I was really excited to discuss DDO races this week, but this week's problems left me thinking long and hard about the dynamics of player/developer interaction in this game. Check out that handy comments section at the end too, because I'd really love to hear what you have to say on the banning issue.
Follow along after the break, then weigh in!
You are banned. Wait, just kidding!
I woke up Wednesday morning to several emails from people saying they had been banned for abuse of an exploit. Several things about this were strange to me. First, and I know people say this all the time, but one of the emails was from someone whom I cannot imagine taking advantage of an exploit. Second, as at least one banned player pointed out, the bans began coming down in the evening around the time customer management was closing. Third, the bans seemed very arbitrary. Many players teamed with friends for the event, with the entire group sticking together and participating in the same place and fashion for the duration, but only some of them were banned. Finally, the bans came down on November 9th -- an awfully long time after the Endless Night event ended. Something was definitely not right.
Of course, players flocked to the official forums, posting right and left trying to find out what this mysterious exploit was and what on earth was going on, only to have the threads repeatedly deleted by mods. Eventually, Tolero posted an announcement explaining that it was an error. Everyone affected could expect the ban to be lifted and 100 Turbine Points to be credited to his or her account.
I was lucky in that I was not affected, but I was a very interested bystander in this. Once the solution was found, my mind turned to a different angle.
How could this have been prevented, and what can be done to keep it from happening again?
First and foremost, mistakes happen. I absolutely do not fault Turbine for this error. Yes, something went wrong. Things go wrong unexpectedly in every industry -- we need to just expect it and deal with it. What's important is how everyone reacts afterward.
On the other hand, let me repeat something important: I understand player frustration. The banhammer comes flying out of nowhere, you didn't do anything wrong that you are aware of, and you're left to sit in the dark. Even worse, you try to discuss your situation with other players and figure out what's happening, but every conversation regarding the issue is deleted.
I respect and admire a lot of what Turbine has done with both DDO and LotRO -- I'm a big fan of both games, and I respect that they handled this problem so quickly. Acknowledge and apologize for the mistake, fix it, and offer a little gift to those affected. If you have a problem of this magnitude, this is exactly how it needs to be dealt with.
"It's frustrating and upsetting to be punished when you don't understand what you did, and even more so to ask for an explanation to no avail. "
Someone -- anyone -- at Turbine needed to take 60 seconds to make a forum post to the effect of "We are aware of the bannings and are looking into them right now. We will let you know as soon as we know anything, so please don't flood the forum with new threads on the matter."
One Massively reader commented that players should never be treated as adversaries by developers. I don't think that anyone at staff sees the player base this way -- whenever I've spoken to Turbine staffers, the overall impression is that they are thrilled about all of these players and want to give them an exciting game.
However, I can easily see why the players feel that Turbine sees them as adversaries. Communication during ongoing problems is spotty at best, and this latest incident highlighted it really well. It's difficult to feel any other way when you have been banned with no explanation, and the only reply to your attempts to figure out what happened are further disciplinary measures on the forums.
Again, let me reiterate: I highly respect both Turbine and the fans. My point here is not to flame anyone on either side -- my point is that there should not be sides in the first place. When the doors of communication slam shut in circumstances like this, it draws an us-vs.-them line that should never be there.
I feel pretty strongly that players have no business making unreasonable, angry demands and threats of developers, but at the same time, I feel pretty strongly that when there is a problem, they deserve to be kept appraised of the situation as it affects them.
I also feel pretty strongly that I want to know what you think would make this sort of situation better in the future! Hit that comment button, and I'll see you next week!
Exploring Eberron is a novice's guide to the world of Dungeons and Dragons Online, found here on Massively every Friday. It's also a series of short summaries of lower-level DDO content, cleverly disguised as a diary of the adventures of OnedAwesome, Massively's DDO guild.