The Daily Grind: How should MMORPGs handle duping scandals?


The title for today’s Daily Grind isn’t exactly what you think it is, so consider this a trick to see who read the whole question! Obviously, I think the perpetrators of a dupe scandal in an MMO should be punished – ban them and let the code gods sort them out, right? Duping is the act of exploiting a game to create multiple copies of something; if the right – or rather, wrong – item is duped enough, it can destroy an MMO economy overnight. Heck, I bet several of you have seen it happen. I sure have, repeatedly. I have zero tolerance for it.

Today’s question is really about what should happen after the perpetrators themselves are banned. I recently read of a duping issue in the classic SWGEmu whereby the player devs discovered over 60K duped objects (things like resource deeds and decay kits). The dupers then circulated the items into the real economy, tricking thousands of “unsuspecting players” into buying dupes, including a staff member. It’s not as if a normal player could tell the difference, after all.

What got me thinking about it is that the developers decided to delete all the duplicate objects from the game, affecting 1766 accounts, most of those victims. “Unfortunately, honest and unsuspecting players have bought many of these items over time and we will not reimburse them for their losses.,” the devs write. “We are very sorry and know this will end up hurting innocent members of our community who worked hard to acquire the items. This, however, isn’t much different than real life. If you have stolen goods, they are confiscated and you will have to contact the seller for a solution.”

I haven’t played this emu seriously in years, but that still really upset me. Contact the seller? You mean the duping ring you just banned? Come on. In real life, you can’t just keep the stolen property you inadvertently buy because it needs to go back to the original owner, true. But this is a video game and there was no original owner of a dupe. It’d be pretty easy to compensate the victims here; it was always just pixels, and it’s just an emulator, and the economy was already irreparable.

But then I’ve also seen MMOs go too far in the other direction, with rollbacks and wipes that hurt far more people than were originally involved. And I sure wouldn’t want to be the dev trying to compensate players for 60K duped items. Yikes.

How should MMORPGs handle duping scandals? Once the bad guys are banned, how would you go about repairing the damage, salvaging the economy, and compensating the victims?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Bruno Brito

Anyone who played Fallen Earth knows the damage that duping causes on the economy. It’s not just a “ban and forget” issue. It completely screws the way money is valued in the game.


Hmm… I’m of two minds on this. I’ve seen both sides.

I have a friend who not only lost gold on a dupe issue but also got banned. It was an innocent purchase that fell right into a blanket ban. It was painful to watch because my friend is one of those players that will follow all rules especially when nobody is watching.

On the other hand, I’ve seen the so called innocent be anything but that. If you see the best item in the game in the auction house being sold in packs of 20? And you innocently buy it? Your full of shit.

I may be getting old and jaded, but duping is a cancer. And you have to cut it out fast. And sometimes that means innocent players get burned.

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In real life it is theoretical possible to establish an item’s providence. That isn’t possible in online games so deleting items purchased in good faith seems unfair. Assuming that transactions are not revealed, I’d put duped consumables and resources should be put in a timer to use them or lose them, limiting the lingering impact I would roll out an event with lots of currency sinks to rebalance the economy circulation.


I’m pretty happy with the way SWGemu handled it: remove all the duped items (with the goal of returning the economy back to “normal”) and ban the dupers.

I wouldn’t bother with refunds / compensation to the “victims”, as even though i think it would be nice, I just don’t see it being worth the time and effort. It must take a lot to track the duped items, who it traded hands with, who used it etc etc. Save the dev time for something more important.

However, if I were to go the compensation route, I’d just take all the credits from the banned accounts and divide it amoungst the victims. I’d want to be careful though, if the duper had too many credits, then handing them out to others could also do damage to the economy.


Refunding would be a nice big phat PR gesture. It might also help stabilize the game’s damaged economy.

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If it is caught quick enough a server rollback is definitely needed. I’ve seen way to many MMOs get smacked with dupes and have their economy completely wrecked. ArcheAge is a good example of that. Hardware ban the dupers and then compensate those that had to be rolled back with whatever is relevant to that game.

If it’s not caught quick enough, again hardware ban the dupers. Remove the dupes items. Evaluate how the economy was affected and take action that would bring the economy back into balance, whether it’s injecting a specific resource or lowering drops rates on something for awhile.


Assuming the damage to the economy can actually be undone I’d be fine with losing a few items if it meant everything else I had still had some value left but that said I don’t think we’ve seen many cases where the damage can actually be undone.

Hikari Kenzaki

The entire server is a duped item. I get the impact to the players, but is there really a moral high ground on an emulator?
At worst, they should have just banned the ones doing the duping and moved on.


Just because it’s an emulator doesn’t mean cheating is ok or the devs shouldn’t try to fix issues…what kind of stance is that?


Assuming you have a log of all the transactions, give the player with the dupe whatever was traded for it when the dupe was first traded from a banned account to an unbanned one. This removes the benefits from the dupe and protects the economy without punishing too harshly the victims.

(BTW, where I live at least someone who unknowingly buys stolen goods is only considered innocent if the deal was at least close to market conditions or the buyer can demonstrate that he or she made an effort to determine if the seller was legitimate. If, say, you purchase a fully working Nintendo Switch for $50 without checking if the seller was legitimate, and the console turns out to be stolen, you could be charged with receipt of stolen property. In a similar vein, I would fully support not giving any compensation, at all, to players who purchased the duped item at a 50% discount or more compared to its regular price.)


I’m of the mind that people who unknowingly ended up with duped items should get to keep them. Maybe it’s because I’m not the kind of player who enjoys playing the economy in games, but they always seem so large and obtuse that leaving the items in isn’t really going to imbalance anything. Especially if the community at large wasn’t even aware of the duping or what was duped. If the exploiters are quietly banned, most people would be none the wiser to a change in the economy.


It would seem that if that policy were known, it would be pretty easy to game/take advantage of. make dummy account, dupe to the sky, “sell” to “innocent buyer”(actually your main account). Dummy account gets banned, you still get the items.

Doesn’t seem like that really punishes an even faintly-competent duper.


Sure, but any competent developer would also be able to track that repeated behavior. There’s accidentally buying duped items once or twice, and then there’s a pattern of consistently getting items from short-lived accounts. If duping items is so rampant and common, that also falls on the developers.