Here's the second part to the World of Warcraft powerlevelling story that was posted last week. I know quite a few people have been desperate to read the next part, so here it is. Like last time, this story has been edited to add clarity and spice.
I should also note that this was originally to be the last of it. Unfortunately, it was still way too large to post, so the third (and last part, I swear) will be put up next week.
Now some disclaimer-related action.
So, where was I?
Shitting myself, I think.
Three days in. Level 28. Looking good. Calm.
At peace. And then, the mistake.
You may remember I mentioned something about precautions one must undertake to minimise the chances of having your account banned. As you can guess, being banned is rather counter-productive to the whole powerlevelling process.
The two precautions I was aware of, I followed. The third, which remained unknown to me, I didn't. I quickly found out it about it though.
With little to do while my character rose in power, I surfed the web and, like any hardcore WoW player, browsed the game's forums.
It was then I admitted to myself that I could have done a lot more research about powerlevelling. I should have done more research. But like any impulse buyer, I made my purchasing decision in haste and now, I was using the web to simply gather reassurance like a squirrel does nuts for winter.
Comfort was not to be found, however. What I did find, hidden away in Google's search results, was a forum dedicated to powerlevelling. More accurate, the dangers of powerlevelling.
Many, if not all, of the powerlevelling sites go to great lengths to address the concerns associated with the procedure. How could they stay in busy if they got caught, for instance? Or commandeered accounts and stole passwords? Questions powered by logic, but only if you're willing to ignore the fact that anyone caught using a powerlevelling service is hardly going to advertise, or even admit, to it.
You only read about the success stories. That's the way the world works. And being gullible and desperate, I believed them.
Until I discovered the site.
50 Levels of Hell Reading the forums of this site was like perusing obituaries in a newspaper. Of the twenty or so stories I read, only two or three reported success, and even then, they were reluctant to share their knowledge, as if parting their secrets would somehow reveal their crime to Blizzard, or parade their shame to their WoW playing friends and family.
Despite the site's obvious goal to dissuade players from powerlevelling, it nonetheless provided a "survival guide" if you did/had decided to engage in paid-for character advancement. This is where I first learnt, in detail, the methods Blizzard uses to hunt down powerlevellers.
They monitor IPs when you log in to your characters. Check.
They can tell from your IP where you've logged in from. Check.
You shouldn't log into your account during the process. Check.
You shouldn't log into the forums or account management while the service is active.
I remember feeling my heart race and, although I didn't believe it possible, I was somehow sweating from everywhere.
I was scared.
It seems dumb now to have had such strong emotions over what is, essentially, a record in an Oracle database. But then, isn't the amount of cash in your bank account just a number on a hard drive somewhere?
After a few minutes, the fear passed and I began thinking rationally. You haven't been caught yet, I told myself, so you still have a chance. The first decision I made was to stick with the reporting service on the powerlevelling website. I cut off all interaction with the game to minimise the risk.
Denied the real-time updates of my character's progress that I'd once enjoyed, I didn't stay up late that night hitting the refresh button of my browser.
I turned off the computer, walked to my bed, and tried to sleep. Little did I know, my troubles had only just begun.
One Little Level, Two Little Levels... The next morning my Blood Elf was 29, no doubt laying some Seal of Judgement smack talk on Arathi Highlands' less-hospitable citizens. I was feeling better after my run-in with the powerlevelling forum that spoke about nothing but the evils of the act.
It got me thinking about why powerlevelling is perceived in such a bad light. If you ignore the issues with low-paid Chinese labourers, all you're doing is exchanging money for time. Some people have hours on end to spend grinding away - others have jobs instead. If you're a veteran of the game, have the money, and just want to play another character without repeating hours upon hours of content, shouldnâ€™t there be some sort of shortcut? I think Blizzard could do quite well legitimising the service. Not only that, they could probably get away charging 100s of dollars for it. I'm sure there are even more complex issues surrounding such an idea, but on the surface, the logic seems sound.
I monitored the powerlevelling site on and off during that day. Then, I had an idea: Why couldn't my brother monitor the progress of my character? After all, it was being levelled on the same server.
Of course, that meant telling my brother I was powerlevelling a character. But he was my brother and I felt he'd understand my reasons for doing it.
Methods alternate It was the night of the fourth day I broached the subject with my sibiling. He was running Alterac Valley, showing newbies that shadow priests can indeed melt faces. The conversation turned out to be less complicated than I thought it would be.
"Hey, Mark." "Yeah bro?" "I'm powerlevelling a character on your server." "Oh." A pause. "How's that going?" "Not bad. I need a favour."
I think at this point he was wondering if I was going to ask him to do something that would put his account at risk. I can say, right now, that I would never have done that. Powerlevelling was my decision, and if it was going to screw me, that's all it would screw.
"Ah sure man. What's up?" "Can I get you to /who my character for me?"
I explained to him how powerlevelling worked. I told him what you can and can't do. I began to feel the fear from the day before. Mark could see I was tensing up.
"It's cool man, I can do that. What's the name?"
I told him the character's name.
"Easy. I'll let you know if anything happens." "Thanks, I really appreciate it."
I turned to leave.
"Hey, bro?" "Yeah Mark." "Don't freak about it. If it's going to happen, it'll happen. Personally, I reckon your safe. I mean, how many people play WoW?" "Like, eight million or something." "That's a lot of people to keep watch on."
I relaxed at little at the thought. Suddenly the reality of monitoring individual logins and playing habits seemed a monumental task, even from a company like Blizzard. The size of the logs alone would be in the gigabytes, if not terabytes. They'd have to make concessions somewhere, and maybe I'd slip through the cracks.
It was a nice thought. It helped me rest soundly that night.
Odd behaviour Between the end of the fourth day and the start of the fifth, my character had hit level 32.
And joined a guild.
That couldn't possibly be right, I told myself. Yet, there I was standing behind my brother, the results of the interrogative "/who" command staring back at me.
"FalgOroO?" "That's a really weird name for a guild dude." "Yeah, it is." "You know what it sounds like?" I had an idea. "Engrish."
It was classic mutilation of the English language by a foreign country. Usually it's something one gets a laugh out of.
It made me want to vomit until my stomach disintegrated. If anything was a red flag, a big giant "We're a bunch of powerlevellers" sign, it was a guild with a nonsensical name like "FalgOroO".
My brother didn't reply. I left the room and didn't check on my character until the sixth day.
Hate Mail A nice fat level 33 greeted my brother and I on the sixth day. Just 17 more levels and I'd be free and clear. I was in an odd place emotionally, as my growing excitement at starting from 50 instead of 1 conflicted with the engorged tumour that was my fear.
That's when I got the email.
The address said it was from the powerlevelling site I'd ordered the service from. There was little meat to the body of the letter, but what was there was enough to transform my fear tumour into a malignant cancer of terror.
"Your password has changed and the powerleveller can't log into your account."
It was official, then. I had been caught and subsequently banned. I knew in my heart it was only going to be a matter of time, and it looks like time finally reckoned I mattered.
For the hell of it, I tried logging into my account management via the Blizzard website. What did I care, seeing as I was banned? I entered my details and expected a lovely, warm error box telling me I was a dillhole.
Instead, I meet the welcoming arms of my account.
It was fine. Nothing was wrong. My password hadn't changed. The powerlevelling service had got it wrong. But now I'd increased my chances of getting caught by logging into my account management.
I logged out quickly and sat back for a moment. I came up with three scenarios: 1) Occam's Razor: The simplest explanation is often the correct one. It actually was the real powerlevelling service, and they just typed the password in incorrectly. That, or only realised the mistake after the email was sent, and have since found out. 2) It was another powerlevelling service, or a con job from some other source, trying to nab my account details 3) Now, this was the scariest one - it was Blizzard, who had noticed something odd with my account (IPs changing perhaps) and sent me an email in the guise of the powerlevelling service to smoke me out. By changing my password and subsequently sending a reply, they would be able to confirm my guilt and ban my account.
As paranoid as number three was, it was the only I believed true. Seeing as my account appeared to work fine, and there was no reason to reply, I didn't. I tried my best to ignore the email and get on with my day.
Then I received another email. Same message, written in somewhat poorer Engrish. I needed to get to the bottom of it.
At that time, my brother wasn't available to check if my character was logged in. That's when another idea occurred to me - I could use a trial account and check my character that way. I was sure I had a disc with a trial key hidden somewhere, and within five minutes, I was sorting it out via the World of Warcraft website.
Hesitantly, I started up WoW for the first time in six days. With a touch delicate enough to tickle the palms of a newborn, I entered in the trial account details and logged in. I don't know what I was expecting, but it worked without a hitch.
I made a Troll with a random name and appearance, and jumped into the game. As soon as the user interface appeared, I typed in a "/who" query.
Bam. There I was, levelling away happily. I was level 35, in fact.
So, the mysterious email remained unsolved, and I had another way of checking my character. I still felt odd, as if between two worlds. I knew if I was banned, I'd never play WoW again. On the other hand, if by some miracle the powerlevelling worked and I wasn't caught, I had no idea how much longer I'd stick with the game.
So much for quitting.
To be concluded next week...