Exploiting the game to gain unfair advantage

  • Hello,


    I'm going to open a sensible topic that has already been discussed several times, but I'm also going to add a few so strap in, it's going to be a long ride. For this I'm going to split my subject into several topics, but they all address the same thing, and that is: exploiting unfair advantage over players that experience the game linearly.


    1. ALTERNATE ACCOUNTS


    This is something that I have experienced firsthand last round, on COM2, when I've noticed almost an entire association (20+ members) that had the same pattern when it comes to laying tracks, upgrading the station, their hauling discipline and even engine maintenance. Of course this was an easy case to deal with since all the signals were there, but even so I had to create two support tickets and send an e-mail to travian central until all those players became black dots (presumably got banned). But there are far worse cases that are incredibily difficult to spot for the average player; of course this can be easily highlighted through the back-end using the game database tables, such as IP table, login timestamp, online time, number of competitions (alternate accounts don't run many, if any at all), private messages, number of actions, etc.


    To give you an example, along with the motivation behind, let's say I'm running for 1st spot and I see my main competitor has been generating prestige points from Millton, Romsey, Courtville cities. Of course I can connect to those cities and bring the battle to his doorstep but then I will be generating less prestige from the cities I've been mainly doing before. So I create an alternate account, or more, and let them run only the RGs. No freehauler can surmount such focus, therefore 1st spot is lost. How is Rail Nation dealing with such behavior? Myself being a very active chairman try to recruit people all the time and out of 100 PMs sent I can safely say that only about 25-30% returned my messages. Of course there are other factors that can affect this statistic but still, it's a worrying percentage.


    (Edited by CM: Please contact game support if you suspect someone is breaking the rules)


    2. EXPLOITING WORKERS


    Again this is something that I have experienced firsthand this round, on COM2, when one of the first competitor, in his hunt for the prestige worker (Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt), is constantly switching between two associations (his main one and a temporary one). How is this possible you might ask? Well there's an exploit here when you're being dismissed from the corporation you can immediately join another, circumventing the 24hrs time interval otherwise needed to join another corporation when you are deciding to leave the corporation. Thus they can increase their chances of the aforementioned worker that can provide them quite a boost, and most importantly, an unfair advantage over the competition.


    The solution to this is easy to implement but it doesn't eliminate the behaviour. If I were to be so devious I would still practice it, even with the 24 hrs time interval since it still provides me with extra chance at getting the worker than I would have by simply staying in one association. To fix this Rail Nation must expressly condemn, and sanction it, through the game rules.


    3. HOT SEAT ACCOUNT


    The term comes from my childhood time when I used to play a lot of Heroes of Might and Magic 3 with my highschool friends. Anyway it refers to two (or more) people playing on the same account and allowing it to have an unreasonable amount of online time that would be naturally impossible to have for the regular player. And to my biggest surprise, this is even something being condoned (accepted) by the Rail Nation game rules. What this means is that I am running for 1st spot and the competition is fierce, therefore I ask a friend who knows how to play the game to login and keep generating prestige when it's my time to sleep, providing me with a huge advantage over someone who stays online and plays for 14 even 16 hrs per day, pushing their mental and physical limit altogether.


    How is this an accepted behavior? I understand it's a game but fairness should be adamant when a system ranking is present. I'm not even addressing the unfair advantage of players who can spend huge amounts of money, that's not the point. All my points adress the very baseline of the game which favours the cunning over the honest. For a game with so many intricacies the game rules should really be more detailed and should cover more points and cases than the ones that they currently cover, while also changing some existing ones. I am curious about what other players feel about this and, if possible, from the moderators themselves.


    I have only one simple thing to ask you, please try to keep the discussion over those main 3 issues, give or take, and don't turn this thread into a "free to play vs pay to win thread" because that's really not the point I was trying to make.


    Thank you!

  • Here is a link where we had a nice discussion on this topic:

    The biggest problem. Trolls!


    1. ALTERNATE ACCOUNTS

    Many measures can be taken.

    And it has to be done.


    But the problem cannot be solved this way.

    will become hidden and skillful.

    It will be impossible to understand who is and who is not.


    The only successful solution to this problem is biometric identification.

    But this is unfortunately not applicable now.

  • 3. HOT SEAT ACCOUNT

    For the success of my profile play more than one person (sometimes).

    I play without real money.

    I find this a good way to balance. This is a way to play fair against a lot of real money.

  • 2. EXPLOITING WORKERS

    The solution is not as easy as it seems.


    If a player is fired by a team, it is normal to join another.


    It is also normal for a player to change teams.

    This cannot be prohibited or restricted.


    I've seen players do things like that.

    But I have not noticed that they have a significant benefit from this behavior.

    I have not seen a player have a good position with such tactics.


    You can look at this as a door to interesting strategies.

  • Hi Help Me Roar, thank you for taking the time to respond.


    Your resolution regarding Alternate Accounts is not entirely accurate since I've provided within my initial post ways to at least flag such accounts, that can be further investigated. Once per month let's say, an employee from the RN staff can generate a list with players that raise a flag and look into them more deeply. I admit, it's more work but it can be done with existing tools, at least this is what I think.


    Also, your thoughts on Exploiting Workers is not true because the exploit I've detailed completely bypasses the 24hrs restriction otherwise imposed. But you are right on one point, that I wasn't completely thorough. I've proposed the following solution:


    - regardless if a player LEAVES an association or he's DISMISSED, a 24hrs restriction to join another team should apply.


    And finally your argument against my 3rd point regarding the HOT SEAT is, with all due respect, not reasonable. You cannot propose for non-spending players, in order to balance their chances against money spending players, to appeal to exploits; that is against ethics. In my view, this maneuver should be sanctioned and eliminated from the game.

  • And to further solidify my argument on Exploiting Workers, even with the 24hrs restriction imposed, you still have this scenario:


    1. I'm in corporation A, I see in the upcoming workers there's no Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt.

    2. I ask my friend who's running a solo corporation, B, as chair to see if such a worker is coming.

    3. My friend informs me there's is, therefore I immediately leave the corporation A.

    4. I wait 24hrs before I can join corporation B, then I apply; in the meantime corporation B signs the aforementioned worker since it easy to do so being solo.

    5. I join corporation B and still benefit from the bonus the worker gives since it lasts 24 hrs.


    Unfortunately such a scenario is hard to prevent, unless the Rail Nation dev team implements a restriction for newly joined players to not benefit from the workers a certain amount of time AFTER they've joined. It's a thought.

    The post was edited 1 time, last by /Mihai ().

  • And finally your argument against my 3rd point regarding the HOT SEAT is, with all due respect, not reasonable. You cannot propose for non-spending players, in order to balance their chances against money spending players, to appeal to exploits; that is against ethics. In my view, this maneuver should be sanctioned and eliminated from the game.

    This is fair practice because it is allowed and accessible to all players.


    I can agree to it being removed.

    But it needs to be replaced by better ways to balance.

    The game should not give an unconditional victory to players with great financial abilities.


    Now the balance is good.

    You can win with a lot of activity and friends or with real money.

    At the moment, the balance is in favor of real money. It is good! But it should be better.

    This suggestion of yours will make the game even more unbalanced.


    I agree if there is a better balance option!

    Do you have any balance suggestions?

  • Your resolution regarding Alternate Accounts is not entirely accurate since I've provided within my initial post ways to at least flag such accounts, that can be further investigated. Once per month let's say, an employee from the RN staff can generate a list with players that raise a flag and look into them more deeply. I admit, it's more work but it can be done with existing tools, at least this is what I think.

    I agree with you! I wrote to you about this!

    I wrote you that such measures can and should be taken!


    But if we have to be realistic.

    This will only cost a lot of effort and resources. The result will only be a reduction in the problem.

    Violators will change their tactics.

    And they will continue to harm.

    They will do it in a way invisible to players and the system.


    Violators can create new accounts.

    They can change behaviors, mix with real players ... they will do whatever it takes to exist and do harm.

    There are people who do just that. Just for fun.


    You now see only careless violators.

    I have a lot of experience in this and I assure you that there is no effective solution in this direction.

    Strict measures will only make the violators invisible. They will continue to exist and harm.

    Unfortunately!


    *Violators - Violators of the rules

  • And to further solidify my argument on Exploiting Workers, even with the 24hrs restriction imposed, you still have this scenario:

    For the problem with the worker I will offer a softer option!


    For 24 hours player (After joining a new team)

    - cannot leave the team

    - cannot be expelled from a team.

  • 1. ALTERNATE ACCOUNTS

    If you have any suspicion about any account(s), you can always contact customer support and report those players. The support will investigate every report. It may take a few days since those investigations tend to be quite long and we need to be very certain before we can take any action. But we will investigate.
    Even if something seems to be clear as day for you, we cannot take you at your word. We need to have proof through our logs that the reported accounts are breaking the rules before we can do anything. Unfortunately that also means, that sometimes we cannot do anything.

    2. EXPLOITING WORKERS

    What you described here is actually not an exploit.
    First of all, there is neither a 24h timer when you leave nor when you are kicked. The timer is set when you join an association. The system prevents association hopping within 24 hours. The only exception to this 24h rule is, that you can always create your own association. But new associations don't get worker auctions immediately. It takes up to 9 hours.

    What you described can still work if you have friends or alternate accounts in a low level association. It just takes more preperations.

    In the past, when we introduced the timer, we didn't classified this behaviour as exploitation. Rather as using the game mechanics.
    We can certainly discuss the situation again with the team and get a fresh view on this.
    It would be good to have some options / ideas at hand, how an alternative could look like. So if you have any ideas, don't hesitate to mention them.

  • Hello Saphirus, thank you for your message.


    Whenever I had strong suspicions of alternate accounts, I've let the support team know about them; I've done it this round too. Of course I understand you cannot take my word for it, I'm simply doing my due dilligence towards my team. Furthermore I don't know how your game infrastructure is built, apologize if I made it sound easy, I'm just someone who really likes the game and happens to be a data analyst. I'm just trying to find solutions to a problem that has been interfering with my game play more than once. Like I said, I would start by looking into these tables (if they exist that is): IP table, login timestamp, online time, number of competitions (alternate accounts don't run many, if any at all), private messages, number of actions, etc.


    Onto exploiting workers, you are correct (of course) about the timer but as you pointed out later the issue remains valid. As a solution, I was thinking that a newly joined player could not benefit from the workers the association has PRIOR to his acceptance. Instead he would benefit only from the workers the association hired AFTER he joined it. It's a thought.

  • 1. ALTERNATE ACOUNTS


    I can imagine the workload to manually "hunt" such accounts but maybe the development department can elaborate a database query to automatically list accounts that raise suspicion by looking at these tables (if they exist that is): IP table, login timestamp, online time, number of competitions (alternate accounts don't run many, if any at all), private messages, number of actions, etc.


    2. EXPLOITING WORKERS


    I've already suggested to Sephirus one solution that came to mind: newly joined players should not benefit from the workers the association has PRIOR to his acceptance. Instead they would benefit only from the workers the association hired AFTER they joined it.


    3. HOT SEAT ACCOUNT


    Hmm, yes, but much like alternate accounts, you can devise a database query to sort the online time table. Thus you would see which players have been online for unreasonable amounts of time and cross-reference with the IP table. If the IPs don't match, then it's pretty straight forward I'd say.


    Hope this will help,

    Mihai

  • Hey /Mihai



    Thx for bring this up - on time we start discuss these topic or they will ruin the game


    Ad 1) See it and lost a game because of it (Yes we report it but i must be wrong because nothing happend from RN/support) very special to see 2 people online during a worker auction and suddenly two others online and so on untill all 25 has been online within 5 min and yes we lost 90 % of auction + the game, and yes they got a Russian flag and disappera after that round and not seen with that name again hmm. Then U can put all the other time on the game incl EG where we see the same now on hauling and in every aspect of the game.


    2) Seen it a few times but not sure it benefit the guy who do it never seen them be in top 10 - more people to try be runner up.


    3) Hehe yes a very warm/hot topic - this is very often seen in every game and many people is open about it - but yes I can never beat that and will not try - but on balance on game hmm Bruno has some work to do here - often people focus on small thing if U change PP on Landmark it will change balance - no i say - people is smart and will very quick adjust so balance is ok again - but this !!!! this is a much bigger problem on balance than everything else but until now no focus on it.

  • Wait... 'Hot Seat' is not allowed. It is password sharing, account sharing and is completely AGAINST the rules, no?


    See rule 1.3:

    1. Account

    • 1.1. Every player is only allowed to possess and play one account per game world.
    • 1.2. The account holder is the person whose e-mail address is registered to the account. Support has the right to request the e-mail address as verification.
    • 1.3. It is a violation of the rules to share passwords and will be punished as such. Exception: multi-player accounts. These are only permitted if the players of the account don’t possess or play any other account in the same game world. Accounts that are played from the same PC are not allowed to have the same password.
    • 1.4. It is against the rules to attempt to gain access to another account unrightfully. Any login that is not carried out by the account holder will be seen as unrightful. Violations could lead to expulsion from the game. The team will never ask you for your password!
    • 1.5. An account must only be played for its own success and is not allowed to exist for the exclusive benefit of another account. Accounts that are exclusively used to provide other accounts an advantage (‘pushing’) are forbidden.
    • 1.6. Inactive Rail Nation accounts will not be deleted.
  • I want to show you how difficult it is to objectively identify violators!

    IP table,

    The IP cannot show anything.

    Many different people can be with one ip.

    Also.

    The same person can change or mask the ip (VPN).


    In conclusion:

    IP is not an objective indicator


    login timestamp

    An account can be online 24 hours!


    Furthermore.


    A team can be entered by alarm.

    We at Slack have an alarm for the workers.

    So we alert the team 5-10 minutes before the end of the auction.

    What does this show?

    We are a well organized team! Nothing else!

    competitions (alternate accounts don't run many, if any at all)

    I do not participate in such. Or I participate in very little. This is also not an indicator.


    private messages

    There are many players and teams that use alternatives for communication.

    This is not an indicator.


    number of actions

    This is very vague. It is difficult to recognize a player by this.

  • Hey Help Me Roar, I got to say you are really trying to prove something and I apreciate it, I really do!


    You took all my examples and isolated them when in reality they all must be taken into consideration, in conjunction.


    1. IP TABLE: agree, in most cases this would be the same, also more and more people are starting to use VPNs; but having the same IP is not a good sign for starters, the most difficult cases will always begin with separate IPs.

    2. LOGIN TIMESTAMP: accounts that are online for 24 hrs are extremely rare and should raise BIG red flags; everybody needs to sleep but most importantly alternate accounts have very little online time, less than 15 minutes per day I would imagine.

    3. COMPETITIONS: it is a main indicator since alternate accounts don't get too much online time, thus they literally cannot participate to competitions.

    4. PRIVATE MESSAGES: while not a main indicator, in conjunction with the above only strengthens the case against them.

    5. NUMBER OF ACTIONS: this is most likely the BIGGEST indicator since alternate accounts are created by people who know how to play the game and most likely they'll be quite efficient when handling them (research only that engine, buy only that engine, lay only those tracks, set only that schedule, you get my point).


    If you take all of the above in consideration then the list starts to become very narrow and is quite easy to operate on it.


    Cheers!

    The post was edited 1 time, last by /Mihai ().

  • 1. IP TABLE: agree, in most cases this would be the same, also more and more people are starting to use VPNs; but having the same IP is not a good sign for starters, the most difficult cases will always begin with separate IPs.

    People who live and work in a common building very often have a common ip

    Such people often play in common teams.


    2. LOGIN TIMESTAMP: accounts that are online for 24 hrs are extremely rare and should raise BIG red flags; everybody needs to sleep but most importantly alternate accounts have very little online time, less than 30 minutes per day I would imagine.

    Many players who play for a good position are online 24 hours a day.

    Because they don't want to waste time getting into the game.


    Many honest players have little time online. They have more important tasks in life.


    3. COMPETITIONS: it is a main indicator since alternate accounts don't get too much online time, thus they literally cannot participate to competitions.

    I assure you that this is not an indicator.

    Most fair players do not compete.


    5. NUMBER OF ACTIONS: this is most likely the BIGGEST indicator since alternate accounts are created by people who know how to play the game and most likely they'll be quite efficient when handling them (research only that engine, buy only that engine, lay only those tracks, set only that schedule, you get my point).

    This can be an indicator.

    But it is easy to be misled if that is the goal. With easy deceptive maneuvers.


    If you take all of the above in consideration then the list starts to become very narrow and is quite easy to operate on it.

    Yes it is.

    But it is very difficult to analyze everything together.

    Because no single indicator is indicative.

  • I'm not going to further debate this subject with you since I don't want to focus my energy into a "my case vs your case". I have provided the Rail Nation staff several ways to deal with the issues I've brought up and I would start by removing this line from the game rules: These are only permitted if the players of the account don’t possess or play any other account in the same game world.

  • This can be removed.

    But it won't change anything.

    It's just that players like me won't admit that they play together to win.

    Officially, only I will play.

    And no one will be able to prove that this is not the case.