Interestingly, this morning I wake up to reading a notice of account banning from Blizzard Entertainment with accusations of alleged “abusing the economy” for selling gold for “real-world monies”.
Obviously, this is from my MEGA prize giveaway and the handling of some 1.8 million gold across 56 realms both US and EU but still, I wish to address a few points here.
Initial Email Communication of Banned Account Notification
“This account was closed because one or more characters were identified exchanging, or contributing to the exchange of, in-game property (items or gold) for “real-world” currency. This exchange process negatively impacts the World of Warcraft game environment by detracting from the value of the in-game economy.”
Being in the gold making craft, I am aware that this can happen and has happened to multiple friends of mine, all of which were overturned and inaccurate. What put a bad taste in my mouth about Blizzard is that my ticket, following their own process, was quickly closed with a generic message. Being in the customer service environment for decades, I know how ticketing systems work and how customers should be treated. I was obviously being dismissed as a simple number and not looked at as a person.
Surprised by the quick response which I was expecting to be overturned because of all the evidence provided, I again opened up ANOTHER ticket and followed the process. This time I included even more information. I mean the first one should have done it for including blog posts, in-game chat dialogue, screenshots, video from twitch.tv where I was talking about the giveaway as well as my google docs spreadsheet.
After receiving the first response back so quickly, I was kind of insulted from an honest player perspective so it was time to get serious and lawyer up in the way I like to do to defend myself. By lawyer up I mean I put on my experienced risk management hat and went digging through all the information and terms in the original email.
Linked Article to “Anti-Gold” Post from Blizzard
The opening paragraph is completely inaccurate to my situation which tells me the message was an automated response from Blizzard. If you are going to ban someone, at least have specialists with knowledge look thoroughly into the events (logs, in-game play, messages/mailboxes) etc to ensure your accusations are true before processing someone unjustly.
“Buying gold describes the practice of exchanging real money for virtual game currency, such as gold in World of Warcraft. In most cases, the currency is purchased from companies that are unaffiliated with the game developer and have no legitimate claim to broker the transactions.”
The next link states:
I will go through EACH section – My comments in GREEN – the ToU in RED:
The license granted to you in Section 1 is subject to the limitations set forth in Sections 1 and 2 (collectively, the “License Limitations”). Any use of the Service or the Game Client in violation of the License Limitations will be regarded as an infringement of Blizzard’s copyrights in and to the Game. You agree that you will not, under any circumstances:
A. use cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience;
This has no relevance to my particular case. From a software perspective, they are trying to ensure fair-game play without modifications or abuse of client-server technologies. Even from an addon perspective, they limit the API functionality to avoid addon developers from performing too many actions in game that would jeopardize their terms laid out.
B. exploit the Game or any of its parts, including without limitation the Service, for any commercial purpose, including without limitation (a) use at a cyber cafe, computer gaming center or any other location-based site without the express written consent of Blizzard; (b) for gathering in-game currency, items or resources for sale outside the Game; or (c) performing in-game services in exchange for payment outside the Game, e.g., power-leveling;
This is where they have accused me of allegedly selling gold for real-world currency. In section (c) they mention “performing in-game services in exchange for payment outside the game…”. In regards to my MEGA giveaway, I recorded EVERY trade via screenshot and live-stream on Twitch.tv and also posted in party chat to the recipient of the prize. EACH TIME I mentioned thanks for the support of my stream and congratz on the prize/winnings. Never has there been any trade of in-game resources for real-world resources. I have been playing World of Warcraft with my family (wife and our two teenagers) for well over 8+ years. Why would I jeopardize my adventures by doing something against terms? Honestly, it was not even the point of being banned but more so of the point of having my evidence, clear proof, of what I was doing simply dismissed like a customer service rep would do to reach first-call resolution rates on a help desk. I just could not let this slide. No one questions my integrity/honesty and gets a free ride.
Additionally, I have been working professionally in the Information Security and Risk Management sector for 20+ and I make a very decent living. Why would I want petty currency? Honestly, it is like prostitution. I think they should spend their time more so on enhancing their systems to be more intuitive than simply processing actions in-game based upon thresholds that apparently do not work properly. I am not one for listing problems without solutions so here are a few ideas of my own if Blizzard is reading this, which I doubt they are.
- Implement a central reporting/incident management system where it traces and tracks logging activity both in-game via chat messages, trade windows, bt chat, etc so a total picture of a proposed ‘incident’ can be viewed in one total view instead of isolated logging systems on disparate servers. These types of centralized logging servers can be scripted to detect ‘behavioral’ activities in-game that truly warrant terms of service violations instead of setting thresholds like you are monitoring e-health of your server infrastructure. People are involved so activities will sway but you should get a baseline grasps of common behavior as well as high-end behavior from hardcore player.
- Understand people play your game(s) differently. Some are raiders while some are dungeon adventurers, achievement go-getters, farmers, profession masters, rare hunters, and some, yes simply like to see how much gold they can earn through all the above. Just because someone has massive amounts of gold, they should not be penalized by simply wanting to trade that to another alt of their own on the same account or give it all away. It was earned or traded without the exchange of ‘real-world’ resources.
- Implement controls and properly tuned detection mechanisms to support and manage behavioral analysis formatting and control. Almost like an intrusion detection/prevention system, it needs to be tuned so the ‘exceptions’ are what is highlighted not the norm. Understand as well that these types of systems much continually be reviewed to ensure it is still properly tuned otherwise false actions could be automated against honest players causing unnecessary revoking and banning of accounts, as was in my case.
- Implement a better customer service system via the web and mobile. This should allow for extended chat-services with customer support, including technical support, where applicable. The existing system, including the VRU (voice recognition unit), is poorly designed and simply directs your call-flow from customers to your website, which is lacking in control and process. Someone should ALWAYS be able to get a hold of a person live without having to go through option menus after option menus. Simplifying your customer service and support system does not mean neglecting the voice-to-voice conversations from customers. If this was your intention to simply, I think you need to re-evaluate your system and adjust accordingly. If you are trying to save money from hiring customer support reps, then hire more offshore resources.
C. use any unauthorized third-party software that intercepts, “mines,” or otherwise collects information from or through the Game or the Service, including without limitation any software that reads areas of RAM used by the Game to store information about a character or the game environment; provided, however, that Blizzard may, at its sole and absolute discretion, allow the use of certain third party user interfaces;
Against, Blizzard is trying to maintain fair play mechanics and the control of third-party applications and interfaces which could lead to abnormal control of game play. It is interesting though they allow a clause in here to “sole and absolute discretion” of Blizzard to “allow the use of certain third party user interfaces”. It is funny how legal documents are written. So much ‘protect-me’ instead of ‘do-what-is-right’. All companies do this of course for liability and risk issues not just Blizzard.
D. modify or cause to be modified any files that are a part of the Game Client or the Service in any way not expressly authorized by Blizzard;
As with addon development, their client is proprietary and copyrighted from a software license and use perspective,
Blizzard code and client technology is proprietary and should not be modified or changes unless authorized. It would basically be like reverse engineering executables to add custom features that either takes advantage of the game in violation of ToU or allows unfair advantage in a way that Blizzard currently prevents. Either way, respect gaming developers and software use rights.
E. host, provide or develop matchmaking services for the Game or the Service, or intercept, emulate or redirect the communication protocols used by Blizzard in any way, for any purpose, including without limitation unauthorized play over the internet, network play, or as part of content aggregation networks;
This is a common sense section here. Modifying protocols or abusing network and or client services would not only violate terms from Blizzard but could be considered malicious and prosecuted under appropriate federal laws. Use the game as it was meant to be played and avoid ‘questionable’ game play and third party services. When in doubt, reach out to Blizzard for support.
F. facilitate, create or maintain any unauthorized connection to the Game or the Service, including without limitation (a) any connection to any unauthorized server that emulates, or attempts to emulate, the Service; and (b) any connection using programs or tools not expressly approved by Blizzard;
As above, avoid use of connection alive devices or networking technologies to ensure your game client remains online and active. This would of course include the use of illegal bot activity.
G. violate any applicable law or regulation in connection with your use of the Game Client or the Service; or
H. disrupt or assist in the disruption of (i) any computer used to support the Service (each a “Server”); or (ii) any other player’s Game experience. ANY ATTEMPT BY YOU TO DISRUPT THE SERVICE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE GAME CLIENT MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL
This would clearly be a violation of federal regulation around internet services and malicious attempts to disrupt services. Those who take advantage of tools and technologies which offer distributed denial of service or denial or service attacks against companies should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law unless prior approval was granted for penetration testing in which a letter of intent should always be held and received in advance for the types of testing to be performed and against which systems. CIVIL LAWS.
In the end, after a friend included @BlizzardCS into my Tweets about this obviously ill treatment (thanks @DiscordDave), Customer Service quickly followed me and did a further investigation which over-turned the original response back which was not even looked at fairly. I wanted to speak with someone in person and they were nice enough to call and apologize for the prior response and provided some in-game time as well as a nice response back to me in the ticket system. I appreciated how @BlizzardCS handled the ticket professionally and this is how I only wished to be treated on the initial response. The same information was provided but again, obviously dismissed without a thorough review. Please see below.
I hope this information helps you and if you have any questions that I am able to answer, please send them my way.
Until then, I shall see you in Azeroth where tales of legends and adventures await!
Voice of the Minority, Civil Rights Activist