The trade of virtual currencies for real-world money can be a problem for many online games, upsetting in-game economies, unbalancing player experiences, or turning games into pay-to-win scenarios. In RuneScape, the trade in its digital ‘gold’ has been a particular problem, leading to bots mining the resource, and even accusations that the ability to buy in-game ‘bonds’ for real-world money amounts to gambling.
Now, Jagex has outlined plans to tackle the problem. In a new blog post, credited to “The RuneScape Team”, the publisher states that “gold purchased through RWT is a problem in any online game featuring a tradeable currency”, and that although its “Anti-Cheating Team has done much to tackle RWT sellers both in and out of the game”, it will be taking stronger measures with immediate effect.
Citing a “growing team and improved tools”, Jagex says it will no longer just be targeting sellers of gold and resources through RWT but also buyers. The intention is to stem the demand, as well as the supply.
Jagex says it will be sending “messages to players we’ve identified as engaging in RWT” within “the next few hours”.
“For anyone who has been involved, we want to be clear – this is your one and only warning,” it added.
Other measures the developer will consider as punishment for RWT activity are set to include wealth removal – essentially removing ill-gotten gains from players’ accounts at a server level – and possible bans.
RuneScape’s PvP element, called the Duel Arena, will also see stricter rules implemented. Jagex says the feature “has been a flashpoint for this toxic behaviour”, and that 38 per cent of all bans for RWT activity up until now come from that aspect of the game. It says that already amounts to “thousands of bans per month”.
As a result, the developer seems to be taking the nuclear option, saying “we’re looking in the long-term to phase the Duel Arena out of RuneScape entirely.”
Until then, it will implement “some short-term measures” to clean up PvP “until our development teams can deliver a major update that fully replaces the Duel Arena next year.”
These will include a cap on the amount of GP, or gold points, players can stake on a match in the Duel Arena. Players will be able to wager “no more than 50m GP per duel”. Further measures have not been detailed as yet.
Jagex says that “a brand new experience that’ll be part of the ongoing Elder God Wars storyline” will replace Duel Arena in early 2022, but no further details have been provided yet.
While the impact of these changes remains to be seen, they appear to be some of the strongest that any studio has taken to combat external abuse of its systems for real-world monetary gain. If successful, similar measures could be seen across the MMO space in future.
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