18/07/2014

The Curious Case of SWTOR's Gold Sellers

In the comments of one of my recent posts, a commenter went a little off topic and brought up the subject of gold sellers. (I suppose that, strictly speaking, we should refer to them as "credit sellers" in this case, considering that gold isn't used as a currency in game, but gold seller is just such a well-established term... I'm sure everyone knows what we're talking about.) This is actually a subject that I've been meaning to talk about for ages, so this is as good an opportunity as any.

I always thought that the most interesting thing about gold sellers in SWTOR was that, at launch, they were practically non-existent. People didn't really talk about this much back then, I suppose because we were busy enough talking about which parts of the game we liked and which ones we didn't - why worry about the absence of minor nuisances we knew from other MMOs? Maybe we also thought that the technology had simply become advanced enough that gold sellers had finally been defeated for good. All I know is that it took several weeks (maybe even months, I'm not entirely sure) until I saw my first advert to buy credits. It wasn't in chat either, but someone had managed to sneak an in-game mail through the filters and was encouraging me to buy credits for real money that way. It was a memorable moment precisely because it made me realise that actually, until then, I hadn't even seen a single gold seller advertising anywhere. That was two years ago now.

It didn't really strike me just how remarkable that was until I followed the news surrounding the launches of ESO and Wildstar this year, both of which were apparently absolutely inundated with gold seller spam and hacking/botting issues (caused by gold sellers needing wares to sell). So clearly the technology isn't there yet, generally speaking. Bioware just happened to have some secret anti-gold seller sauce. Too bad they got little credit for it.

What's really sad though is that said secret sauce has started to fail in recent months. I don't look at general chat often enough to be able to say whether any gold sellers manage to spam it, and I'm certainly not being accosted in whispers or in-game mails... however, at pretty much any time of day, there's a character standing near the GTN who advertises a gold-selling website in both /say and /yell.


I've blanked out the URL in this screenshot, but most people have probably seen the site advertised at some point or another. It's quite annoying, and the sad thing is that Bioware doesn't seem to be very responsive when it comes to reports. I can right-click "report spam" all I want - the next day the exact same character is still standing there doing his thing. And by the time they finally remove him, the gold selling company has already run the next alt to the fleet. It's not like I expect an instant response (I work in customer service myself, I know how it is), but you'd think that silencing these guys would be a very straightforward task that doesn't require much investigation before you can at least mute the character to shut down his shenanigans. I suppose it doesn't help that the game doesn't use the placebo you commonly see in other MMOs, where reporting someone for spam automatically adds them to your ignore list as well, so even if customer service is slow to react, at least you don't have to see any more of the same spam.

I wonder if the inventor of the anti-gold selling spam secret sauce no longer works at Bioware?

10 comments :

  1. Given that there are - if one wants to use them - fairly easy ways to convert real money into game currency in all the free to play games I've messed with, I'm baffled that they have as much trouble with gold sellers as they do. And it has been really bad in SWTOR of late.

    Though I suppose SWTOR has one of the least direct routes (use cartel coins to by stuff, sell on auction house). Maybe that's it.

    (But then I don't really understand why people buy game currency in the first place. It seems like a high risk/low reward sort of thing. It made the most sense to me when mounts were being used as currency sinks in games, but SWTOR backed off that some time ago, and I'm pretty sure WoW did so even longer ago. But, damn, a lot of people _must_ use them or all the games wouldn't be so full of them.)

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    1. I'm not sure why there would be much of a demand for buying credits in SWTOR either, as most play styles pretty much finance themselves. It's only if you want, say, a rare piece of moddable gear or other cosmetic item from the GTN that you might feel a sting on your wallet.

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  2. Considering it would take me a day or so of puttering around to get a million credits by farming in SWTOR, I think the gold seller business in SWTOR is stupid.

    Just my two cents.

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    1. It's not the people with four or five level-55 characters that the goldspammers are targeting, it's the new subscribers and the people with three or four characters that haven't figured out how to game the planetary comms to keep themselves geared or try to keep all their companions fully outfitted in moddable gear at parity to their own as they level who see themselves stuck on the back side of the leveling curve because they can't afford "up to level" gear with the credits they earn from the class missions, and see the peripheral missions as 'grind' they want to avoid instead of potential additional income.

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    2. I know that it was nerfed since launch, but if you get to L24-ish and spend time running through Nar Shadda and picking lockboxes, you'll amass a huge amount of credits very quickly.

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  3. NA credit prices are cheaper then EU! Ours are about 6 euros per million. Maybe they are tacking on VAT?

    You would think after X amount of 'Report Spam' reports that something would trigger additional chat log checking algorithms or a CSR visit.

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    1. To be fair, this screenshot is actually a couple of months old. When I passed by the GTN just now, the local spammer was advertising a million credits for 6 US dollars. :P

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  4. The issue is that Bioware sucks at catching macro/automated playing. On Hutta/Ord Mantell, you can often see characters turning anticlockwise while spamming TAB and skill 1+2 to kill nearby mobs and level from 1 to 7. Those characters are then brought to the fleet to spam.

    If Bioware caught the macro/automated characters before they made it to the Fleet, it would take more effort for the goldsellers to spam on the Fleet.

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    1. It might even be enough to just mute all players on Fleet if they're level 9 or less, as goldsellers would need to manually level from 7 to 10 or at least have to make a much more advanced macro.

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  5. I have to agree with you meramir that bioware do indeed suck at catching actual macro/ automated ppl spaming stuff,When actuall gold seler spam his stuff bioware just ignored them......I once made a joke using the gold seller ending with the line "1000k Credits = 6 bags of cookies" and dumb bioware go tactical on me "Target Lock-on.Execute attack pattern formation sigma GO GO" now they stupidly account lock me,seriously bioware needs a hands on approach to monitor these situation and see who's using third party stuff and who's making a joke out of them.

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