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Raph Koster has made a post on his website that poses an interesting question for MMO gamers. What is cheating? He looks at what it meant to cheat in the earliest forms of MMOs and muds, and compares that to what we think of as cheating in the context of today's games and "strategy guides".
The thing that’s funny is that yes, of course players regard RMT as cheating. But make no mistake, looking up the steps to a quest was once upon a time a bannable offense on many muds, and widely considered cheating. (Calling the sites out there today “strategy guides” is a bit of stretch — they’re more like complete walkthroughs). Powerlevelling someone was once upon a time a bannable offense on some muds. Going through a quest with someone and telling them the steps. Chatting the location of an item on a public channel. You get the idea. Yes, all of Allakhazam is the equivalent of something that would have gotten scorn and anger from among both the playerbase and the admins.
Frankly, the definition of cheating has grown a lot more lax over the years. The early mud culture was very big on avoiding spoilers, at least in the quest-oriented muds. (Many of the quests were, of course, much more complex and more like adventure game puzzles). People were granted the powers of game admins based on levelling to the top of the game — and it was presumed to be important that they had intimate knowledge of the game, so powerlevelling someone was looked down upon.
Over time, we got game design solutions to stuff like powerlevelling. To a point anyway — the practice continues, but it’s nowhere near as egregious as it was in the days before stuff like XP scaled by level. On some muds, you could group a newbie and a level 100, have the newbie stand out of the way, and level the newbie a pile of levels at once by having the level 100 kill a few high level mobs.
Read more here.