Virtual Slaves

Not into computer games, but this story is fascinating. We’ve all heard about how people gather virtual goods (swords, cash, immunity) in online games and then sell them on eBay — apparently this is now a $4.3 million eBay market. So this dude reverse engineers protocols and violates the terms of service of Ultima Online — he figures out how to script the game, sets up a little server farm in his closet, and creates a bunch of players. He sets these virtual players to work mining virtual gold in the virtual world, then sets up a business selling the gold on eBay for real cash. Gets rich doing it. His biggest danger is getting caught. What if someone walks up to one of his electronic slaves and tries to talk to it? To solve this, he routes incoming messages to an IM service, which is piped to his cell phone. Now his slaves can converse with other players wandering by no matter where the guy is at the time. He was never caught, but finally decided to throw in the towel and confess all. I find all of this mind-blowing.

Music: Can :: Butterfly

4 Replies to “Virtual Slaves”

  1. I’ve heard several of these sorts of stories about massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs), and have a bit of a hard time getting worked up about it :) Why not let the dude make some cash ? If people are silly or complusive enough to buy “virtual” products on eBay with real money, who am I to stand in their way ?

    Now it may be another thing if the stories I hear about “sweatshops” in Mexico using low-paid, human workers to do the same thing are true. But one shouldn’t assume that every “maquiladora” is automatically abusive. The conscientious consumer should evaluate them individually, just like you would buying clothes at Wal-Mart (which I don’t :)

  2. Ah, to clarify – I’m not worked about this kind of thing. It doesn’t bother me at all (until some kind of sui generis consciousness arises from these virtual players :). I just find it fascinating, is all.

  3. The problem with this sort of thing is that it tends to have negative effects on the game’s economy. If I farm gold in World of Warcraft, I can then buy items on the market, mark them up, and then repost them at the new higher prices. Other players then start having to buy them at the new prices and I get more gold. Wash, rinse, repeat and I’ve driven prices up even higher. Someone tries to undercut me? I just buy everything they sell and resell it at my market value. If other players can’t pay for goods now, no problem. They can just go to my website and buy gold from me to buy my products in the game.

    Left unchecked, the economy spirals out of control and becomes controlled by just a few individuals. FFXI and L2 ran into problems like this.

  4. Such things happened in many countries, and most of the MMORPG have met that problem, someone called it “Farmer” or “Chinese Farmer”, I’d like call it” Non-player Farmer”, maybe in their boss’s eyes, everything will be the tool to earn money.

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