play money
DIARY of a dubious proposition



(And you can buy it at Amazon.)

Friday, March 14, 2003


"Your account has been blocked," said the login screen last night, and instantly my pulse was pounding as hard as ever it did when some PKer was chasing me down in the wilds of Felucca. What had I done to get blocked?

The login was for one of two secondary accounts I keep, both of which I've been using lately to harvest Smithing Bulk Order Deeds. Running through the five characters of each account, I can gather 10 deeds in about 7 minutes, and thanks to a bug in the new UO expansion, each deed can now, bizarrely, be smelted into about 500 iron ingots. That's about 5000 ingots at a sweep, and at 4-5gp per ingot (down from 7-8gp, now that the bug has glutted the iron market), that equals about $3.50 an hour. Are you still with me? The point is, this is harvesting at its most crass, and while exploiting the smelting bug hasn't yet been declared a bannable offense, I couldn't help thinking this was the reason the account was blocked -- or feeling, in my heart of hearts, that I'd gotten what I deserved.

It turned out, of course, that the reason for my banning had more to do with OSI's own version of harvesting: the 30-day free trial period for the account had run out and they wanted a credit card number from me.

All's well that ends well, yep, but this was a heartstopping reminder that the threats to my assets don't only -- or even primarily -- come from hackers. My livelihood here is entirely at the mercy of one corporation, which can freeze me out without appeal. Sociologist T.L. Taylor has written very nicely about the threat this sort of arrangement poses to a healthy culture. But thinking about it is one thing -- getting locked out of your own $450 mansion is another. Believe me, you're better off just thinking about it.

6:04 PM

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

My Ultima Account Password Is...  
...too short. I need to change it. The possibility of account theft is all too real (as one unfortunate Japanese player learned last month), and my net worth in Ultima is already halfway to quadruple digits. I now own, to wit:

1 character grandmastered in 4 desirable skills ($75)
1 large house in a prime location ($450)
1 polar bear rug ($50)
2.5 million gold pieces ($50)
5 runic smithing hammers ($10)

And sundry lesser crap, bringing the total to about $650. This is more value than I or most people have ever entrusted to the security of a simple password system. What could I be thinking?

4:50 PM

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Property Law  
According to GameSpy, Gordon Walton (lead designer of The Sims Online, formerly at Ultima) told the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose last week that UO gets sued in small claims courts some 8-10 times a month. Presumably these come down to disputes over online property, of which I intend to have a lot some day. Note to self: Find out who is winning these cases, and how.

12:12 AM

So It Begins  
I made my first eBay sale today: a runebook, mapping the best mining spots in the mysterious new land of Malas. It went for $1.99 to a person from Florida who said she would be online all day today. This is not a school holiday as far as I know, therefore I conclude that my first customer was a grownup. This pleases me for reasons I can't quite determine. I'll give no further details as to the customer's identity. Bad for business.

After eBay and Paypal fees, I estimate my profit at about $1.05.

12:00 AM

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