Greedy Goblin

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why games and devs must meet high moral standards

It's strange to read "moral" on this blog, so I must explain why I am so obsessed with rigging and improper dev behavior. In normal everyday life you can ignore how people behave because you are protected by laws. Just because you have a hunch that your car mechanic isn't the beacon of righteousness or you hear rumors that he hates your face, you can safely bring your car to him. He won't cut the break lines because that would be long time in jail for him. He won't even do sloppy work because you can sue him for damages. If your coworker is "toxic", you can go to HR and he gets counselled and after repeated incidents, fired. If your company fires you for no reason, they still have to pay you the severance fee written in your contract.

I could repeat it till the end of times, but the point is simple: people you encounter are forced by laws and contracts to not harm you. Except game devs. There are absolutely no laws against damaging you in games and the contracts you sign by accepting the EULA are clear: the company owns everything and you are entitled for absolutely nothing. For example in the recently purchased beta Albion Online, I must forfeit my right for refund before even trying it out for a minute:

People sign such unfair contracts, because games aren't essential, most people don't care much and would just say "meh, uninstall" if the game - for any reason - is unsatisfying. But this means that a dev is absolute God above your in-game self. He knows everything about your in-game activity, he can do anything he wants to your in-game self, and you can't do anything to him.

It is possible that in time, the video gaming equivalents of sporting laws and contracts will be implemented. If you cheat in a sport game, you can be sued for serious damages. Rigging games can get you jail. Independent third party organizations like WADA watch over fairness of games. In several sports you must have government license to be able to organize events. Try hold a boxing game without license and off you go to jail.

But for now, the only way to enter such relationship besides the casual "I can't care less what happens", is complete trust that the devs won't screw you for any reason. If you have reason to believe that they aren't entirely fair and benign, you must stay away as you are at their mercy if you enter their game. This is why I'm so paranoid before being invested into a game. I must be sure that the devs are morally above defrauding me, because the law won't stop them if they want to.

I'm fully aware that expecting high moral standards is ridiculous, just as Derek Smart (the guy who caught the $100M Star Citizen scam) said: "Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead ...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them." Tomorrow comes a post with a possible angle to legally address the problem.


Provi Miner said...

Why? what are you trying to do... you sign the contract/agreement/eula if you don't like what it says don't sign it. Am I missing something here? did someone force you to sign the eula? Were you under duress? if not HTFU buttercup. Seriously, is it the game dev's fault if you didn't read the eula? is it there fault you don't like the outcome? did they make a promise in writing (not implied, or verbal) that they have not met by some standard (be real clear here your expectations do not constitute the threshold of liability, rather a legal determination of what was promised and what was delivered).

Honestly, I am all for not getting screwed hence only agree to what you are willing to accept.

also be dam careful of the slippery slope, lets assume we build in "laws" protecting people from the game dev's the follow on is people being protected from people...

One night in Albion a warrior (who for weeks/months forever) enters a fight with his normal battle cry "Allah Akbar" only this night another warrior is in the fight as well (however this warrior is the son/daughter of someone who died on 9/11) they have a panic attack and get hurt. Wow because of "safe for all laws" not only is the game liable but so to is the warrior. Every protection you can imagine and come up with will be abused.

Then you have the "not our fault" consequences of the Law. In other words unless it is strictly written in you have no protection and no expectation of protection or support:

Lost all your stuff sorry no agreement between us say we have to do anything about it.

Let me give you an example: A town sued a manufacture for chemical dumping, the manufacture in turn accepted that in deed there was dumping but everyone did it so every one should share the clean up costs which the courts agreed with. Household received a share of the bill because they threw away batteries, pens, used ink cartages, cfc arosol cans and so forth. L

be dam careful what you ask for because you just might get it

Be dam sure of potential blow back that turn your "good" idea into a nightmare for everyone else.

Gevlon said...

I'm fully aware what I'm signed. I'm just saying that such contracts would be illegal in other industries (try writing "by opening this box, you forfeit your rights for refund" on anything), therefore I must either don't care about what I get in the box, or be very sure that the creator of the box is trustworthy.

Marc Ricard said...

It seems like you have long ago forgotten that these are just games you are talking about. Games not sport regardless of what riot/blizzard/twitch tries to spout. As with any game if you don't like it don't play. You talk like you can show a deeper meaning to life in things that are meant exclusively for fun. If you aren't having fun it may be time for a new hobby bud.

Anonymous said...

There are many things we accept in one industry that we would not accept in others. The most obvious example is software. Would we accept any other product in the state that we accept software?

How many software companies go bankrupt after thousands, or millions of their clients have information taken due to holes in their security?

How many get taken to court? Anyone been taken to court for sub-standard products over the Target hack last year? We accept software being shipped sub-par, with known security holes, in a way we would not accept for other goods. Are there standards for what level of security a piece of software must have before being released to the public?

How about smart technology for our homes, any recalls for issues with those? Any upgrades? How about the cheap ones most people have? Are there standards for what they must have?

Anyway, on topic: "If you open the back of this laptop, the warranty is voided"

jim said...

I do realize what you are trying to get through here BUT do you really trust the LAW-Writers that much?

Now the whole industry is working in a open-market state per say. Meaning that it auto-regulates itself (or maybe it should).

Gevlon said...

@Marc Ricard: we are talking about a trillion dollars business.

Lorelei Ierendi said...

I am very proud of you for writing a post about Moral game devs without mentioning that game you are never going to mention again... I appreciate how hard it must have been for you.

I think consumer protections should be such that the basic right to a refund cannot be prematurely signed away... I think some countries have this level of protection already...

Gevlon said...

@Lorelei: it's an industry wide issue:

Tithian said...


Relying on auto-regulation for anything is lunacy. Would you live in a country with no police force, in a self-regulating society that depends on the goodwill of your neighbour to not be a dick (i.e. anarchy). Even families have laws (house rules), why would it be otherwise in a field that is about to become the #1 entertainment industry worldwide?

Anonymous said...

At this time the game is still raw, developers openly state that you are participating in a game that's not ready for shipping to the masses. So the warning about giving up the rights for a refund is just a reiteration of the obvious. You are buying a beta game that's not supposed to meet your standards, however high or low they are. And, frankly, what you are really buying is an opportunity to experience the game before the masses and a small head start for when it gets a full release.

Smokeman said...

I don't think Gevlon is talking so much about actual injury here as much as product satisfaction.

A company that is striving to put out a quality product that fulfills the advertised promises should not be afraid of saying "If you don't like it within 'x' days, you can have your money back."

They WILL get returns. It's their job to manage their quality level to limit the returns to a manageable level. With software, this is not an expensive proposition, per se... they didn't ship a box of expensive to make parts to the customer, they sold the customer a redemption code. Nulling that code and having the computer cough up another one to try to sell to someone else costs very little.

That said, a lot of games are badly designed, and have economies that can be abused by "free" players in that pre-return period. People will (As you would expect) manipulate that flaw to abuse the game's economy then return the product. Well, that's on the game company and they deserve to get roasted for putting out such an incompetently designed product.

By letting software makers put out crap and then hide behind a "no returns" policy promotes low quality moneygrabs like... well... many games.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: and what if the game will never be published, so my experiences are not "before the masses" but "about something that never sees the light", like Star Citizen, that collected $100M for absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

I think you are still confused about what you think you are buying and what you are actually buying. SC is an example of "playing the man". Star Citizen has been selling a warm and fuzzy dream about the ideal space MMO. They aren't selling a game. They don't have a game to sell. WoW has a game to sell, Eve has a game to sell. SC has a far fetched dream of immersing you in a very detailed, almost movie-like world for hours and hours to come. 100M is too small of a budget for it to ever become a reality. Hell, you can't even make a decent blockbuster movie for 100M. And a movie will only last a couple of hours, with a small potential for rewatching it in a year. And the developers probably know that, but at this point it is too late to stop. That's why they keep posting encouraging videos about the progress, keep creating new goals, and that's why they sell ridiculous game packages for thousands of dollars. And I bet their EULA is the same as any other game in the market. They cater to insane and detached.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: if I cater to "insane and detached" and sell people the dream of living as a rich man, I soon find myself in jail for running a Ponzi scheme.

vv said...

From my experience (5 years in game development, all F2P PVP games) fair games just don't fly. Most players are M&S, they won't stay if they're being ganked by good players and told "L2P" or "git gud". Good players just can't support even relatively small game. Few companies like Nintendo and Blizzard don't have such problems, but you aren't them and even they want some extra money. So there's no real choice right now. You can create unfair game or you can go and look for another job. In single-player and narrative-driven games things are different for now. But it's pretty hard to sell them and you must finish everything before launch. That's a pretty big gamble. It's easier to launch something that has basics and then look how players react.

Regulations for this would be good for at least removing "Skinner's box" kind of "games" without any real gameplay. But I'm afraid it will lead to smarter ways to make games unfair. Those regulations must work for entire world somehow. You can host game in any country you like. And your game will be in bad position in coutries without such regulations. You may even decide to develop games only for those countries.

maxim said...

Moral standarts are a social construct.

Actually enforcing morals on a purely legal level is strictly impossible - loopholes can and will always be found. Such an enforcement would require an executive arm in a form of an organisation similar to a church, complete with a full blown military order of what amounts to crusader monks to punish the transgressions.

Where do i sign up? >.< :D

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: I am not disagreeing, and may be jail is the future of Chris Roberts. For selling a $160 digital flying vessel without a game to use it for. Albion Online is different. They do have a game. Albeit, you won't know if you like it or not until you burn all the bridges of getting your money back for the beta-testing opportunity. By the way, how do you like it so far?

Druur Monakh said...

On a side note: "Can you imagine more casual activity than school sports teams?"

That is because school sports are about two things
- getting the kids to do some physical exercise
- teach them to enjoy physical exercise
- and teach them to enjoy competition as such.

The last one is probably the most important; and kids need to experience both wins and losses in a constructive way, if you ever want them to be competitive in today's society. They'll be cut-throat competitive amongst themselves in no time, without external meddling. And the cellphone thing - I bet you just made it up for effect.

Re: @vv: A player who just ganks and spouts "L2P" and "Git Gud" is not a good player - that player is just lazy. ... while technically they may be good at the game, they are no longer challenging themselves. They are the exact antithesis of a competitive player.

Anonymous said...

Lenard French is a copyright attorney that made a great video on this very subject. He mostly states that you are correct and that these terms don't actually hold up when pushed.

Check out his video on the subject.