So earlier today, I noticed that the Auction House started acting funny.
I couldn’t see my own auctions and I also started seeing crazy bids for -99,999,999 being made for a pair of blue (rare) boots. After checking around online, I found out why — someone forgot to check for negative integers and it was being exploited by a number of players for mad amounts of astral diamonds. And cats. Lots of cats. People were selling cats for an emote in the Protector’s Enclave (the main hub).
What boggles my mind is that no one seemed to think that no one might actually try bidding a negative value. But instead of calling it out as an error, that it would actually process the transaction and result in the kind of payoff that it did.
Apparently, the exploit focused on the Gateway webpage where people can remotely manage things like auction house bids and profession jobs without actually getting into the game. By entering a negative bid value on anything, the person would not only get the item but the number of astral diamonds that they punched in. So the person above would have gotten 99,999,999 diamonds in their in-game auction mail along with a pair of blue boots that they likely would never need again.
I noticed the night before that people were commenting on Zen coin exchange rates blowing through the roof — they usually averaged around 360 astral diamonds per point until they started rising to 500+. I didn’t think anything of it until today when all of this finally broke. From what I’ve been reading, it’s something that a number of players already knew of and were using it, passing heaps of astral diamonds by turning free accounts and character slots into versions of the Cayman Islands.
So why the brouhaha?
Zen coins are pretty much very directly related to the money aspect of the game. They’re the only currency accepted for the obnoxiously priced items in the Zen Store. Players can lay down actual cash for Zen coins and get that mount or companion that they’ve had their eye on, or grind up wealth the old fashioned way. At the same time, they can exchange Zen for astral diamonds and buy whatever they want on auction. Pay for convenience.
Right now, Neverwinter have started an investigation into this and have already begun issuing bans according to Reddit. As for the long term damage to the economy, that remains to be seen — who can estimate the kind of financial havoc this had created. Me, I haven’t spent a dime on the game and have been doing okay. Others, though, are understandably upset — especially players that may have actually forked over $199 for a Founder’s kit and now find that they can’t play the game.
At this point, it also sheds a bit of light on why Cryptic/Perfect World have essentially kept the game as an Open Beta even though it’s largely working and is taking cash up front — it’s a convenient form of CYA. Aside from the hole I found in the map to fall through it that hasn’t been fixed yet, the connection problems to PvP, or the numerous other bugs that other players have reported, it’s still far from a “finished” product. Or at least one that won’t result in the game getting torn apart by a reviewer.