Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Auto-Petting Zoo

I did not want to do a post on auto-petters or their effects on the game but after Catherine's last blog post, the one HERE, I feel like I have to. I would never have anticipated the scope and ferocity of the backlash  and what I have seen myself, only a small fraction of what Team Meeroos must see daily, saddens me. Malevay Studios has given us this incredible adventure. It is more than just a creature and some support props, this is the real deal: an immersive experience within Second Life, an adventure with a story and its own planned evolution. I think some people have become side-tracked with banalities and forgotten what Meeroos are all about.
I want to start by saying that I understand why people want auto-petters, I want one. I understand why people bought them, like I say; I want one. I do not hold anything against anybody for using one. Neither scarlett nor I have every used one and my reasons are simple: I have never thought that Malevay Studios endorsed or in any way was OK with them. I could not figure out how they worked, until the "Take-the-HUD-Apart-Yourself" one was released. Then it became even more obvious that it was not an entirely ethical product. I think it should set off alarm bells for anyone when a Creator asks you to dismantle another Creators product to make theirs work. That is akin to selling prefab houses and mentoring your customers in how to steal a door script or a window tint script from another vendor and use it in their new home. It is just not right. Not on the part of the customers who may not have known better, but certainly on the part of the offending Creator.

My general approach to creating and distributing Meeroos related products is that if I even suspect Team Meeroos would not approve: I do not offer it for sale. That is why I have never offered a Treasure Finder. I noticed shortly after Open-Beta the treasures were modified so that their name is no longer what type of treasure they are when they are just sitting around. If you touch one it reverts its name to "Rotten Banana" or "Tin Can" but for the rest of the time it is called something random "g7ie45" or the like. Well it may not be random, but it appears random to me. That was a subtle signal that Malevay Studios did not want third party Treasure Finders since they took steps to make creating them more difficult. I decided to spend my time developing other products and chilling with my Meeroos.

I do not understand the position some people have wherein they think that because a thing can be done it should be, or at least it is allowed or acceptable. Meeroos are not a secure system, they are not banking software, they are incredibly detailed and complex breedable pets, I am tempted to add: for crying out loud. Just because there are, or were, ways to hack the HUD and make it do things it was not designed to do does not make doing so permissible. While Malevay Studios is responsible for their product and keeping it fair for everyone, they should never be required to obtain perfection. The steps they have taken to protect their products, and their players, are sufficient; for me. Malevay Studios has a finite amount of resources, they have to allocate them to various aspects of the game. The more time spent perfecting the security of the software the less time spent developing new features and fixing non-security related bugs. Tiger has obviously spent some time on security to protect ethical players, who are the vast majority, from the unscrupulous ones. I think he has done a thorough job: all Meeroos products seem to be able to protect themselves and even auto-ban players who tamper with them. As new hacks arise they will have to be patched, that is the nature of any system humans will attempt to circumvent. But let us let Teem Meeroos focus on the Meeroos. How many un-patched security exploits are present in Windows today? Can anybody even count that high? In my opinion Catherine and her team have a firm grasp on the relative importance of various exploits/bugs/features. I trust them to triage new threats appropriately and will leave them to it.

What can they do now that the damage is done? I am still saying "What damage?" myself, but perhaps I just see things a bit differently, or am less effected than others. I know there are now two (2) tiers of players when it comes to Regard: those who utilized the auto-petters when they were under review and those who did not. There are some players in that top tier, the one with the auto-petter users, who have never used one. Some players I have talked to gained incredible amounts of Regard through completely legitimate means. I know one woman who was setting her alarm clock every four (4) hours just to log on and pet her Meeroos. That is devotion. I want people to be aware that when they talk about dealing with people with extraordinary Regard that group includes players who gained Regard without effort and players who worked hard for every point, gave up sleep, gave up their L$ and their time to gain those points. I know Team Meeroos has considered how  their choices in this unfortunate circumstance will effect those players, I hope everyone does.

I had someone tell me in group chat the other day that Regard is now worthless. I disagree. For one it still has the same effect on breeding, giving higher Regard players and Meeroos a nudge in the rare traits direction. That will soon be enhanced when the Regard level cap is raised to thirty-five (35). As I recently discovered the breeding boost is dependant on the regard level you are on, not the number of Regard points you have. Once a player reaches level twenty-five (25) they have achieved the maximum boost currently possible. Having millions of additional points has no effect other than shooting you to the top of the levels any-time the level cap is raised. Malevay Studios has even addressed that issue, and levelled the playing field more, by saying that after the cap is raised this time Regard points themselves will be capped when you reach the maximum level [in this case level 35]. That means that nobody will have an insurmountable advantage when the next level cap increase occurs.

Catherine says they are looking at ways to re-balance the game, and revitalize Regard. Will their solution be perfect? No, I doubt it. The damage, what there is of it, has been done and done intentionally. Remember that disrupting the game and its mechanics was the aim of the extortionists. They found a tiny crack and did their level best to pry it open. I feel they failed and Team Meeroos has prevailed. They are clearly going to great pains to make whatever they put in place as fair as possible to all players. They have shown that they are listening and understand by putting the Wee-Mee back into development and working to release their own stop-gap auto-petter. Both much requested by the community, myself included. I totally need a Wee-Mee in my life, well Second Life.

The way Catherine ends the blog post referenced at the top makes me sad because I wish life were not like this. I wish everything directed at Malevay Studios, and any creator, was positive. Even criticism can be stated in a positive, or at the very least impersonal, way. I find it is best received in that form. Sometimes tempers will flare and one might misspeak, or go on a tirade in anger. That I understand, and the more responsible among us generally apologize for and retract words they do not mean. The length and breadth of the rants I have seen over the auto-petter issue boggle my mind, some of them are beyond reason altogether. That same final paragraph also gives me great hope as well, it tells me that my faith is fortuitously placed as Catherine says: "Whether we have 5 or 5,000 people with us on this adventure, our path won't change. We'd rather have five of you with us enjoying what we do, then 5,000 people who don't and make us miserable because of it. We're going to fight to maintain our vision, because, at the end of the day, it is ours." Bravo Catherine. I concur with your sentiment one hundred percent. To anyone who said "You killed your game" I say to you: you must have overlooked a few of us; scarlett and I are still right here. Meeroos are far from dead, they are after all immortal. I can not promise I will be in the final five (5) players but if it comes to that: I intend to be.

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