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Role Playing (Games) Privacy

MMOG Currency Seller Owns Media Network ? 268

Posted by Zonk
from the this-is-not-a-reality-I-am-comfortable-with dept.
The interview on Okratas we mentioned yesterday was mostly funny. Game currency seller IGE responded to the honest (if ham fisted) questions of a reporter with harsh marketroid speak. A reporter at Warcry responded with his own reactions, expressing publicly some of the distaste the average MMOG player has for IGE. Since then threads started last week in various online communities have started to appear on online news sites, shedding some more light on uncomfortable realities about IGE. Namely, that the currency seller apparently owns gaming media outlet OGaming. Read on for more.

Ogaming is a hub site much like Warcry, with a sub-site about most of the major Massively Multiplayer Games out there. Some enterprising /whois work by the original author of the WowCensus thread led him to realize that OGaming was registered with the same street address used for IGE's New York Office. OGaming's registration information was updated on the 10th, and now displays the name and address of a proxy registration service. Further damning is the thought that at one point a page on the Ogaming site claimed to own Thottbot.com, a universally respected and utilized tool for World of Warcraft in-game information.

The page that once claimed this (an advertising page) is now blank, with the words "under construction" displayed there. The Internet Archive's last update for ogaming.com is this time last year, so there is no way to check on the authenticity of that claim. If it is true it's disquieting to say the least. Thottbot is a massive database of in-game quest, item, character, and drop frequency information. Thottbot's information was gained through the goodwill and work of World of Warcraft players. The popular UI enhancement, Cosmos, included a plugin that sent information from the user's playing experience back to Thottbot. This included locations of enemies, the types of loot dropped, items the character had, and other specific details. While Thottbot claims to only keep information that is pertinent to other players, with the revelation that they may be owned by the disreputable IGE their trustworthiness is out the window.

This revelation didn't stay quiet for long, with MMOG sites CorpNews, Grimwell.com, and Allakhazam all creating discussions of their own about this weighty topic.

The authenticity of this story is hard to prove or disprove at this point, with the OGaming.com and Thottbot.com domains having a proxy listed under their contact information. But if it's hard to believe that IGE would go to the trouble of owning a media outlet and a popular plugin, think again. Garthilk writes "Cindy Bowens, community manager for Sigil Games online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, outlines their stance on secondary market items, and how they deal with IGE. Most interesting is the fact that IGE approached Sigil, and had offered to cut Sigil in on the revenue that IGE might make in the future."

Update: 02/15 20:07 GMT by Z : Drey pointed out in the comments that, at least for the time being, Google still has a cache of the page listing Thottbot as an Ogaming site.
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MMOG Currency Seller Owns Media Network ?

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  • Ogaming and Thottbot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LearningHard (612455) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:52PM (#11679790) Journal
    Ogaming ownd Thottbot for world of warcraft also btw. So IGE owns Thottbot which has information on almost every player ingame. To go even farther Thott setup Thottbot and worked on Cosmos in closed beta which means IGE has been in closed beta.

    Frankly this looks very disturbing to me. I'm not saying IGE is going to break into accounts. I'm saying they are getting lots of information they can sort to find the best spots to farm various items and then use that to flood the market. I for one will not be using thottbot any longer.

  • Bad day for IGE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RogueyWon (735973) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:53PM (#11679802) Journal
    I'm a regular FFXI player. I just noticed an announcement regarding the suspension of accounts of known violators of the TOS on PlayOnline (the DRM-client-thingy that FFXI runs through). So I log in, do a few searches and not one of the usual known gil-sellers on my server is online. I wonder how badly this is going to hurt their margins.
  • Conspiracy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:04PM (#11679940) Journal
    If everyone gets banned off ebay within an hour of their MMORPG item listing, but one seller mysteriously has 10 pages of gold selling on every sever, what do you think is the case. Especially considering the amount of gold being sold would be impossible to obtain without the main company creating it. Also consider this seller is selling this same style for two different MMORPGS(DAOC/AO).

    My only guess is that some MMORPGS give selling rights and items to select individuals for a deal. I've done the math, the market this guy had was $100,000 a month, so it wasn't so trivial a company would ignore it.

    So don't be suprised if these sellers are actually 'financed' in virtual goods by the MMORPG companies themselves. The key is that they don't want the public to find out or it could negatively impact the MMORPG's image.
  • IGE: The MMMORPG. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:10PM (#11680005)
    MMMORPG: As in, "Meta-MMORPG".

    Let us take for example you invite your friend and myself to your house to play Monopoly . I land on park place and buy it. Your friend then lands on Boardwalk. I offer your friend 5 real life dollars to sell Boardwalk to me, and he does. I now have an in game advantage. Does this behavior undermine the spirit of the game?

    It undermines the spirit of the game "Monopoly". It does not undermine the spirit of the meta-game being played by (in this case) Parker Brothers against other board game manufacturers. If being able to buy Boardwalk for $5 makes Monopoly more fun to play, odds are greater that I'll buy Monopoly. (And if it makes Monopoly suck, I'll be less likely to buy the game.)

    IGE (and SOE and Blizzard) are all playing the same MMMORPG, the object of which is to use the MMORPG market to make RL money. MMORPG Producers sell the ability to play WOW, SWG, EQ, EQ2, and so on. IGE sells the ability to more easily play the aforementioned properties.

    If the MMMORPG were a game of Monopoly, I would start with representations of sheep (gamers), squares (producers such as SOE or Blizzard), houses/hotels (properties such as SWG or WoW), credits (dollars), bling (in-game loot, in-game credits), and bits (software).

    The market has yet to the extent to which folks like IGE make MMORPGs "more" or "less" fun. Consequently, MMORPG producers are still experimenting with the question of whether to ban eBaying for credits, or to encourage it. (An interesting question: how many dollars would you have paid SOE for a Jedi out of the box, rather than craptastically grinding your way through a year and a half of, umm, craptastic grinding, only to find... well, more craptastic grind at the end of the tunnel?)

    The MetaMMORPG - how to get the most bucks from the gamer, while not completely eliminating the fun and thereby killing the goose that laid the golden egg - has just begun. Game on.

  • Re:Conspiracy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quattro Vezina (714892) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:12PM (#11680030) Journal
    This reminds me of something that happened in Ultima Online a while back.

    Some time ago, a GM, who went by the name Darwin, was creating millions of gold and selling them on eBay. Eventually, he was discovered because there was no way that any one person could have so much gold on so many different servers.

    He was fired right after the news broke.
  • by LearningHard (612455) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:13PM (#11680040) Journal
    They (IGE) sell items, accounts, and gold for various games including World of Warcraft. This is expressly against the ToS Blizzard makes you sign. Blizzard has cancelled several auctions and sales through ebay and other sources but have done nothing about IGE's business. IGE's owner at one point in an interview mistakenly admits to having contact with the developers and producers of several of the games they deal with. To me this makes me think maybe there is collusion between IGE and some game publishers. The reason is because well before anyone was high enough to farm gold IGE was selling lots of 100 gold off their website.

    As far as thottbot goes, that site has data provided by the community. This data is uploaded by a program that you use from your computer. We don't know exactly what information it sends but the fact that IGE has went through great lengths to hide their ownership of thottbot makes me very suspicious of their motives.

  • So....do you? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flibuste (523578) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:18PM (#11680084)

    Among all the slashdotters having high opinions on that topic, WHO actually has the experience of using such a "service" to advance in a game?

    As a hard-core player who just doesn't have time to play, I'm curious what exactly you really gain from it. Satisfaction? Time? What?

  • Re:Non-player (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThousandStars (556222) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:27PM (#11680181) Homepage
    I think WoW has done a great deal to solve this problem through Bind-on-Pickup items and Instance Dungeons (level requirements for gear help too).

    That's not to say farming won't become a problem and such, but Blizzard also incorporated enough in-game money sinks (buying skills, mounts, etc.) that I think inflation from farmers will be slower to develop in WoW that in other games.

    Finally, keep in mind that the ultimate way to stop farming and such is to play on a PvP server -- because if you don't like the farmer, you can round up a group of buddies to put an end to the farmers.

  • Re:Reputations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ewhac (5844) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:37PM (#11680281) Homepage Journal
    They have found a niche market where they can make a lot of money. If it works, fine. Nobody's being harmed or spoiled - they are not breaking any law, so what's all the fuss about that?

    Sounds disquietingly like the morality of a spammer.

    Schwab

  • by Gondola (189182) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:41PM (#11680339)
    I don't begrudge the selling of accounts or in-game items. I think that if someone wants to leave a game and get rid of their in-game resources and make a few bucks, that's cool.

    The problem arises when people make this a full-time job. They create new accounts or acquire them, then strip them or build them up, then sell them. One person sits in his room with 12 computers all running a program called MacroQuest farming high level items.

    When this happens, the game is flooded by materials churned out at a rate much higher than would naturally occur, and the in-game economy suffers.
  • Re:Reputations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flibuste (523578) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:53PM (#11680513)

    Sounds disquietingly like the morality of a spammer.

    Or other corporations. Whatever they are: PROFIT!

    And I agree, it's disgusting logic, but it is the way it works in our world, isn't it? You cannot deny that fact, like it or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:58PM (#11680574)
    There are purists, who play for the love of the game, who love the staisfaction of a job well done and knowing "everything I have, I earned it through patience and time." These are the people who play MMORPG's in character, who don't ask others to guide them through quests without having to do the work.

    There are (believe it or not) other people in the world, who just like to kick a**. Never mind whether I earned it or not--I want to be able to play with the shiny cool toy. These are the people who love first person shooters, with the cheat codes on please.

    I don't think one group is inherently better or worse than the other. They simply have different objectives in "what they want in the gaming experience." Given that objectives vary, this seems primed for self-selection. Set up "purist" servers and "wahoo" servers, "nice" servers and "wild wild west" servers. Different rules for behavior and language, different levels of enforcement. And let players choose where to play (or, at least, which kind of server to play on).

    Someone selling gold on a "purist" server will not have much of a market, and so won't bother--they'll be selling on the "wahoo" servers, where there is a larger customer base more willing to pay.

    Of course, the issue here is with lamerz, who will play on the purist server just to be a jerk to everyone, hoping for a bigger reaction. But my argument is that having different levels of behavior being tolerated on different servers makes it easier to enforce rules--"purist" servers have less open tolerance of such behavior, so it's easier to ban or otherwise sanction players who don't abide...
  • Ethics and Morals (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wtrmute (721783) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:10PM (#11680703)
    Actually, you're confusing ethics and morality. Morality is what society says is right. Therefore, society as a whole frowns on, say, cheating on your boyfriend/girlfriend, and calls it immoral, even if there's no specific law against it (cheating on your spouse, OTOH, is another matter). Ethics, however, is the province of what is actually right or wrong, irrespective of society. Because people typically do not agree perfectly on what is right or wrong, one person's view of ethics will be different from other people's. Those parts of ethics which typically do agree with most people's are subsumed into morals, of course. Continuing with the above example, many girls in Rio de Janeiro don't think it's much of a big deal to have more than one boyfriend at a time (though typically two or three is the maximum they can juggle if the boyfriends don't know about or don't care for each other). So it's not unethical in their view, even though it is immoral.
  • Re:Mod post down. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by captwheeler (573886) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:15PM (#11680790)
    This story is not just about games, it's also YRO. What is DRM but the producer controlling the content? Thats what this story is, but with enough technical distinctions and reversed sympathies to make it interesting:
    • Blizzard made the game & items, and doesn't want them traded for cash. RIAA doesn't want CDs or digital music files resold for cash -- how is the iTunes/ACC after-market sale of songs? Nonexistent because they want the only sale to occur inside their game^H^H^H^H software. You can sell CDs, but would reselling your 'old' ACC songs on eBay bring a lawsuit? (I don't know, but I bet its against the agreement with iTunes, technical issues aside.)
    • Some players argue they *own* the in-game items: they paid the fees, did the adventuring, they control the items in all other respects, so its not fair for a company to try and restrict the usage. Are companies arguing that players are 'licensed' to use a magic sword (which would then be 'not fit for any purpose') only in their approved ways?
    • If the game is ruined with buying items, can't the producers restrict usage? Wikis have anti-spam and anti-defacement measures like history revisions and higher security accounts. Games should have the same options. Corporations should have the same option: to control content. Or does the particular issue of what content, in what context, related to whom, make all the difference?
    None of this is a really important -- its just a game -- but all of it involves producers controlling content in a digital medium, and that is interesting.
  • Re:Non-player (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Golias (176380) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:03PM (#11681489)
    What is really going on is that people are playing different games within the MMO - some are playing the Advancement Game, and for them, people who buy stuff are cheating. But people who are playing the Exploring Game or the Socializing Game only see the advancement as a means to an end - in the case of the latter, it may be a way to keep up with friends.

    That's just about the smartest thing I've ever seen anybody say on the subject of farming.

    Personally, I tend to play the "roleplaying game."

    In EverQuest, I had a character named "Iwalk", who was an even cleric with a very simple ethos:

    1. Never run. It's undignified.

    2. Never fight. Hurting people is beneath me.

    3. Heal people if they want me to.

    I played the character up to about level 8 or so (and that took weeks) while strolling leisurely through the forest. Some were amused by my quirky character, and dozens tried to explain to me how I was playing "wrong" because it would take longer for me to "level up" doing what I was doing.

    All of my exp came from delivering mail for the bard's guild (a newbie quest which merely involved going from one place to another with "mail"), and from rare people chosing to invite me into their group, in spite of the fact that I told them up front that I would neither fight nor run. (Some of them were stunned when they discovered that I meant it. They would try to "lead" me to some hunting ground or another, only to turn around at the end of their jog and realize that they left me about a half-mile behind.)

    I got almost nothing "accomplished" in that vitrual world, but man was it ever fun. I felt a lot like Kwai Chang Caine, walking among the cowboys of the Old West, who can't understand why he doesn't carry a gun or eat meat like regular folks.

    In fact, next time I log in to WoW, I think it's about time I bring the character concept back. :)
  • by Reapy (688651) on Wednesday February 16, 2005 @03:29PM (#11692417)
    If they didn't own it, they could go to the public information, information you and everybody has access too, and notice these trends.

    I don't turn on collection because I worry about performance slowdown. I feel really guilty when I use thott though and know I'm not giving anything back to what it is giving me. I think thottbot is great because the community built it, and the community has access to it.

    What you are getting mad at is like a company going to a library and making money off the information it finds there.

    Also, spyware is called spyware because it gathers information from you without you knowing it is doing it, you know, like a spy. When you turn on the thottbot plugin (disabled by default btw), you know you are collecting data and sending it to the website, contributing to the wonderful community database that it is.

    Not only that, but all the great drops come from instances and are bind on pick up. Guilds and public groups reguarly farm these instances over and over and over again. There are nonstop raids on these places. It's not stopping one single player from experienceing the content and these dungeons have to offer.

    Because of this, the whole concept of a farmer being on 24 hours a day camping a single location and choking the item from being avaialbe to the public is non existant. There is nowhere in the game a farmer can do this, nowhere.

    So what can they do, farm gold places? The most effecient way to do that is to control the auction house and run casinos (roll 1 to 100, get 580, double money, get 980+ tripple). People spam that all the time (which i hate). That is really the only effecient way to get cash.

    So start getting mad at things like lootlink and auctioneer which will help someone control the AH. Start getting mad at player run casions (which blizzard has no problem with people running them. Even though the chars are named things like JoesCasino and MonneyBaggz, and spam chat, all the time, two things explicitly against blizz's tos and naming policies).

    Thottbot's not giving any company some secret knowledge about the game and it's drops. If you want to know, go to thott and see what they can see.

One possible reason that things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan in the first place.

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