HackerStory: Community Analysis on Maple Story.
Maple Story is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The game is a 2d sidescroller in a light, cartoonish style reminiscent of anime. This gives the game a unique feel relative to other popular games in the genre like World of Warcraft. The game is most popular with middle school, high school, and college students and many of the players are minors.
Maple Story is developed by Wizet and distributed throughout the world by a number of different distributors. The distributor for Maple Global is Nexon America. There are separate versions for Korea (the original and most highly developed version), Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, South East Asia, Europe (in Beta), and Global. Between all of the regions there are about 55 million players. The Asian versions of the game are the most popular of all of them; the Global version has 2 million subscribers (Maple Story, 2007). Due to its popularity worldwide and Nexon's recent decision to market their games with MTV networks, we find that the number of players will continue to grow making this an interesting social environment to study (MTV Networks and Nexon Partnership, 2006).
Because of the way MMOs work, they are vulnerable to hacking. Many things such as monster hits and collision detection are detected client-side, and there are many people who take advantage of this to level more quickly. Many hacks are publicly released on unofficial Maple Story forums for everyone to use; others are closely guarded by the original hacker for personal use.
In this paper we discuss the Global version of Maple Story in terms of Amy Jo Kim's nine principles of community design. We will also discuss hacking in Maple Story in terms of Richard Bartle's player types.
For the participant observation we acted as participants. Gretchen, one of the researchers, had already been playing the game for some time before we began the project. Sarah was the skeptic; she had never played MMOs and was worried about doing the project on a game. And Pam gave balance to the participant observation by being the one that had played other MMOs and being interested in working with Maple Story.
We also interviewed players who were 18 years old or older. Most of the participants were college students and were recruited from the official game forums and unaffiliated Maple Story forums (hidden-street.net, maplenoobs.com, mapletip.com and gamerzplanet.net). For individualized participant profiles go to the next section.
Early on in our observation of Maple Story bulletin board communities online, we discovered that posting about a study on Maple Story was not enough. Members were understandably not very trusting of a newcomer and needed to be reassured that we would not spam their accounts or report hackers interviewed. One administrator didn’t think we would return to answer questions about the study but we did and a wonderful discussion formed. This attention to people's questions as they formed in the thread paid off. After a few days, people started volunteering their opinions on various aspects of Maple Story. Furthermore, key members of the community began to vouch for the legitimacy of our study. All in all, it took about one week on both Maplenoobs.com and Mapletip.com to gain the community's trust and to actually conduct our first interview. Two weeks rolled by before hackers came forward to be interviewed.
We also recruited in the game itself, however most people we talked to were too young or felt uncomfortable with phone interviews.
Ethnographical research on the game by using two techniques: participant observation and interviews.
In the participant observation, we each spent at least 10 hours on the game playing the game and observing player behavior. We participated by creating characters, doing quests, and talking with, trading, and joining parties with other players. Gretchen, one of the researchers, had already been playing the game for some time before we began the project. Sarah was the skeptic; she had never played MMOs and was worried about doing the project on a game. And Pam gave balance to the paper by being the one that had played other MMOs and being interested in working with Maple Story.
For the interviews, we conducted eight phone interviews and three email interviews. Phone interviews were conducted with cell phones and a digital recorder attached to the headset connector. Participants were asked about their general experiences in the game, their thoughts on hacking, guilds, megaphones, the cash shop, and other game features. We use the data gathered from the participant observation task and also looked at forums related to the game online to see what people had to say in order to help guide our interviews. To see the interview structure, go to Appendix 1 on this paper.
We analyzed the data gathered from the interviews and came with some interesting information which helped us do a participant profile for each one of them following Bartle’s players roles.
Bera is a woman in her 20’s (college student) that has been playing Maple Story since it was a Beta version, like 2 and a half years ago. She is part of a guild that was created with her real life friends when the guild feature was implemented. She states that her best memories are meeting people and go in their little adventures together, but thinks that there is more sense of community in the hidden-street forum than in the game itself. Maple Story is what she likes to play because of the graphics and the fact that is totally free. Her worst memory is dealing with hackers and people trying to scam everyone. Players start using hacks because it takes a lot of time to level up compare to other games and they are just impatient to be the best in their group of friends. She thinks GM’s do a good job going after hackers but the reporting method should be change because one report per day is not enough due to the recent increase of hackers on the game. Having cash items on her characters discourages her to use hacks because she is afraid her account would be banned. Maple Story mission is to earn money but in the game there is no real goal, the only goal is to level up. Parties and guilds are not encouraged enough as in other games (e.g. Roses Online where the experience points shared in parties increase when killing a certain amount of monsters). Nonetheless, parties are fun because they allow you to help your friends’ level up and stuff and it’s a good way to communicate with other people. Guilds are another buddy list of people to talk to. She would like to add a better party system to Maple Story and make better quests so that players will not get bored of grinding (just killing monsters for hours and hours).
Khaini – Explorer
Khaini is a man in his 30’s. He is a physician with a family and plays Maple Story because now he has the time to play games he did not get to play when he was in medical school, the game is free, he likes the graphics, and it has ton of places to explore. Other games that he had played: Adventure Quest and Trickster. He has been part of two guilds but left them because he was not interested in participating. He likes to play alone so he does not have any experiences with party quests. He has met people and he talks to them now and then (that is his best experience) but he prefers not to be bothered. Party quests and guilds are great for people who like to socialize because that way they can talk to other people and kill monsters at the same time, but that is not for him. People that use hacks are impatient and the ones that create the hacks are computer programmers testing their skills. The game encourages hacking because is free so there is no real downside when loosing an account. He thinks there should be a better way to report the hackers and to detect the hacking automatically. Nexon’s mission is to make money; they wanted a game that would be very popular in order to compete for being one of the most popular multiplayer games online. Megaphones could add a sense of community but they are use for shouting out inane or pointless comments. If he could remove something from Maple Story, that will be the hacking.
Wind - Socializer
Wind is a single man in his 30’s that works for a big computer-hardware company and Maple Story is his hobby. He thinks that the game does not have much of a story-line but he likes that because there no one true way of doing things. If there is an aim to the game, that should be to train to play and meet people. It is a more broad expansive game than the others are. The other games are about battle (Diablo II, Dungeon Siege); this one can be about kind of hanging-out. There is battle but also partnerships that you built up. One of his best memories is playing with his real-life friends and help them level up. The worst are hackers. He is a co-creator of a guild with one if his real-life friends and he have met a lot of other people which have become really close to him. He has notice that lot of the people that do the hacking are quite young and do not understand the concept of having fun, they just want to be first and are impatient to level up. Another reason would that some players get scam and loose their characters so they might want to level up as quickly as possible to regain their position within the game. He thinks Nexon encourages hacking when stating that they will not erase someone account if that account has NX Cash. Maple Story needs more GM’s to manage the incredible amount of hacker reports they should be getting. There is a hacking community. They have their own websites, their own guilds as a matter of fact, and everything else. He also thinks the reporting method is weak considering the amount of hackers in the game. If he could remove something from the game, that would be the megaphones.
He is a college student who is 18 year’s old and likes to play Maple Story because it has a huge leveling curve. It is really hard to get to the higher levels. He’ll be satisfied when he gets to level 120! He had played a lot of other games: Starcarft, Diablo II, Warcraft III, Gunbound and Goonzu. But Maple Story is his main game with a hint of Warcraft III on the side. His best experience has been meeting and making real-life friends through a guild that he and a friend created even thou he doesn’t talk too much. The worst was when he was scammed. He thinks the game is really popular with kids because it was an anime feel to it the look of the graphics. Players use hacks because it is really hard to get to the higher levels. There is not much to discourage hacking because if your account gets banned then you will go and create another one. He hacks because he has been scammed twice and hacking is the way to balance the universe out his way. The normal reporting method is not that effective. Shouting the names of hackers with the megaphones when the GM’s are online is more effective. When mentioning what he would remove from Maple Story he said: “Being a hypocrite, I like to see the hackers gone. I like back then where I could grind and talk to friends at the same time. That time I found playing Maple Story a lot more fun that I find it now”.
Roderick is an 18 year old Maple Story player who still lives with his parents. He is definitely not the socializer or explorer on Maple Story. He is a passive achiever and is likely as shy on the game as he is off the game. He likes to solo his levels and though his best experiences on the game involved collaboration with others, they all happened at random. The friends he has on his list, he all met randomly as he is not fond of crowds and apparently does not deliberately seek out too much social interaction, but enjoys it when it does happen and goes smoothly. He likes to play a fair game and does not like hackers on MMOs: they are like a slap in the face to legits
Lorie is a 21 year old Maple Story player, and at her age would be viewed as an older player. During her first few months on Maple Story, younger players were verbally abusive to her because of her age. They made it their mission to follow her around all the while teasing and taunting her about being too old to play an MMO like Maple Story. This hostile environment caused her to take a hiatus from the game but returned after several months because of boredom. Now, she is at a high enough level that people don't bother her (35). She has been playing for about a year and runs an anti hacking guild. Interestingly enough, Lorie's worst experience on Maple Story was when she found out that one of her real life friends hacked Maple Story. She was devastated but was able to take a very personal approach with her friend and get her to stop.
Sujo is a 27 year old Maple Story player of about a year and a half and lives with his wife and newborn child. He is at level 90 and is one of the top 5000 players in his world. Maple Story is his first and only MMO and its biggest draw was the fact that it was free. With the responsibility of raising a family, playing a subscription game like World of Warcraft or buying $40 games for a gamecube or playstation is out of the question. So Maple Story was an ideal way for this game enthusiast to be challenged as well as enjoy himself. Sujo runs a guild with many other mature players like himself and is himself anti- hacking. However, at one point he was tempted to hack and even began to research how to do it out of frustration at how difficult hackers made it for him to play legitimately. However after perusing hacker forums and weighing the consequences, Sujo felt that he'd rather quit than jump on the hacker band wagon. He feels that temporarily banning hackers is just a band aid solution for the problem that thinks that giving rewards to people who report hackers ( such has giving them more than one hacker report per day) would be a step in the right direction.
Ted - Explorer/ Socialiser
Ted is a 19 year old Maple Story player of about 3 years (off and on) and is in love with Maple Story because of the relationships, friends and community he finds there. He attributes much of his social development outside of the game to his experiences inside Maple Story: "I love Maple Story. It has become a huge part of my life. I know that sounds weird, but the relationships and friends you make in communities like these are amazing. If it wasn't for Maple Story my life would be a lot different, I wouldn't have a lot of the social skills that I do today, nor would I have some of the great friends I've made on here." Being primarily a socialiser on Maple, Ted well known in his world through the use of an in game communication feature that allows you to broadcast messages to everyone in your world, the mega phone: "I'm known as the king megaphoner. I do it so I become more popular, and more people know my name. I'm hands down one of the most well known players in my world because of this." Because Maple Story is such a huge part of his life, Ted has spent thousands of dollars in supporting it (through buying virtual items). But there is another reason for this expense: customization: "I've spent well over $2000 on this game. I like to customize my character, plus I like to support a game that has been a big part of my life."
By many players' definitions, Ted is a hacker: he downloads hacks and uses them on Maple Story to level up quickly. However, Ted has a different idea of hacking: "Maple Story has really slaughtered the word "Hacking". Hacking to me means that you're actually doing something to help, whether it be programming. Nowadays people just download programs, that other people make and call themselves "Hackers". Hacking on Maple involves having a program do all the work for you, known as a 'bot'." It seems that Ted sees hacking as the actual coding of programs that hack games. He merely uses these programs on Maple Story for another purpose: "to explore more of the game".
Though Ted seems to see "all hacking [as] bad", he has no problem with doing it because it is fun and helps him explore the game: His worst memory on Maple Story was getting banned for the first time and yet he keeps hacking because "it keeps me entertained and keeps me playing". Without hacking, Ted would have stopped playing Maple Story a long time ago: "I didn't have fun spending a year to gain a few levels. I have more fun gaining levels extremely fast to see more of the game, if it wasn't for hacks, I would have quit a long time ago." He believes that money and lucrative events actually promote hacking. When asked what features of the game encourage hacking, he replied "Money, everyone is greedy. Also events that release high level items." Ultimately however, Ted believes that anything on Maple Story, including hacking, is justified if it "makes you happy".
Ted is also an explorer and would add new locations or maps to Maple Story if he could: "[I would add] New places, but [Nexon is] working on that. I'd like for it not to be free anymore. It would not only get rid of a lot of hackers, but also a lot of the people who are milking it." Our hunch is that by using the term 'milking', Ted is indicating how protective he is of a community that has been such a big part of his life. He does not approve of people coming into Maple Story and simply taking advantage of it because it is free. Roderick mentioned during his interview that some players simply log on to Maple Story to test hacks they have written. This type of behavior would be unacceptable for Ted, who feels that hacking to enjoy the game more would be justified.
Veda - Casual Gamer (not sure what she is)
Veda can be described as a very casual Maple Story player. A 19 year old college student, Veda, has been playing for about a year, and logs on for about one hour a day on school days but up to six hours per day otherwise. Veda mentioned several times during our interview with her that Maple Story is simply a casual diversion. "To me it's just a game to play when I want to kill time.", "... [my friends and I] just want something to waste time on." Veda plays Maple Story more than other games, for example Gunbound which she used to play because more of her real life friends are on the game. Veda’s experiences on Maple Story seem to be rather stable; nothing stands out because she views it as "just a game". She logs on with her boyfriend mostly and does very basic session: training and an attempt at a quest, until she becomes too sleepy to continue.
She does not seem take the guild that she and her boyfriend created "for kicks" very seriously. Potential guild members must be "active and talk every once in a while" However she does feel that subgroups like party quests and guild quests are encouraged. Being a casual player, it is understandable that Veda would design more party quests into the game if she could.
Veda likens Maple Story to a "big chat room”: " You meet people, you talk to them. When you like them, you keep in contact, when you don't you don't." Like many of the other participants, Veda thinks that the game design attracts children under 15. Unlike Ted who is employed and can afford to spend "well over $2000" on virtual items on Maple Story, Veda is a college student on a tight budget. She considers marriage too expensive but does feel that it fosters a sense of community on the game. Unlike Ted, Veda finds megaphones irritating: “Megaphones are like the annoying publicity cars of maple"
Veda thinks that hackers resort to cheating through laziness, boredom or frustration at the fact that other hackers "have the game easy". However, she believes that allowing players to report hackers does discourage the behavior. That said, “the only flaw in that method is that players only get one report per day, and the hacker number is increasing fast.” Though she doesn't feel the need to hack, she would if given the opportunity. According to Veda, "Better Protection" is the solution to hacking.
Charlotte – Socializer
Charlotte is an 18 year old college student. She likes Maple Story because it's cute and fun and she can play it just to relax. She has a level 43 mage, plus another character that is a level 15 warrior. She mostly plays with the mage, but sometimes she plays with the other one if she gets bored. She has a lot of friends in the game, and a "very active" buddy list and guild. She spends a lot of time talking to her friends, sometimes more than she spends trying to level her character up, so she tends to gain levels slowly. She has so many people talking to her at once that she has trouble keeping track of all the conversations, and sometimes people have to whisper to her to gain her attention. She's married in the game because she and her friends decided it would be fun to get married when they introduced it into the game. She also likes being able to customize her character so she does not look like everyone else, so she has bought several things form the Cash Shop to make herself look more distinctive. She also bought some expressions to use when talking to other characters. Although she spends a lot of time socializing, she also likes seeing new things in the game. She likes exploring new areas and doing quests. She really likes the quests, especially the party quests, because she can have all her friends with her while she's doing them.
Derek is an 18 year old college student. He has played some other MMOs like Runescape, but he likes Maple Story better because it's more interactive and it is easier to interact with other people. He was nervous about meeting strangers on the internet at first, but now that's the primary thing he does in Maple Story. He really likes the Nexon forums because it's the best way to meet Maple Story players; they allow him to meet and talk to people who may be anywhere in the game. He actually spends more time there than he does in the game itself. He also likes megaphones as a way to meet people, and thinks they're a great way to get your name out there so people will talk to you. However, he does not like them when they are used to promote hacking or are just spam. Derek has been part of the anti-hacker movement on his server ever since he became friends with one of the people leading the movement. They take screenshots of people hacking and post them on an external forum, which the game masters do look at so he feels like he is helping a lot. Derek really likes helping people in the game, and that is how he managed to become a junior master in all four of the guilds that he has been a part of.
The community analysis is based on Amy Kim’s 9 timeless design principles for community building. The principles are the following:
Kim's first principle is Purpose. Nexon aims to provide the best, most secure, free interactive MMO in North America based on principles of ease of use, variety and customization. According to the nexon.net website, designers have focused on an easy interface, simple control, a combination of interesting items, creative ideas, humor and distinctive graphics. As such, the game is completely free and open to any user over 13 years of age. One need not use more than about 5 or 6 buttons to play the game and require no prior experience with other MMOs to begin. Once in the game, they are presented with six worlds to choose from within which there are multiple sub-locations to explore. Furthermore, they offered a variety of ways to customize their character with virtual items bought in the Cash shop. Security is a big part of Maple Story and all Nexon games. Users are consistently warned about protecting their account information so much so that even requests to sign an online consent form could raise uneasiness on the part of participants some of whom immediately suspected that key loggers or viruses would be automatically downloaded. To secure your Nexon account, the company requires new users to provide a four digit PIN number and an account specific ID in addition to a user name and password. In our participant observation, we noticed that users seemed to be successfully influenced by these measures and almost never give out personal details about themselves.
Our participants feel, and quite accurately so, that it is clearly aimed at young teens because of the following: it is a free game, easy to understand, and sports a cartoonish anime design. Monsters in this game are typically snails, monkeys, donkeys, and other animated creatures that spill no blood or show no evidence of injury when dying. Even Death to a player is not displayed in a physically traumatic way - a character simply loses what are called Experience (EXP) points.
Our participants describe Maple Story as a basic "introductory MMO" (Roderick) that is “easy to understand and not too stressful” (Lorie).
From Nexon point of view, Maple Story's mission is not only to provide a charming, easy to use MMO, but also to make as much money as the original Korean game through the selling of virtual items. According to a recent article on maple Story's business model, Min Kim, Director of Game operations for Nexon America said that, "The English service of Maple Story was a litmus test for us. With Maple Story already serviced in the major Asian online gaming markets, Nexon needed to find the next market with appetite for the product. A global English beta of the product was released to test the viability of the product in the West and locate the next market for expansion.” So, in addition to gaining the reputation of being the best free MMO available, Nexon's aim is the duplicate the financial success it has seen in Asian market. Participants seem to recognize this: Bera mentions that money is the main goal for Nexon, though once in the game, the player's main mission is to level up. Some players like Sujo are becoming frustrated with this in light of the hacking feature. "I don't want to say it like this, but it's almost seems like it's gotten to the point where it's only about the money they're making through the cash shop", Sujo says while explaining that as players against hackers buy super megaphones in order to alert GMs about hackers, which benefits Nexon and may explain their lax approach to hackers on the game (temporary bans).
In keeping with their design goals, Maple Story's visual design is very distinct. From the nexon.net website to actual locations in the game, cute anime based proprietary graphics are used that define a distinct brand personality that is recognizable anywhere. The design style is similar between worlds in the same game, and between versions. There is even merchandise (dolls, card games etc) based on the design style of the game. Many of our participants feel that Maple Story's visual design is a big part of why it appeals to younger teenagers. Ted explains that,"I think a lot of the younger players love the anime style and easy UI...I feel its a kickback to the old NES days for most of us with the 2D side scrolling graphics". Maple Story graphics give the game an edge over others in the genre. Hack commented that, "I think [Maple Story is] popular because it has a bit of an anime feel to it. A lot of the younger kids played a lot of free MMOs, such as Runescape before the played Maple Story. I find some kids judge a game by it's looks and start playing it. If you compare graphics between Maple Story and Runescape, kids would pick Maple Story." Derek agrees prefers Maple Story's choice of 2D graphics: "“[If Maple Story became 3d] I would drop it right away. I would stop playing. For me I’m a very picky person when it comes to games. For World of Warcraft, I’ve done the trial thing for about 10 days and the graphics are okay, but for some reason 3d isn’t quite my style for computer games. So if Maple became 3d I would just drop it right away.”
Certain events are in the back of every player minds. Firstly, the most popular player on Maple Story is Tiger, who is at the near impossible to attain level 171. Recently, he was banned, supposedly for hacking though rumor has it that his account was hacked. Maple Story players follow Tiger closely though none of our participants seem to be affected by him. There are many forum board topics on his comings and going and rumors fly around about whether or not Tiger is really one person or a cross continental collaboration between multiple players. Secondly, as many of today's players played Maple Story Global while it was still in beta, they know about Maple Story connection to its Asian counter part and will communicate information about that 'parent' game to new players through chatting. Finally, most users can pinpoint when hacking really became a problem on their beloved Maple Story: right before Nexon regained control of Wizet and of Maple Story Global.
Even though the website says that a players job is to defend the Maple Worlds, users often say that, ironically, there is no Story to Maple Story. You simply fight to gain levels. However, one of our participants, Wind said: "Maple Story is your story because you decide ... originally it was created to provide a sense of community... All your friends can play Maple Story. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be ...what story-line is there is all mine. I decide which direction I go, what stats I raise, what characters I use... and I can decide where you want to go. You train to play, to meet people. It’s a more broad expansive game than the others are."
Kim's second principle deals with gathering places. Veda and Ted have both referred to Maple Story as one big chat room or one large community. Maple Story provides multiple maps in each world which function as a chat room. There are some more popular maps than others such as the free market which allows users to buy and sell items. Channels, which can be seen as sub gathering places, also make a difference. Each map can be accessed via about 20 channels each of which are populated to different degrees. Therefore, one can be in the same location but on a different channel and interact with different people. You can meet other players just by walking around anywhere on the game. Charlotte and her guild stand around together in the Free Market: “We tell stories, make fun of each other, just joke around. We have a good time.” They tend to hang out in the same channel: channel 15 is known as her “guild channel” because channel 1 causes too much game lag. Though new items and quests are regularly added to the game through Maple Story patches, new locations and portals are added much less frequently (about three times a year).
There is always a map of the world in the top left corner that lets you see if and where other people are on the map. You can also find out exactly what world, channel and map a person is operating on if you know their username and use the /find command. The map tells your position (yellow shadow), the position of other players (red shadow), NPCs (green shadow) and portals (blue shadow). When other players are in your party their shadow color changes to orange. The map compels the player to explore by not giving too much information about the area - there are hidden portals.
Other aspects of gathering places involve building, features and rankings. Members only have extensive abilities to customize their appearance through NX Cash and that of their pets but not their environment. The most powerful communication feature on Maple Story is the Super Mega Phone (Megaphone). Members can buy a Megaphone using NX Cash for broadcasting messages to everyone in their world; there are a myriad of other 'regular' ways to communicate on Maple Story for instance chatting, whispering, chatting to guild members only, chatting to those only on a particular map, and chatting only to those on your buddy list. In addition, Charlotte uses facial expressions when talking to people. It helps to show when she’s happy or angry, etc. In addition to about seven free facial expressions, she bought the kissy face and the queasy face. She makes the queasy face at people when she’s bored, and likes combining it with the confused expression to catch people off-guard.
Rankings are kept on the nexon.net Maple Story website(only viewable in IE). Users are ranked by level, world, job and by game. Fame rankings are not relevant because people buy fame. Wind commented that, "The fame feature means nothing. If it affected something then it would be kind of cool but I’ve seen people level 10 with 1000 fame because they have a higher level character, feed money to the character and they go buying fame. So it affects absolutely nothing besides jerking somebody’s ego". Derek seems to agree that fame is meaningless even though one of his characters boast a high fame level: “One of my characters has a good amount of fame. I guess that was just because I happened to be at the right place at the right time helping the right people. But I mean, if we didn’t have the fame system for me I guess it wouldn’t matter much.” For Derek, fame doesn’t influence who he chooses to talk to. If someone has negative fame that usually means they’re a hacker, but you never know. He’s been hit by people who decrease other’s fame for no reason. He doesn’t know why they do that, “probably for their own self-pleasure or something.” It doesn’t really affect him much when they do that though. Sujo also uses the fame feature to degrade the reputation of hackers and uses it as a way to recognize hackers, "You can kind of tell who's a hacker by fame, because they'll be level 85 with 3 fame." Maple Story's fame mechanism can be seen as a conventional signal. As Maple Story did not accurately define what fame is for, players have come gleaned their own meaning for the value and act accordingly. In addition, excessive deception is used to skew the numbers higher and sometimes even lower based on what a character prefers. Therefore fame has become an unreliable way to measure anything about a player.
There is no place on the site for you to describe yourself with text. Your avatar is your profile, so to speak. The items you have and use (for example pets, which are bought and help you pick up items dropped by monsters), the clothes you wear, your level and so on, are the only insights other players have into you. Your past activity such as hacking or quests done are not available to other players. One cannot tell your age or whether or not you've hacked before. You are known by your avatar's appearance and your actions at any given time. Members are encouraged to buy virtual items to make their appearance unique. As mentioned earlier, this is how Nexon makes money. Clothes and pets will only last 90 days, and will disappear right on the clock. Hair, eyes and facial expressions are temporary. Members have different heuristics they live by when deciding what items to buy. Lorie "won't pay money for the clothes, anything that will disappear within 30 to 90 days is not worth a couple dollars. I bought the hair and the eyes because they do not change, once you buy it and they're there, an invincible eyes and a set of wings [even though] they'll disappear, its not something that I'm gonna horribly miss when they're gone and there are actually a lot of things that are really helpful like the pet because they'll pick up your items and help speed you up". That said, she did get an invisible hat that will expire because "I got my hair done and it's pretty." Sujo, with a wife and new child cannot justify extensive expenses on the game. "One of the guild people got me cash for my birthday and I used it to just do my hair but that's it... "I am invested in playing it, I am at level 90, I'm in the top 5000 players on my server ... if I were to go buy a playstation game or a gamecube game, I'd spend $20 or $40 on it, play it for a while and then I'd put it on the shelf [but in Maple Story] I'm going to spend $5 on this hat that'll last three months to enjoy the game more,....there is justification there."
Though you cannot create profiles, lots of personal information is collected about you upon signing up in order to make account secure. This can be tedious and be considered a barrier to entry. However, since the game is free unlike many other popular MMOs, this is clearly a light annoyance but nothing more. In fact players may even appreciate Nexon's efforts to hinder scammers.
Again, you can find out what items a person has and what level they are as you encounter them during the game. A person's fame level is used in different ways by different players. Sujo uses fame on hackers that he finds and usually view people with low fame as hackers. However Hack says that "For some reason people think fame can determine a hacker. It is funny because I have low fame due to saying rude comments and angering them".
4. Promote effective leadership
Maple Story, the game, does not have any kind of leadership program for the players. However, it is common to find people that are willing to help newbies. In the participant observation, we found that a lot of experienced players tend to help level up lower level characters, and give them items that help them in their adventure. This interaction can lead to a partnership later on. On the other hand, inside the game people can form parties of people and guilds. There are no official rules for leaders or building guilds/parties but it is common to give the leadership role to the one that makes the party or guild or the player with the highest level. This player has the responsibility for promoting or encouraging people to participate within the party/guild. Inside the guild, there's an unwritten law that if you accept a higher level character to the guild, that character should have a rank higher than the lower level characters. Some guilds are highly effective in promoting participation, others exist just for the name sake. The route that it will take depends on the leader skills. Some guilds have evolved into websites and some websites have guilds. Wind36M – “Unlike some guilds we have not gone as far as websites but know some have”. Lorie was made the head of her antihacking guild because of her high level. Once her guild became well known, newbies sought her and other guild members for advice on playing the game. Lorie very much enjoys helping new players and is sure to discourage them not to hack.
About tech support most of the participants that were interviewed did not seem to need it but were aware that Nexon did offered tech support. One of the participants that did have experiences with tech support told us that it was slow. The slowness could be due to sending a request for tech support. That means that of they are receiving a lot of requests or / and there is no sufficient staff to answer them quickly. Nonetheless, Nexon's official Maple Story webpage has a tech support page in which they give advice on how to solve the most common problems.
5. Have a clear-yet-flexible code of conduct
The website has a very clear user abuse policy related to the game itself and also a forum regulation policy. Both are created and changed by Nexon. There is no direct participation of players on these policies. It is clear that Maple Story government is some kind of a benevolent dictatorship (Edward Castronova, 2005). The policies are more of a warning to tell the players about the punishment they might get if they disobey one or more of the game rules. It is interesting that the final judgment is on the game masters, the user abuse policy acts like a guide to them, they make the final decision. Some of our participants were aware of a controversy surrounding Tiger that happened on the last month. Tiger is the highest level character in Maple Story Global and he was out of the ranking systems for a long time. Everyone was wondering is he was banned from the game. After a while, he appeared again on the ranking system. The user policy states that the punishment for disobeying the rules depends entirely on the judgments of the Gm's (game masters), hired personnel that deals with deviant players and user complain. They are part of a centralized social approach to hacking (Amy Bruckman, et al, 1994). Could a GM be more benevolent toward Tiger because he is the highest and most famous player in Maple Story? The reality is that Tiger is famous and banning him would make a really big impact on other players. We do not know if that impact could be positive or negative, but maybe Nexon does not want to know.
Two of our participants had brushes with user abuse, one of which was reported to GMs as such. Charlotte's worst time in Maple Story was when she was harassed by a hacker:
“I reported him and I kept switching channels to get away from him to continue finishing out my quest. He followed me and kept harassing me, he called me a hacker, and he started using some inappropriate language and started calling me some really bad things. When I report someone I don’t yell ‘hey hacker!’, I just click and I report them and leave, I don’t say anything, but he was obnoxious. He came onto the channel and we were training and he started kill-stealing me and I was like, ‘can you train somewhere else or switch channels?’ and he was like, ‘no’ and then started vac-hacking right next to me. So I reported him and he just harassed me, so I reported him for harassment and I blacklisted him and I tried to get away and he followed me for like 10 minutes.”
This was the first time she was really harassed, but on yet another occasion, a player began hitting on her. She told him she was married only to be called a bitch so she blacklisted him. At other times, while hanging out with her husband, someone will hit on her. Her spouse would say that that’s his wife but the imposters would begin yelling at him. “Some people take this game way too seriously.” In some ways she finds it funny, and in other ways it’s just weird.
Lorie,21, was also harassed on Maple Story but for a different reason: her age. "... When I first started [there were] a lot of naysayers because of how old I am, I guess the game is based around a lot of younger kids ....but mainly because of my age, they would say that people who play the game [who were] 18 or older had no life, that kind of thing". Players were openly aggressive, profane, and "some people would even follow you around and start killing your monsters if you were at a lower level, always threatening to hack into your account...The only kind of [abuse] I have taken from the game is because of my age, I had never been around this kind of aggressiveness in any game or in real life...it was very surprising." Perhaps Lorie wasn't aware that she could report this behavior to GMs. Instead she took a five month hiatus from the game.
[User abuse policy]
6. Organize and promote Cyclic Events
The next event on Maple Story will be the Easter Event where the players have to find certain amount of eggs or a certain color (dropped my monsters randomly) to gain an Easter Basket. The Easter Basket allows the player who has it to die without loosing experience points. You can have as many baskets as you can hold but this will expire on a certain date. After Easter, there is the Summer Event, the Fourth of July event, Thanksgiving/Fall Event, Halloween Event, X-mas/Hanuka Event(with Santa Claws), Lunar New Year Event, and Valentine's Day Event. There are also other types of events that happens when something interesting is going on in real life like the World Cup Event, or when some new world is open inside the game (e.g. Amoria and the Wedding Event). All of these are announced on the official webpage and when the game patch is being downloaded - there's a patch for each event.
The Nexon webpage have forums in which the players can post their opinions, comments, requests and questions. Other types of ways in which players report their thoughts about he community is through surveys. At this moment the question that is being asked is the following: "Which strategy guides do you use?".
The game also has contests that reinforce partnerships within the game. Not much time ago, there was a contest about wedding portraits. The game was celebrating the establishment of the wedding feature so they came out with a contest in which the newlyweds had to take a photo with their Maple family and friends, the more buddies in the picture, the better. The winners would have their photo posted on the website and a certain amount of mesos (maple currency). The community's purpose is to make the game as addictive as possible implementing new features all the time and allowing social contact between players. Another type of contests that reinforces partnerships are those that involves guilds. These are contests that dare guilds to collect a certain type of item, the guilds with the more items collected wins.
7. Provide range of roles with increasing involvement
There are no visitors in Maple Story; all players must register in order to play the game. However, registration is easy and free, and all characters must start in Maple Island which serves as a welcome center for new players (Kim 2000). The non-player characters and indicators built into the rooms in Maple Island are meant to bring beginners up to speed on how the game works, and all of the monsters in the area are low-level to match the level of the players who find themselves there so new players can get a feel for how the game is played without being overwhelmed or ending up in a place filled with monsters that are too difficult.
While it is not possible to just visit the game without registering, registration is easy so players can try out the game starting with Maple Island to see if they would like it. Many do stay, but it is not hard to try it and never play again. The beginner area protects the regulars from these pseudo-visitors (and other beginners’ constant questions) as well as protecting the new players from stumbling into the more difficult areas.
New characters are officially given “Beginner” status when they are created. This status is visible to other players, as is the character level. Characters remain beginners until at least level 8 or 10, when they may choose a class, or “job.” Characters may become wizards at level 8 or they may become thieves, warriors, or bowmen at level 10. In order to advance from the beginner class to another class they must go to the city associated with that character class and talk to an NPC. They may not meet the other skill requirements (e.g. a warrior must have strength of at least 45), so it may be several more levels before a player may advance to their chosen class, particularly if they have never played before and did not talk to anyone else about how to assign skill points.
Despite the official ceremony that takes away the “beginner” status, players may still consider characters below 20 or 25 to be low-level, beginner characters. Derek commented that, though he has been in four guilds since, he was unable to join a guild until he was level 25 because no one wanted anyone lower than that. It is not difficult to reach levels 8 or 10, and one can attain that level without knowing much about the game or being very interested in it. But while the advancement may not mean much to the regular players, it may mean a great deal for the new members, rewarding them for their effort thus far and convincing them to stay.
There is a second job advancement that can take place at level 30. At that point a player may choose to go into one of two or three subcategories of their original job. For instance, a thief starts out at level 10 as a Rogue and may choose to advance to Assassin or Bandit. This advancement involves a similar amount of ceremony as the first. Level 30 is much more difficult to reach than the first class advancement levels, and requires a great deal more dedication and involvement from the player. At this point a player could much more comfortably be called a regular, but may be seen as such before then. The ceremony makes it official.
[Classes and Jobs]
Despite the official ceremonies, the character level may not actually reflect the participation of the player in the community. Every player is allowed to have three characters on each of the six servers. Many players do have multiple characters, often one favorite character plus a low-level character that they may play infrequently and use as a bank for valuable items that are not needed at the moment. The level of the character may not reflect the skill-level of the players themselves. Some players also choose to remain “beginners” forever, never advancing to any of the player classes. There are several guilds consisting only of this type of player. These players may play often over a long period of time and even reach high levels, but they never make the official transition out of beginner status.
Players may become leaders in guilds and in parties for the party quest, but there are no leadership positions for the entire game that can be assumed by the players. Players may start their own guilds and they can be given ranks in existing guilds. Derek was able to become a junior master in each of the guilds he was in by helping the guild master and other guild members.
The leaders/owners for the entire game are the Game Masters, or GMs. They are seldom seen, but they make their presence felt by banning players who have broken the terms of service, for instance through hacking. Players may submit reports of misbehavior to the GMs automatically without ever seeing the GMs. Banning announcements are made to the entire server. These comments are in blue to stand out from the rest of the chat comments. Sometimes the GMs will respond to megaphone comments directed at them, but this is infrequent. There is no way (within the game) for players to become Game Masters.
No player level has the ability to create new areas or set policy. The environment is not customizable by the player. Any character can customize their avatar’s appearance when the first create it and later through the clothes they buy through the game’s stores and the “Cash Shop,” which allows players to spend real-world money on items. Cash shop items may be used on players of any level, but in-game items have more restrictions. Some items may be used by any player type, but others may only be used by a single class. They may also be restricted in what level character my use them, preventing low-level characters from using the really good weapons and armor.
“Hosting” is also limited; there are no official hosts, though anyone can choose to act as a host in any given conversation, as in any chat room. These are unofficial, and there is no support for hosting activity. Additionally, conversations take place in areas that have a lot of people just traveling through, and may be punctuated by unrelated conversation as other players enter and leave the room. Whispered or guild/party-only comments display in the same text box as all comments made within the room, as do announcements from the GMs and announcements by megaphone. This can make it difficult to hold a conversation, especially during a long megaphone conversation, as Charlotte points out:
This one day these two people had some argument about something really dumb back and forth for like five minutes. I don’t even remember what it was. But I was trying to have a conversation with someone and it was just constant megaphone back and forth and it made it really hard to keep up with the conversation.
Though people can go into less trafficked areas and servers to escape regular interruptions, megaphones are omnipresent, and there is nothing a would-be unofficial host can do about them. Smaller conversations can be held in private chat windows separate from the rest of the chat, but these are limited to three people.
Technically any level character is allowed in any part of the game; there are no experience-based restrictions on game areas. The exception to this is Maple Island, which is limited to only new players; once someone leaves Maple Island they cannot go back. However, there are many areas of the game that new players just cannot get to because they will not survive the journey, and they probably would not last long once they got there. Technically speaking, players may view any area of the game, but it is not actually practical to do so in many places. However, there are quests that only appear once players reach a certain level. A low-level character will not be able to see a quest that is only for characters of level 30 and above.
Players gain skills and stats as they gain levels. Every level allows the player to assign five stat points to their hit points, strength, dexterity, intelligence, or luck. Higher stats allow players to kill monsters more effectively and use better weapons and armor. They also may receive Skill points, which they can assign to a set of skills that varies by character class. Beginners have a certain set of skills, and players gain an additional set of skills with each advancement. Skills may have effects on monsters or on their own character. Ability to increase the level of a skill or stat is indicated with yellow arrows; beginner skills also cause the skill button to flash, and both skills and stats are explained in the beginner area.
Players also receive the ability to affect other player’s fame when they reach level 15. Fame is necessary to wear certain items, and players are ranked by fame on the Maple Story website. Other than that people tend not to rely on it. Low fame may indicate that someone is a hacker, but it may also indicate that someone has been hit by one of the people who like going around lowering people’s fame for no good reason. There are also people who buy fame to raise their rank in the fame listing—or, when despairing of joining the upper ranks, people buy negative fame to try to be the person on the bottom. However, most players do not seem to pay it much mind.
So while playing for a while does confer this ability, the actual affect of the ability on the game itself (rather than rankings outside it) is dubious. Status is attained in all of the classes and as a beginner through killing monsters and doing quests. Both of these give the character experience points, and when the character accrues enough experience points it gains a level. Higher levels allow the player to do more quests, kill tougher monsters, see new areas (by being able to get past the monsters in those areas), and use new items. For some of the players gaining levels is also an end in itself.
Players can also gain social status by talking to others and being helpful. This allowed one of the interviewees to gain the position of Junior Master in each of the guilds he was in. Megaphones allow players to talk to everyone in the world, which means they get their name out there for the entire world to see and people can become well-known by using them:
To have a megaphone like this, it’s pretty smart. You get to talk to a lot of people that way. Just by getting your name out there people will talk to you.
Players can use megaphones and other social methods to enlarge their social circle and gain greater social capital, becoming a well-known (and hopefully respected) member of the community. However some other participants found the Megaphones to be rather annoying:
Khaini - I guess they could (add a sense of community) but mostly people at shouting out stuff that are just inane or pointless.
Wind - If they ever actually put in the cash shop, ah… super ear plugs… I and everybody I know will probably purchase them.
8. Support member-created sub-groups
There are two types of subgroup available in Maple Story: parties and guilds. Parties are temporary alliances that can be formed and dissolved easily. Players in the same party share experience points earned from kills and money drops, allowing players in a party to level more quickly than on their own. Parties can consist of anyone, even people who have never met before, though often they consist of people who know each other traveling and leveling together. Guilds are more permanent groups of friends. They do not convey the same benefits that parties do, but people in the same guild can form parties together. Guilds help bring people together.
Parties are advertised and promoted in the game not only through their advantages but also through the party quests. In the party quests, players must group together to accomplish some task. Parties are also easily created with a clearly marked “Invite Party” button when you view another character. It takes no effort to create or leave a party, and the method of creating them is very clear even for new players.
Guilds are also advertised and promoted in the game. When a player is in a guild, the name of that guild appears below their name advertising the guild. However, it is not easy to create a guild: it costs a lot of in-game money to create one, and the place where they are created is in a hard-to-find area of a place that new players do not often go. This perhaps discourages frivolous guild creation, creating more stable social structures.
Both guilds and parties can also be announced by the members of the group to the people in the room or to the entire world with a megaphone. Guilds may announce that they are recruiting (usually restricting it to some level and above) and parties doing the party quest often announce that they need another member to the rest of the room or to the world.
There is very little infrastructure to maintain either parties or guilds. There are separate chat modes that go to just guild members or just party members in any part of the world, but this chat is mixed in with all of the regular chat, announcements, and megaphones. These chats can get confusing to players, especially if they also have their own buddies chatting to them at the same time. Charlotte says that she loses track of the conversation sometimes, between her guild, her friends, other people in the same room, megaphones, and announcements, and if it’s really important people may have to whisper to her because the green text stands out from the rest or they send her a private message.
There is no infrastructure other than chat to organize events or aid planning or even communicate with members who are not online. There is no in-game calendar or permanent message board, though some guilds do organize these for themselves with their own guild webpages.
Guild leaders do have some ability to regulate behavior within the guild. The master and ranked members have control of who joins the guild and they can kick people out of the guild. People in parties can also do this, but often they may just choose to leave it themselves. In Charlotte’s guild a member joined and then tried to steal another member’s boyfriend, causing trouble within the guild. The new member was ultimately booted from the guild. However, she continued harassing guild members after she had left the guild and had to be reported to the GMs. The guild leaders have control over who is in the guild, but little else. The GMs were the only ones with the power to actually do anything about a troublesome member.
Guilds that are successful tend to be very active and have their own events. For instance, Charlotte’s guild is highly social. They are infamous for the things they do together. One of the things they do is all get together in the Free Market and just talk about things. She says her guild leader is very involved and makes things fun. In the past there have been no official guild events; the guild masters and junior masters have had to organize their own. Recently a new party quest was added, which could serve as a new event for a guild. However, it’s still very crowded right now and hard to get into.
Guild events can be promoted through the normal communication channels within the guild. They tend not to be promoted to non-members, though depending on the event a non-member may stumble upon it and decide to join in. For example, Lorie promotes her guild and its events using the super megaphone feature so that all members in her world know about what's happening. Sujo on the other hand seems to have more close knit events that seem to be great bonding activities for all members and range from simply chatting and taking screen shots to providing moral support to one another on quests. One of his best guild related memories on Maple Story involves an event surrounding one of his quests. In describing guild events he says, "...there's been times when we all got in the same room in the free market, just kind of hung out, chatted and goofed off, and then there were times when I got to level 70, there's a job advancement at 70, people in my guild all followed me around while I did the advancement, even though they didn't do anything with it; most of them died in the process, they didn't walk through [all] the places that I walked through to do the advancement but it was just fun to be supported."
9. Integrate what is online with the real world
Maple Story has celebrations for real-world holidays. Recently there were events, items, and quests celebrating Valentines Day and the lunar New Year. Monsters dropped roses, chocolate, wish tickets, and red envelopes that temporarily allows players to do new things if they took them to a new NPC that was introduced into the game. The seasonal NPCs remain in the game advertising the event for the next year.
Players can acknowledge personal events through announcements to their friends or to the entire community if they choose to announce it by megaphone. Some players announce friends’ birthdays to everyone in the world and invite people to “spam” that person with birthday messages. Players can also make celebratory announcements with “weather” purchased from the cash shop, which will show the announcement in the center of the screen surrounded by animated things falling from the sky. People also talk about both game events and real-life events when they chat. As mentioned earlier Lorie promotes her guild events using the super megaphone while Sujo organizes these among members mostly using the chat feature. There are, however, no official ways to announce real-life events, but perhaps in a role playing game it is not appropriate to have them.
There is a Maple Story convention that is organized by game distributors of other versions of the game (e.g. Maple Story Korea), but most players do not meet each other. There is no way to organize events other than the regular chat features, and Nexon does nothing to encourage these events. As many of the players are quite young (often 12-16) and come from a wide variety of places and background, it may not be appropriate for the players to meet. With all the concern about child safety online, it may be unwise for Nexon to promote such meetings at all. However, now there is a Nexon America (released on September 2006) that is currently based in California. This could mean that if the game increases in popularity in the United States, there is a chance that they could organize official conventions for their games, including Maple Story.
Hacking on Maple Story
Hacking in Maple Story relates to creating hacks that mess with the coding of the game, or downloading the already created hacks and running them when playing. These hacks can make changes to the way the game plays by: making characters fly, hit multiple monsters all over the map at the same time, grab items without really “grabbing” them, and others. The game is well known on hacker circles on the web. It seams there is an excellent opportunity to test hacking skills with Maple Story. Khaini says: “I think that people that create the hacks are very good computer programmers and they like to see what they can do”. On the other hand, the number one reason for using the hacks is because the game is free and there is no real penalty when someone looses an account due to hacking or other deviant practices:
Hack says: I don't find anything that would discourage hacking. If you lose the character that you hacked for a couple of days, it doesn't take that much effort to make another to start again.
The only way players may feel discouraged to hack is when they have bought items from the Cash Shop:
Bera: I’m not really into that (hacking) at all. I don’t want to get my characters banned. I’ve spend money on those characters on the Cash Shop. I do not want to loose them.
However, one of our participants told us that Nexon released an interesting statement: …they released the statement that if you are caught hacking but you bought NX Cash, we won’t delete your account. Maybe that is something that they should not have done because basically, they just said that it is ok to hack as long as you give us money. If this is true, what Nexon could be doing at this moment is banning the character that was caught hacking but not the account. NX Cash belongs to the account and not to the character. As we mentioned before in this paper, one can create more than one character with a single account. Also this statement gives more credibility to the notion that Nexon goal is to sell Cash Items.
Other reasons why many players hack is because the leveling system in Maple Story is really slow and gets slower with the leveling and some other hack as a reaction for being scammed:
Wind - They don not have the patience to sit down and play the game… and earn the experience. Another might be that somebody hacked their password (stole their character – scam) and now they want to regain what they had.
Many participants question Nexon’s methods for reporting hackers saying that it is not sufficient. That's why websites like MapleNoobs exist: "Maple Noobs is a completely open Wiki project designed for the reporting – and subsequent banning – of individuals which break the Nexon America terms of service by disrupting gameplay through the use of things like hacks and cracks".(MapleNoobs, 2007)The amount of hackers in recent months has increased dramatically and players (legits and no-so legits –legit means to play without hacks) are getting worried and taking the law in their own hands. All of our participants said something like the following quotes:
Hack – (Hackers) I find bothersome in ways that when I train with friends, it only
takes one person to ruin one area... Now take that and multiply that by the
number of hackers that exist and that's why people hate them.
Bera - I do not think it is as effective as it could be. The fact that you can only report one per day is annoying because I see probably thousands of hackers every time I play. It has gotten really bad lately.
We believe this is happening because Nexon is not really concerned with this issue or they just do not want to hire more Gm's to take care of the hacker reports. What we know is that they have use the hacking momentum to divide the community between hackers and legits. There are banners in the official webpage that promotes anti-hacking attitudes in a friendly sort of way. Doing this is almost as accepting that the hackers will always be there and they are not going to fight it but celebrate it. Nexon has accepted hackers as part of their community.
Wind - There’s a hacking community. They have their own websites, their own guilds as a matter of fact, and everything else.
[Anti-Hack Official Banners]
They know they cannot do much if the software is free. They will keep banning them and offering them a new account. And if you buy NX Cash, do not worry; your account will not be deleted.
Maple Story's unique 2d, anime style and low barrier to entry have attracted a large number of players. The game is especially successful in regards to the social players. Many of the features of the game are targeted towards these players, for instance the Cash Shop character customizations, the facial expressions, the guilds and other sub-groups, and the buddy lists. It is easy to talk to other players in the game, and the entire screen can even be given over to the chat window.
On the other hand, other player types may find the game more difficult. The rate at which experience required to gain a level increases is much greater than the rate at which experience gained from harder monsters increases. This means that eventually it becomes very difficult to gain levels. This affects both Bartle's achiever and explorer player types. Because there are few leadership opportunities, achievers must rely on character level, equipment, and fame to gain status. Level can be very difficult to raise, and equipment is also dependent on level. Fame is not a very reliable indicator of status because it is easily bought within the game rules–although having the money to buy so much fame might be an indicator of status after all. However, it is often not regarded as such. This leaves leveling up as the best option, and many players who are not satisfied with slowly leveling the legitimate way may resort to hacks which are widely available on the internet.
The difficulty of leveling can also affect the explorers. Many of the features of the game depend on level; players must gain levels in order to receive new quests, wear new armor, or be strong enough to get into more difficult areas. Some players are bored by the process of leveling up to get something new, and may hack to make the game more interesting. However, there are other players who find enough variety in the game to keep them interested; there are many hidden areas, and Nexon is frequently introducing new events and sometimes even new areas. Some of these players may also find a niche between the explorer and the social categories.
Other hackers may fall into the killer category; however, since so many people use hacks for the other reasons, and many of these hacks (e.g. vacuum hacks) tend to be obnoxious to other players at the very least, and sometimes even kill them.
Many of the players who level legitimately without resorting to hacks have strong feelings against the hackers, and some even leave the game because of them. Because of the way the game works there is no real way to absolutely prevent hacking (to much must take place on the client, not on the server), but there are some actions the company could take to discourage. As we believe the main reason people hack is because leveling happens so slowly at higher levels, either the rate at which experience gained from monsters or the rate at which experience is required to level could be changed to more closely match each other. Levels of existing characters would probably have to be adjusted to be fair to those players for having to work so hard to achieve their levels.
Incentives might also be offered for people to report hackers; however, many people already feel they have enough incentive to report them, and the limits on how many people any player can report in one day indicate that the Game Masters may already be swamped with more reports than they can handle. Nexon may need to increase the number of game masters.
Nexon could also introduce barriers to entry to the game. When they ban someone for hacking, that person is able to go get a new account. By requiring a registration fee blatant hacking might be discouraged. However, easy entry is in fact a feature of the game, and part of Nexon's business model. Nexon encourages people to try the game, and makes money dedicated players who chose to customize their characters with NX cash. Hacking might be reduced by charging a fee, but so might overall growth–and it does not solve the underlying cause of hacking.
However, Maple Story has achieved relative balance as a highly social game by encouraging the achievers and explorers Nexon could change the balance of players in the game and could adversely affect the game atmosphere. While Bartle says that explorers do not affect the social population and only a large increase or decrease in achievers will decrease the social population, Maple Story's friendly atmosphere could be adversely affected by the encouragement of other player types. On the other hand, removing the annoying hacking that interferes with other players could do enough to balance those changes.
To conclude, while Maple Story caters well to the socializer, there are deficiencies where explorers, killers and achievers are concerned. By drawing more attention to the issues of the latter groups i.e. launching new locations more frequently, or better rewards for hard training, Nexon may just solve their hacking problem along the way.
Bartle, R. (n.d.). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: players who suit MUDs. Retrieved January 1, 2007 from http://www.brandeis.edu/pubs/jove/HTML/v1/bartle.html
Bruckman, A., Curtis, P., Figallo, C., and Laurel, B. (1994). Approaches to Managing Deviant Behavior in Virtual Communities. Paper presented at CHI 94, Boston, MA.
Castronova, E. (2005). Governance. Synthetic Worlds(Ch. 9). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.
Donath, J. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In M. A. Smith & P. Kollock (Eds.), Communities in cyberspace (pp. 29-59). London: Routledge
Gamasutra- Q&A: Nexon America talks Maple Story (2007, February 28th). Retrieved March 3rd, 2007 from http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=12928
Kim, Amy Jo (2000) Community Building on the Web. Berkeley: Peachpit Press.
MapleStory. (2007, March 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 5, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple_story .
MTV Networks and Nexon Partnership (2006, November 9). Retrieved March 5, 2007, from http://www.nexon.net/?PART=/Etc/About.
Official Interview Structure
Tell me about your experiences on Maple Story?
How did you find maple story? How much do you play?
For how long have you been playing?
Do you (have you) played other online games?
How did you find them?
How much do you play them?
What's different about maple story to make you play more/less than others?
What was your first experience on Maple Story like for you?
Best and Worst memories/experiences on Maple Story
Tell me about any Party Quests, or guilds that you've been a part of? Where on maple Story do you feel a sense of community? what memorable experiences have you had within guilds?
Walk me through a typical gameplay session on maple story from the time you log on to log off?
Why do you think this site is so popular among kids?
What do you think about adult players?
Questions about hacking:
When people talk about hacking on Maple Story, what do they mean? (what types of activities would you call hacking?)
What do you think about hackers?
Why do you think people begin hacking?
Do you feel that any feature (s) of the game promote / encourage hacking? If so, which features?
Do you feel that any feature (s) of the game discourages hacking? Which features?
Have you ever hacked Maple Story?
Why don't you?
Would you hack given the opportunity?
When/how did you begin hacking?
Why do you hack?
What, if any, are appropriate times and places for hacking? Hacker ethic? (Good/bad hacks, good/bad use of hacks?)
Have you ever been reprimanded/ nearly caught in the act of hacking? If so, did you return to it? Why/Why not?
Do you hack on other games/sites? Why/Why not?
Do you know how to report if someone is hacking?
YES = What do you think about their hacker reporting method?
Is there a solution to hacking?
What do you think the makers of Maple Story intended the mission to be? If they give an answer, then ask : do you feel that this mission is supported in the game and website community.
Is it clear to you how to use Tech Support? What have some of your experiences been like with Tech Support?
Have you ever used one? Why did you get one? What do you use it for and why?
How do you think megaphones affect the sense of community within Maple Story?
Sub-groups publicity (encourage)
Do you feel that guilds/ parties are encouraged? ( Can marriages be viewed as subgroups and if so do they foster a sense of community?)
Tiger Controversy (can get at Backstory)
Do you know who Tiger is on Maple Story? Are you aware of the controversy surrounding Tiger? How has this affected you?
What would you do to add to Maple Story if you could? What would you remove from it if you could?
-Additional good questions:
Have you ever killed other players by summoning monsters (throwing monsters sacks)?
What do you think about the fame feature?