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.