An MMOC News Article I’d Like To See

Parody, not to be interpreted as actual.

Blizz HQ, Irvine, CA.  For Immediate Release:  The time has come to finally address every single duper complaint and rectify the issue.  A team of experts has been hired to replace the interns we’ve had in place monitoring the situation since 2004.  Three experts have been hired from several local high school computer science clubs.  After an exhaustive background check we found that they have indeed made at least one post on the official forums, and that’s good enough for us.   One of them even offered to work for just a Blizzcon pass and a shout-out in the forums.  We hope this will finally put to rest the complaints of our critics that we aren’t serious about preserving our in-game economies.

The interns have been promoted to part time status and will now oversee development of PvP balance, since no one has officially been in that role since release.  This was an oversight on our part and we do apologize for the delay.  Please note that we cannot discuss the details of our interns, since no one has actually seen them since November 2004, but we know they exist because someone is cashing their paycheck and forgetting to make coffee when the machine is empty.  Let’s all congratulate them on a job well done.

———————————————————————————-

The time has come to roast Blizzard for their inept economic security issues.

Would I be remiss in stating that Blizzard and its employees generally have their heads up their asses when it comes to in-game economics and securing it for everyone?  Or could I just stop at “heads up their asses?”  Probably.  I follow a majority of the “personalities” on Twitter.  From what I see it’s mostly nonsensical beer tips, what they’re eating for (insert meal here), some tweets related to their actual jobs, and a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.  Why do I continue to follow them?  Because I like to point and laugh at the inept even if they’re getting a piece of my subscription money.  They have all the bases covered for hours of entertainment, fun, and surprises.  And who wants to be the last to know over on MMOC?  Twitter is for breaking news, dammit.  Like what grocery store sushi looks like vs. actual sushi, because can’t tell the difference and I usually call it ‘bait’.  Thanks to them, I feel loved and respected everyday, because Blizz is like Apple, it’s all about a positive community where anyone saying anything negative gets slapped down as a hater rather than a consumer with modest expectations.  Some of the fun we see:

  • Community managers who haven’t a clue except how to kiss people’s asses, stay neutral and diffuse conversations with an unending supply of “Squirrel!” retorts.
  • Game developers/designers constantly looking like they don’t care anymore or have no idea what they’re doing.  At the close of TBC, there was a concern about the B-Team being put in charge.  6 years of farm league play!
  • Managers touting their team’s successes and the bi-annual CEO tweet telling me a game is releasing that night and that I should buy it.  Definitely scouring my missed tweets for these.

If this was any other corporation, I would say they would fit right in.  They’re about as out to lunch as any other company you can name.  I don’t fault their ambivalence.  Employees punch a clock for one reason – paychecks.  And rightfully so, nobody works for free and shouldn’t be expected to.  Except bloggers.  The truly passionate are busy running their own businesses, and in the case of gaming they’re making their own games as an indie or under a more ambitious studio.  As much as you may like or love Blizz, they’re just another corporation that makes a product with a loyal following that’s so scary I fear for the future of the next generation.  (I won’t even go into the fact that many of them are breeding with other like-minded sycophants, it’s simply frightening.)  By the way, get off my lawn.

I’m sure the grunts doing the actual work are overworked, sleeping at their desk during crunch-time, and more than likely aren’t getting comped meals at the cafeteria except maybe once in a blue moon.  These are the people that never get enough backup or respect, because they are asked to put in more hours rather than get more assistance to handle the issues.  I’ve worked in this capacity, your life is just a series of priorities, and when something isn’t a priority it just becomes a talking point at the next meeting that gets about 30 seconds of actual talking time.  This is where the phrase “we don’t have the resources” comes from, it’s merely code for “fuck that, we don’t care about that right now”.  I imagine a siloed hierarchy that’s probably not much fun to work in because fingers are pointed at the bottom in those systems.

Conversely, the personalities have succeeded at making one of the most vile communities in the world.  You have 22 year olds living with parents acting up like 14 year olds that just learned a new swear word playing this game.  Sure, gamers tend to lack a certain social compass, as demonstrated by the “You suck” hierarchy that comes with the game.  It’s revenge for all the sand kicked in their faces as 6 year olds.  There’s an easy way to police the behavior in game, but we don’t want to go back to 2004/5 when they actually banned people in trade from the game.  There’s real dollars at stake here.  By the way, did you hear about the tokens for gold?  It’s just another innovation created to … Squirrel!

I personally have played their titles for 15 years, starting with Diablo 2, speaking of vile and toxic communities.  That community was like attending the Player Haters Ball everyday, complete with 12 year olds whose only mission in life was to pwn.

True story, guess what became of those 12 year olds?  I wasn’t a Starcraft player, and I certainly wasn’t into the Warcraft series until finally talked into it through much harassing.  In my time dealing with them I’ve learned one thing is true:  They are extremely slow to react to issues affecting their games and when they make a decision it is generally off the mark and seems like they threw a dart at a dartboard to come up with the policy.  Having worked in corporate America for a long time, I imagine their meetings are not unlike other companies.  People are asked questions, people reply with inert answers, and nobody challenges another department for doing a shitty job, because that’s management’s job and we all know those guys are giant pussies with no backbone who like their BMWs and mortgages.  It’s all positive, just like the cash flow.  The problem is the lower level are probably passionate, but once they get comfortable they start worrying about whether they’ll see the sword or ring.

Blizzard’s aptitude for tolerating hacks and making bizarre decisions is legen-(wait for it)-dary.  I remember a dupe exploit about 12 years ago in D2 that destroyed the item market many months ahead of the patch that ultimately made it irrelevant.  It was released publicly so everyone who was in the know (like everyone) was able to make copies of every item in the game that didn’t have a socket in it.  It was that specific.  Ironically, this dupe lasted all weekend, because the hacks team punched out on Friday and the lunatics had the run of the asylum for several days.  The following Monday they patched it and the forums were alive with “Blizzard is pist!” posts and it was stated that something would be done.  Within a few weeks they retaliated, by banning the people who were running bots and posting a gamewide Message of the Day proclaiming hundreds of thousands of account closures.  For the people who ran the dupe?  They got to keep their items, accounts, and remain wealthy.  I know, this made me shake my head.  The result was – “don’t tell the customers anything about how the game, as they know it, is completely tainted, patch 1.10 will fix it, and we’ll release that when hell freezes over, just stall em.”

Remember this? This was 8 months after the dupe spree.

So you wonder why ladder seasons are part of the Diablo franchise?  People needed resets not because they were bored with the game, but to deal with the sheer amount of hacks and cracks that made their way into the game uninterrupted.  I wonder what WoW would be like if we didn’t see a complete reset every 2 years and you simply moved into a new tier rather than a new story?

Good lord Zero, what’s your point?

This brings up my question.  What destroys the game’s economy more?  Duplication of items (dupes) or bots? One of these is my source of ire whenever people bring up quality gaming environments.

For certain, bots are more mainstream and operated by tens of thousands of players.  They are generally for sale by very intelligent programmers and assist various people with various things they want to do in the games that are deemed boring or repetitive.  No question, they can be annoying and they’ve been around in every online game community since the invention of online game communities.  In WoW they can be seen in almost every area of the game – PvP, raids, dungeons, leveling zones, auction houses, popular grinding areas, etc.  Realistically they have a large effect on the economy, providing large amounts of various materials that normally would not be farmed.  These ill gotten gains generally don’t amount to a large amount of in-game currency by most measures, and most Auction House barons love them because they provide a ready supply of low cost materials that people are generally too lazy to farm for on their own.  The most important aspect of them however, is that they inject a ready supply of legitimate items into the economy, even though they are retained through methods frowned on by the general public.

Dupers however, are a different matter.  These people are capable of making copies of items within the game and making them available for sale to everyone – infinitely and at no real cost to the duper.  For item based games like Diablo and Warcraft, this is the golden ticket.  Buyers of dupes generally do not care if the item was legitimately dropped or created in the game, they only know that their character will benefit from that item.  For WoW, the items that are duped are generally nothing too game breaking except for breaking the economy.  They always have the same thing in common – the items are always the most expensive and sought after items in the game.  It makes sense, don’t bother with volume when just a few million in sales will fix your gold selling efforts for the next month.  Bend it, don’t break it, make just enough to fuel your gold sales for a few weeks and move on.  In the past, we’ve seen the following items copied with extreme fervor:

  • Raid only and highly desired crafting materials
  • Every Trading Card Game mount and pet
  • Epic gems
  • Crafted and unbound mounts
  • Unbound vendor only materials

If you’re on a small or unpopular server, you’ve probably not seen this stuff in action, so to you, you would follow Blizzard’s company line and believe there are no dupes or that Blizzard had an issue and they resolved it!  For those of us on the major servers, this is a common issue that is outright denied by Blizzard and a vast (surprisingly) number of sheep, I mean fans, parrot everything their dear blue leader says.  They’ll tell you to report these activities, but they won’t be allocating any resources towards destroying them entirely.  With the amount of work they’ve done to counter these issues, I would suspect the “hacks” email probably goes to a vacant email, or is immediately trashed.  Prove me wrong here.

About 2 weekends ago, I watched a really solid documentary about changing the marijuana laws and the ramifications of maintaining the status quo.  Regardless of where you fall on this issue, they had a solid point.  It’s easier for law enforcement (and probably safer) to take down dozens of first time dope offenders and dealers than it is to really get at the root of the issue and go after the big cartels and kingpins.  Basically the metric is 1 bust = 1 bust.  People want results they can see on paper, people want promoted, and people want to look good.  The money is then allocated towards accomplishing these goals.  I imagine the “security” department at Blizzard looks about the same and probably follows the same protocols.

Meanwhile, at Blizzard’s Game Security Compound (the closet on the 2nd floor, East campus)

The issue is however, that one duper has the ability to destroy entire economies.  In a few hours, a duper can release hundreds of new Spectral Tiger mounts, or thousands of Savage Bloods at way below market prices just spamming your trade channel and finding fences for their goods.  These items are not legitimate items and the buyers know this.  They (the fencers) purchase from these sellers and immediately start walling off the auction house looking for a quick turn.  Criminal?  Hey, these epic gems fell off a truck, fughetta bout it.  Worse, they do this across every major server.  Remember this, it’ll come up later.

The duper then turns around and moves their gold to another account or guild bank for future sale to gold buyers.  It’s a really simple system, and redistributes gold to those willing to pay 50 cents for a thousand gold.  A buyer wanting to buy 100k would pay 50 bucks, a million would pay 500 bucks.  It adds up pretty freaking quickly, doesn’t it?  Total cost?  The duper’s time.  Duping is an extremely low cost business and the returns are fantastic.  Once you have the technique, provided it never gets patched, you have the golden goose literally.  You just print money.  And if you’re up against Blizzard, you can be assured that your technique will exist in perpetuity.

These techniques are extremely well guarded.  You don’t just Google “duping technique” and locate them.  Of course, you’re welcome to click on any of those links if you like keyloggers and trojans, buyer beware.  The real answer is that there are more fingers on your hands than people in the world that have the techniques.  Think Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe security.  Think better than Twitch password security.  Actually, just kidding, their security is probably run by Blizz.  Of course you could buy these techniques, but be prepared to blow a truckload of money.  Think 10’s of thousands.  And they will eventually get patched should Blizzard get off their dead asses and follow the logs on the reports they get.  It’s amazing to me that they cannot seem to close the holes in the code, it just screams “they’re better than us”.  Thank goodness these guys aren’t working for anything important like insurance company databases, national security, or maintaining your local elementary school’s lunch menu website.

It’s long been suspected that the techniques are merely buried code within the game, left by former employees who know the backdoors or were instrumental in creating them.  It has merit, these would be the people intimately familiar with the system.  I would suspect however that the people doing this are just really smart hackers.  They specialize in tricking the server into doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and without the server even noticing.  In theory it seems like it would be really easy to close it down, no?  Just pull the logs of what the character did in game and go from there.  I mean, I’ve only given you assholes reports of the names which should have an associated log for years, maybe if you checked your flipping email from time to time?

It is, however, entirely possible that the methods these people are using are completely beyond repair.  That is, fixing the issue would break other aspects of the game, and the methods used by the dupers are merely open holes that if fixed would create severe issues and Blizzard is entirely aware of the issue but cannot confirm or deny because it would only exacerbate the problem.  How many lines of code make up the game?  I wouldn’t be shocked to hear millions.

Of course I ask too much, because gold is one of the only reasons I bother playing Warcraft anymore – I get a kick out of creating systems and piling up masses of pixels when 99.99% of the player population stares at spreadsheets with a blank look on their face.

This brings me to my ultimate point

At issue is the new token system, which I will outright tell you I have no interest in participating in.  This will be an affront to gold sellers, going head to head by pitting the players against every gold seller in the world.  But it’s important to remember, gold sellers today get their gold for resale from two very distinct sources:

1) At the wholesale level, trading actual cash or gametime to those who farm gold through legitimate or illegitimate means.  This is a giant market, because people of all types sell their gold for any number of reasons.  I’ve heard sob stories of “gotta pay the rent” to legitimate reasons of “what the hell am I going to do with all of this?”

This underground trade system has existed forever, and is most going to be crippled by the token system because it relies on people to sell their gold, which isn’t exactly printed.  It still takes time and some work to build up enough to sell to a wholesale buyer.  And if the prices go the right direction with the token system, these people will be out of business because the prices they will be offering will be too low to make sense.

2) The duper level.  These guys jump into a server over a weekend, spam TCG mounts, Savage Bloods, and any number of other goodies until they fill up their guild banks.  Each item costs them only their time to sell the items, there’s almost zero operating costs involved to produce the gold.  Once they finish the gold is moved around and Blizzard has to track them down to ban the accounts with the gold.  Dupers aren’t stupid, they will pawn the gold off to #1, because it’s quick money and there’s no reason to dominate an entire marketing channel, not when you can always make more.  Specialize, don’t generalize, because getting too greedy gets you noticed.

Blizzard’s Official Position

Dupe-deniers like to claim hacked accounts are the sources of the dozens of Spectral Tigers and thousands of Savage Bloods that magically appear on the market in the span of a few days.  Sure, these hacked accounts just hang around with multiple Spectrals on them and hundreds of Savage Bloods.  And yeah, there’s hacking going on, just not the type dupe-deniers want to believe.

I do honestly believe they do ban the hell out of gold seller accounts, which is what ultimately determines the price of gold for every server because they’re able to put various accounts out of business and remove millions from the game at the push of a button.  Once they catch an account selling gold, or an account that looks like a gold farm, it’s gone.  But why was that duper gold allowed to exist in the first place?  Do they really just track only gold sellers and that’s the end of it?  You see, this is going to have a very real effect on the value of those tokens.

Think region wide here, because the gold you’re going to see offered in the system is not going to be coming from servers like Ravenholdt or Twisting Nether, the gold is going to be coming from major economies like Illidan, Tichondrius, Sargeras, Kel’Thuzad, Stormrage, and Darkspear where duped item sales are a way of life.  The duped item gold gives players who deal in such articles a clear and present reason to deal in dupes, allowing them to benefit through gametime while poisoning the rest of the realms and either lowering the amount of gold offered for sale through abundance or increasing it through scarcity.  Thus, your gold token values are not going to be determined by the market, because the market is tainted.  I can’t put my finger on it right now, but something seems like it’s waiting to get busted wide open with the advantage headed towards the cheats and allowing them to operate perpetually.  Let me clear that up a little.

Like I said, remember that these guys use the goldmakers on every server as their fences.  These people know they’re buying dupes, even if it’s never mentioned in trade or chat logs that what they’re buying is completely non-legit.  When you deal in crap you’re not supposed to, you don’t talk about the crap you’re not supposed to because that causes problems.  You negotiate a price, take the merchandise, and off you go.  You shut up, take your product, and go destroy everyone who wants it.  Ultimately, the “goldmakers” are just a pawn of the dupers.

What will happen eventually is the price of gold is going to crater within the token system if the gold sellers can figure out a way to make it work and offer their gold for far less.  If wholesalers are offering 100k for 20 bucks, and the token system is only able to get you 40, 50, or even 80k, who will win?  The idea behind this system is to allow everyone to benefit within the system and to clean up an already dirty and shady fact of gaming life.  And if you have dupers just printing the gold outright by appealing to player greed and vanity, do you really think people are going to want to blow 20 bucks for an inferior amount when there is no penalty ever enforced on the end buyer?  They have ignored the massive number of buyers for years.  Duping items is the big missing piece of the puzzle that Blizzard absolutely, positively, must close or this whole token system will be regarded as another step in the wrong direction because it will be exploited without careful oversight.

It’s funny, I say all this and they never fixed Diablo 2’s duping issues and it resulted in virtual item sales sites that lasted all that time.  That game’s been going for almost 15 years and is only 4 years older than WoW, so don’t anyone hold your breath too long believing anyone is on top of it.  And yeah, I’m the asshole because I call them out on their bullshit.  We’ll see!

Thanks for stopping in!

2 responses to “An MMOC News Article I’d Like To See

  1. Very interesting post, thanks. Very inspired.

    I do agree, that in the current state of the wow economy, it is not a good time for selling these tokens. The duping issue is a bigger one and fixing it would reduce the number of gold sellers by a large margin imho.

    Specially loved the first part (I know, I know, it is the easy one 😉 ).

    Keep up with the good stuff

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Blizz Finally Used the Nuclear Option | Zerohour's Abuse of the Economy

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