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Tear down the walls!

Brasse -- 2007-03-29 12:05:16

I was appalled when I learned that Lord of the Rings Online was planning to use IP blocking to enforce regional segregation.

Shortly afterwards, I was subsequently elated to learn that they had reconsidered, and would allow our overseas friends to play on US servers.
THREE CHEERS FOR TURBINE!!!

I would love to personally thank the person at Turbine who ultimately sat down in a meeting there one day and said, "Let us fix this."

Some of the finest people I have played with have been in the UK and Europe, in a multitude of games like Shadowbane, SWG, EQ and EQII. To suddenly have the specter of an artificial barrier that utterly prevents them from adventuring with us was really upsetting. I thought we'd outgrown that.

I cannot imagine locking them all behind a huge silicon curtain, decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, enforcing boundaries that we have long delighted in crossing without the real life hassles of border guards, declaration forms, luggage searches, and so on.

One of the greatest joys of online gaming is in experiencing how these worlds surmount issues of nationality, religion, culture, socio-economic status and education.

I have only to recall the last InnMates guild gathering to be reminded how very different we all are, and how we'd never have met in real life without the impetus provided by the relationships we developed in games such as EQ, way back when.

I get my Dwarven nose REALLY out of joint when nameless suits in marketing, licensing and the department of making-civilization-take-ten-steps-backward bring in regional segregation.

I am all for localization - that is entirely different, and allows players to experience these amazing worlds in their own language... but allow us the choice. Let us play with our friends.

The comic today illustrates the lengths to which people will go to circumvent these ridiculous artificial constructs. I do not want to encourage people to circumvent EULA and TOS agreements, but they WILL. People will buy retail boxes in foreign countries, allow close friends to play on their credit cards via private payment arrangement... IP blocking presents more challenges, but I will bet you several beer that there are ways to spoof your IP address so that you look like you are logging in from another country.

To all new games in production, and old games still clinging to regional segregation:
Just let us play together.

Thank you.
Brasse


ps. This article will, inevitably, lead to more articles from me on the dark side of free global traffic in online games, including the implications of "cashing out" in online games via grey markets, and the very real presence of money laundering by organized crime. That is a tale for another day, but should concern us all.

As more and more economic activity (including games) move to the Internet, increased regulation, taxation and policing must, and will follow. We live in interesting times, my friends.

There is indeed something behind the curtain.
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