I have been playing PlanetSide for well over three years now. I participated in the closed beta and, since its release in May, 2003 my subscription has never lapsed. It is exactly what I was looking for in a MMO game. I talked it up so much I got my best friends and both of my brothers hooked on it. That changes today, however.
I hate cheaters. Hate them with a passion. I am only partially kidding when I say that there is a circle of hell reserved for cheaters in online multiplayer games. What skill is there to find an exploit and ruin the enjoyment of other people? It’s nothing but mental masturbation. Beat me fair and square and I will acknowledge your better play. Should I win (a little rarer) then I will quietly exult without lording it over you.
The Outfit I joined when the game launched, Celestial Fire, is a group of older guys, most married, many with kids. We try to keep it light and don’t get into any of the drama that other clans seem to get mired in. One of our very few rules: No cheating. Period. Do so, and you’re out.
My friends share similar values to my own. (Otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends, eh?) Since we have kids it’s even more important to find those bright-line moral stances so that we can impart them to our children. None of them would even consider cheating at an online multiplayer game. The idea is as foreign to us as committing a violent crime.
My good friend Rampage suspended his account over the summer. Time commitments were keeping him from actually getting to play, and it seemed silly to continue to pay monthly for the game if he never played it. He planned to re-subscribe in the fall, especially as we were getting ready for our annual get-together. To keep from total withdrawal he opened a PlanetSide Reserves account.
The other day he noticed that I was online and he had a bit of time, so he thought he’d jump in with his Reserves character. He found, however, that his account had been banned. What follows is typical online customer service hell, as he bounced from the knowledgebase to generic customer support chat, and hither and yon. Each person sent him to somewhere else and wouldn’t tell him any more than that he was subject to a “cheater ban.” Each person he encountered either couldn’t or wouldn’t help him. More puzzling is that this character has never left Sanctuary. How can you cheat when you’ve never encountered “enemy” units?
We understand that SOE is working hard to stop people from using exploits. It’s unfair to other players and one cheater can ruin it for dozens of people. Given a choice between banning one cheater and losing multiple paying customers it is obvious which should be chosen. Sony is a publicly-traded company after all. We also understand that it’s not always so easy. A false positive caused by some innocent process looking like an exploit is well within the realm of possibility.
Rampage does networking for a living. It’s certainly possible that something he has on his system looks like an exploit to SOE’s systems. If he knew what it was he would certainly turn it off and make sure that it doesn’t affect the game. He doesn’t want an unfair advantage. (One quick view at our stats would keep anyone from thinking we cheat; if we cheated they’d be a heck of a lot better than they are.) He said as much. He even offered to work with a developer to figure out what it is, because if it’s affecting him it will probably affect multiple other people too, and SOE wouldn’t want to lose (potential) customers.
Nope. No dice. No chance for appeal. Nothing. You’re outta luck.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve also seen the righteous indignation of other people banned from the game, claiming their innocence (or their compatriots claim) and how wrong SOE is in their case. And, like you, I didn’t believe them either. I can even see SOE’s argument in not revealing why they flagged him as, if he really was a cheater, he would have clues on how to hide it better. But this time, it’s someone I know to whom cheating is anathema. That SOE won’t even entertain the idea that they may have a flaw in their detection schemes is what puts me over the edge.
So, I’ve cancelled my subscription. I am currently in the process of handing over the leadership of Celestial Fire (which I’ve had longer than anyone) to someone else. Celestial Fire is one of the longest-standing Outfits in PlanetSide, and SOE has just ripped the heart out of it, as I certainly won’t be the only one. I’m sure SOE doesn’t care about my piddly $13/month, but I certainly care about who I give it to.
So now I’ll have to find some other distraction for my online gaming. It might be an MMO, but it sure won’t be a SOE product.
Update: Well, it looks like SOE has recognized that they have a faulty cheat-detection algorithm. There were many, many reports of Fodderside accounts being banned for cheating. Then, the most damning evidence: An email that the ban has been lifted. So, after multiple communications of “I can’t help you” and “we don’t allow appeals of bans” someone finally got a clue and figured out that they were getting false positives. I wonder how many potential players they’ve turned off altogether. Their customer service is simply atrocious. While they’ve apparently fixed this problem, I stand by my decision to not give them any more of my money.