Tracking Alts

  • So I'm messing around with some stuff for chargen and thinking about things like alt limits, XP transfer, XP floor and such things like that. In my MU* history, most of the games I've ever played on required email apps and this was what was used to track apps/characters/alts, more or less (again, different groups from the WoD crowd, so we got lots of less 'fake throwaway emails' mostly).

    I'm thinking about, when people go into chargen the first time, generating a unique ID that's tied to their characters (more or less an account ID), and have that be required to utilize stuff with alts, in order to better facilitate this for staff.

    I'm not completely set on doing it, but I'm curious how some of the other MU*s out there, both current and developing, handle stuff like this. Or is it something you throw under the 'trust methodology'?

  • It's been done before. The obvious answer is that some folks will use it, others will make multiple master accounts. Tying a sharable reward is one way to encourage usage, but anyone so intent on hiding from staff or another player won't care.

  • The +alts system on CoH and NPM generate random IDs when someone registers. The list of characters that they consider their alts is stored under that ID. When a player claims that another PLAYER bit is also theirs it sends the second a prompt to verify or deny that claim. When the claim is verified, if both PLAYER bits have ID numbers with alt lists, one of the two IDs is picked arbitrarily and the lists are merged under that ID, removing the old ID.

    I haven't figured out a reliable way to detect fraud and I'm pretty confident it's not feasible to do casually. As you mentioned, throwaway emails aren't a barrier. IP addresses will be shared by multiple players in the same household, will change on many Internet connections, and can be sidestepped via mobile and cloud hosting providers.

    Players will usually tell someone that they secretly have other alts so HUMINT is your friend there, but not reliable. A handy signal is that most clients will state what they are during telnet negotiation, upon first connection. This gets into analyzing packet capture, will be error-prone, and won't be worth your trouble except in extreme cases. Another tool accessible in packet-capture land baysian analysis which is probably less worth your trouble.

    The good news is that most players will won't take steps to evade alt detection and will usually use the same SEMAIL across their characters.won't do evasive things with respect to IP. They also don't bother to register +alts although that may be because we've never required it.

  • Pitcrew

    @Sponge said:

    I haven't figured out a reliable way to detect fraud and I'm pretty confident it's not feasible to do casually.

    To do it casually -- well, eventually, the alt-fraudulent player is going to fuck it up. Just watch.

    There's a critter out there who likes to create many alts. When she gets bored of RP with one, she'll disconnect without warning and connect as another one. Other players noticed this. The proof of the pudding was in the fact that most of these alts connected from the same IP, and others had their wiki pages made from the same wikidot account as some in the first set. Said wikidot account was associated with some character pages for another MUSH, and when I contacted the headwiz there, she discovered that the two IPs I associated with that player were associated with over twenty characters on her game.

    Later, she reappeared, and registered alts as two sets. When the same random-disconnect behavior and writing style induced suspicion, I happened to observe one evening that one of those PCs connected from Germany, and ten minutes later, from the United States. The player claimed to be sisters, connecting from the same household, but that the 'German' sister was ever so paranoid. Since the 'German' alts couldn't be connected at the same time as the US ones, I said to register them all anyway, and they all stopped connecting.

    Another time I had a pair of them in chargen. The second appeared very shortly after I had rejected the first one's app and explained to her that she needed to understand the theme better before being able to play. These two also claimed to be sisters. I asked both their ages, both said 18, and then were confused when I remarked that they were twins.

    I don't have XP transfer. There is a rule that alts can't benefit one another, and thus ought not play together in the same scene, but I'm not really invested in the latter -- honestly, if you want to RP with yourself, I don't care, and you can't really fuck over another player doing that on a game with the semi-consent rules we use. Really, I only became stern about the requirement to register your alts because of that player rudely disconnecting on people. I think the players have a right to be able to avoid assholes.

  • @il-volpe said:

    To do it casually -- well, eventually, the alt-fraudulent player is going to fuck it up. Just watch.

    This. I know there are stories about players who created elaborate alternate lives and personalities so they could play additional alts for years on end, but they're such a slim minority I don't see them as worth worrying about (and should obviously be banned once discovered, because Teh Crazy). You'll figure out who most other liars are within a week. Hell, players figure out when a former player is trying to "secretly" come back to a game after a week.

    I think registration in chargen (and through your wiki or website, if you have one) is sensible and an open way to be clear that you care and that lying is frowned upon, but I don't know that it needs to go beyond that. Are there horror stories that make this a greater concern?

  • Absolutely, it's hard to maintain the separation of characters over a long period of time. An important question to ask yourself is how much energy you're willing to commit to sleuthing into the long tail of players with actually good OPSEC.

  • Pitcrew

    I've known a handful of people to pull this off over the years. One has played on TR as two different characters (though which two have changed over the years) pretty much from its inception. Those who haven't (to my knowledge) been caught tend to accomplish it through a few rules:

    • Keep OOC player interaction down to a minimum.
    • Avoid OOC drama at all costs.
    • Don't violate actual alt rules, aside from the basics of having them. i.e. none in the same 'sphere', no cross-pollination of relationships or activity between characters, etc.
    • Never be staff.
    • Never play Feature characters.
    • Keep logins/logouts between characters at least an hour apart.

    They use proxies and the like, always in the same time zones but never in the same state (or whatever). All in all they've always been pretty much the picture of harmless, which is why I never reported the one I knew about on TR.

  • Why does it matter? If they do this to cause problems then they're causing problems in other ways. Most of us don't have the time or inclination for all the hoops alt hiders jump though. I will occasionally go wiki dark but that's about it. I'm told I'm easy to spot anyhow. Just ban the problem causes for the problems they cause.

  • Pitcrew

    Eldritch will be implementing some sort of registration, though it's less for alt-control (though it will double as that) than it is for XP control, since we have Player XP (i.e. XP that you can use on any of your alts, because you acquired it running stories and doing such things that are not character specific).

  • Admin

    What problem are the solutions in this thread solving?

  • Pitcrew

    Developing game speaking up here.

    I'm planning on including a player-reward system that the bonuses of which can be used across characters, encouraging people to register their alts. We're also going alts-are-public, with the caveat that people can opt-out of being public but the requirements for opting out are very stringent. We won't catch the people determined to lie, it's not possible. Just have to give a good enough carrot and most people will play nice, I think.

  • Way back when, Tartarus implemented a system where all alts had to be registered under an alt-list number. That list was attached to the IP address of the first alt that registered the list. You could figure out if a player was using more than one alt-list by doing a check of the IP addresses. It wasn't fool-proofed, but I knew of few people who gave enough of a shit to dodge the process.

  • I agree, cheaters will cheat, and it will be a small amount of your population, no matter how big your game is. I guess I've always fallen to the same conclusion: no matter what you're trying to stop with alt-check regimens, someone will get around it.

    I just don't feel it's worth the effort, myself, to police it. If I have to investigate cheating, I won't limit myself to a list of alts. I'll investigate from a behavioral pattern angle. I already code @logging into most every IC-related command (+roll, any money systems, econ, +vote/+xp) so that you can pretty much check for cheating if and when it gets brought up, in my opinion.

  • Perhaps a topic for another thread, but how would people feel about being allowed to transfer something, eg xp, etc to anyone else?

    So sure you have the head of a clique, they can all xp transfer to that person. In my particular thinking, what could be transferred would be expendable resources, which makes a little more sense in the feudal structure of many groups, meaning you pass your stuff upwards, and it gets used for everyones benefit in theory.

  • Admin

    @Misadventure XP no, because that's too flexible a resource. But many shareable merit dots cost XP and that's more or less how they already work. Wouldn't that work for you?

  • The system in mind would be close to sharable merits. There would definitely be an owner. The contributors would yield up control for access to more of a given resource. XP isn't a thing in this system, neither to accumulate nor to pass on to an alt. Much of what is bought with xp in some games is bought with an earn-able, expendable and renewable resource. After someone leaves, they can't "lend" their resource anymore, so the main body of it would with some.

    One goal of this would be to say you utterly didn't care who lent or gave what to whomever else. Alts, queen bees whatever.

  • @Misadventure

    I think a system of resource-sharing can be too easily abused if there were no controls in place regarding sharing among or between alts.

  • Admin

    Oh, okay, so we're not talking about nWoD but more generally, gotcha.

    I think it could work, as long as there's some reasonably plausible way you can justify what the resource will end up buying from an IC point of view, and it might have its uses in say, catch newcomers up to the rest of the faction, be offered as rewards for good service to the group, etc.

  • In this case, use of the resources spends it. So if Player A has Character 1 spend for Character 2 only character 2 would benefit from the spent portion. I suppose synergy/requirement costs figure into it.

  • Pitcrew

    @HelloRaptor said:

    Those who haven't (to my knowledge) been caught tend to accomplish it through a few rules:

    See, if they follow those rules, I cannot give a single ghost of a fuck if they have 'illegal' alts, because they're hugely unlikely to be annoying anybody.

    Normally I'm against having rules that follow, "Don't do X, which is harmless in itself, because it makes it easier/more likely that you'll do Y," reasoning. Alas, in the case of the alt-abuse thing, I ended up doing that. But my "You must register your alts so other players can avoid you if you're a dick," rule is so not interesting to me if nobody notices 'cause you're not being a dick. This is, of course, terribly unfair and lazy of me not to even try to enforce this rule universally, or whatever, (not that I've thought about it much 'til now.) but you know. Smokin' pot and whackin' off at home in the bedroom vs. in the candy aisle at the grocery store.

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