The oldest known tablets of actual human language are all about the same thing. They have been discovered in the mountains of China, the sands of Egypt, and the crags in South Dakota. From the moment he first learned to speak, and to record his words into clay, man realized that without a code of law to govern, and without elders capable of enforcing this code, there could be no tranquility. As the world is chaotic by nature, without the relentless infliction of order, he was destined to return to the caves and caverns of his early ancestors.

Today, we live under a enforced code of law that attempts to legislate ethical and moral behavior. It remains virtually unchanged in the entire history of human development, from the moment the first cuneaformic runes were pressed and baked into tablets. We have the whole of history to look to for examples of what happens to even the greatest of empires, when the law is not enforced and the people are left to their own accord. Every fallen nation and every defeated empire shared the same pattern. They started out with a clear and direct code of ethics, and it was enforced without reservation. With time and luxury, came complacency. Complacency bred apathy, and once apathy has it’s grasp around the throat of a civilization, it’s statues are destined to topple. Those who have no problem violating the law, will do so with abandon. They will run amok in the streets, and those who choose to adhere to the law regardless of any lack of enforcement, will either move away, or die.

Nearly every large city on the Earth today is suffering from the same disease that toppled the Roman Empire. Crime unpunished has so rotted the inner cities, that those who are able to move out, do. As crime spreads “to where the food is”, people move further and further away from the inner cities, leaving behind only those who simply cannot leave, and those who choose to remain and enjoy the life of crime without consequence. There are portions of every major city where the local law enforcement does not go – they have surrendered these territories, and have taken the struggle to the suburban regions where the war against crime has not yet been lost.

The great boast of Asheron’s Call was the fact that they didn’t punish bug abusers, publicly stating that bugs that remain in the code are the fault of the developers, and efforts should be put into place to fix the bug, rather than spend time addressing the bug abusers. This is the equivalent of letting bank robbers walk free with their lucre, because you’d rather invest your efforts into improving the security measures of the bank vault than putting the thieves in jail. After all, could you not argue that had the vault been properly secured by it’s “developers”, the robbers wouldn’t have been able to steal any money?

What this does is issue an open invitation to the “ethically challenged” members of society, be it online or real. As we’ve seen in our inner cities, this will ultimately destroy any sense of security and protection the honest players ever had. They will feel vulnerable, and inferior because they refuse to break the law. Ultimately, they will pack up and leave, surrendering the territory to the lawless. Ultima Online came closer than most people realize, to turning out the lights and locking the doors. Cheating was unbridled and unpunished, and the “victims of crime” were moving out. They realized that in order to remain in operation, they would have to be proactive against exploitation and bug abuse. This decision was difficult, but it was one that saved Ultima Online.

We drive cars on paved roads, fly across the ocean by the hundreds, and send explorers into space almost monthly. We have come a long way since leaving the crags and caverns, but not without paying a high price to enforce and protect the fragile balance between order and lawless anarchy. We have fought bloody wars over it, but survive to this day because we have our record of history as a barometer. Essentially, we continue to learn from our mistakes and armed with that education, continue to advance as a civilization. Asheron’s Call has the history of Ultima Online to look at and learn from, but for some reason has decided to ignore the costly lessons already learned by Origin Systems. Rome ignored the same lessons, and now tourists flock to look at it’s ruins.

Turbine fiddles while Asheron’s Call burns.