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Andrew Phelps Andrew Phelps is an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, NY. He is the founding faculty member of the Game Programming Concentration within the Department of Information Technology and his work in games programming education has been featured in The New York Times, CNN.com, USA Today, National Public Radio, and other publications. Email: amp-at-it.rit.edu
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November 25, 2003

I Saw God and I Killed It

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Posted by Dave Evans

There are two very distint crowds that play games, the 'casual gamer' and the 'hard core gamer' - or at least thats what the gaming industry says. There is probably a third category of 'I want to be a hard core gamer but I'm an adult and have a life'. We'll talk about that some other time. In any event, the casual and the hard core. I consider myself to be fairly hard core, only because I (a) love playing games, and (b) play them a lot. But I saw the true die hards last week, and I saw just how little the gaming industry understands some of them.


Ghenwivar writes 'On monday November 17th, in the most amazing and exciting battle ever, Ascending Dawn, Wudan and Magus Imperialis Magicus defeated Kerafyrm, also known as The Sleeper, for the first time ever on an EverQuest server. The fight lasted approximatively 3 hours and about 170-180 players from Rallos Zek's top 3 guilds were involved. Hats off to everyone who made this possible and put aside their differences in order to accomplish the impossible. Congratulations RZ!!!


My hat goes off to you. They killed what Sony Online Entertainment intended to be unkillable. But rather than actually make it untargetable, Sony just gave it a ten billion hitpoints. For those non EQers out there a reference scale: a snake has about 10 hitpoints. A dragon has about 100,000. A god has 1-2million. This sleeper thing really does have about ten billion or more. It took close to 200 players almost 4 hours to beat the thing down into the ground.


Why, you might ask, would anyone waste four hours of their life doing this? Because a game said it couldn't be done. This is like the Quake freaks that fire their rocket launchers at their own feet to propel themselvs up so they can jump straight to the exit and skip 90% of the level and finish in 2 seconds. Someone probably told them they couldn't finish in less than a minute.


Games are about challenges, about hurdles or puzzles or fights overcome. To some players, the biggest hurdle or challenge is how to do what you (the designer) said couldn't happen. If you are making a game, accept this. Now. Why do I say this?


Lets back up to November 16th when the same 3 guilds on Rallos Zek made their first attempt on the Sleeper. They beat it down to 27% and then it mysteriously disappeared. Without dying. It seems that one of the Game Masters at SoE reset the zone because 'they thought the encounter might be bugged' (or, more accurately 'we realized these guilds were going to win, and the Sleeper isn't supposed to be able to die'). Wrong move. Seriously wrong move. First off, realize that a group of players like that, once they have set their minds to something, will keep at it until either the game is modified not to allow it, or until they kill it. Second, this reminded me of a similar incident when I was ten and playing Dungeons & Dragons with the kids next door: my character found a way to get the treasure without killing the big nasty thing that the GM had designed, so he made a stone block fall on my head and killed me. Seemed rather unfair at the time, and this smacks of the same disregard for the players ingenuity.


Sony eventually relented, gave the characters involved back some of their experience, and got them safely out from under the dragons feet. (They did know that they would try again, and had probably already made up their minds to allow it). The damage was done, a level of trust destroyed. Poofing the sleeper said 'we do not really understand why you are doing this, so stop it'. A supposedly PvP server bands together 200 people. The chat channels across the server were ablaze as no less than 5,000 of us listened in with 'OMG They attempting the Sleeper! Good luck d00dz!' Everyone clustered near their screens, sharing the thrill of the fight, the nobility of the attempt and the courage of those brave 200. Play slowed to a crawl on every server as whispers turned to shouts, as naysayers predicted 'it cant be done' or 'it will drop a rusty level 1 sword' and most of us just held our breath, silently urging them forward. Rumours abounded: 'If they win, the whole EQ world stops and you get the text from the end of Wizardry 1' or 'If they win, the president of Sony will log on and congratulate them'. With thousands watching and waiting, the Sleepers health inched ever downward.


Almost three hours into the fight, when victory looked possible, he disappeared, violating every rule in the world of Norrath on how a monster is supposed to behave. We thought you understood us better. The fact you let it happen the next night means very little - the point is on that first magical evening when warriors rode off to battle the supreme, you meddled. They thought of something you didn't, something legal by the rules of the game you set forward, and you meddled. In the parlance of the world you created: "shame & ridicule".


Oh, and God drops no loot.

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