Huh. That sentiment pretty well sums up those days when despite thinking you’ve heard or seen it all, something pops up that takes you by surprise, something you never would have expected. EverQuest II just recently pulled that off with its latest announcement of a separate prison server for all the marauding miscreants. The news has actually been quite thought-provoking; I personally am still not quite sure what to think about this development. Upon first hearing about it, my opinion didn’t immediately polarize one way or the other. Instead, I’ve been pondering it from various angles. Is the idea the best thing since sliced bread or the heralding of the apocalypse? Is it even possible to pull off? Can paid prisons keep problem EQII players in their place and out of the hair of the rest of the population?
Producer Holly Longdale called this little endeavor an experiment, so time will tell what the actual results will be. But while we wait, we can analyze and attempt to prognosticate on this fascinating idea!
The whole premise behind this prison experiment is that problem players can be managed through outright removal from the general population instead of a ban or deletion. All those who misbehave enough to make life miserable for others will be shipped off to a new server, Drunder, to play out their days amongst other troublemakers. Players who earn this change of address are ones who violate the game’s Rules of Conduct, AFK Policy, Terms of Service, and/or EULA — even the Naming Policy! And this little gift to the rest of the EQII playerbase comes with a strict no-return policy; once an account has been flagged (the full account, not just a single character), there is never any way to move a character off Drunder or make any new characters elsewhere.
Apparently, GMs have requested just such a solution for years now. It’s no wonder — who hasn’t had to ignore or turn off chat at times because of the vile putrescence that has poured forth from the mouths/fingertips of others? You can only take so much ism-filled vileness before you want to physically start knocking some sense into the perpetrators. And how many of you have had your gaming interrupted by botters or griefers? I know folks who have even experienced some pretty intense harassment that is difficult to escape.
Obviously most players don’t want to share their game time with people who make them miserable, and conjuring up a way for the maladjusted, can’t-play-nicely-with-others crowd to disappear sounds like a sweet slice of heaven. Sadly, sometimes the best way to get away from these game-ruiners is to leave the game yourself. Now that was certainly counterproductive to the community! Why would any company want to see their loyal players leave because of such treatment at the hands of others and watch their work devolve into a cesspool of degenerates? No amount of revenue from the troublemakers can be worth the loss of reputation and non-problematic customers (and all the revenue they represent).
I’ve heard the argument that studios don’t want to lose money from subs/cash shop as the reason why nothing is seemingly done about goldsellers, bots, and the marauding miscreants that poison the community. I know it is actually much more involved and that there are a bunch of factors involved (wrongful bans would suck , too!). Daybreak’s proposal addresses this facet in an interesting way, effectively asking, why can’t we have it both ways?
This prison experiment actually includes a way for the company to continue to make money from the troublemakers while saving the rest of the players from their antics: The problem children will have to pay for the privilege to play! Like the TLE servers, Drunder will be subscription-only. That means those who didn’t play nice will have to pay for Daybreak’s All Access pass in order to access their characters.The rule-abiding community gets relief and the company gets cash, it’s a win/win situation, right? Now the big question is…
Will it work?
While some in the community are heralding the idea as a great one, others express their thoughts that it is doomed to fail. But both groups are wondering the same thing: Will this experiment actually work? Is success a probable — or even possible — outcome?
Obviously, as EQII is a free-to-play game, determined offenders can easily just make a new account to continue their shenanigans on the live servers. Some players are understandably concerned about this. With the pay barrier combined with the ease of starting over, what’s to stop the problems from resurfacing under new names? Truthfully, there are undoubtedly those who will go this route — but will the numbers be significant? I can’t see into the future, but I think that Daybreak is banking on a few things to help mitigate that.
For one, some trouble makers are actually still in the game not because they totally thrive on the tears of others but because they actually really like EverQuest II. Losing all your characters, all the gear, goodies, and vet rewards you’ve accumulated — that can be a major blow. I know some have countered that remaking and leveling is super fast now, but reacquiring all you’ve lost is not!
And don’t discount the allure of the lawless server. Many times troublemakers really enjoy their spotlight. These trolls enjoy getting a rise out of people with their antics. Some of these folks may actually revel in having free rein to do as they please. Heck, I know some people who would be interested in poking into such a server, just to feel the freedom of no rules for a bit. However, I’ll warn you that this is not a decision you want to be making for a little look-see: Once on Drunder you can never, ever return. Even if you request to be flagged for the server of your own volition instead of violations, the remainder of your EQII life will be spent there. Maybe your best bet for that little walk on the wild side is to get yourself a new account and ask it to be moved to Drunder; then if you really love it so much, you can always ask for your main account to join you there later.
Some have raised the concern that such a prison server is actually a poor use of resources that is taking away from other areas that need them. I don’t see this as the case. Creating a new server is not that big of a deal and is likely already done; with the merging of servers devs can just use one that is already there but wiped clean as the new repository for the troublemakers instead of shutting it down like the others. Additionally, the tech work to fully save all the characters for easy legitimate transfers has also already been done, so moving problems from live servers to the prison won’t require anything extra.
But what about the time that customer service has to spend on doing that? Look at it this way: Currently the CS GMs have to devote attention to these problems quite a bit. Once the problem is moved to the prison, however, they won’t have to deal with them ever again because remember this world has no customer service intervention. Time can then be devoted to other things! The amount of resources dedicated to the misbehaving masses will actually be reduced (though never eradicated).
While there are aspects of this prison experiment I am intrigued by and hopeful about, there is one glaring concern that it raises in my mind: how the sentence will be levied. The initial announcement wasn’t very clear on the actual qualifications that will get people the boot. Yes, we know which rules must be broken, but there are degrees in those infractions. Who will be made to stand in the corner? Is it a three-strikes-and-you’re-out kind of deal, or is it once and you’re done? Will the length of the laundry list of violations be tied to severity, and who decides what is severe and what isn’t? Is the move to Drunder on the whim of one single GM, or is there oversight? And super importantly, since there is no customer service, does that mean that a person cannot petition to have a wrongful moves reversed?
We’ve seen instances when overzealous game employees have appeared to have a vendetta for a player or brandish their powers a bit too enthusiastically. There are cases when simply the wrong thing was input, or even a glitch or bug causes an issue. Heck, even I have been wrongfully banned once in another game when I logged in while on a business trip for MassivelyOP in another country because a system flagged my account as stolen! If there is no customer service intervention, does this mean that players have no recourse to petition a possibly wrongful move to Drunder? While I do have confidence that most GMs will do their jobs to the best of their abilities (as they undoubtedly have been for a long while), I do want the assurance that there is an appeal process for when mistakes happen (as they undoubtedly will). After all, what is a prison system without justice?