Friday, August 15, 2008

Duping Woes

Duping is such a nightmare for everyone, not just the players, but as much if not worse for the Devs. It's like a cancer that just keeps eating away at you. And just when you thought you had gone into remission, boom, there it is again.

Players cannot begin to understand how much time and energy we devote to tracking down and banning dupers, removing illegal items for the game and finding ways to fill the holes that allowed the dupes to occur in the first place. But dupers are like cockroaches. You kill one, 10 more come out. Some of them are easy to catch. They're amateurs spotting a pot of gold and in their greed allow themselves to be caught red handed. Those are my favorite as they're not only easily disposed of, but they also usually cause the least damage to the community.

The Dons, the Master Minds, those are the ones that suck. They are hard to get. They are speedhacking little roaches, that only come out in the dead of night and are pretty much immune to most pesticide you can throw their way. You will never catch them alive. They will throw their minions under the bus, but you won't get your hands on them. They're the ones that really hurt the community and the Dev team and the game. And just like the Godfather, you often have to resort to nailing them on tax evasion. And yes, sometimes this means you need to let the minions run around unhindered a little longer just so you can work the trail back up to the leaders.

Each time, we have to divert development time to track down dupers / exploiters, fix the loopholes, remove the offensive items and investigate their accounts to gather sufficient proof to proceed with a ban. This translate as delayed publishes, canceled new content, lesser bug fixes. For the players, it means their legitimately acquired items losing value while inflation rises. For new players it means a tougher barrier to entry. For the game in general, it means serious imbalances between the haves and haves not, accelerated depreciation of entire game systems because the reward that gave them their purpose is now flooding the market.

So make no mistake: Devs have NOTHING to gain by allowing dupers to run rampant. We don't spam how many people were banned or when we are banning people. That doesn't mean it's not happening on a regular basis.

You would be surprised to know how many people were actually banned in the last wave. What boggles my mind is how eager players are to believe someone claiming innocence. We also have nothing to gain by banning innocent players, quite the opposite. Do mistakes occur from time to time? Sure, no one is perfect. But you shouldn't assume that because someone says "I didn't do it" means they really didn't. Anyone who gets caught speeding will likely try to sweet talk their way out of a ticket. If it works, WOOT! If it doesn't, oh well, was worth the try. That doesn't make them any less guilty. Difference is, the guy who crashed into a tree because he was speeding won't make a fuss, because clearly there's no getting out of that one. Both as guilty, just one more obvious than the other.


Anonymous said...

If rarity + usefulness begets duping, do you think changing how rare some items are would be an alternative way to combat duping?

From your comments in the perspective post, I guess not. But I'm not sure that design so that only power gamers, scripters and dupers can obtain somewhat rare useful items such as ornaments, peerless drops (crystalline, specific travesty marks) etc. is good. I'm not saying they should be handed to casual players on a platter. Think more along the lines of collection rewards, everyone can get one if they are persistent. In reality, the market is served by scripters and collection rewards are mostly available. But if the process of getting a collection item was fun and maybe tied to the account doing it, I think this would reduce some of the demand for these types of duped/scripted goods.

OTOH, demand for things like high-end runics would always seem to exceed the legitimate supply. And I use legitimate supply loosely as I suspect non-duped highend runics are mostly scripted. With current crafting design, these seem to be the ideal dupe, high demand and consumable.

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

There is no simple answer to the best way to combat duping. The simplest way would be for players not to buy what the majority of them actually know to be dupes, but who doesn't love a bargain?

The design isn't made for power gamers, but you cannot discount the power gamer either. A lot of hardcore players are ALSO legit players. A "points" system is what Doom tried to do, and what the Treasures of Tokuno (ToT) did. I think the ToT succeeded better.

Some games fight the duping problem by having items that bind to the player on pick up or on equip. And it does work. But in the greater scheme of things, I think it's just taking the easy way out and that it is detrimental to whole trading/open market approach. The last statement is obviously a personal opinion not shared by a number of my peers considering so many MMOs use that method.

Having played WoW though, there's nothing that pisses me off more than obtaining a kick ass item would greatly benefit one of my alternate characters or a friend but to be forced to sell it for chump change or to trash it because it's soulbound. I find it makes for a very selfish game. Again, this is a matter of personal preferences.

Any good item will always be high demand and any high demand will translate into potential dupe. And the challenge is figuring out how hard is not too hard but hard enough for everyone to have a fair chance without resorting to buying from dupers.

But I agree with you, if players had more fun working towards acquiring these items on their own, they would be less inclined to buy them from dupers.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, tot system >> doom system. In 2 years of doom prior to last years change, I had gotten 2 ornies. In the 3 months following the change, I got about 6. In the last 6 months or so, zero. Still getting plenty of drops, it's just there are so many doom arties that the random system will make getting specific ones really tough. OTOH, a guildie pulled 2 in a row.

Tot system, I like the small incremental rewards that lead up to player selection of 1 out of 10 possible rewards. With every minor drop, you KNOW you are getting closer to your chosen goal, and not another bone crusher.

I think the recent stranger and Melissa events were also excellent ways to give more players chances to get a shot at good items. Melissa more than the stranger due to loot distribution method. I could see that a low population shard may not have seen this tho.

Agree with your comments about binding equipment to players hurting the open market. So maybe binding isn't the answer. Just make stuff fun then ;).

Tomas Bryce said...

I think the easiest way to combat duping in Ultima Online is for developers (you guys) to have a way to identify which items are duped and which are not. Once you have that ability,
1) all the hundreds of thousands of runics floating around need to be deleted.
2) all the hundreds of duped rares need to be deleted.

Why? because the number one argument used by both buyers and sellers of duped item is that, "There is no way for anyone (including EA) to know which item is duped and which is not."

The recent banning, in my opinion, has only served to embolden the guilty. I understand that EA/Mythic has to let the little fencers run around to catch the big guys but there is an expiry date on everything.

In my opinion :)

Anonymous said...

In her town hall comments, Jeremy says they can tell what items are duped. (around 2:05 into the wrr mp3 posted on uoforums)

If this were true, I agree with the last comment that all the hundreds/thousands of duped items needed to be deleted. Yes there would of been a huge outcry, but it strikes me that this would be better for UO as a whole as it would discourage future markets for dupes. If you wanted, you could have still banned those with a multitude of items. This might even have mitigated some of the whiny feedback as you could then point out that sure you lost some stuff but at least you weren't banned.