25 January, 2009

48 hours later

Well, the good news about getting suspended from FFXI is that all of a sudden, I find myself with a lot of freed up time- part of which can be used to at least write about FFXI. At least for now, I can hop on the bandwagon and contribute my 2 gil towards the whole ban-hammer issue. I'll do so by briefly summarizing the events thus far before offering up my own thoughts. I've gone through a lot of other people's thoughts regarding the issue, and have borrowed a few quotes here and there, though unfortunately, I seem to have lost my notes on who said what, so apologies in advance if I left you uncredited.

To those who don't know what the whole fiasco was about, there was a glitch that allowed you to duplicate drops from any instanced area (i.e: Nyzul, Assault, Salvage, Sandworm) by first forming an alliance, then breaking it before killing the mob. Once the drops were in the treasure pool, you could then change the party leader and have an additional copy of the items for each party in the alliance, or something along those lines- I myself am not too aware of the technical details, and have only seen the glitch in action just once (which was enough to warrant me a suspension, but that's for later.)

As can be expected, the initial reaction involved a lot of posts that took on a "I am holier than thou" or "serves you right" stance, as if to say that sweet justice has been served. (I also find it amusing that people immediately look to Allakhazam for this kind of response.) Personally, I find myself in great distaste of this point of view simply because it's too absolute. Not all players who used the glitch were aware of it, and to be labeled as cheaters just because they were simply there to help out their friends (who did know) with Salvage is unfair to say the least.

"Another rather sad story involves a player who PM'd me saying he clearly knew what he was doing and accepts his punishment. He received LM-17 and called the "SE call center" and was told he would be ok 72 hours (a temp ban). He did this exploit very often. During one of these runs, his JP friend tagged along and participated and apparently was truly as oblivious as you can possibly be about this glitch. The confusion of party allies and disbands coupled with a severe language barrier was the reason for this. This JP friend participates, truly without knowing, and he received the LM-17. He then called the call center and was told he had received the full ban by the call center representative.

Looking around other people's blogs, there are quite a few people who share that similar fate, people who are invited or tag along with a Salvage run, during which they were left scratching their heads as to why the alliance kept breaking and reforming. In the end, they are deemed guilty by association (or is that participation?) and are subsequently banned from the game.

If anything, I do feel that the blame lies squarely on the developer's shoulders, though bear in mind that this is my personal stance (maybe because I got suspended). A development team will not be able to smooth out every single bug and exploit in the game, especially when competing against the hive mentality of the player base, but SE has shown that they are able to react to things quickly if they want to (for example, AV patching). The fact that this exploit was known to the player base for over a year and a half with no action taken by SE does not bode well for the development team (they claim to only know about it from November 2008 onwards.)

Yes, the player base is somewhat responsible for helping SE out with maintaining the integrity of their product and informing them of any bugs and glitches. Yet, as Lordwafik put it,

"Someone in my salvage group actually *did* report the glitch to a GM, and their response was they know about it but aren't doing anything for it since they’re too busy on their newer MMO."

Furthermore, the glitch was a result of the game's own coding. No bots, no hacks, no third-party programs. All it took was a few alliance invites here and there and some leader switching. For the players involved, they saw an opportunity and took it.

Now that the suspensions and bannings have been handed out, attention has been drawn towards SE's consistency, or lack thereof, in handing out their sentences. Quoting Lordwafik again,

"My salvage set had about 9 people total, 3 of us got perma banned, 3 of us got letters, and the other 3 got nothing at all. We all did the same thing but all got different punishments which is just absurd, I too am curious what is it exactly that caused them to get bans? For more information, 1 of the people who got perma banned got absolutely nothing from it, 2 of the people who got the letters got a 35 each from it, and the people who got no letters or anything also received nothing, much like the person who got permanently banned."

In summary, the players suspended/banned as a result fall in one of several categories:

1) Knowingly used the exploit to dupe items and was banned/suspended.
2) Knowingly used the exploit to dupe items and was not banned/suspended.
3) Participated in a dupe alliance without knowing about the exploit and was banned/suspended.
4) Participated in a dupe alliance without knowing about the exploit and was not banned/suspended.

The third category are the aforementioned unfortunate bunch, since they probably tagged along with the run to help their friends, not knowing of the glitch, scratching their heads as to why the alliance kept breaking and reforming, why party leaders kept changing, only to get swept up in the bannings as a result.

Not only that, but the fact that there are still quite a significant number of people who fall into the "knowingly-duped-but-got-scott-free" category makes the bannings feel like a smack on the head. One argument is that you have to get a few innocent people in order to catch the guilty parties, but how do you think they feel?

This lack of consistency also plays into a rather embarrassing comparison against other in-game "crimes"

"People have gotten a suspension for racism, harassment, threatening someone in game, grievance to a linkshell or individual, fish botting, mine botting, and bot claiming monsters on their first offense. So how do those actions warrant a suspension to the game, but individuals dissolving an alliance are getting banned."

In any case, the sentences have been passed out, but assuming that Square Enix’s handling of the whole situation could've been better (and it most certainly can), what can be done now to rectify things?

The general consensus is that handing out permanent bans to players over this was overkill. To permanently ban players, loyal customers who have subscribed for years over taking advantage of something that ultimately was the developer's responsibility is over the top.

Square Enix can downplay things and just announce that everyone be awarded a 72-hour suspension instead and still have gotten the message across. With regards to managing the aftereffects of the glitch, Maiev suggests that Square Enix can also take away any gear that the players involved might've obtained illegally from the glitch instead of/in addition to suspending them, which is to say Square Enix could delete all their Salvage gear. Admittedly, this is a little narrow since the glitch also worked for Nyzul Isle and Sandworm, but is a start.

In terms of event mechanics, I do feel that Salvage drop rates need to be addressed. Part of the pressure originates from trying to shorten one's time spent in Salvage with good reason. Honestly, if the zone can be beaten, you know the strategy, you know what to do, and your group executes things correctly, then it just becomes a matter of grinding time in the zone. At some point, it just gets plain frustrating if nothing comes from your efforts, and I do feel that SE is rather poor at figuring out when "fun" turns to "frustrating" and coveted items simply become a symbol of "I endured more crap than you."

A rather strange analogy I was thinking about involves the escape of a high-profile terrorist from one of Singapore's detention centers in February 2008. Essentially, the prisoner, Mas Selamat, managed to escape by excusing himself to the toilet and escaped through an unsecured bathroom window.

The prisoner saw an opportunity to escape, and took it. In this case, he got off free. Additional measures have since been taken and key personnel have been fired. On the Vana’diel front, this would be akin to placing the responsibility on the developers, firing them, fixing the code and leaving it at that.

In our case however, the players were caught. The code was patched and the players banned. Going back to Mas Selamat, that would be as if he tried to escape, got caught, after which additional measures would be implemented and Mas Selamat receive the death sentence. Now, I understand there are maximum security facilities with armed guards ready to shoot to kill any prisoner that tries to escape, but is that really the atmosphere we want in a game?

Coming from someone who was suspended, yes, in retrospect we broke the ToS, and should have some penalty imposed upon us. I say "in retrospect" because in my case, the fact that we were flaunting the ToS didn't immediately come to mind. For me, there was a chance to see something new, and I took it. My first reaction to seeing the exploit in action was "Hey, this is kinda cool" and admittedly "Holy shittaru, I'd better keep this secret from the GMs!" was not the top of my list.

Personally, the experience was well worth it, since although nothing got duplicated (except Alexandrites, I think) there were fun times involved with trying to get used to the new, unique playing conditions. (Other than tripling drops, it also allows players to share AoE buffs across the entire alliance. As a result, I can also Haste other alliance members, but the side effect is that I cannot see people's HP without specifically tabbing over that player, so there was quite a lot of {death}. ^^;)

I do feel that a person's intent should be taken into account before deciding on what kind of sentence to mete out, although on SE's part, that is something very difficult to do on a case-by-case basis. For me, as I said above, my encounter with the glitch was more for exploration rather than exploitation, although honestly, I don't know what my stance would be if the glitch were to continue unfixed. I can say that I reacted to the patch that fixed the exploit with indifference, although that may be due to the fact that I don't Salvage.

Yes, I know that last point may not settle well with some people, but my personal opinion is that it's very easy to go all high and mighty and say you will be clean without having actually done it. Right now, I don't know if I will walk the talk, so I'll err on the side that I don't. My bet is that of the players who preach about "playing clean," a significant portion of the people would've used the glitch had they known about it.

I'm personally going to go with the idea that I don't think it was a mistake to address the player base with regards to the exploit. To people like myself who were caught up in the net despite minimal participation, we did technically cross the line, so I do think that some sentence is in order, it's just the nature I'm unhappy with.

For now, I'm going along with the assumption that my suspension is for 72-hours. Given that the Lunar New Year's coming up, I'll be away for the next few days, so the whole suspension thing doesn't really affect me all that much. I'm more saddened to see some of the people I know being forced to leave the game because of this. There were some big names caught up in the net, and while not all of them were likable, they each had their own contributions towards the community in some way.

As some people have pointed out, banning people over this, or more specifically, banning people's friends is probably more harmful to the game in the long term, for really, my friends in game are one of the reasons I still play. Take them away, and you remove the main reason why we continue to play after all these years.

If I am unable to log back in when I return, then I'll just assume that I've since been upgraded to permanent-ban status. I've come to terms with that, and while I've harbored thoughts of maybe starting up again, losing five years of work just like that is not really worth coming back for. I've had my share of {fun}, {adventure} and {excitement} in this game, and as much as I like the game, I think I've reached the point where I can walk away with no real regrets (other than maybe leaving Campsitarus unfinished, which is something I really ought to work on, too. -_-)

That's all from me for now. To all who will be celebrating the incoming year of the Ox, 新年快乐, 恭喜发财!

24 January, 2009


Wow, I too got hit with the almighty ban/suspension-hammer!

As what seems to be the norm, I have no idea how long this suspension will be. Looks like SE's being either incredibly liberal about waving the stick around, or are being really thorough, since I only talked about it once. XD

Okay, okay, I was invited to try it once in Salvage after I heard about it, so I guess that counts against me. :P

In any case, if I were able to log in, I'd probably be trying to either earn money to recover from my Cursed Mitts -1 purchase, or I'd be leveling SCH up some more through pets. Speaking of which, while so far in my experience, SCH can nuke BST pets for decent xp, I have to admit, it is a whole lot easier as a BLM. God, Tonberry Elementals suck as SCH. -_-

Anyway, I have no idea when I'll be back, though given my sporadic timings these days, I don't think anything will change, really. ^^

10 January, 2009


The lack of blogging's caught up again. What have I missed?

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Happy New Year, everybody!

And one more thing that I just picked up today:

Soon, soon...:D

(Did I mention I am now broke? T_T)

(And where on earth is that A. hands abjuration?? -_-)