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Old 03-01-2006, 12:09 AM   #1
the_logos
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There's a good article in the Escapist currently about the potential of persistent online identities. The problem, as we're all aware, is that people can hide behind non-persistent online identities and act like general jackasses, with no reprecussions. There are a number of potentially pending solutions (including those from IBM and Microsoft) that aim to ensure that someone's online identity remains constant rather than tying someone's online identity to his/her physical world identity.

How does this impact MUDs? How useful would it be to be able to track a players' behavior across MUDs or even within MUDs that contain the ability to create characters without providing relatively unique identifying information like a credit card? Dealing with grief players and those players who engage in financial fraud would immediately become MUCH easier.

I used to be all about anonymity on the internet, but over time, I've come to realize that it's quite important to be able to maintain and verify a persistent identify, even if it's not tied to your physical-world persona. For instance, look at Kavir. His real name is, obviously, not Kavir, and the identity is tied to his real identity only because he's let his real name be known. At the same time though, does it matter that his real identity is not immediately identifiable? I'd say it doesn't, as long as one can be reasonably certain that if one encounters "Kavir" one is encountering the same person, and not multiple people attempting to impersonate someone in particular.

China is actually at the forefront of this insofar as they've recently started a government-funded project to tie online identities to offline identities in order to allow online games companies to fulfill the mandate that their games start tapering off rewards for gameplay after X number of hours within a single day (in an attempt to stop habitual playing).

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Old 03-01-2006, 01:53 AM   #2
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Korea also ties them together on most major Korean sites like Daum, Naver, Cyworld and the Korean Kartrider site. They require your Korean ID number(Social Security Number) in order to make an account. Unlike American sites that I have seen(and built) that ask for it, Korean sites actually verify via a government server that the number is valid and the real name you gave is the one tied to that number.
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Old 03-01-2006, 08:24 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Baram @ Mar. 01 2006,02:53)
Korea also ties them together on most major Korean sites like Daum, Naver, Cyworld and the Korean Kartrider site.  They require your Korean ID number(Social Security Number) in order to make an account.  Unlike American sites that I have seen(and built) that ask for it, Korean sites actually verify via a government server that  the number is valid and the real name you gave is the one tied to that number.
That's not really the same thing though, and already exists in the West with credit cards. The problem is that there's no guarantee, at all, that the person using the name/number combo is the person who it is supposed to be. It's trivial to find other people's SS#s and names if you want and simply use that info.

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Old 03-01-2006, 11:54 AM   #4
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This would be exceptionally valuable. If people were not able to generate an infinite number of identities, it would finally become possible to truly ban destructive troublemakers. This, in turn, would result in people being be far less likely to engage in purely negative grief play in the first place (well, unless the game allowed or encouraged it). Anonymity is not the problem here so much as the ability to easily dump one identity when it becomes unpopular (or gets in trouble) and taking up a new one.

It would also deal a massive hit to the third party RMT folks. Character selling would become nearly impossible, and banning farmer accounts (and identities) would be more effective.

I had no idea Microsoft and IBM were working on ways to accomplish this. The only thing I'd ever heard of in the past were things like Intel's CPU signature that went over like a lead balloon.

Where can I read more about the Microsoft and IBM efforts to accomplish this?
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Old 03-01-2006, 01:43 PM   #5
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I've never heard of things in development that would allow this either. It would have to be linked to something like social security numbers or drivers license numbers. Otherwise someone could just change IPs or change computers and again there's nothing to connect them to their new alter ego.

I mean, if you buy a new computer and change ISPs, what's left that connects you to any past online personality?
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Old 03-01-2006, 02:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
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The only thing I'd ever heard of in the past were things like Intel's CPU signature that went over like a lead balloon.
I think this is why an effort to do this in the West could fail as well.  In the case of China and Korea, both movements involved the participation of the government.  I doubt privacy advocates would sit idly should such an attempt by our government start gaining momentum.

Having said that, I think that there are less intrusive ways to to accomplish this, but would require a little bit of coordination on the part of the gaming companies.  For instance, Visa has the "Verified by Visa" program, which provides a way for cardholders to assign a password to their credit card.  In theory, it's a great idea, in practice, it sucks.

Gaming companies could create a similar program.  For instance, in order to fully activate an account, they could require players to provide some unique information, which corresponded to a "game players registry".  The registry would simply authenticate the players information.  The registry's task would be to insure that players are unique and who they say they are, which would of course require voluntary participation on the part of the player.  The success factor would be making the registry free (or low cost), accessible, and easy-to-implement, problems that plague the aforementioned "Verified by Visa" program.
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Old 03-01-2006, 02:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Mar. 01 2006,09:24)
That's not really the same thing though, and already exists in the West with credit cards. The problem is that there's no guarantee, at all, that the person using the name/number combo is the person who it is supposed to be. It's trivial to find other people's SS#s and names if you want and simply use that info.
That might depend on the legal environment. Right now, if I log on to a MUD and lie my ass off about who I am, it's the MUD's problem. If the MUD bans me and I devise a workaround, it's the MUD's problem. However, if I was using someone else's SSN (especially without their consent), I might be committing an offense that the legal system would care about. This is particularly true if the persistent ID had a much broader reach than the entertainment community. For example, if the system was used to validate your identity at government web sites, etc. It's analogous to why ****ing around with the US mail system is a bad idea.

This would amount to a virtual ban on foreign players without some sort of workaround, however, which would be bad for many MUDs.

Another difference with a government ID-based plan would be that many potential gamers are minors who may not have access to credit cards, driver's licenses, or other commonly-employed means of "adult" identification.

Right now, our primary weapon against grief players is that it can often take them hours to do what we can undo in a couple commands (delete their character, ban their ISP). But you occasionally find "special" players who will spend all day being a nuisance, and it's a waste of administrative resources to even spend the few minutes it takes to deal with them.

A reasonable solution that didn't sacrifice an individual's privacy (for example, some form of encrypted third-party verification service, so the MUD never sees your personal data) would do for online gaming what Caller ID and reverse-lookup did to prank calling.
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Old 03-01-2006, 03:59 PM   #8
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I think it would make sense to try and tie an identity to a person's social security number, since it's a pretty secure form of indentification. There's probably still ways around, I'm sure, but unless the twink in question's a talented paper artist, I'll doubt they'd be able to establish a new identity just to hassle your mud.

Using credit cards doesn't appeal to me as much, just because I know I've been getting a new offer every month, and I know for a fact that deceased people will still continue getting offers at their old address, regardless how many times you break the news to them. So unless shredding becomes law, I wouldn't use plastic.

What makes me a bit uneasy would be a ****tily-guarded server with my important numbers sitting in it; then people might be able to find a way into my identity through a third-rate MMORPG or mud that didn't bother taking precautions.
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Old 03-01-2006, 04:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Mar. 02 2006,04:25)
This would amount to a virtual ban on foreign players without some sort of workaround, however, which would be bad for many MUDs.

Another difference with a government ID-based plan would be that many potential gamers are minors who may not have access to credit cards, driver's licenses, or other commonly-employed means of "adult" identification.
For us Foreigners it's a pain in the... If I want to use those sites(even though I'm a resident of Korea now), I have to go through a long process that involves sending them copies of my id card. I haven't bothered in over 3 years.

For Korea the minors aren't a problem, as you get an ID at a very young age.
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Old 03-01-2006, 06:46 PM   #10
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From the article:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
How can I convince you I am who I say I am in a digital context, while at the same time protecting myself from prying eyes, and giving others the chance to maintain the cloak of anonymity some find so crucial to their online lives?
This is central to the issue for me. Much of what drives the interesting aspects of online role-playing has to do with the anonymity involved. If we take that away are we really doing the player a service in doing so?

While the benefits for mud administrators are obvious, what benefits does everyone here think the players might receive? The only one I recall the article citing is making real money trades more secure.

Then there are the issues of privacy. The microsoft system would have your information stored on their authentication servers. Add this to Larks concern above and I start to get a little uneasy. The Papillon model looks a fair bit more promising in this regard, but again I wonder how sharing a single identity across games will necessarily be a good thing.

- Ryan
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Old 03-01-2006, 07:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (malaclypse @ Mar. 01 2006,19:46)
While the benefits for mud administrators are obvious, what benefits does everyone here think the players might receive? The only one I recall the article citing is making real money trades more secure.
- I think the issued with privacy would require that the MUD wouldn't actually "see" your data, ever. There would be a server somewhere, and the player and the MUD would coordinate somehow to ask "Is this person KaVir?" If you want to use a government ID (SSN would be most logical in the US), that server would likely have to be a government agency. (They already know your ID information, of course, but now they'd also know that you're registering at game X.)

- Another possibility is a private company with an authentication process like PayPal's. That would be an opt-in system that is difficult to forge. Games could either require people to use it, or offer incentives to those who do. The problem would be that unless a system was in very widespread use, it's a big pain, especially for people who just want to drop by and check a place out.

- I think the most obvious benefit to players is: Not having to play a game alongside morons. One of the reasons Carrion Fields is tough on cheaters/griefers/etc. is because we operate under the assumption that one sufficiently unchecked idiot can drive away more than one good player. Being able to reliably exclude chronic problems would help you cultivate a much more appealing group of people to game with.
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Old 03-02-2006, 05:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Mar. 01 2006,20:35)
 If you want to use a government ID (SSN would be most logical in the US), that server would likely have to be a government agency.   (They already know your ID information, of course, but now they'd also know that you're registering at game X.)
It's illegal by U.S. federal law to use a Social Security Number for such purposes. It's a poorly-enforced law, but given tighter restrictions since 2001, it's a law that has received and likely will receive more attention (in fact, it has since 1998 at least).

Take care,

Jason
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