Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Reflections on the Ravagers exploit

I am a bit surprised with the stern tone of the blogging community regarding the Ravagers exploit. Many people seem to think the sanctions weren't harsh enough. "We don't want to play with cheaters" is the general sentiment. I, however, think that the sanctioning was about right taking into consideration the precarious situation our devs had brought themselves into.

It's not you, it's me?

Maybe I've become more lenient towards exploits over the years. I remember that back when I was playing Lord of the Rings Online I was much more outspoken. Since then I've seen my share of exploitable bugs. They usually involve some way of defeating a boss with considerably less effort due to circumventing the fight's mechanics in some way or another. I never really bothered to involve myself with such things. Defeating a boss in the way you are supposed to do it is kind of the point of playing a game at all for me. There's no fun without a challenge. 

I was in a guild (or 'kinship' as it was called in LotRO) that was very outspoken against exploiting and anyone who would participate in it would be kicked immediately. I never felt any anger towards exploiters, though. People should decide for themselves how they want to play a game, and if they would get caught, they'd just have to deal with the consequences. I remember there was a guy on our server that was notorious for exploiting whatever he could find and would get banned for it all the time. Seriously, the guy added great comedy value to community gossip.

The Ravagers exploit aka "EA's Christmas gift"

The Ravagers exploit was a whole different kind of exploit. It's the dumbest thing I've seen of so far. If you would group up with someone who had the lock for all bosses of the Ravagers raid (acquired by finishing that raid) you could go inside the instance and get all the loot of the last boss for yourself. You could repeat this with other characters, so people with many level 60 alts could pretty much get unlimited free loot without having to fight anything.

With a flaw this big, I expected the Ravagers getting closed and hot fixed in a matter of days. However, this didn't happen. Instead, the devs kept their mouth shut and allowed the word to be spread for weeks. People were exploiting the raid on an enormous scale and the devs lost much of their credibility. People around me jokingly spoke of "EA's Christmas gift".

The sanctions

From what I hear around me, some people have received a one-day ban for exploiting the Ravagers, which can be considered a light sanction. Then again, on my server only storymode has been exploited. I expect more severe sanctions have hit the American servers, where people have been exploiting hard modes and 'sold' the lock to others for in-game money.

What they should have done, in my opinion, is be honest about this exploit from the start and declare something along the lines of "if you exploit from now on, you'll get a ban of at least two weeks" immediately. Instead, by not reacting at all, they let matters get out of hand.

What also should be considered is that the Ravagers exploit, although stupid, was relatively harmless. I remember the legendary LotRO exploiter I spoke about earlier looking for spots in the terrain where he could attack other players in world PvP without them being able to hit him. That is the kind of harmful exploit that can ruin other people's gaming experience. The Ravagers exploit was no such thing.

With sanctioning relatively lightly, the devs admit their fault in the way of (not) handling the situation. At the same time, people now have a permanent record on their accounts. Since so many people were involved, I expect a large percentage of them is not of the type that would exploit under normal circumstances. Whether or not they received a ban, they will now think twice before participating in something like this again. Maybe 'hardcore exploiters' are not be impressed, but they will get sanctioned for what they do at some point or another.

I honestly think we're at a better spot now after all these events. The developers have learned from this and will intervene more quickly in the future; players have learned that sanctions will follow, even if a large percentage of the player base participates.

What others have said

In no particular order:

What do you think about exploiting? What sanctions do you feel are appropriate?


  1. I think the problem is that many exploiters have publicly said things like: "Oh, they didn't take any of my gear away and didn't suspend my account for even a day, so clearly it actually paid off in the end." That is not the way I'd want people to think about exploiting.

    The thing for me is, I find that I'm not too fussed about punishing exploiters in principle... I don't think that cheating in a game is some grand moral failing. But at the same time, I personally don't want to play with cheaters. I nearly /gquit in a rage when I found out that guildies of mine were repeatedly exploting Nefra back in the day. So I don't like the idea of exploiters running rampant to the point where I have to flee from groups and actively search for people who don't want to cheat. That would just be a depressing game environment to me. (And in fairness, that's not what the game is like right now... but if this kind of thing keeps happening I could see it going that way.)

    1. I remember back in the day in LotRO (if I keep saying this, I'll really start feeling old) there was some exploit in an instance (equal of a FP but with 6 people) in which you could skip a large part of the content. They also ignored that exploit for a long time and, much like in SWTOR, it became widespread. At some point I joined a pug and when we were halfway through that instance, I found out that they planned to use the exploit and I refused to participate. Eventually we did complete it the normal way, but there was a lot of group pressure and I felt they would probably have kicked me if it would've been easy to find a replacement. Needless to say, I did not enjoy that instance.

      So yes, I agree an environment like that would be really bad. But do you really feel we are heading this way? I at least get the feeling the developers have understood now that they screwed up and that these kind of things can't just be ignored. For me the Ravagers exploit was the first time I got in touch with something like this in SWTOR. Or maybe I'm just seeing the world through pink glasses because I mostly group up with friends and my guilds.

  2. From what I observed, those that got the 1-day suspension laughed it off and turned it into a movie night. Those that got a 3-7 day suspension were genuinely upset and had their guild obligations disrupted. If Bioware wanted to deliver an effective message, a 1-day suspension wasn't the way to do it.

    1. I think part of the message was that they fucked up in the way they handled it, and that is heavily reflected in the lightness of most suspensions.

      Then again, there are always some of the less bright people being who have to act 'cool' about it. It's much easier to feel good about yourself when you post "I got banned for a day, but hey, I don't give a shit" than "I got banned for a day and I feel so bad now". Publicly announcing you were wrong is uncommon these days on fora and social media, everything seems to revolve around "look how amazing I am". Therefore I expect the "I don't give a shit"-people to be more vocal than the ones that do (give a shit).

      I think the only way to tell how people really feel about this, is by how they will act when new exploits are found. I can only hope Bioware really has learned from this and will act more severely, especially towards accounts with a track record.


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