It seems that Neverwinter's had a bit of a weekend. The game was offline for five or six hours after very naughty players discovered an exploit that allowed them to make billions of the game's in-game currency, Astral Diamonds. While that may at first seem problematic, but not too serious, this in-game currency can be used to buy "Zen" from other players, Perfect World's virtual currency bought with real-world money. This sudden flooding of Astral Diamonds into the game's economy broken everything. So the publisher is scrambling to fix things. By turning back time.
Buying Zen or AD within the game is done via a window that allows trades with other players - trades where you pick the exchange rate you're willing to trade at yourself. So it is that the rate is open to fluctuations and adaptation dependent upon the scarcity or abundance of one or the other. A sudden flooding of the market with billions upon billions of new diamonds meant Zen prices crashed. And indeed everything within the game that's bought with AD - including its most epic gear and mounts - became instantly worthless.
As a result, Perfect World have announced that they will be rolling back game time by seven hours.
Describing the scoundrels as "a very small group of players", it's explained that the exploit involved the auction house. What's not detailed is that the exploit involved a really quite stupid bug in the game that allowed people to buy items for negative amounts. This meant the act of buying these items from the Auction House added Astral Diamonds to your account. By farming this, players were able to fill their planet-sized boots and go hog wild in the game.
In response, Neverwinter was taken offline until the bug was traced, killed, and tested. They then rolled back the very fabric of time itself to seven hours previously, meaning that everything anyone has done in the game since 5:20am PST on 19th May no longer exists. Poof, gone. However, to make this up to players, they're creating a package of goodies for all current players to be handed out later this week. And they assure that "No one will lose any money they spent on Neverwinter because of this fix."
One Reddit commenter explains how he took advantage of the exploit to make $7432, and then details what are being reported as really quite light bans. He boasts about how many of his accounts haven't been caught despite using cheats, and how he's only receiving a 72 hour ban.
There's one bit of potentially bad news though. Players who unlocked a Nightmare Lockbox after 5:20am and got some phat loot from within, especially horrid if that loot was the Armored Nightmare mount, will have lost it. Any money/Zen spent opening the box will be restored, but the lucky roll of the million-sided dice will be lost to the ether. Bearing in mind how much money a player could potentially invest in opening such boxes to get that lucky again, or indeed how much they already had, that seems pretty serious. (It's worth stressing that opening such boxes is absolutely not a necessary part of the game.) Currently there's no satisfying answer for this:
"We know how much that would sting. We are looking into ways we can make it better, but we don’t have an exact plan yet. Stay tuned and keep checking here for updates."
The reason it's seven hours and not more is because that's when the economy went kaput, rather than when the exploit began. Cryptic vow to trawl the logs to spot players who were taking advantage and spanking them appropriately.
At this point the Auction House remains offline, and clearly things are a bit of a tizz at Neverwinter HQ. It's a shame to see this happen to a genuinely good game, and one that really isn't exploitative of players with its minimal in-game purchasing. (There's not a reason to spend a single penny on the way from levels 1 to 60 and beyond.) The rollback should remove the worst of the damage, but clearly there are going to be some after-effects here.
Enormous thanks to reader Wendy who basically did all the work for us with this story.