Monday, December 23, 2019

Fallout 76: What A Mess

I'm not a fan of the Fallout franchise. I did try Fallout 3, but first person shooters are not a genre of gaming I enjoy. But when I heard people demanding the ability to mod the new game, I knew to stay far away. Allowing modding of an online game like Fallout 76 like a single-player game was asking for trouble. Seriously, who thinks giving hackers permission to explore the insides of your game is a good idea? Even before the game launched, Bethesda was warned the game was extremely vulnerable to hacking.

A year later, hackers are on the verge of killing Fallout 76. A hack that allows players to add NPCs from Fallout 4 to the world also causes havoc in PvP. Perhaps worse, the same hack allows real money traders to duplicate items. A hack which, if not currently live will go live in the very near future involves stealing inventory items from other players.
There's a new hack in Fallout 76 that gives those who use it the ability to steal items out of your inventory. The hackers are not able to touch your caps, scrip, access to various locations and stash box/scrap box items. Person to person trading is also still safe.

Items you should be scared of losing to the exploit are your weapons, armour and everything else you've got in your inventory. The Pip-Boy can be stolen using the new hack as well as it technically is an item in your inventory. The hacker can steal your items if he/she comes within render distance to you. 
Regular readers of The Nosy Gamer know people can make a lot of money selling virtual goods and currency for real world money. Some can even make a living. I'm always amazed when gaming journalists don't already know. Sometimes I think editors give new writers real money trading assignments to teach them RMT is not a benign activity.

Of course, everyone's amazed when I tell them real money trading is alive and well in Fallout 76. Most people assume the game is so unpopular the small population cannot support a robust secondary market. A new writer at Eurogamer, Emma Kent, provided some reporting, talking to item sellers. Ms. Kent managed to interview one of the largest sellers of Fallout 76 items.
Martin, meanwhile, said he's never been banned. He estimates 80 per cent of his stock is duped (something he says is due to a spate of mass duping crazes previously flooding the market - claiming he's only been involved in later "more controlled duping"), and he's managed to avoid hitting the weight cap by spreading his inventory over 12 PSN accounts and 70 different Fallout 76 characters.

"Bethesda has never interfered with any real life currency trading ... simply because they couldn't care less," he added. "Bethesda is a multi-million company who I assume does not consider from my perspective sellers who are selling items and somewhat promoting their game."
The numbers that Martin pulled in rivals, if not exceeds, those of the top sellers on EVE Online's black market.
While Martin has noticed a gradual decrease in demand for items, he says it's still an extremely profitable industry - claiming he's sold weapons anywhere from £10-£500 each, making a total of $55k (£41.8k) in the 10 months since he started selling the items. "I consider myself the most successful 'individual' seller on the entirety of the platform and I say this as I have spoken to other competing sellers from all platforms," Martin added.
Sometimes I think I need to revisit the subject of RMT, given all the new examples of the harm real money trading does to online games. Admittedly, Kent wrote her Eurogamer article before the inventory theft hack became public knowledge, but this paragraph is either pretty cynical or pretty naive.
Of course, the Fallout 76 sellers were probably never going to argue against their own interests - but they did make a fair point about RMT. Given the, um, buzz around Fallout 76 has now calmed down, it wouldn't make sense for Bethesda or Zenimax to really crack down - and from the sounds of it, the most public duping methods have been patched out, and the demand for items is slowly decreasing. So long as people aren't using mass duping methods to produce the weapons - which upsets the game balance and has been blamed for destabilising servers - it at least seems relatively harmless (if obviously pay to win).
This afternoon, Bethesda addressed the issue on the Fallout 76 sub-reddit.
Hi everyone,

We are investigating reports of a PC-only exploit that could be abused by cheaters, which may have resulted in a few players losing items that their characters had equipped. We have been actively working toward a solution for this and have a fix that we are currently evaluating for release today.

While we’ve determined that only a small number of characters have been negatively affected, we are taking this very seriously and resolving this is currently our top priority.

We would like to apologize to those of you who were impacted by this exploit. We want to make this right, and we are currently looking into ways we may be able to compensate you. If you believe you have been affected, please let us know by submitting a ticket to our Customer Support team.

As mentioned above, this issue only affects PC, and we are currently planning to bring the PC version of the game offline today to release a fix. We will let you know as soon as we are ready to begin

Thank you very much.
Hopefully Bethesda found the code vulnerability and players can play on Christmas without worry. But problems like those described above will eventually kill a game.

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