Archive for December, 2007

WoW account hacking and stripping – “Cyber-crime”

Between Tobold and Raph Koster there is some argument about game mechanics with respect to real money transfer. I don’t particularly find the topic that important but I was struck by a remark of one commenter, that “cyber-crime” related to RMT would be well worth discussion much more than the generic RMT discussion that flares over and over.

Just to give this some context. Within the guilds that my characters inhabit I know of at least 3 cases of accounts getting hacked and stripped. The number of active players in the guilds is certainly lower than 50 people. That’s a stunning 6% victim rate and the correct number is likely a tad higher. If I compare that to my real life familiarity with breaking and and stealing (burglary), I’d have a much much lower familiarity rate (certainly way below 0.1%). I would conclude that account hacking happens frequently!

So it’s fair to ask: Why is there so much discussion about RMT, when cyber-crimes like hacking & stripping are much more disruptive and on top of it are frequent?

I really don’t know. Looking at WoW the developers have learned a few things:

  • Disenchanting with no leveled trade skill is a bad idea. Disenchanting high level items now requires a certain level of enchanting skills.
  • No mail delay between acounts or AH buying removes ability to intervene or monitor. Between-account sending of cash is no longer instant, and selling in the AH isn’t either.

But these are just two measures to try to make it harder for hacker/strippers to make their lives more difficult.

Today still there are issues in WoW:

  • Locking of compromised accounts takes way too slow. In one case of a guildie of mine it took 3 days until the account got locked after reporting. The hacker tried to join multiple guilds to get access to guild banks. I have not heard of a single case where a compromised account got locked within an hour of reporting, which would be the time-frame it’d take to have the mail delay mechanism actually help.
  • There is no full restore functionality of victims. The cases I know people only got their equipted gear restored and non of the goods they had in the bank. Hacked people who have found to be clearly victims really should get a full restore. May be that the current server architecture makes this hard, but future game design should plan for this.
  • No mechanism to report hacking accounts in-game. Guildies are helpless to a found hacking incident. A GM will do nothing but tell that the account holder has to report their account compromised on the web-page. If the account holder is not around, people can sit and watch while the hacker sells off stuff in the AH and the trade channels. I understand the trickery here: Abusive reporting. If it was easy to lock an account down by 3rd parties this could be abused to grief a player. But surely there must be some way to improve crime reporting. I.e. if multiple guild members report hacking and activity on the account support the report (account stripping, all out auctioning/vendoring etc) and immediate in-game lock should be possible. The account holder can still report if the claim was frivolous, but in the worst case they got delayed in stripping themselves.

What else is there to be done to prevent cyber-crimes like hacking/stripping MMO accounts?

And yes, be safe. Don’t ever run executables you don’t trust or frequent shadey web-sites. If you have been hacked: my sympathies and my best to get your stuff back as best as possible.


The great Tank Shortage in WoW

Anybody who tries to do any 5-mans at any levels knows this problem. Well I didn’t know because I only know my server but reading the web-sphere (see here or here or here for examples) makes it clear that it is by no means just my server.

WoW currently suffers a rather extreme tank shortage.

There are many factors to this:

  • Arena: It’s fast, fun and rewarding. And it can’t be done sensibly in tank spec (or so most people believe)
  • Tank numbers of raiding: Noone raids with 5 tanks which would be the natural ratio to 5-man content.
  • Raid tanks don’t need 5-mans: Raiding tanks get consistent loot inflow from raiding.
  • Raid tanks don’t want 5-mans with PuGs: They also have a support structure of reliable people to do 5-man content with. Why go through the pain of pugging for them? Why accept a repair bill when you don’t have to.
  • 5-man normals do not prepare for 5-man heroics: We pugged a warrior who had most bold pieces for heroic ramparts. We had to send him home with the gentle advise to get felsteel pieces crafted because he was unhealable on trash pulls. 5-man normal drops should properly prepare tanks for heroics but they don’t. Druids too would want the clefthoof set to be viable. Good news is that tanks are easier to gear up than other some classes, but it’s still getting in the way.
  • Heroic content absolutely requires a full tank spec: Hybrid tanks can tank 5-mans at some point. Tanking heroics however remains a tank spec gig for very long.
  • Respeccing costs time and gold and change in action bars: There are 3 hurdles to respeccing a tank class. 1) Gold. This isn’t massive for hardcore players, but it’s too much for those who log on to play not farm. Gold deflation with WotLK may fix this. 2) Time. Trip to IF. Not huge, but still. 3) Action bars: Don’t forget to buy those skills again (more gold) and reorder your action bars again.
  • Tanks and healers have to mob up the stupidity of DPS: The amount of crazy nukiness hasn’t gone down since WoW launched. I think it’s up. DPS seems to expect that the moment a tank touches any number of mobs they can go crazy on the main target (or sometimes any target). Tank has to taunt. If you taunt every 10 seconds you know you are in with a bad bunch
  • Tanks and healers get the blame: Reasons for complaints are (1) lack of gear, in part Blizz’s design makes gearing hard (2) healer dead, but CC could have protected the healer as well in shakey aggro situations (3) DPS dies, but if DPS died then DPS or healer is responsible.
  • DPS is fun, tanking is not: I often ask tank classes who are not tank spec why they won’t consider respeccing. Simply generic answer is that they hate tanking with a gusto and love them DPS.

Is help on the way?

  1. Deathknight. DPSing Tank. Will it work? Will it not obsolete the 3 other tank classes. Or will the 3 other tank classes turn into DPSing tanks come WotLK with the new set of talents? 4 viable tank classes could work. If however the DPS build is more fun than the tank build of the DK or 3 other classes lose relative viability, you look for even more no-tank pain.
  2. Respecs: No word on this. Blizz has said they like specs to matter. And they do. People can’t get tanks for months now.
  3. Aggro play style: Blizz has announced that they want to add an aggro indicator to the default UI. But even now groups with aggro meters like omen or KTM overnuke like crazy. So will this work any better?
  4. Gearing: Tanking always was gear heavy, but now it’s more intense than ever. No patch yet has helped reduce the normal->heroic gap (unless one counts PVP, and tanks never return) while the badges help reduce the heroic->25-man gap.