Saturday, August 11, 2012

Duped Items: The Unaddressed Issue

There have been a few bloggers mentioning botting and duping recently. From Jim's Strong Evidence of Rampant Item Duplication in WoW to Xsinthis' Of Bots, Dupes, and Ethics I've enjoyed reading what other folks have written about this sort of activity within the World of Warcraft.

Of the opinions folks have taken on the matter I agree largely with Xsinthis and I personally view bots as just another factor in the economy that adds an interesting twist. If it weren't for the rise of bots and the eventual (and hard to accurately predict) banwaves the economy would be a very boring place of constant prices and little change.

However, that's not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about something I've been ruminating on for quite some time and something I think we should all be a little worried over. Blizzard's stance on people who buy "illegitimate merchandise."

I'm talking specifically about things like epic gems, Crimson Deathchargers, and other items which exist in the game and are sold within the game, either via trade window or Auction House.

[...] we're out to punish those that exploit WoW, not innocent players. Intent and context play a large part in our investigative process, and those that accidentally purchase ill-gotten items shouldn't fear recrimination.

A good stance to take; if a player spends their hard-earned gold on an item the last thing they want is for Blizzard to take that away. (And as someone who has had Blizzard take items away let me assure you they will almost never refund your gold.)

Unfortunately, despite what they've stated here, this isn't actually how the situations are treated.  A player named Stonewolf is out 600,000g because Blizzard removed Queen's Garnets he purchased through Trade. 

It's quite clear that what Blizzard says and what Blizzard does don't always align (surprise surprise) but never has it been so worrisome as it is in this issue.  Check out these two blue posts, the second of which is a Blue quoting an MVP:

That said, if you suspect that a player is selling items of a dubious origin then steer clear. Only good can come of buying from legitimate sellers; you'll help protect your realm's economy and reduce the market demand for exploited goods. - Source

If you think that you've come into possession of some ill-gotten goods, feel free to report yourself and the player you purchased them from. Nobody here can tell you what's going to happen to those garnets. - Source

This is the unaddressed issue; the question no one seems to be asking that I think we all should be: What has become of this game when players cannot trust even the purchases they make via the Auction House?

One of the reasons that Trading Card Game mounts were made non-soulbound was so that people would quit getting ripped off; Blizzard has no way of policing your giving a random person gold and knowing whether or not they gave you a legitimate code. They just can't enforce anything there.  The idea behind TCG mounts being able to be sold in-game was that you can trust that when you give them the gold you are getting the item, whether via trade window or the Auction House.

This was all well and good until players like Stonewolf began having items removed from their inventory, items they bought entirely in-game.  Blizzard continues to say things along the lines of "If the price is too good to be true it probably is, don't buy it and report them."

Which is absolute bullshit.  Since when is it a player's job to police the activities of other players? Why does it fall on my shoulders, as a legitimate player, to suspect everyone of being a hacker just to protect myself?  Suddenly it is our job to second guess every transaction, transactions which should be entirely protected by Blizzard.

Duping happens. I get that. Hell, I even get the removal of items to try to keep the economy stable. But it is an unacceptable situation that Joe might spend all his hard earned gold on Widgets just to wake up one morning to empty bags and empty coffers because Blizzard was unable to protect their own in-game transactions.

One way or another duping will probably stick around, I don't doubt that. But the fact that a victim who buys duped items can then be victimized a second time by Blizzard because the player wasn't vigilant enough in being suspicious of other players . . . that's where you begin to have problems.

I'd love to buy a Crimson Deathcharger for my second account but now I can't even buy one of the more expensive ones because I don't trust it to be there when I wake up and that's a pretty serious issue, far more than the duping itself.


  1. While I generally agree with you that a player shouldn't have items removed after spending their hard earned gold on them (especially without refund) I do think that it is both Blizzard's and our responsibility to help police and maintain the economy/community. I am of the opinion that by participating in a community of any sort one takes on the responsibility of helping make that community a good one. It's like calling the police when you see or suspect a crime in progress.

    1. If you could be confident Blue would do anything about a report that would lead to a result, then perhaps you'd be more inclined.

      But how often do you report a player for suspicious activity and have nothing done?

      How often will you report a farming bot which is clearly exploiting or botting, only to see them still merrily winging their way around without a care 3 weeks later?

      Blue's own policing is ineffective as it is and this initiative is simply another ploy to push the responsibility for their own policing onto the paying customers.

    2. You know, that just seems cynical to me. Honestly, it's not whether they do anything with it or not...but simply having a responsibility to actually report the issue, even if no one listens to you, is reason enough to do it. Again using the police analogy, whether you see the cops show up or not, you still should be a good person and phone in what you think is a problem. You aren't going to go arrest the perp, hell, you might not even stop or get out of your car, but you've alerted the people whose job it is to make that kind of decision. Just because they're either slow or non-responsive doesn't remove YOUR obligation to speak up.

  2. Hmm good point, I completely overlooked that aspect. I unfortunately don't have a source but I recall someone saying that Blizzard considers the Auction House a safe haven, they usually won't remove your item if it's laundered through the Auction House and it's not blatantly clear you were buying dupes or what have you.

    I should really find that source...

    1. That was my understanding, too. If it was through the AH, it was "safe" -- Blizz might take the item back, but you'd get your gold back for it. Trade is not safe, you'll never get a refund there. I can't remember where I read that, but I really hope it's true.

  3. It's incredibly unlikely duped items will be removed from you unless you were obviously exploiting them. I saw a thread (perhaps the one you mentioned) where somebody bought 700k worth of Queen's Garnets at an absurdly low price per early on in the patch and got the gems taken away.

  4. Also, on my server these are going for 70k on the AH, but 30k in trade chat. I took a chance and bought one off trade chat to see how the process worked (the character was level 1). The level 1 redirected me to a level 80 standing near him, and the level 80 gave me the mount in exchange for 30k. This reinforces my theory that the dupe works because the mount is a quest reward, as the level 80 had the Shadowmourne Feat of Strength. Additionally, this also means it will be much more difficult for players to report the dupers because reporting the level 1 toon you see spamming in trade will have no effect on their supply. They can just create a new level 1 and continue to use the level 80 as the actual trader.

  5. I once bought 250k worth of gems naively from a duper. After he kept asking me if I wanted more, I became convinced they were illegitimate since it's practically impossible statistically to have had that many, ie guild banks full.

    So I opened a ticket, explained what happened, and the GM was kind enough to actually refund (most) of it before removing them. The ones they didn't refund were the ones I equipped for myself.

    The next time, I saw it was a level 80 instead of a level 1 and the prices were a bit higher so I bought around 40k's worth. After others said it was a duper, I again opened a ticket and the GM said I could keep the items and he couldn't refund my gold because it'd be duplicating gold back into the economy.

    My guess is that either they'll delete+refund if the amount is low enough *or* if they catch the gold before the Chinese oily pimpled-face low-IQ college trash move it.

    Funny thing is I got attacked on my server for warning people against obvious dupers because I didn't provide "proof". Of course, to the average dumb WoW player, simple statistics isn't enough.

  6. So what would be your proposed solution if you were Blizzard?

    1. Remove the items, refund the gold. Simple as that. They can see chat logs, they can see the exchange of currency.

  7. I'm 100% with Faid on this one. Bliz shouldn't punish legitimate players. This problem can be solved via another means that doesn't piss off your own customers and cause them to spread hate for your company through everyone they know.

    IMO, bliz should focus on tracing the gold received by the dupers and removing that gold from their hands. This directly affects the people trying to implement the scam without hurting legitimate players who may otherwise be naive.

    Sure, having a few dozen extra crimson deathchargers floating around will affect the market value of crimson deathchargers, but it doesn't change the total gold volume floating around the game, which I think is the important point. If you have an extra ill-gotten deathcharger and you want to sell it, someone else STILL has to farm up enough money via other means before they can convince you to give it to them. That's why I don't really buy the whole "protecting the economy" argument. I think that's paraphrase for "protecting our revenue stream".

    As for our personal choices: if you don't tell blizzard, you may get your items taken away if you don't manage to flip them first, or you may get away with selling them off at 300% profit. If you DO tell blizzard, it's a virtual guarantee you're going to lose all your remaining stock, and maybe get to keep some that you used on yourself. Seems like a clear win to not tell blizzard and take your chances, at least until they change their policy on how they handle these situations.

    Bliz has month-long audit logs of a hell of a lot of things that happen in-game. They can easily enough trace the flow of gold entering and leaving the hands of a few toons via ingame mail as long as the transaction isn't too old.

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  9. I can't disagree with you more here Faid, Blizz is doing what they say "we're out to punish those that exploit WoW, not innocent players."

    The example that you gave of Stonewolf was not the actions of an innocent player, it was a player buying up all the Queens garnets knowing full well that be was buying dupped gems his intent was to sell them on for huge profits once the bots left, in other words he wanted in on the exploit

    I also bought up some Queens garnets and ill put my hand up i knew 100% they where duppes, a level 1 character named Gdth (or close to it :D ) had 100's for me to buy at half the AH price. it honestly didn't take me long to cope on to what was happening i bought small amounts at a time and crossed my fingers they where still in my bags the next day luckily they where but if they disappeared you'd see no complaint from me ...i took the risk

    In the comments above you have an example of a true legitimate player, bought gems, became suspicious, reported, Gems removed and G given back (just like they said "those that accidentally purchase ill-gotten items shouldn't fear recrimination." )

    Don't fool yourself (or try to fool us) anyone who bought 100K+ of these gems knew exactly what they where doing

    Finally to move this into the real world, If you go out tomorrow and buy a car because its a great deal or whatever and it turns out it was stolen before you bought it guess what happens... car is taken away from you and no you don't get your money back

    1. But you're forgetting something: Not everyone who buys duped Queen's Garnets buy in bulk hoping to turn a profit. For example, before I warned of the risk of the items being removed my guild considered spending guild funds on gems.

      No one looked to exploit the economy. Legitimate players who had a need for large amounts of Queen's Garnets considered buying them. They'd be stored in our guild bank and given to raiders to flesh out upgrades.

      We ended up not doing so but then my boyfriend ended up buying about 20 or so gems. It's a perfectly reasonable amount to buy without thinking they're duped. He used a few in his gear and banked the rest to use later.

      These are two situations in which legitimate players, not seeking to take advantage of duping or exploit anything, could come into possession of duped items. Why should these players be punished when they did not seek to exploit, only to purchase some gems for guild or personal use?

      Within the gold community and for us gold-makers it's easy to think that bulk buying only happens when gold makers are trying to turn a profit but it's simply not always the case.

      LotI's guild bank through Cataclysm has been stocked with enchanting materials, fish feast ingredients, and gems worth millions of gold along with a few hundred thousand liquid gold. To say that only players motivated by greed would have occasion to buy over a hundred thousand gold worth of inventory is a fallacy.

      Furthermore, while I understand what you're trying to say with the car analogy it is not really fair to compare a real life transaction to one dealing with virtual goods.

      You see when a car is stolen that means someone has lost a car and I have gained it on the cheap. Naturally the car should be confiscated and returned to the owner so that they can keep their rightful property.

      However, as the victim of a fraudulent sale I then have recourse. If the car thief is found I can take legal action against him to recoup my losses. If the car thief is in the wind I can speak to whoever financed the purchase of the car to clear up the loan.

      On the other hand, since we are dealing with virtual goods and particularly in the situation of duping no legitimate player was robbed of those gems. Those Queen's Garnets weren't taken out of your driveway and sold to me on the cheap. However, I admit that that can damage the economy and so I have no problem with the items being removed. I have a problem with the buyers aka the victims in this situation having no recourse in the matter.

      People who buy duped items are not dupers themselves. I am making an assumption with this next statement so I apologize if it's an incorrect one. You take the stance that people who buy these duped items are fully knowledgable about it being a duped item and are going along with it in hopes of personal gain. That's where I feel you're wrong. While there are some people out here who seek to exploit duplicated items, such as yourself by your own admission, there are just as many buyers out there who don't even know duping happens, who don't realize that that's really cheap and just wanted to buy some gear they could afford, or any number of other scenarios that can lead to a player being victimized by someone selling a duped item. If you truly feel that no one can mistakenly buy duped items or that everyone can spot a dupe over a genuine item when all items are 100% the same then there likely won't be any persuading you. Fair enough, but I will continue to worry about how Blizzard treats the victims who purchased duped items.

    2. Don't get me wrong i don't believe everyone who buy's these duped items buy them knowingly, the guy/girl out there who was saving up their hard earned gold to buy the expensive gems suddenly see's the price drops and can buy twice as many, the GM who was told by a guildie about the price drop and decided to use guild funds to buy a stock for raiders these are the innocent victims and these people have a very strong case to be reimburse these are the true victims, if your post was about them i'd 100% agree with you

      But your post used an example of an obvious AH'er who had amassed at least 600k gold, you do not get that by not staying up to date about whats happening in the economy, this is why I'm confident in saying this guy knew exactly what he was doing and choose to take advantage of an exploit, he accepted the risk and when it didn't pan out he should accept the loss

      Your reply here also shows the difference between what would have been an innocent victim and someone taking advantage of an exploit, your Guild was ready to pick up some gems but once they where informed of what could happen decided against it, then your boyfriend decided to buy 20 since you told your guild i can only presume you informed him, just because he didn't sell them does not mean he was not knowingly taking advantage of an exploit

      What was the outcome of your boyfriends purchase? even though he knew what he was doing it could be accepted that he was unaware did Blizz take them or where they left untouched ?

      Honestly I'm not a big Blizz fan boy I know there's a lot more they could be doing and they are going after the easy targets (the buyers) which leads to innocent victims like SirFWALGMan below losing out I just don't agree that someone spending 600k on Queens garnets is an innocent victim

      And yes i may have gone a bit far with the car analogy :D

  10. I have been ripped off of about 6k in gold by Blizzard. I bought a Panda Pet from someone, gave them my gold, and it turned out that it was stolen from a credit card. I lost the Panda.. and I would assume Blizzard confiscated the gold so they basically stole 6k of gold that I earned fair and square.

    It was not a big deal to me but how was I responsible for this? Where does it say "Thou shall not buy from trade"? I might have missed that? What is the difference anyways? If I bought the Panda from the AH would I have been allowed to keep it or got a refund? It is all very strange to me.

    I do try to do all my buying off the AH but there were a bunch of duped Crimson's on my AH this past week.. so would I have lost my 20K gold there? I also bought an X11-Rocket that I am totally afraid is just going to vanish one day..

    It's a bad system Blizzard has... I agree totally with you.

  11. Hey Faid!

    I agree with your final conclusion, Blizzard needs to make a policy and stick by it, however I think they have in fact done so. The forum post you linked to clearly states that Stonewolf had spoken with GMs and was aware that the purchase was dubious. This is why they didn't refund his gold. That said, it's difficult to know how true his story is without knowing the player.

    I recently came across a suspicious sale of very low drop pets. Bought a few, and when several more were posted by the same user I sent Blizzard a ticket. Of course they didn't confirm if it was a hacked account or duplication but considering the item it seems likely the latter is the case.

    What we all need to remember is any action taken by a GM is up to the discretion of that GM. It's been my experience and understanding through talking to people who have worked for Blizzard that they give their GM team the flexibility to deal with issues as they determine.

    Which means if you report a player for a certain violation one GM may give them a slack 3 day ban, but others may throw the book at them. It depends largely on who's answering the ticket.

    Anyway since this is the first time I've logged in to comment I thought I'd just say thanks for the great work you do within the gold making community!

  12. Good read. Interesting discussions.

  13. Great post faid ! I guess we will have to wait and see what happens to the dupped items and the sellers going in to mop

  14. Look, spending 600,000 gold on Queen's garnets means you were getting 1,000-2000 gems. Stonewolf was involved in trying to profit from the exploit. He should lose the gems and his gold and I'd suggest he be banned for a month. No one can rationally say that a player can have for sale that many gems as a result of acquiring them from running instances or buying them legit. Stonewolf knew that, gambled and was caught and appropriately penalized. We've seen this with Vial of Sands on our server. A toon has been spamming trade chat selling Vial's for 25K well below even the cost of the mats.