The biggest news to come out of the Neverwinter camp this past week was the 7 hour rollback that took place on Sunday. Henceforth referred to as “Caturday”, this all stemmed from a economy crushing exploit that manifested itself when players woke up and noticed all of the Zen in the Astral Diamond / Zen exchange market had been bought out. This exploit turned out to be like a High School party where underage drinking was involved. A few players knew of this exploit and were using it to their advantage but had not done anything crazy to attract attention to themselves and they were able to keep it under wraps for a bit. Then someone invited the gossip girl and things quickly spiraled out of control and started to resemble the party in the movie Project X.
However, instead of houses burning the game’s economy was on fire. The currency market was crushed, the Auction House stayed down until patch NW.1.20130416a.33 on Thursday morning, and kids got grounded for a long, long time. Only in this case the kids went to internet jail and their accounts were banned. When a game is free to play it really is not that hard to make a new account and try again. While I won’t tell you exactly how they managed to duplicate Astral Diamonds, it did involve the Auction House. A large part of me believes that regardless of the PWE company line, they were not able to fix the problem as quick as they said they had and that is why the Auction House was down for five days.
It was nice of Cryptic to laugh at themselves and provide the equivalent of a virtual T-Shirt that says, “I survived Caturday and all I got was this stupid shirt.” All sarcasm aside this mea culpa is a nice little freebie especially for the players that were not affected by the 7 hour rollback. For the people that were impacted by the 7 hour rollback it does not go far enough. Cryptic must answer individuals’ claims about lost merchandise during this 7 hour period.
Could you imagine if you won a jackpot at a Casino slot machine and the staff told you: “Sorry, you’ll have to give that money back. We found someone cheating at the slot machine in the next row over a few hours ago so your win is invalidated. But to be fair we will give you all the money you spent over the past few hours back, but you have to spend it here in the Casino.” That is basically what happened if you received anything out of a Nightmare Lockbox. You received your Zen back but you cannot actually get your money back. You are being forced to spend that Zen on Neverwinter a second time. What are the chances that you are going to get the item that you want for a second time?
A handful of players have sounded off and said they support a total wipe. Cryptic cannot do this. They have promised everyone from the start of open beta that there will be no wipes. For this reason alone you can argue, and our editor Bill Murphy did, that the “beta is a lie” and the game is truly released and hides behind the shelter of the beta tag so when snafus like this happen they can run around waving the white flag and say, “Calm down guys, it’s only beta!” If Cryptic did wipe the servers they would have to refund every Zen that anyone has spent on the game. To do anything else would be criminal. Not literally but you get the idea. They would ruin most of the good faith that they have built within their community.
I believe that Cryptic is making money hand over fist selling keys to players for their Nightmare Lockboxes alone. While Cryptic isn’t unique in selling keys in a cash shop to players, they sell a number of other random chance items. On many occasions I have said that I believe crafting in Neverwinter is nothing but a cash grab. The majority of the items you cannot make when they are level appropriate unless you spend Astral Diamonds to accelerate the crafting process, that or you level your character very slowly.
Later in the game if you want to make the higher quality items you will need to purchase Profession Booster Packs, or Professions Asset Packs. You can also find these unwanted profession assets on the AH (when it is up!) These packs can also come out of Nightmare Lockboxes. Professions Booster Packs are 300 zen and Professions Asset Packs are 1600 zen. While Cryptic can set their own pricing I find it very disheartening that you cannot just buy a Professions Asset Pack that at least contains items for the profession you want to work on. With 5 professions chances are slim that you will actually get an item that is useful to you.
This would be much more palatable if you had just spent $1 but to spend $16 and get an Uncommon Anvil when you were hoping for a Leadership item is just beyond reason. This also ties into why Cryptic cannot wipe, and really should not have done a rollback. The monetization of their game depends too much on random luck items in the cash shop. Every person that won an item should have that item returned to them. You simply cannot fund your game on a lottery and invalidate people’s winnings because of the actions of someone else.
Cryptic is not the first company to have their auction house compromised. Recently Blizzard’s real money auction house (RMAH) was exploited and people were able to duplicate gold that had a cash value. Blizzard quickly took the RMAH down and identified the players that were able to duplicate gold through the bug. These accounts were seized and the money the accounts contained was donated to charity. Players that were unwitting bystanders through the whole process were allowed to keep the items and gold they had purchased. No server wipes or character rollbacks were needed.
This is how the situation should have been handled. Take action against the individuals that created this situation and remove the tainted currency from the game. If you are going to make millions of dollars off of random items you need to have a better way to track who wins what so you can make restitution if you have to ever do a rollback in the future. Also do not make promises you cannot keep. A seven hour rollback is a fancy way of saying seven hour wipe. I do, however, support taking the servers down for a few days if that is what is needed to correct the situation. It is beta after all, right? Right, guys?
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen