How are you enjoying things with NC Soft?
AshNC: Lately, it’s like being backstage an hour before opening night of a stage play.
How will NCSoft try to improve its customer relations, specifically in reference to the recent and not so recent battles with hacking?
AshNC: Very good question. There has never been a single case of traditional “hacking.” No one has ever been intruded upon due to sheer brute force or a breach in NC server security.
The vast majority of cases are simple account sharing. “Here’s my name and password, Bob, please make me level 50 by Monday.” Simple as that.
Another large chunk of intrusions occur when people download suspicious content and end up getting keyloggers or other nastiness.
The next largest chunk is caused due to the release of sensitive information. For example, giving someone a link to a personal web page that contains your birthday, using the same character name as your account name, or using the same password on a voice chat server as you do for your game.
What happens often is a victim of account intrusion becomes very vocal about their case. Some may not honestly know how they were breached. While others intentionally omit important details when trying to elicit sympathy from the community. And that’s understandable. Getting pilfered is the worst thing that can happen to an MMO gamer. So they’re obviously very upset by the ordeal.
We’re really not in any position to reveal anything we may know about a case to the public. Are there people out there who may have been looted through honest error? That’s certainly possible.
One fact that isn’t well known is the effectiveness of a “no refund” police as a preemptive deterrent. When people had the understanding that we refunded for hacking, reported intrusions were dramatically higher. When we cornered the perpetrators (and we always do!), time after time they said.. “I thought it was a victimless crime. I only did it because I thought Jim would get his stuff back.”
This doesn’t even go into cases of sheer fraud. When people were under the impression that we refunded, we wasted precious hours on cases where we simply discovered that someone was trying to get something for nothing by staging an intrusion. Those are hours that could have gone to any number of legitimate concerns.
In light of the fact that the vast majority of intrusions are completely preventable…we believe that knowledge and prevention are the best tools to keep accounts safe. We have no desire to see people lose everything they’ve worked for. It’s just that lengthy observation and many long and heated arguments amongst the GM policy-makers have not yielded a better way to minimize the impact of account intrusion on the community as a whole than our current “no refund” policy.
And believe me, if we didn’t believe the negative consequences of refunding were VERY severe…we’d certainly revisit that policy.
What if anything, will you be doing to dupers, exploiters and the like?
AshNC: Oh man, if we found a duper, they’d be gone. Instantly. It doesn’t get much more serious than that. We’re working on technical measures that will prevent some exploits, such as perching. We currently have a well-defined tier-system for the kind of exploits that get you banned right away, and what kind of exploits are two or three strikes – which you can read all about on the official forums.
Will NCSoft do anything about our “farming” community?
AshNC: I think I speak for Spam and the whole team when I say that we loathe the professional farmers. They mess with players and make our jobs harder.
As far as strategies go…we’ve got some interesting new tactics that have increased our detection ability significantly. I hate to be cryptic about it, but as you know, we don’t discuss details of our methods. I wouldn’t be giving away the farm by saying that we’ve diversified our methods. We’ve found some ways to go fishing with a net instead of a pole, so to speak. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s an improvement.
I can say that investigations consume a great deal of our time. Both actual investigations, as well as meeting after meeting about improving our tactics.
It is very much like a war, both sides constantly trying to outmaneuver each other. Both sides planning strategies, giving orders to people in the trenches.
Rumor has it that eBay will cease in allowing people to sell adena on their site. Is there any truth to this?
AshNC: We are part of the Vero program, as you may know.
What exactly is the Vero program?
AshNC: Well it’s run by eBay, and it is their in-house method of dealing with situations just like this. It stands for “Verified Rights Owner.” So a company like NCSoft signs up with eBay, then we can independently monitor auction listings. A company can report any listing they believe to be in violation of their intellectual property rights. Adena trafficking on eBay has been decimated since we joined Vero. Unfortunately, there is no magic button that will permanently prevent adena sales forever and ever. I chalk this up to the broader fact that intellectual property, as a concept, has not yet been given the recognition and protection is deserves by the major legal and judicial institutions around the world.
What if anything can you do about sites like adena4sale.com, ige.com, etc?
AshNC: Some of these entities you mention infect all the popular games to an extent, meaning they are very well established. So it will take not only efforts on the day-to-day level but a long-term strategy. We’re obviously not at liberty to say much about our long-term strategy, just by nature of the way business in this country, and around the world, operates. This is really very unfortunate. There are many things we might want to discuss with our player base, but can’t.
And because I think it’s an important concept, I’ll repeat something I said in the last question: I chalk this up to the broader fact that intellectual property, as a concept, has not yet been given the recognition and protection it deserves by the major legal and judicial institutions around the world.
Does NCSoft plan on offering any special incentives for North American players to stay in L2 to help with player retention during the anticipated releases of WoW and EQ2?
AshNC: That’s a good question. I really think these games offer something different than Lineage 2. But in the end, I don’t think other major MMOs are going to have a lasting impact on our player base.
Do you expect a drop in subscriptions?
Ash NC: Well, I think ebbs and flows are normal when any anticipated game comes out; even non-MMOs such as Half-Life 2. But in the end: No. We have every reason to expect that our player base will remain stable in the presence of other MMOs, and that we’ll continue to grow as Lineage II matures over time.
A lot of focus, it seems, went into making the game more inviting for newer players, especially as content for this Chronicles release. Will further content be added to keep your higher level players interested?
AshNC: Good question. The answer is definitely yes!
Right now, the high-end game is castle sieges. While I can’t discuss details, I can say that future Chronicles will expand on this. That is…expand the concept of massive, scheduled, PvP battles, the outcome of which affects the world as a whole.
Also, let’s not forget the existing high-end bosses, such as Antharas. Of course, it is our hope that people will band together and try to take down this beast. If he’s a bit too much to chew on, C2 has added numerous raid mobs designed for high level hunting parties to handle. And we’ll keep on adding content of this nature as the Chronicles progress.
How will you market to get an influx of new players to enjoy the content being released in this patch?
AshNC: This touches upon an earlier question about competing with WoW and EQ2 and I’m glad we’ve come back to it.
Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of how our marketing folks are going to pitch it…but I can say this…Lineage II will take the things it is good at, and continue to refine them.
We think this game offers enough to appeal to a wide audience, although, we recognize that our PvP system and attitude towards a self-regulating world factors into what sets us apart. A lot of folks have pointed to the downside of these factors and we will continue to work on these things.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re not going to try to compete by making Lineage II into something else, or into something it’s not. We’re going to focus on our core strengths, weed out the flaws, and improve what’s already good.
Will North American Servers be receiving any content that is different from that of the Korean servers?
AshNC: I believe North American autonomy will increase over time. I admit that’s a deliberately broad answer.
We’re closing the “catch-up” gap with Korea and this will make it much easier, logistically speaking, for North American servers to get things and make suggestions. Suggestions that could even be implemented across all regions. It’s too soon to say for certain how the climate will change once we’re keeping pace with Korean Chronicles, but I’ll eat a printout of this transcript if it isn’t for the better… Okay, maybe just the scrap of it with this statement on it… with some peanut butter.
There is also another rumor floating about that the Korean servers have a sort of IP regulation that disallows North American IPS. Is this true?
AshNC: The latest I’ve heard is that the Korean servers require you to submit an ID number, like an SSN, to access their servers. I’ve not heard that Korea has implemented any IP bans of regions in North America.
Why the introduction of gambling?
AshNC: Well, it’s a relatively simple numbers game. Anyone, any level can do it. And why not? I’ve heard some people joke about creating another way to blow adena. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a lottery if everyone won, all the time, would it? Is it a way to waste adena? Not if you win! In truth, there’s nothing conspiratorial about it. It’s just a game. If you don’t want to play, that is your prerogative as a citizen of Aden. And of course, any uncollected prize money will go to nurseries for orphaned dragon hatchlings. So it really is for a good cause in the end.
What does the new recommend action do?
Ash NC: It’s very similar to the Lineage 1 “lawful” system. Players can “recommend” you if they feel you’ve done a good deed and your name will slowly turn blue. This is only a social function, as it has no affect on karma status. It is important that it not be confused for “good karma”.
Higher levels earn more rights to recommend others.
How often do they plan to release updates to keep people interested in the game?
Ash NC: Every several months, but that will vary, depending in what the new Chronicles add.
Do they plan on increasing the drop rates?
Ash NC: In the immediate future, I don’t believe so.
Will they decrease the percentage loss upon death?
Ash NC: In the immediate future, I don’t believe so.
Will we be able to purchase crafting materials (i.e. Crystals) from NPCs?
No. However, the manor system will make certain items available from NPCs that were not previously available from any NPC anywhere. However, the manor system is a relatively complex system of harvesting resources from mobs, which you can only do once you’ve acquired seed specific to a particular territory.
Are they going to give pets places to learn skills like we do? Or is the SP just a useless feature?
Ash NC: I believe that is the intention, although, I couldn’t say when.
Will any new races be introduced in the future?
Ash NC: I have not heard of any plans to add new playable races to the game in the near future.
Will luxury shops be adding the ability to purchase B grade weapons and armor?
Ash NC: No B Grade in luxury shops and mats will remain drop only.
When will server transfers be implemented?
Ash NC: The time frame has been solidified but I’m unable to talk about it. We don’t have an implementation date, just a rough estimate. After all the miscommunication on this subject, we’re wary to make same mistake again. I won’t say anything about dates until I’m 99.9% certain. And most of the basic elements of what transfers will entail have been covered (how it affects clans, items, etc.) already.
Where do you see Lineage 2 a year from now?
AshNC: I see a much more expansive world, with a much deeper level of player control over every aspect of the world. I see an increasing use of the story elements that give rise to the name “Chaotic Chronicle”. It’s too soon to say more.