Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why Runners Must Be Hunted

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Today we are greeted with yet another dramafest over a player wanting to flee a war without consequences. While I am generally not in favor of targeting muggles over meat, this forum debate exemplifies why runners must be hunted.

Innocent Muggles

The typical argument about allowing muggles to flee from wars will go something like this:
Forum dwellers, I come to you with word of outrageous injustice by the murderous members of Fighting [FIGHT]. The poor civilian player, EasyTarget [FAT], has left FAT and joined the Passive Troll [PASS] alliance. EasyTarget is a very nice person who has endured many real-life hardships. FIGHT has decided to keep attacking even though Easy has never sent troops into battle or done them any wrong. Easy was just an innocent bystander in this war. Now other innocent members of PASS are being attacked, simply because Passive Troll is trying to protect a helpless player. How can the server stand for this! The community used to have honor, but now mean people are just beating up poor Easy and his noble defenders. Oh, injustice! In the olden days, the glorious Illyriad Community (TM) would have risen up and protected poor Easy. Now he is being victimized by big players with big armies who are targeting innocent civilians. Easy isn't a great warrior, he doesn't even have troops, so why target him to begin with? Please just let him continue playing in peace. Can't we all just play the game we want to play? The warriors should go fight the warriors, and leave the civilians alone.

It's very moving, isn't it? The argument serves several purposes. First, by referencing real-life difficulties, it suggests that FIGHT is a heartless bunch of people in real life. Second, by calling up images of soldiers and civilians, the argument suggests a level of cruelty and dishonorable destructiveness. All of this angst is wrapped up in repeated mention of the player's peaceful nature, and cast in the light of victimization.

It's all very reminiscent of ajqtrz's speeches about how video game violence is practically the same as real life bullying, embodied in his post When Gaming Gets Personal.

Isn't it reasonable that the muggles should be left to play Illyriad FarmVille? Well, not necessarily. There are several very sensible reasons why deserters should be attacked until they surrender.

Who Is a Civilian?

The first major hurdle you need to clear is, who is actually a civilian? Illyriad does not make distinctions about FarmVille status in the game mechanics. We would be relying upon people to decide for themselves if they are a civilian or not.

Do you know who will declare as a civilian? Anyone with vulnerable cities. Anyone who realizes that defeat is inevitable. Anyone who doesn't want to fight, even though the causes for attacking them are valid (for example, if their own alliance declares war). If players are allowed to walk off the battlefield without surrendering, then there are no consequences to war. You can simply walk away if fighting that particular battle doesn't suit you.

There is no strategic sense to allowing an enemy alliance to divest itself of all its weak points, penalty-free. In the past, alliances like the Night Crusaders, Harmless?, and others have allowed adversaries to make early surrenders with no consequences. Many such offers are still made today, such as The Phalanx [300] offer to let many Eagles Eyrie [EE] bystanders surrender without penalty. The fact remains, it is completely impractical to allow enemy players to decide whether or not you are allowed to attack them.

Treachery and Deception

There is a second, much more dangerous obstacle to allowing deserters to go unpunished. Those players might change alliance affiliations, but they are not changing physical map locations. This creates a triple problem for the fighting alliance.

Those fleeing enemies will often fill their new alliance chat with vindictive statements against your team. Since they have already agreed to shelter the fleeing player, it is reasonable to assume that they are inclined to humor the statements of that bitter deserter, including outright lies. There is no strategic advantage to allowing an angry ex-enemy the chance to claim safety and then turn more alliances against you during a war.

More importantly, there is no way to force the disbanding of the deserter's troops once they have joined a new home alliance, without confronting that alliance as well. Many wars have seen players shift to another alliance, rebuild their troops and remove weakly positioned cities, and then re-enter the fray by jumping alliances again. Without disbanding troops, there is no guarantee that there will not be treachery just a short distance down the road. Anyone who flees the battlefield but refuses to disband troops must be viewed as having the darkest of motives. To treat them otherwise is hopelessly naive.

Finally, and most importantly, the account's cities could be weaponized. Do you know how many cities it took to break vCrow in the Broken Lands? Three. That's it, really. Only three forward positions propelled the final defeat of the #1 alliance on an entire continent. Once you can drive a siege into enemy territory from point blank range, your much faster defensive troops can siege any vulnerable city at will. These weaponized cities--termed "war wagons" by the SINdicate--are an extremely powerful tool to end wars. They will shift your warning time from 3 days to 3 hours (or less), and open up the number of viable siege targets to all your weak points across several regions. The ability to destroy cities without warning is invaluable in forcing wars to a close.

Why is this a problem with fleeing players? That disgruntled player could just as easily turn their city into a sleeper war wagon, preparing siege troops for a surprise counterattack. It is also possible that the deserter will quit the game, but hand the keys over to one of their old alliance mates. The result is the same, a very dangerous sleeper asset in immediate proximity to your own alliance cluster. For those who have wondered, this is the main strategic purpose for a land claim--to keep weaponized sleeper cities at a minimum distance. Enforced distance is the second best way to slow down the attacks of hidden weapons (the best way is proper city placement, denying them a vulnerable siege tile from the start).

What I want my readers to understand is that a proper surrender involves several key points: an assessment of the deserter's hostility, the disbanding of their troops, and/or the removal of cities. If an enemy player can simply stroll off the battlefield at their own convenience, and seek shelter in another alliance, then the embattled parties have no guarantee that the deserter's armies have been dismantled, their cities are removed to safe distances, and they aren't sowing noxious propaganda in a fertile alliance chat.

Straw Man or Real Threat?

Are these fears unfounded? Are they just an excuse for vicious warmongers to chase down helpless prey? Sometimes, yes. I have written about grief play in Illyriad myself. It certainly exists in this game.

That said, I have also had my account get completely wrecked, and my friends razed to the n00b ring, by the sudden treachery of many self-professed "civilians". As long as the potential of such treachery exists in the game--and it can never be reduced completely--then fighting alliances must enforce adequate terms of surrender. All runners are potential threats until confirmed otherwise in a proper surrender.

Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade


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