Saturday, April 24, 2010

Double-Edged Sword (Re: Heather Emeraldflame, Part 1)

Thank you, Heather Emeraldflame, for your insightful response to a previous blog post: KingsIsle's Smart Move.  Before anyone else moves on, please check it out here, so you can be on the same page when reading this; a lot of counter-examples may have already been covered there and not considered here.  Then, check out Heather's response.

I, too, wonder why there is a No Trade restriction on low level items such as Nightshade's Choker (gives 2 Weakness cards, -30% damage from target) and Troll Ear Pendant (gives 2 Guiding Light cards, +40% to next heal spell).  I may need some more time to think on it, but for now, my guess is that it prevents newbie players with newly created characters from advancing too easily without the help of someone who has access to Marleybone.  Anyone have any other explanations?

When it comes to the question of sharing items between family accounts, however, we must consider the pros and cons; that is, KingsIsle's pros and cons, as it is the Company that is the host, while we are the (paying, yes, I know, I know) guests.  But, for the sake of all wizards and witches across the Spiral, we'll begin with the benefits and (if any) the downsides for us, the Customers, of being able to send that beautifully designed Smogger or Krokotopian robe to our alternate accounts.

As Heather explained, with a trading function for those under Master Accounts, family players would be able to help one another out when someone has an item another needs.  Conclusively, fewer people are left in the dust to worry about having the best armor of their level tier by the time they reach 20, 25, 30,...etc.  Then less time is needed to shop or farm for gold, and the questing can continue for everyone, virtually seamlessly.  Everyone is happy, the balloons still have helium in them, and Ditto Wizard gets free rent for the month.

The disadvantage for Customers, when trading equipment to other accounts...well, if someone knows any reasons other than "they won't truly know the hardships of the economy as a low level player," please do share.

Now, time to venture forth into KingsIsle's perspective.  Well, on the bright side, I can safely say that if the Company were to implement a Trade feature for family accounts, then the game's Customer Support team, Professor Greyrose (along with any other admin actively staying in touch with the community), and fan sites could be alleviated from the constant barrage of emails and posts ranting and requesting for Wizard101 to take on a type of barter system.  Also, a large core of the customer base will be jumping for joy; a great response for any business.  But, to quote a recent message that Stephen Spiritcaller from Ravenwood Radio posted on Twitter, "all it takes is one case" before the developers regret jumping on the MMO economic bandwagon. 

As with the chat filters, our innovative and sneaky (we'd have to admit it, no matter if we're proud or ashamed of this) community members will eventually find a trick around the Family Account Trading function, and take advantage of it; in other words, someone is bound to abuse the feature.

Let's say one morning, Player A wakes up to find an update made by KingsIsle.  The game news reads, "We have now given our players access to trade among family members who are under the same Master Account!  Now you can send your hand-me-downs to a cousin, or pass along the Ascendant Staff to your grandma's new character!"

Absolutely wonderful, Player A thinks.  He logs onto a forum fan site, sends a private message out to a very trusted friend he met in-game, Player B, exclaiming his excitement for change, and asks her enthusiastically if she still has the Yeva Spiderkeeper helm for his school.  Player B acknowledges that the equipment is still in her Bank, but wonders aloud how they would be able to make an exchange.  Player A sits for a bit, and replies: "I will make a fake Master Account, and I will give you the password for it so you can add your account to it!"

He rushes off to the Wizard101 site, creates a new account, and selects the "Family Plan," and sets the new account as a Master.  He adds his existing account.  Then he sends the Master password off to his friend.  She adds her account. They do not save credit card information, so both players are still independent of each other.  In-game, Player A puts an item Player B asks for in the "Family Bank", and she puts Yeva Spiderkeeper's item in exchange.

How the system would work is of two possible ways:   

There is some live display feed for both players, similar to what one sees when trading Treasure Cards, that requires both accounts to be online at the same time so that there is a real-time mutual agreement when they accept the trade simultaneously.

Or, for families with only one computer to share between all players in the household, the "Family Bank" would be accessible by only one player at a time per Master Account.  That way, while Mommy and Daddy are sleeping in on Saturday, Little Johnny can scout out the "Family Bank" to see if his parents found anything he needed for his main or his five alternates.

For the sake of the Company's convenience, (and keep in mind, it is KingsIsle's intention for only families to use this feature), we will assume that Family Trading is based on the latter, where one person at a time will have access to the Bank, but at least Little Johnny could leave something (which his parents found) he didn't need for his older sister Melissa who is currently in her morning Chemistry 101 class hundreds of miles away.  Then when he goes off to school, and she returns to her dorm at noon, she can move that item to her inventory.

Because Player A and Player B are close friends in-game, they have a successful and righteous transaction.  Okay, but how does this hurt KingsIsle?  Well, while it doesn't violate the Terms of Use Agreement, it does change the overall difficulty, which then strays away from the experience KingsIsle intended for their Customers to have.  If the Company has to balance the game out while accommodating our needs for an item exchange feature between family members, it could possibly lead to a reduction to the probabilities for drop rates.  The easier it becomes for a player to obtain an item that was supposed to be hard to find, the higher its rarity will be in a future update.  Or, it could lead to buffer enemies, which then extend the length of farm runs.

It's obvious to see where malicious abuse could come into play:  Player C and Player D are also great friends like A and B, but Player D is actually a two-faced individual.  After many, many months of friendship, how could Player C say no to taking advantage of Family Trade?  The deal goes down, Player C ships his item into "Family Bank," and--based on the second method of trading mentioned above--waits for Player D.

Player D now has some extremely nasty paths to take:  he could go to the website, change the Master password, and forever trap Player C's account under the fake Master.  In addition, Player D could change the Parental Controls on his victim, preventing C's attempt to remove the account, use open chat, or access other subscriber features.  Or, Player D mercifully would avoid adding insult to injury by following conventional scamming methods of taking the item and disappearing, and leaving Player C's account alone.  Either way, Player C loses, and decides to complain to KingsIsle despite the fact that he tried to abuse the system.  Then the Company would have to waste Customer Support time to investigate and ban both Player C and D's accounts, and risk losing at least one branch of revenue.  

Sure, it may not be much money that they're losing from just two former players, but multiply that case by a hundred.  That's at least $2,000 ($10 subscription fee x at least 2 abusive players x 100) in sales.   While it may be a great business approach for KI to cut more away from the producer-consumer barrier AND satisfy us by tending to our wishes, Heather (and other readers), the realistic results would only cut the Company back.

Let's drag ourselves out of thinking mode, shall we?  One point has been made, but the main response has yet to be completed (hence this being just Part 1).  There is another subject that was brought to our community's recent attention, and it is a topic we must explore in depth before I can come to a solid conclusion and provide insight.  It involves a type of internal control with customers that KingsIsle is now enforcing with action, and is something I have personal experience with.  However, let us save it for another day; anyone who has reached this far deserves a large smack on the back (oops, too hard?) and the knowledge that I wholeheartedly appreciate your time.

Happy hunting! 

P.S.  In response to a few requests, I have now opened access for anyone, with or without a Google account, to post their comments here.


  1. You're welcome :)

    As far as I know there is NO WAY to take two existing accounts and merge them together as a "family account."

    The master account has to start and create the other accounts when you do start a family account.

    So if one player really wants another player's drop for a character that already exists then there is NO WAY that could happen.

    As far as when and how family accounts could trade:
    Well, it's as simple as how do some of us run 2, 3, 4...or even more wizards at a time. They can all be run on the same computer and off one screen. You can take your GM Ice in(this is ONLY an example, not really saying YOU are doing this,) and if you have a second account attached to your main account, you can then take that GM Ice and have him drop in the family shared bank that GM Death hat that you wanted to give to your Death guy on your other account. And you could have both these wizards on at the same time. Your Death guy would only have to wait for your Ice guy to drop it in the shared bank, then access it and get his new helmet :)
    Basically the item can be in there for the other character to pick up any time, at their convenience...even if it's less than a minute after the item was placed in there.

    However, I can actually think of only one way around the system, but it would require someone starting a wizard from scratch and them being hooked to a MASSIVE "family account" for the rest of their time they ever want to play that character. And, really, anyone in their right mind would be a complete fool to do such a thing all because of one silly item. It would also require prior knowledge of said item upon having "their" account included in this "massive family account."That would usually require someone who researched the game extensively before ever even playing it, and them finding out what exactly they would want for their character at higher levels.
    (to be

  2. part

    Too much personal information is asked, as well as kept when an account is made.
    I know this because my mother can not keep her information on the site or they would take HER credit card information to pay for MY subscriptions...which is NOT what I would want happening. And it's also why I basically control both our accounts as well as all of mine. Even when she needs crowns she can not just buy them without a whole lot of hassle, so she usually just gets the gift cards, gives me the code and I put it in for her account. She could put the gift card in herself, but claims that it gives her trouble when she does wants a master password, etc. But the point is that she never puts in her information from a credit card. We did that one time and I can not begin to explain the headache that actually becomes because KI is very smart and they check to make sure every little detail matches, including address, and any other little thing you can think of that is associated with your credit or debit cards. If ANY little thing doesn't match they WILL NOT process it and you have to start over.

    When Stephen Spiritcaller was talking about that he was coming from the thought that other MMOs have open trades between all random players and it really is not the same thing if it's only kept to family accounts. It would be a perk of having a family account, other than slightly lower prices for subscriptions.

    When it comes to total open trade I agree with you and many others; it would be a horrible idea and would bring on so much trouble. There are already too many scammers and shysters in the game to allow such an open market.
    And (sarcasm here)I really want to thank all those people for messing up gaming for everyone else that actually is respectful and plays by the rules. I mean without people who run scams what would the rest of us do? It would really be a shame if we could hang out in the commons, or visit the bazaar without seeing loads of spam for people wanting to trade some worthless treasure cards for things that cost REAL MONEY..or even people trying to, and this is a new one on me; sell their mounts to others?!?!?! If you actually fall for these scams you have lost all the brain cells you came into this world with...either that or you never had any!...
    ...*steps off soap box*... ;)

    Kevin, may I suggest not using red color in your text? It really drives my eyes nuts, and as tiny as the font is already, against blue background it's really hard to deal I had to highlight the text to read it xD


Let that thought out here: