Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Question of Ethics

One of the downsides to a small-pop server is that there are fewer things to spend your gold on. More people equals more AH competition, of course, but it also means more volume of BoE epics and other goodies. Having already hit my goal, I am more interested in perhaps seeing another Fury of Angerforge or basically new BoE epics instead of the tired 353 and boring 359 crafted pieces. After another day with nothing new, I lamented in Trade chat one night "WTB more interesting BoE epics" in an effort to shake something out of the tree.

The problem with shaking the tree is that sometimes hairy things actually fall out.

Vitreous Beak of Julak-Doom is a BoE epic drop from an elite mob in Twilight Highlands, and basically requires a raid group to kill unless you want to fight for half an hour. As you can see from Trade Chat however, the item itself is allegidly hot, e.g. the result of a "ninja." The question then becomes: do you care?

Scenario 1: You find Virteous Beak on the AH for 7500g buyout.

Scenario 2: You haggle someone selling Virteous Beak in Trade Chat down to 7500g.

Scenario 3: You win Virteous Beak in a raid, but don't equip it right away because you lack the enchanting mats to put Hurricane/Power Torrent on it. Two weeks later, your raid team collapses. You sell the Beak for 17,000g on the AH.

Scenario 4: You low-ball someone selling Virteous Beak on Trade Chat in spite of a random person going on about how the seller is a ninja (in a non-Master Looter situation).

Scenario 5: You buy 105 stacks of Elementium Ore for 24g/stack from someone who is clearly a bot.

Among the five scenarios, which ones are ethical and which ones are unethical? I think we could all agree that Scenario 1 is pretty straight-forward ethically... but does the difference between 1 & 4 really come down to ignorance? As long as you do not know the sweat shop conditions of the Malyasian plant that manufactured the shirt you are wearing, it is ethical to purchase said shirt? And what does it say to us as AH barons to flagrantly purchase bot-gathered Ore off the AH (or even barter directly with said botters!) when our actions directly affect the gold-selling trade?

Would you have bought the Vitreous Beak from the guy for 7500g (assuming you had a caster who could use it)? Would you have bought it and then resold it for, say, 17500g? Does any of this sort of thing phase you in-game when it comes up vis-a-vis ninja/bot-farmed goods? How goblin is goblin?

Let me know in the comments below.


  1. I find it ethically speaking irrelevant. There's no way I'll know the story of any particular item, and even if a good portion of trade chat says the person ninja'd the item, I'd likely give the supposed ninja the benefit of the doubt. There's no way to know for sure, as the whole process is a person's word against the other.

    At the end of the day, WoW is a game. While in game, If an item makes my recreation time more fun then I will buy it. It is Blizzard's job to take care of bots, not mine or any players.

    Of course out of game buying is more something players have a choice and while the idealist in me hopes that players will say no to such things, the realist says that the majority of players really don't care.

  2. There are no ninjas. Period. If you can roll, you have the right to roll. If there is a master looter, he has to follow the stated rules or a GM would intervene. If there are no rules he is free to do whatever he wants.

  3. I'd say that by asking the question if doing something is ethical too much, it gives a distinct competitive advantage to the rest of the people who aren't.

    If you are the raid leader who ninja's the item or a sniper who sits at the neutral AH, that's two scenarios where you're kind of a douche... but as for what you are talking about, you're legitimately acquiring what you're buying on your end.

    You get my stamp of approval and may now sleep at night. :)

  4. Out of all those, I would feel bad about scenario number three, but I'd probably do it anyways. Number four I would only care if it was someone I knew and trusted that claimed it was ninjad, otherwise I'd just assume it was trolling or some other dishonesty.

  5. @ Director

    What's wrong with sniping on the neutral AH? It is no less ethical than posting up faction pets or Vials of the Sands for 1c so you can make a bigger profit on the other faction. That's not really the purpose of the neutral AH, and in fact sniping was officially sanctioned by Blizzard as your risk when trying to circumvent the game's design! If anything, cross-faction selling is less ethical than sniping. (Disclaimer - I've made a ton of money with arbitrage myself.)

    With regards to the five scenarios above, I wouldn't have a problem with any of them except #3. While I do things some would consider 'bad', I would never NOT immediately equip a BoE item I won in a guild group. The other four scenarios are just examples of being a good goblin.

    For example, I buy cheap ore posted in batches of 100 stacks all the time. I see no valid reason to handicap my goblin activities on the chance -- or even the likelihood -- that the person who posted the ore is breaking the rules. It's a good deal, and I'd be foolish to dismiss it because I don't know how the seller got it.

    To take it a step further, I negotiated a purchase of almost 400 uncut Inferno Rubies down to 18g each a couple nights ago -- his initial asking was 35g each. That's freaking highway robbery! And afterwards, I felt great about it. By some people's 'standards', I should feel guilty for taking such advantage of him. Point is, you can never really know what motivates a seller, and you can never assume an awesome deal is just because the seller somehow got it 'illegally'.

    The problem is, the automatic assumption is that the great deals out there were ill-gotten. I'd wager that it's FAR more common that they're just lazy, uninformed, or highly motivated (impatient) sellers.

    Now... if I got a whisper saying "I hacked this account and gotta move this stuff ASAP... you want to buy 400 rubies for 18g each??" I'd say no.

  6. Either A) He took it in violation of stated loot rules before the kill, and Blizzard will deal with it if people ticketed the event, or B) He sells it and makes money.

    The only difference to me is that I'd probably haggle relentlessly. Isn't it my ethical responsibility to make sure he gets as little money as possible from his activities?

    And flipping it... well... even good Samaritans have living expenses...