set up your forces

5. You used a safe zone during combat such that your primary healers could only be summoned every 10 seconds or so as opposed to being melee’d. This gave you time to preemptively CoH and res people out of danger. Had the target mob been able to reach your forces under the bridge, the combat would have worked very differently.\’e2\’80\’9d

I think it’s obvious from our conversation here that we were unaware of the “safe zone” effect of our positioning. We think you will also agree that its benefit to our attempt was extremely minor. I refer you again to your previous quote, “I can only conclude that what you did in your minds wasn’t exploiting a safe zone.”

\’e2\’80\’9c6. You used a spell stacking bug to avoid the major effects of the target mob’s area effect breath weapon, allowing you, amongst other things, to deal MUCH more damage over time to the target mob than was intended.\’e2\’80\’9d

We have never disputed this, and as you say, we freely admit to it. We did not think this was as big of an issue as it is, since, as we have said before, similar conflicts have been used before, communicated to GMs, yet no action was ever taken. A prime example of this is Yelinak’s AOE. As it began, Yelinak’s AOE could be overwritten by Clarity. Players used this every time they fought him, and SOE employees were aware of this, yet no disciplenary action was ever taken. The only thing that happened was that the spell was changed so that Clarity would not overwrite it.

** guildchat excerpt from previous email deleted **

This is another exchange where I can use the Yelinak example as an

explanation. Yelinak’s AOE was overwriteable by Clarity. This was never punished, though it was known to SOE employees, instead the spell was merely changed in the next patch. That is what we were referring to for the lion’s share of this exchange. As for Guildmember #5 comment, LOS isn’t significant, Rez, we have already dealt with, Pathing refers to holding the monster in place, which we have already addressed, and Agro refers simply to aggro management, which we think is the key to most high level encounters.

\’e2\’80\’9c1. The encounter in question is supposed to be one of the most difficult encounters in the game, designed for 60 or so level 55+ players, and could even semi-accurately be described as part of the game’s ‘end game’ (were such a description valid for a game we keep adding content to 🙂

2. You knew this was a very exotic encounter, and you planned ahead of time to use exploit(s) you knew were exploits.\’e2\’80\’9d

With these statements, you infer to us a level of knowledge of what is and is not acceptable that, by SOE’s uneven application and in many cases your nonapplication of discipline, is simply unreasonable to infer. It is because of this that we feel the punishment is more severe than our actions warranted.

We have been extremely straightforward during this conversation, and we

appreciate the dialog, and the chance to explain our side of the story, and yes, argue our points. We are also gratified that this incident has given you pause, and provided an opportunity for you to reevaluate, and possibly improve your communication with the community when disputes like this arise. I have no doubt that you will correct the inaccurate statements that you made in your public response, and I personally thank you for having put so much time and effort into researching this issue with us.

We would like to again request that you reverse your decision to disband the guild, since such punishment is reserved for, in the words of Michelle Butler, guilds that “have a history of problems on their record”. I’m sure we can all agree that Conquest does not have a history of problems on its record, and that reinstating the guild would be an appropriate gesture of goodwill.

-Gtath

YOU SEE ME NOW A VETERAN… OF A THOUSAND BBS WARS… [Author: Lum the Mad]

This isn’t the first time.

Woodcock, who hasn’t held a job since leaving Network Appliance three years ago with $250,000 in stock options, devotes hours a day to the message boards — answering questions, quashing rumors, and sparring with short-sellers. His goal: to explain why Network Appliance, one of the fastest-growing and, until recently, hottest stocks in the data-storage sector, is worth owning long term.

On July 7, one writer responded this way to one of Sir Bruce’s cheerleading messages: “Shut up. Die.”

He has diversified his holdings a bit into other technology and growth stocks and is pursuing other early stage investment opportunities. He recently invested in a gaming site through a private placement. “I’m looking for a company that will basically do the same thing all over again,” he says.

Full time message board trolls – it’s a growth industry!

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,

Welcome to your gory bed, Or to victorie!

— from “Scots Wha Hae” by Robert Burns

STRESS TEST REVEALS STRESS! [Author: Lum the Mad]

The other massively multiplayer title set to be released this month, Anarchy Online, launched their for-all-practical-purposes public beta last week. Of course, first you had to download the AO client. At 600 mb, not an easy task. Mirrors quickly went up – and then back down again as hundreds of thousands of prospective “testers” tried to grab the hottest warez since someone found a new Pamela Anderson video.

People who did manage to somehow download the client from the heavily overloaded European servers found, more often then not, that their CD key wasn’t working. A rumor had spread that CD keys would work an unlimited number of times, but actually would only work for three activations. And for many, thanks to an error at Funcom, they wouldn’t work once. Still, plenty of people are logging on and discovering the joys of leet slaughtering. Word is that the new beta 4 client is still (surprise!) beta quality, with plenty of memory leaks, although with far fewer crashes to desktop than the beta 3 client, and that the AO servers hold up well in high-load situations.

Anarchy Online is still scheduled for a June 27 release. Meanwhile, World War 2 Online’s stress test beta continues also. Although you have to download their client from the web as well, Playnet would appreciate it if you paid for it first. Responding to criticism that only early beta testers had access to incorrect server availablity info, PlayNet put the incorrect server availability info online for everyone to enjoy. At last report, Cornered Rat was said to report “it’s in these wires somewhere, we think. Must sleep now. Make it stop.” In response, Bruce “SirBruce” Woodcock posted 7,800 messages on our forums stating that in Belgium, the natives speak both French and Dutch!

TROUBLE ON THE HORIZON? [Author: Lum the Mad]

We talked to a number of people currently at Artifact off the record, and they all agreed – the number one problem with Horizons can be expressed in two words.

David Allen.

Thanks to his personality (we’ve gotten multiple reports of his flying off the handle and screaming at the top of his lungs during meetings in which he was told something could not be done his way) and his unabashed willingness to play favorites (often with female employees, and the usual rumors that such spawn) Artifact is a company that can be very difficult to work for. While only having 50 employees, the office politics easily rivals that of a large corporation, with team set against team purposefully by managers who see internal strife as part of the creative process. The backdrop behind all of this is a perpetual struggle for day-to-day control of the company waged between Allen and James Jones, Artifact’s VP.

Surprisingly, beyond the politics and the screaming, work on Horizons the game continues. The people actually tasked with creating Horizons unanimously take great pride in what they’re working on (although the greatest struggle is often convincing Allen that his latest harebrained notion isn’t remotely technically feasible, at which point he will announce to the Horizons community that it will be implemented) and are all convinced that the game will eventually be released. Late, of course, but it will happen. The cash infusion by NCSoft promised as a result of the Asian distribution deal will help, as well as other publishing deals not yet finalized. People at Artifact, while confirming the political infighting described in the Fatbabies story (and, if anything, saying that its description was far too mild) denied vehemently the technical issues that Fatbabies reported.

Finally, I asked one Artifact employee what his advice would be to someone seeking a job on Horizons. His response? “Keep your head down, and your mouth shut, and you’ll get to work on a great game.”