Two groups had essentially material control over FFXI this year: The Cheaters and the RMT. This post will be about the latter. I'll go more in detail on the former in the next post.
RMT are criminal scum who must be jailed and eliminated from gaming. Period.
If, as Square-Enix puts it, they own everything in FFXI, then it is theft to sell as RMT and to buy from RMT with RM (Real Money).
But, let's be frank, many of the largest-scale operations this year had to do with RMT:
-- The Gardening Nerf
-- Nerfing some NPC prices at some of the updates, which didn't please a lot of farmers
-- The Fishing Nerf (where a low-level fisher could only catch a very few fish before fatigue)
-- The credit-card SecureSafe, or whatever it's called (after it was revealed RMT has basically been able to hack into the Square-Enix servers and get credit card numbers)
-- The chat filters (which do not work at all, and may only have for upwards of a month)
and that's just a cursory list of stuff I was able to come up with off the top of my head.
RMT has basically had Square-Enix by the balls this year, and, short of jailing the lot, I can't see how they can be realistically stopped. (And, if you don't, one may have to re-evaluate who really owns the proprietary property in FFXI.)
If you played Final Fantasy XI at all this year, you were impacted by RMT. It's unavoidable.
I've gone off on them quite a bit over the course of the year, so, as I said yesterday, I am going to go a different direction and talk about (and probably go off on) an interesting Reddit poster I saw a link to his post recently (I think the link was found on BluGartr.).
About three weeks ago, a poster named GoldManSam (I'll truncate it to "Sam".) posted on Reddit as a "white IT dude working in China ... as a consultant for an MMO farm."
That, alone, makes me wonder how much Sam is in much more than just "IT consulting". We know, because it has been admitted, that RMT has the ability to hack into Square-Enix' servers and take credit card information (else several of the recent credit card actions would never have taken place).
So, a lot of people came to Sam with questions on http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ad6wm/iama_white_it_dude_working_in_china_as_a/ and he answered more than a few of them...
Here's a sampling of some stuff from the "other side" of RMT:
I thought my network could have it's moments (the wireless is known to cut out on some occasions), but imagine playing on a 1 MB connection -- with THIRTY-NINE other people playing on it!
How profitable is RMT for the group Sam works with? Pay the grunts $1/hr, and the boss can make over $10,000/month! That's $120,000+ a year for theft, probably tax evasion, and probably a good deal of Internet crimes.
A usual RMTer is playing 3-8 accounts at once. The occasional 1 or 2, but at least 3 is the standard. Makes you wonder if, as I _do_ believe, that, if there ever were 2,350,000 characters on FFXI, that half of them were RMT. I stand behind that statement, especially given some of the other information...
1) There are multiple groups, and if they run into each other IRL, it can get physical! Deliberate cuts to competitors' power are not uncommon either.
2) What we see with all the RMT spam is basically only the end product (and you can imagine the number of dispose-a-characters required to do just the advertising!). As Sam points out, you have the farmers, who then hand the money (at least eventually) to bank characters, who then hand the money to the distributors, and that's where it can get in the hands of cheating fucktard players.
And the people you see advertising for the different RMT outfits may be nothing more than simply independent contractors.
3) To give you an idea of the number of people involved: A Wikipedia post on RMT has put the economic Real Money impact of RMT at at least $1B -- and there are some estimates that say there's $10 BILLION involved!
As I've implied in earlier RMT rants, bans are assumed as part of the operation. Just means to restart the mess...
I could go on, but the fact is that one has to ask a real question as to RMT and MMO's:
Without RMT, are there no MMO's?
Is this illegal shit required, not unlike the reports that the real-life banks were only really saved through laundered drug money??
That said: When are they going to criminally go after these illegal operations? Ban the players, ban the syndicates... I think banning China completely from FFXI would've been a good idea if it were more than just a silly rumor.
Later today: The Salvage Bans, the Cheaters, the 3PP Announcement, and the future of Square-Enix MMO's.