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Pathfinder Online will be ending operations on November 28, 2021. For more details please visit our FAQ.

I Heard It through the Grapevine

It seems like the time in our Tech Demo hourglass is slipping away faster and faster every day!

The big countdown clock on the wall says we're at 20 days and counting. As you can imagine, it's pretty exciting around the Goblinworks offices. A lot of folks are working late into the night and on the weekends to bring this project in on time.

This week I had my first chance to set up the development environment on my own computer and test-drive the work in progress. There's not too much to see yet—just getting the system to the point where the server and the client both run and connect correctly, and where the client shows an avatar moving around a landscape, means that the team has completed a huge number of tasks on our to-do list. Over the next several weeks, we'll add a bunch of content that the artists have been working on, including a dungeon level! I expect to have the joy of a better and better Pathfinder Online every time I check in.

While the goblins toil away on the Tech Demo, I've been keeping an eye on the competition. This week, NCSoft's ArenaNet studio shipped the long-awaited GuildWars 2. ArenaNet is just over the hill from us in Bellevue, and there's a lot of common history—many people who work there have worked with myself or Lisa over the years. So it's pretty exciting to see them get their game out the door and into the hands of players, and we wish them the absolute best of luck.

We believe that GuildWars 2 is the second-to-last AAA fantasy theme park MMO in development; the last we know about is Elder Scrolls Online from Zenimax. Since its pretty hard to hide a full-blown theme park MMO team, we're pretty confident that there's nothing queued up behind these two titles. (We know that Blizzard is working on a new MMO codenamed Titan, but we don't think its a fantasy game—although we could of course be wrong!)

Since World of Warcraft was released in 2004, it has been the target against which most MMOs measured themselves. It takes a couple years to build a AAA theme park MMO, but these eight years have nevertheless seen many attempts to knock WoW off its throne: EverQuest II, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Aion, Final Fantasy XIV, Rift, Tera, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each of these games succeeded in certain ways, but none were able to take a significant number of players away from World of Warcraft.

As the age of the fantasy theme park MMO comes to a close, we can look back and see a number of really important lessons from these games, as well as from sandbox MMOs like EVE Online and Darkfall. One of those lessons is the importance of establishing and maintaining community standards early.

We've been watching this week at the GuildWars 2 team has been living out this lesson in real-time. They took to Reddit to address players asking about accounts banned for violating ArenaNet's community policies—either for inappropriate character names or things typed in in-game chat. (Their Reddit page makes pretty entertaining—although NSFW—reading!) This explosion of commentary has caused us to think about codifying some of the ideas we have about how we'll manage the Pathfinder Online community.

Goblinworks is a small tribe, and we expect to remain that way for a long time. Our ability to police every nook and cranny of the River Kingdoms is limited, so we'll have to triage our efforts to those problems that seem to have the biggest potential to impact the community in a negative way. There's no chance we'll be able to deal with every issue that draws anyone's attention, but we'll do our best to keep on top of the most important stuff.

Authenticators

Right off the bat, we're hearing a lot of reports that GuildWars 2 players are having their accounts hacked. It is unlikely this is due to poor security on ArenaNet's part; it seems a near certainty that these folks have had their usernames and passwords exposed by keyloggers covertly installed on their computers, probably while buying gold for another MMO from a third-party vendor at some point in the past. Many (most?) players use the same username and password on all their MMO accounts, so once a bad guy has information from any one game, that user's accounts on all other games are potentially compromised.

One solution to this problem is the use of authenticators. An authenticator generates a randomized code that must be input to log into an account along with a password. Without the authenticator code, the account is inaccessible. (In security circles this is called "two-factor security.") The first generation of this technology was a little gizmo that consisted of an LCD screen and a button. Push the button, and the gizmo displays the generated code on the LCD.

Blizzard has been offering these for a while as an add-on to account security. But one downside is that always need your little gizmo when you want to play—if you leave it at a friend's house, you can't log in. And the gizmos aren't free; either the publisher pays for it or you do, but someone has to pay.

Better news is that there's a whole new level of tech coming out now for doing authenticator-style security over your cell phone. Blizzard itself has produced an authenticator app for the iPhone so that you can stop using the gizmo and just use your iPhone instead. There are a couple of other techniques available, too, such as having an email sent to a predefined address, or having an SMS text message sent to a predefined mobile device. Google offers their own authenticator service for Android, iOS and Blackberry; if we decide not to make our own, we could leverage Google's technology. Either way, the cost should be close to zero.

Since we expect authenticators to be in widespread use by our launch, and since most people playing a game online have access to a place to receive an authenticator token, we think that two-factor security is a good way to quickly and easily solve a lot of account security concerns. Therefore, our current plan is to require authenticator use for every Pathfinder Online account from the day we launch the game.

Character Name Control

A lot of folks choose to grief others right from the start, through the selection of their character names. This griefing can come in the form of simple anachronisms—using names that are wildly out of scope for the game in question. But there are also more overt uses of this tactic, like naming a character "Jesus" or "Hitler"—names designed to really anger some segment of the player population. And there is the issue of character names owned by someone else—names from popular fiction or movies, or well-known celebrities, or even pseudonyms with well-known personalities behind them, like CmdrTaco or Gabe and Tycho.

All of these problems fall into a bucket I call "bad names." A bad name is a name that makes our game less fun, angers someone else, breaks immersion, is a copyright or trademark infringement, or identity theft.

We're going to have a very tough policy on bad names. We reserve the right, at any time, for any reason, to make you choose a new name.

If you wish to name your character yourself, that name will be probationary. From time to time, as resources permit, we will likely audit character names and convert them from probationary to approved, at which time you won't have to worry (much) about having to change that name... unless we later discover that you've snuck a bad name past us, in which case we'll make you change it anyway. We'll have to triage this process, so what will likely happen is that characters that are played a lot will be reviewed before characters that rarely log in. And we're not going to have a process where you can ask to have your name audited, because there's no way we could possibly keep up with the requests; failing to respond to those requests would be worse customer service than simply letting the name hang in probationary status until we have the time to take a look at it.

On the other hand, we'll have a robust name generator. If you choose to use the name generator, the name you get will be automatically approved. And if we have to change a generated name because something causes us to re-evaluate it, we'll work with you to get you a new name that is as close to your old one as possible. (An example of this could be a person or group that happens to correspond to your generated name becoming infamous for an act of terror. Bad luck, but these things can happen.)

You'll have access to in-game tools to report characters for having bad names. We won't promise to act on those notifications—our ability to do so will be based on resources available—but we will make a reasonable effort to keep on top of those reviews. And the more people who report the same character for having a bad name, the more likely we'll be to take a look at it. These reports will be kept anonymous—the only time you'll know there is a problem is when we tell you you have to change it.

This all sucks to some degree because many of us have beloved character names we've used in many worlds. Nobody likes to think that their online persona could be stripped away due to arbitrary rules handed down by system administrators. I wish there were a better way to handle it, and of course we'd love your feedback and suggestions. But in the end I think that having a really strong bad name policy pays itself back in terms of a better and more immersive world for everyone.

Seven Words You Can't Say in Pathfinder Online

We're likely not going to have a profanity filter; they tend not to work very well. And they don't work at all unless you're able to basically dump the entire contents of the urban dictionary into them, and then translate it into about 10 different languages.

We are going to have a really tough policy on saying offensive things in public communications. That includes on our community forums as well as in-game. If you want to say offensive things in public, we're going to ask you to find another game to play. And if you initiate a private conversation with someone and say offensive things to them and they flag you for harassment or abuse, you'll find yourself out of the game as well.

We'll have a multistep process for bad communications. You'll be warned, suspended, and/or banned depending on the frequency, the severity, and the situation of the infraction. But there are some things you'll be booted for without appeal.

  • Don't use racial slurs.
  • Don't use gender slurs.
  • Don't use sexual preference slurs.
  • Don't use religious slurs.
  • Don't threaten anyone.
  • Don't compare anyone to any person or group of historical infamy.
  • Don't talk about bodily fluids, functions, or make reference to sex or sex acts.

We don't have the time or inclination to run a daycare, so we're not going to watch all the girls and boys all the time to make sure they're playing nice. We are going to arbitrarily and without warning pounce on people who are misbehaving at times and places of our choosing. This kind of approach has the maximum effect of deterring bad behavior—you can't game a system if you don't know the rules. You might get away with something 100 times and get caught the 101st.

Frankly, I think that we'll keep more people longer by making our community a healthy, happy, friendly place to be, and that'll more than make up for the lost revenue from the folks who get booted. There are a lot of places you can go on the internet to be a jerk; Pathfinder Online won't be one of them.

You Are Your Community

To end on a happier note, I want to thank everyone who has been sending us feedback and suggestions on the Paizo messageboards lately. We've had some really good discussions about how to make rare encounters meaningful, and how to make PvP more fun and less traumatic.

Your continued participation in this process will help us shape the game towards its goal of being the next step in the evolution of the fantasy sandbox concept, taking us closer and closer to an ideal of greatness we have in our imagination.

So keep it up! We're listening and we thank you!

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