Discount code: PLATSPAM

Posted: May 18, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

I’ve been thinking more and more lately about “platspam” – you know, the lovely little messages you tend to get while you’re just trying to enjoy a night in the Shattered Lands.  It goes something like this:

Kendricke says to guild:  “Forming up a quick excursion into Unrest.  We have a fighter and healer already, so any four of you will do for the job.  Who’s up for it?”
Iakjaiopygagh tells you, “Discount Code:  2×344 for 10% off all EQ2 gold <insert any of a number of websites here>.  Best deal anywhere.”
Loralor says to guild:  “Anyone else just get platspam?”
Idagi says to the guild: “Yep”
Zobek says to the guild: “Just a few minutes ago.”
Timmit says to the guild: “Not yet…”
Timmit says to the guild: “Nevermind”

Now, unlike some people, I don’t expect SOE (or any other company) to just miraculously kill off the RMT market on live servers.  Frankly, I don’t think it can be done.  Just like the “War on Drugs” or Prohibition, I don’t think you can destroy a illicit trade by attacking the supply or even consumers who are illegally purchasing the contraband.  No, so long as there exists a demand, there will exist an RMT market. 

However, that said, I do think there are ways to reduce or eliminate the spam players who aren’t interested have to deal with.  It’s one thing to “just say no”, but another to be forced to say no 22 times a week because dealers aren’t being prevented from essentially going door to door trying to sell their wares. 

If a gold spammer shows up at your front door, it’s not like you can just dial 911, either.  No… you’ve got to file a /report and a /petition.  The petition opens up an in-game browser…eventually.  The browser doesn’t default to the right tab, so you better know to click on the in-game support tab.  Once there, you need to know that you’re reporting an in-game disruption so choose the correct drop down menu…then the correct sub-menu.  Once there, you need to type in the name of the spammer you’re reporting, which is often some clever mix of constants with a few vowels sprinkled in for good measure. 

It’s not nearly so hard as I just made it out to be, but the fact is that the perception of how difficult the process can be is pretty close to what I just typed out. 

And that’s a problem.

It’s a problem because people are like electricity – they tend to follow the path of least resistance.  If the general perception is that filing a petition is annoying, disruptive, or intimidating, then most players aren’t going to bother in the first place…which is what I suspect is occuring when we keep seeing developers post from time to time that the best way to help them “fight gold spam” is to file petitions.

But, as we just illustrated, a significant percentage of players see petitions as bothersome.  Don’t believe me?  Go in-game and ask around.  Jump into a level channel and ask folks flat out if they think petitions are worth the time, particularly for gold spam.  Chances are you’ll hear a variety of answers, but at least a few will respond that petitions aren’t worth the time.

But isn’t that contrary to what we’re told on the forums by the powers that be?  Like any good citizen, we should turn in the belligerants in order to perform our duty in the war on gold spam, right?

So why isn’t it working that well?  Why do we get slammed with gold spam constantly if the petitions are working so well?

Well, one obvious answer could be that it IS working that well, already, but we just don’t get to see it.  We don’t hear about it, so we presume it’s not there – the solution, that is.  SOE could be banning tens of thousands of accounts a month and we don’t hear a thing about it, so we assume the worst.

Why do we assume the worst?  I’m glad you asked.  We assume the worst because we’re human.  In the absence of fact, we fill in the blanks with our worst fears typically.  It’s what we do as a survival instinct.  It’s kept us upright and breathing so far, so it’s as good an instinct as any, right?

Hey, I can understand why SOE wouldn’t want to release numbers to a bunch of crazed gamers (and gaming press).  Who knows what crazy blanks we’ll find to fill in given the numbers we get.  That same reason we fill in the blanks without information doesn’t just go away when they give us some of the facts.  Oh no – it just gets worse.

So, for the sake of this argument (and my sanity), we assume that another reason folks don’t file petitions is because they don’t see any justification for it.  After all, petitions are filed every day…and yet, there’s more gold spam.  What’s the point?! <insert emotionally charged heavy sigh here>

There has to be better ways, right? 

Now, I don’t presume to know THE answer here.  If I did, I wouldn’t be telling the lot of you for free, I can guarantee that.  No, I’d be on the West Coast marketing my brand new seminar “THE answer to stop gold spam forever, by Kendricke deSmart”.  Since I’m not, we’ll presume that I’m just as average as the rest of you. 

That means I’m typically and fundamentally lazy when it comes to my online gaming, that I don’t like feeling like my time is wasted, but yet I still hate gold spam.

So what’s a poor sod like me to do, eh?  Say “Toss it all, I’m off to feed the ducks!”.  No, I just want an easier, faster way to deal with gold spammers.  I want a way that involves less typing, less diversion, and less resources.  I want to continue forming up my groups without having to stop, open an in-game browser, and work through the different steps to file a petition.

I can accept that SOE needs our help to fight this.  What I have trouble with is how relatively difficult it is for players to provide that help in the first place.

So, why should it be relatively difficult?  Why a formal petition?  Is a formal petition really necessary for this?  If you can build a “/pizza” command into the game, or set up an in-game mozilla based browser, or that a simple /report function which logs the last 100 chat lines…then is it unreasonable to presume that simply building a single command command that tracks the last 2 or 3 tells is out of the question?  Why not?

/spam

Is that hard to do?  Would players find that bothersome?  Let’s revisit the above example again:

Kendricke says to guild:  “Forming up a quick excursion into Unrest.  We have a fighter and healer already, so any four of you will do for the job.  Who’s up for it?”
Iakjaiopygagh tells you, “Discount Code:  2×344 for 10% off all EQ2 gold <insert any of a number of websites here>.  Best deal anywhere.”

At this point, I either type /report, then /petition, then wait for the in-game browser, etc..

-OR-

I type /spam (or whatever command word works for SOE).

SYSTEM:  You have reported the last 3 private tells you have received for possible in-game harrassment.  No further action is necessary on this incident.

I’d love something like that.  I wouldn’t have to bother with the browser or the reporting or the dropdown menus or trying to get the name right or any of that.  I don’t want to bother with it.  After all, I’ve got undead to slay.

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Comments
  1. No-one special says:

    I agree that the whole process of reporting spam is tredious. Sometimes I get the feeling SOE does not want the reports. But thats just me being silly. But I still get the feeling sometimes.

    I’m a firm believer that SOE should take their work to a more comples level. Besides making the process of reporting easier they need to find and ban the whole organisation that is involved. Start with the spammers.

    *Then find out which transfers the loot (they may have to buy on their own to have 100% proof of this).
    *Track that loot/gold. (Must be doable – remember that SOE can check if your claims are correct if you lose items in, say, a server merger.)
    ** Ban the “seller/giver”.
    ** Ban the ones handling it.
    ** Ban the ones collecting it. Theire probably bots anyway so it will make players even happier.
    **Ban the buyer.

  2. brackishwater says:

    /spam is a good idea Kendricke. I found myself thinking the same thing as I was reading.
    I ran into this apathy last night in LOTRO when I received my first spam ad for gold in the two weeks I have been in Middle Earth. I tried to report the person, but the lagging web browser and appropriate “drop down” choice was lacking.
    Devs! Help us fight the fight. I feel like I dont even have a knife in this gun battle, just a bent spork and a crappy napkin to dry my tears.

  3. kendricke says:

    Sorry to hear it’s already in Middle Earth. It was inevitable, though.

    Hopefully, Turbine can come up with a tool to help combat it. Who knows…maybe it will be /spam?

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