Wings Over Atreia  Laying the smackdown on RMT
Sports don't have a monopoly on pregame rituals. I know for a fact some folks have their own sets of customary actions that are performed before logging into Aion. These routines are as varied as the players themselves; some may grab a drink or snacks before settling in, while others may put on their lucky PvP socks. I'm acquainted with at least a few people who lock the door to keep pesky interruptions (i.e., roomies) from dog piling on them. Me? Well, I'd like to say I have a cool routine, but I don't... yet! However, regardless of what you do before you log in, there is one ritual most of us share once we get in: block the RMT spam.

As much as I can understand and even encourage a wide array of gaming rituals, this particular one really needs to go. But it's out of our hands; in order for it to happen, kinah-selling must be seriously curtailed in Aion. Some players have questioned whether NCsoft even cares about the kinah-selling problem. I think the answer to that came in the studio's announcement this past week. In a bold new move in the fight against illicit RMT, NCsoft is poised to piledrive the kinah-selling population.

Aion screenshotThe fight

At the moment, kinah-sellers are, shall we say, abundant in Aion. A scourge since the beginning, they've increased exponentially since the game went free-to-play, thanks to the ease of creating free accounts. Yessiree, that block button sure gets a good workout each and every time I log into game. I can spend upwards of five minutes blocking the likes of jqwppwjd and opliujh who are filling my chat with shouts of cheap kinah nestled in paragraphs of emoticons. And I can't even blink once I load in without getting "a great offer" via whisper.

If you have any desire to use the LFG channel, blocking is pretty much a necessity; the spam drowns out any and all other legitimate chatter going on, making it difficult to catch requests for help, responses to questions, or even loot sales. Heck, the kinah sellers have even eclipsed the trolls in /3. Now that's definitely a feat!

But even more than siphoning off a few minutes of your time at the beginning (and more during because they crop up like daisies!), the kinah-sellers hurt Aion. Their incessant flood of spam is not only annoying; it mars the game's image and can drive off players. It reflects poorly on Aion as a whole when players are assaulted with something so irritating the moment they set foot in game. Considering that a (legitimate) new player's impression of the game starts in those first moments, is a dizzying flood of RMT messages really what we want them to see? It even sets a negative tone for veterans' play sessions. And we haven't even touched on how the RMT affects the in-game economy!

So yes, RMT is a problem. And it really isn't a problem that players can do much about. No, NCsoft has to be the one to enter the ring. That's why I am glad to see the company is actively working on solutions.

Aion screenshot
A finishing move

While previous measures have offered a brief respite from the headache that is kinah-selling (yay for block lists!), we yearn for the torture to be eliminated permanently. Just watching the names disappear from my block list weekly proves that the accounts are being banned, but banning does little to dissuade the kinah-sellers. They just fire up a fresh account and start all over again. And the ban on whispers and channel chat until level 20? All that does is frustrate and hurt genuine new players who cannot get help with their questions. And for the farmers, getting to level 20 takes next to no time or effort; just visit Poeta or Ishalgen sometime and see the random-lettered names spinning in a circle and blasting away as only a bot can.

However, combine those previous moves with the most recent one, and NCsoft has the potential of actually making a dent in the RMT population. What move is that? Last Wednesday, NCsoft announced it was tackling the problem at its source: It's banning IP addresses from China.

Whoa, really? I have to admit, I am a bit surprised by the scope of this; banning an entire country is a pretty significant maneuver. Sadly, there is a reason the common term is "Chinese gold farmer": The highest rate of RMT practitioners do appear to hail from the one country. And NCsoft flat-out said that the move is due to the high RMT traffic from there.

But wait, what of those folks who legitimately play from China now -- will they be kicked to the curb because of the kinah farmers? No, but new players will be affected. The studio has actually initiated the ban at account creation, meaning that all current accounts won't be affected by the ban. Of course, if any current account gets banned for RMT, that IP will be banned when attempting to create a replacement account. So with this change, not only will new farmers be neutralized, but there should be a drop in current ones as their accounts get banned.

Aion screenshot of botter insta-loggingDown for the count

Your next thought might be that the farming will just migrate to another country, and that could very well be the case. But if it does, NCsoft has already warned that additional IPs may be blocked on a country-by-country basis if high levels of RMT are detected. We'll see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

Of course, another way to get around a country's IP block is to use a proxy. Again, NCsoft has recognized this as a tool for kinah-sellers and noted that the company actively targets proxies. However, players who use legitimate latency reduction services needn't worry, as those services are recognized and "a proxy will not be banned unless it is confirmed to be part of unsanctioned behavior."

Kudos to NCsoft for taking a stand. I don't know about you, but I am glad to know that the studio is taking the task of ridding the game of RMT seriously. Banning the IPs of an entire country might very well cost the company a chunk of future players, but it demonstrates that NCsoft understands how destructive the practice is to the health of the game. Let's just hope it pans out the way we want.

In the fight against RMT, go for it NCsoft -- finish them off! I, for one, am really looking forward to not tripping over the personal stores of the kinah sellers that clog the streets of Sanctum and having to spend time blocking, blocking, blocking all those pushy offers in chat and whispers. Although admittedly, I might miss the game of targeting new bots in Poeta and watching them insta-log over and over just a wee bit!

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down biweekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.
The Game Archaeologist: EA's Majestic