Ravenwood Roundup: Rattle and Hum

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What’s that noise you hear? It’s the rattling at the “front gate,” i.e. the Wizard101 login screen. See, that gate has been locked for some account holders whose accounts have been banned due to in-game exploits. And that humming noise behind the rattling? It’s the dull roar of approval for Kings Isle from the players who have honored the terms of service and, as such, are still enjoying life ITS (player shorthand for “In The Spiral”).

Like any MMO, Wizard101 has worked through its fair share of glitches. Some are truly harmless and gobs of fun. They don’t give anyone who uses them an unfair advantage in the game. Like walking through walls in the Massive Fantasy Palace, or standing under the bridge in Olde Town. Other glitches can be classified as exploits when someone uses/manipulates the glitches to their advantage. Fallon MoonGem classifies it like this:

“A glitch is an ‘oopsie’ by Kings Isle. An exploit is when someone uses the glitch to get 400 MegaSnacks to sell them for lots of gold at the Bazaar.”

Oopsie!  Fallon MoonGem got awfully specific there, didn’t she? She didn’t define it, she used an example. That Fallon MoonGem, she’s such a scamp!

A glitch crosses the line to an exploit when a player uses it to his or her benefit in terms of enhancing their game experience in terms of improving their performance, increasing their in-game currency (gold), obtaining items for in-game currency that are intended to be available only for cash (in the case of Wizard101, gold versus crowns), or otherwise using the glitch to unfairly benefit their own play experience and/or diminish the play experience of another person.

Phew! What a mouthful!

Using exploits in game is a violation of the Terms of Use and continued exploitation may result in permanent account bans. It’s that simple. However, debate over the permanent account bans that took place this week are raging across the Wizard101 community of bloggers and forums and via Twitter.

The bottom line is, Kings Isle has the final say. The game is their property (please don’t make me go into a discourse on intellectual property.) The game, the servers, the whole dang Spiral. They don’t HAVE to let you use it. Kings Isle puts, in writing, a list of things that you can’t do if you want to use their property (i.e. “Terms of Use”.) You agree to honor that list and you agree that if you don’t honor that list, your account could be permanently banned. Guess how I know that about you? Because if you hadn’t agreed to it, Kings Isle wouldn’t have ever use their property (play their game.)

Crime doesn't pay!

This is the fourth major debate related to the Terms of Use (and therefore, really non-debates) that I have I have witnessed since starting to play Wizard101 two years ago (2/12/2009). They have all, truly, been non-debates because, as I noted above, it’s Kings Isle’s property and they make the rules. One hot topic was the “Wings for Gold” exploit. Another was banning accounts of players who had exchanged personal information. Recently, rhetoric was knee-deep over Kings Isle’s decision to close the loophole that allowed players who were F2P to keep the 18+ Open Chat feature that was marketed as a benefit given only to players who subscribed.* Now, the interwebz is afire over the permanent account bans for players exploiting the “Endless Harvest Glitch.”

Here are some of the more ridiculous arguments I’ve seen over various debates that all lead back to Terms of Use:

  1. Kings Isle is taking away our First Amendment Rights!
  2. Kings Isle is going to lose customers over this!
  3. It’s Kings Isle’s fault for not finding and fixing the glitch before it went live!
  4. If Kings Isle wasn’t so greedy we wouldn’t exploit the glitches!

Here are the short answers to those silly arguments:

  1. Kings Isle owns they game, and that means they get to restrict speech as they see fit. Go read the U.S. Constitution, if you even know what that is.
  2. Banning the accounts of a handful of players who are breaking the Terms of Use is a wonderful investment in the vast majority of customers who do honor the Terms of Use. It makes the majority players feel valued, and makes it more likely that they will continue to subscribe each month. A player base made solely of cheaters isn’t a reliable source of income.
  3. Terms of Use.
  4. Kings Isle is not greedy. Kings Isle is a for-profit corporation. If you think they charge too much for their product, (Wizard101) then don’t buy it.

Kings Isle has launched a wildly successful MMO during one of this nation’s most economically depressed periods, this didn’t happen by accident. Kings Isle has assembled a remarkable group of employees that I like to think of as “The Spiral Brain Trust.” The Spiral Brain Trust has propelled Wizard101 to the front of the MMO rat race through smart and strategic business decisions. This includes the enforcement of the Terms of Use. So to all of the players who protest the decision made by Kings Isle, I suggest the next time you find an MMO you enjoy as much as Wizard101, don’t ignore the Terms of Use.

*In a move that was patently unfair to monthly subscribers, Kings Isle caved on the 18+ Open Chat loophole, allowing those F2P players who had benefited from the glitch on the game website to keep their 18+ Open Chat ability.

Ravenwood Roundup updates every Friday.