Perfect World Drops the Banhammer

Perfect World Entertainment (PWE) is a media conglomerate that owns a number of game studios, prominent among which is Cryptic Studios, makers of MMOs such as Champions Online, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter.  As with any MMOs, they’ve got problems with gold sellers peddling chunks of in-game currency for real-world cash, upsetting the virtual economies.  They’ve also got some home-brewed problems of their own primarily caused by slipshod coding and QA, such as the recent Neverwinter exploit that allowed players to purchase items from the in-game auction house for negative amounts of currency, which resulted in giving you both the items and however much currency you bid.

In response to these money troubles, PWE is implementing increasingly draconian preventive measures.  Most recently, they’ve introduced scripting that scans the chat channels across all their games for certain keywords typically used by spam accounts that advertise game-currency-for-cash services, and instantly bans any offenders caught uttering the forbidden phrases.

See the problem here? If so, you aren’t in a position to make policy at PWE, because they’ve rolled right on ahead with it.  As anyone with a grain of foresight could have predicted, there’s been a growing flood of legitimate customers who have been kicked from the game and banned without so much as a by-your-leave.  Some of them were grousing about the spam mails with friends. Some of them spoke the forbidden words in an entirely different context.  One person – allegedly – was banned for speaking about his DIY carpentry project, the shorthand measurements evidently too close to monetary amounts for the liking of the banbot.  Their accounts, if they are restored at all, are done so without apology and often days after the fact.

PWE’s representatives have claimed that all bans are preceded by a detailed warning telling the player what they did wrong and not to do it again lest they face dire consequences.  Predictably, the banned persons are, in unison, chorusing that not a single notification was received.  As someone who’s suffered through this myself (I play Star Trek Online, and got banned halfway through a mission for, as far as I can tell, reminding a team-mate to match level with us) I can confirm that I received no messages at any point prior to the banning informing me of my wrongdoing, unless they arrived roughly half a second before their banbot booted me from the server.

If you are among the affected, PWE’s community manager, Branflakes, suggests submitting a ticket and then contacting the GM team directly, ticket number in hand.

UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after referring my issue to PWE’s community manager directly, my ban was lifted.  However, I was given no notification of this, and found out simply by attempting to log in (and succeeding).  There has also been no explanation offered for why their scripting banned me to begin with.

Kudos to PWE for a swift response, but the points are lost again for the utter silence in which they executed it.