Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The existence of game API is a proof that the dev is doing something nasty

Long story short: Valve got sued for supporting "skin gambling" on steam. "Skin gambling" is using in-game items as gambling chips and then selling them for real money. This is done to avoid the anti-gambling laws: if you open a casino where people win money, you get to jail if you don't follow the very strict rules. Gambling is completely prohibited in several areas. On the other hand if you gamble on non-existent chips, it's considered a game and ignored. So various criminals figured out that they can run a casino on the top of games and then RMT the winning. Needless to say, these casinos - among other bad things - are rigged.

Anyway, the lawsuit is against Valve because they allegedly enabled this criminal activity on its site and to avoid huge money to be paid and maybe some execs in cuffs for participating in organized crime (illegal gambling is typical maffia activity) they are kicking the gambling sites off Steam, denying them API usage. Ironically, the only site they didn't ban is the flat out RMT site that allows selling skins for real money.

This post isn't the Nth copy-pasting the same news and adding some commentary from the butt of the author. It's about the API system that made gambling site developers to access game data for the operation of their software. API is a formalized protocol for programmers to write their own code to access an IT system. Using automated code to access a web database has huge advantages over using the default web interface.

"Using automated code to get huge advantages" in a video game is called "cheating". Having a level playing field is crucial for a game, so it makes absolutely no sense to give advantage to those who are capable of coding a third party application over those who use the game client. Actually in most games writing a third party application to get advantage is called botting or hacking. Why does the developer of the game create such tools? The answer can't be anything else than what the plaintiff of the CSGO case claims: "deliberately allowing the creation of a market where players and third-parties trade weapon skins like casino chips." My point is that there is no fair reason for public API to exist for a game and its existence is an evidence of the developer supporting shady or outright illegal third parties.

I will closely follow the CSGO case and when (I've yet to see a commentary from a legal expert who doubts the outcome) Valve and the various skin gambling sites will be punished for their activity, I'll inform the proper authorities that CCP and IWI are doing just the same, so they should use the CSGO precedent and press charges. When a CCP representative on record told that IWI is doing RMT and not banned for it, he acknowledged that CCP was aware that the IWI gambling is done for monetary gain and decided to allow it. I have no idea about Iceland law, but if a US or EU court decides against them, they can be banned from doing trade in the US or EU, even if they can't be touched in Iceland. Such case the banks are forbidden to trade with them, so they can't sell PLEXes and subscriptions in the EU or US. I would strongly suggest CCP lawyers to look into the CSGO case and to prevent their fall by quickly banning all "casinos" (illegal gambling organizers) from accessing CCP services. I'd also shut down the API as a whole because Lenny and his criminal gang will just change name and IP to continue operating.

How could this "skin gambling" get this far? Because lawmakers and enforcers see video games as children's toys and didn't bother to look into them, despite they are multi-billion dollar businesses. Devs were financially motivated to look the other way, since skin gamblers were paying players after all. Players who saw the problem didn't want to attack the game they love (hint: and this is why you shouldn't post a "highly defamatory diatribe" about them). The mentioned lawsuit was started by parents of a minor (who probably wasted couple thousand dollars of dad's credit card). I think if Valve had the decency to keep children out of their gambling activity, they'd still be fine.

For those who had doubts that "knowing the right people in high places" can save someone from meritocracy, this shall be a valuable lesson: there are people in higher places than a video game community manager. Like ... judges.

37 comments:

The Wulf said...

Actually, for single player games, APIs can be used to make modding easier. So, you should say that games with a dev controlled multiplayer don't need an API.

Hanura H'arasch said...

There are a few problems with your narrative of "public API means RMT":

- Valve doesn't have an (public) API for CS:GO. They have OpenID, sure, but that's needed for lots of other services related to steam.
The way these websites operated was by spoofing requests, essentially pretending they were legitimate steam clients.

- APIs aren't necessarily bad. WoW had them since forever, and I have never seen guilds use special private addons to give them an advantage.

- If you want to avoid APIs you have to deny your playerbase useful information. In EVE, nothing like the killboard analysis would be possible without it. Or any other kind of detailed performance analysis.

Gevlon said...

@The Wulf: good point, as I haven't played a single player game in 15 years, I simply forgot about them.

@Hanura: If these sites were operating without Valve support, Valve couldn't just kill them overnight, and they did.

topguilds ALWAYS use private addons for boss fights. They just publicize it after the kill. Just think: the addon is "secret" until the writer finishes is and you can't finish an addon without testing. The only guild capable of testing it is a topguild.

Our killboard analysis gave us advantage over players who did not have the ability to analyze the data. Sure, we CHOOSE to publicize it. But we could not. Or, simply lie. If I triple MoA damage, do you think anyone could/would check it? Just look at how many downloads your data sets got. And they were user friendly text data that anyone with a "Hello World!" programming skill could manage, not API.

dobablo said...

A open public API is an attempt to create transparency, giving all users access to all information. Is it the fault of the developer that some people are better at handling that data than others? (Yes, but an API is a step in the right direct).

Limited and controlled information leads to an adhocracy or oligarchy where the lack of knowledge inhibits the effective functioning of opposition groups.
Making information available through a technical, specialist or arcane format (such as most APIs) results in a technocracy. Due to the opaque nature of data only an expert can police the other experts and they have a vested interest in keeping the system operating with as few disruptions as possible.
To complete the pathway to meritocracy, information must be both available and understandable. An API is a start, but publicly available tools that make the data usable to non-experts are essential to the package.

Gevlon said...

@dobablo: The dev could write the tools faster than write the API. I'm 100% sure that publishing a monthly killboard results and a dump of all kills in a simple text format would be easier both for programming and for bandwidth than having the killboard API.

Above all: as the game take place in the client, all available data should be available inside the client instead of on sites (even on the official site). Technocracy in a game is harmful as the competitive players will not play but analyze data instead. A game developer should obviously try to make people play the game instead of using EXCEL. The various EVE metagamers who proudly claimed not to log in were actually lost customers for CCP.

maxim said...

Way too many misonceptions here.
Possibility does not imply probability or casuality.

The most fundamental misconception is "The devs could write tools faster than write the API". While the basic statement is true, writing an API allows a dev to outsource a good amount of less important codework to the playerbase. Is it easier for a WoW developer to write a single set of raidframes than write an API for raidframes? Sure. Playtesting raidframes to perfection over a great amount of design and tech iterations - not so much. However, the game is already very much playable with default Blizzard raidframes, so why spend any extra dev time on that?

Once you have 5-6 of these "better things to do" issues piled up, that's when you consider making an API for people to figure out their own solutions. Because while not any single feature is worth spending time on directly, an API that could allow the playerbase to solve all of them at once might be.

Second misconception is that Steam couldn't end all the sites it ended. That's not the way API's work. If someone is abusing an API feature, all it takes to break everyone doing the abuse is breaking the API feature. At some point there was a function in WoW that allowed actual scripted keypresses (as opposed to current system in which you need to actually do the player input to get the player input), so it was possible to write addons that actually played the game for you (auto-buffers and auto-debuffers mostly). One day, all of these were simply gone.

The fact that Valve didn't go around to breaking the APIs they broke sooner is not proof positive of any crookery on their part. They just had better things to do.

Finally, i am not convinced that log-parsing interface augmentations used by top guilds are cheating. Rather, this sounds like scrub talk to me. "Scrub" being the term defined by a well known designer of competitive games Sirlin (google "sirlin introducing the scrub" if you haven't before, you might like it)

Andru said...

I very vehemently disagree with your conclusion, because the line for 'meritocracy' is arbitrarily drawn.

Here's what I mean. You say that programming expertise is not 'meritocratic' because there's an uneven playing field.

But that applies to everything. Economic expertise? Un-meritocratic. People should 'play' the game instead of applying economic knowledge to get rich. Knowing what opportunity cost is, and how to keep accounting is obviously giving people who know a huge advantage over those that just 'play' the game.

Hell, if we accept this premise, we must judge most things un-meritocratic. Reading is unmeritocratic, because reading gives an unfair advantage over those who 'play' the game. Doing math is unmeritocratic, because it excludes those who have a life and only play the game and don't have time to add numbers together.

You see my point? Why should programming literacy be judged by a different yardstick? There's no such things as 'equal start' even in games, because everyone joining has a set of skills and expertise even from level 1 before killing the first 5 wolves, and some have a bigger (or more useful) skillset than others.

Either all real life skills are equally meritocratic, or NONE are. The latter is just absurd, which leaves only the former as a valid philosophy.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: if a default raidframe is written, than raidframe is written and case is closed. Allowing players to write a "better" raidframe means that some players will have access to better UI than others, which is unfair advantage, unless you claim that video games are "technical sports" like Formula 1 car racing, where pilot skill is secondary to the carbuilding team. Ergo, devs SHOULDN'T make an API even if it can be made with zero effort.

If you have "better things to do" than stop organized criminals abusing your system, then you are complicit. If an armed criminal is hiding in the bush of my yard and I don't call the police because "I had better things to do", I go to jail.

Also - again - my point is that writing the API in the first place had no legitimate reason, so having it is a proof that they were cooperating with the criminals. This is also the point of the lawsuit. It's true that the judge may rule otherwise.


Finally: I deleted too many comments citing Sirlin, so it's easier to answer it once and for all. (Note: Sirlin and my commentary is linked on the right side of my blog "Play to win" vs "Play for ego", you might like it). I AGREE that if an API, log, parse or whatever is available, than you as a player must use it (or quit the game) or you are a scrub. I did use the EVE API to make my killboard analysis and find results no one expected.

However AS A DEVELOPER, you should not allow players to use certain tools that are alien from the game. WoW should be a raiding game and not a logparse analyzer software developing game. By writing the API, the developer forces the competitive players to use it even if writing software is not their idea of gameplay. Even worse, I believe API is so powerful that someone NOT playing the game at all can be better in the game than those who play it (The Mittani for example)

@Andru: several games purposefully have no economy, exactly because economy knowledge is overpowered compared to the game. I earned 10-100x more ISK than those who just played EVE.

Reading is a baseline skill that every human should have and every game developer should assume its existence.

Similarly, basic economic knowledge is something every human should have, or he'll be poor in life. On the other hand programming skills are needed only for those working in the programming profession. You can lead a successful life without ever writing a single line of code, while you won't have a successful life without reading or basic economy knowledge, unless you are carried by someone.

l2pnub said...

The official (and plausible) reason why Valve provides APIs is that they envisage a time when steampowered.com will not be the only Steam "store front". They want to move in a direction where individual curators will be able to open their own store fronts powered by Steam but marketed individually to sell Steam games (which may not be called "Steam" games because they may be individually branded). Valve wants to get out of game marketing and move to become a digital publishing infrastructure provider.

Gevlon said...

@l2pnub: that would need their server program to be sold to other store users who run it themselves on their own store. There is no need for JoeStore to communicate with Steam, even if uses Steam engine.

Hanura H'arasch said...

@Gevlon: "If these sites were operating without Valve support, Valve couldn't just kill them overnight, and they did."

I do not claim that Valve didn't support these sites (by tolerating them). It's pretty obvious that when thousands of skins are traded over one account something fishy is going on. Meaning it's relatively easy to kill those sites off. However, none of this has anything to do with nonexistent APIs.

"Our killboard analysis gave us advantage over players who did not have the ability to analyze the data."

Sure it gave us an advantage, I don't doubt that. And an argument can certainly be made that games are better off without it. But in the end that's the game developers decision to make. Claiming that just because they did decide to implement it, they must be involved in nasty RMT is just not true.

"@dobablo: The dev could write the tools faster than write the API. I'm 100% sure that publishing a monthly killboard results and a dump of all kills in a simple text format would be easier both for programming and for bandwidth than having the killboard API."

It's actually not better for bandwidth, as a) you get high load situations at the end of a month instead of having it relatively even. And b) anyone who wants only a fraction of the information must download the hole dump, wasting bandwidth.

Anonymous said...

External shenanigans are exactly what's wrong with games today. Too bad it takes a lawsuit for people to start figuring it out, but it is what it is.

@Andru
>muh arbitraty lines
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/merit
"House cats are felines. Lions are felines. Therefore house cats and lions are equal." I hope you can recognize your ridiculous mistake with this. If you still don't get it, Gevlon (start at the 3rd and read your way up) and countless others have written about this very thing in WoW: when 90% of the game is about killing monsters and having better gear and rotation, and the last 10% throws all of that out the window and becomes a PLATFORMER, that is the problem.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
You are not really in any position to tell a developer what he should and should not do. The developer's decision to include an API (and thus require those who want to play the game at the highest level to use the API) is entirely at his discretion.
This is called creative license. You don't get to revoke it for any reason whatsoever.

You can complain about how you think the game would be better without APIs and stuff, but that's just expressing the scrub desire to play by pretend ruleset that includes the limitations which the game doesn't have.

Ultimately, if someone wants Eve without APIs, he is welcome to go out there and make one.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Your argument for "better things to do" is poor and relies heavily on a large amount of social assumptions. For example, where i live, i am not required by law to report anyone hiding in bush to the police.

You don't get to claim asociality and require companies to be socially responsible at the same time.

Ultimately, your idea of "no legitimate reason for APIs" is predicated on your own notions on what is legitimate and what is not for a game developer. Your notions are wrong and rooted in your own subjective opinion on what is best for games as a whole which neither i, nor any game developer i know of, share or agree with.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: I am in the position to notice something malicious, like the API system. While it's indeed the discretion of the developer to include API, it's my discretion to call him a supporter of criminals.

You still mix player and developer point of view. The "scrub" is a PLAYER who want to play the game with pretend ruleset. I never played EVE without API, actually I built my own tools and published large amount of killboard data that revealed hidden facts. A DEVELOPER (and anyone discussing development) on the other hand is setting the rules.

Actually I did wrong by playing with the API, despite I always considered it wrong. I should have done what I finally did: quit EVE, because that's not a good game, it's one where developers openly use their powers to meddle with player business. Of course it's not such mess because of the API, but it has API since it's an unfair mess.

While you are not required by the law to report someone hiding in the bush, I'm very sure that if the Islamic State would launch missiles from your tool shed and killed people, you'd have hard time explaining the judge and the public that you didn't do anything wrong by ignoring them.

My opinion is based on the definition of a game:
fun: the activity is chosen for its light-hearted character
separate: it is circumscribed in time and place
uncertain: the outcome of the activity is unforeseeable
non-productive: participation does not accomplish anything useful
governed by rules: the activity has rules that are different from everyday life
fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality

Programming third party tools is not exactly such activity, so demanding it makes a game just another IT job. Or you seriously call coding and maintaining for example zkillboard.com backend as "gameplay"?!

Antze said...

I believe most of your thoughts on the matter are very true, but you based them on some overstatement in wording (also, in the post title), and that's what caused the backlash. If you were more accurate, you'd win more minds this time.

As a game developer, who sometimes created public APIs in his life, I state:

- APIs can cause and often cause unfair advantage to players, and this is a problem (you are right to bring this matter to discussion), yet many devs are unaware or ignore it. It's also unrelated to any illicit casino activity.
- APIs NOT ALWAYS cause unfair advantage, if only nonessential functionality is available to an API, no harm is done, and there are some profits for the dev, in advertisement, PR and creativity areas (I might elaborate if required).
- Some devs deliberately make APIs to cause unfair advantage and introduce F1 World Constructors' Championship style in the game. For some game subscribers that's indeed "gameplay", or rather "metagame", and they pay for it and expect it, even if it's bad taste in game design and unfair to other players.
- Intrusive APIs (the ones who allow another endpoint to perform essential actions on behalf of players) will ALWAYS eventually attract criminal activity. That's no proof of malicious intent, but a point to hold the dev responsible for this, even legally.

"Having API is a proof that devs are cooperating with criminals" is not accepted by the readers, because non-intrusive APIs don't cause criminal activity (just bad game design and unfair advantage) and sometimes they don't cause even that. There's also a thing: when you write "devs are cooperating with criminals", people read "deliberately cooperating", while often it's rather criminal inaction. You should honestly just concentrate on "devs must be kicked painfully for that".

maxim said...

@Gevlon
API system is not malicious in itself. If you are using "can potentially be used in harmful ways" as definition for "malicious" than everything in the world is malicious and your definition is useless.
Malice is inside humans, not inside things.

I am calling you a scrub, because you are the player who wants to play a game by your own pretend rules, not by rules chosen by developer (a developer can be a scrub when he expects players to play nice in his game without putting in rules that punish or limit un-nice play. Most developers are not scrubs).

I won't have to explain anything to the judge or the public, because there is no law in my country requiring me to explain anything. To be fair, there might soon be, but not any i'm aware of at the moment. Whether to report stuff or not is entirely at my discretion. I will, of course, report stuff i personally find dangerous, but that's my personal moral choice, not a requirement by law. And, in my opinion, it is better left that way.

Your definition of game is not a definition of game any game developer i know of follows. To begin with, you are using "Fun" as a part of your definition, but "Fun" itself is not defined at all.

Also, yes, depending on what the specific person finds fun, maintaining a backend can be fun, separate, uncertain, governed by the rules and fictitious. It can even be unproductive.
The reason your definition of "game" doesn't work is because you are trying to define a game as something separate from a player playing it, and a game is never separate from the players playing it.

Don't believe me? Go play some Dwarf Fortress. And then read up the Dwarf Fortress wiki article on "fun".

Gevlon said...

@maxim: the game API is malicious because it can be used maliciously and cannot be used for any non-malicious purposes. Getting advantage in a game without actually playing it is a malicious act.

I don't want to play the game by pretend rules, I want the dev to change the rules. As they didn't, I stopped playing. Unless you call everyone scrubs who don't play EVE, I'm not. As long as I was playing, I used the API.

"My" definition of games is a copy-paste from Wikipedia.

My example with IS in your yard was incorrect, as Valve profited from skin gambling as gamblers had to buy game items. So the proper comparison is: you rent your tool shed for very high amount of money to the IS who then launch missiles from there. That is sure jail.

Also, there is no point continuing this discussion, as the CS:GO case is before the judge and will be decided.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Just because something is on Wikipedia doesn't mean it has been decided forever. At this point in time, there is no working definition of game, subscribing to which actually improves your ability to make better game. There are plenty definitions that reduce your ability to do so, though, yours among them

Apparently you will insist on saying that API's cannot be used for anything useful despite having a straight example in the comments to the contrary (Antze)

Wanting devs to change the rules is one of the defining traits of scrubs

Your "shed" example is, once again, flawed. A better example would be Valve building a huge apartment complex, renting out all the flats in it, with terrorist in question buying just one of the many. Are you seriously saying that every such transaction must require a background check on the part of the property owner?

maxim said...

Incidentally, i won't be surprised if the judge rules against Valve in this case. This won't be a triumph of justice, though. Just powers that be reining in the multibillion industry that up until now had little oversight.

Antze said...

@maxim: To be precise, I haven't provided any straight examples, they were mentioned under "I might elaborate if required".

There's no reason to redefine games yet, just because someone tries exotic approach. Some devs create absolute pay-to-win THINGS where players compete on who'll throw more money to the dev, shall we call those "games" as well? I'd rather not. While I'm way less aggressive against APIs than Gevlon is, he wants APIs abolished, and I just want them strictly controlled, but I never was like "embrace all APIs blindly as valid part of games", I mentioned dangers related to them.

The "huge apartment complex" example needs a correction: the terrorist buys one of the flats, then the landlord (Valve manager) sees some guys frequently moving some crates labelled "DANGEROUS EXPLOSIVES" in and out, and doing nothing, because these guys seem to be nice, and also advertise the complex to new renters.

There's no need to perform background checks on every transaction, but online casinos are rather like millions of transactions. They are advertised websites, known to players, devs must be incredibly incompetent to be unaware of their existence.

maxim said...

@Antze
Are you saying APIs need to be strictly controlled by someone other than the dev?

Antze said...

That's one a bit puzzling question. No, I don't say devs must give others access to their code repository so those others would design the API like they needed. I meant the API should be limited in its possible functionality (by devs), otherwise bad consequences spawn.

maxim said...

@Antze
I agree that devs should be careful in terms of what functionality they expose to APIs.

The point here is that Gevlon is applauding the notion of a judge interfering with development process, because what was developed has been misappropriated by third parties.

He is, of course, applauding it because he really believes Valve was corrupted by third party gambling. I don't think he presented enough evidence to make a solid case, so i am not happy thinking that a judge can just come in and start laying down the law on what game APIs can and cannot be created.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: if Valve failed to notice that some "players" are dealing with thousands of skins, then they probably shouldn't be developing anything. If they noticed and choose to allow it, they are corrupted.

We know for sure that CCP is corrupted by third party gambling as CCP Bugartist vented his frustration over it in public.

Antze said...

@maxim: As far as I know, judges never work to prevent crimes, they step in after the crime has been committed. Same thing with APIs, devs could and can develop anything, judges don't "interfere with development process", they judge the result.

"Devs are not responsible" reminds me of Isaac Asimov's "Little Lost Robot" paradox (quoting wikipedia here): "The robot could drop a weight on a human below that it knew it could catch before it injured the potential victim. Upon releasing the weight however, its altered programming would allow it to simply let the weight drop, since it would have played no further active part in the resulting injury."

Same, the dev implements an API with high potential of being misused because "hey, maybe it will not be misused, and I can ban the bad guys anyway", and then, when bad guys appear, "oh come on, it's all their fault". I believe if you legally own a gun but due to your mistake (you let a neighbour play with it) someone gets shot, it's not only your neighbour who goes to jail.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Sure, Valve and CCP are problematic. However, now we might see these individual cases being used to hamstring the entire industry.

It might even seem good to you now, given your definition of what a game is and ought to be.

Your definition of what a game is, however, will result in us seeing less and less good games and more and more formulaic pieces of garbage.

@Antze
I am not sure where you get the "devs are not responsible" quote. I certainly didn't say that.

Also, i am not sure how APIs are at all similar to guns. A gun can be used to straight up kill people, without any special effort or modification. An API cannot even be used properly if you don't actually build your own software around it.

At worst, one can treat APIs as a sort of controlled substance. The kind which is harmless on its own, but can be used in dangerous ways. You can manufacture said substance legally, provided you pass proper procedures and sell through approved channels. In the world of software development, these procedures could be similar to those, say, Apple enforces upon those trying to use the App Store.

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with a game that uses its API to allow players to play at a higher level. If anything, this possibility makes games all the more fascinating as a medium.

Antze said...

@maxim

>> i am not sure how APIs are at all similar to guns

Generally APIs aren't similar to guns. But I was referring to "an API with high potential of being misused", or, by my previous definition, "intrusive API", and I already stated that such API "will ALWAYS eventually attract criminal activity". I'm not exaggerating, I once worked on a game which had no API (those weren't big at that time) but had such game design which made it very easy to implement various automation. It ended in an uncontrollable mess of various farming and power leveling bots. The game was safe from the casino guys only because of being not very popular.

Such APIs are indeed guns, if you keep handing those to everyone out there, they WILL fire eventually.

>> there is nothing inherently wrong with a game that uses its API to allow players to play at a higher level

Indeed, but only if it's irrelevant for other competing players, or the game clearly states such feature (either "it's the game for coders" or "it's the game where in endgame you'll need a coder for your F1 WCC team"). Otherwise some players may dislike it, and you don't need to look far to see an example.

maxim said...

@Antze
Erm, your example of a bad API is a game without API? Obviously, if the game has no security at all, then it will be abused - API or not API. This is, however, not a conscious design decision in favour of having an API - intrusive or not. This is pure neglect.

Your metaphor of a "gun" doesn't work. It is currently on the level of "If you keep handing sugar to everyone, someone will eventually get diabetes". Sure, handing sugar to everyone is irresponsible, but a developer is not the parent of his customer base.

The notion of "some players might not like it" is weak. Some players might like it very much, should those be just given the finger?

Ultimately, i don't understand your position. Are you saying all APIs must be banned because of potentially bad things? Are you saying they should be regulated? How? Or do you have no position?

The only rational seed i see here is that having an API can, indeed, change the nature of the game, thus deceiving the buyer of said game. This is not much of an issue for me, personally (caveat emptor), but this is at least worthy of some thought.

Upon further consideration, a more interesting metaphor for all of this is drug dealing. An API provider functions as a sort of dealer, while API users are hooked up to(or rather, on) it. Then the big decision here is whether APIs are more or less harmful than, say, marijuana (which is sold openly and legally in many places).

Oddly enough, within that metaphor, i'd have to ban all APIs, as in my country all drugs are strictly regulated and cannot be legally trafficked outside of medical institutions (and, in most cases, not even there).

However, then i must ask the question - where exactly do we draw the line between an API and the actual game? Are you saying that all game-input-related automations are subject? Does that include, say, tool-assisted speedruns and such?
If you can't draw a straight a clear line, it cannot be made into a just law.

Gevlon said...

All APIs must be removed because some can be used for criminal activity and all can be used to get advantages in games without actually playing them. They have no positives. They were created with lazy and dumb ideas: that
- players will make quality tools which is actually developer job
- players will make these tools available to the other players instead of using them for advantage.

maxim said...

Your notion of "get advantages in games without actually playing them" is false. You can't develop an API-based application without extensively testing it within a game. You can't even formulate the requirements for such an application without playing the game.

Players are perfectly capable of making quality tools. You just don't like that players usually do so for entirely social reasons.

Players can and do share a lot of tools with each other. The fact that tip-top player organisations are slow with their sharing can (and usually is) rather quickly remedied by anyone who is at all interested in competing developing their own versions of tools that the rest of player population eventually accesses.

Plenty of good can come from a game having an API. It just needs proper regulation from the developer. Even the fact that APIs have been used in criminal activity is evidence of their potential.

maxim said...

I also invite you to show (possibly, in your subsequent posts), how APIs of games like Warcraft, Minecraft or League of Legends haven't resulted in quality tools or have served to reduce the quality of life of players without providing anything useful in return.

Your example of top Warcraft guilds using APIs is worthless, because top Warcraft guilds do not constitute a significant portion of the playerbase, have very limited influence in actual design decisions and do get reined in by Blizzard for misbehaviour and exploits.

Please do keep in mind that many related scenes you are yet to show any awareness of rely heavily on APIs, For example, Machininma scene

Gevlon said...

@maxim: of course the API user plays the game, he couldn't use the advantage. He also need to be a high level player to even understand the problem. So Lance Armstrong cycled hard and trained hard, him using steroids is fine.

API can result in quality tools, thanks to the social "good souls". Top Warcraft guilds are the "winners" of WoW. Claiming that they are irrelevant is like claiming that the Football World championship is irrelevant since only a tiny portion of football players participate.

But you still avoid the crucial issue: in a competitive game I must either do software development (which is a profession) or be at the mercy of my COMPETITORS that some of them are such a good soul that he hands me a copy of his IWIN button.

Antze said...

I'm suddenly able to formulate positives in APIs. As I already stated, these are advertisement, PR and creativity.

Advertisement/PR: a guy enters mmo-champion or some cross-game guild site, and sees a World of Somecraft gear calculator there. Another guy checks his twitter feed, sees a post with embedded kitten pics, then sees a post with embedded World of Somecraft character profile. "Wow, I should play the game!"

Creativity: a dev implements a complicated feature (guild interface, auction house, LFR tool) and initially has no idea what kind of UI would be better for players. So, the dev creates some basic UI and tools to create advanced ones. After players provide such tools, the dev checks the results and integrates advanced functionality in the basic UI as well.

Stating that such approach is dumb is non-goblinish. Devs save their money and worktime and can concentrate on additional game content. Basically everyone is doing that in the 21st century already. Yes, some dislike that devs don't "do their jobs" and use players for development, but creating a modern MMO is really very difficult, devs often just don't have 100 UI experts and 100k testers to "do their job", so it's either having crappy UI or having crappy UI and some API to have a chance to get good UI eventually.

If devs don't break the game by such approach, then why not? Again, as I already stated, this shouldn't mess with essential parts of the game. Boss fighting UI must be given solely by the dev, even if it's crappy: at least, it will be similarly crappy for everyone.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Olympics exist with the express purpose of testing the pure abilities of a human body. Steroids is a violation of that rule, therefore athletes that do it are banned from Olympics.

However, Olympics is also just one game (or set of games). Who is to say that a game that tests all human abilities with all possible augmentation is wrong? In fact, i'd venture to say that at this point in human history a game like that is starting become more and more necessary. Seeing as how we are getting more and more "augmented" whether we like it or not.

(( Incidentally, the current context is, rather curiously, the one where all athletes of a country that pretty much won the previous olympics are getting banned from the current olympics under dubious anti-doping reasoning being a paper-thin disguise for political pressure. So there is the other side of the coin you are not considering ))

When i played WoW, top guilds were irrelevant to me and most people i played with. We had our own successes at our own time. The fact that someone else won something else elsewhere neither increased our enjoyment of the game, nor diminished it. In fact, the instant people started caring too much about other people's progress is the instant the game stopped being fun.
Remember, competition is less than 1/8th of possible sources of fun. Reducing WoW to competitive domination is missing out on:
- basic non-competitive achievement
- exploration
- socialisation
- fantasy
- narrative (such as it was)
- pure sensory experience
- escapism

In fact, the big thing that YOU are missing is that games nowadays are mostly NOT competitive. The reason Eve playerbase rejected you was because you tried to reduce their playing experience to your competitive metrics and that simply didn't fly.

Basically, you are trying to force games into your own narrow vision of them. That's fine within your own blog, but that's not fine when you start calling for regulation on areas that largely exist outside of your narrow vision.

If you want to talk APIs strictly within competitive games - fine. However, you'll then need to differentiate between games that are sports and games that are like Eve in the sense that nobody is keeping any sort of official score and wins and losses are purely meta.

I am not aware of any API issues in current e-sports. CS:GO gambling debacle has not - to my awareness - touched the competitive CS scene.

And in games with win/loss conditions being relegated to meta, you'll quickly find that nobody is willing to take you seriously. Because if my win condition is friglolling with friends in Eve while being compensated by SRP, then there is nothing you can do or say to change that.

@Antze
+1 for API positives.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: "game that tests all human abilities with all possible augmentation" is called "real life".

I don't buy into the politics of the Olympics ban. North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and other harshly anti-west countries aren't banned.

If we talk about non-competitive "games", nothing matters, so the existence - or the banning of - API doesn't matter.

We agree on EVE. Like with all games most players are scrubs (morons and slackers with socials) who hate competitive players. What I didn't see is that the leaders are competing on the "who can make more money out of EVE" instead of "who can win EVE". I annoyed the first group and threatened the income of the second.

maxim said...

North Korea, Iran and Venezuela have not been named among the top 3 political threats by any significant politician.

Games that do not focus on competition are still worthwhile games. They are not, as you put it, "games". In fact, the only reason we even have current competitive computer games in the form in which they have taken is because we first had entirely noncompetitive "games" pave the way for them.

Your dismissal of noncompetitive games just reaffirms that you undestand little about why people play games - and why people make them. For example, Shigeru Miyamoto went on record saying that he wants to create games that are like a "miniature garden that they can put inside their drawer." Which he did with much success, through most of his iconic game design career. His games have been used as a material for competition, but only because a great amount of non-competing people loved them first.