Law or War

In Illyriad as elsewhere, there are two ways to resolve a dispute: with recourse to law and/or justice, or by force of arms. I personally think that law/justice makes the game a more pleasant, welcoming, inclusive place to play, but whatever your view, there are serious problems with hoping that law/justice can be the basis of a community in Illyria.

In the real world, history has been an uneven progress from War to Law. (For examples, scroll to the bottom.) There have been setbacks but the trend is clear. Why should this be so? The reality is that Law has many advantages for a society.

First, societies ruled by law allow people to invest and reinvest, keeping the fruits of what they have built, without fear of random attack or expropriation. This allows those good at creating things (wealth, technology, etc.) to continue doing so. It also protects and nurtures more complex networks of trade, communication and investment – for example, allowing for the Industrial Revolution. Societies without Law deprive innovators of both incentive and opportunity to move the civilisation forward, and cannot protect the infrastructures required for more effective production and organisation.

This means that just societies tend to become stronger, and so able to gain the upper hand over fragmented societies (The US and China can gain huge advantages from exploiting the mineral wealth of relatively lawless swathes of Africa, but there is no chance of African kleptocracy or warlordism overwhelming China or the US.)

Second, people tend to want to live in societies where they are treated fairly. This means that where people have the option to move to a fairer society they sometimes will. And it means that populations will sometimes overthrow oppressive rulers, as in the Arab Spring (though without a guarantee that the replacement will be better – as the French Revolution illustrates), so creating a tendency to fairer governments.

Neither if these are relevant in Illyriad.

First, there is no progress (economic, technological, etc.) which accrues in Illyriad based on how Illyria’s society organises itself. There is no 17th Century Agricultural Revolution, 19th Century Industrial Revolution or 21st Century Silicon Valley that can be built if society evolves beyond feuding – because Illyriad has no rules for such evolution. However, as War can be used to seize resources and eliminate rivals or irritations, War provides advantages to those who employ warfare effectively.

Second, there is no way for the subjects to rebel. The Illyrian version of the American Revolution would simply involve the British saying “how many cities have they built? None? Well, who cares!” and going back to squabbling with the French. No Illyrian King James II would be captured by Kentish fishermen. No Illyrian Hosni Mubarak would have to worry about his commanders and enforcers deserting or disobeying him. Only those with more effective coercive machinery can unthrone one another – in other words, only War can overthrow a warlord in Illyria. All a disgruntled subject can do is quit the game – which reduce the numbers playing without actually changing anything.

But lastly, the real killer is this: Law is a lot of effort. In the real world, religions and philosophers have spent thousands of years trying to bend society towards justice. (“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” “Render back the trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between men, judge with justice.” etc.) And whole institutions have been built, from police forces to prisons, to attempt to enforce justice. In Illyriad, however, it is an immense and often futile effort to try to work out the justice of even grand political events, and for small events (actually, for most large events, too) there is usually nothing more than two grumpy players shouting at each other, and no real ability to investigate objectively.

Faced with the difficulty of attempting to deal fairly with people, it is tempting for players to just take the easy option – and human beings like easy options, especially in something which they do voluntarily, for fun, like playing a game. And which is easier – sending an email / IGM saying “lets talk about this”, or clicking a single button to send an army?


Examples of progress to Law: For countries with a long history, there are a long series of steps: in Britain, the Anglo-Saxon Law Codes attempted to reduce the prevalence of feuding, then the Magna Carta (unsuccessfully) attempted to prevent Kings from preying on their magnates, then there was the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (English Civil War), the overthrow of King James II, the legal reforms of the 19th Century… In countries with shorter histories there are often more singular moments: in Jamaica the shift from a buccaneering and hunting economy to a plantation economy was key; the United States has as its founding event (or myth) the realisation that a distant despot should not impose his will without accountability – “no taxation without representation”. Etc.

About Kurdruk

Kurdruk is a fictitious character. Specifically, he is a fictitious Orc. Orcs are, of course, a fictitious race. And so, being a fictitious member of a fictitious race, it is unsurprising that Kurdruk lives in a fictitious land - Illyria. So it is no surprise that Kurdruk's great wisdom relates to life in the realm of Illyria - in other words, in Illyriad.
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8 Responses to Law or War

  1. misfratz says:

    I have played my fair share of strategy/war games over the years. What I’ve found is that a winning strategy in all of them generally involves an aggressive early game to add the resources of weaker neighbours to your own.

    I am not out of newbie protection yet and I can see that Illyriad is unique in note rewarding such a playstyle. This discourages war.

    The endgame of all other strategy/war games that I have played tends to involve controlling a bloated empire that steamrollers the opposition. Illyriad is different, because the ten-city limit prevents single players from amassing vast empires. The vast empires in Illyriad are built by co-operation, and can be brought down by internal revolt. One cannot win Illyriad by conquering all other players with a vast empire. This also discourages war.

    The problem as I see it is: what is left in the game without war? Once you have built a ten-city empire, as part of a large alliance, what do you have to strive towards that isn’t picking a fight with other players?

    I don’t know what might be, but it would be nice to think it was something very creative that involved dialogue with the games developers.

    The other issue that I see in Illyriad at present is that it seems a bit crowded. The world stats say there are nearly 250,000 towns settled, which by my Maths is six times as many as can fit in were everyone to stick to the 10-square rule.

    I think Law still has a chance, but you have certainly identified some weaknesses.

  2. jsuix says:

    The issue here is that the players who want war are imposing their thirst for war on players who do not want it.

  3. Quite the Contrary says:

    Quite the contrary. Illyriad’s unique “culture”, for lack of a better term, has protected newbies from the very beginning from ever increasing sizes of bullies. The fact that the current war means that the largest possible size of bully (a mega coalition of a dozen or more alliances that far outnumbers any other entity) is being stomped is proof positive that Illy’s culture is alive and strong! I don’t know if you would classify it as “law”, but the anti bullying culture continues as strongly as ever!

    I would also completely disagree that the real World is getting more civilized or “law abiding”. I would argue that ever increasing swathes of the globe are losing their civilized nature. And democracy can promote barbarism just as easily as dictatorship. Look at all the deluded fools who celebrated the “Arab Spring”. A perfect example of democracy bringing barbarity. And it is only increasing…

  4. Magnifico Giganticus says:

    This article together with its predecessor entitled “When Farmers and Wargamers Fight” seeks to influence the gaming community of Illyriad with the need to develop the metagame onto a more mature level where disputes and even the development of alliances are resolved by a more reasoned considerations than “the siege engine”.

    Commentator “Quite the Contrary” misses the point when s/he alleges that the
    ” current war means that the largest possible size of bully (a mega coalition of a dozen or more alliances that far outnumbers any other entity) is being stomped is proof positive that Illy’s culture is alive and strong!”

    If anything it the comment is proof positive some long term players are regressing to the mentality of the earlier stages of Illyriad when large alliances with no more motivation than “being top dawg” stomped on other alliances and then plastered the forums with tautological denials and poorly manufactured claims that they were only protecting newbes from bullies.

    The channels for inter alliance diplomacy are already available within the “sandbox” game and need to be developed and progressed to keep pace with mechanics being introduced by the devs. . Wholesale destruction of cities and the deliberate promotion of ideas such as caravan raiding and city theft etc only encourage a ” culture of lawlessness” within the sandbox and cannot be condoned under specious claims of protecting newbes. Players need to develop a mature diplomatic approach to stop the slide into lawlessness and petty jealousies.

  5. Quite the Contrary says:

    Besides saying that I’m “missing the point”, do you have a rational argument as to why I’m missing the point or are you just voicing your opinion? How is my comment proof positive that some long term players are regressing…

    The only proof you are stating here is that you a) do not have a very firm grasp of the whole history of Illyriad, because in the very beginning of the game, the largest and toughest alliance, White, was a big bully and, yes, the community stood up to them. And b) you have some sort of utopian ideal that huge coalitions will stop bullying because someone asks them to. Wake up. If the most populous and therefore powerful coalition in the game chooses to support its members’ bullying, they will not ever stop because weaker folks ask them nicely. Inject some reality into your World view.

  6. Steve says:

    As I am now out of the game (my accounts were suspended by a GM with whom I took issue with) I will not know how it is going to play out with the grand conflict between the coalition of wargamers and the coalition of “farmers”. I do know, at the time I got the boot, my side was losing. As I decided the game wasn’t fun enough to start over from scratch, I have moved on. These are my impressions at the end:

    1. I have played many mmos that are “free-to-play” with a cashshop. This one had features for “pay-to-win” PvP that was rather extreme, in my opinion.

    2. I didn’t like the implementation of the harvesting/crafting system. Not only was the system rigged to generate PvP conflict (and thus sell Prestige), but access to harvesting favored militarily dominant players. Also, the fruits of crafting was entirely for the benefit of military functions rather than more mundane city-building.

    3. I have no animosity toward the gamers that I battled before I was booted from the game, in fact I was able to send their leaders congratulatory mail just moments before the boom was lowered on me. No question they have a deep understanding of the game militarily, economically, and diplomatically.

    So, my hats off to you all for continuing to strive and struggle in this most slow-moving of mmos. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Best of luck and enjoy!

  7. Quite the Contrary says:

    First of all, let me say, that I’m sorry you left Illy. To my knowledge, nobody has been driven from this game. So the play style must have not been to your liking, because people aren’t hounded out of Illy like they are other games.

    Second of all, as a major MMO player who has played many, many MMOs, Illy is by FAR the least “pay-to-win” of all. The benefits from prestige aren’t critical to winning and the game gives you free prestige every day that you can pool as an alliance if you choose to focus non pay benefits to individuals. Imo, there are zero “I win” buttons here.

    And if you were booted from the game, you were booted because you violated the terms and conditions of the company that owns it. And nobody has that happen who is innocent, in my experience. They do that only in the most extreme circumstances. Which means you were breaking them in a major way. So… Your other comments are perhaps coloured…

  8. Magnifico Giganticus says:

    Hmmm… I also offer my commiserations to Steve aka Khellis/Kashen . If it’s any consolation I lost two accounts in circumstances that bear some similarity to yours.

    However this blog is concerned with question of “Law or War” . Which as I have read it addresses the issue conflict resolution in Illy.

    Quite the Contrary ( hereafter known as QTC ;)) appears to take a position that “Illy culture is alive and strong” and his proof positive of this is… :

    “The fact that the current war means that the largest possible size of bully (a mega coalition of a dozen or more alliances that far outnumbers any other entity) is being stomped”

    This then is his understanding of conflict resolution in Illyriad or to use his own words:

    “I don’t know if you would classify it as “law”, but the anti bullying culture continues as strongly as ever!”

    There a number of problems with this. Firstly there is the example of the “current war”. . I think reasons he gives for the causes of the “current war” can be seen as, at best, partisan. Many members simply do not see it that way – not least the members of alliances involved in that conflict. I have to say that despite QTC’s assertion that he has played many MMO’s and understands the history of Illy better than most – his assertion is as infantile as it is wrong. The posts concerning the war from players on both sides patently show that causes were more complicated and in some cases deliberately manufactured. To simply label the latest war as another fine example of the games “anti-bullying culture” is simply crass. Who in their right mind is going to believe it?

    QTC’s type of arguement, which has been repeated almost by rote elsewhere, is a poor reflection on the potential that major players in Illyriad have to move the game to a more mature level of play which not only encompasses conflict resolution but many other under valued aspects of the games mechanics.

    This game and its “sandbox” gives the major players and their alliances the opportunity to rise above “The King of the Hill” mentality that is the staple diet of most other MMORTS. The experiment of confederations was good indicator that things were moving in that direction. However the reaction of the old guard has simply forced the game to take two steps backwards and the effects of that are beginning to show.

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