(Subtitle- Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov was probably not well-tanned. Possibly blonde.)
This week's questions come from Sweetiepiepi of Midnight, who writes:
I'm curious about what's involved work-wise in the disciplinary process.
I'm also curious about some of the broader governing principles behind game design - is there something specific that OOO is trying to achieve with the economy, pillaging, etc.?
When oceanmasters are on duty, we use a support tool that queues up petitions and complaints in the order they were received on a web page. (This is why we often do not see tells for a while, if at all, as depending on the nature of the petitions or complaints received, we may be working most of the time through a web page, rather than the game client.)
If a complaint comes in from somebody who is accused of using unacceptable language against another pirate (evading the swear filter, personal threats, obscenity) we read the chatlog appended automatically to the complaint. If there is proof in the chat log of that language, we then check the account's history to see if this person has been suspended for that offense before. The length of an account's suspension depends on past offenses, though particularly over-the-top awfulness may warrant a permanent ban regardless of account history. Contrary to what people sometimes theorize, we do not base our suspension length or decision on whether the account is a trial or a paid one.
Thefts are more involved than that, since after permanently banning the thief, we must track where the money went to make certain the thief did not pass it off to an alternate account and leave his old account as a sacrifice for the payoff. I have seen cases in which a person even deleted the pirate that stole the money in an attempt to hide his tracks, as well. (Hint: it didn't work.)
Thefts eat up a lot more time than simpler complaints and petitions do though, so if it's particularly busy, refunding a theft or renaming a vessel may be put on hold while complaints and petitions in the queue are dealt with first.
Other things that may eat up time in a shift are when some people get into a complaining snit and two or three people complain one another over and over in a big ring of angry for half an hour or so. The complaints first come in for "being meen" or "harasment" and progress to "hes a tart" "wont shutup" and eventually, "BAND HIM I HATE HIM SO MUCH HE CHEETED ON ME" and "IS COMPANING ME FOR NO REASON" Each complaint has to be opened, examined, and then closed if there is no evidence of a suspendable offense taking place in the chat log.
We also get a lot of complaints from people recruiting for flags and offering immediate royalty positions for donations too, as people object to what they perceive as selling power in the game's political structure. I certainly don't think it's a smart idea for either party involved, but there are no rules against it.
As for governing principles, our general unchanged belief is that pillage is the beating heart of the game. Despite posts in the forum arguing the contrary, pillage is still the main fountain by which money enters the game, and the most common team experience. When working on Atlantis, we tried from the outset to design something that would be a fun special variant of pillage without replacing it.
We keep an eye on inflation so that things don't get out of the price range of the new or casual player, and to protect the business of shopkeepers (giving out old, rather than new items from Atlantis and sometimes in the free gifts is a part of this.)
Lastly, something that comes up quite often in meetings is keeping the game as free of "grind" as possible. I've noticed it is very important to the developers that people aren't "forced" into a particular gameplay style or set of activities. When the request came for the ability for commanding officers to force people out of Treasure Haul and on to other stations or to shut off the ability for people on board to haul entirely, it was turned down because we didn't want to give some players control over other players' puzzles. As tempting as it is to reach out and take hold of the screens of those with severe puzzle vision or the recalcitrant haulers who have I GOT 3 LOCK WAIT syndrome, it's not in the cards for Puzzle Pirates.