NCSoft Hardstyle: China Blocked

NCSoft just blocked an entire country from accessing their most successful MMORPG, Lineage II, and I want to know why no one has noticed.

“In our ongoing efforts to combat RMT, the Lineage II team is embarking on the first phase of our plan by blocking IP addresses from China due to high RMT traffic.” – NCSoft Announcements

Joystiq, Arstechnica, Gamespot, and others – I’m looking at you.

As a former player of L2 I would say it was a wish of mine, but the truth is more complex than that. I would love to have seen bots blocked, and though that didn’t happen, IP Blocking an entire country to me seems perverse.

This is bad news, and I think this is why it’s being ignored.

Farming has never received effective media coverage because it reflects poorly on the state of the industry. We depend heavily on Asia for our MMO experiences, and thus cannot demand that they cut a limb off.

Except that one of the largest players in that industry just did.

So why?

There are a few pieces to this puzzle, and I’m going to fit them together as best I can.

First, there was the cancellation of City of Heros in spite of a massive outcry. I mean relatively massive, of course. Mercedes Lackey may be a talented writer, but she is not on the crux of experiences if CoH was her favorite.

The meat in that is the proliferation of high-technology-socially-connected MMOs trying to stay float in a rapidly shrinking market. When the Star Wars MMO, having employed nearly every voice over artist in the civilized industry has no alternative but to drop subscriptions and switch to a “freemium” model, you know things are bad.

They planned to make money, and no one seems sure why that didn’t happen. I’ll toss this out there: It wasn’t direct fault of the woe begotten franchise. I hear-tell it’s a solid, entertaining MMO. However, we appear to be tired of “traditional” MMOs and are convinced that mobile innovation is the only way to true gaming satisfaction… Except for that marketing lie.

Our satisfaction is never a result of the product. Instead, it is the experience by which the product is surrounded.

Let’s just say that when everyone has fans, nopony gets any air for their wings.

So why does NCSoft feel comfortable shutting down a historically significant MMORPG. High cultural decay has a lot to do with that, but the reality is grittier and easier to understand: profit.

NCSoft NA has migrated all non-flagship games to free-to-play, allowing all access. They also cut back staff by easily half. While I can’t substantiate that claim, I can tell you it was my experience as a player. It’ll have to do. The developers added more tools for reporting fraud, but don’t on anything more than monthly clean-up of farmer and bot operated accounts.

That re-affirms to me that this is about the bottom line.

The proliferation of advancing features is not the only trait that the gaming industry shares with the military. They are in their ways equally aggressive. CoH required fresh money to finance a sequel which the market did not have a stomach for, and that NCSoft could not justify. Other titles had made the jump into new, readily available technology, such as physics simulations.

Now let’s talk profit NCoin style. It’s a logical model for those with less time than others to grind their way to the top. As I understand it only Lineage II and Aion Online employ these pay-to-improve-your-play items. They do this by increasing item drops, experience and recovery rates of your characters.

It also makes the game cheaper than a monthly fee, including those who have no budget to speak of. Every PvP based MMO needs fodder.

Let’s talk a moment about reasons to play. Mine are family centric. These days I run a Minecraft server with only trusted players as members. This solves a lot of problems for me and is a lot more fun than anything else I can do online.

Tera is literally what Lineage III was intended to be, with its greater depth, highly stylized action and visual appeal. Blood and Sword’s violence and sex approach is a direct counter to what was stolen and re-marketed. Wildstar has a few hooks in that market too, though its not as blatant.

Reasons to play indeed, like a nip-tuck or breast “augmentation”.

Look, I won’t pretend the female mages dances in Tera aren’t the least bit erotic. Let’s just say that footage was strategically released for the eyes of the feasting demographic. L2’s Dark Elves perpetrate the myth that all video game girls are built like porn stars.

Thankfully there is a counter trend to this, and for it I am grateful.

Women don’t get to be women in these MMOs. They’re objectified, plain and simple. That is a culturally ingrained issue that will not be resolved anytime soon, but I say better aware than unfair.

Speaking of unfair, as a legitimate player of Lineage II in China, would you not consider this IP Block unfair? Clearly NCSoft decided it Had To Be Done, for Good Fact and Good Profit. The single greatest blemish this MMORPG had on its reputation.

First of all this does not solve the problem, not by a long shot. Understaffed and underprofited this is NCSoft’s best tactical move. Bots continue to roam unchecked, as developers make less invasive versions of their software that are increasing hard to detect.

Short of a massive code overhaul, or stationing a camera at every computer connected to NCSoft’s servers, that is.

Secondly the motives are suspect. I’ve outlined why. The only petition on this subject stands at 501 signatures at my last count, so clearly not enough of the players were at-arms on this one. Too busy farming, I suspect.

An industry so concerned about advances are too little interested in hindsight.

Unless it proves them right, of course.

hastypixels
hastypixels

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