Editorial: Nihao! You Gief Gold, KK?

Hello, my most adorable Lusi-sprites.

Today I wanted to regale you with a review of NATE LILES’ week of burping. Unfortunately, Lusipurr laid the smack down and would not let me. Alas, when will his reign of terror and tyrany end? In any event, today we will talk about the wonderful world of MMO account hacking, or “hax” as the cool kids call it.

For those who may be unaware, most gaming account hackings have two sources. The first is the Vengeful and Bitchy Ex. He or she (usually a she) has been given someone’s account information, or has access to a device where that information is stored. He or she then proceeds to wreak havoc with the owner’s characters – deleting them, stripping them, whatever they can do to royally piss the owner off. As hilarious as this is, it is not what I am going to discuss. I am going to discuss the second and probably most common hack – the ‘Nihao!’ Giold Farmer/Seller. This is where someone with slanty eyes steals accounts for the purposes of stripping the characters of wealth, or using well-geared characters to farm resources or mobs, then they sell the in-game currency they made/stole with those characters to other players, for real-world cash. (Well technically they usually sell that currency to a middleman like IGE, but whatever).

Most MMOs will do what they can to restore characters that have been violated (insert rape joke here, har har!) and stripped. They will restore deleted or sold characters, items and gold. Because many of these hijacked accounts are used to launder ill-gotten goods, players also tend to receive “bonus” items – items that the hackers actually gave to the characters, or had the character sell or auction. Laundered goods, essentially. This is excellent for the players. In most cases, in most games, players regain everything they lost, and often receive extra items, either courtesy of the hackers as I just explained, or courtesy of the game company as an appeasement. This is also excellent for the game publisher, as it keeps the players happy, and willing to continue to play and subscribe to the game.

I do not believe that it is such a good thing for the playerbase as a whole, though.

Firstly, the cast majority of the resources that were farmed or stolen via that account remain in circulation. For example, if the hackers steal 10,000 gold from an account, they will turn around and sell that 10,000 gold to other players for a modest fee. That 10,000 gold is almost never confiscated from the player who bought it. In addition, when the account is restored, the game publisher will create 10,000 gold out of nothing to give to the owner of the account. All of a sudden, then, 10,000 gold doubles and becomes 20,000. This causes game economies to expand and inflate beyond what the playerbase should be able to sustain. Too many resources, too much money, is in that game’s economy.

Secondly, and this is only a theory, but I suspect that we may not see as many accounts hacked and vandalized if the gold farmers/sellers knew that they were doing permanent harm to a player’s account. On a moral level that should be objectionable, but it is also objectionable from a purely business-oriented perspective. It would drive players from the game, and deter future players, thus severely reducing these peoples’ customer base. Companies like IGE want us to keep our subscriptions, keep playing the game, and to keep using their gold selling and power-leveling services. By restoring compromised accounts, then, you could argue that we are only encouraging the hackers to strike again, and to attack other players, secure in the knowledge that the game provider will clean up their messes.

Finally, there is the matter of personal responsibility. The security of your account information is generally your own responsibility, and if it is compromised it is almost always your own damn fault. You clicked on a link you were not supposed to, fell for a phishing site, downloaded some shady add-on, or well, just did something that makes you stupid on the internets. It may seem unfair to expect game providers to commit so much time, so many resources, to fixing accounts for people who neglected to look after their own accounts. The additional resources they commit to these issues can drive up the price of game subscriptions, or cause longer response times for other issues that game providers need to address.

0 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think what Blizzard has done with the authenticators is pure genius. Very hard (though not impossible) to hack; I personally was hacked before I got my authenticator, and I have no idea how. I was on a Mac, and poor as poor could be in law school, so I wasn’t buying gold. I assume it was either brute-force (my password was not strong) or the fact that I used the same password as another site was picked up when that site was compromised. I logged in naked and on a gryphon to South Shore (I think I was around level 40 at the time). It was no great loss, but everything was restored. Since authenticators have been available, I’ve always had one. No more account troubles.

    The gold thing I just don’t get; making gold via auctioneer and a cursory knowledge of economics is ridiculously easy. I’m like the Bernie Madoff of WoW. OK, I do get it, and to some degree, I’m very “meh” about the whole gold-buying business. On the one hand, it sucks that people get their accounts compromised to fund the gold-sellers. On the other hand, at this point, it’s your own damn fault if that happens. And even if they aren’t farming gold illictly, there’s some poor Russian, Korean or Chinese kid out there dutifully grinding herbs and nodes to sell for money, that he then sells to a big gold-selling site, and they resell it.

    Real-money transactions and microtransactions fundamentally do not bother me in the MMO setting. Take Runes of Magic or DDO — in DDO, I am never without potions or decent, if not epic, gear, because for $20 bucks (which, let’s be honest, isn’t that much to someone with a good job) I can get all of that and more through microtransactions. This doesn’t play the game for me, but it does lessen the time-sink I have. I don’t have a farming/gathering profession on WoW. I leveled Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting via the Auction House. I don’t leech off my guild for anything but repairs. By being the equivalent of a day-trader, I make all the money I need. Which is where the economics analogy breaks down.

    We can talk about the illict gold remaining “in circulation,” but that isn’t precisely true as well. Whenever I pay my AH tax, or a repair bill, or buy food from a vendor or whatever, that money doesn’t get “recirculated.” It goes nowhere. Similarly, when I finish my umpteen-millionth daily for the week, I get gold for essentially doing nothing of value. The only things that model a real economy are player-to-player trades (like when I cut a gem) or the auction house (which is really fun to manipulate, but also dreadfully easy, especially with my shiny new remote AH on the iPhone).

    So I don’t buy the “gold sellers inflate prices!” argument. Prices get inflated because people will pay them, sometimes using gold sellers to subsidize those payments. The best way to bring economic prices back down is to make consumables, green and some blue-level gear, and some crafting materials purchasable as microtransactions, and then have the in-game economy be for BoE drops, fully-crafted items, etc., the in-game economy would run much smoother.

    Of course there will be cries of “but then people with money will have an advantage!” No, they won’t. Everything is a representation of time. No job? Spend more time playing and farming.

  2. If there’s not some farting/burping soon there will be a mutiny among the readership!

  3. @SN: If there’s any farting or burping, I’m going to fire the staff and replace them with poetry experts, and I’ll be starting with the most foreign staff members.

  4. Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Gas comes in burps
    And in farts, too

  5. My love for UNDERBOOB is so great,
    my heart melts for it ’til the dusk of day.
    The night sucks so much when it’s away,
    I burp , and fart ’til day’s dawn.

    Its beauty is great,
    Wondering mind ’til it sees,
    Making Babbi is all I do,
    While waiting for the moment, for it to say “I like to poo.”

    Random Poetry Generators FTW!

  6. A belch or fart doth not compare,
    To the love we do all UNDERshare.
    A rosy hue, or milky pale,
    Against which all else UNDERfails.
    A gassy emission we way often choose,
    As a pursuit most apt to amuse,
    Yet even passing wind appears crude,
    When viewed along side UNDERBOOB!

    It is the opinion of this humble NooB,
    That we must always strive for UNDERBOOB!!!!

  7. @Ginia: Best poem I have ever read.

    @Lusi: If you start by firing the most foreign of us first, that still means Nate will be fired last, so until the site is reduced to you talking to yourself like a madman, Lusipurr.com will always be the reigning home of burps and farts and underboob.

    @Lane: Congrats on the well-thought articulate comment that no one read!