Has The Elder Scrolls Online's duping bug doomed its economy?

"Har har, wouldn't be an Elder Scrolsl game w/o a shit ton of bugs!!!!" Having put about 50 hours into The Elder Scrolls Online since it's launch two weeks ago, I've seen about 400 variations of that statement posted to the game's various chat channels. I get where they're coming from; Elder Scrolls is a series known for its bugs and arguably made better because of them (let's be honest: watching a dragon fly backwards is hilarious). Like any MMO--especially new MMOs--ESO has its fair share of problems. Most are typical, minor (and temporary!) annoyances: broken quest chains, interactable objects that can't be interacted with no matter how hard you mash on the interact button. But ESO also suffers from a different kind of bug, one that has done (seemingly) irreparable damage to the game's economy: item duping.

Why the strong language? Item duping makes pretty much everything about the game worse. The bug was active for at least two full weeks, meaning the game's economy is in shambles. Immediately and obviously, any mechanic ESO had in place to control inflation is right out, as an untold amount of gold has flooded into the market. But that's almost immaterial, considering any item that's even remotely rare or hard to come by organically has also flooded the market. Item and character progression are central to any MMO experience, and ESO's has overnight been decimated. No one's hurting for gold, and even if they were, there's no need to spend it when you have a near-infinite supply of anything you could ever want.

Now, I'm not going to tell you how to dupe items, gold, whatever--there are, oh, a dozen or more videos on YouTube that can detail the process for you, should you be interested in cheating. But here's something interesting: according to several posts on ESO's subreddit, the duping bug has been a known quantity since the game's launch. Some even claim the bug had been reported during the beta phases leading up to ESO's release.

The impact of this bug is also bleeding into other core game systems. For one, as a way to halt duping, Zenimax has disabled the guild bank functionality, a crucial component of the duping process. Unfortunately, it's also a crucial component to many guilds' well-being. See, entire guilds have been established for the sole purpose of promoting trade and/or crafting progression. Such guilds actively use their banks, now disabled, as a sort of currency exchange. If you're a member of such a guild, your experience with one of ESO's primary social aspects has been severely limited. Which, you know, is problematic considering MMOs are social games by their very nature. This temporary fix is akin to putting a bandage on an artery that has already bled dry.

So where does Zenimax go from here? ESO is a promising game, and my experience with its community so far indicates that many, many people really enjoy playing it (myself included). But economy is a vital component to MMOs. Is there really a fix? Even if Zenimax bans the thousands of dupers out there, damage has already been done. Is this something that must be allowed to just gradually work itself out? If so, we're probably looking at months of self repair. I suppose there's always the drastic option of rolling back the servers, but that, too, would negatively affect those of us that played fair, even knowing duping was an option. Zenimax can only hope at this point that its final solution won't cause its player base to bug out.

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  • rory-mcdonald - April 26, 2014 1:28 p.m.

    Taking advantage of a glitch like this is just messed up. You ruin the game for yourself and more importantly for others. I personally use a lot of game guides to make sure I get the best out of all the games I play but breaking the game is inexcusable.
  • rory-mcdonald - April 26, 2014 1:23 p.m.

    It is a shame when people abuse bugs in a game or outright cheat. Personally I use a lot of guides for the games I play to make sure I am getting the most out of the games I play but abusing the system like taht is just wrong.
  • Scoob - April 20, 2014 10:26 p.m.

    The game has no AH, and it runs on a continent-wide megaserver. The gold economy should be okay. What I heard it has been wrecking is PvP. People duplicating siege weapons, repair kits, and such. Basically what happened is those players privy enough to take advantage of this ended up steamrolling hard, ranked up super fast, and, even if all their dupes got taken away, are so far ahead that it'll be a while before the rest of the people catch up. So basically, the first season is a wash really. But they only run 90 days. In the long run, this will have little effect on anything. The first month of an MMO is always tumultuous. It's the same with expansions. The players that get ahead wreck everybody else, but after a certain amount of time, the have lifers catch up well enough to the no lifers.
  • winner2 - April 20, 2014 5:36 p.m.

    How the fuck have games gotten to be THIS badly bugged these days? That's not a backwards flying dragon every couple of days, that's a big bug. How the hell do they not get the importance of RIGOROUS testing for an MMO this big and anticipated? Does quality mean anything anymore? Also, I love how I saw Wildstar's ads on youtube literally the day after I heard about this on the podcast.
  • P0ck3tC1am - April 21, 2014 12:57 p.m.

    nah, it's all about graphics man. That's what kids these days care about.
  • tuomotaivainen - April 20, 2014 4:53 p.m.

    Like most economies, things will level out as time goes on. As items are consumed and as people acquire items they need and take them out of the market. The damage has already been done, let the game economy balance itself out over the long-term.
  • ferrety6012 - April 20, 2014 4:12 a.m.

    I think they are going to have to reset all currency/items from the game at this point. The economy is destroyed, and it can't recover from this sort of damage. As long as I don't lose my Levels I will continue to play, if I was reset to Level 1 however I don't think I would carry on.
  • Jacko415 - April 19, 2014 11:22 p.m.

    Yeah... The game is still so extremely young that they should just reset the servers. The sooner they do that the smaller the impact will be on the games lifespan. Token is right, reset and give everyone free stuff so they don't abandon it.
  • Timstertimster - April 19, 2014 1:01 p.m.

    It's nuts how terrible software engineering and QA has become. Bugs. Bugs. Everywhere. Bugs on YouTube and gmail. Bugs on Yahoo mail. Not just small ones. No. Big ones. It's like all the skilled engineers have retired and all we have left are 19-year olds building crappy server architectures, managed by CTO's who refuse to fire a dev lead who releases buggy code that can't be rolled back. And of course a ton of outsourcing to dev teams on the other side if the planet. Dev teams who give a rats ass to quality and only care about billable hours. Oh. You want another attribute available in that API method here? Okay. That will take 6 months to build and cost you 140,000. It's rape.
  • Georgeisbusting - April 19, 2014 9:52 a.m.

    Just like a dupe bug on stacks did for Wow when it first came out. Just like it did for GW? I think you and irresponsible articles such as this will spell doom and gloom for ESO. Games have bugs when they first come out. Zenimax is fixing it. What you want is to see the game fail. That's all your exaggerated title is doing.
  • Sinosaur - April 19, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    It's important to consider that the MMO market has shifted substantially from the days of release WoW and GW, and GW has always had a very different model compared to other MMO's. It might not kill ESO, but we've seen a lot of MMOs be forced out of the subscription only model due to rocky starts in the last few years.
  • shellbelle2 - April 19, 2014 8:22 a.m.

    This is not good. I agree with TokenGames. Bite the bullet and do the right thing....and give everyone a free mount.
  • TokenGamesRadarFurry - April 18, 2014 2:35 p.m.

    Fix your damn game, wipe your servers and give everyone a free month. Just nip it in the bud Zenimax.

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