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Hypnos' Blog

Crime and Banishment

(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.


Posted by Framling

A webpage! So THAT is how you can be on-duty on five oceans without needing a Cray.

February 06, 2008 at 11:54 PM PST | permalink

Posted by Domokun

The subtitle had me in stitches! *winks* Another insight into the OMs' Secret Hideaway, could we squeeze some screen shots out of you as well?

Happy Valentines and Chinese New Year to all at OOO.

February 07, 2008 at 01:30 PM PST | permalink

Posted by Ascorbate

"Lastly, something that comes up quite often in meetings is keeping the game as free of "grind" as possible."

Review the trophies. A fair number of them are 100% pure grind.

I'm especially looking at the carpentry manoeuvre token trophies, though that's just one of the very worst offenders. The last crab trophy and the Boots of Bilging are two other prominent offenders--not nearly as unreasonable but still a potent excuse to forsake carp and sails for a long, long time in blockade puzzling.

"I've noticed it is very important to the developers that people aren't "forced" into a particular gameplay style or set of activities."

Atlantis bound captains should be able to choose which side of the board they enter in on freely or just allow entrances on one side, period. Usually one side is so vastly
superior to the other that the captain is all but obligated to violently yank the ship in and out of Atlantis until the desired side is given. This in turn leads to annoying side effects for an entire shipload of puzzlers. "Here's a puzzle--no, no puzzle for you--wait, here's a puzzle--nope, just pulling your chain--okay, you can puzzle now..."

February 07, 2008 at 08:28 PM PST | permalink

Posted by Hypnos

Trophies are completely optional. There's no gameplay advantage to getting them. They show achievement or what you've done in the game, not a grind to have to get them.

February 08, 2008 at 12:17 AM PST | permalink

Posted by Shannal, Midnight

Please tell me you purposely used the term "Selling Power" again.

February 08, 2008 at 02:48 AM PST | permalink

Posted by ascorbate

"Trophies are completely optional."

Quite true.

"There's no gameplay advantage to getting them."

Extremely false.

On a doubloon ocean, anyone with a credit card can wear black clothes. Trophies can't be sold and serve as a very effective pirate-y resume. I find my stats page and my trophy page are extremely effective ways to advertise my puzzling skills and having an impressive set of trophies makes it easier to get onto desirable voyages.

"They show achievement or what you've done in the game, not a grind to have to get them."

Trophies (or Achievements or badges or the equivalents) will always be seen as a checklist of things players should do, whether the developer of the checklist likes it or not. (A powerful example of this is how the recent _Turok_ game made a ton of headlines in the gaming press when a proposed achievement included kill teammates.)

Trophies/Achievements/Badges are also automatically considered high end game play by much of the player base whether the developer likes it or not. There's a reason why Microsoft doesn't let a game ship without including Achievements and why Kongregate.com releases new badges every week.

February 09, 2008 at 09:02 AM PST | permalink

Posted by ReallyVirtual


Since only 6 of your trophies are visible on your pirate page, if you can't get jobbed with half a dozen ultis, you are probably jobbing for the wrong people :-)

February 09, 2008 at 11:23 PM PST | permalink

Posted by Pletoo

My philosophy with trophies is that I get them when I do (I did intentionally get the fencer and scrapper because I already had beaten level 10 for both and had been waiting for something along those lines for a while, and to my shame, I do actually have the map and brew.) I don't believe they were ever intended as a grind, like memming (which I have done 100% on Ice and Sage) they were supposed to be a result of playing the game not a goal unto themselves. My displayed trophies on Sage include the scrapper, fencer, and incredible sails, carp, and bilge. That should be sufficient, along with my stats, to show that I have played enough to get a basic understanding of the game. Anyone who grinds away to get trophies is making the choice to do so.

The only place that can be a little grindy to me is getting an alt up to par, but again, that is entirely optional. Well, that and always being asked to sail.

February 11, 2008 at 12:41 AM PST | permalink

Posted by BehindCurtain

Actually, the "No grind" fails completely with crafting puzzles. You have to grind to get up to offline expert, or even offline skilled in some of them.

Depending on how you define grind, it may fail if you want to play the "employ lots of workers" game, just for the whole "check dozens and dozens of shops to try to see who is paying what, really" issue.

February 19, 2008 at 09:15 PM PST | permalink

Posted by JPAfonso

I recognize that theft is a major problem that must resolved in benefice of the victim. At least in the doubloons Oceans, this action may equate to direct robbery of real money, and that's unacceptable. Interesting, almost all opportunities of thefts I know in puzzle pirates are consequence of misplaced trust: someone who gives his password to other to improve his ratings, an officer who steals charts or provisions from unlocked ships, a deed exchange to chart a route, a flag treasurer who keep flag funds for itself, a manager who after recover a stall with his own poe finds himself fired by the owner without compensation (this one I heard recently), a room mate which steals furniture, etc, etc... With the exception of hacking an account (no clue about its rarity), all the illegal theft actions in YPP I heard involves some cooperation from the victim in the form of trust. There are legal theft actions in YPP too, but symptomatically, they do not have that characteristic (PvP's, for example). I could argue that what's truly forbidden in YPP is not theft itself but trust abuse (in order to steal).

But my comment is other: There is no lack of warnings about misplaced trust in the YPP. It's a pity that while all these situations can appear in the normal running of the game (as like in the real life) they cannot be resolved inside it. The use of extra-game tools to solve it (ex: banishing by Ocean Masters, magical return of the stolen property) breaks the logical coherence of the game and spoils even more the victims mood: they are forced to come out of the game to the RL to plead... they don't know if the petition will have results (I know a guy who had to start all over again), and sometimes, the plead is an extra loss in itself, by meaning the admission of a bad move in the YPP social game, not easy to admit for some. And is its answer satisfactory? Simple "divine" restitution and "disappearance" of the infractor is a kind of cheating, an action outside the game to solve situations created inside the game. .. suggesting people are powerless to pursuit justice inside it (except the few who can order wars over their aggravations). The discretion also doesn't help, turning bad episodes in just that, bad episodes to forget. They cannot be more than that because there is no fun at all to discover on them. While there is resources issues about this (to develop and to maintain), maybe justice should be just a little more colorful to mitigate that.

For example, there could be a tribunal court as one of the major island public institutions, where the decisions flow of the Oceans Masters about some (not all) of the disputes addressed, would be publicized in the proper pirate language (saying things like "The court dispatched a fleet to find the outlaw pirate bla bla" and others). And instead of a simple temporary account banning, restricting the access to the servers, why not put the faulty pirates entering the game to find themselves in Jails exposed to the public, unable to do anything? Even if the real person were able to successfully detach himself from the account (and we had to resort to swabbies to represent the jailed offender), that would be a lot more fun to the victim and a more effective warning against potential future transgressors. Although, I might say, in a long term, this is a much more riskier move than the present system.

February 21, 2008 at 08:48 AM PST | permalink

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