200: Wanted: Ganked or Alive

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Wanted: Ganked or Alive

In a rush to ban griefers from their online worlds, MMOG operators may be passing up a golden opportunity: to harness griefers' collective ill intent and apply it toward the greater good. Allen Varney speculates whether creative game design can turn griefers against themselves.

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I like the bounty hunter idea. It would strengthen the role-playing aspect of the game (whatever that game may be) and solve the problem of griefers all at the same time. I also enjoy the idea of players governing themselves instead of being looked upon by some faceless entity that exists only as an e-mail address (which is why I am more and more intrigued by EVE).

What the heck is a Griefer?
Lol, srsly.

I especially like the oubliette idea. They'd have no idea it's coming. One day they're happily griefing hapless newbies, the next they're in a nightmare world full of howling spectres, dark Lovecraftian atmosphere, and other griefers. It'd almost be like an entirely different game, and some griefers might never want to leave.

BlueInkAlchemist:
I especially like the oubliette idea. They'd have no idea it's coming. One day they're happily griefing hapless newbies, the next they're in a nightmare world full of howling spectres, dark Lovecraftian atmosphere, and other griefers. It'd almost be like an entirely different game, and some griefers might never want to leave.

So... griefers are consigned to hell? Sounds about right.

Wasn't the CSM set up by CCP to (excuse my cynicism) make it appear that players could have some input into EVE? All the EVE discussions I've seen about it treat it and the people who make it up (iirc, elected for six month periods based on a popular vote) as an absolute joke.

It would have been much better to talk about A Tale In The Desert - only 5k players, but the community can elect a Pharaoh who can ban players - or Roma Victor, where griefers can be publicly crucified (http://www.roma-victor.com/news/press/showpr.php?pr=060323a).

UO also ran into problems in trying to get the community to deal with griefers on their own - bounty systems only encouraged griefers who treated it like a score card and player police often found (much like the real police) that they'd arrive long after the griefer had fled.

The problem with trying to punish a griefer in-game is that the griefer is ultimately playing a meta-game; any punishment you impose is just going to cause them to switch proxies and create a new account, because they aren't attached to their "actual" progress in the game as much as they are their ability to undermine other people's time investments. As long as a relatively new character maintains the ability to be even slightly annoying or destructive, griefers will always have the upper hand.

Consider the idea of an "elected" board of officials. Imagine for a moment how easy it would be for griefers to overrun such a board and take control of it from the inside -- and consider how incredibly tempting it would be for them, especially if such a board had any kind of power. All they'd need to do is talk their friends into making a hundred characters apiece, and voting once (or a million times each, if the vote is conducted foolishly).

In real life, the penalty for being a sociopath is that you don't get an extra life. If we lock you in jail for life or kill you or whatever, you're dead; all games are over for you. Online, however, no punishment lasts any longer than the griefer chooses to let it last, unless he's made the foolish "mistake" of actually caring about the game.

Clemenstation:

BlueInkAlchemist:
I especially like the oubliette idea. They'd have no idea it's coming. One day they're happily griefing hapless newbies, the next they're in a nightmare world full of howling spectres, dark Lovecraftian atmosphere, and other griefers. It'd almost be like an entirely different game, and some griefers might never want to leave.

So... griefers are consigned to hell? Sounds about right.

If only Sartre would come back from the dead as a software developer...

TomDavidson:

In real life, the penalty for being a sociopath is that you don't get an extra life. If we lock you in jail for life or kill you or whatever, you're dead; all games are over for you. Online, however, no punishment lasts any longer than the griefer chooses to let it last, unless he's made the foolish "mistake" of actually caring about the game.

They DO care about the game, albeit from the perspective of wanting to destroy it. Trolls are the most persistent forum members and complain the most bitterly when they are booted. It's like crack for them--they *need* the high of beating up on other people.

If it's a real problem, the easiest thing to do is to reject anonymity. If these proxies just allow people to be jerks and get away with it, why allow proxies at all? Ban the entire bank of IP addresses assigned to that proxy. Scorched-earth solutions like this are obnoxious, but they do work. If the other people who use the proxy want to play, they can complain to the proxy until it polices itself. (And likely get laughed at if they're, say, using university computers without permission, which is not uncommon.)

Anonymity only serves criminals. It can be valuable for good people in a society where the government doesn't respect rights and honest people are turned into criminals, but last I checked gaming was still legal. Anyone who desires anonymity in that context should be immediately suspect.

Maybe the best way to provide some relief from grief is to broadcast loud and clear to other players "THIS PLAYER IS ANONYMOUS!!" Don't you teach your kids to look for suspicious behavior? Enable players to exercise prudence by providing just the kind of information they need.

I haven't had a chance to finish the article yet, but I'd like to point out that WoW is far from free of griefing. Here are a few examples:

a) Alliance newbie is in the starter area, killing trolls. They go to kill one troll, only for that troll to turn around and slaughter them. Little did they realize it was a level 70 player from the Horde, dressed up just like the other mobs. They also don't realize that they have now been PvP flagged for 5 minutes, which means the second they respawn, the griefer will be waiting to take them under again. The PvP flag was put in place to prevent newbies unwittingly being entered into PvP combat, but the mechanics of it leave them quite vulnerable to provocation and scams like this.

b) You're a hunter trying to tame a rare creature. Of course, so are many other players of both factions. You get there first and begin taming. Another player (of either faction) is jealous for missing the opportunity and promptly slaughters the animal you are currently taming. Since what they did was just a normal part of the game (kill neutral monster), you have no recourse against them, even through the GMs.

c) You are grinding your way through enemies, trying to gain experience. Everytime you go to kill something, the griefer finishes it off. Since you got the first hit, it is "tagged" so that only you get experience, but since the experience you receive is proportional to the damage you have done and the griefer has killed it before you had a chance to do much damage, your experience is considerably reduced. Combine with a limited respawn rate and your experience rate is greatly reduced.

There are many ways to grief in WoW, many of them simple and within the rules of the game. Even in a game largely focused around PvE, any player interactions (even through the external environment) can be used for griefing.

I think there are some simple solutions to this. If we accept that players can always interact in some way conducive to griefing, then we need to give players the opportunity to defend themselves. Direct intervention from responsive GMs is a possibility, but it doesn't scale well and it's a constantly uphill battle. Instead, why not embrace the the fact that PvP is possible and allow them to fight back. Remove the "PvP doesn't exist here" shackles that imply safety and prevent retaliation and instead make it a free-for-all. It assumes that the principle of mutually-assured destruction applies, but it's been seen to work well in games like EVE Online and Warhammer Online. When we are all equal in ability, we all have to fear for our own safety, so we avoid provoking others.

The major downside to this is that, unchecked, equality can always be overcome. Larger groups of people, higher levels, better equipment, or even just skill, can result in a power discrepancy, in which case those with more power can grief without fear of retribution. This isn't an easy problem to solve; if you figure out a way, tell it to our legal system, who constantly struggles with the problem of policing the police.

I like the idea of bounty hunters amusing- jail may backfire because many griefers may choose to go there for rep. I cringe at the idea of sharing banlists- once the penalty is great enough truly creative griefers would find every way possible to report people for griefing so they would suffer the consequences. The idea of internet laws of pleasant game conduct goes above and beyond the role of game companies. They may have the right to expect conduct of whatever sort is in their eula but to trade info from other companies is a gross overstepping of bounds here.

I think the solution would be to make griefer servers and encourage those who get the most complaints to go to these server s- if its egregious enough you can ip ban them from the other servers and only let them in the griefer ones.

Anonymity is a right as I see it- those that say it only serves criminals are a bit fascist in my opinion. We as gamers should have the right to privacy. I sometimes purposely choose to exercise my rights to privacy when I have done nothing wrong - just to exercise those rights and for anyone to call me immediately suspect is to insult me without good cause.

I can see the merit in a lot of these ideas... but isn't it easier to just exercise your ignore options? Be it in a game, a forum or any other online community setting?

TomDavidson:
In real life, the penalty for being a sociopath is that you don't get an extra life. If we lock you in jail for life or kill you or whatever, you're dead; all games are over for you. Online, however, no punishment lasts any longer than the griefer chooses to let it last, unless he's made the foolish "mistake" of actually caring about the game.

True, true!

If only there were a way to make the griefer believe they were still connected and still annoying people while disconnecting them from the actual game.

JMeganSnow:
Anonymity only serves criminals.

That's the most frightening viewpoint I've read today.

I'm sure it wasn't meant as an absolute but it definitely comes off that way. The shades of grey that exist for those who crave anonymity are far more numerous than the "suspect" and not that you suggest.

One of the major points of interest in gaming is being someone other than yourself and doing things other than what you would normally do. That would be much more difficult if you were tied to your real identity. The identity you present to friends may be friendly and kindhearted whereas one of the many you display in online games may be cutthroat and unmerciful. What if you want to imagine a character of a different sex or sexual orientation in-game? That probably isn't information you'd like indelibly tied to your real-life face. I don't think it's paranoid to suggest that employers who already browse employee's Facebook accounts wouldn't be above accessing records of which employees are spending how much time online or are actively demeaning the corporate image in their outside lives.

Not everyone who seeks anonymity does so in order to be a dick.

Having seen my share of "witch hunts" in forums, I'm uncomfortable with making a public spectacle of anyone, even a griefer. I've seen mob rule, and it's not pretty. I also think the author forgets about psychology. If you make a sport of, for want of a better word "torturing" someone, no matter how justified, it's easier the next time around to do it to someone who is not a griefer. You don't want to encourage bad behavior. I personally think that the fact that we don't have public hangings anymore - it's a good thing.

On anonymity - I like it - let's not go there. I'm not going to publically identify myself, in an online world - not going to happen.

On griefing, I think the answer is two fold
- get them out of the game. The people running the games need to find a way to get them out. You stop the game for the griefer - they don't get to play anymore. Remove them from the situation.

- find a way to minimize their impact, in game. Make minimizing griefing part of game design. Some of this might have to do with a change in game design. Instancing is one example. The other is an "ignore" function that really works. Those WoW examples on griefing - interesting. What that tells me that there is something about the WoW design that doesn't work. Sure, WoW is a game that millions of people are playing happily, and it's a good game. but that tells me that even a very popular game such as WoW has some way to go, with regards to design.

I'm not crazy about the game player police force. This assumes there is "one" game community, and that volunteers can police others, particularly in a very large, diverse world, with different groups of people. Maybe it could work, assuming some sort of control - I don't know. Eve is a different kind of game, and in-game deception and in-game politics and complicated player alliances - that's what you do. That is so not my kind of game (though I admit, an interesting concept) that it's hard for me to understand how you can apply something about Eve to another kind of game.

I guess this explains why I like Guild Wars so much, and I'm not too happy that there will be less instancing in GW2.

This articule i like. I'd love to punish griefers with some of these ideas. Thining out the morons abit sounds good to me, and if there purge helps the game ,or the devolpers think up new ideas that will improve there products via it ,mores the better.

I like the idea of a "griefer hell" server, myself, but it'd have to be one that the griefer doesn't recognise as being a "hell" server or he/she/it'll just exercise the usual griefer tactic of changing accounts. Perhaps pushing griefers onto a server with other griefers and NPCs rigged to act like archetypical newbies/n00bs would keep the griefers in the "flypaper" servers long enough to keep their numbers down in the good servers... but I don't know how reasonable it is to expect a server to pass the "Turing test" for long enough to make the effort pay off without being hellishly expensive on AI development.

Oh well, ideas are free. Maybe this one'll spark a better one in someone else.

-- Steve

I've found from most MMO's I've played (all of them Korean) that there are effective means of controlling griefers.

In Tantra, they have a Karma System. Unlike the Evil-Neutral-Bad alignments, you only have Good (0 Karma) and Evil (positive Karma). When you PK someone, you get 600 Karma and your name turns red for all to see. The penalty for griefing is that your HP/MP won't regenerate naturally and some items in your inventory *might* drop when you get killed (not exactly a prospect you will risk after all that grinding). You either wait for the Karma to drop (four hours for 600 Karma) or you kill monsters who are within your level range (difficult, because people can kill you without penalties).

In Cabal, they have a Prison. Everytime you kill someone, your name turns from Orange, to several shades of red, to eventually, Black. During that process, each hit administered results in a loss of Honor Points (Honor is required to equip some of the end-game gear). After your name turns black, one more PK lands you in jail. The jail is a separate maze-like area that only becomes accessible when you get teleported to it. You can try looking for the exit, or wait out the time.

I very much like the idea of "masking" players to the griefer; Making strong characters appear weak, and vice versa. While this, IMO, is the best method, (other then directly banning them) there are many obstacles. One example would be gear. You can obviously tell a high level player apart from a low level one simply by what he/she is wearing. It would be difficult to change the appearance of a player's gear rather then just his level number on the HUD or something.

It's a good idea, but it poses it's share of challenges. I also liked the oubliette idea, but in practice I don't think it would work too well. Many griefers would see this as a goal and actually want to get themselves banished.

Overall an interesting article. Although, the guy who wrote it seems a bit pretentious with his word selection. I mean come on, not many people know what an "ombudsman" is; Or an "oubliette" for that matter. Maybe leave the thesaurus aside when righting your next article.

Sharing banlists?

Second dumbest idea I've heard all day. This would cause so much abuse it's far, far beyond ridiculous. Anyone who even considers it must either just be throwing it out there without giving it any thought at all.

Rejecting anonymity?

Dumbest idea I've heard all day. Dumbest idea I've heard all week/month. Probably the dumbest idea I've heard all year. Possibly the dumbest idea I've heard this millennium.
If you somehow overcame the technical problems with that idea, you'd instantly be the most horrible person on earth to everyone valuing liberty, free speech, due process or any related concept. You'd be in the same category of people as Oppenheimer, or possibly Hitler if you did it intentionally.
And if you didn't overcome the technical problems you'd be just another windbag full of hot air.

There's a thing not totally unlike the Bounty Hunter thing in an MMO I played. Players would be marked with a special skull for a month after a certain amount of unjustified player kills, and they could then be attacked by anyone without punishment. Death would cost them all their gear.

Seriously just make more carebear servers. Let the pvp servers be no holds barred and have the whiners move to carebear servers.

This article has to be a joke. Allen Varney wrote PARANOIA, for goodness sake. There is no possibility that he is as naive and silly as he portrays himself.

The projected solutions to griefing are kind of hysterical, and seem rather PARANOIA-ish in themselves. But the idea that player-run government will eliminate griefing? That has to be satire/humour, surely? Everything we've ever seen from online communities (which tend towards, with all due respect, being petty-natured, vindictive, clique-y, and generally like the High School from Hell), and from people suddenly handed power, and, if one is even a little cynical, from human nature and history flies directly in the face of that. The Judge Dredd reference, I mean, come on, you're kidding right, Allen? This is all a big a joke at the expense of The Escapist's readership, right, right? With players in charge, the main things we can expect are anyone the leadership dislikes being labelled a "griefer", and genuinely horrid individuals who are "in" with the leadership being given virtually free reign to do what they like.

The first few ideas remind me of similar things that were implemented in the Unreal Tournament 2004 mod 'Jailbreak' (I believe there are other versions of Jailbreak mods for other games, but this is the one I'm familiar with).

The basic idea of the game is you've got two teams, and when you kill a player of the opposing team they get put in jail. Players who are still alive battle to release their teammates by standing on a release button in the enemy base, or try to capture the whole enemy team before they get caught themselves.

Now the system was open to griefing. If a player just stood around by the prison door, he could just kill anyone coming out of the prison, were they released. Furthermore, him being free and them being in prison meant he'd have access to powerups and superior weapons, making escapees easy prey.

To get around the issue, the Jailbreak mod implemented essentially the first two ideas here. If a player killed several players just realeased from prison a loud voice would announce 'There's a Llama in the house!' and the offending player would become marked on the maps of everyone on the server (even his own team). Their avatar would change to that of some bizarre bipedal Llama, so there's no missing them. Furthermore, the player would be worth bonus points to the person to take them down. And just to make sure they did go down, the game modified the griefer's view, by having their screen fill with bright white light so they could barely see, and sway in a drunken manner.

It was really quite effective, you'd generally be competing with a number of people to take down the 'Llama'.

In summary; I really wish I was playing Jailbreak right now...

Terminalchaos:
Seriously just make more carebear servers. Let the pvp servers be no holds barred and have the whiners move to carebear servers.

This. The "Age of Conan" Example is so effing bad, their "outlaw system" just didn't seem to promote PvP, oh and, PvP for level 80s was only in that goddamn Stygian place, Kheshetta or whatever the correct spelling was for that god forsaken brownish reddish uglish outlandish land.

And I have yet to read an article that covers griefing in EVE Online: Band of Brothers demise was certainly at the apex of Griefing in any game.

There is actually a "Griefer's Hell" already. It's called EVE Online. Unfortunately many people unaware of this fact get sucked into playing the game and end up being grist for the mill.

ReverseEngineered:
a) Alliance newbie is in the starter area, killing trolls. They go to kill one troll, only for that troll to turn around and slaughter them. Little did they realize it was a level 70 player from the Horde, dressed up just like the other mobs. They also don't realize that they have now been PvP flagged for 5 minutes, which means the second they respawn, the griefer will be waiting to take them under again. The PvP flag was put in place to prevent newbies unwittingly being entered into PvP combat, but the mechanics of it leave them quite vulnerable to provocation and scams like this.

This is brilliant!

honestly?, I know griefing can be annoying and might cause a few newbies to quit but is it really that big of a concern? The newbies who quit would just quit later because of some different problem. I think the current system works well, your account gets banned and you need to start over. It works well with the idea of games being a form of escapism, If you're having a crappy day and feel like doing a little newbie killing, should you get a permanent ban from the game from any account? Also, the banning all IPs idea doesn't take into account people living in the same place who both play. Should I be banned because my roommate decided to do a bunch of team-killing? The punishment should fit the crime, and right now it fits about right.

but that's just my opinion.

(((Allen Varney wrote PARANOIA, for goodness sake. There is no possibility that he is as naive and silly as he portrays himself.)))

On the contrary, I really am as incredibly naive and silly as that!

(((the idea that player-run government will eliminate griefing? That has to be satire/humour, surely? Everything we've ever seen from online communities (which tend towards, with all due respect, being petty-natured, vindictive, clique-y, and generally like the High School from Hell), and from people suddenly handed power, and, if one is even a little cynical, from human nature and history flies directly in the face of that.)))

The player-run government idea isn't for kids' games, or even teenagers; I've read "Lord of the Flies." But for the many MMOs with an older audience, I suggest the vindictive cliquishness may subside under the weight of genuine responsibility. We see that in, for instance, juries. A group of twelve people handed life-or-death power usually seems to buckle down and try to do a good job.

History shows -- well, history shows a lot of examples of everything. There are examples that show people in power will try to keep their constituents reasonably happy, so as to remain in power. This does require close, continuous contact between governors and governed, and I think MMOs can excel at that.

(((you're kidding right, Allen? This is all a big a joke at the expense of The Escapist's readership, right, right? With players in charge, the main things we can expect are anyone the leadership dislikes being labelled a "griefer", and genuinely horrid individuals who are "in" with the leadership being given virtually free rein to do what they like.)))

I intended it all seriously, albeit speculative and possible only in the medium-distant future. "Players in charge" doesn't necessarily equal "absolute dictatorship." There are many possible systems of government. I suggest once there is a workable identity system and virtual environments that are authentically under player control (as opposed to the total authority of a commercial MMO operator), it is worth exploring different system of player governance.

(((It works well with the idea of games being a form of escapism, If you're having a crappy day and feel like doing a little newbie-killing, should you get a permanent ban from the game from any account?)))

I personally say yes, you should, and I expect the newbies you kill would agree with me. If games are escapism, then what gives you the right to ruin someone else's escape?

I had mail about this article from an actual no-kidding sociopathic griefer, who called me a "carebear" and meant it to sting. He said, "Players like you are killing games for me. Casual, as you are, is killing hardcore, as I am." He sounded like a hunter aggrieved at federal protection of endangered species. No, wait, now that I think on it, he sounded like a gun owner aggravated at the idea of gun control. I wonder if the player government debate will eventually look like the gun debate?

Open pvp, best anti-griefer. What better way to get rid of a griefer then to kill him? Also promotes players to take the path of pk over that of a traditional griefer, something that can serve to enhance the gameplay experience by adding a sense of risk and danger. With a proper alignment/flagging system pks can be controlled to the point where they are forced to inhabit the more remote and dangerous areas, and allows for players to know who they are and even hunt them down.

APVarney:
(((It works well with the idea of games being a form of escapism, If you're having a crappy day and feel like doing a little newbie-killing, should you get a permanent ban from the game from any account?)))

I personally say yes, you should, and I expect the newbies you kill would agree with me. If games are escapism, then what gives you the right to ruin someone else's escape?

I had mail about this article from an actual no-kidding sociopathic griefer, who called me a "carebear" and meant it to sting. He said, "Players like you are killing games for me. Casual, as you are, is killing hardcore, as I am." He sounded like a hunter aggrieved at federal protection of endangered species. No, wait, now that I think on it, he sounded like a gun owner aggravated at the idea of gun control. I wonder if the player government debate will eventually look like the gun debate?

I feel like I'm being griefed over the internet by someone who wants to talk behind my back and make assumptions about my mental health. It's comical, it really is. After enduring your rude nature I called you a carebear in response to this:

(((I once talked to a player in EVE who said any "non-consensual"
PvP was griefing. You would be suprised as to how many times players
believe this to be the truth. This thought brings me to this
conclusion, griefing is necessary. Call it a stupid tax.)))

...I will waste a minute or so of my life to inform you,
doubtless uselessly, that you are wrong and the other player is
correct -- non-consensual PvP is indeed griefing. The "stupidity tax"
argument is a classic griefer rationale intended to justify random
cruelty to strangers. From the tone of your note, it's clear you
derive a feeling of superiority from this random cruelty, which is one
mark of the sociopath. Just so you know.

-Alan Varney

The truth is, you have no idea about me or my life. You continue to attack me personally. I make an argument and you not only don't respond to it properly you then attack me personally. When I call you a carebear, I'm not making a comment on your mental health. When you call me a sociopath, you are making a comment on mine.

It is funny it really is, but whatever. People make assumptions all of the time it doesn't mean they're correct. I would like for you to read this article Alan, one of your fellow writers made an excellent article to explain to you things better than I can, and carry many of the same ideas that I proposed to you in our short correspondence.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/6047-Griefmonkeys

I will leave this in closing, if you roll on a PvP server and then say any and all pvp you encounter is not "consensual" then you are wrong.

Masochistic Existentialist:
I feel like I'm being griefed over the internet by someone who wants to talk behind my back and make assumptions about my mental health.

Normally I try to give new guys a break here, but I have to take issue with that line... your entire post earlier was a defense of griefing, but in this you take exception to "being griefed over the internet". Sorry, kiddo, but you can't have it both ways; if griefing's okay you need to suck it up when you think you're on the receiving end too, and if it's not okay then you shouldn't be dishing it out. Pick one.

I think what's really sad about how widespread griefing has become is how the concept of "fair play" has been perverted into "all's fair for me" with anyone objecting becoming a "carebear". It's like watching two year olds in a sandbox, these days.

-- Steve

Anton P. Nym:

Masochistic Existentialist:
I feel like I'm being griefed over the internet by someone who wants to talk behind my back and make assumptions about my mental health.

Normally I try to give new guys a break here, but I have to take issue with that line... your entire post earlier was a defense of griefing, but in this you take exception to "being griefed over the internet". Sorry, kiddo, but you can't have it both ways; if griefing's okay you need to suck it up when you think you're on the receiving end too, and if it's not okay then you shouldn't be dishing it out. Pick one.

I think what's really sad about how widespread griefing has become is how the concept of "fair play" has been perverted into "all's fair for me" with anyone objecting becoming a "carebear". It's like watching two year olds in a sandbox, these days.

-- Steve

Depends on the objection. If you are talking about circulating black lists of griefers in on-line games then yeah, that's a bit overboard.

I agree with you, this is my stupid tax. I am being griefed and I keep trying to win but there really is no possible win in this situation for me. Allen isn't going to change his mind, and I'm really not getting my point across to anyone.

So, Steve, I agree. I am out. Thanks for the post.

You know how to make a griefer truly useful? Use them as world boss. Once a relatively advance chain of quests has been completed (to test their competence), the greifer's avatar is transformed a world raid boss (to borrow WoW's terminology). He is confined to within a specific area. The result? Limiting the place that a greifer can be to outside of low level area, and other players get to fight a cunning raid boss. No more special attack every 30 seconds, but rather extremely unpredictable fight. Of course some special control must be put in place to prevent exploits.

Now everyone's happy. The greifer gets his almighty avatar, dev gets ever changing content, and other player gets an ever evolving raid.

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