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Virtual mugging…

…real arrest. A Chinese student in Japan used “bots” to assault and steal virtual objects from characters in the Lineage II fantasy-world game (bots look to unsuspecting gamers like real players but are tougher). He was arrested in Kanagawa Prefecture for selling the stolen virtual objects for real money in an online auction, the BBC reports. The problem is, how to prosecute? There is no virtual-property law yet. The other problem: bots, “a frequent problem in online gaming.” Game publishers have “invested heavily in trying to eliminate them,” the BBC says, but because they “appear in games in the same way that human players do,” they’re hard to detect and delete. “Complex techniques called bot traps have to be used to trick bots into revealing themselves” when they’re, for example, move a little too fast for “normal” characters. “Asking direct questions or placing players in unusual situations in the game are techniques which are often used by administrators to identify bots. However, for every improvement in bot detection, the bots themselves become more complex and more difficult to spot.” Here’s an item I ran in June about a dispute over virtual property in China that ended in tragedy.

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