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Economic Effects of Cheating

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  • Economic Effects of Cheating

    Economic Effects of Cheating

    In any computer system as complex as the UO server, there are bound to be bugs. Hundreds of subscribers beat on the system 24 hours a day which ensures that they will find bugs quickly and exploit them for personal gain. For example, counterfeiting was rampant for the first several months due to an obscure bug which allowed gold to be cloned at will. The resulting inflationary effect was extremely damaging in the early months of UO

    Cheating is, of course, a significant problem in any game be it football, poker, or Super Mario. However, the effects are greatly amplified in online games because of the remarkable ability of players to organize their communications. For example, an Google search for "Ultima Online" finds almost 8000 web pages, most of them built by fans. Many of these web pages document the inner workings of UO in great detail (in fact, the developers sometimes refer to these user-created document because they are often more up-to-date than internal documents!). Thus, when an exploitable bug such as gold counterfeiting is discovered it is just a matter of hours before every subscriber is aware of the cheat. Unfortunately, the small team maintaining the server code is always out-manned – there’s thousands of players and often only one programmer who understands the code well enough to fix it. Therefore the server can never be fixed as fast as it can be exploited. This is "Hacker’s Law" – exploits will always be found faster than fixes.

    UO Evolution runs in to this situation more than most servers, we add new content every week and have to anticipate every possible use or outcome of adding an item or making a change.
    UO Evolution "The Game Has Evolved"

  • #2
    Here was an interesting article from WIRED:


    Former Ultima Online lead designer Raph Koster scrutinizes the debate over virtual item sales in his latest blog entry and he concludes that while these sales are cheating, the objectionable nature of cheating is completely subjective and evolutionary.

    Koster points out that looking up quest objectives and locations using the Internet – a common occurence nowadays – was once considered a bannable offense in the multi-user dungeons that directly preceded the first graphical MMOs.

    Koster's most important point is that "cheating is, in the end, violating the spirit of the rules. But the spirits of games evolve."

    There will always be those who seek to gain an upper hand on others, and while game design constantly evolves to combat cheating, realistically cheating is only trumped by it becoming a socially acceptable activity, and subsequently losing its stigma.

    I agree with Raph to a certain extent here.

    Personally, I never want to see players given the ability to buy their way to stratospheric power in a virtual world, but I realize that there is a demand out there for this. That said, I think his example of comparing virtual item sales to the use of information sites like Thottbot is slightly off target.

    The difference between quest spoilers and virtual item purchases is the number of people pulling for their inclusion in legitimate gameplay. The idea of what constitutes cheating evolved away from informative sites simply because so many people wanted to use them.

    While item sales have their fans, I'd be willing to wager the Azerothian monetary equivalent of $10 USD that they are the vast majority – an insignificant minority when compared to those who feel this sort of thing is an act of virtual heresy.

    Then again, maybe I'm completely in the dark. What say you readers?

    What is cheating?
    RunUO - Ultima Online Emulator -