For a while now, Frogster has been fiddling with how a player can buy diamonds to later trade and sell in the auction house. Ever so slowly, they had to implement more and more restrictions because of credit fraud and gold sellers. Those restrictions came in the form of what you could no longer use to buy tradable diamonds, until there was almost no other way except to purchase game cards from select retailers. Now it seems the ongoing problem has come to a head with the announcement that Runes of Magic has temporarily turned off the trading of diamonds for gold completely.
While it certainly doesn't paint RoM in a good light and may look like it has marred their great track record, gold selling issues are nothing exclusive to the game. Bots and gold spam are something that many MMOs eventually deal with and it's a positive sign that the developers are working on it. Maybe they're taking a queue from Aion's RMT videos or maybe they had it planned for a long time, but RoM has recently gone after the player-side of the problem by laying down the banhammer.
I've had a few chances recently to jump into RoM and see some players grumbling, but also mainly positive effects from the swinging of the banhammer. Spam was completely gone from player chat, and it stayed away the entire time I was logged on. Most players in zone and world chats were pointing fingers at each other for being cheaters. They seemed mostly concerned about how the loss of so many characters will affect the status and rank of the different guilds.
The general atmosphere wasn't a bunch of anti-Frogster rants which I expected, but rather a mellow after-effect similar to a young child who gets punished for something he/she knows they did wrong. They don't like it, but still respect the parents. Frogster's banhammering showed that they do indeed see players buying third party gold, and they will dole out the punishments for it. If they can keep up that atmosphere, it will be a positive thing allowing for players to truly balance the game through Item Mall purchases and in-game-only play.
Of course the single biggest problem right now is not having the gold to diamond system running. It's causing a major hindrance for players who wish to buy diamonds, or attain certain pieces of armor. Last time I checked prices, diamonds had jumped from around ten thousand gold to a whopping 50 thousand gold each. The auction house has been looking a bit bleak for players who want high level armor mods and diamonds, but I was still happily using it to buy and sell runes. It hasn't become totally useless. Frogster has made sure to point out it's a temporary situation that they'll have resolved soon.
Free-to-play MMOs have a hard enough time dealing with the stigma that you buy success. Adding players that are more than willing to buy gold makes it worse because the games already function on the principal of buying outside items from an official shop. F2P game companies need to consider balancing of items, and that means cash shop items too. How fast those items can be entered into the game, how long they stay around, and other balancing issues are real and need some consideration to keep the entire game running smoothly. Perhaps adding to the problem is the unique way RoM lets players trade gold with Item Mall currency through trading, gifting, and the auction house.
Many MMOs have had banhammer moments, and Frogster has entered that circle. I'm looking forward to the game getting a lot better for myself and others, now that a lot of the upset is being curtailed. The economy and auction house will have an opportunity to stabilize and flourish, gold inflation will slow or stop and it will lessen a spending divide that affects many aspects of the game. There was a segment of players cheating that was so transparent it was laughable, but it was also frustrating for others as it created a lot of upset for all manners of PvP and PK including battlegrounds, guild sieges and guild wars.
I don't overtly take joy in others' misery, but after finding out certain players had been banned, part of me was glad. These were players who openly talked about their nefarious deeds in chat all the time. It's a very hard thing to prove whether someone was cheating just by how well modded their gear was, but the answer always came through the players bragging or slipping up when talking about how they attained items, saying something in the forums that doesn't match with what they did or said in-game or just not caring in the slightest and telling others about the programs or hacks they use. In the end, they are their own worst enemy and I am not sorry they're gone.
I tend to look at things with blinders on, and I'm not a code monkey. I can't see past a general solution of punishing players and raising credit security. It could be a large expense, but paying an outside security company to maintain all the different transaction methods may be the best way to go. Then their employees could put more focus on monitoring bots, gold sellers and players buying outside gold. All of that may take away from the speed at which they've been able to release new content, but it might be the best options they have right now.
It may look like the first signs of trouble for RoM, but if they can quickly find a solution it could be another positive milestone for them. I would hate to see one of the key features taken completely out of the game in order to improve security, but what else can they do? Is it a problem of not having enough funds to buy adequate protection? Or perhaps an inherent flaw in the design? Care to take a crack at how the problem should be solved?