Settlers of Catan: Online & Free

747px-Settlers_of_Catan_-_standard_mapI have a blast playing Euro Games. By far my favorite Euro game is Settlers of Catan. I was introduced to this awesome game by a few of my cousins that used to live nearby. Sadly, they’ve graduated high school and have moved away leaving my Catan player base generally below par. To counter-act this lack of Catan playing, my pal Randy directed me to a location to play Catan online!

Aso Brain Games is a site built by a couple of competent developers from the Netherlands. They’ve coded an excellent Java version of Catan that allows you to play solo or multiplayer; basic ‘Catan’ or ‘Cities and Knights of Catan’. To avoid copyright violation, the game has been renamed to Xplorers.

If you’re on the hunt for an online Catan game…
Aso Brain Games is all you need :)

Also, if you’re a fan of Carcasonne, they’ve got that game as well…dubbed “Toulouse.”

MMORPG Laws

My pal Casey over at MaisonBisson.com has made a follow up post to my MMORPG Cheating post. I figured it warranted me making another post rather than simply replying to his blog. He writes:

Matt says my attempts to analogize online roleplaying games to more familiar contests like chess or automobile racing are “just silly.” But his response appears to reinforce my point rather than refute it. It is the responsibility of the gamers and gaming organizations to create and enforce rules. People violating those rules are subject to sanctions by the gaming organization first, but it’s hard to imagine how any contestant who follows the rules of a (legal) game can be subject to legal sanction.

I spoke with Casey in person this past Saturday about this exact topic (as we have butted heads on it for some time now). We discussed our differing views and gave examples on each side of the table. Casey stated that my arguments for game law should only be handled with some sort of governing body; much like the Scrabble Association, World Chess Federation, etc. After our discussion I have had a slight change of heart…for in-game happenings.

But what happens when someone from the outside world affects the in-game world? In my article “World of Warcrack and the Future of MMOGs” I explain a case when a non-player logged into her boyfriend’s account and deleted his items. What would be the ruling on cases such as those? Would they warrant arresting, fines, etc? Or should they be written off and have the owner of the character be forced to suck it up and spend another 1000+ hours creating and leveling a new character?

If someone that is not a part of NASCAR goes and steals, breaks down, and sells Jeff Gordon’s car…that person will face criminal charges and/or fines from the judicial system. What about Jon Doe who has a level 60 character in World of Warcraft emptied of all its items by a third party and that third party sells said items on E-Bay or through a reseller?

Its another beast altogether. Casey and I have both been wrong and right with our differing viewpoints. What we have been doing is lumping two categories of MMO offenses together. The in-game offenses and the offenses caused by non-game members to the game members. I was generically stating that ALL actions whether in and out may eventually need to be handled from some sort of legislation…and likewise he had lumped all actions together and disagreed saying that it should only be handled by an game-related governing body (the company that produces the game…or an association from multiple MMOs).

I still hold that as MMOGs become more and more popular these two distinct offenses will need to be addressed…but when and how?

(image found at http://www.abetterearth.org)

MMORPG Cheating

My friend Casey over at MaisonBisson posted an article (Wide World of Video Games) where he shoots down the ideas of laws that are being built around MMORPGs and the reasons behind them. I don’t entirely agree with his statement:

One argument is that these games occupy players time and cost money, so in-game theft results in real-life loss. Baloney. Chess and Monopoly occupy great deals of time, but try telling the cops I rooked your knight. Money? A huge number of Americans invest time and money on building and racing cars on the approximately 1800 racetracks around the country. Real time and and hard-earned money are lost when cars crash, but the track has its own rules[...]

First, comparing Chess and Monopoly to MMORPGs is just silly. Yes they are both games, but they aren’t even the same caliber! Thats like saying a helium-filled balloon is the same as a state fair. You can get enjoyment from both a baloon and a state fair, but there is a huge cost difference, a difference in the level of participation by large numbers of people, activities in one that don’t exist in the other, etc.

Secondly, the racecar analogy falls through the roof once a little background info on racing is dug up. Yes, cars cost a crap ton of money to construct, fund, and race and it is expected that you will inevitably break something and/or crash. Its all part of the game. But what happens when that crash is intentionally caused by another player? You see, when once racecar driver causes an accident on purpose, there are repercussions…fines anywhere from $100-10,000 to both the speedway AND the ‘targets of destruction’, suspension, loss of championship points (whatever those are), permanent banning, etc. Check these references if you wish :

In an MMORPG, you purchase and play the game (within the rules) and assume others will do the same. But what happens when someone cheats -using bots, hacks, etc- to best you at something and take your hard earned items? When I say hard earned, those items can have 1000+ hours of play time behind them, 5 months of paying $15/month, etc.

Should there be repercussions for MMORPG cheating? Perhaps. I’m not sold either way but to write it off so quickly is just ludicrous. As MMORPGs grow in popularity and become a larger beast in our society, the world will be faced with larger numbers of people that will want justice for in-game theft, in-game cheating, etc. How will society draw the line and where will we put it?