Over the weekend, BioWare faced some criticism when they temporarily banned Star Wars: The Old Republic players well-under the recommended level of 40 for traveling to the high-end planet of Ilum to loot containers. Somehow, these lower level players are able to sneak around the enemies to loot chests and boxes containing rare items, which they then sell on the auction house. In any other MMO, it's part of the free market and considered fair game. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's considered "exploiting" and could result in a temporary ban.
Yesterday, Senior Online Community Manager Stephen Reid confirmed the temporary bans and addressed the situation, as well as defended the actions by the Terms of Service team.
"A smaller number of accounts were warned or temporarily suspended for exploiting loot containers on Ilum," Reid confirmed. "To be completely clear, while players may choose to travel to Ilum earlier than the recommended level (40+) and may loot containers if they can get to them, in the cases of those customers that were warned or temporarily suspended, they were systematically and repeatedly looting containers in very high numbers resulting in the game economy becoming unbalanced."
So it seems to me that BioWare is ok with you doing it once or twice, but the when you do it numerous times they consider it breaking the game economy and exploiting the game. Now I'm not sure what they consider "high numbers", but it looks like they are attempting to control he economy in SWTOR – something anyone who has played an MMO knows is impossible to do.
"None of these accounts were banned for their actions and no accounts have been banned for travelling to Ilum while still relatively low level. By comparison, the number of accounts that were warned or temporarily suspended was considerably lower than the number of accounts banned for 'credit farming'."
The credit farming he was referring to was the first action the Terms of Service team took against players "found to be exploiting the game in a variety of ways to maximize their credits in order to sell them to other players." According to Reid, the ToS team "took action against these accounts and removed them permanently from the game."
Still, it doesn't alleviate the fact people were angered over being banned for playing the game how they want to play it. I say, if a player figures out a way to loot a container on a planet of much higher level, so be it. Good for them for taking the time to figure out their limitations. Why should BioWare punish a player for that?
"While we understand people's concern about actions taken against accounts, please remember the Terms of Service team exists to help ensure a balanced and fair game experience for all. When you see reports of actions taken against someone's account, remember they are choosing to tell their version of the story – and there are two sides to every story."
The fact is, BioWare was embarrassed. It's their first MMORPG and they probably didn't take into account the time and dedication MMO players put into a game to discover what they can and can't do.
Here's an idea, instead of banning players for figuring things out in your game, you think of ways to fix or address the issue – if it is a problem. These players were smarter and BioWare got taken advantage of. For that, they ban players. This will do nothing but alianate fans from playing a game already seen as too linear.
Reid did confirm that "some adjustments will be made to Ilum in the near future to discourage future exploits. However, the planet is still open to anyone who wishes to travel there."
"The goal of the Star Wars: The Old Republic team is to maintain a service for our customers that is fun to play and equitable for everyone. Critical to this goal is making sure that gameplay is fair and reasonable and we are constantly on the lookout for anything that would prove to be a detriment to your gameplay experiences."
I understand their goal of maintaining a fun and fair game environment, but BioWare has to learn they will never be able to control a MMO's economy in the way they want to. MMO players will always find ways.