The Cost of Keeping Players in Check

The Cost of Keeping Players in Check
By Neil Kewn (Murxidon), OnRPG journalist


It is doubtful that any player reads the Terms of Service or End User Licence Agreement when signing up to an MMORPG. The endless scroll of player obligations and legal nothings is enough to put anyone off their game. We all know the rules by now. Be nice, play nice, don’t gank people. We are also petrified of breaking the rules. The punishments some companies dish out for disregarding the terms of use are just downright cruel! But, unfortunately for the humble MMO player, that isn’t going to stop scammers from creating new opportunities to wreak havoc on your online world.


Those rules you never read

Did you know that it’s against the rules to embarrass another player in Warhammer Online? Or that you are not permitted to do anything that is against the “spirit of the game” as defined by the developers? Vague will be too much of an understatement to describe some of the rules companies implement into their code of conduct. But that doesn’t really matter to the average MMO Joe, the faster they can scroll through the agreement and hit that greyed out “Accept” button, the better.


Cost Rules
Scroll… Scroll… Scroll…


Yet breaking a rule that gets our account suspended is something we all want to avoid. We just assume we know the rules and get on with our virtual lives. It’s no surprise that people are going to cash in on laziness by targeting players who don’t know their ganking from their spanking. If you’re new to a P2P MMO, that’s just one more juicy credit card assigned account for someone to try and snatch.


When rules attack!

RuneScape is the world’s most popular free MMORPG, and has attracted some of the smartest, most daring villains the MMO-sphere has to offer. Gold selling is all well and bad, but when players start using the rules put in place to protect players from doing the exact opposite, the game changes.


RuneScape has very strict rules that ensure players are kept in check. A mandatory chat filter replaces anything that can be deemed remotely offensive with a row of asterisks. The game is youngster-friendly, that’s for sure, but it’s also notorious for its scams. The chat filter proved to be the downfall for many an honest player in the end.


“Look! Jagex now blocks your pass in chat! *******”


That quote, however unbelievable it may sound, has been a common sight in the towns and cities of Gielinor for many years. Painful chat encounters between dastardly felons and the melons that fell for it was the highlight of any levelling session, and is not something I would ever fall for. I mean, come on. Who would, right? Anyway, their items were swiped before you could say password change. I mean, pass change. The term “password” is banned in RuneScape.


Imitation is the most sincere form of scamming

Staff impersonation is common in a lot of MMO games. Whilst being spoken to by an actual staff member from your favourite game is startling, it’s more surprising when they start prying for your password. The fear of having your level 40 warrior taken away from you because you broke some vague guideline referenced in a rulebook you haven’t read (but said you did) is too much to handle for some.


The way the impersonators go about their goal of, well, stealing from you, can be quite ingenious at times. I was once fooled into believing I had been approached by a GM to take part in an in-game satisfaction survey. I happily obliged but eventually realised where it was headed, and it wasn’t a place that offered me a month’s free subscription.


Capitalising on people’s refusal to read agreements is an interesting tactic, but a seemingly effective one with the amount of phishing e-mails that get forwarded my way. Phishing is the practice of forwarding e-mails that replicate something they’re not, in order to solicit personal information from people. Common messages for MMO players range from “suspicious account activity requires account verification” to the more sneaky “policy updated, log in to view changes”. 


No doubt many of you have received a dodgy looking e-mail in your inbox one morning, blabbering on about your account’s security being compromised and ordering you to click this link or the world will end. Unfortunately, the less experienced players can often fall victim to these genuine looking articles.  The like of which cannot be seen below.


Cost World of Warcraft Scam
At least I don’t have to buy a Celestial Steed now


The people who have real authority

I was surprised to find that my former college tutor was a member of Jagex, the masterminds behind that popular browser-based MMORPG RuneScape. Although not as developer, he had a far more interesting job. Steve was the person who had the task of sifting through thousands of user generated reports that were sent in each day from players.


“Reports” in RuneScape are records of ingame incidents. The hard-to-miss Report button on the game’s UI can be used to tell Jagex about gold sellers, account scammers or just generally bothersome players (personally my favourite use for it). Steve went through almost 400 individual reports every hour. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he detailed how the seemingly endless flood of complaints became tiresome. The only way to efficiently combat the plethora of the good, the bad and the gold sellers was by sifting through by keyword. “Gold selling”, “scamming” and “password” were the most commonly seen, and usually he wouldn’t give a second thought to dropping the ban hammer.


He showed dismay at the amount of player’s submitting reports on such a regular basis. The sheer number of password scams and staff impersonators gave a clear indication that even in the most family friendly MMORPGs, players are still susceptible to the most common scams. It’s up to the developers to take control of their Ts&Cs, end the endless EULAs and condense that Code of Conduct. Players need to know the rules; otherwise it’s the scammers who benefit. 

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