Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Buying success in online gaming

Filed under
Gaming

With the spread of broadband connections, multi-player fantasy gaming, in which thousands of gamers can play simultaneously, has taken off.

Stunning virtual worlds promise adventure and glory, often for a monthly access fee of around $10 to $15 (£6 to £8).

The most popular titles have attracted more than three million subscribers. The social interaction between players often leads gamers to develop tight-knit communities, forming in-game allegiances.

It is a formula that has also led to some seriously dedicated playing. Around 20 hours a week is the average.

"You've got a lot more human emotions coming in to play, you're getting friends, a social group and you may have a social standing within the group," says Rhianna Pratchett, a gamer and games writer.

"It can be very addictive and the hoarding of weapons or getting the best weapon or getting to the next level up or getting the next spell is addictive."

One gamer in China even killed a fellow player over a sword used in an online game.

Paying to win

But dedicating so much time and effort is not the only route to success.

Over the past year the trade in virtual items and currencies used in these online games has been booming, despite it being outlawed by most of the game producers.

It is called the secondary market. Rather than relying on skill and guile, players can use cash to buy the items they need.

Hundreds of dollars can change hands for anything from swords to flying carpets on auction sites such as eBay. And many online companies have started offering direct selling services.

This year in Asia the amount of money changing hands for in-game goods is expected to be more than for the games themselves.

But there has also been a backlash from many gamers.

Matt Royle, who spends four to five hours a day playing World of Warcraft, says richer players are getting an unfair advantage.

"People who spend money to buy gold or weapons or even to have their characters levelled up are just plain cheaters, to be honest.

"People who play for the real amount of time and for the gaming experience are getting a raw deal because other people come along and just ruin it with their high-level characters or their weapons that they haven't actually earned."

And some experts, including lecturer and games consultant Professor Richard Bartle, who helped invent the first online multi-player game, agree.

"Most of the players hate this kind of activity, really, really hate it. As far as they're concerned, they're playing a game," he says.

"And if someone comes along and turns it from a game into work, they think: 'I work all day, and now my fun is being spoilt by these people buying success.'

"You can't buy a gold medal and then claim you're the world high-jump champion. You have to jump something."

Powerful market

Sony Online Entertainment, responsible for EverQuest 2, at first tried to ban the trade in virtual artefacts. But just a few weeks ago it did a u-turn, opening up its own official trading site to US players, called Station Exchange.

Chris Kramer, of Sony Online Entertainment, says: "The decision for our company to create Station Exchange was kind of a long road for us.

"Over the last five years we've seen the secondary market for sales of virtual goods go from a few guys selling our characters on eBay to about $200m in sales annually.

"We can no longer ignore a secondary market that has reached levels as high as that."

Sony Online says it offers casual gamers who are time-poor a way to keep up with friends who play more often.

It also gives new players the option of joining a version of the game that allows real-world trading or one that aims to control it.

Some players clearly like the shortcuts that cash offers as well as the chance to make money.

Rhianna Pratchett says: "It's always a kick when you find a great weapon in the game anyway, and if you're actually thinking: 'That's great, I can go and sell that on eBay and get myself some DVDs or buy my Mum birthday present' or whatever, I can imagine that can be a lot of fun."

Trading in fantasy games can make you serious cash. One player made $4,000 in one month.

With real money at stake, these virtual worlds are being used as very real sweatshops.

In some countries, groups have been set up simply to collect valuable items and gold, a forbidden practice known as "farming".

Others use automated programmes or bots to do the job, but the result is fewer in-game goodies for the genuine players.

Taking action

The gaming companies try to stop them, but it is unclear how much success they are having.

Two online sales companies told us it was possible they were being supplied by "professional" players.

One, which claimed to do 300 sales a day to World of Warcraft gamers, reassured me that I was unlikely to be banned from the game, or taken to court, if I traded with them.

The games developers hold the intellectual rights to everything in the game. So, technically, even if you buy or sell gold or items, they are owned by the game's developer.

Blizzard Entertainment, publishers of World of Warcraft, says it monitors what happens in-game as well as on the internet regarding real world trading of items, but it would not reveal how it does this.

It says it has taken action against more than 1,000 players. While it does not support independent companies buying and selling its in-game creations, it has not yet decided what action to take about this problem.

Blizzard estimates more than 90% of its own World of Warcraft subscribers disapprove of buying virtual items with real cash.

Because most real world transactions are completed in-game between characters, some think they will never be stopped.

Others believe the gaming hosts are not doing enough to curb it.

For those who like to use their cash to get ahead, it enhances their gaming experience.

But those seeking a level playing field, where success relies purely on skill and dedication, may soon be left high and dry, dreaming of a fantasy world.

By Dan Simmons
BBCnews

More in Tux Machines

OpenSUSE fonts – The sleeping beauty guide

Pandora’s box of fonts is one of the many ailments of the distro world. As long as we do not have standards, and some rather strict ones at that, we will continue to suffer from bad fonts, bad contrast, bad ergonomics, and in general, settings that are not designed for sustained, prolonged use. It’s a shame, because humans actually use computers to interface with information, to READ text and interpret knowledge using the power of language. It’s the most critical element of the whole thing. OpenSUSE under-delivers on two fonts – anti-aliasing and hinting options that are less than ideal, and then it lacks the necessary font libraries to make a relevant, modern and pleasing desktop for general use. All of this can be easily solved if there’s more attention, love and passion for the end product. After all, don’t you want people to be spending a lot of time interacting, using and enjoying the distro? Hopefully, one day, all this will be ancient history. We will be able to choose any which system and never worry or wonder how our experience is going to be impacted by the choice of drivers, monitors, software frameworks, or even where we live. For the time being, if you intend on using openSUSE, this little guide should help you achieve a better, smoother, higher-quality rendering of fonts on the screen, allowing you to enjoy the truly neat Plasma desktop to the fullest. Oh, in the openSUSE review, I promised we would handle this, and handle it we did! Take care. Read more

Today in Techrights

Direct Rendering Manager and VR HMDs Under Linux

  • Intel Prepping Support For Huge GTT Pages
    Intel OTC developers are working on support for huge GTT pages for their Direct Rendering Manager driver.
  • Keith Packard's Work On Better Supporting VR HMDs Under Linux With X.Org/DRM
    Earlier this year Keith Packard started a contract gig for Valve working to improve Linux's support for virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMDs). In particular, working on Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) and X.Org changes needed so VR HMDs will work well under Linux with the non-NVIDIA drivers. A big part of this work is the concept of DRM leases, a new Vulkan extension, and other changes to the stack.

Software: Security Tools, cmus, Atom-IDE, Skimmer Scanner

  • Security Tools to Check for Viruses and Malware on Linux
    First and foremost, no operating system is 100 percent immune to attack. Whether a machine is online or offline, it can fall victim to malicious code. Although Linux is less prone to such attacks than, say, Windows, there is no absolute when it comes to security. I have witnessed, first hand, Linux servers hit by rootkits that were so nasty, the only solution was to reinstall and hope the data backup was current. I’ve been a victim of a (very brief) hacker getting onto my desktop, because I accidentally left desktop sharing running (that was certainly an eye opener). The lesson? Even Linux can be vulnerable. So why does Linux need tools to prevent viruses, malware, and rootkits? It should be obvious why every server needs protection from rootkits — because once you are hit with a rootkit, all bets are off as to whether you can recover without reinstalling the platform. It’s antivirus and anti-malware where admins start getting a bit confused. Let me put it simply — if your server (or desktop for that matter) makes use of Samba or sshfs (or any other sharing means), those files will be opened by users running operating systems that are vulnerable. Do you really want to take the chance that your Samba share directory could be dishing out files that contain malicious code? If that should happen, your job becomes exponentially more difficult. Similarly, if that Linux machine performs as a mail server, you would be remiss to not include AV scanning (lest your users be forwarding malicious mail).
  • cmus – A Small, Fast And Powerful Console Music Player For Linux
    You may ask a question yourself when you see this article. Is it possible to listen music in Linux terminal? Yes because nothing is impossible in Linux. We have covered many popular GUI-based media players in our previous articles but we didn’t cover any CLI based media players as of now, so today we are going to cover about cmus, is one of the famous console-based media players among others (For CLI, very few applications is available in Linux).
  • You Can Now Transform the Atom Hackable Text Editor into an IDE with Atom-IDE
    GitHub and Facebook recently launched a set of tools that promise to allow you to transform your Atom hackable text editor into a veritable IDE (Integrated Development Environment). They call the project Atom-IDE. With the release of Atom 1.21 Beta last week, GitHub introduced Language Server Protocol support to integrate its brand-new Atom-IDE project, which comes with built-in support for five popular language servers, including JavaScript, TypeScript, PHP, Java, C#, and Flow. But many others will come with future Atom updates.
  • This open-source Android app is designed to detect nearby credit card skimmers
    Protecting our data is a constant battle, especially as technology continues to advance. A recent trend that has popped up is the installation of credit card skimmers, especially at locations such as gas pumps. With a simple piece of hardware and 30 seconds to install it, a hacker can easily steal credit card numbers from a gas pump without anyone knowing. Now, an open-source app for Android is attempting to help users avoid these skimmers.