This is the story of how an amateur criminal used a simple piece of code and exploited some poorly written software to amass trillions of dollars and then distribute his ill-gotten gains almost at random.
A few online games have already been launched, designed to take advantage of Twitter’s huge and rapidly expanding user base. Arguably one of the most successful, or annoying, depending on your point of view is Spymaster.
Spymaster is a game somewhat reminiscent of the Zombies, Vampires, Pirates, Zombie Vampire Pirates (ad infinitum) style games, that were taking off on Facebook a couple of years back. Players recruit other Twitter users to their “Spy Ring” gaining rewards for that and for other actions such as assassinations of fellow players. Notifications for all of these actions are of course posted up on each players Twitter account, acting as advertising for the game. Some users have gone so far as to say that this kind of spam, as some see it, is ruining Twitter (some good tips for filtering out Spymaster tweets there too).
Well those same people may be very pleased to hear that the game was well and truly exploited last night, to the point where the game creators have had to reset many player accounts and zero their bank balances and temporarily disable some game features, frustrating many players to the point of giving up on the game.
Twitter user @partridge (a real-life Allan Partridge!) started out simply by trying to design a means of repeatedly carrying out online assassination attempts, using a neat little piece of HTML coding to save him repeatedly clicking on a button. Once he has earned enough to allow him to open a Swiss Bank Account (in the game of course) he developed a second HTML file to automatically transfer his earnings into the account, earning £950,000 (British pounds) while he slept.
Following this success, @partridge was tipped off about an in-game bug that allowed him to initiate bank transfers which had the net effect of duplicating his balance every time. This earned him £75.39 trillion in just 15 minutes.
Unsure of what to do with his new found wealth, the former spy and assassin turned good-guy and went on a massive Robin Hood style redistribution of wealth spree. Here’s a shot of his Twitter timeline, he gives his account of events here.
This of course is mostly entirely trivial (not to mention amusing in a schadenfreude kind of way) but for one important point.
Even prior to this event, people are making real money from this in-game money by selling it on to other players.
When bugs surface that give the money selling guy the possibility to generate limitless amounts of in-game cash, it’s well past time that the developers devote some themselves to writing and publicising the rules of the game. It’s simply not cricket chaps.