Does ‘news’ about bugs mess with our gaming?

Quick post: In today’s SWTOR patch, a bug has been fixed in which one of the social emotes messed with combat.

Yes, it’s bad and needed to be fixed quickly, which is happening. But what intrigues me is how many news sites (like Massively, RPS etc) posted up about this bug as part of their news cycle yesterday.  As a player, I would usually assume the polite thing to do is quietly inform the devs about any bugs, and not tell absolutely everyone else on the planet first so that they can mess with the game too. I’m not sure how that exactly would apply to news sites, but it felt odd to me reading stories that seem designed to encourage players to use exploits in a recently released game.

Do you feel it’s legitimate news, or are there ethical issues around publicising bugs in multi-player games?

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22 thoughts on “Does ‘news’ about bugs mess with our gaming?

  1. If I’m following your train of thought, the closest analogy would be reporting on zero-day exploits in browsers, operating systems or other programs. The ethical discussion on that area is far from settled but I feel there is an important difference between those exploits and bugs in MMOs. We can argue that a significant public interest exists in delaying widespread reports of exploits. No such public interest exists for games like SWTOR or WoW.

    It might be impolite to publicize bugs or exploits in these games but aside from bugs which could expose player data or steal items/currency there is no serious inconvenience to players or the developers.

  2. I think this one might be an exception due to the nature of it, breaking into dance to avoid boss attacks is a bit of a giggle (and would’ve been a fantastic class ability for an Entertainer in Star Wars Galaxies), and it didn’t have a massive wider effect on other players or the economy etc. I don’t recall the exact nature of the Ilum exploits being discussed in the RPS piece on it, so as long as the mechanics of a bug/exploit are fairly dull and don’t make for funny YouTube clips then I reckon they’re pretty safe.

    I suppose there could be a dilemma if there was a particularly amusing way of making millions of credits instantly or something, and I’d hope the bigger news sites would hold off something like that, but then as superinjunctions demonstrated there’s not much even governments can do once Twitter, Facebook and other social media get hold of something.

  3. Yeah, I think this was a funny bug that had a funny video and has inspired at least one comic strip so far. Having said that, the fake “banning” email that was posted and talked about “special dance zones” was probably what prompted more reaction because everybody believed that EA/BW are freely wielding the banhammer.

    The Ilum exploit, on the other hand, was a little more difficult to define because (if it is what I think and I’m pretty sure it is) it isn’t, strictly speaking, a bug and, despite all the comments on RPS to the contrary, doesn’t seem to me to be that easy to patch out because of the impact on the intended design for Ilum gameplay. I can only surmise that the details weren’t expounded on because nobody seemed arsed to actually find out the details and were all too eager instead to use it as another “SWTOR sucks and EA are teh evul” argument. In RPS’ case I’m talking about the commenters rather than the writers, obv.

    Incidentally, there was a video about the shenanigans on Ilum. It was quite funny and to me explains far more about why there were temp bans. If Spinks approves, I’ll link it just in case it’s unethical or something.

    • Feel free to link it, the cat’s well out of the bag by now :) I’m not really wound up about this, but I’m imagining how this all looks to MMO newbies who don’t realise that this sort of thing is par for the course.

      • The Legend of Jobotookiller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTd1mfTpNTk

        For those who can’t watch this (at work) etc: it’s a video posted by a guy who found that people (reputedly from his guild) had made a low level alt from the opposite faction and brought him to Ilum so that it could capture their control point so that they could then capture the enemy control point again and loot the rewards to their hearts contents. Basically, win-trading with themselves.

        The video maker decided he didn’t approve and essentially griefed their alt. The resulting tells show that they were fully and absolutely aware of what they were doing.

      • Although I am not completely certain, I believe the exploiters that Faction caught in that video are not from his Republic guild but rather from a Empire guild whose members (including one of the sploiters) include writers and editors of darthhater.com, one of the more popular SW:TOR fansites.

    • I think the willingness to believe that the emails were true was in reaction to so many people were loudly declaring the Ilum emails to be fake because no one would be banned or suspended over something so strange.

  4. It’s OK to post it.

    At first, developers may slack. Microsoft is infamous for leaving holes there for months unless publicly forced. They must fix it fast if every script kiddie knows about it.

    Second: developers deserve to be shamed for their clumsy work. Don’t want half of the World laugh at you? Do good job!

  5. Apart from being a very amusing bug, I think what this news – and other odd SW:TOR coverage on RPS in particular – is that a lot of writers WANT to cover SW:TOR, because they’re playing and enjoying it, but need a hook to tie their stories on.

    I also suspect there’s a good proportion of games writers and bloggers who are playing and enjoying SW:TOR, but don’t want to lose their too-cool-for-TOR street cred and thus have gone all emo on their SW:TOR coverage.

    Finally, the received opinion about SW:TOR hasn’t settled down yet, so while sites and writers wish to keep it in the news, they’re not sure how to write about it yet (cf: the way RIFT seemed to almost intantly get tagged as ‘good but not good enough’); thus they focus on the bugs whilst still talking about the game, in order to be both not-too-fanboi-ish but also not-too-troll-ish (until, at least, received opinion settles down and they know how to write about it).

    • I do find the RPS coverage a bit weird. They liked DAO and ME, but I’m not really seeing anything positive about SWTOR which to me is weird because it’s a lock for anyone who enjoys Bioware games. Even if you sub for a month and never do anything multiplayer, the single player game is really fun and I’d expect a PC gaming site to note that.

  6. I’ve been in conference calls with SANS about critical bugs in sendmail (imagine that, right?), and they’ll readily admit that there is a fine line to walk when publicizing information about a certain exploit. However, if the exploit is publicized at the same time a patch is available, that’s probably the best of all worlds. I’m pretty sure that the more exploit intensive users out there have already been aware of the exploit beforehand, so the majority of people who would use it have already been in the know. Sure, you’ll get the wannabees trying to disrupt stuff, but as long as the patch goes in quickly, that won’t be much of an issue.

    • That is interesting. I guess my experience was from working on smartphone operating systems, and we found that it was the antivirus developers who shouted to the rooftops about every potential exploit that they found to try to sell their software. And it wouldn’t matter if we said “It’s a really obscure loophole and this has never been seen in the wild and we patched it yesterday anyway,” — because the techie news sites would be all over “this operating system will leave you VULNERABLE!” so the relationship with the anti virus guys was always … interesting. They were good at reporting bugs, but not until after they’d written their press releases.

      • SANS is a different animal than the for-profit security software firms. Sure, they’ve got their training and other stuff they use to make some money, but in the UNIX world (at least) their bug announcements are pretty devoid of scare tactics. When they call a conference meeting over an exploit, however, you know the exploit is pretty serious.

  7. Sites like MMO Champ are essentially parasitic. They have to cycle the news to justify existing. It’s not really different to Sky News or any other 24 hour news channel; they have to report anything and everything or they become pointless.

  8. I had the exact same thought. The bug didn’t mean anything to me, I didn’t even know about it until it went up on Kotaku. Funny or not, it’s got to seem pretty rude to Bioware.

  9. I read it on RPS and it had a video attached. It’s just fun to watch, seeing how they dance in the middle of their fight and are immortal for a while.

  10. There have been other news reporting of bugs before. Age of Conan’s female characters doing less damage than male characters[1], Warhammer Online’s contribution calculations failing, WoW’s Reckoning one-shot of Lord Kazzak, and the killing of Lord British in Ultima Online comes to mind.

    However, straight out exploits, including details of how to perform said exploit, aren’t often reported. But I think it’s mostly the amusement factor of dancing to avoid combat that made it newsworthy. I doubt it would have been reported if it had been the /sit or /kneel emotes.

    [1] AoC female combat animations were slightly longer than male animations, and the animations governed the speed at which abilities could be used.

    • “There have been other news reporting of bugs before. Age of Conan’s female characters doing less damage than male characters[1″

      evil tongues had their own theories about how this was maybe not so much of a ‘bug’ actually…
      ;)

  11. I really do not consider internet news sites “News” sites… and of course their main ethical decision is how much money will this make us? PAGE HITS! WOOOOT!

    I also have lost all respect for traditional media which has also lost their way as far as ethics and fair reporting goes.

    So is it good? Probably not. Is it going to change? No. I think the bus of ethical reporting has left the terminal.

  12. As has been mentioned, the revealing of the details probably had more to do with the wacky nature of the bug than anything. If it hadn’t been dancing, no one would’ve cared.

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