On multiaccounting - A perspective

Lechu1730-PGOLechu1730-PGO Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭

While this is in a certain way off topic for the forum, there is a constant theme of blaming wayfarer abuse on multiaccounting and then criticizing Niantic for not doing anything about it. While the abuse claims might be true, my idea is to present my impression of why doing something about multiaccounting isn't as simple as it seems.

The perspective I will present is centered on PoGo, which is the game I play. While I do have an Ingress account, I only use it as a wayfarer tool and I'm utterly ignorant of how the game is played.

The first thing you need to understand is what your typical multiaccounting looks like. Based on my community, this means having two accounts and play more or less regularly on both, using a dedicated phone for each one. Based on my experience during early covid lock down, before the interaction radius increase, when I was the designated grocery shopper and used to carry my kids phones with me so I could at least spin a couple of stops a day for them, there's no way to play simultaneously with more than two phones.

The use pattern of this kind of multiaccounting is probably easy to see for Niantic: two accounts moving together. Unfortunately, since two different phones are used how can Niantic be sure that they aren't two different people playing together? We do have husband and wife and siblings teams on our group that normally play together, not to mention me and my kids. Banning those people for suspected multiaccounting would be counterproductive, especially when low level multiaccounting (2 accounts) isn't disruptive for the game so there isn't much to gain banning it.

Then you have spoofers, which normally have at least a "clean" account and one or more used for spoofing. While multiaccounting is generally ignored in PoGo, spoofing is not and many groups, including mine, will ban you and kick you out if you're discovered to be a spoofer. Unfortunately, most spoofers choose a remote location and keep playing in that area, changing account when they want to change areas. While this kind of multiaccounters may have enough accounts to engage in wayfarer abuse, they're also more difficult to detect because their use patterns won be perfect matches and their phones are lying to Niantic servers about almost everything.

Finally, you have the guys who purchase inactive accounts. They might use several of them to influence voting but how would Niantic identify that two different accounts are actually the same person when the use patterns won't match.

So, in a nutshell, I think it's difficult for Niantic to take action against multiaccounting without unjustly punishment honest players.

Comments

  • SiIverLyra-PGOSiIverLyra-PGO Posts: 852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    On the other hand, I don't think it'd be too difficult for Niantic to connect "secondary" accounts to cases of mass Wayfarer abuse.

    The same accounts that make the nominations/edits, the same accounts that vote positively for abusive nominations.

    Members of the Wayfarer community do the hard work of collecting data and connecting these cases of abuse all the time. Niantic can easily check their database and see the exact accounts behind those cases.

    Yet in many cases - mostly of the most prevalent/recurring abuse - they seem to choose not to do so.

    I really don't see why we should bother working so hard, and sometimes paying a personal price in our local communities, so long as Niantic don't have our backs in taking effective actions against these abusers.

    As I said before - at this point I honestly think the monetary gain they get from the added wayspots takes precedence over their abusive nature (in mass cases, at least, with Zaragoza being the most obvious example).

    So I do think Niantic have the tools to take care of multiaccouting abusers - but, at this point, reporting mass abuse just doesn't seem worth it.

  • Lechu1730-PGOLechu1730-PGO Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭

    Niantic can clearly identify the abusive submitter, but I'm not sure it's so easy to tell apart the accomplices in the abuse who approved the nominations from the plain inexperienced reviewers who didn't notice the fakes. Nomination Improvement gives us plenty of examples of how people fail to understand how reviewing should be done, particularly proof of existence. How is Niantic going to distinguish between the malicious and the misguided?

    Regarding Zaragoza, I'm not sure on the details. Was the massive cluster showing fake and/or mismatched PoIs or the PoIs are real and in the correct place now and the abuse was only that they were moved around during creation to avoid the cell restrictions?

  • sogNinjaman-INGsogNinjaman-ING Posts: 3,300 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2021

    Well, I've seen one person turn up with 5 phones / tablets for raids and use them all at once. In my experience of playing PoGo, an awful lot of players have more than one account, quite often they are called the "baby account", and they turn up to raids with two phones. As with Stop / Gym creation, PoGo "rewards" player for multi-accounting as you can trade Pokemon with yourself for bonus "Lucky" Pokemon and the like.

  • Lechu1730-PGOLechu1730-PGO Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭

    Five phones might be possible for raiding (I've never seen that many, I wonder how it's used) but no for regular gameplay.

    I agree that there are gameplay "rewards" for multiaccounting (lucky trades, regular gym switching, easier raiding) but that wasn't my point. What I'm talking about is how feasible is for Niantic to identify multiaccounters and punish them without affecting honest players.

  • patsufredo-PGOpatsufredo-PGO Posts: 2,502 ✭✭✭✭✭

    *cough* Taiwanese grandpa *cough*

  • Lechu1730-PGOLechu1730-PGO Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭

    Lol, yeah, but by the time he finished catching the first pokemon with his 50th phone the second one had despawned.

    I took me 8 months of daily playing to reach level 38 to nominate. With a little bit more effort you may be able to level a second account, but after that the mechanics of the game mean that you need almost twice the time effort for the next two accounts, and so on. The taiwanese grandpa would need to be playing almost nonstop if he wants to level all his 50 accounts to 38 in less than a year.

  • Belahzur-INGBelahzur-ING Posts: 574 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It's more the precedent of it, that he gets media attention and fame, basically actively advertises that he multi-accounts and no one seems to cares, while it's actively written in Niantic's TOS and they don't care either because Niantic probably fear bad PR if they started tracking him and banning his accounts, but still, it shows a precedent of this: "if pogo grandpa can carry around 10 accounts, then so can everyone else, and if everyone else can, then there's no point to even having the TOS at all"

  • SiIverLyra-PGOSiIverLyra-PGO Posts: 852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Also: the more accounts a single person owns, the more money they can potentially spend on the game.

  • Belahzur-INGBelahzur-ING Posts: 574 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yeah that too, if they started caring/banning multi-accounters (who lets face it have a huge self-benefit over people who play just 1 account), then they have to start tracking and banning other multiaccounters, and they'd lose so much bottom line that now it's just a widely accepted things and so multi-account people can get away with it and the TOS means jack anymore.

  • BaltiCalling-INGBaltiCalling-ING Posts: 330 ✭✭✭✭

    Multi-accounting has a substantial unfair impact in all Niantic products, including Wayfarer.

  • Damastaglen-PGODamastaglen-PGO Posts: 116 ✭✭✭

    It’s a difficult one to track.

    Yes there are those who have baby accounts so they can trade between and get lucky Pokémon but as the OP says it may be that you are spinning a few stops on a ‘supply run’ for your kids while you are out already. I read a post not so long ago from a guy who is the only person who plays in his village and he uses an alt to kick himself out of the gym to get coins.

    Regardless why you do it, the problem is Niantic can’t prove that you are cheating unless they saw you. Even if the IP was the same on 2 accounts that always are within 10ft of each other, they’d have to determine it was mobile data not home / business Wi-fi and even then it could be a wife tethering husbands phone because she has no credit (for example)

  • Lechu1730-PGOLechu1730-PGO Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭

    Actually, the more money a person has, the more money they can spend in the game. A pennyless multiaccounter spends no money...

    Pokemon Go supports different kinds of approaches to the game (PvP, legendary raiding, shiny hunting, catch'em all, etc.). Only in PvP you're competing against someone else, so far many players like me who don't play PvP multiaccounting and spoofing are irrelevant. My gameplay isn´t affected by their antics. We would complain loudly, however, if we're mistakenly banned because somehow we tripped the multiaccount detecting algorithm. See the complaints about the "cool downs" and imagine what it would look like.

    Now if you play PvP, yes, they have an unfair advantage against you.

    Of course I'm not advocating that Niantic should ignore multiaccounting here, just trying to expain why I think it might be difficult for them to do so effectively.

  • SiIverLyra-PGOSiIverLyra-PGO Posts: 852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm not referring to the way multiaccounting affects in-game mechanics, though. I'm talking about Wayfarer.

    The point I'm trying to make is:

    1. People are using multiaccouting to affect Wayfarer in various ways
    2. Niantic have the tools to track those people down and punish these accounts
    3. They won't because money, apparently.

    As Belahzur said - those things are against the TOS in theory, but in reality Niantic really don't seem to act against the most severe abuse cases.

  • 52cucumbers-ING52cucumbers-ING Posts: 225 ✭✭✭✭

    Bottom line, Niantic has ignored it for so long that if they start acting on it now there'll be an outrage. They've made the bed and it's PoGo players who get to sleep in it because from Niantic's point of view it's just more potential income and they don't have to deal with gym shaving, voting rings, raid lobbies filled up by inactive "players" and all the other fun consequences it has.

    I've seen it spill over to Ingress as well, were converted players see no issues with having extra accounts to hold gear in a game where inventory management is a big part of the strategy. Luckily it doesn't seem to be nowhere as widespread.

  • Kellerrys-INGKellerrys-ING Posts: 694 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If I have understood correct, storage accounts were a thing in Ingress way before Pogo. No personal experience having started after Pogo launch though.

  • FrealafGB-PGOFrealafGB-PGO Posts: 354 ✭✭✭✭

    Locally, over 50% of players I know have at least one additional account, usually on a 2nd phone. Usually the names are linked too (ie suffix a 2, prefix of 'baby' to the same name). Some players have up to 6 accounts, on different teams and use them to hold gyms but also knock themselves out of gyms too. Since trading, many more players have a 2nd account to get lucky pokemon.

    Of course there is potential to abuse wayfarer in the same way as abusing the trading and gym mechanics. Luckily I have not noticed any dodgy submissions in my area, all the waypoints seem normally spread out and locations are quite accurate. However I can see how it would be bad in some areas. I think it depends on what the player's motivation for the additional account is.. If the player doesn't do wayfarer then the 2nd account won't affect wayfarer. It'll still affect everything else though

  • 52cucumbers-ING52cucumbers-ING Posts: 225 ✭✭✭✭

    I didn't say it never happened earlier, just that some people really don't seem to understand why it's an issue because they've grown accustomed to everyone sporting several accounts. Of course cheating wasn't introduced to the world in 2016 :)

  • Damastaglen-PGODamastaglen-PGO Posts: 116 ✭✭✭

    Actually you do have non pvp advantages

    If your accounts are the same team you can stack a gym to make it harder for others to get in it and get coins. If you are on different teams you can knock yourself out of the gym to get the coins you need that day

  • PORT2014-INGPORT2014-ING Posts: 86 ✭✭✭

    You get an advantage multi accounting but you would too if you had more people in your family playing. I've never come across anyone having problems with multi accounts getting banned. Although I know of someone who complained about getting kicked out of a raid and mentioning that he caught it on another of his accounts which the Niantic employee chastised him for! Ironically he often has his brother (who doesn't play) in tow when playing.

    My observation is that Niantic don't actively look for abuse of TOS unless your account is using a third party app to login or if other players report you. A friend had warnings for using an automated IV checker which logged into his account - we found out because he couldn't see the Larvitar on my map that we both went to catch. Years later he had further warnings and bans for spoofing which were definitely due to being reported - he had another account which he specifically used to spoof with, and only really used to do so - which had no warning as the people in his local group didn't know about that account. They found out for sure because he traded spoofed accounts and presumably used screenshots as evidence.

    A form of cheating that hasn't been mentioned is use of paid for Pokemon maps. These are logging onto their servers and are presumably a big drain on their resources so Niantic actively get these closed down as quickly as they can.

    In summary basically if you only use a phone to log onto their games and your friends don't snitch on you then you'll be fine ignoring TOS.

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