How about a slightly different perspective? Maybe this belongs on Fatbabies, but I’ll post it anyway.

So let’s take a trip to a different land, a land of pure fantasy and conjecture. Yes, remember boys and girls, this is just a fairy story. Abashi and GMs aren’t real, and there are no dragons either.

Let’s visit a land where Verant’s employees are somewhat overworked, fallible, and sick, sick, sick of taking shit, day after day from unemployed dudes who have nothing to do but get strung out on caffeine and get burned by all the bugs in EQ 24 hours a day…

In an office, in a development studio, far far away:

A bunch of programmers at Verant are working away at the bug list.

The bug list is enormous, and they’re picking things that are either easy to fix and can be done quickly or that are really critical to prevent the game from being ‘sploited ’til it bleeds. They’re short handed because Luclin has stolen half their people, and some people quit to work on SWG/DaoC/etc. for more money and more senior positions.

The Sleeper’s script is not one of the priority items, and believing it functional nobody has touched it in months. They’ve completely forgotten that Velious was rushed out the door in a hurry to hit a deadline, and some of the high-end stuff got skimped on a bit. In fact some of it was never properly tested at all. Or that the sleeper script was hacked up by a junior on the live team a couple of months after shipping and actually isn’t scheduled for testing yet.

Meanwhile, in the deep dark depths of a network centre, on a server, something is stirring. Guild X, let’s call them Conquest to preserve their anonymity, has cooked up a plan to defeat the warders, or maybe they just want to farm the primal velium. A solitary GM is flipping through zones looking for something interesting to spy on rather than answering some boring petitions about stuck/invisivble corpses in SolB (ask a necro he thinks).

The GM checks the who list for ST, and it’s looking active. Lots of level 60s, and all from the same guild. A raid is on… He pops in to watch, unseen of course, and taps into the guildchat, which is already flooded with self congratulatory stuff on how l33+ their spell stacking knowledge is.

He watches them *not* being debuffed into helplessness when he’s sure they ought to be. Res effects and snare he thinks to himself. (He remembers readiong about how some of that is being fixed in the next patch). He watches the fourth warder not moving for 20 minutes. Pathing ‘sploit, he thinks to himself, and the guildchat seems to confirm there’s a little rule bending going on. We do have to wonder what’s going through the minds of the Conquest members present as the warder just sits there and lets them all rebuff and prep when it ought to be ripping them to shreds and summoning all and sundry.

There’re none of the boss people about, just some other GMs. He spins around his swivel chair and asks them what they think about a guild killing the fourth warder with a bunch of cheesy tactics – becaue by now they have moved onto the fourth warder, and it looks like they might win. The other GMs, well, they think that’s bad. ST is *special*, it’s not Vox, if they wake the Sleeper, people are going to notice! They joke about stuff liking waking the sleeper, banning the lot of them, etc. It’s not that they hate players, but day after day after day they see the very *worst* of the EQ playerbase, beggars, cheats, exploiters, whiners, aggressive, egotistical little shit thirteen year old brats trying to tell them that paying $10 a month makes them a little god. They think back to that lecture when they started where they were told that after network costs, and all that, maybe a dollar of profit is left, maybe two, depends on which accountant you ask. Bottom line, no more GMs will be appointed, so they better make their time count. So when he tells the other GMs about the clerics under the bridge, they all agree it’s an exploit.

It’s late, and he’s had too much coffee, and not enough sleep. The dog has fleas, his girlfriend is sick with flu, and it’s just not a great day for our beloved GM. He’s not thinking too clearly, but he knows he has to do something. He doesn’t really understand the details of the Sleeper script: this stuff is secret after all, and he wasn’t sure if he even dare ask about it. He might get accused of leaking info or something.

Nonethless, the GM decides to act to stop this potential disaster. He either kills the warder or wakes the Sleeper (facts get a bit fuzzy). Either way the sleeper pops and everything goes a bit wrong. The raging human sets about the remnants of Conquest who were being snuffed by the warder anyway.

Crap, thinks our friendly GM. I’d better cover my ass here. I’ll look a complete idiot if I let Conquest cook up a coherent story and lie their way out of the whole thing. It’s *obvious* they were up to no good, and they have it coming…

When Abashi pops into the office after a long lunch, he scans the boards, and it looks bad. Outlook is taking a while to fetch all that new email, half of it important, half of it annoying spam about the Conquest situation from all over the company, and from those annoying parasites: journalists.

He discounts the journalists and instead emails the lead on the live team to ask if the sleeper script is OK. Naturally the live team lead doesn’t have a clue, but he thinks it ought to be, so he emails Abashi that it is fine, and working as it should.

A few days later the excavation continues, and it seems that Conquest weren’t aware of what the warden was doing while they were buffing, and while their tactics were borderline, they’re supposed to be illegal. The Sleeper script has been found to be broken, and fixes are going in – but with the new oober warders it should be months before anyone gets past them. They have plenty of time to run a test, when time allows. In the meantime all efforts are on the pet aggro code, and they only have one tester left ‘cos the Luclin team stole the others. It will be weeks before they can get enough people together to properly test raid tactics.

Alas for the tiny slip, the typos and rushed work that went unfinished when the programmer hurried off to watch Planet of the Apes with his old college buddies. That little pet aggro bug that didn’t seem a problem because you had to be a sharp player to spot the change just became a bigger bug. The wrong file checked into version control, or a value was from 0 to 1 when the programmer thought it was from 0 to 255. Whatever the case, pets now aggro like crazy.

And so the warders fall again, and the avatar of war, and so on and on…

And the oober guilds are farming everything they can get left and right, and enchanters are suddenly being dragged out of retirement, because the loot is PHAT. Even the level 44 druid that only got to come ‘cos they are a friend of the leader got primal.

And so Abashi says the script isn’t broken because his live team told him so *again*, and you’d think this time they would get it right? And the live team lead isn’t going to explain to Abashi why the script may still be faulty, because it can’t be properly tested for another three months. Everyone covers their asses and reminds themselves that a year from now nobody will even care what stupid guild got themselves banned for what was almost certainly an exploit of some sort. Hey, it’s not like you’re not allowed to kill the mob with less people, but you shouldn’t be able to unless you’re pulling some trick.

So while the programmers and the testers, and the overworked GMs all try to make it work (and cover their asses anyway) they know no matter what they do every web site will hate them. The journalists will vilify them, and players will bitch. Players always bitch, and the bitching is a good sign. When they stop bitching it’s either because they’re not interested in the game, or they already left it. The bug list lives happily ever after, always too many bugs, too few programmers and far, far too much content for anyone to really have a clue what’s broken and what’s not.

As for our friend the Sleeper, he’s waiting for the players to solve the quest that will finish the circuit and put him back in his box, warders and all, and until that time no primal velium gets farmed. A win for everyone who isn’t in an oober guild.

Not to say that his script will work, because it’s still not been tested, but the live team lead isn’t going to tell Abashi that, it’s just not worth the effort. Instead he spends 30 seconds telling junior programmer number three that it better be fixed this time, and goes back to Project 2000 to see if there’s any way he can possibly get it tested before Xmas.