Well this is all jolly interesting. Remember the story about Star Wars: The Old Republic banning a player because he'd been to Ilum at too low a level, and been looting the containers? And remember how it looked pretty dodgy, and was probably a fake? Well here's the thing: it wasn't. It was real. But, as you might imagine, there were a few details missed out.
In a post to the SWTOR forums, Senior Online Community Manager, Stephen Reid, makes it clear that no one is going to get banned for visiting Ilum at a level under 40, and seeing what they can find in a container. Which is pretty much how the original story ran.
However, if a person is going to Ilum to repeatedly exploit the availability of such high level/value loot, to the point where the game's economy becomes imbalanced, at that point BioWare say they're going to issue a temporary ban.
Putting this in context, Reid begins by explaining that they've handed out plenty of permanent bans against those who are gold farming within the game, as you'd expect. But, he says, those who are threatening the economy of the game via an exploit were "warned or temporarily suspended". He stresses those who received this notice were considerably fewer in number than those banned for "credit farming". And he explains that this isn't carried out lightly.
"It's important to remember that our Terms of Service team is extremely careful and thorough in their investigation of any potential exploit or unusual activity in-game. Working closely with the development team and using extensive metrics based on player activity, they are able to determine what is normal player activity, what is unusual and what is exploiting. Our goal is always to ensure a fair game experience for all players while also protecting the rights of individuals, and if people are disrupting the play experience for others action will be taken."
Clearly responding to the Reddit-led fuss that occurred last weekend, Reid insists that appeals are listened to, and says in some cases actions have been rescinded, but also stresses that those who are receiving bans may not tell the whole story.
"While we understand people's concern about actions taken against accounts, please remember the Terms of Service team exists to help ensure a balanced and fair game experience for all. When you see reports of actions taken against someone's account, remember they are choosing to tell their version of the story - and there are two sides to every story."
Soooooo, where does that leave us? Well, no one has been permanently banned for exploiting Ilum's boxes. That's important to know. But whether the lesser actions are appropriate or not remains an interesting question. Were those players doing anything wrong? Or were they simply playing the game, in a way in which the game allowed itself to be played?
In my opinion (because the joy of owning a site is I'm entitled to give my opinions!) those players should not be punished, but rather the game should be fixed. If you create a universe, and then ask people to spend considerably amounts of money and time within that universe, then you have to expect people to be people. Gold farming is one thing - having the nous to get big loot and gain from that, that's quite another. And hell, the game lets you play as a smuggler!
It makes me think of EVE, and the fragility and adaptability of that economy. I sometimes wonder if those creating MMOs aren't really willing to accept the full responsibility for their creation. If the economy can be so easily exploited, either allow your game to be influenced by that, or fix your game. Punishing canny customers seems the wrong approach, but certainly the quick fix. Bad PR, functioning game. You can see why they made the decision.
What do you think?
Cheers to zack.