PSA: Using VPNs in Blade & Soul Might Get You Permanently Banned by NCSOFT

An NCSOFT spokesperson has issued the following statement:
We are investigating the affected accounts and will update everyone involved in their support tickets. Our stance on VPN/WTFast is that we don’t support it, however we don’t ban accounts based on sole VPN usage even if players who use them do so at their own risks.

Further explanation reveals that somewhere around 50 people were banned for various “suspicious” characteristics, including using a VPN from outside the United States. This was performed mistakenly thinking they were Blade & Soul gold sellers or others looking to exploit the economy. NCSOFT is now taking measures to unban these legitimate accounts provided they contact customer service.

We recommend avoiding VPNs for the time being while gold sellers flood the servers, especially if you live outside the United States.

[ORIGINAL STORY]: Within five days of Blade & Soul becoming available on official North American servers, more than a hundred players have reported that they’ve been permanently banned from the game. With no explanation provided by NCSOFT, these players insist that they’ve done nothing wrong to break the terms of service, leading to discussions on forums and social media regarding the cause.

Although these players didn’t cheat or exploit the game, they do share one thing in common: they all used virtual private networks (VPN).

One of the banned players who goes by the name TheCrimsonMerc has started a Reddit thread that has quickly become one of the most popular in the sub-Reddit’s history. Within the post are more than 140 comments, and more importantly screenshots of a conversation TheCrimsonMerc had with a member of the NCSOFT Support Team regarding his permanent ban. It goes as follows:

Following this conversation the community has come to the conclusion that NCSOFT forbids VPNs when playing Blade & Soul, and will terminate any account caught using one. It doesn’t just ban a player from Blade & Soul, either. It goes a step further and bans their entire account, rendering all purchases and characters across its library of games such as WildStar, Lineage 2, and Aion obsolete.

For those unfamiliar, VPNs are a way to re-route your connection to a server. In my case, I have to use a VPN while playing Final Fantasy XIV since my default route goes through an L3 hosted router that increases my latency by a significant amount before reaching the Montreal-based server farm. Without a VPN my ping sits at around 190ms and pushes even higher during primetime, resulting in significant lag, especially when I’m playing on my Ninja which relies on fast-paced Mudra skills. Using WTFast resulted in my ping dropping by more than half, allowing me to play the game with much faster inputs, leading to a better quality of life and higher DPS. I now refuse to play Final Fantasy XIV without a VPN. It’s that significant.

In other words, VPNs aren’t the devil, but NCSOFT thinks they are.

Blade & Soul is an MMO that relies strongly on a fast connection with low latency due to its fighting-style combat system. For players with bad routes, and those who live far away from the Houston-based server farm, VPNs provide the only means for achieving optimal performance. Players from Australia and South America in particular have quickly turned to tools like WTFast to make the game experience enjoyable. Unfortunately, they’ve come to find out a harsh truth.

In an effort to assist these players, a Reddit user by the name of spiritstone did the dirty work of reading through the entire Blade & Soul User Agreement and Rules of Conduct. He came to the following conclusion:

1. there is no trace of even a mention towards mere networks or underlying communications between a client’s machine to the service whether by hardware or software,
2. except where that communication either is explicitly created or maintained by some software that is not the game client, i.e. it acts like a user from the perspective of the service {8.i.iv.},
3. except where that communication is commercial, including from a commercial center outside of North America or the European Economic Area {8.h.ii.}.

Put simply, NCSOFT is serving a punishment of the tallest order to people who aren’t breaking the rules as they are written.

This sequence of events has painted a negative image on NCSOFT and its customer service just days after the long-awaited Western launch of its hit game. And if there’s anything to be learned from other MMOs of the recent past, it’s that even the smallest mistakes can result in a game struggling to remain popular outside the initial launch window. This is a moment in Blade & Soul’s history that NCSOFT should take very seriously.

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