One of the biggest disadvantages to a free-to-play offer is the incalculability concerning the financial budget. Based on the fact that the offer is fundamentally for free, a prognosis for the operators seems difficult to be made. Respectively, resources seem to be invested sparingly. Old free-to-play MMORPGs in particular, including FlyFF, suffer due to the sparse amount of resources left after over a decade of runtime. Who would refuse the possibility of acquiring cheap personnel in such a situation?
When it comes to MMO publisher WEBZEN, these cheap hires are called ‘Moderators’. They are players from the community who – as far as we know – work on an honorary basis and dedicate their free time to community service voluntarily. Their goal is to support the Game Masters with community management. This support shows itself in the moderation of the official forums, the official Discord server and even ingame.
The dark side of the volunteers
On the one hand, the concept of moderators is certainly a clever one. One acquires work force free of charge, willing to spend their free time on community management gratuitously. On the other hand, means of moderation have to be handed to the moderators, meaning administrative rights. Here is where things start to get complicated.
Granting outsiders (not contractually bound to the company) the metaphorical key to the sweets shop always bears the possibility of misuse of power. Especially players remain wary; after all, they are usually the victims, should a moderator’s position go to his or her head.
Things do not get easier once one realises that FlyFF (or MMOs in general) usually have a community comprised of a younger target audience. Respectively, volunteers are usually very young and do not have the necessary maturity needed for community management. In the following article, we would like to go into two examples of volunteers gone wrong.
Example #1 – Self-enrichment
In the past, where moderators only roamed the official forums, not much was bound to go wrong. Bad scenarios probably consisted of a moderator verbally missing their footing or randomly deleting threads. Once they were introduced with official characters ingame, however, the potential for an abuse of power rose.
One of the most known and severe cases concerning the self-enrichment of a moderator took place on the US servers. Shortly before [MOD]Cheriesaurus quit her service on her own accord late summer of 2015, she allegedly sold the equipment which was given to her MOD character. This equipment was armed with absolutely utopian awakenings, sure to have garnered her a hefty sum.
This example shows the disadvantages of honorary volunteers in an online community very alarmingly. Permanent employees of the publisher would surely not even think about doing something like this due to their contractually defined sanctions. Since volunteers are usually not bound to a contract, they could become a risk once they lose interest in their position and ‘do not have anything to lose’.
Example #2 – Compulsive need of self-portrayal
Positions of power can have widely varying effects on people. Some have to actively display their power, while others use them quietly and modestly to complete their tasks. Here, we have a relatively recent example, which happened just last Thursday.
The venue is once again one of the US servers. Tiasess – one of the German moderators – showed himself online on the English FlyFF Discord server. Since he does not seem to be known there very well, players took notice of him and tested him a bit. He played along for a while and seemed to find enjoyment in making his position of power obvious. Among other things, he suggested that one of the users on Discord might look good with a Meteonyker on their head. The users who were already pestering him threw their bait out a bit further and Tiasess took it.
A visit and death in the GM desert
Tiasess went on to ask the server and name of the player in question and logged in on the US server Tanuki. This ended in several players being ported to the GM desert. One of them was reported to have a ‘Flame King Meteonyker’ placed right on his head, with the goal of killing the player in question. However, in a turn of events, another player, who came along to witness the spectacle, died instead.
What happened ingame was commentated live on the English FlyFF Discord server. The mood got a bit sour once one of the players spoke up against what Tiasess had been doing. This user called into question whether Tiasess was even allowed to just port players around and kill them. Tiasess seemed absolutely sure he was, since the players agreed to it beforehand.
The community is of split opinions
While the player by the name of Ensei remained sceptical, other players took to Tiasess’ side. They, too, are of the opinion that everything is alright as long as the players involved have no problem with their characters potentially being dragged to their virtual death. But is it really that easy? Do voluntary moderators have the right to do whatever they want with and to the players, as long as those players consent?
Most MMOs we have played keep their administrative forces in the background. Game Masters mostly do not interfere with what is going on in the game. Furthermore, we can very well imagine that killing player characters is one of the no-gos. For this reason, we, too, remain sceptical of Tiasess actions being alright. Just because players give their consent, it does not mean that someone can do whatever they want with them. Surely certain rules of conduct exist for GMs and MODs, detailing a professional contact. We can only hardly imagine porting and killing players being part of this conduct.
From our point of view, voluntary employees stemming from the community are a double-edged sword. One the one hand, they can be very handy and support the publisher heavily and well. One the other hand, they could become a ticking time bomb, should they be unable to handle their power. We have shown two examples of moderators either enriching themselves or drifting a little too heavily towards narcissism.
However, keeping in mind that these were but two examples during the span of four or five years, in which ingame MODs have existed, there seems to be an acceptable balance.
What do you think about moderators? Have you been witness to an abuse of power by authorities? Or have you been subject to such an abuse in FlyFF? Let us know in the comments!