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The Consequences of Exploiting in GW2

A rather cataclysmic exploit in Guild Wars 2 was publicized today, and the results aren’t pretty. I was only moderately aware that the exploit was out there. Apparently the costly 20,000 cultural weapons were being sold for 1/1000 (three zeroes) of their price — that’s like saying you got your weapon for 20 points instead of 20,000.   I received a few “hey Keen go buy your weapons like nao” emails, but that’s just not my thing.

What blows me away is the number of people who abused the crap out of this exploit and never stopped to think, “What I’m doing could get me banned.”  ANet permanently banned 3,000 accounts and suspended another 1,000.   That’s a lot of stupid people. Yet at the same time there are those who think to themselves that it’s not their fault this NPC wants to sell something to them cheap.  Technically they’re not exploiting anything by buying low selling high.  I can see the fairness in that defense. ANet can take the items away, slap them on the wrist, but not penalize the person with a permanent ban.  (Interesting aside, in EVE these people would have been heroes.)  They weren’t automating play like botters who are getting only a 72 hour suspension (wtf?), but instead doing something that was actually “legitimate” in the eyes of many.  Keep in mind, some of the more heinous offenders made “only” 8 gold via 20,000 karma and saw that as an exchange.

Some innocent people were probably impacted by the bans, but ANet is giving an opportunity for those people who feel wronged to publicly post on a reddit thread their name with the stipulation that ANet will publicly post how many times you abused the exploit.   On one hand, great show of strength from ANet that they believe they got the right man.  On the other hand, I sympathize with the innocent (or quasi-innocent) feeling victimized by the “we know you’re guilty and we’ll tell the world” attitude.  I hope true victims — the people who didn’t buy 40 of them but only the ones to use — are given the dignity and respect of a private discourse not on reddit if they have been affected.

Allow me to be critical for a moment of ArenaNet by saying that this doesn’t belong on twitter.  This doesn’t belong on reddit. Some people get off on the public flogging of the truly guilty, but not me.  That hurts your image in my eyes.  This stuff belongs on your actual forums — the ones not yet available (like the auction house and mail system).  This belongs on your site, for actual players, not announcing it to the world via social media.  What you’ve done is given everyone ammunition and a reason to pick a side.  I get that this is an attempt to quell the opinion leaders who were affected — the people who stream and get 6,000 viewers; This new ‘hipper’ type of reddit CMing might seem like a good idea, but instead of allowing one guy on his soap box to make noise and be heard by his followers, you’ve made their martyrdom a public affair and shown people where to go to see a show.   You’ve also talked about people’s bans on public forums without their consent. Not how I would have done it.

Update: ArenaNet just disabled the ability to buy a copy of the game on their site.  Hmmm…

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Fergor - August 30, 2012

Honestly I’m fine with them interacting with the players on Reddit. As far as I read they weren’t telling them the answer to why publicly. Redditors were asking a question and it looks like they are PMing them back. The other option would be to hear complaints the “arena-net isn’t listening! They’re silent on this!”. So it’s a bit of a no win I guess.

As far as the perma-bans, well I wouldn’t have done more then a 72 hours ban for the first offense with a warning to everyone (and rollbacks). Next time perma-ban. I think it’s a bit too much even for the most aggressive exploiter.

On the other hand I’m happy they are aggressively policing the game from the types of people that usually bring the community down.

Mark - August 30, 2012

I don’t think I agree with a perma-ban even though I am sure there are people that abused the crap out of it and obviously knew something wasn’t right.

I just bought the game today and am looking forward to playing.

Jenks - August 30, 2012

Permanent bans for a typo on their end feels to me like they’re stealing $50 from people. At worst, they should do character wipes.

I don’t feel like buying items from a vendor can be labeled “exploiting” by anyone unless they have an agenda (stealing your money).

My opinion is a general one, I don’t own GW2 and never will because I can’t stand the character art.

Scargrim - August 30, 2012

I also don’t think perma-bans were necessary. A roll back and warning for those who only used it a minimal amount of times and a 72hr ban with a roll back to those who really abused it.

The way this is handled is really important as there are trolls everywhere trying to bring down the game, and this just gives them more to feed off in their effort to pollute forums and streams with negativity for those enjoying Guild Wars 2.

That said, overall I like ANets no-holds-barred style of policing as other games are destroyed by exploiters I think this sends a very strong message.

butiwasonlybeingcreative - August 30, 2012

Awesome. I wish more developers would adapt this zero tolerance policy when it comes to exploiting. But most are too greedy.

Also this is the very definition of an exploit. Apologists can twist and turn it all they want, what happened was players were “exploiting” an umistakably blatantly obvious MASSIVE bug. An exploit is ALWAYS precursed by an error of the developing team. The exploit itself lies within making use of that error knowingly. Good riddance I say, 1 cheater less is a good thing. But 3000 of them just like that? Grand.

Chris - August 30, 2012

I also think perma-bans are a bit much but I more wanted to chime in on the sales being turned off. Massively ran a story this week saying that ANet was prepared to do that if letting more people in hampered the play experience of people already in the game. Given the lag and iffyness of the servers, I would guess that’s the reason for the disable.

Scargrim - August 30, 2012

Update on exploit bans! Very interesting:
http://www.reddit.com/r/Guildwars2/comments/z44ml/karma_weapons_exploit/

The following is part of the post ive just linked above.

“Thus, just this once, we will offer to convert permanent bans to 72-hour suspensions. Should those involved want to accept this offer of reinstatement, contact us on our support website–support.guildwars.com—and submit a ticket through the “Ask a Question” tab. Please use the subject heading of “Karma Weapons Exploit Appeal”, then confirm in the body of your ticket that you will delete any items/currency that you gained from the exploit. You should submit only one ticket. Once you have done so, we will lower your ban to 72 hours, and following your re-activation we will check your account to make sure that you have honored your commitment. If that commitment is not hindered, we will re-terminate the account.

This is a first and final warning. Moving forward, please make sure you that when you see an exploitable part of the game, you report it and do not attempt to benefit from it.”

On another note…

To continue with what Chris mentioned about turning sales off. This is from GW2 on facebook 3hrs ago:

“Ensuring the best possible play experience for our fans is our highest priority. We’ve said before that we would be willing to temporarily disable first-party digital sales if we felt our high player concurrency may compromise player experiences. We have now reached that point.

Effective immediately we have disabled sales via buy.guildwars2.com. To be clear, box and digital sales are still available via our retail partners. We are tracking our concurrency closely while expanding our infrastructure. We’ll re-enable first-party digital sales as soon as we feel that we can do so safely. ~RB2”

Keen
Keen - August 30, 2012

Perma-bans are overkill for ArenaNet’s oversight and they know it. I think they also know they went too far with the tough-guy Reddit vibe, and it shows with their “one time” offer of kindness.

And it’s ridiculous that they’re making the players delete their items. ArenaNet should have already wiped those accounts clean with a rollback.

What bothers me more than ANYTHING though is that botters get suspended for 72 hours. It’s the BOTTERS who deserve the perma bans, in my opinion.

Danath - August 30, 2012

To get a perma ban you had to buy in excess of 50 of the weapons.

I don’t care if they got banned, you obviously exploited, boo hoo, too bad so sad.

Regarding bots, yeah, they should, but who knows, quick action is better than no action, the 72 hour ban could be seen as a warning, ANet is obviously taking a zero tolerance approach to these things, and I’m quite happy about that.

Jim - August 30, 2012

These kinds of exploits can destroy a games economy forever. TOR has never recovered from the slicing exploit. The cheaters were right to be banned.

Roq - August 30, 2012

@Keen – I think there may be a grey area between people who are full on AFK botting and those who are just using keyboard macros to automate some key sequence; maybe their detection isn’t yet sufficiently developed to draw a line in the sand.

Steeldragoon - August 30, 2012

It is my belief that a full ban isn’t as much of a punishment in GW2 as it might be in WoW or other subscription MMO’s. The lack of a subscription makes the monetary punishment some how less.

That being said, this game is too new for an offense like this to warrant a perma ban. While some may have been botting, they need time to ensure they are definitely getting the “right” people before perma banning. I like their approach with offering a one time amnesty. I believe it sends the right message and will hopefully get the right people a second chance.

bhagpuss - August 31, 2012

ArenaNet sold in excess of one million boxes prior to launch. They’ve now suspended direct digital sales for the clear reason that they are close to the current capacity of players that their servers can handle, so by now they must have sold considerably more than a million boxes.

They just banned 3,000 accounts for exploiting. I would imagine they think, rightly, that the remaining 1 million plus players who either didn’t know about the exploit (I never heard of it until I came here this morning) or knew about it and didn’t use it are more important as customers than the three thousand who will either no longer be their customers or who will have to spend another $50 to become customers again. I don’t see how they as a company can lose by taking action like this.

(As a matter of interest, when they ban do they just ban that account, allowing the person to re-buy and start over, or do they ban by IP?)

As for the botting, they specifically said in the Reddit statement “Since we’re currently seeing widespread casual, unsophisticated botting, we will start with 72-hour bans for first offenses. In the coming days, as we address the casual botting problem, we plan to switch to our normal policy of permanently banning anyone who runs a bot.”

Sentack - August 31, 2012

I’m of the mind that, what these people did was not wrong. They didn’t exploit a bug, they took advantage of some bad data entry. Was it obvious? Yes. But over all, banning the players was flat out stupid and was robbing people of $50 bucks. The “Sign up here for a temporary ban instead” is just a case where ArenaNet proved that they too overreacted towards the exploit but making people delete the items is wrong. ArenaNet needs to learn they need to be more careful, and they should learn their lesson by just fixing the situation and moving on. CCP got it right. You don’t make a mountain out of a molehill After 3-4 weeks, the impact of this change would have been glossed over by the regular economy.

Stupid developers acting brashly over stupid mistakes.

Bartillo - August 31, 2012

The people that got banned were buying hundreds of these weapons.

Zyler - August 31, 2012

A completely destroyed economy or people that knew they where up to no good that get permabanned?

Permaban it is.

Next time play nice.

João Carlos - August 31, 2012

Anet is just giving the “example”. They are applying harder sentences now when the game is starting, so the player community will know they can be very strict against botters and exploiters. It is psycology: people will refrain to try any other exploit because they know they will be severelly punished.

Taht is the reason too they are making that sentences public. See, the player community just saw how hard the punishment goes. That will stay as a myth for years ahead.

SynCaine - August 31, 2012

(Interesting aside, in EVE these people would have been heroes.)

Not exactly. For example, the recent FW-based exploit caused the five who found it to have their gains wiped (CCP can edit databases. Maybe Anet can learn how soon), because how they made ISK was all CCP-driven.

The legit ‘exploits’ are things like the old contract UI trick for controlling faction fit pricing, or OTEC. In these cases, the ISK is not being created directly because of a CCP oversight, but gained from other players.

CCP understands were the line is, and generally allows for creative use of game mechanics (they have zero tolerance for bots or other direct forms of exploiting/hacking). Anet just bans everyone (but bots…) for their mistakes.

Keen
Keen - August 31, 2012

@SynCaine: The botters and hackers of coarse aren’t acceptable. I meant that the EVE community is known for taking advantage of mechanics. In this case, the “abusers” (I don’t like calling them exploiters) used their karma and traded it in for weapons that they then sold for gold. That sounds legit to me, despite it being an error on ANet’s part.

@Zyler: The mail and auction house were down, and these people were going to get caught anyway. Plus, what botters did was ruining the economy just as much and they got suspended — additionally, those botters will be back in under 72 hours.

@Roq: Still, if they can’t distinguish then BAN them and sort it out. Their detection was good enough to find someone. I can argue that botters are a long-term detriment and the exploiters were very short term. So they suspend the long-term issue but ban the immediate. Doesn’t make sense to me.

In general, I think the point has been proven. ANet has flipped on their decision.

Zyler - August 31, 2012

@Keen Just because they went less strict on those botters then I would like to see (I assume its tru) does not mean other behavior should be a small punishment as well.

Set an example of people and it will deter others.
In other mmo I’ve always hated how cheaters, goldsellers, goldbuyers etc where always getting away messing up the game. Anet takes a strict stance and I agree…

If you play nice you should not run into any of these measures, so why not?

nukethesitefromorbit - August 31, 2012

I like to try and put things in real world perspective in these situations.

What these players did to me is the same as if Target made a mistake and sold the LEGO Millennium Falcon for $49.99 instead of the standard retail $129.99 and someone bought them all and sold them on Ebay for $100.00 Target made the mistake… the buyer just capitalized on it.

The person that makes their own bar codes at home and places them on the box and changes the price themselves is the same as the person that uses 3rd party software to exploit the system and deserves the ban.

Most of us have worked retail in one way or another and have seen those emails or memos that come in and say ‘hey… we screwed this thing up… pull it from the shelf’ or ‘we screwed up… change the price right away or put this sign out that says the price is wrong’. I have not often seen the response to a improperly priced item to be to continue selling it and then go back and pursue those that bought it.

Is it not possible to shut off one NPC in an MMO? If not then what about a simple EULA notice on login that states the vendor is screwed up and any purchases will be open to review and action? ANet said many responsible people reported the issue rather then take advantage of it so clearly they knew it was happening.

Just my quick thoughts as an old MMO gamer that is currently NOT played Guild Wars 2. It is on my to do list for mid September actually 🙂

Karast - August 31, 2012

To be honest I am happy Anet is taking a hardline approach to exploiting. To many games diddle around on exploits and the legitimate gaming community suffers because of it.

When they bought the first item it was clear that it was a bug. At the second purchase they made the informed choice to abuse the bug. To cheat.

Just because other games have been lax on enforcement and have allowed bugs like this to destroy the game economy and cripple class balance, doesn’t mean the Anet have to.

Jenks - August 31, 2012

Like I said in my first post, I’m not really a candidate for this game for artistic reasons. That said, their unbanning of these accounts and switching it to suspensions/wipes/warnings, raises my likelihood of eventually buying it from 0% to about 33% (or 100% if they’d add a playable race I could stand to look at).

The second most offensive part of the whole thing was calling the act of buying items off a vendor “exploiting.” In this genre, that’s not what exploiting means, Anet.

Nukethesitefromorbit’s metaphor is spot on.

Keen
Keen - August 31, 2012

@nukethesitefromorbit: That’s probably the best way of explaining it that I’ve seen so far. Perfect metaphor.

Errata - August 31, 2012

Funny that the resource used to purchase is named karma.. I read an interesting response to this subject on reddit. They now know a large group of players who are ready and willing to exploit when they get the chance. Now out of those 3,000 or so players many of them may not be tempted again. However, they will all be flagged for the life of the account. So they now have themselves some bug testers.

Just the fact that people were spamming others to buy the items quick before it changes shouts that the people deserved some sort of response beyond a slap on the wrist. No doubt Anet knew they were going to give these players a chance to come back after the perma ban.

Clockwork - August 31, 2012

I have mixed feelings about it; from what I understand it is not easy to just “roll back” the characters that exploited…probably due to technical limitations of some kind (though it does strike me as strange). Plus, if global rollbacks are their option, that means either they roll back the progress of a million innocent players or kicking 4000…I would imagine their method of backing up characters is more akin to taking a “screenshot” of all characters at a specific time; making it difficult (and more costly) to cherry pick to fix.

On the other hand, ArenaNet is holding its players to a higher moral standard than many other companies…they saw something wrong (lets be honest, anyone who bought that many weapons KNEW what they were doing, or at least had a voice in the back of their mind saying ‘Something isn’t right…’ and chose to act anyways), and acted. Some may have reported it as a bug then bought a set for themselves…those players probably were not even punished (which I cannot confirm). The players punished were those who were clearly trying to profit from ANet’s mistake…but it being ANet’s mistake does not necessarily justify exploiting it. Yeah it was their mistake, they owned up to that and fixed it quickly; this does not mean the exploiters get to be grandfathered in with an “Oh you! You got us this time!”. The exploiters weren’t on the moral high horse here, they still did wrong….a bit apples-to-oranges here, but if a bank leaves its vault open you aren’t justified in walking in and helping yourself to the money.

Lastly, I think ANet is perfectly welcome to defend its image in the public sphere. Many of the players on that reddit post were making wild allegations of being banned for “tiny” infractions or claiming innocence. Now I do think asking them to post their names publicly is a little much…but it seems now they have extended a private olive branch.

Caldazar - August 31, 2012

I bought 3 of em and didnt get banned, and all of them also were salvaged and replaced by better weapons long ago.
As far as I know the only people who were banned are the mass exploiters.

Darkstryke - September 1, 2012

I have to disagree with the airing of ban details being a bad thing. This is the first “MMO” game that I have seen publish the details of why bans are happening to specific people, and it should become a standard in the industry. A guy banned and running to reddit claiming ignorance, then being shown buying 100+ of these weapons is just the kind of kick in the nuts that those liars need.

Idiots whom knowingly exploit systems, and then brag about doing it, and how to do it to 5000 other people watching them on twitch deserve to lose $80. People defending behavior like that, I just have no words for. Has A.net gone overboard? I guess since there’s no baseline to compare exploit ban details against, you could say yes. I however, find it refreshing that we have a dev team and studio willing to somewhat stand behind bans, and start the name & shaming of people.

Evalissa - September 1, 2012

I have to say I fully support ANet in all of the above.
Exploiting a mistake is still exploiting, no amount of real world comparisons will work, the real world is far from perfect and just because you can do it in the real world should not mean you should not be held accountable
If someone brought 500 items they were clearly aware that it was an error and they where exploiting it, end of argument. Too many soft game company’s pussyfooting around the issue’s (and eve’s no comparison, they allow player based exploiting, they don’t allow game based)

As for the whole public thing, its about time. Always you get numpties go to public places and demand reasons why they were ‘unfairly banned’ for ‘no reason’.
If they bring it to a public place, then ANet should be able to feel free to respond in kind.

Good for them, another + mark against the company in my opinion

Constantine - September 3, 2012

Initially, I felt that it was wrong to perma-ban these peopleo hope they’ll eventually solve. But ultimately, what these people were doing were exploiting something which could kill the economy of the game. If you think about it in a real life perspective, terrorist have found an exploit where they were able to print as much money out as they wish making your hard earned cash worthless due to depreciation, how would you feel? You would want the heads of these terrorist. Likewise in this situation, fucking with the economy is not something players should be allowed to get away with. Permanent ban was the right choice in terms of given guild wars 2 a more mature and prospective player base. Eventually, only the good players will be left while the players who only try to exploit and cheat their way out leave for another game which tolerate their crap.

Thallis - September 7, 2012

Personally, I like what they are doing/did. At first I thought it was too harsh. But they’ve established a precedent and drawn a line early on. And if you cross it…. you might just get banned. That is echo’ing in the heads of many a gw2 player right now.
Just last night, a guildie had discovered some quest that gave him a powerful weapon… we think it was meant to be a temp weapon but he was somehow able to carry it about after the quest/event. This weapon was 2 shotting everything he came across for far more longer than he believed it should have been. Everyone in guild chat was stating “Be careful, ANet has a pretty strict policy on that stuff and could ban you if you go overboard”
I also love the public flogging, sorry, might seem a little medieval but every time I see one of these “I was banned for no reason” posts it has made me wonder if Anet maybe made a mistake. These remove any doubt.

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