Azile, from the Darktide News Network, sent an e-mail this week alerting me to the presence of a third party program that allowed users to levitate and avoid critical hits, among other features. Azile posted a warning that he had no experience with the program and any usage of it was at the player’s own risk.

And what a risk it was. Soon, reports came pouring in about accounts being hacked. According to message board posts, Microsoft has been banning any accounts when the original owners call in to report a hacking.

This is about right. The program, who’s website is now long gone, offered various ways of cheating. Levitating? Avoiding critical hits? That is not merely taking advantage of game bugs. Now, the players who downloaded the program are trying to find a “solution” to their problem.

There is only one solution that is acceptable here: Permanent banning. I do not feel sorry for these people in the slightest. They played, they paid. Indeed, while they mourn over a year plus of lost time in game, I’ll be laughing and celebrating their misfortune.

The conundrum here is the hypocrisy that could occur. The approach by Turbine and Microsoft towards third party programs in the past has been one of tolerance. Where do they draw the line? Only bugs that cause massive havoc on the servers have been bannable to date. It is painfully obvious these players were willing to cheat. Not even the blanket coverage of “It’s a feature,” will suffice as an answer for their actions.

Who is handling this? What lines are drawn? When will there be an absolute definition of cheating and exploiting in AC? Unless something practically destroys sections of the game, is it anything goes?

I\’e2\’80\’99ve said it before, and I\’e2\’80\’99ll say it again; Turbine and Microsoft\’e2\’80\’99s policy is a mess. With no clear-cut lines between fair play and cheating, players will do what they have just done: download programs that they know contain massive cheating capabilities. After all, they have little fear in way of consequences for their actions.

If the players who were hacked via the third-party program win a reprieve from Microsoft or Turbine, the integrity of the game will be gone. Permanently. It will be open season on Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call.

So I pray these hacked accounts stay banned. Not only the accounts, but the players themselves. Microsoft should use credit card numbers, addresses, e-mails, phone numbers, names, whatever it takes, to get rid of these players. Sure, by watching UO, we\’e2\’80\’99ve seen banned players regain access to an ORPG after a banning.

But, Microsoft and Turbine need to take bold, strong steps here. They need to put their foot down on third-party programs and cheating before they start salivating over a AC sequel. OSI made the mistake of not having a clear policy on third-party programs. Turbine and MS are now making the same one.

To the players who were hacked, I say, \’e2\’80\’9cTough shit.\’e2\’80\’9d No one should feel sorry for your cheating asses. Cry your crocodile tears. There should be no pity.

I, for one, am having one of my better AC weeks upon hearing of all this.