Corpse Spam in Stormwind

Gold seller corpse spam.  I see this sort of thing in Stormwind almost daily on the two servers I frequent.

Double Layer Corpses

Double Layer Corpses

Conflicting Corpse Spam

Conflicting Corpse Spam

Always in Stormwind.  Always in this area, which is admittedly probably the highest traffic area in the city.  And always the same two companies.

And every time I see this, a few questions spring to mind.

Who is buying gold in WoW?

Okay, I know some people must be buying it.  Not everybody knows it is even against the rules.  And it probably made sense back in the day when buying say, 100 gold, made sense.  That is a small amount, tough for Blizzard to track.  But to buy enough gold to do something meaningful in the game you have to get a chunk of gold large enough that you might as well name you character “Ban Me Please!”

Cheating and EULA arguments aside, I have too much time invested in my characters to do something like that.

How are they doing this?

I’ve sat and watch these URLs get spelled out.  It looks like these bodies are just dropping out of the sky.  I tried to bubble some one night with my pally, just to screw up the placement, but I never managed it.  What sort of automated tool are they using to do this?

How can Blizzard not be able to stop this?

I’m aware enough of life and the world to know that counter-measures against such things are generally fleeting in their effectiveness.  The spammers are working for their livelihood while Blizzard is just addressing an annoyance and all that.

But if I see this happening nightly, and I am going to guess that it isn’t happening just on the two servers I use, there has got to be a pretty big pile of data available as to how this is being accomplished.  In my gut I feel that I ought to see this sort of thing get interrupted once in a while.

Not that Blizzard isn’t doing anything.  I see these displays getting cleaned up reasonably quickly most nights.  I just find it odd that it is apparently easy enough for the spammers to do this that they do it every night and sometimes multiple times in a night.

Is it a big deal?

Not to me.  It is more a matter of repetition.  The first time I saw this sort of thing it was interesting, a unique event.  Now it is just vandalism that I keep seeing over and over.  An annoyance, but nothing more.

I am sure the whole thing irks people at Blizzard far more than could ever bother me, but I am not sure what they can do.

Aggressive and highly visible campaigns to stop gold spammers are usually good PR, but they tend to fail if the game design encourages selling gold to players.  And while Blizzard has effectively inflated to gold supply in Azeroth and made gold readily available for a little effort, some people will always shun even that effort if the game rewards having gold and the price is right.

I will be interested to see how this gets handles in Blizzard’s next MMO.

17 thoughts on “Corpse Spam in Stormwind

  1. Bhagpuss

    On the Euro server I play on there is generally one display in Stormwind and one in Ironforge. No idea if the Horde have them as I don’t have any Horde characters yet.

    They never get cleared up and last for about a week until they seem to decay, at which point they are refreshed.

    I quite like them. It’s a shame they are only for goldselling sites and not something more creative. Years ago in EQ people used to do all kinds of interesting things with this kind of body art.

    As for who buys gold, well I don’t but I have no problem seeing why people might. The tells I get offer me 1k gold for around 6 Euros, which is about 45 minutes work at minimum wage. In-game it would take me maybe 6 to 10 4-hour play sessions of mining/gathering/farming to make that much. I currently have a level 60 Hunter and a level 59 DK and only enough money to get a flying mount for one of them, after which I will be almost broke. It seems pretty plain why someone would just stump up a few euros.

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  2. Saylah

    I’m with Bhag, not everyone has the time or patience for gold sinks. Blizzard added grind to pay you to get your own gold but let’s get real, I couldn’t stomach daily quests. I thought it was the height and content reuse and grind. None of my chars had an epic flying mount and never would have. Between gearing my own toons and helping your kids get gold for their stuff, it’s just too much time invested for virtual money.

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  3. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    Now THERE is a potential business model for gold sellers with this corpse technology Bhag! They could sell ad space on the ground in Stormwind and Ironforge! How much would a company pay to have its URL spelled out in corpses?

    I haven’t seen this in thing in Ironforge for quite a while, which is actually surprising because, with Brewfest, Ironforge is booming. I have a couple of Horde characters, and I have seen this in Orgimmar, but I don’t play them often enough to get a sense if this is as common there or not.

    And I get the virtual money thing. I can only manage daily quests that scratch at least two itches at once, like faction or tokens for something I want AND good cash. Daily quests that reward only cash get run once by me.

    I got my epic flyer cash while doing quests for faction in the Outlands. I just mined along the way and sold it all at the AH. I’d have a lot more cash if I didn’t keep picking up trade skills. And I thrive on expeditions that move me towards multiple goals. Efficiency is like flannel sheets just out of the dryer on a cold winter night to me.

    My main concern is that with all I have invested in the characters on my account, I personally would rather not expose myself to getting banned for buying gold.

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  4. JdJdJd

    I disagree. The dailies I do take me approx 45 minutes to complete and I make approx 100 gold for doing them. That’s not a bad return on my time. Just questing in general if you don’t like dailies pays well at max level and you get to see new storiy lines (or complete old ones).

    I do agree if you’re not 80 money comes a little slower. But I recall making enough money in 2 days of questing in outlands to afford my first flyer. I recommend just trying to do the quests and not spending anything for a bit to see if you get a little better return then mining/gathering. It’s worth a try at least.

    @ Bhag above – this from MMO-Champion today. It might help you get flyers for both toons.

    Patch 3.2.2 Mount Changes
    Apparently, the price to train the riding skills has been slightly changed in patch 3.2.2 and the first rank of flying mount is now considerably cheaper. (Thanks to iridius for the tip)

    Expert Riding (150% Flying) now costs 250G (Down from 600G)

    The problem is, this change doesn’t seem to affect all trainers. Trainers in Hellfire Peninsula will offer you the mounts at a reduced price but Hira Snowdawn in Dalaran will just try to steal all your money and will ask for the pre-3.2.2 prices.

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  5. Tobold

    But to buy enough gold to do something meaningful in the game you have to get a chunk of gold large enough that you might as well name you character “Ban Me Please!”

    Blizzard does not, has never, and never will ban people for gold BUYING. They will ban the gold sellers and the botter type of farmers, but not the buyers. If you read their regular big banning announcements carefully, the bannings are clearly limited to gold sellers and botters. And I never heard anyone being banned for buying gold.

    The reason for that is extremely simple: Economics dictate that for every gold seller there must be multiple buyers for the business to be viable, just like for every prostitute there must be multiple johns. Banning 100,000 gold sellers is possible for Blizzard, but banning 1 million gold buyers is not. The banned gold seller will buy another box, make another account, and keep paying money to Blizzard, the banned gold buyer is far more likely to just quit.

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  6. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Tobold – Blizzard does not, has never, and never will ban people for gold BUYING.

    That is a pretty black and white statement. Do you have anything that actually backs that up?

    I ask in all seriousness.

    Logic and a lack of evidence do not, in my experience, add up to enough for a conclusion, especially since a press release from Blizzard will naturally focus on the perceived “bad guys.” All I have ever seen gets me to an opinion not a definitive answer.

    But I do not have any evidence myself either way aside from the EULA and the fact that Potshot’s account got suspended for a while because of an alleged transaction with an account that was connected with gold selling. Locking down somebody’s account for a while isn’t banning, but it certainly points to Blizz trying to root something out. A simple look at his account details and payment history would establish that he wasn’t a gold seller mule. So there are not a lot of guesses left for what they suspected him of.

    Potshot was, by the way, cleared and his account was restored.

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  7. We Fly Spitfires

    I’ve never seen any corpse spam on my EU server so it’s all new to me. Interesting tactic.

    As for gold buying, *everyone* does it. I bet 75% of the people in your guild have done it and still do it. It’s like sex in the Victorian age. Everyone does it but no one wants to talk about it.

    Buying gold on my server on EQ2 was practically expected and I knew many people who openly talked about it and even did it for others for their Christmas presents.

    Finally, regarding banning, Tobold is right. No dev has ever or will ever ban a player for buying gold. SOE even came out and stated that they could understand why people do it and feel no ill-will towards them. Not only would they have to ban 75% (at a guess) of their entire player base but how would they even prove it? It’s completely impossible for them to determine whether you’ve paid for the money or just received it as a gift or by mistake. All that would happen is the gold sellers would maliciously send out free gold to every one they could find and force Blizzard to start banning legitmate players :)

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  8. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Why can’t Blizzard stop that? Mostly because it would take a radical change in how the client handles movement and would affect other people as well. As I understand it, the program that does the corpse spam essentially teleports the character to the proper location. This is possible because Blizzard “trusts the client” to some extent for movement. The benefit of this approach is that you can still move while lagging and won’t experience as much “rubber banding”. Compare this to LotRO, where you stop dead during lag, and it can be really annoying when you have brief bursts of intermittent lag and slow down significantly.

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  9. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Brian – I noticed that aspect of the client right away when I moved from EQ2 to WoW. I may not miss a step even when my internet connection has a hiccup so long as it can re-establish before anything times out. In EQ2 when the connection flutters, I used to stop moving. As you noted, the same thing happens in LOTRO.

    On the flip side, as just another measurement, because the host does trust the client so much, I have noticed that if I take a screen shot while following somebody, my client thinks I haven’t moved during that event so I actually fall behind a bit with every screen shot.

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  10. Graktar

    Blizzard doesn’t stop gold selling because they have absolutely no incentive to do so. Gold sellers are good business for Blizzard, and paying lip-service to stopping them is even better business. What do I mean?

    Allowing gold sellers to do their business keeps people playing the game who might otherwise have quit. Gold buyers are frequently time limited (or just impatient) and the huge gold grind needed for certain things would drive them away. Blizzard would lose subscriptions. Thankfully the gold seller can step in and for a small fee dispose of the gold grind for that player. He/she keeps playing, happy to have their new shiny.

    Paying lip-service to stopping gold sellers is good PR. People who don’t buy gold hate gold sellers because it’s considered cheating, and diminishes their ‘accomplishments’ in game (never mind the fact that it’s just a freaking game). Doing nothing about gold sellers would drive these people away. Blizzard would lose subscriptions. Thankfully, Blizzard can slowly add ‘anti-gold-seller’ features like the insta-report button to make those people feel better, and they keep on playing.

    Gold sellers like to steal accounts for fast money to sell to gold buyers. Thankfully, Blizzard added their authenticator that you can buy to protect yourself. If there were no gold sellers you likely wouldn’t need an authenticator, and Blizzard would be out another source of revenue. And Blizzard is good about restoring hacked accounts, so they don’t lose that customer either.

    Finally, actually banning gold seller accounts is great business for Blizzard. They get plenty of box sales to further inflate their coffers.

    In short, gold sellers are a win-win-win for themselves, Blizzard, and the players, so Blizzard has no desire to ever make them go away. If they did, they would.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure Tobold is correct about them not banning gold buyers. I believe the worst punishment would be a short suspension and removal of the illicit gold, if they even bothered.

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  11. Xyd

    I have not – yet – had the need to buy gold but the option makes a ton of sense: 200G per hour is farming at a pretty good rate while $10US can buy you 1,000G. So if you’re cutting hair at SuperCuts and drawing $8/hour, that’s 800G per hour of “farming” if you just buy it.

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  12. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Graktar – So you’ve taken this a step beyond Tobold by saying not only does Blizzard never ban people, but that all these gold seller press releases were just a ruse and that Blizzard is quite happy with the gold selling situation.

    So what about the whole “cost to the company” that I have heard people like John Smedley (from SOE, but I assume the same applies to Blizz) go on about, the credit card fraud and charge backs on gold seller accounts? Just a smoke screen?

    I could be convinced of Tobold’s opinion on the subject. In fact, all I really object to is the absolute nature of his statement, because I find that most such sweeping statements are in error. (Note that I did not say “all” such statements.) I would bet that there was some numskull out there who bought gold and made such an problem with it that they had to do something. Never discount the depths of human stupidity. P. T. Barnum was an optimist.

    But to say that Blizz gives the gold sellers a free pass, which is what you are saying, stretches credulity in my mind, if only because I am familiar with Blizz of the pre-WoW days and their absolutism when it came to cheating or anything that even gave a wiff of cheating in the community. And as you point out, there is a significant and vocal portion of the WoW community out there who consider buying gold cheating.

    But then, maybe that $15 a month drip right into their veins has changed them. Odd what a couple billion dollars can do to a company.

    Heh, and I did not expect this Friday post to become a referendum on gold selling… or to see people come out in favor of it. I was just chuckling about the bodies spelling out things in Stormwind yet again this morning.

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  13. Reatu Krentor

    I had no idea those corpses in Ogrimmar were gold sellers, heh. All I could see what that they were in some pattern, couldn’t make sense of it at the time. I just thought it was some kind of art, like can art in Eve.

    /me hides all the evidence he ever played wow >_>;

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  14. p@tsh@t

    If Xyd’s data is close enough (I wouldn’t know), its hard to believe there would be any margin to a gold seller if they had to legitimately keep buying boxes– even at 3d world labor rates. Not saying it can’t be done, but I’m dubious.

    That said, being married to an emerchant, the apocalypse to a seller is the credit card chargeback. No my friends, the credit card company doesn’t take it on the chin, the merchants do. The merchandise is gone, and the credit card company takes back the money.

    If a significant number of gold sellers get banned and have to continually purchase a new box/key with stolen credit card numbers, then the chargeback is costing them money. With a digital download, maybe that’s no big whoop. If there were really selling boxes, somebody is really out the manufacturing and distribution costs.

    Net result, if the goldseller accounts are legitimate sales, then Blizz probably doesn’t care so much. If, however, they are illicit purchases to any significant degree, they should be very concerned.

    For the record, my hacked account looked like it was used for spamming and/or muleing. All my regular characters items, mail, bank etc. were intact, but there were a number of nonsensical named toons created on other servers that were no doubt spamming in trade chat.

    Roll file footage of CJ saying something about “I didn’t get where I am today…”

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  15. Hirvox

    In my personal experience, I’ve reported (former) guild members for buying gold, with they themselves admitting it on public channels. No reaction from Blizzard whatsoever, not even a boilerplate reply from a GM. But when I reported an another guild member for announcing in guildchat that he’s selling the account, the GM thanked for the report and the account was banned within a week.

    So yes, I tend to agree with Tobold. However, in my case the selective bans might have been due to the difficulty of proving someone has bought gold. If it’s trivial amounts (a few thousand gold), the transfer won’t get flagged automatically and looks like a legitimate trade / donation. If you get a false positive and ban an innocent player, there will be hell to pay. Especially if you ban a blogger and the whole thing could blow up into a PR disaster.

    But when one sells an account, the buyer will start logging in from a different place and will probably change the billing information. It’s easy to prove and even if the account wasn’t sold, the Terms of Service still state that the account can only be used by you or your immediate family (like a spouse, kids etc, who will probably log in from the same IP address). In that case, it doesn’t matter which part of the Terms of Service was violated.

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  16. Stratagerm

    I took a screenshot of corpse spam in Stormwind and finally got around to posting it tonight. I quoted and cited this article, Wilhelm, as you solved for me the mystery of how the spammers get the toons to die in the correct location.

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