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Gotta ban 'em all!

September 23, 2008

This post by Mark Jacobs of Mythic is a riot!.

Having wondered what the messages that were popping up in game were, though we figured it out soon after, had us laughing quite a bit the last day or so.

Gold farming/selling has become a polarizing subject and from what I understand a nightmare for companies to police.

An MMO is so different in most cases because the in game currency is either central to a characters life and progression, or in rare cases a mere afterthought added for flavor.

It’s led to great discussions here at 38 and it seems to me that having another few years to watch how the space plays out, and watch how other companies address the problem will only help us in implementing at launch methods and devices to rid the worlds of these bottom feeders.

I absolutely believe you have to engage the player base in helping to police this aspect of the world but at the same time employ mechanics and tech that allow much of the work to be done without human intervention.

As a player PLEASE give me the ability to one click report them, and let me see action ASAP. WoW nailed their ‘report spam’ but is there really anything other than gold selling that qualifies as SPAM? I am disappointed that my ignore list can only be so long in WoW since players generally make it very easy to ignore (anyone that even mentioned Don Santos hit my ignore list awhile back) but I want more in depth tools to get players/companies reported/banned as well as more tools to allow for interaction between friends regardless of servers too.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. testsubjekt permalink
    September 23, 2008 12:21 pm

    Hey Curt. I don’t play WOW, but as the administrator of a sports messageboard I enjoyed reading your blog about the gold spammers. In the two-plus years the forum has been open I can’t begin to tell you how many I’ve banned. It’s just too many.

    I’ve recently come up with a way to get to them before they even start spamming our boards. I Google their names. It seems that they all like to register the exact same usernames at every site they hit.

    — Test

  2. denisesoxfan permalink
    September 23, 2008 1:11 pm

    Hey Curt! I read your post, and I read what was written by Mark Jacobs. My question is, do gold spammers play at Yankee Stadium? :)

  3. September 23, 2008 3:05 pm

    I kinda find that Mythic’s popups announcing the banning are MORE annoying than the spam tells I get offering the gold in the first place.

    I hope that any system in an MMO that bans players for spamming has some sort of due-dilligance. “One-Click” systems could be abused and probably get legit players banned.

    It seems to me like it would be real easy to check someone’s chat log and see if they are in fact spamming. If so, by all means nuke them.

  4. str33tsp1r1t permalink
    September 23, 2008 3:51 pm

    Gold spammers are bottom feeders? Come again? You mean there are people who would cheat, abuse and circumvent game world rules in the pursuit of profit?!? Wow. Just wow.

    What do you have against freedom Curt? Who is Blizzard or anyone else to create structure or rules to keep anyone from profitting IRL?

    “I absolutely believe you have to engage the player base in helping to police this aspect of the world.”

    Hmmm…. so you’re saying the fix for greedy abuse of the system is to employ the popular will as a check? Interesting go on…..

  5. xo45thvolunteers permalink
    September 23, 2008 8:16 pm

    Curt, I hear ya. The problem is how do you, as a game producer, enforce such policies? Hytech has a point, but here’s an idea: If in the course of a session online, and a spammer is found, what the admin should do is to do partially what Mystic is doing in announcing the fact that you have a spammer in your midst, but then put up a reward for killing them. When this reward goes up for, lets say me, my character is reverted to a first level whelp (equipment and any special abilities included) and when I die, my account is now deactivated. Killing gold farmer and getting in game loot to do so…I’d enjoy that VERY much.

  6. aenashi permalink
    September 24, 2008 8:50 am

    Hey Curt,

    Not sure if you saw this before:

    http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/news/2007/11/mmo_cheats

    Also, when you were doing your picking of the engine if you looked at the Hero Engine (most likely you did) but they are trying to stop cheaters, farms and the such and the company they use, you may want to look into and see how they work.

    Here is a picture of it in action. /shrugs

    http://www.sl.com/images/hero_engine.jpg

  7. September 24, 2008 9:24 am

    I’m enjoying the ban messages myself – they’re hillarious. But having them in pop-up windows is going to get real old, real fast. I would think it’d be better to send them via global chat instead.

  8. apschaefer permalink
    September 24, 2008 11:03 am

    Let me start by saying that (for me) it takes something away from the game if I buy/cheat my way to a higher level/status. That goes for any game, not just WoW (iddqd, upupdowndownleftrightleftright anyone?) But why not let the invisible hand of the free market decide what goes and what doesn’t. If gold farming is profitable and there is a consumer base that wants it, who cares? Let the people who want to pay their way in pay their way in, its not my loss its theirs. And if it drives the price of goods up at the auction house, that just means I make more when I sell off the stuff that I spent time grinding on.

    Is it that different from having several epic’d out friends who play the game get you started with 1000 gold of play money when you first roll your character? If _everyone_ actually hated gold farmers, they would not make money, they would not be spamming and they would vanish all by themselves.

    The only concern I have is that someone might get ripped off. Maybe we are better off allowing a way to safely transfer cash for virtual assets in-game and eliminate the black-market aspect of the sale. And / Or as another thought, the game could auto-flag a character’s name/title with a [TOORICHFORTHIS/PLAYED] tag that denotes someone who has received a larger than normal gold transfer within the past 30/60/90/whatever days. That way you know who to avoid if you don’t care to spend time with folks who play this way.

    Personally I believe this is a symptom of an overall larger problem in the game. People still do not like to endlessly grind daily quests or copper mines or whatever the time sync is. They are willing to delegate that task to someone who will happily do it for a ridiculously low hourly wage. Its a similar situation with leveling, for some the game ends at 70, for some, the game is just starting.

  9. September 24, 2008 12:23 pm

    Curt,

    I am just wondering what you think about Johnny Pesky’s number being retired at Fenway Park?

    -Bethany

  10. September 24, 2008 6:47 pm

    As the head honcho of a development studio working on an MMO, here’s another angle you should be aware of:

    Credit card fraud.

    I had the good fortune of running into Robert Garriott, brother of the infamous Richard (Lord British) Garriott at a party in New Hampshire while he and his brother were busy getting Tabula Rasa ready for beta. The subject of gold sales came up, and I’ll paraphrase what he had to say.

    “Honestly, most developers aren’t overly concerned with gold sales; a good game economy will be able to regulate how much coin and loot gets into the gameworld and at what rate. If the farmers aren’t abusing the other subscribers, whether they choose to sell their wares doesn’t affect us much.

    Where we get hit is with fraud claims. You see, quite a lot of the farmers in games like WoW are using dummy “free trial” accounts to move gold. Many of these accounts, if not banned quickly, end up being continued with stolen credit card numbers. It can often take several months of subscription deductions for the real cardholders to notice the debits and begin the process of recouping their fraudulent charges. When they do, the card companies begin showing up at our doorstep not only demanding repayment for the fraudulently charged subscription fees, but also penalty payments which can amount to more than the actual fees charged.

    Claims by the card companies can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars every quarter; with a large playerbase like WoW, perhaps into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

    Something to keep on your mind.

    On that note, hope you’re enjoying your WAR experience. I threw a bachelor’s party for my best friend this weekend, where many PC’s happened to be present (we’re mostly geeks, like you). One guy had the retail WAR game fired up for a bit.

    Most everyone was pretty underwhelmed.

    I really, really hope you have the courage and faith in your people to try to break some new MMO ground. So far all these “next gen” games we’re seeing are just WoW clones playing it safe to try to eat from the scraps of WoW’s table.

    You don’t need a billion dollars to dethrone WoW. You need good, fresh ideas.

  11. awesomename permalink
    September 24, 2008 10:09 pm

    I wish there was more opportunity not just for identifying gold spammers/power levelers. While these are a extremely annoying, the PVP aspect tends to get really weakened in WoW due to people AFK-botting. Anytime you are trying to play the battlegrounds at the highest level, each side tends to get 1-3 AFKers, which can be completely unfair. Unfortunately our only tool is to report them AFK to potentially not let them get honor, however over the time they will get their honor (to get the best gear) built up while not participating. Wish there was more than an option to just click on their name, I’d support dedicating Game Moderators to banning AFK accounts.

    Unfortunately due to “privacy issues” in the game, when you report a player for AFK/spamming, there is no way to know if action was taken on them. Maybe some system like WAR is doing to let us know that our effort to slow down cheaters is making a difference.

  12. Kriggles permalink
    September 25, 2008 1:16 am

    Gotta love the people who would defend trying to sell virtual currency for real life currency. Blizzard won actual real life lawsuits against people selling something that didn’t belong to them in the first place. Pond scum, every last one of them including the two of you apschaefer and str33tsp1r1t for defending said pond scum.

    I was very pleased to see Mythic take this stance from the top on down, and they even have a banhammer tally on their herald. Was up to 1,049 earlier today. That’s what, roughly $52,500 and change (before sales taxes) in lost revenue for gold spamming pond scum so far? Keep it coming.

    Ban em all, and then feed them to the sharks.

  13. ngruk permalink
    September 25, 2008 2:25 am

    It’s impossible to completely stop gold-selling. It’s like trying to fight piracy with DRM; all you do is screw over the legitimate customers, and urge those on the fence to topple over in favor of The Pirate Bay and company.

    The best way to stop gold selling is by making sure your game flows in a way that allows the player to acquire the appropriate gear if they play in a productive manner. Bonuses and perks can still be acquired by monetary means, but if you’re going to have an item like an Epic Mount or rare, tradeable tradeskill components, then IGE and its offspring will infest and ruin your game. If you limit the scope of necessity for money to the entrepreneurs and those already at the elite top-end, you scale down the scope of who needs to buy money drastically.

    If you combine this with a reputation system, where some number (10? 15? 20?) of negative votes flags a person for investigation of their practices. I realize this could result in stupid guild wars using this system, but the overwhelming majority of people would use it to flag gold spammers and the asshats.

    Give some power to the people and see what happens. At the worst you have to spend the money you were willing to spend initially in keeping these turds in check.

  14. arm1982 permalink
    September 25, 2008 9:21 am

    Hey Curt, my dad sent me this. How about this for a financial plan….

    I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG.

    Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.

    To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..

    So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.

    My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It Dividend.

    Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam.

    But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife have $595,000.00.

    What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

    Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.

    Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads

    Put away money for college – it’ll be there

    Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.

    Buy a new car – create jobs

    Invest in the market – capital drives growth

    Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves

    Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back and of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

    If we’re going to re-distribute wealth let’s really do it…instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00, “vote buy,” economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

    If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

    As for AIG – liquidate it. Sell off its parts. Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up. Here’s my rationale. AIG doesn’t deserve it.

    Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work.” But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party! How do you spell Economic Boom?

    I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC.

    And remember, MY plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

    Ah…I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

  15. September 25, 2008 10:51 am

    I agree Curt, seeing the people always either spamming in say, yell or even trade gets very annoying. When you are either trying to play the game and enjoying it, or trying to sell something in trade chat and your item or service your trying to offer is getting pushed up in trade because of the dang gold spammers really starts to make people mad, I am one of them.

    If I may ask what is your characters name and what releam, i would like to look him up, not to play with you, but just to see what he looks like and what his gear is and such.

    Good luck with the rest of the season

    Brandon

    -23 year old Cubs fan but always route for anyone playing against the Yankees

  16. September 25, 2008 3:12 pm

    Hey Curt, You know what? I actually had no idea just what in the heck you were talking about until I saw that this post was filed under “Games.”

    Then, at least, I knew I wasn’t ever going to figure out what you actually were talking about.

    (It’s true, and it’s funny. What more can you ask for in a blog comment?)

  17. bosoxjim3000 permalink
    September 25, 2008 4:36 pm

    Dude,

    What about baseball? Seriously Curt, this WOW stuff is all well and good, but the Sox just clinched a playoff spot and here I come looking for a professional’s insight into how they might fare in the post-season and all I get is some drivel about gold selling or whatever the hell it is. I know you haven’t thrown a pitch in a meaningful situation in awhile (hurry up and get better by the way), but can’t you discuss something not having to do with Orcs and Elves (and I DON’T mean the election)?

  18. eric98004 permalink
    September 25, 2008 6:38 pm

    OFF TOPIC-

    Curt, time to update your

    “Curts Pitch 4 ALS Season Totals” Today, September 25 it reads:

    Josh Beckett’s K Total 152 Josh Beckett’s Win Total 12 $$ Raised for the Boston ALS Chapter $27200 Daisuke Matsuzaka’s K Total 98 Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Win Total 13 $$ Raised for the Japan ALS Chapter $22800 Brandon Webb’s K Total 166 Brandon Webb’s Win Total 19 $$ Raised for the Arizona ALS Chapter $35600 Cole Hamel’s K Total 180 Cole Hamel’s Win Total 12 $$ Raised for the Philadelphia ALS Chapter $30000 TOTAL $$ RAISED FOR ALS $115600

    These numbers are from early August.

    Lets see the #s!!!!

    Keep up the good work with ALS – so many appreciate it more than you will ever know!

  19. str33tsp1r1t permalink
    September 26, 2008 3:39 pm

    Kriggles,

    It’s called “sarcasm”. It’s a cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.

    Curt is a Republican, and most Republicans subscribe to an economic theory called the “free market” that does not exist. You see governments create rules such as contract law, wich lay ground rules for commerce.

    Thus there is no such animal as a free market. There are and always will be rules. Because when there are no rules or they are not enforced, you get what we have now with the economy, total meltdown due to greed and lack of ethics.

    Then all of a sudden these free market guys want to create the peoples republic of wall street, and socialize thier losses.

    My point regarding gold spammers, was that if you subscribe to the notion of free markets and economic freedom in general, then you don’t like regulation in the public interest because it restricts your own ability to profit without regulation.

    It just seems to me that some republicans love “Freedom” when it means they don’t have to folow rules or pay taxes, but then complain about others trying to do the same.

    Your point about the gold spammers not owning the game currency in the first place is valid. As for me, I hate gold spammers and power levelers, but I have played many MMOs, and it has happened everywhere. Certain people will ALWAYS test the limits, no way around it really. I say kill any accounts whose gold value increases exponentially with no valid explination as to why. I think the key is to kill the demand in the market by banning anyone perminently that is found to have received a windfall of gold or items and cannot point to a legitimate source.

    Bottom line is that you can never increase freedom without decreasing equality. The opposite is also true. There is no exception to this rule. You can’t make a game feel more fair and equal amongst players without restricting the freedom of creative/cheating players.

    The key in my opinion, is finding the right balance between personal freedom and what’s good for the game and players as a whole. An overbalanced/power-nerfed game SUCKS to play, and one that allows too much individual freedom SUCKS as well. Age of Conan for instance, is a stunning game visually, but is ZERO fun to play, due to poor balance of classes, super slow gold earning etc. This struggle is not limited to game worlds, but to ours as well.

    BTW, I am very excited to play in the world 38 Studios is producing in the end, as the creative and skilled team they have assemled, is amazing to say the least.

  20. str33tsp1r1t permalink
    September 26, 2008 4:06 pm

    PS: Maybe 38 Studios ought to hire an economist and a sociologist and add them to the staff? Just a thought.

  21. dimmak42 permalink
    September 30, 2008 3:32 pm

    Well I never thought the bloody sock played MMOs like allot of us at home. I guess it humanizes you.

    I believe the correct way to fight gold spamming is reporting from the player base and then re-actively addressing it by review activity logs of the accounts transactions.

    I have noticed Gold Spamming has really toned down in WoW. I believe this is attributed to player’s reporting the spam, trial accounts not being able to send out mass tells/yells, and the act of banning. I don’t feel an MMO company should spend a huge amount of resources. I feel their responsibility is to focus on content and game improvements not managing player abuse.

    WoW very wisely allowed player to modify their user interface. There are several respectable anti-spam add-ons folks have written and they work. They work because there are so many varieties making it very difficult for a spammer to get through all of them. This allows the people (players of WoW) to defend themselves from the invaders (gold spammers) without having to wait for big brother to bail them out.

    Mythic has a good track track record for quality games; I hope they adopt some of these ideas rather than spending huge sums of money to fight spammers.

    —————————-

    To clarify I am against gold spamming/farming/selling. It cheapens the experience. I did it once and it really stole away the experience of the game. It cheapened my accomplishments. Take it from me do not buy the “gold.”

    Enjoy the journey not the destination so to speak.

  22. warhamr permalink
    October 2, 2008 6:41 pm

    He better come back!!!! and to the SOX!!! not just to the bigs. He was gracious, even though i bothered him, while he was playing on his shaman in wow. Man would I love to xfer one of my 9 70s over, just to roll with him for a while, but I could never ask. Both of my grandfathers died before seeing a Red Sox world championship. This is something that Curt took upon himself, to make sure my generation, and my fathers generation didn’t suffer from. I am forever indebted to this man, and as far as im concerned WE OWE HIM FOREVER!!!! Carte Blanche baby!!! He can pitch till he is 1001 years old if he wants… thats right i said 1001, 1002 is pushing it though. Mr. Schilling if you ever read this, much love, for someone whom will allways be loyal and appreciative of your efforts.

    Aaron C.

    New Bedford/Fall River

  23. warhamr permalink
    October 2, 2008 7:04 pm

    Oh yeah, and not only do I loath, Gold farmers/spammers, but after 4 years of playing this game, I can not believe how many people will pay for gold. You can make close to 5k gold a week just Prospecting, well before they nerfed the stacks, and the epic gems were made so available, and the cost of mats went up, oh wait, I guess JC and prospecting sucks now too, meh cest la vila.

    Here is my conspiracy theory of the week! Blizzard is behind it all ;). Smart of them aye. You cant tell me they cant keep massive spam whispering from happening. They can make a city where humans and orcs, can dance with one another, yet, they cant stop spammers? Not buying it. Now think about how much money they could percievably be making, by selling it themselves, to unsuspecting young players, like you!!! Gives ya something to think about, its not like they dont rape us when an expansion pack comes out, I mean cmon, if someone has bought the game and the previous expansion pack, and has played non stop, or at least payed the monthly fee for 4 years, you cant say, heres a collectors edition game on the house that cost us $.12 cents to make. Hell no baby, you line up and prepare to get the shaft, your a noob all over again G !!!

    Quote of the day “Greed works”

  24. tallb0y permalink
    October 3, 2008 6:08 pm

    Wahhhhh. People are spamming in my MMO. Do you REEEEEALLY hate gold farmers or are you just lemmings conforming to your brethren?

    It’s an economy of scale really and it reflects our own economy of supply and demand. There are people that enjoy MMOs but don’t want to “spend” 12 hours a day to acquire the same in-game items that hardcore players have. So what do they do? IRL they work their asses off, spend time with their kids, feed their families, read books, exercise, live a fulfilling life then when the kids are down, the spouse is sleeping they have maybe an hour or two to play. Are you really blaming them for spending a little extra money to get their mount or buy something from the auction house? This is NOT a player or gold farming problem at all. It’s a design flaw. By creating a system that allows for an in-game marketplace you are opening up an exploitable situation.

    And yes I’ve paid real money for in-game gold. Am I going to “spend” 12 hours grinding mobs to make enough money for ItemXYZ or spend $20 for in-game gold equivalent? That’s less than $2 per hour for labor. I’ll pay that all day.

    It boils down to the fun factor. If you’re able to balance the reward system to where casual and hardcore gamers feel powerful enough based on their time investment to the game then chances are no one is going to want to pay for gold.

    They’ve monetized MMOs in two ways: subscription and micro-transaction thus far right? So when people buy gold in a subscription based MMO then it’s cheating? What’s the difference from an MMO with a micro-transaction based system? You’re paying money for in-game items right? So the developers set the rules in the TOS? Seems a little tyrannical right? OMG someone’s PVPing on amphetamines BAN THEM it’s not fair…haxhaxhax.

    How much does gold farming really change the game? Make hardcore players that are going to play 20 hours a day “work” harder for cash? I don’t see apart from the spamming how it really effects the games economy. If anything it should be a gauge of how poorly priced in game items are or how more money should be given as quest rewards. If spamming’s a problem just implement a spam filter in the game chat.

    Go ahead and point fingers, ban people, and blame the farmers….you’re just covering up poor game design IMO.

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