The news about Bioware handing out bans to players in SWTOR who managed to access high-level loot before they were “supposed” to has sparked quite the debate among MMO junkies, developers, and others in regard to how MMOs are created and maintained.
Most take the side of the gamers, saying it isn’t their fault if they were able to access things they shouldn’t have been able to. Sure, that’s a fairly reasonable position to take, but it’s also missing the point.
It’s easy to say that Bioware shouldn’t have banned the players and just fixed the problem from the start–in the interest of fairness and equality, of course. After all, low-level players getting access to high-level loot could have terrible and unintended consequences on SWTOR’s in-game economy and also give those players an unfair advantage over others. But, so what?
Players are always looking for ways to turn the odds in their favor–that’s the nature of the adversarial game and, in a greater context, our humanity. Consider this video of Milton Friedman discussing the nature of equality vs. liberty in the context of human society:
At some point, even in the modern MMO, certain players begin to separate themselves from each other. The hardcore raider and PvPer will always outperform and have the advantage over those who aren’t. This isn’t simply a matter of time spent, but also a result of nature of the game. It is also unavoidable, as there are always those willing to spend the time and work harder to achieve.
So, what’s the best way for developers such as Bioware to “fix” these situations? Create free and open-world games. Ditch the themepark model completely. Create a game in which the random and unintended isn’t considered “unfair,” but praised as interesting.
Developers create scripted events so they can ensure their games are fun to experience. Generally, the end result may be fun for the player the first time, possibly even the second. Unfortunately, patterns can only be repeated so many times before they become predictable and dull. This is very problematic for MMOs, which are designed to be played for years.
As well done as Bioware’s latest offering is, they’ve created a world that needs constant attention [from them]. It needs a constant stream of content to keep players interested and every time something “unfair” is discovered, like the hand of God, they must swoop in to save the players. This concept of “you’re playing our game wrong” has to go, especially if there are consequences for doing so.
Why not create a game that puts liberty before equality–that puts the fate of the system and players in the hands of the players themselves? Sure, things may not always be “fair,” but equality and fairness don’t exist under the themepark model either, not to mention real life.