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Apr 01 2007 -
Of Wizards and Gamemasters
n the beginning there was the empty hard disk space at some university in Germany.
Then the gods created Tibia.
And the gods saw that it worked and the gods spoke: "Log in!"
And people logged in.
What started as a drip of a few people online now and then, developed to a steady flow, grew to a huge stream and finally became a mighty river as you know it nowadays.
And with the number of people, grew the number of problems. A single person could easily cause grief to many.
And the gods looked at the mayhem in their pretty world with concern.
And the gods spoke: "There should be justice." And the gamemasters were born.


Well, in fact it began less poetical. The possibility of some monitoring force in Tibia had always been an option in the minds of Tibia's creators. On the other hand, they attached great importance to the freedom of the people to do what they liked best and to solve their problems on their own. Sadly, a few abusers of power or bugs could hurt the fragile, still growing community a lot. Especially the bug abuse was nothing that could be evaluated and handled by the players themselves. Having a close eye on the small community of those days and getting feedback from several players, the students, calling themselves simply CIP at this time, chose a few players who announced interest to become "wizards", as the first Tibian gamemasters were called. The first wizards were finally introduced with the update that also brought magic and vocations to Tibia.

Drastic changes in the game mechanics like fighting, leveling and the complete new spell and rune system lead to drastic changes in the way the game was played. Many new possibilities had occurred to harass other players or to misuse game flaws. So a handpicked crew was formed to make human decisions where the system would not be sufficient. Their communication in the game worked via simple messages since a rule violation channel was only a distant dream in those days (those were still the days of the OLD client). Communication and discussions outside the game took place on a board maintained by one of the wizards. It was only a handful of players who became wizards, but given it was a single world to be covered it seemed enough for a while.

The powers of the wizards were quite limited. Even though the term "wizard", which derived from the old text-muds, might imply some sort of power over the game environment (as the mud wizards actually had), the Tibian wizards were only ordinary players whose regular characters got a few extra spells meant to be helpful in maintaining some sort of order. Since those characters were vulnerable and active in game, it was a bit tricky to avoid threats or to be killed by accident or on purpose. For example, teleporting to some high level player was surely helpful to evaluate a certain situation, however, it could end deadly for a low level wizard if this teleport sent him right into the lair of some powerful monsters.

Though the wizards main agenda was to "serve and protect", they became quite soon also the major factors in identifying and locating bugs in the game. Due to the ongoing studies of the CIP team, bugs were fixed only now and then, but eventually major flaws could be identified and wiped out.
In particular I remember a bug that would crash the server whenever you used a bow on a creature that stood on the same square as you. This bug allowed players to duplicate items with the help of the different saving times of character and depot in these days. Eventually the wizards located the bug and in a swift reaction a patch was launched and the issue was solved once and for all.

Moreover, there had not been any Tibia Rules at this time. The first things the small wizard community had to do was to decide what is part of the game and what not. Many of the things formalised today are rooted in these first thoughts and decisions.
In the course of time, a codex was formed which could be seen as the first Tibia Rules. Given the various backgrounds and personal tastes of the wizards, it was only a minimal rule set. It only included things that were obviously bad for Tibia and which everyone could agree upon. After a discussion in the community, the first set of rules was born. Still the rules put emphasise on the human factor, believing in the ability of the wizards to use common sense to decide what was a rule break and what not. Steve of the CIP team took it upon himself to discuss several issues and the rules with the wizards and to have an eye on their decisions and banishments. Still there was no formal complaint system and the Tibia forum was still maintained outside of the official website.

The major change came with the new client, the premium system and additional game worlds. Given that the wizards would now possibly face "real customers", several things had to work in a different way. With the growing number of game worlds, it could not be expected of the wizards to have active characters on every one of those worlds. Therefore some drastic changes were needed. The numerous calls for an invulnerable "tool-character" were finally heard and the blue caped gamemasters were born. Additionally the new account system allowed to bestow the GM abilities to an account instead to a single character. This way it was also possible to allow those accounts to have an unlimited number of characters - an important right for gamemasters as that enabled them to create as many tool-characters as necessary. The abilities of the new gamemasters were nearly the same as the ones the wizards used to have. Only a few changes had been made, most of them based upon wishes from the old wizard community, arisen for practical reasons.

As CIP was somewhat concerned about the treatment of their paying customers by the gamemasters, the rules were finally officially codified after lengthy discussion of CIP, the gamemasters and players. Additionally the early GMs were not able to banish premium players for more than a few days. Afterwards they had to ask CIP to review the banishment and to extend it if necessary. Those first steps into the new world were small and had been made very carefully. The gamemasters got their own boards on the Tibia website to discuss internal affairs, they got their own channel in the game and they got more feedback from CIP than ever before.

And Tibia was still growing. After the first two 'normal' game worlds became crowded again, new worlds were created. Considering the resources it was only a slow process of growth but it still put much pressure on the gamemasters and on CIP. More GMs were appointed and the position of "counsellors" was born. The counsellors were somewhat the forefathers of the present-day tutors. Though they lacked most of the abilities available to tutors today, the counsellors took pride in their responsibilities and did their best to help the gamemasters wherever they could with the limited abilities at their disposal. Each counsellor was appointed by a GM. Every gamemaster could appoint a certain number of players as his or her counsellors (as a rule of thumb about a handful for each GM). The recruitment of a counsellor depended only on the decision of the GM. It was based on the personal impression a player had made on the gamemaster. This was a great strength as well as a great flaw of this system. On the one hand, the GM usually knew whom he dealt with and could judge if the reports of the counsellors had some validity and urgency. On the other hand, it was unlikely that a player outside the "circle of GM friends" would ever get a chance to become a counsellor.

This system worked well for a while and for years the only drastic change to it was the introduction of "Senior Gamemasters". Senior GMs were chosen from long term GMs that CIP trusted to be able to lead some of their fellow GMs and to have unbiased opinions about banishments in the game. Each senior GM took a few of the gamemasters under his wings and decided about ban extensions and checked the banishment complaints of appointed gamemasters for their validity. In the meantime the complaint system had been introduced which became necessary considering that going commercial would make some kind of feedback necessary. However, answering complaints became a huge workload for the GMs and senior GMs. Some of the things you could read in those complaints were simply hair-raising, other complaints were hardly to understand at all. But I better leave these stories for others to tell and rather go on with my retrospection.

New gamemasters came, others left, some are kept in fond memory, others rather in bad remembrance... and the number of players kept growing. Where 3 worlds once seemed a big adventure, now a dozen game worlds had to be dealt with. The GM community was growing, but given the system the new gamemasters were mainly around on a few selected game worlds, while others were only visited once in a while. With a steadily growing customer base, the system had to change once again. The first employed GMs were hired by CIP (or better CipSoft as the company was finally named) and made their first small steps in the Tibian world. With hardly more options than the external GMs and only a glimpse of their knowledge, those first few employees relied heavily on the experience and help of the existing gamemasters. Given that their whole work focused on gamemastering and handling Tibia related problems, they adapted impressively fast. Soon all the usual scams, problems and phrases were common knowledge to them and their work soon became the majority of GM activity on all game worlds.

And Tibia kept growing. More employees were hired by CipSoft and more regular gamemasters were appointed. Tools were improved and bugfixes and features introduced to prevent abuse and annoyances, taking some workload from internal and external GMs alike. To get a broader base of helpers a new position was brought to the game. Every player, who fulfilled some minimum requirements, were now able to become a tutor. Nobody could foresee if the new system of helpers would work out but it proved quite successful in the course of time. The success of the tutor system encouraged CipSoft to extend the tutor features. Senior tutors were introduced.
Additionally it was decided that the 'seniorGMship' would fall back to CipSoft since the manpower of employees made it possible to review the banishments internally again. The Tibia Rules were reviewed and adjusted to the evolution of the game. Things became more concrete and many grey areas were removed to make the do's and don'ts in the game more transparent for the players. Additionally the transition from counsellorship to tutorship was made, merging both into a single position.
Due to the good experiences CipSoft had made with the external gamemasters, it was decided to keep this position active, regardless of the number of employees working on the Tibian rule enforcement on a regular basis. Just recently, however, all members of the CipSoft team received the title community manager (CM). This should make it more transparent for players if they are talking to an external gamemaster or to a member of the CipSoft team.

These days aspiring players who like to help others are able to take the tutor test to become part of the team. Active and knowledgeable tutors will become senior tutors after 3 months. Finally, senior tutors are the main pool to draw external GMs from nowadays. Who knows, perhaps one of you will begin this difficult and challenging road on your own to become one of the blue caped crusaders for justice one day. All external and internal helpers and employees stand in a great tradition that they might not be even aware of. It was a long and stony road from the feeble beginnings to the strong structure we have today. We have mastered this road and its perils bravely and we have faced each obstacle with the strong desire to improve Tibia for all of you.

In the end one can say that, even though much has changed in the last 10 years, many of the things you know today are based on decisions made in the old times when wizards walked the lands and tended their little herd of players. Things evolved out of necessity and experience in a lengthy process. Evolution might take a long time but it produces a strong and resilient system that keeps up with the challenges of the present.

And the gods spoke: "Go and have fun in Tibia!"
And so the players did.


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