Saturday, March 07, 2009

Think Things Through or Your Head Asplode!

One of the things that I think I am good at in video game design, is seeing where a certain system’s desired behavior is actually going to have a completely different outcome in game. Everybody wants to be able to get the most out of something with the least effort and players are notorious for being what we call “Min Max’ers” meaning "Minimum effort for maximum reward."

You don’t have a fee to put something up for auction in your MMO auction system? You want to be nice to the players so they participate in and stimulate your in game economy? Unfortunately, that means the auction system is going to be filled to breaking with absolute trash items; because why destroy something when there is a chance somebody will buy it for a few coins? This happened in Star Wars Galaxies. The database filled up causing it to be painfully slow, you couldn’t find anything of actual value that you may have been looking for and the auction system was useless.

They also allowed players to name their auctions. It defaulted to the name of the item you were selling but you could change it. I suppose because they felt that people could enter things like “buy my crap item cheap!” but instead players named their auctions item names of other more valuable items and scammed people. This was not helped by having crap items and very valuable items share the same inventory icon such as the Holocron which gave you a clue to unlocking your Jedi character. Oh and it didn't filter the auction name through a profanity filter the outcome of which I don't think I have to elaborate on.

Sorry didn’t mean to pick on ol’Star Wars Galaxies, but I sure wasn’t about to list examples from game’s I’ve worked on. Those are mine or my friend’s mistakes! Seriously, what were you thinking?

Anyway, the point of this post was that we are currently seeing an example of this in Utah State Senate bill HB 353. On the surface it says that retailers who advertise that they don’t sell age restricted games to minors, and are caught doing so, will be fined and opened to lawsuits. Critics point out that what will really happen is all the work the industry has being doing to promote its voluntary rating system, educating retailers, etc. will get for nothing because it will be easier (minimum effort) for retails simply to stop advertising the rating system and stop promising they won’t sell restricted games to minors. The result would be (maximum reward), no danger of falling foul of this legislation because Bob, the minimum wage clerk at the register, who really doesn’t give a damn if little Timmy buys a copy of “Headshots II: Your Head Asplode!” for his PS3 despite your advertising, company policy, and that little meeting you had.

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) has written an open letter saying pretty much that which you can read over at Game Politics who has been tracking the passage of this, "feel good, oh won't somebody please remember the children, waste of tax dollars, look at what a good politician I am taking care of you, crappy legislation." It has links to the bill itself as well.


BugHunter said...

Don't blame me! I voted against all the encumbants.

As a Utah resident I must say that we have a fair number of extremists on both ends of the spectrum. State wide, the social conservatives have the majority, hence this bill. If this were just Salt Lake City, this law wouldn't stand a chance, there would be some sort of "Children free night at the strip club, in it's place."

Salt Lake has an unreasonably severe immoral backlash against the local dominant religion.

Joseph B. Hewitt IV said...

Does Utah still have the highest teenage alcoholic rate despite all of its anti-alcohol legislation, less alcohol per content beer, no advertising of alcohol, etc.?

Anyway, Matt Peckham of PCWorld just chimed in on the Utah bill, saying what everybody else in the industry is saying:

The non-cynical view: H.B. 353 is an attempt to pull game ratings under the umbrella of Utah's prevailing "truth in advertising" guidelines.

The cynical view: The bill's promoters are trying to backdoor anti-ESRB legislation by using a potentially over-broad state policy to increase governmental control of private sector activities and declare self-regulatory triumphs null and void.

Full article here:

I can't remember how to post a URL again, it keeps telling me the reference isn't allowed.

BugHunter said...

Joseph's link

I don't keep track of any stats about Utah (I'm not sure I doubt the alcohol thing though). I don't put much stock in stats anyway, because there is usually no context. For instance it was once said that Utah has the highest teen pregnancy rate. Well, the additional facts would tell you that a majority of girls in Utah get married long before they turn 20, and don't have premarital sex, so the stat isn't as immoral as it at first sounds.

Again the alcohol statistic could just as easily be explained by the fact that our most populated area is very anti-mormon, so doing anything in contrary to the mormons becomes exponentially more popular. I wouldn't put it against typical teenage behavior to rebel against their parents either, and in Utah's case, one of the things parents push is "no alcohol", so that's an easy thing to rebel against.

As for the legislation, our politicians are stupid. I can't think of a single elected official we (Utah specifically) have right now that isn't a duplicitous, manipulative asshole. Then again, maybe they're just following the communistic example set by Washington. haha!