This post is a bit of a ramble and quite a long way out of current Flame of the Month topics. I’m not a huge fan of jumping directly into hot topics which are generating flames. I prefer to wait until the embers die down because only then can you see the heart of the issue. I believe that this leads to a better view of the heart of the issue, certainly in the long term.
Back when I used to Dungeon Master for a Tiny and short lived D&D group the concept of “The Intent and the Letter” was very important to me. You see, like every D&D group we had “that guy”. That guy was always trying to subvert his way around the campaign rules, to bend everything to his advantage, he strictly followed the letter of the law, but blindly ignored its intent.
At Fanfest 2013 Myself Arian and Lore played the Conquests board game. During the game, myself and Arian got caught up in a cold war of troop escalation on a massive scale. As a result of our border posturing, Lore began to run away with the game. To try and counteract this myself and Arian forged a temporary Alliance. The terms were simple: We agreed not to directly attack each other, and that no further troops would be placed into any system which bordered the others territory. During the following few years of the game, myself and Arian began steamrolling through Lore’s territories attempting to stop him from finding the last piece needed for victory (we ultimately failed in this). However during the process I, without thinking, placed a large number of troops in a region; with the intent of attacking the bordering region belonging to Lore. Strictly I had broken the terms of my Alliance with Arian, as the region also bordered one of his. Lore noticed this breach and pointed it out. However Arian, clearly seeing my intent elected to excuse this breach of contract and the Treaties held strong. I had broken the letter of the law, but the not the Intent.
These are simple small scale examples of how the Intent and the Letter differ from each other in terms of Rules and regulations. They are clear and concise in a way that large scale real world examples are not. Suppose during that game we had been, instead of people, a committee. Suppose that the game actually took a few years to play, and that during that time old members of the comities left the game, and new ones joined. Would I still have been excused my breach?
At this stage I am sure you have realised that this post is about the TOS changes made to eve a little while back. I don’t necessarily have any issues with the actions of CCP during this minor controversy, but I do have issue with a continuing pattern concerning the rules of this game. CCP seems to have been writing the rule of the law, but telling us that we should not worry about breaking it so long as we follow its intent. A prime example of this is the “cache scraping” rules. “Technically”, CCP says “Cache scraping is against the TOS. But don’t worry we won’t do anything unless you do something really bad”. To me this is a terrible way to write rules. How can we the players define what really bad is? Clearly botting is on that list, clearly (for now) eve central is not. But the line in the middle is as clear a mud. Indeed I doubt that even CCP knows where that line lies, until some unfortunate player crosses it. Furthermore, how do we know that in five years’ time CCP won’t be under the steer of different people, who suddenly will hand out ban to previously “innocent” users of cache scraping, pointing at the rules and saying “we made it clear from the start!”?
“You see that apple?” says god “The rules of this garden are that you do not eat that apple. But actually if you eat it for a good reasons, that’s ok. I mean, if you run out of food or something, you can totally eat that apple (as long as you do it in a good way), and I probably won’t do anything, although I might change my mind at some point on this one…”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is some kind of conspiracy to subvert eve into a soft play venue, if CCP wanted to do that, they wouldn’t need to be subtle about it. Let us not forget that letter or Intent notwithstanding, CCP has the same power over eve that a dictator holds over their citizens. The law is laid down to help the people know down which path survival lays, but if the man with the moustache decides you’re for the chop, no rule book will save you.
My worry is that CCP is accidentally laying a path that will in the future lead to hell: funnily enough I believe that CCPs use of intent rather than letter is pure (or atleast innocent). I suspect that they simply don’t know any better way to deal with “grey” activities in the game, and so have elected to use intent as a way to govern on a case by case basis. Intent however is not solid enough to stand the tides of time. So my issue stands on two fronts: firstly that verbal contracts are not worth the paper they are written on (yes CCP has assured us in writing on the forums, but you have to wonder why they haven’t just what’s on the forums in the TOS? Legal wording not withstanding). Because the assurance is unofficial, and not in a clear format, it will lose value over time.
Secondly, I believe that the TOS, just as with real law, should give the people it controls a clear definition of right and wrong. It should be designed to deal with 99% of cases, and then intent should be used to govern the 1% which fall in the grey area. This way everyone knows where they stand. Unfortunately, the cache scraping change (and shortly I suspect the impersonation changes) govern 80-90% by the intent, and 10-20% by the letter. If tomorrow I were to come up with an ingenious method of using Cache scraping to make Trillions of ISK, without automating my play, where would that fall? Ask 10 players and get 10 answers, ask 10 GMs and get 10 answers. The dice rolls.
Fly like a space lawyer