First, Absor posted a note from the nameless “Everquest Customer Service Team” that reads:

There appears to be some confusion regarding the second part of our Account Security Statement. We therefore would like to take a moment to clarify our position.

“(2)Any and all stolen and/or compromised accounts that are reported to SOE will be banned, and no items will be reimbursed. Any player found to be involved in an account theft will have any and all of his/her accounts banned.”

Prior to banning any accounts reported as compromised, we will conduct a thorough review of the accounts in question and determine the appropriate course of action on those accounts. Accounts will only be banned based on information gathered through our investigation and not merely as a result of external allegations.

This convinces us that the Everquest Customer Service Team is really this guy. Translated into English, the note reads:

Holy shit, actual journalists are asking questions about this now. OK. Let’s say something. Um. OK. If we ban your account we promise we’ll only have to ban it if we look at it first. Wait, no. Um, we won’t ban an account if someone else tells us to, unless we look at it. Hmm. Oh hell, run it by legal, they’ll come up with something.

Seriously, what they’re not telling you (and God only knows why, unless the folks in EQ CS are violently allergic to actually making sense) is that the problem trying to be alleviated with a Verant-style sledgehammer is that of ebay scammers trying to get their account back by reporting it “stolen”.

So remember – ebay bad, you can’t tattletale someone into a banning, and Lady Daegarmo is scary. Next up on the Price is Right…

Conquest! That’s right, just like Mystere and Tweety, Conquest is one of those one word reasons why people don’t send Verant money now. This bothers Verant, since for some reason they’d really like you to send them money. Maybe it’s so they can save Trivial Pursuit. In any event, Brad McQuaid has been waxing positively eloquent on the subject of exploits and why you should not like them.

From reading all of the public info on the Conquest incident, it seems to me that these guys simply took advantage of holes your programmers left in the game. If an NPC can’t summon or move for X seconds or due to Y geometry, um, tough titty to you, Kitty–fix it. If you leave it in, you can’t ethically blame someone for taking advantage of it. It’s your responsibility, and you’rs (Verant’s) alone, to make the game unexploitable.

Agreed to a point, and expanding on that, it’s Verant’s responsibility to make sure we are offering an entertaining and fair play environment for our customers. And so we fix bugs, and we also crack down on players who would use bugs to cheapen the playing experience of others.

And I disagree it’s unethical to blame a player for taking advantage of a bug. If a person leaves the door open at their place of business, thereby creating a hole in the company’s security, yes, it’s the person’s fault for doing this. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok for someone to come along and enter the building, taking advantage of the open door. He gets blamed too.

Now, if players change the code, hack it, or abuse other players, disciplinary action seems warranted. But to even bother suspending players whose only real “crime” seems to be to take advantage of coding problems on your end–well, you’re asking way too much of your customers.

But taking advantage of coding or data problems can in some cases ABUSE OTHER PLAYERS, which is the point I apparently failed miserably to communicate, because it keeps coming up, not just in your email but in others.

Once you create the world, it isn’t yours any more, just like when a novelist writes a book. If someone wants to interpret The Stand as an allegory about French cooking, there’s nothing Stephen King can do about it. Yeah, an online game isn’t as passive as a book, but it’s the same concept. You guys seem to be holding on way too tight. Who cares if they “exploit” the flaws in the programming? Turn off the zone, fix the flaws, and go on. Every single exploit you guys identify should be seen as an opportunity to improve the game or refine it–that’s good, and it’s your right. But to discipline players for finding your mistakes\’e2\’80\’a6 man, that’s pretty low.

Again, reading a book is not a shared, community based experience. Misinterpreting a book, and for a better analogy, cheating in a single player game does NOT hurt the play experience for others. But, and this is the key point here, cheating in a shared community based online experience DOES.

Thankfully, enough email came into Verant that they were able to select ones that completely missed the point… namely, at what point does something no longer become a tactic and becomes cheating? It seems with uber-level encounters, the answer from Verant is “when you don’t die”. I eagerly await kiting, using jboots as an instacast spell item, twisting bard songs, feign death pulling, and signing up for Anarchy Online to all be declared exploits.