Battlechicken’s Hymn of the Old Republic

In online games, devs and exploiters play a constant cat and mouse game in which as the stakes are raised, players are subjected to more and more intrusive online monitoring systems. Just to make sure we aren’t cheating and to try to keep our games free from bots, hacks, cheats, and so forth.

You will see similar issues with firewalls and virus protection programs. There is a tradeoff between safety and being able to actually use your hardware/ software unimpaired. And the other tradeoff is around false positives. That is, people who actually weren’t doing anything wrong being pegged by the system as a potential cheater. In the social care field, we talk about the tension between the roles of care vs control. That is to say: you want to support your users to have fun, live their lives, and do the things they want to do. But at the same time, it’s your job to make sure they don’t harm each other or abuse the system. That tends to make workers veer towards the paranoid side, which is a very bad thing if it ends up harming innocent users.

If anyone is following Battlechicken, you’ll be aware of her running battle with the Bioware customer service team, after having been banned from SWTOR on account of a false positive. It’s not pleasant reading, full of form emails which won’t even explain which dodgy program she was allegedly running and lack of communication from the CS team. So it’s nice to read that Bioware (finally) did the decent thing, contacted her, apologised, and reinstated her account. And they are now reconsidering how they will respond to this type of customer service issue – hopefully they’ll be able to learn from the experience.

I wonder how many players would have just quietly dropped the game, upset, on receiving the first email and not tried to fight back and argue their case. I wonder how many would have kept trying after the second and third form email.

Anyhow, props to both Battlechicken and the CS team (who are after all just trying to keep the game safe for players) and hopefully some good lessons can be learned from this.

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13 thoughts on “Battlechicken’s Hymn of the Old Republic

  1. Clearly this calls for a Battlechicken-flavored makeover!

    Mine eyes have seen the fury of the Bioware CS storm:
    We are trampling out the vintage where the grapes of blog wrath are stored;
    We hath loosed the fateful lightning of our terrible tweeting sword:
    Our truth is marching on.

    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Our truth is marching on.

    I have seen the bloggers in the watch-fires of a hundred urls,
    They have re-tweeted the fateful story to all the boys and girls;
    I can read their righteous sentence all over the world:
    Her truth is marching on.

    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Our rage is marching on.

    I have read a fiery blog writ in burnished rows of zeal:
    “As ye deal with my fellow bloggers, so with you my sub repeal;
    Let Battlechicken, born of woman, crush CS Team with her heel,
    Since bloggers are marching on.”

    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Restore accounts, hallelujah!
    Our truth is marching on!

  2. What she went through puts my short little debacle to shame, but my short encounter was enough to break me, too. Like you said, after a few attempts on my part to get someone’s attention and their idiotic form replies which clearly indicated they weren’t even reading my emails, I just gave up. My friend was already frustrated about a name change he didn’t agree with, and we’d found a lot of other design decisions we didn’t like, and the fact that the custserv just didn’t seem to care made us all just go quietly into the night. 3 customers lost (which may have been lost anyway, to be fair, but in this case) as a direct result of poor customer service.

    I’m quite glad her story worked out, and it’s nice that the custserv rep said they’d be taking another look at how they did things, but with such an endemic culture of player dismissal, it’s going to take more than a “we’ll do better; we promise!” to convince me.

  3. Alright, alright. I’ll bite. Since I don’t know entirely what SWTOR’s anti-cheat detection system does, nor do I know Battlechicken from a hole in the wall, I have only one other element of context…and that’s a severe statistic gleaned from following the League of Legends forums.

    Virtually every single time somebody pipes up with a long-winded, seemingly legitimate rant about how their ban or suspension was based on a false-positive – virtually every time – it is systematically dismissed by a moderator supplying evidence against them. What I have learned is this: even lacking evidence, I am not convinced that no cheating was taking place.

    I don’t mean them as “fightin’ wurds”…I’m sure Battlechicken is very nice and – possibly – she has a legitimate case. There could be a third variable too…perhaps her PC is infected with some SWTOR-targetting virus that we’re not aware of, or she’s running some third-party game/application usage analysis program (maybe she’s not even aware of it) and that’s setting it off.

    SWTOR’s terms of service by no means obligate them to offer her the evidence she’s demanding. It sucks but them’s the breaks. Were it me, I’d surely be pissed and rightfully so. If she continues to call them and email them, it might be righted…but it sounds like she’s not really interested. So they lost a single customer.

    It’s not like they read our blogs anyway. :\ So, all that we have available are “proper channels” and “other games”.

    • This is, like, totally the opposite of what actually happened. Bioware’s software delivered a false positive for a cheating program. When she inquired about why she received a one-week ban, she got form letters and no real responses. That’s what started this whole saga. It ended with an apology by Bioware, admission of incorrect software results, and a very good lesson learned by the CS team.

      And yes, they read her blog. And the tweets that were directed at Bioware CS concerning the issue. They paid attention and corrected the problem. I highly advise you to go read the links Spinks posted so you can get the full story.

    • Normally I agree with you, Thade. Normally those that go marching to the forums are put down with a swift answer. It always seems 100%.

      In her case though, they did come back realized, that they had no proof and in fact all evidence said 3 false positives. So the whole thing was a ginat debacle of a CSM banning mistake.

      The other reason you can tell it was a bad ban, they gave a crap load of free time to her.

      Otherwise, yes. It’s really hard to believe potential cheaters.

      Also I don’t think you read the post all the way. If you did you might have realized, she did get answers. Problem solved. Sprinks is posing the question, “How many others that didn’t speak are gone?”

      • I read one of Chicken’s early posts and then Spink’s write-up here; nothing more. I hadn’t followed it because, frankly, 1. time constraints, and 2. see my lingering ire re: League of Legends cheaters and jerks. The entire blame-game makes me angry; the effect is intrinsic to the “genre”, as it were. Not specifically Ms. Chicken. I don’t know for sure that she got a false positive and I’ve seen nothing public from SWTOR asserting that she’s actually innocent and that they made a boo-boo.

        What I have seen is a lot of hearsay. I suspect she was likely banned (why else would she be motivated to gripe about it) but 100% evidence here is like anything else on the Internet: utterly dubious. Meanwhile, I’ve personally had a uniformly positive experience with SWTOR technical and customer support. I’ve had half a dozen live chats with their staff and I’ve never waited longer than ten hours for a ticket response (and I file *many* tickets). I feel anything she suffered (if anything) is more due to volume and confusion than anything else; it’s forgivable. The people behind the scenes are people too; since my job is rather similar to theirs (while on a much smaller scale) I sympathize.

        If the problem is actually solved though, it’s a non-issue…and good for her: the game is awesome, everybody should play it. <3

  4. You don’t quietly drop when you are accused of something. That’s probably why I beleived her story. They indirectly accuse her of cheating via 3rd party program, with no details, none.

    You will go batshit crazy too if that happened. You just got banned for cheating. You need answers.

    Actual cheaters on the other hand, are the ones that try to put in a ticket to reverse it, fail and then log off forever and say, this game sucks.

    I know that when I played we had numberous openly hacking people in PVP. CS did amazing it countering them. 2 reports and they were basically gone inside of the week.

    I know in one case, I was so tired of it, I put CS on the phone and had them come watch my account to see what I was seeing. After about 2 mins, they thanked me for my time and that they were going to do a little more investigating, of course, also advising me that I was not going to know the results would be stricly handled and I would not be further contacted.

    I told them that we only have the same 20 people queueing on each side. If they did or did not do something, I would be able to tell. I got a giggle.

    That is one good portion I recieved from SWTOR overall, depspite how upset I became at all other issues, the CS team has been the best to work with in almost all ways for anyother MMO I have ever touched.

  5. Pingback: Unknown Losses | Kill Ten Rats

    • I know the notion of being banned and then the devs refusing to tell you what the precise infration was does leave a sour taste in the mouth, but it is also true that they have good reasons for wanting to avoid letting hackers know which programs their watchdog code is picking up.

      Like Thade, I usually maintain a healthy cynicism towards reports of false positives. At the very least it’d make me wonder what other spyware was on the computer that the user didn’t know about. But this one seems to be a story with a happier ending, so like I say, good on all of them.

      • My response to Battlechicken was this: if she knew she didn’t have a bot installed on her machine, Bioware was in effect accusing her husband (on whose machine she also sometimes ran) of having a bot installed, and of lying to her about it.

        Telling a person their spouse is lying is fraught with legal implications. One could go to a lawyer to try to extract more information by legal force.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alienation_of_affections

  6. This is the part of MMOs I really dislike
    In all of them, the EULA plainly states (more or less) that they can ban you for any reason at any time and they don’t even have to bring proof or any justification.
    This means that all the time/friends/investment related to the game can be wiped in a second because some program/incompetent employee/etc. screws up. And beside a PR war, there’s not much you can do (yes, of course you could go to court, challenge the EULA, etc. etc.).

    @bernardparsnip: from what I understand, anti-cheat programs look for specific software, since there’s a lot of legitimate software which can do stuff which “looks fishy” (like key remapping / button->macro mappings, etc.). My guess is that they monitor/infiltrate the underground and try to get signatures for the bot programs used, in order to target those directly. Providing information on which software they targeted by mistake could disclose information on the type of approach they use, making it easier to circumvent it.

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