Player Robs Virtually, But Nabbed In Reality

Mon Aug 22, 2:24 PM ET

A Chinese exchange student was arrested in Japan last week for using bots to run virtual stick-ups in the Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle online game, stealing items from players then reselling them on eBay.
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Police in Kagawa prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, arrested the student, the Mainichi Daily News reported. He used game bots -- automated characters that have been tweaked -- to beat up and rob other players' characters, said police.

The items, which could have included Lineage II staples such as the "Earring of Wisdom" or the "Shield of Nightmare," were then fenced on e-auction sites, claimed NCsoft, the Korean maker of Lineage II. Players of the game noted on message boards that the items had appeared on eBay.

Bots are a problem for online game developers and providers. Unethical players create characters that can do repetitive tasks automatically (to, for instance, earn game "currency") or very quickly (such as in this case).

"The player arrested was, as near as we can tell, using a bot program and PKing [Player Killing], then selling the drops on eBay," wrote one poster on the Linage II player message board. "There is no 'hack' involved other than the usual bot program."

The line between real and virtual cash is already gone. While players sometimes buy, sell, and trade items in black or gray markets, some game makers, like Sony, have sanctioned online trading. In April, Sony opened an official sales site for its popular EverQuest online game.

NCsoft's other online games include "Guild Wars" and "City of Heroes."