It was a beautiful day on a Walt Disney World Transportation Bus when I first saw the ad for a app called Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War. Being a fan of the ride, franchise, company (Disney), and the subject matter (Pirates), it seemed only natural that I would have to download and try this game as soon as I possibly could.
What would follow would be a year of ups and downs that explains how a game meant to be a mere distraction and hobby can quickly become and expensive addiction. Most games available for download advertise themselves as free to play but you quickly learn that in order to advance you need to spend.
Although most of the players are content being free there are some that choose to spend exorbitant amounts of money to play. Here is my story one of many. We start with a simple question.
Why did the big spenders become big spenders to begin with?
Let me start by saying I am one of the many players recently banned from the game Pirates of the Caribbean Tides of War. At the time of this writing my account is currently being held for a ransom of $22,239.00.
Let me start by stating that I never intended to become a serious e-gamer and I never even knew what a loader was as I had never played a mobile game prior to Tides of War. I didn’t get into Clash of Clans, Lords Mobile, or Mobile Strike; like many Tides of War veterans did. I also never would have because for me those games had no hook to reel me in.
I did get involved with Pirates of the Caribbean Tides of War because I was not only a fan of the movie franchise but of the company I thought who was running the show was Disney. I started off as a free player and as time went on I would spend 20 or 30 dollars here and there for a small growth benefit or to have money to apply a peace shield a.k.a a Bubble. However I was mainly able to enjoy life as a free player making marginal progress each day and enjoying it.
After a bit of time I joined a small alliance and all of a sudden the game was changed. I was now playing with real people and I found myself in a small family. We were all learning the game together and enjoyed checking in at least once a day with each other. Then suddenly that world changed.
A Romanian cash player called Chuck Norris showed up and basically round house kicked my alliance into pieces of flaming rubble. He destroyed everything and was doing things I didn’t even know was possible like porting around and speeding in ships to attack my teammates and I.
I thought he must be some kind of hacker because no one I had encountered in the game up until that point could do the things he was doing. It turns out he was just a big cash player and his techniques were merely simple tools in the cash players tool kit.
On that fateful day several of my alliance family members quit the game as they could easily see that they were out gunned or cannoned as it were. Our fearless leader who had taught me a lot of how to play and whom I had grown to respect; hid in his bubble. I however decided to fight because I wasn’t about to let anyone hurt my little family.
That day I lost 5 ships which to your average cash player is meaningless as they have the gold and salvage kits to easily repair any lost ships and soldiers in a matter of seconds. However for me fully healing from that attack was going to take me more than a month to recover from if I was even able to recover at all. To a free player every ship and solider is precious as your ability to replace them is greatly reduced by limiting factors built into the game.
Right there I should have been smart and quit the game. I should have just bubbled my fortress or just walked away from the game but I hate bullies. I spent most of my time in Tides of War fighting bullies and trying maintain a balance on the server I played on. For a very long time I played without using a loader and spent thousands of dollars to pay full retail price. I did not because I wanted to but because I had to in order to keep pace with the bad guys and bullies.
Finally, I reached a point where I was able to (by myself) protect my alliance and my whole little server. Then they announced a server merge. With the merge came a whole new set of players and a new bully alliance to deal with. I brought the fight to them hard and in order to set the tone I set what I still believe to be a PvP score record solely killing members of the other server that we had just merged with. My goal was to show them that my server would not be pushed around and we were all willing to fight.
Then the developer of the game did something I did not expect. They opened the server to server jumps. This allowed players to spend an amount of gold and move to any server they liked. Quickly we as well as the other servers were invaded by alternate accounts scouting us to see how strong or weak we where.
Then over the first night of server jumps we were invaded, like an alien landing, a large group of Korean super players (who may or may not have been developer funded) arrived in mass. Imagine that siege scene where a large army storms a town burning and pillaging as they go. I mean when I first saw Chuck Norris I thought this is one super player but overnight I was faced with a group of 30 – 40 super players and they had malicious intent.
They didn’t want to compete against the biggest alliance or fight an epic port battle. Their goal was more simple and sinister. They wanted to hold the server and its residents prisoner. To this day I still cannot understand what the goal was as no one was powerful enough to stand up to them not even me. Overnight things had changed.
No one was allowed to farm the NPC resource bases, or capture a port city, or even move as one of the big Korean players would sit their base next to every alliance hive as a scout waiting to call in their friends as the first sight of a shield failure. I couldn’t compete even if I spent every dollar I had and maxed out. I needed a team of spenders so I decided the only logical thing to do was to run (with my girlfriend at the time) and spend gold to jump servers as well.
In the end I knew I had no choice but to leave my server as I was already aware of what their intent was and I knew that I had no big spenders who were willing to help fight the battle that would be required in order to keep the server free. Since I wasn’t about to watch everything I built and everyone I cared about become the property of Korea I left.
However, no matter where I went it seemed that if I wanted to stay competitive I needed to spend more and more money. It got to a point where no matter how much I spent I couldn’t keep up and that’s when someone told me about loaders (Mind you up until that point I had paid full fare into the 10’s of thousands of dollars). It was explained to me like this. Nothing wrong or illegal with using a loader. A loader just uses currency exchange rates to offer you a discount. You are still buying the pack just at a discount like using a coupon. Oh did I forget to mention that the Koreans are offered “coupons” all the time no wonder they are able to max so easily.
They leverage a service called OneStore similar to the google play store in the US however they have 50% off days where you can buy packs in bulk. This allows the Korean players to make huge strength jumps in a matter of days where as most other regions of the world never get any discounts and often pay as much or more as their Korean counter parts. I should mention the game developer JoyCity is also Korean.
Back to loaders. Of course I didn’t know any better and I believed in the honesty of others. I wanted to continue to be able to fight the bullies and this loader was able to help me keep pace without going broke. It was a while after that I met my second loader who was able to offer me an even greater discount. However what this loader never told me and I never knew to ask was how his price was more reduced. Apparently there was something called the refund method.
Lets be clear I never approved stealing from the developer and I never expected that the person I was doing business with would do anything illegal. The way the refund method works is a person pays the loader usually 50% off the retail price of the pack and the loader then buys the pack for you. However in the refund method the loader turns right around to google and says that they never received the pack and Google will refund the money to the loader.
In this method the developer receives no money at all and the loader keeps the fee that I paid him/her. In my case I paid the loader thinking that this loader had just found the cheapest possible currency that could be used. I was wrong and what I didn’t know was an apocalypse clock had started and my game would soon be over.
On April 23rd 2018 the developer posted a new EULA or TOS agreement that for the first time addressed loaders, refunds, and account log on sharing and then retroactively banned more than 8,000 accounts. Not only did they ban the accounts but they decided that it would be a great idea to charge a ransom for the privilege of discussing having the account returned to you.
No guarantees if you read the fine print. In my case the developer wanted around 4.4 million game gold bought in parcels of 20,000 pieces of gold for $100.00 USD a parcel. Leaving my personal ransom around $22,239.00 USD. Well today my account has no hope of being recovered and the main problem is that I don’t really care and even if I did I wouldn’t pay for something I never did wrong and was not against the rules until they decided to retroactively ban accounts.
What JoyCity doesn’t realize is that they and many other players were looking for a way to break this never ending cycle of pay to play. Also at the same time JoyCity gave me justification for hefty refunds as they are accusing me of something that was never against the rules until they updated their terms of service and then applied it retro actively.
Yes I lost some money but I got a years worth of entertainment. Some amazing friends, met the love of my life, and a hard learned lesson about micro transaction games. Stay away!!!! It becomes a worse addiction than drinking or drugs because it is legal, easily available, and you never really know how deep you are in until that credit card/bank statement comes.
This will be my first and last micro transaction game. However JoyCity has made a grave mistake in the actions it has taken because I have a voice and I have been using it for some time now to keep other people away from this developer. I also have a wallet and were I just to have been warned I would have gone back to spending less but paying full fare giving the developer even more money.
Now I won’t ever spend with them again. On top of that I have gotten some hefty refunds already. So overall I have lost very little (cost of doing business) and had alot of fun but JoyCity has lost even more because without someone like me to check the bullies even more people will continue to leave the server or quit and ask for their own refunds.
It will eventually get to a point where most of the old school e-games are. A hand full of die hard players but a customer base hardly worth keeping the server open for.
However JoyCity also has two other big problems to deal with. The first being that this is a licensed game and “The Mouse” aka Disney doesn’t like extortionists. This cannot be good publicity for them. Secondly when you break terms of service with the users and extort them you cast a poor light on your payment processors namely Apple and Google. At some point soon Apple and Google might come to the realization that its not worth the cost and hassle of dealing with JoyCity as a developer and may just remove the apps altogether.
However in truth most of this may never happen because as the old adage goes there’s a sucker born every minute. Well this sucker is taking his money and running far far away.
And thus ends the tail of the knight named Lancelot. It was fun but at the end of the day I will not miss what Tides of War had to offer me.