Game talkEve democratic?

 Posted by (Visited 7710 times)  Game talk
Jun 072007
 

The big news today is of course the announcement that Eve Online will allow players to elect an oversight committee, intended as a response to the recent charges of corruption.

I have to admit I feel ambivalent about it. I have been playing with the idea of player-elected representatives for a long time. At one point, I wanted the SWG correspondents to be player-elected. Ironically, players seem to react negatively to this sort of idea when it’s presented — take for example, the player commenter over on Scott Jennings’ blog, who basically dismisses elections of all sorts with the remark

So, players elect people to go check up on CCP. No way will those guys be favored stooges for the resident uber-guilds.

Kinda like Senators are favored stooges for lobbyists, I guess is how the logic goes.

Anyway, the thing that makes me ambivalent about it is actually what the role of the group is, and how they do it. They’ll be flown out to CCP’s headquarters (on the company dime) and they will be there to check for evidence of corruption on the part of the staff.

First off, a player-elected group of any sort can’t do this effectively in any way. Nobody just walking around an office can detect it effectively. Corrupt game admins don’t have posters on their walls saying “This is the gear I stole.” You can really only detect that sort of activity via careful monitoring of logs. In other words, an Internal Affairs department, which CCP already has.

The emphasis on flying out strikes me as odd as well. The main reason why companies fly people out is because people who are meeting face to face tend to have more positive impressions. It makes the company appear more human. the people flown out feel special.

Lastly, I guess that the thing that disappoints me a little is that what I really want a player-elected group for is so that they can help set policy — meaning, help adjust the direction of how the game is run. Game worlds are in an odd situation — if player governance, even partial, is a sticky subject even in the non-game virtual worlds (cf LambdaMOO, Second Life), it’s far more so in game worlds, where everything depends on every role in the game being made difficult enough, and the job of the designer is often to keep everyone down, so to speak.

But I can picture a system where players elect representatives — reps along the lines of Team Leads or correspondents, where segments of the game population are given a guaranteed voice. And then these reps are in the front lines of patches, get sent design notes in advance, and in general are used as much more of a sounding board — as a matter of development process and policy. As in, nothing goes in without that group’s signing off.

The reason to do this, honestly, is because not all points of view are represented on a dev team. Not all levels of expertise are available. And really, why would a dev team want to implement a change that a representative sample of the player audience all dislikes?

Based on the article, it looks like this isn’t the Eve player group’s role. And that’s a bit of a pity, because I want to see that tried.

  41 Responses to “Eve democratic?”

  1. , you may have wondered just what you might need to do to make it Wii-friendly. Luckily, there’s a great guide on Opera for the Wii available at the Opera Development Community that goes into all the ins and outs of … Eve democratic?

  2. + Discussion: Terra Nova, Game | Life, 3pointD.com, Raph’s Website and seattleduck

  3. EVE Online to Get Player-Led Oversight Panel.” Scott Jennings: “Eve Appoints Special Prosecutor; Moveon.org Preparing FRAPS Movie In Response.” Endie “Eve Online – An Update.” Thomas Malaby – “Real Politik.” Raph Koster – “Eve democratic.” Matt Mihaly – “Nations That Are Not.”

  4. [...] Comments Raph’s Website » Eve democratic? on Eve Appoints Special Prosecutor; Moveon.org Preparing FRAPS Movie In ResponseChacki on Eve [...]

  5. I guess the only concern I would have with having representatives have to ‘sign off’ on a design decision is that the players don’t always know what’s best for them. They don’t take into account all the design challenges that ‘change x’ could affect. That’s why they aren’t all designers and we are. I think having a voice that is strongly listened to is a good thing, but having to get their OK for every change can quickly become a problem and possibly hurt the game overall more than help.

  6. Wouldn’t any elected staff from the player base be those who are supported by the elite, uber guild, powergaming organizations out there? Would this really be the best way to go when there are many more players who like a different sort of game play?

    I don’t know, but I’m very concerned whenever “players” have any input at all. I still stand by my base position that a game company needs to stay as far away from the players as possible in these personal ways. Yes, communicate via some generic means, and listen to what players are saying through polls and reading the message boards, but keep a proverbial 10 foot pole away from them. Not doing so leads to trouble such as EVE is going through now, and many other games as well.

    I think a game company needs to have a clue as to what they are doing with their own game. They need to run it, not the players. The players need to play it, not run it. If that mix isn’t working, there’s a bigger problem.

  7. I’ve seen a lot of great opinions and analysis come out of players on various game-related forums and ideally, you’d want the devs to be incorporating that feedback. So on the one hand, players should have a voice.

    However, any election on a forum is essentially a popularity contest. You’ll get the people who are interested in playing the forum game rather than the ones with insightful opinions. For that reason I’d shy away from “electing” the representatives.

    Honestly I don’t know that there’s a great way to put together a player advisory panel. SWG tried handpicked correspondants (and later senators) and ended up cutting a lot of signal out along with the noise, although a good portion of the players they chose really did try. SOE has tried guild summits in the past but those tend to cater to the bigger or more prominent guilds and leave out the majority of the more casual players. Fansite communities aren’t always going to be representative as well, since there’s questions of conflict of interest that can come up.

    Maybe the best way to do it would be to allow players to nominate other players (in-game, not on the forums) to represent them. Then your community team could send a short questionnaire to the nominees, and based on response to the questionnaire, choose the members of the advisory panel.

    Of course, the other part of this is that the devs do actually need to publicly listen to the players they engage in this way. I can count dozens of examples in SWG where the correspondants/senators were giving great feedback to the dev team, which was ignored, and the players had to deal with bad design decisions as a result. This can’t always be avoided, but there needs to be a real producer-level commitment to listen to what the players are saying and take it seriously.

  8. Wouldn’t any elected staff from the player base be those who are supported by the elite, uber guild, powergaming organizations out there? Would this really be the best way to go when there are many more players who like a different sort of game play?

    You have to ask the same question about the real world then. Generally speaking, we tend to think that representative democracy is in fact the BEST way to accomplish this. Here you’re saying the opposite.

    I guess the only concern I would have with having representatives have to ’sign off’ on a design decision is that the players don’t always know what’s best for them. They don’t take into account all the design challenges that ‘change x’ could affect.

    That’s why it would have to be reps from all the different parts of the playerbase. And probably some at-large folks as well. To mimic how the US government works, you’d have to have two groups — one where there was one rep per player segment (say, by class), and then another which is more by population or something.

    It’s true that you cannot trust any given player to know what’s best for them. But what you can count on is that any given player will be looking out for their own interests. Get enough different interests together, and you’re going to get closer to the right track.

  9. You have to ask the same question about the real world then.

    Generally we recognize that there are many limits to representative democracy. It’s not a solution to all problems. In this case one can argue that democratization is already occurring through the market: i.e. that the market is open for anyone to present any vision of an online world and players can choose which they subscribe to.

    I think what is really needed is not oversight committees or democratization but transparency of information. But then I think that CCP is just doing this for PR (and I don’t blame them for that) and so, yes, they are flying people in just to create a cadre of go-getter advocates.

  10. Well, for sake of argument — how many of the problems they’re having are purely PR related? How much wouldn’t be fixed by getting a couple key Goonsquadron leaders onto their side by giving them a bit of special treatment in the name of ‘oversight’?

  11. I’m not questioning the PR angle, certainly. I’ve used that same tactic myself. :)

    In this case one can argue that democratization is already occurring through the market: i.e. that the market is open for anyone to present any vision of an online world and players can choose which they subscribe to.

    Ah, but the point of my suggestion is not to help players find another world, but to help the developers of a given world either make it better or at least not mess it up egregiously. :)

  12. [...] Iceland (where they are headquartered) regularly to…..Well, to do what, I don’t know. As Raph points out, the idea of flying some people out to walk around an office and magically detect corruption is a [...]

  13. ATITD3

  14. There is a MMOG (Goonzu Online) in which the ‘goonzu’ –mayor– of each town is elected among their player inhabitants.

    EVE has 4 (really, more) factions, and any player belongs to one of this ‘empires’ (formally a empire, a state, a republic and a federation). A election of one or two representants by each faction (¿maybe RPing like “president election” of this empire?) could break the vote playerbase of ubber-guilds.

  15. Wouldn’t any elected staff from the player base be those who are supported by the elite, uber guild, powergaming organizations out there? Would this really be the best way to go when there are many more players who like a different sort of game play?

    Sounds a lot like how elected officials get their positions in the real world.

    And there is already a cozy relationship MMO companies have with the elite, uber guild, powergaming organizations. They’re the first ones into any betas (public or private), post-release they’re used as QA to test new content, their opinions carry far more weight than most other individuals… hell, a lot of the junior designers on any current or in-development MMO are current/former members of some of the largest most well known uberguilds out there.

    And to be clear, I really don’t have a problem with that. It makes sense that a company would want to reach out to those players. They play your game the most, have the most in depth knowledge of it’s mechanics (probably better than most of your designers), and understand a bit about game and content design because they have experienced/played/beaten nearly every MMO over the last 10 years.

  16. I have to admit my first thought when reading about CCP doing this was, “They’re desperate and flailing.” Now I’m more of a mind to wait and see how it goes for them. The idea isn’t inherently bad, but there are a lot of ways to botch it terribly. If they make it work, more power to them.

  17. Generally speaking, we tend to think that representative democracy is in fact the BEST way to accomplish this.

    I am not convinced. Democracy prevents long-lasting dictatorships, but doesn’t ensure quality… at all. IMO. (E.g. George Bush, Ronald Reagen, Maggie…) With commercial games, you can bet that you will have a long-lasting dictatorship, even with so-called “representative democracies”.

  18. Generally speaking, we tend to think that representative democracy is in fact the BEST way to accomplish this. Here you’re saying the opposite.

    In RL we (Americans, at least) have the Constitution protecting the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. CCP has a TOS, which certainly does no such thing. A lot of ways modern democracies are failing come down to forgetting that 99.9% of the population can’t vote to violate the rights of 1 person.

    We’re in very dangerous waters here. Start handing out real power and the griefers will find a way to use it.

  19. Gaming is serious business these days. I think what is part of a virtual world should stay in the virtual world. Some Eve Online players are calling the “Goonswarm” corporation involved in the incide “online gaming terrorist” for trying to intimidate CCP with their propaganda. And due to CCP’s previous hard handed ways of dealing with the player communities a lot of players are more inclined to believe in CCP’s guilt than innocence.

  20. I really, really, REALLY hate this geeky superior concept that it seems you are, after all, questioning, Raph, that hates on representative democracy. I don’t understand enough of why you dropped your own hopes for player-run institutions for policy guidance, however.

    And I agree with the critique of Scott Jennings’ views, typical of game devs and their groupies. It takes the aberration one can find in RL democracy falsely to be the norm; it takes the undesired minority of cases and extrapolates falsely, and *unscientifically* to hysterical claims of blanket phenomena of corruption everywhere. It’s not sound.

    So you find geeks saying stuff like “Kinda like Senators are favored stooges for lobbyists”. Like all senators are stooges for all lobbyists. Like all politicians are corrupt and bought. That every single member of Congress is an illegitimate creature, that representative democracy can’t possibly succeed because all the representatives get bought out. Or that lobbyists are by nature evil and one can never envision any legitimate lobbyist.

    But surely you *do* realize this is an exaggeration? A hysterical overstatement? Yes? Can you point to some huge trend of bought-and-paid-for corrupt senators all in jail now? If there are *some* senators who were corrupt or craven to lobbyists can you honestly say, hand on heart, looking at all the bills and laws made at thomas.loc.gov, for example, that it’s all just some big corporate evil Amerika machine blah blah?

    I think you could concede that these geeky dismissals of representative democracy are superficial, facile, and suspect, and something far more sophisticated is needed.

    Because when you purvey this geek concept that representative democracy is crap and it’s all corrupt and suspect, then, with rapid sleight of hand, tekkies and their guild or class then substitute the other thing, which is code-as-law, coders-as-lawyers, and game geeks as gods — programmers who just code up everything to have “direct democracy.”. That’s why I can’t abide their false claims — they are made in the interests merely of advancing themselves as rulers, being the IT guys, running everything.

    Now *that*’s what is suspect, my friend. Wisdom of crowds? You’re *sure* they’re so wise? Without checks and balances? Without transparency? Without term limits? And you speak of that, the need to have the two levels as in the Congress.

    Um…were any of those scornful of representative democracy and loving random Internet Wikipedianism going to at least introduce term limits on these wise crowds?

    Were any going to have any calling to account of those programmers? How? When you can’t vote “no” on their damn voting machine, like it’s the Soviet Union???

    And look how Baroo — so typically — is willing to hand over power and oversight — speaking for all of us in a game — to the power gamers, the FIC! I didn’t sign up for that. Did everybody? Why would being a power gamer make you particularly suited to keeping to account the game gods whose favour you have always cravenly sought as a power gamer??? Hello?!

    Talaan brings up the other old tekkie chesnut brought up every damn time someone tries to have a democratic *movement* let alone a committee or government. “It’s all a popularity contest”. So? And that’s a bad thing because…why? We should allow everything to be run by some socially awkward and grumpy keep behind the scenes without any liking by the public?

    Popularity — hey, that’s a start. Then you throw the bums out if they can’t perform. Popularity isn’t any more suspect than power gamers who are the two percent of forums posters getting their way and shouldering themselves into positions of power on a “players’ committee”.

    And flying people out to the company? And at their own expense? And THAT is going to hold them to account and keep them on the up and up? Huh? That’s just preposterous! You can never be on an oversight commission and doing fact-finding and be beholden to the host government like that, it skews the findings.

    Game gods need to hear from a wide variety of players and sift through concerns. And it shouldn’t be geared solely to game versions and technical issues within the patches. The broader social issues of the world should be fair game as well.

  21. bullet>Start handing out real power and the griefers will find a way to use it.

    It’s not real power. CCP are the gods of their world whether they like it or not, and doing what players tell them to do will last only as long as they care to let it last.

    Richard

  22. A lot of ways modern democracies are failing come down to forgetting that 99.9% of the population can’t vote to violate the rights of 1 person.

    Actually I would argue the opposite. To some degree we’ve placed the rights of the individual on such a pedestal that the rights of the society are virtually ignored. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    We’re in very dangerous waters here. Start handing out real power and the griefers will find a way to use it.

    Now that I will agree with. ATITD hasn’t had any problems with greifer politicians but I believe that has more to do with the type of player that game attracts more than anything else.

    This whole thing simply screams PR move to me. They have a serious perception problem with a good portion of their player base whether the allegations are true or not, which they pretty much said and they’re hoping that this will alleviate that. It might, but it won’t solve the core problem that started this controversy and that is overly close ties between a group of players and the developers in a highly competitive PVP setting.

    Forum feedback has a low signal to noise ration, is biased, and often just plain wrong but it does have the advantage of being transparent and available to the rest of the playerbase. Private bidirectional communication avenues not open to the majority will always lead to suspicion and feelings of impropriety even if none exist. It certainly doesn’t help if the players who have them are less than discreet about it as seems to be the case in EVE quite often.

  23. It’s not real power. CCP are the gods of their world whether they like it or not, and doing what players tell them to do will last only as long as they care to let it last.

    But what about the concept of imbuing certain character/players with some form of world altering governmental power normally held solely by the developers through elections? Less what CCP is doing and more what Raph is talking about. That’s both attractive and scary at the same time. It could be interesting, immersive, and add a whole new layer of gameplay but it carries a heavy potential for abuse. True said power could be taken away at any time but at what kind of backlash in player sentiment? It’s easier never to give something that to take it back.

    I think the comment about them being gods within their realm is spot on. They really are, but some of them seem to want to be buddies more than gods. The two don’t really mix all that well.

  24. Heh, interestingly, The Behemoth’s Dan Paladin’s recently published remarks about why publishers should stay out of the creative process might apply here. Only instead of publishers, it’s players who should stay out of the creative process.

    “The problem is the people who aren’t making the game are calling the shots on how the games should be made,” Paladin said. “It’s armchair developing. They’re saying, ‘Wouldn’t this be cool?’, and lots of things that sound cool don’t necessarily turn out that way or make the game more fun.”

    Awhile back when I was playing Ultima Online on a rogue shard, the denizens had the chance to submit ideas for how the game should be played. I guess the administrators were crack programmers and knew how to implement features with RunUO. One of the ideas I submitted, which I still love today, is the idea of a REAL player government. I’m not talking about a player government that interferes with the real-world operation of the game world.

    I’m talking about a user-generated, player-operated in-game government that presided over the in-game justice and zoning system. If a player committed an in-game crime, another player could bring that criminal player to justice where the player government would impose the punishment. Likewise, good deeds could be recognized as well, such as bounty hunters receiving rewards or honors bestowed on good citizens or famed adventurers. If a player wanted to set up a business, they would need to get a business license and zoning approval from the player government. I always thought this system would make players responsible for themselves.

    I just don’t think there’s any sense in allowing players to preside over the game world. In a player government, they should be presiding over the game play.

  25. Democracy prevents long-lasting dictatorships, but doesn’t ensure quality… at all. IMO. (E.g. George Bush, Ronald Reagen, Maggie…)

    Your political inclinations are showing. ;)

    In RL we (Americans, at least) have the Constitution protecting the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority.

    In RL we have various forms of enforcing proper behavior on game operators, too. It’s not like there no failsafe whatsoever.

    I say that as someone who thinks there ought to be a bill of rights or constitution for game players. :)

    I don’t understand enough of why you dropped your own hopes for player-run institutions for policy guidance, however.

    I was not able to fully persuade people on correspondents, and they weren’t even elected. So I didn’t even try to persuade further. I did chat about it with Gordon Walton, and to his credit, he thought it was worth trying.

    And I agree with the critique of Scott Jennings’ views, typical of game devs and their groupies.

    To be fair, that quote was not from Scott, it was from a commenter there. I have clarified the post.

    Why would being a power gamer make you particularly suited to keeping to account the game gods whose favour you have always cravenly sought as a power gamer???

    Well, this isn’t as simple as yo umake it sound, either. Both things are true: that the cozy relationship is potentially fraught with bias, and that the powergamer has valuable insights that you cannot get elsewhere.

    In the real world, we run into this in the rulemaking process, for example, where comments are solicited from the public as a whole, but in practice it is the “powergamers” of the legislative process who actually participate. And honestly, it’s valuable to have, say, the automotive engineers involved in setting the rules for the DoT’s regulation of headlight brightness.

    But what about the concept of imbuing certain character/players with some form of world altering governmental power normally held solely by the developers through elections? Less what CCP is doing and more what Raph is talking about. That’s both attractive and scary at the same time. It could be interesting, immersive, and add a whole new layer of gameplay but it carries a heavy potential for abuse.

    ATITD has been doing this for quite some time. AFAIK, no major cases of abuse have shown up.

  26. In response to Prokofy’s comments, I can’t help but remember something Bartle said once… He said something to the effect of, “Were virtual worlds real worlds, they wouldn’t be virtual.”

    Honestly, Prokofy, I think you’re taking the wrong approach. Instead of lecturing on and on about the wonders of representative democracy and blathering about government, the key issue to focus on is simply what comes down to the provider’s relationship with customers.

    Right now, what we have with virtual worlds is the supermarket approach where customers enter, find and buy what they want, and leave. They have no direct say in what products are available, the layout of the store, or the processes the make up the supermarket experience. Because virtual worlds and other online games are services, what should be adopted is the client-agency approach where agencies retain creative control and yet where customers have enough say to approve or reject changes to their service.

    Not all services operate that way though. Some companies reserve the right to change the service without notice (e.g., AOL), but look at how marketing/advertising/PR agencies operate. Clients have a lot more influence because ultimately whether the agency earns money from the client depends on whether the client is satisfied with the work produced. Agencies are driven to either satisfy the client’s wants or advocate solutions that satisfy the client’s needs. The client-agency relationship is more of a collaboration with both sides recognizing their strengths and weaknesses and their respective roles in reaching goals and completing objectives.

    With a virtual world, there are so many subscribers that losing a few does not significantly impact the bottom line. Indeed, in large marketing/advertising/PR agencies, there are so many clients that losing a few would not even make a splash. How can this problem be remedied? How can the value of the individual client be so great as to warrant the agency’s utmost attention? I don’t think the solution is an oversight committee or some other product of paranoia like a watchdog group. That would do more harm than good. Nobody likes to be told what to do. The ideal solution is probably one part compromise and one part collaboration. The trick, I think, is transforming the gamers on the development side and the gamers on the user side into partners.

  27. A few years ago I have participated in a mmo called Dark Ages (by Kru Interactive / Nexon). The original game was a called Legend of Darkness but the game’s creative director David E. Kennerly customized the game engine to include additional features such as player elected government system and player-led worship of a fictional pantheon of gods. From my observations back then, such player led government (without any checks and balances) is extremely prone to abuse (the elected officials have been granted the power to ban players from certain areas and towns during their tenure — which lasts for approx about 2 weeks). I don’t think a player government system will work in an MMO environment unless there are check and balances (just like in the real world government).

  28. Please note I mentioned a popularity contest as it applies to forums, which tend to often be their own animal apart from the game. If we’re talking about player governance in a game world, I’d rather see the “election” or selection have its start in the game world and not on some forums where people who post may or may not really be in tune with what’s going on in the game.

    Is popularity going to be involved in any election platform? Yes. Are special interests (guilds, powergamers, etc) going to try to push their candidates? Yes. Is this a bad thing? Depends on what the purpose is.

    Some of the best CS work I’ve ever seen done in MMO games have come from player volunteers. And some of the best discussions of mechanics and design have come from players rather than developers. So I’m all for a system that leverages that sort of thing to make the game better, as long as it does it in a truly fair and representative way.

    Before we all get caught up in the excitement and promise of virtual democracy though it would be a good idea to remember what the point of it all is. Does it really make the (virtual) world a better place for everyone? I submit that it is going to depend greatly on the nature of the virtual world in question.

    Nothing is more unpredictable than the mob, nothing more obscure than public opinion, nothing more deceptive than the political system. – Cicero

  29. Well, for sake of argument — how many of the problems they’re having are purely PR related? How much wouldn’t be fixed by getting a couple key Goonsquadron leaders onto their side by giving them a bit of special treatment in the name of ‘oversight’?

    Having played EVE for a while, in GoonFleet during much of the precursor to CCP’s current problems no less, I’d say a good amount of the problems they’re having are related to PR.
    CCP has always been a bit odd as a company in how open and personal they’ve been with their community since the beginning. My opinion is that they’ve tried to maintain that for too long, even as their player-base increased beyond the ability to interact in those ways. Being so open and approachable put them in a position to be questioned more so than other MMO developers. In every MMO there are people who complain about unfair treatment and favoritism, that’s just how people act. In most MMOs, this kind of thing doesn’t get very far as most people consider the developers to be fair, or at least unassailable. CCP has let the community question their ethics and ability to manage their own game, and have let the complaints get out of hand.

    Because EVE is a game squarely focused on the hardcore segment of the market, most of CCP’s potential customers are likely to have heard about these corruption scandals, and so it has to be a first priority for them to fix their public image, and hopefully win back their current subscribers before they start to really lose them.

    After that hopefully they can begin to fix the issues of balance both between the largest corporations (guilds), and between those corporations and the somewhat disenfranchised players not involved in a major corporation. Hopefully CCP will consider this same type of elected player involvement down the line, in the style that Raph refers to, and I would not be surprised, as they have a history of trying out non-traditional methods.

  30. Its not an unprecedented move: DAoC and WWII Online both had community-nominated liasons; WWII Online has hired community-elected CMs and has a “High Command” player leadership that has been through forms that include an electorate.

    I find it interesting that PvP games are so often so fiercely political that such solutions have arisen spontaneously in them again and again.

    Raph wanted to see a game that developed a “cure for cancer” and Richard claimed(*) to develop MUD-1 as an environment for luring humans to interact with AI experiments. PvP/RvR games seem to provide a testbed, in similar vein, for exploring and experimenting with political and governmental concepts.

    Of course, the reality of being someone’s business and livelihood does alter the variables some, but what matters – for the MMO developer – is that it provides a way to be “left of neutral”. Switzerland doesn’t seem so neutral when it refuses to call the guy shooting at you the agressor.

    (* Sorry, Richard; ever since first reading that in AI & Computer Games, I’ve always thought “that’s certainly how I’d justify handing in a game as my ‘research’ project ;)

  31. Makaze>But what about the concept of imbuing certain character/players with some form of world altering governmental power normally held solely by the developers through elections?

    It would have to be real-world power. When you deal with gods, you have to deal with them on their plane of reality (which in this case is the real world) rather than the plane in which they are gods (which in this case is EVE). If CCP were to sign a legally-binding contract with their players that says their advisory group has actual tangible powers over the virtual world, then that would indeed rein in CCP’s powers. However, it would also make the player advisory group be gods.

    >I think the comment about them being gods within their realm is spot on. They really are, but some of them seem to want to be buddies more than gods. The two don’t really mix all that well.

    CCP’s problem appears to be that some of the gods descended into the world and pretended to be mortals. While this is not in itself a bad thing, it has to be strictly monitored because it can rapidly become a bad thing: the gods have to eschew their godly powers if they are fully to be mortal, and many gods aren’t willing to do that. They know there are consequences, but as gods believe they can deal with it. You only have to look at Greek mythology to know what the chances of success are in that regard…

    Richard

    PS: I wrote a paper on Gods & Governments, published here (without diagrams, sadly).

  32. Oliver Smith>Richard claimed(*) to develop MUD-1 as an environment for luring humans to interact with AI experiments

    I hadn’t studied AI when I began on MUD1, so it isn’t actually true that I had in mind to develop them as a means of luring people into an AI project. Really, it was all about freedom.

    >ever since first reading that in AI & Computer Games, I’ve always thought “that’s certainly how I’d justify handing in a game as my ‘research’ project

    Yes, that sounds like the reason I might want to give that impression, heh heh.

    Richard

  33. Your political inclinations are showing.

    Heh! Well, actually, populists tend be on the right-wing (Reactionary resistance to change, speaking to the ego). People select actors like Arnold and Reagen, not because they are great thinkers. People select people like Berlusconi, Haider (and Hitler), not because they are great humanists. There have been solid conservative politicians, sure (e.g. Bush senior). Few of them have been populists or actors, though. Unfortunately, people who care about the impact of issues tend not to crave power and tend not to be media-hookers, so “the people” won’t elect them.

    Want to know more about the playerbase? Stratify the userbase and interview a representative sample.

    Who wants to play a game designed by ISO? Who wants to play a game designed by the senate? Who wants to play a game that is desperately seeking to become average???

  34. Btw, I am not saying that you cannot have democratic worlds, but that you cannot have a single monolithic one that is “reliably good”. If you can partition the space (like Usenet) into separate spheres of interest then “democracy” may become a reality.

    The DIKU game space might be an example of a game space with democratic potential. “I am unhappy with the rulings in this country, I go create my own! Who wanna come with me?”

    Also remember that a well working democracy depends on having an excellent beuraucracy.

  35. [...] I don’t disgree with the visionary game developers as much as you might think, but you really need to rework your design quite heavily if you want a real player democracy. More over at Raph Koster’s excellent blog… [...]

  36. >And honestly, it’s valuable to have, say, the automotive engineers involved in setting the rules for the DoT’s regulation of headlight brightness.

    Valuable, but what happens is that it becomes privileged — and then becomes the sole input in the game context.

    Morgan, you’ve long been known to scorn democracy and take the elitist approach in these debates. I don’t see how institutions created by people through long struggles in real life are something to be waved away as “blather”. And you can’t make a virtual world real; it has no gravity, you fly, you don’t have to eat or sleep, etc.

    Your notion of supermarket sales is laughable. Of course shoppers have a direct sale. If they don’t buy the box of Life at the overpriced $5.29 a box and hate the sickly-sweetened wheat, the maager tries putting it out finally at .99 a box and when he still can’t sell them, he gives them to a homeless shelter and never orders them again. Consumers in fact play a vital role in affecting what producers and distributors do. They don’t just “leave” — ah, that typically geek “exit imperative” that is always raised in these arguments — they CHOSE.

    Virtual worlds aren’t services. They’re partly that, but they’re worlds, too. They have many intricate relationships. And there’s absolutely nothing under the sun, real or artificial, that says we HAVE to have these models of corporation/customer or service/client. We can also have the same kind of normal governance and democracy and citizens parties and movements and parliaments as we have in RL. Absolutely nothing to stop this. The only thing that does stop it is the desire of game gods for power, and their hanging on to power.’

    The idea that if you merely try to go about behaving like RL in a virtual world that you have made it cease being virtual is curious to me. It will always remain mediated and virtual with suspension of some laws of nature and introduction of new ones.

    There are many interrim steps on the road to virtual democracy. Certainly a more transparent game-god rule is a start, and I continue to think that an ombudsman, which is elected or acclaimed by the residents, which is on some kind of team or task force with the company, is a start.

    Talaen, you’re right that forums only have 2 percent of the players of whom .05 percent post or whatever. However, RL democracy is like that, too, and people don’t wish to forego elections and their right to vote merely because only a minority of “content-makers” (politicians) get to run the gauntlet to “the forums” (the media) and get into the game-god
    Olympus of congress.

    Charles, re: “CCP has let the community question their ethics and ability to manage their own game, and have let the complaints get out of hand.” What is your solution then, that game gods go back to being ruthless and arbitrary?

    Richard, regarding gods who became mortals but retained their god powers, Greek mythology might have many disappointing outcomes but I suggest you look to the New Testament for cheerier results : )

    I do keep thinking about what Edward Castronova wrote in his book about synthetic worlds, that people want a “customer-service state” where the game gods do way more and intervene more and are available more, and that’s too hard to scale and maintain, and becomes expensive like RL government, even more so because of people’s dependency on the platform-makers. So in SL the strategy of the game gods has been to free the residents ostensibly more and more to assume responsibility for their own fate. But like the gods that become mortals and run into trouble in Richard’s scenario, when game gods impart god powers in god mode to mortals, they also create troubles (like mass-bans, mega camera zoom, etc.)

  37. Charles, re: “CCP has let the community question their ethics and ability to manage their own game, and have let the complaints get out of hand.” What is your solution then, that game gods go back to being ruthless and arbitrary?

    I don’t think it’s a matter of them actually being ruthless and arbitrary. It’s more a matter of them being respected in their capacity as the developers, operators, and moderators of the game. In my opinion CCP has never been ruthless and arbitrary, and I doubt they will need to be in the future. They simply need to affect the player-base’s opinion away from questioning every decision or statement (or lack thereof), and back to a meaningful discussion of how the game should progress. It would be very difficult for them to work with the community to advance the game in the players’ interests, if the players do not trust anything that CCP says.

  38. Prokofy:

    You missed the point. Shame on me for assuming you could be talked to like a normal person.

  39. Unfortunately, people who care about the impact of issues tend not to crave power and tend not to be media-hookers, so “the people” won’t elect them.

    Amen, spot on!

    The DIKU game space might be an example of a game space with democratic potential. “I am unhappy with the rulings in this country, I go create my own! Who wanna come with me?”

    If you can partition the space (like Usenet) into separate spheres of interest then “democracy” may become a reality.

    I like the idea of giving the users more freedom to establish communities for those of similar interests and tastes. Beyond guilds, which in a lot of cases are just an informal recognition of people you group with frequently and have a dedicated chat channel with, there aren’t a lot of tools in many games for community building. Even government styles can vary, some might be democratic and fluid, some may not be. If I’m going to pour my energies into a community, I don’t want people I thought were of the same mind taking over and changing the nature of it, later. If they want something different than what ‘the founders’ built, they can go build their own. That’s not to say I’m unwavering, its just a position I’ve come to after a lot of really bad experiences. People are willing to go to all kinds of lengths to kick over someone elses sand castle. I’d say just as much as I have no right to go around imposing my rules and preferences on others in their space, they shouldn’t ignore the ones in mine.

    Now, on the game-wide scale, this issue gets a lot more complicated. Who’s view is the right view? As has been said, if its just a plain popular vote, then the big power guilds and forum personalities get the representation. Big guilds don’t typically represent my interests as a gamer (casual, social, etc.), and some forum personalities can be the worst examples of people you want making policy. I think SWG’s correspondent system was a good model, with few exceptions I found them to be very sincere in their causes of improving their area in the overall goal of improving the game as a whole. Most of them were very involved in testing, feedback, communicating with as many people as possible, helping other people shape ideas into full form, and more. Seek out these types and give them a little recognition. Include a decent range of criticism, don’t just select fanbois, your game will grow in brilliant new ways if you have people willing to think in different directions.

    As to the issue of how much power to give these ‘player governments’, I just don’t see the need to give them any more in-game power. I like the idea of some player GMs who can help craft storylines, facilitate events, or so-forth, but giving that kind of power to someone who’s voice could also affect the gameplay itself just leaves too much room for abuse. Forums fill with complaints about devs and all the wild ‘tinfoil hat’ accusations as it is, once the players can start pointing fingers at each other, too…the whole thing falls apart.

  40. Prokofy Neva>Richard, regarding gods who became mortals but retained their god powers, Greek mythology might have many disappointing outcomes but I suggest you look to the New Testament for cheerier results : )

    It’s always going to be easier if you only have the one god, although even then it still requires an iron will and a lot of soul-searching (40 days and 40 nights worth, I seem to recall).

    Richard

  41. [...] last week, but a week has seen commentators taking up positions around the concept. Raph Koster is ambivalent about the decision, as he’s wanted something like that in previous titles he’s worked on. The inherently [...]

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