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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | June 14, 2002

PQ Mailbag

The Intro, in which the sidekick is revealed

Sorry, people, no surprise guest sidekick this week. Just Dire Hamster again, and he's really not much of a surprise. So, to make up for it he's promised to be twice as foul-mouthed as usual. I can hardly wait!

Question of the Week

In a nutshell - global server that tracks your (recent) behavior and reports it to servers you're logging onto. Pro or con? Here's what a few people had to say. First off, a lengthy missive from our old pal Phoenix.

From: Phoenix
Subject: Global Player Profiles

Do we REALLY need more centralization online? Do we really need more centralization for ANYTHING? We get enough of it in real life, and the LAST place I want red tape is playing games. That's holy ground you're digging into there. CD-keys to help protect a gaming company's income is not a hassle in my eyes, but a centralized database that decides if someone can play is going WAY overboard. Granted, nobody likes llamas/cheaters/name-callers/whiners, etc, but how much is too much regulation? When I sit down and want to frag I don't want to have to register with some "Master Control Program" that decides if I should/should not be able to play. I can see endless headaches from such a system. What if I can't connect to it to authenticate me while I could normally just connect to the game server and thus am robbed of the opportunity to frag in yet another new way? What it it crashes? What if some llama hacks into the database and wipes out everyone's profile? Who decides what's lame and what's not? If I whine about my ping once in a game will I get banned off of every server in existence? If I REALLY want to kick someone's @$$ who's being a jerk will he suddenly pop off the server with a "user has been banned for excessive lameness" message, robbing me of the satisfaction of pounding the little camping bastard into the pavement?

I think this is a really, really BAD idea. I hate cheaters, campers, and llamas and I will mercilessly hunt down (or try to anyway) ANYONE who's using a cheater bot but I do occasionally whine because like many fraggers my connection is less than favorable. Sometimes you just want to say something about it, even if nobody cares, it relieves the frustration a little, and no harm is done. Excessive whining is pathetic, but if someone can't stand a LITTLE whining now and then they have issues. There are also times that you NEED to talk smack, which is part of the game, especially if someone else is being a real jerk at the time. Note that by smack I don't mean racial slurs or other kinds of hate-speech. If people don't know that racism, etc, is wrong by now then they really need to be rounded up with the rest of the Nazis and shipped off to a prison camp somewhere before they go out and hurt someone for real. No, I think a better way to deal with llamas is what my friends and I usually do. If someone's being a complete jerk on the server we go from a FFA to a 4 vs 1 team deathmatch. That usually ends the lameness in a fairly decisive manner. It's also what God made BFG's for.

a madman: All right, let's take a step back and look at the big picture here. You're wanting to play a game of Quake 3 with some buddies. You fire off an instant message to a friend through AIM asking if he wants to play. He posts a quick note in your IRC channel asking if anyone else wants to join. You fire up Gamespy Arcade, find your server, and log on after having your CD key authorized and validated to play.

Still with me? At each and every step of that process, you were going through a centralized server. Your IM service logs onto a central server to see if your friend is online, and several of these services allow other people to create warnings against your profile and prevent you from sending messages. Of course, the terms of service for these clients also allow them to terminate your account at any time without notice. IRC servers can also deny you service at any time, as can the channel ops of any channel you may happen to be visiting. You rely on a centralized service to keep track of which servers are running, and the CD authorization server can certainly deny you the right to play a game you have purchased. A "karma server" wouldn't even add another layer to that.

So in other words, if that's holy ground I'm digging into then it's already been paved over and covered with a strip mall.

Dire Hamster: Ok, so apparently I wasn't quite clear enough when I first suggested the idea. Basically, IF a server bans you, and IF they decide to do so with a warning, THEN you get a black mark. You've gotta admit, if someone gets banned for swearing, they must have ed up pretty badly. The next time you log on, the global server loads the number of black marks you have, along with the rest of your profile. Since there's already a global log-in server in place that authorizes the CD Keys, this would not exactly be that difficult to set up. Now, when you try to log onto a server, they look at the number of black marks next to your name and decide whether or not they want to let you in. Probably the minimum number of marks the server could set would probably be around five. Anyone can get one or two marks, just by accident, or a server that happens to be an asshole, but someone hovering at twenty or thirty would have to have some serious social issues. Diablo II already had something pretty simmilar to this with its realms games, and the warning system with AIM was nearly identical. I figure it's only a matter of time before somebody in the industry figures this out on their own, and from there, it's another year or two before it becomes universal. But regardless of what changes are made in the industry, one thing does need to change: more servers need to start posting lists of what behavior they will and won't tolerate with their daily messages. That way there can't be any confusion as to who gets banned.

a madman: I see this as being an opt-in system - somewhat like Diablo 2's Realms servers, as DH already mentioned. You can play on public, anything-goes servers, but a lot of people are probably going to choose to play on moderated servers. You make a player profile with your CD key as the unique identifier, log in when you hop online, and either stick to servers where you know you can get away with swearing or try to keep it at a level where you won't be voted off the server. Or, to put is more simply (since it apparently sounded too complex for some readers), it's a way to give a kick vote/ban more than just a local impact.

I really don't know where everyone read "automated chat filtering for servers" into this - it isn't a bad idea, but that's a completely different issue. Filtering what you say, or better yet allowing the clients to filter it to their own tastes, is a good idea but not in conjunction with automatic banning.

From: alex moscovitch
Subject: Question of the week.

The debate you guys have been waging is one Ive thought of many times.

Now, in general, I feel any trade off of freedom/privacy for security will result in a reduction of rights without any real security. Cheaters keep getting better, and that will never stop. They'd just come up with a way to fool the authentication servers, and then the rest of us, the honest game players, have sacrificed our privacy for no real gain. I also am against "automatic computer"- anything, because unlike electronics, people do not obey rigid procedures. AIM's warning server drives me batty, because i can keep warning someone for no reason and it will ruin his iming experience. Any computerized server trying to police itself would not take into account intent. Would this server ban me for calling my friend, in a facetious and harmless way, "You ing queer!" after he railed me twice on dm17? Cause at LAN parties that stuff happens all the time. I use vulgar words daily in my speech, and also in my chatting. I have no problem with any speech; i don't ever remember hearing that saying "shit" causes cancer, or that racist/homophobic/sexist speech will hurt someone. It is action that hurts someone, and frankly, one cannot commit action over the internet. This is electronic gaming!!! If your feelings are hurt because of what a dimwit playing a pickup game of Quake said, immediately destroy your computer, because compared to the internet, Quake is G-Rated. The Internet is a microcosm of society, and in a society, there will be a number of real shitheads. I live in NYC and, frankly, there are some horrible people here. But as long as they don't hurt anyone, i, as someone who truly loves the Constitution, grant them their right to be assholes. its just like that scene in ghostbusters 2. There is no way to keep people accountable for their actions if they don't want to be.

One of the basic principles of the internet is being faceless. Anonymity and privacy are rights that I feel one should have. I also believe in free speech. I am an American, and as such I think that Mr. 31337Haxord00d has every right to say what he pleases, and following that, I have the right to reply in a witty and probably terribly offensive fashion.

If you want to eliminate hate and cheating from quake, you'd have eliminate those desires in the real world, and that's just not possible. My solution would be to have server admins actually administrate their server, and discourage the behavior. I would also be all for particular servers being child friendly, or something, but frankly, the root of this problem is that racist/homophobic/sexist/etc. people have children who inherit that behavior. And regulating mating practices is Big Brother at its horrible, horrible worst extreme. Any attempt to inhibit free speech violates the principles of the US constitution, but also the open spirit of the net. As many horrible sites as they are on the net, I consider it to be the pinnacle of human technology. It enables discussions like this, something unthinkable in the past. Just as in NYC I gladly put up with some jerks to have the privilege of being in the best city in the world, so too i accept that popups, banner ads, corporate evilness, and, yes, morons playing multiplayer games, exist on the internet, because so does all of what makes the internet the finest communications medium save talking. Self regulation is the solution that makes me a good new yorker, and it's what will make good quakers.

So by all means tell someone to shut up if they're being ignorant. Hell, Ban the offender from your server if he keeps breaking you rules. Just remember that you are playing a game. Have fun. Also remember that words are just symbols, and have no intrinsic meaning until you decide what it is. "Sheep" could stand for a type of gumbo just as well as a cute wool-bearing mammal. You've just decided it means a mammal. In summary, good and bad both exist in life and all simulations thereof. By being good yourself, you're leading by example. And, if you see someone saying stupid things in a quake game, frag the er. it's that much more satisfying!!!! In fact, i encourage people to always go after those who would camp/be ignorant/ruin the fun. Enjoy your freedom to do so.

a madman: All right, this letter is WAY too long and rambling to respond to in one chunk. So, let's start with the first bit - "It's ok to say whatever the hell you like on the Internet." It isn't true in the real world, so why should it be true online? The only difference is that if you call someone a dipshit online they can't punch you in the face like you deserve.

Dire Hamster: At any rate, I'm not so concerned with the twinks who run their mouths online as I am with those who play the game for no other reason than to ruin it for others. Honestly, I rarely have the time when playing online to read the text in the upper left corner, let alone the inclination to do so. Why are you even touching the letter keys? Jesus, the game is Quake, not Mavis Beacon Teaches ing Typing!

It's not even the cheaters so much as it is the assholes. I have seen people grapple themselves to the pedestal in so that their team can't cap the flag in threewave, people who knock their own snipers off of the nest with concussion grenades in Q3F, and people who hop onto the server just long enough to roast the reinforcements with their flamethrower on RtCW. Death by disembowelment would be too good for such people, but seeing as how that's not going to happen, I don't see any reason they should be allowed to continue displaying their unique wittiness online.

a madman: The problem is, even IF the server has voting enabled, they can just jump onto another server and continue their hilarious hijinx. It would really take some doing to get banned from all 2700+ servers, and in that time they managed to piss off a lot of people. Does their throwing down $50 for the game give them the right to devalue the $50 I spent for it like that? No ing way.

Dire Hamster: Sort of like those assholes who come in with their ing laser-pointers in the movie theatre. If they were to just get some ushers to come in and crack their skulls wide open with a mag-lite, by the end of a few months there would be no problem, because they'd all be dead and the gene (We'll call it the "movie laser squad" gene) would have been bred out. They need an excuse to mop those floors anyway.

a madman: Right, but back to the point. The beauty of this system is that, unlike systems like AIM, only one asshole could ruin your rating - you. It takes a very special breed of stupidity to go back to the server you just got kicked from 12 times in a row. If you get kicked from one server, that's not going to be much of a problem. If you've gotten kicked from 10 servers in 4 hours, you've obviously got some kind of mental problem that prevents you from acting like a normal person. Thus, you should be separated from those that do.

Dire Hamster: Oh, and you're not going to get voted off of a LAN. That's a beauty of a LAN. If someone mouths off, you can just throw a brick at their head. Thus, by removing the anonymity of the game you make it more like a LAN - but with less brick-throwing. It's just like that scene in Ghostbusters 2.

a madman: So, in conclusion, you should learn to stop thinking things are right just because you do them.

Dire Hamster: Before someone throws a brick at your head.

a madman: Right. Just like that scene in Ghostbusters 2.

And that was just the warmup...

Next: More feedback! From mostly literate people!

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