Andrés Guadamuz, lecturer in law at Edinburgh, and co-organizer of the upcoming, very-cool-looking GikIII Conference at Oxford, has waived his claim of copyright infringement against me for cutting and pasting below a recent blog posting he put up at Technollama.
It's a really interesting post. As Andres frames it, it is about how disgruntled Alliance players have come up with a clever, though perhaps somewhat EULA-non-compliant hack to enable community self-help (aka murder) as means of silencing n00b bot gold spammers on the cobbled streets of Stormwind. Screenshot at right.
So without further ado, here goes: (btw, original, llama-inclusive version here):
A curious scene has been taking place in the streets of Stormwind. The square between the Auction House and the Bank is by far the busiest place in the game, with dozens of players moving to and from the commercial hub. This is why the square is also the favourite location for gold spammers. The spammers are randomly generated Level 1 characters, operated as bots and programmed to repeat an endless stream of ads. The typical message gives the name of the site, and the current price of gold. The constant stream of chat spam is so annoying that it has become a serious problem for players. Most people ignore it, but there are some who have taken the law into their own hands.
It is not possible to hurt a character from your own faction without inviting them to duel. Even if a player from another faction got there, he would not be able to kill the spammer, as he needs to be flagged for PvP. However, someone found that a shaman can cast a totem that will give just enough damage for a few seconds to all around it, even players from the same faction. This will not hurt anyone else, but it will kill a level 1 character. Because these are bots, the corpse will sit there, and will not resurrect. One can't spam when one is dead.
"7. Harass, threaten, stalk, embarrass or cause distress, unwanted attention or discomfort to any user of the Program;
8. Cheat or utilize "exploits" while playing the Program in any way, including without limitation modification of the Program’s files;"
"2. Carry out any action with a disruptive effect, such as intentionally causing the Chat screen to scroll faster than other users are able to read, or setting up macros with large amounts of text that, when used, can have a disruptive effect on the normal flow of Chat;
3. Disrupt the normal flow of dialogue in Chat or otherwise act in a manner that negatively affects other users including without limitation posting commercial solicitations and/or advertisements for goods and services available outside of the World of Warcraft universe;"
While this is enforced, the solution by spammers is to create characters as soon as the old ones are deleted, which explains why gold farmers are all Level 1. As with email spam, the second solution is code. SpamMeNot is a WoW plugin which filters out most of the chat spam, and a very effective one at that.
The third solution is the vigilantism described. It is intriguing how virtual communities will revert to community enforcement when they perceive that the legal solutions are not working. Suddenly, it is the Wild West all over again.
I'm sure that Blizzard will soon plug this exploit, but on the meantime, all bots in the vicinity of Stormwind better beware. Avatars are up in arms, and they want revenge.
It's rather doubtful that this is a realistic method of stopping gold farming -- I imagine Andres would agree. Still, the post is rather relevant, I think, to our recent discussion about what constitutes an appropriate means of enforcing rules against RMT in the context of the current Blizzard litigation.
p.s. Though I can't relate this bit to virtual worlds, I feel I really ought to say that if you add Technollama to your RSS feed, you'll get regular updates the next time Andres enters into the thick of a media whirlwind over the copyright battles arising between Ood-knitting fans of Dr. Who and the BBC.