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Hidden Asbestos

Dealing with Accounts in a Free MMO game

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Hi, I'm not sure if this topic has been dealt with here before, but a design problem i'm having is that: if you make an MMO game, or any game where your account has cumulative progress, and is free to play - how can you deal with the following problems? * What stops a player registering lots of accounts in order to gain an advantage in a game where you can easily accumulate wealth by, say mining, and then coalescing the funds to one player account? * What stops a player who is banned for some offense (cheating, offensive language, whatever) re-registering a different account and doing the same thing again? You don't need any in-game achievement to start cheating! Are these problems that must be dealt with by careful moderation and vigilance? Use this thread to talk about other problems faced by MMO designers that don't charge for accounts. (Something I don't believe in, but annoyingly solve some problems)

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The first thing I would do is tie accounts to a single IP. I know people can spoof fake IPs, but this will atleast cut back on the majority of people who would register multiple accounts and the like.

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Original post by Hidden Asbestos
* What stops a player registering lots of accounts in order to gain an advantage in a game where you can easily accumulate wealth by, say mining, and then coalescing the funds to one player account?

In our game we require a valid email address that has a verification link that the person must click before they can get an account. We haven't yet but we could refuse to accept addresses that come from systems that easily allow new email accounts ( yahoo, hotmail, etc ).


Quote:

* What stops a player who is banned for some offense (cheating, offensive language, whatever) re-registering a different account and doing the same thing again? You don't need any in-game achievement to start cheating!

We track the IP of the players so that is one method ( although with dynamic IP is't not really a good one ). We also try to have a intelligent server to prevent as much cheating as we can.


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Are these problems that must be dealt with by careful moderation and vigilance?


No matter what you do you will need this.

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Original post by Hidden Asbestos
* What stops a player registering lots of accounts in order to gain an advantage in a game where you can easily accumulate wealth by, say mining, and then coalescing the funds to one player account?


Well, what's wrong with having multiple accounts? If I can handle it, then I should be able to do it.

If your game design is such that you can "easily" accumulate wealth simply by playing more than one character at a time, then I'd say there's a weakness in the game design, and you should not put "police" (moderators) into the game tasked with hunting down your players and punishing them - nip it at the bud and design the game so playing multiple characters at a time doesn't give you such an easy advantage.

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Original post by RDragon1
If your game design is such that you can "easily" accumulate wealth simply by playing more than one character at a time, then I'd say there's a weakness in the game design.
This is true, and definitely something that I would aim to avoid. The skill system of 'EVE Online' has been very inspirational when it comes to my design thinking - the idea that wealth is useless without the skill to utilise it. As skill is inherently non-transferable then you would gain a less obvious advantage to registering 20 rookies, compared to training one pro character.

I guess the problem of macro-able behaviour that would lead to problems is something that, as you say, should be fixed at the design stage.

Thanks. I'm still have that paranoid feeling that i'm missing something though!

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Tieing to IP address doesn't work.
Tieing to e-mail address doesn't work.
Tieing to Ethernet card Mac address sometimes works.

The only two things that work are:
1) Charging for accounts.
2) Constant community vigilance.

Ideally, you do both in conjunction.

If you don't want to have your own people "on" this all the time, you have to build robust community self-moderation tools, and then track that those tools aren't in turn used for griefing...

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hplus0603, yes, quite agree. The methods mentioned here are ways to help you. There is no sure fire way and constant vigilance is your best bet. We've included ways for players to easily send in petitions to GMs and record chat logs ( that cannot be faked ) that we can review at a later date. Also all GM commands are monitored and stored so we can make sure GM abuse does not occur.

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In the world beyond the rainbow you will have a game design that will either render macros obsolete by providing only non-macroable content, or integrate the ultragrind processes into your regular game experience and provide tools to the player to automate them.
Heck, why limit the player to a few characters? Give him a whole brood of characters to play! Simultaneously! While one of the bunch is out adventuring, all the others are slaving away automatically, working in the player-owned sweatshop, producing low grade healing potions or cheap immitation swords.
Sounds silly? Maybe, but if you have a solid game (and some flexibility when it comes to hours you want played per week) with actual content then you won´t have any trouble keeping your players.

To specifically address your points:

- charging for accounts is the AO here. If you don´t want to charge, still use credit cards for verification.

- good logging and monitoring

that´s it. but most people won´t mind if you charge them.

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Quote:
Original post by Hidden Asbestos
* What stops a player registering lots of accounts in order to gain an advantage in a game where you can easily accumulate wealth by, say mining, and then coalescing the funds to one player account?


Well, my last MMO was UO, but isn't this called "having a mule" ?

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we could refuse to accept addresses that come from systems that easily allow new email accounts ( yahoo, hotmail, etc )


That does not seem like a reasonable solution to me. I understand the intent, but a lot of people use such an account as their primary account and such people should not be banned. Especially because such services often provide better features (more storage, searching, etc) than many local ISP and university accounts.

It's unfortunate that we can't distinguish the two for our good intentions, but that is a symptom of the anonymity created by the internet.

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