SilkRoad Online: a Dangerous Trend for MMORPGs

SilkRoad Online, a JoyMax, Co. owned and managed MMORPG, has set a dangerous precedent for future free MMORPGs. It’s problems range from overcrowded servers to a complete lack of customer service. JoyMax Co., a Korean based company, manages only one other game for the US market; it is still in beta testing. What does this mean for future free games?

SilkRoad Online is a free to play MMORPG. What that means to the player is that you can sign up, download the client and level an online character without ever paying for service. To balance this, JoyMax Co. has an in game item mall that sells various items for real cash. SilkRoad Online is a massively popular game and as such it has attracted the attention of gold sellers who plague the servers with hundred of gold farmers and text spammers advertising their illegal services. Sporadic and minimal banning of these accounts does little to stem the ever growing tide leaving the servers terminally crowded. It may take up to an hour to log in at even non peak hours. JoyMax’s response to this issue was surprising. They created an item for their item mall to bypass server traffic, selling it for 20 USD, and removed all references to 3rd party program use being illegal from their Terms of Service. This has cause massive inflation within the game economy where items that once sold for one million in game gold now sell for ten times that amount. JoyMax representative and forum moderator “morningdew” does not answer questions regarding player or gold botting. There are no other avenues of contact with JoyMax staff.

The theft of accounts and items is rampant. Visiting the official forum today I can count ten new posts from players that have either had their accounts stolen or stripped. In the past (1/06), JoyMax Co. has admitted to having security flaws on their main site that may have lead to account theft, but they cite the passage in their TOS that requires them to provide no restorative service in these matters. New and incomplete security measure are in the works. They were partially implemented on 10/4 but to date are not completed. The uncompleted system itself caused a major rash of account theft because the previous method of theft prevention, the secret question and answer system, was temporarily discarded. Again, according to forum moderator and JoyMax Co. spokesperson morningdew, :”hacking/account theft usually occurs by negligent management by the user of his own account information.”.
To aggravate the issues, there is no GM presence within the game or on the official website. You cannot speak with, contact or otherwise engage their assistance for any matter. The official SRO forum does have a manager/moderator to answer certain question regarding game play; all other queries are politely rerouted to the “Bug Report” form for which you receive no feedback or confirmation. JoyMax Co. didn’t even tell it’s players who the GMs of the game were until an exploit allowed users to appear as GMs. JoyMax Co. did nothing to restore the accounts of those people who willingly gave their account info to those they believed to be true GMs out of ignorance.

These are just a few of the issues SilkRoad Online has and despite them, the game continues to grow. SilkRoad Online has at this time 25 overcrowded servers. It leaves the future of free games in the dark. If this is the trend of gaming in the world market, then it is indeed bleak. There is no oversight or Better Business Bureau for the gaming industry besides word of mouth and gaming sites. We have so many games to choose from in the over saturated market, that problems like these go largely unreported and new players are completely unaware of the issues when they begin playing. I hope the gaming industry and the gaming community puts the necessary pressure on new entities and old that there are standards to be upheld in at least the US gaming market regarding customer service and security when real money is being spent.