Star Wars: The Old Republic has only been online for a couple of weeks, but the game saw a major stepping stone this past weekend. An unspecified number of SWTOR accounts were disciplined, including some being forever suspended from the game, for a loot exploit in the game.
The high-level area of Ilum contained treasure chests that were accessible by low-level characters. This sparked many to farm the chests for loot to sell and trade. Noticing the imbalance to game economics this was causing, BioWare developers froze accounts for players who’d used the exploit and then proceeded with disciplinary action.
Those actions ranged from sending warning emails to stripping accounts of exploited gear to full suspensions of others.
Obviously, this sparked a huge amount of controversy in game forums around the Web. The arguments for BioWare’s actions are that the exploit was an obvious problem that gamers were taking advantage of and that was ruining the game. The arguments against say that the problem is in the game’s design, not the players who take advantage of that, and so punishing people for using game mechanics to their advantage is unfair.
To clarify matters, Senior Community Manager Stephen Reid at SWTOR made an announcement today to explain BioWare’s position.
Those accounts which were disciplined were punished for egregious misuse of the exploit. Reid says that most of those accounts suspended were suspected gold farmers, not players. Lighter punishments to players who exploited the loot were meted out as well, but none of those were full suspensions – mostly warning emails and short-term account freezes.
Reid says that the exploit has not yet been fixed, but that developers are watching it and players are being warned if they appear to be trying to take advantage of it. An update will come soon with a fix to keep lower levels off the planet.
The problem players have is that the punishments seem to be given to players who are only taking advantage of something the developers caused. If the game has a mechanical flaw, the developers should fix it, not punish players for using that flaw to their advantage. Gold sellers are one thing, but regular players just trying to get ahead in the game are another.
So BioWare’s response to this is seeing a lot of scrutiny – as it should. If the developers get a reputation for being heavy-handed with players, the game will quickly die.