[NXNA/GG] The Angry Panda — The Cuckoo’s Egg
Although Nexon typed this up, this is something all gamers, no matter what game you play, which company runs it or whether its free or not, should read and understand.
Have you ever seen a cuckoo? It’s a fairly common bird across most of the world, especially in Europe and North America. Most cuckoo species are about the size of a dove and they live mostly insects and fruit. By and large they’re a fairly inoffensive — even helpful — species of birds, with one notable exception:
They’re parasites that if left uncontrolled can wipe out every other bird in their area.
They do this by the way they reproduce. Certain types of cuckoos will lay their eggs in the nest of another bird. Then when the baby cuckoo hatches they’ll push all the other eggs or chicks out of the nest in order to monopolize the food. If other birds don’t figure out how to defend themselves from these parasites, it doesn’t take long before the current generation of birds ends up being the last. Cuckoos are in essence “counterfeit birds.”
The United States Secret Service has to deal with cockoo’s eggs as well. The Secret Servic has basically two jobs. One is protecting the lives of government officials. The second, lesser known one is tracking down and preventing counterfeiting. The fact that the same people responsible for protecting the President of the United States are also responsible for protecting the nation’s money supply should indicate just how important this function is. Put simply, if left unchecked, counterfeit money can destroy a nation the same way the cuckoo’s eggs can wipe out a species.
Unfortunately, it’s not only countries and birds that have to deal with the problem of cuckoo’s eggs. Massively multiplayer online games with in-game currency also have deal with this. Once you create a system that involves economies — even if it’s a virtual economy that only exists as ones and zeros — you introduce the problems of economics. Part of that is that MMOs eventually attract parasites that are the human equivalent of cuckoos. Their depredattions are so serious that game companies actually institute emergency plans to take care of them — including the MMO equivalent of napalming a whole region to get rid of the cuckoo problem.
The MMO equivalent of napalming is called a “rollback” and it’s a nightmare for both developers and players. A “rollback” means resetting entire game servers back to an earlier saved state. Depending on how much time is lost, it means that players can lose days or even weeks of effort. They may lose precious items that they gained legitimately through questing or trading. The company’s Customer Support may be overwhelmed with legitimate complaints from players who didn’t do anything wrong and they must then sort out those complaints from scammers who try to exploit the situation. It’s a frustrating situation for player and company alike. Yet it’s just one of the ways that so-called “duping” exploits can damage a game.
Here’s a few of the effects that a money duping can have on a game:
• Inflation: When uncontrolled mesos enter the money supply, the amount of in-game money increases exponentially. This means that individual mesos are worth less and prices rise. Eventually prices for items rise to the point where the amount of mesos a player can carry comes up against the hard-coded limits on the amount of money a player can carry and the total amount of mesos that can exist in the world. At that point a player literally cannot carry enough money to buy anything. It’s at that point that the economy completely collapses.
• Damaging legitimate players: If a meso duplication explot gets really bad, so much money is sloshing around in the money supply it becomes impossible to tell the real money from the fake. Worse, a lot of players who didn’t do anything wrong are suddenly walking around with counterfeit money in their pockets. Once the problem gets to the point where a rollback is needed, legitimate players are going to get hurt. unfortunately there’s often no alternative to this. It’s not that the company wants to hurt anybody, it’s that the fake money has got to be eliminated if the game is to survive, no matter where it is or who’s holding it.
• Destruction of player confidence: The is the most subtle yet the worst effect of a duping exploit. Players may lose confidence in their money, knowing that someone out there is duplicating mesos. The result of that is that money loses value much faster than would otherwise happen merely because of the increased money supply. Money, after all, is basically a social contract backed by the faith of consumers in the one who issues the money. The reason the US dollar is so valuable is that investors and consumers have confidence that the United States is a stable country that won’t collapse tomorrow, makingthe dollar worthless.
A duping exploit reduces player confidence in the company’s ability to police its own game and to take immediate charge of the problem once it occurs. It doesn’t matter that the company followed all the right procuderes to deal with the crisis and ultimately did what was necessary to save the economy and the game. All the player sees is that their efforts have gone unrewarded and the game creator they trusted took stuff away from them when they hadn’t done anything wrong.
All the company can do in this sort of situation is apologize and offer as much compensation as they can and beef up its game so that particular exploit can never be used again. Players can help by reporting exploits as soon as they become aware of them. The sooner we know about it, quicker we can take action.
In the end though, the cuckoo’s eggs must be destroyed.