Twinking Is Just Another Form Of Cheating

It’s pretty hard to deny it. When you twink, you cheat. The concept of supplying another character (even your own) with cash and equipment is certainly not within the spirit of MMORPGs and gives you an unfair advantage over other players. In essence, the character you are playing has not legitimately earned the items they are wielding or the money in their pocket and that’s cheating.

Twinking was a concept born in the early days of MMOs and particularly revelant to games like Everquest in which there was no such thing as level restrictions on items. It was not uncommon – in fact, it was probably commonplace – to see level 1 characters running around wielding huge glowing swords and top of the range armour, being nigh but invincible to every creature of their own level. The only thing stopping these players, these twinkers, from becoming GodKings amongst men was the damage caps developers placed on certain level ranges. This curbed the benefit of twinking slightly, but only slightly, and it was often funny to watch a player level out of a damage cap range and suddenly output several times more damage than before.

Level restrictions on items (which I believe were introduced with Dark Age of Camelot) where a clever and reasonable solution to the problem of twinking although it’s never solved it completely. Different games have different limitations but all offer enhanced benefits to those able to afford to equip the most potent items they can. Ultimately though, twinking a character still offers huge and undeinable benefits, especially in anything PvP related.

So does it matter that twinking is the act of passing money and goods between characters on a single account? No. It’s a slippery slope after all. Is it OK for me to twink my new alt? What about if my wife gave me some gold? How about if my buddy at work decided to give me some gear? What then if my new guild happened to have a ton of loot for me? Why then shouldn’t I just buy some gold from my friendly Chinese salesman?

Twinking is cheating, just like buying gold is. In fact, it destroys virtual economies and worlds in more ways than gold farming ever could. It hikes up the demand for items, it creates unfair advantages in PvE and PvP, it makes it harder for new players to compete and, more than anything, it encourages our need for gold. If gold buyers are drug addicts, then twinking is the drug.

But maybe we should be asking the question “if it’s OK to twink, isn’t it OK to buy gold?”.

Anyhow, I’m off to twink my new Hunter alt in World of Warcraft to the hilt ;)

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46 Comments

  1. Longasc says:

    On “old” servers with many alts and twinks, new players can often make tons of money by selling ore/leather and other low level materials to the rich daddies of the twinks.

    They need it to level the crafting of their twinks or to create low level armors for them and pay even extreme prices for copper bars and similar stuff without thinking twice about it.

    Twinks help new players sell stuff and get rich, hear, hear! But they are also a problem. Think of the “battleground twinks” that are nothing else but cheating. Someone explained me once it is a special sort of community that wants to fight on equal level, but I think this is a lot of bullshit, people just want to pwn face with their extremely overbuffed chars. Things they cannot do with their mains, basically.

    Twinks are often a boon of knowledge for new players. But they can also destroy parts of the game for them. “Forget about instances before max level. Let a high level char run you through.”

    In LOTRO it is interesting how much money people pay for raw materials, but then they are often too experienced or cheap to give their alts the best possible equipment in early level ranges. They wait for known quest rewards, someone running them through quests and all that.

    And then they call your main char, level 40 only, an overpimped alt who wastes a lot of money unnecessarily. And to stop doing kill traits and come back later at level 55-60 to kill off the mobs for the kill-deeds.
    But being identified as a newbie often has positive effects: People pass and give you all the good gear, like to a poor kid from Africa who is in dire need! :)

    I personally believe gold selling only exists because of game design flaws. Pure money/gold is not a good thing if it can buy and get you everything. But then there are also legendary item farm services and all that, sigh.

    I just tell you, take mining and skinning in WoW and just do that, and you will be able to buy the normal flying mount upon entering Outland and soon after you will be able to afford the epic flying skill, too. Worked for my Warlock pre-WOTLK. No fancy money-making or crafting guide needed.

    I am all for caps on item power and level progress, as eternal power creep is the death of many MMOs. Guild Wars is a good example how to avoid it, but also an example that things can also go wrong with the new savior, the so-called horizontal progression.

    TL;DR: Twinks are cool and good for the economy, but not for PvP.

    • Gordon says:

      The economy thing is a mixed bag. Twinking drives up prices on low level items which is good if you’re a dedicate crafter/gatherer but not so good if you’re just the average joe player.

      Take Nagafen (a PvP server) on EQ2 for example – low level crafted items and spells were more expensive than level 80 ones!! And seeing how a lot of it were dropped items – not craftable – there was absolutely no way new players would be able to afford them. Thus they got utterly destroyed in PvP. Low level PvP became a refuge for twinks and gankers who enjoyed preying on weaker people who couldn’t afford the better items. It drove a lot of players to buy gold and feed that industry.

    • sash says:

      How can i use twinking in mob wars an online game on facebook? I would like to get Money,weapons and other cool stuff that is not available to me at my level.

  2. Masaq says:

    What exactly is the unfair advantage? Me supplying an alt with gold? What if I earn that gold through AH shenanigans from scratch and buy the best gear for my level 19 character that way? I’ve done just this and started on new servers (new to me) with the goal of playing the AH to earn money, and done very well doing it. Does it matter where the money comes from? I don’t think it does.

    If an elder player gives you a level 10 character 1000g, is the level 10 character wrong to accept this? Is he cheating by accepting it? I don’t believe so.

    Also, to me, the concept that giving gold to lowbie guild members is a bad or reminiscent of cheating seems toxic, surely helping people you know and thereby strengthening relationships is a key part of what makes any MMO thrive?

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a slippery slope. If it’s OK to accept 1000g from another player, even one you’ve never met before, wouldn’t it be OK to just pay for it? The effect on the game is the same for you. The lines of when it becomes acceptable to pass cash between players becomes very fuzzy indeed! :)

      • Argon says:

        What if you complete a quest and get a better item? What if you level up, you become more powerful! That sounds like cheating to me! Slippery slope! Anybody who doesn’t just run around at level 1 with the starting items is cheating, giving themselves an unfair advantage over those who have just created a new character.

  3. Andrew says:

    Oh Gordon…. you are so very wrong here.

    Here’s my repudiation of your post:
    http://teethandclaws.blogspot.com/2009/09/twinking-is-not-cheating.html

  4. Stabs says:

    Hmm, did you not play online games in the 90s, Gordon?

    There were a number of very good games including Diablo 1 which became unplayable due to cheating. Townkill, duping, speedhacks and so on.

    Real cheating really spoils the fun of gaming.

    It’s really not something that’s in the same league as moving an item you own on one of your characters to a different alt.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah I remember Diablo and I played it a lot – I even engaged in plenty of duping myself :) And yes, it got to the ridiculous point were people were just giving away uber items for free. I think it’s just another form of cheating and not necessarily related to twinking (although it does raise the point of the lengths people will go to be the best and twink themselves).

  5. Ogrebears says:

    its not cheating… and please pass me some of what ever ur smoking.

    If the game was meant to be played like that where you couldn’t Twink, then there would be no shard banks. The Developers would put things in place to prevent it.

    In reality most developers encourage twinking, In the next eq2 update not only will you be able to give void shards form one character to another. All armor drops (minus a few) can be given to any of your characters..

    Twinking is encouraged because people enjoy it, and that what games are about, enjoying them.

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe, yeah the shared bank thing is a very strong indicator that most devs are cool with the item of sharing items between characters and thus twinking. The question is: is it morally right? Just because we have a level 80, it doesn’t mean we the right to twink out an alt to the max and then massacre every new player in PvP :)

  6. [...] battery that kept the whole thing going. Gordon of We Fly Spitfires, alas, sees things differently. Is twinking just another form of cheating? Or is it a way to keep older zones active enough so that newer players can more easily find [...]

  7. Callan S. says:

    Do you decide what the rules are, or do the developers decide the rules and what is breaking the rules/cheating?

    If you allow developers to decide what is cheating in their own game, then it’s quite clear they have decided it’s not cheating.

  8. [...] opines that twinking is a form of cheating in his We Fly Spitfires blog. His reasoning is that supplying other characters with cash or [...]

  9. I’ve defined cheating as: “interacting with the game to gain an advantage others cannot obtain legitimately.” Therefore, I do not see twinking in a typical PvE game to be cheating, because other people could get a high level character to help them build lower level one.

    You might notice I specified PvE, though. In PvP games, if you are unable to advance because someone has been boosted a lot, then you will probably not get that high level character to boost your own.

    If twinking is cheating, then so would things like playing with friends or joining a powerful guild. How far down does this rabbit hole go?

    • Gordon says:

      The issue with legitmacy is the interesting thing. Game mechanics allow the transfer of gold from one character to another, for example, yet have banned the sale of it. So if someone gives you gold for free, it’s OK, but if you pay for it, it’s not. However there are developers out there (look at SOE) who allow the purchase of money on some servers, yet not others. It’s like we’re just children in the playgrounds of the Gods and they decide what’s right and wrong, often with very little explanation.

      • The problem with gold selling isn’t just the transfer of gold for money, many players focus on that aspect and the “fairness” of buying stuff. The bigger issues, particularly for developers, are the annoyances that go along with them: spamming channels to advertise, monopolizing spawns to maximize gold earning, hacking accounts to get money, taking money then not delivering gold, credit card fraud, etc. Most people who experience these problems go to the game developer for resolution. The easiest thing to do is to just ban gold selling, with the added benefit of it makes the game feel more “fair” to “earn” your gold and items for some people.

        Twinking has few of those same problems. The only real problem you’re likely to run into is someone being a bit too efficient at finishing a quest and not wanting to even group up since they don’t need the help. But, this usually isn’t as bad as a farmer monopolizing a spawn for hours on end. So, I view twinking is very different from gold selling, and nowhere near as problematic.

      • Forgot to comment on this line:

        It’s like we’re just children in the playgrounds of the Gods and they decide what’s right and wrong, often with very little explanation.

        The problem with explaining anything is although some people may “get it”, there are going to be people who don’t understand or just disagree for their own selfish purposes. At some point, players have to agree that developers do have the game’s best interests at heart, even if a specific policy doesn’t seem to benefit an individual or if that policy isn’t spelled out in exact detail explaining the thinking behind it.

        It’s not about abusing the player, it’s about letting the developer do what they are supposed to do: improve the game and keep it fun.

  10. SmakenDahed says:

    It’s not cheating when the game mechanic intends for it to happen. I love my Heirloom items. :$

  11. [...] Twinking Is Just Another Form Of Cheating – We Fly Spitfires … [...]

  12. You lost me with your comparison between taking gold and gear from another account or friend, and buying it.

    To preface my comment, I’m not a fan of twinks. It really makes the 10 – 19 battleground range unplayable. Thankfully the twinking seems to end at 19 and the rest of the game doesn’t have them any longer.

    But the ability is part of the game’s mechanics, and you can’t say it’s cheating when it’s allowed by the game. I might think it’s lame or a waste of time, but that doesn’t mean it’s something against the rules.

    And the comparison between buying gold and getting gold from a friend is really weak; if Blizzard didn’t want you to be able to pass things between accounts and characters, they wouldn’t allow it. As someone pointed out above, Heirloom items are all about giving a new alt an advantage over players who start fresh. And presumably your spouse or coworker isn’t keylogging accounts to get the gold they’re giving you.

  13. I don’t think it’s cheating as long as the developers allow it. If devs didn’t want lower level characters to use the items, they’d have level limits. If they have level limits, then there is a range of power that a certain item can’t exceed.

    Now, I’m not one who thinks it’s fun to go into a WoW BG at 19 with all blue/purple/heirloom items and own people, but WoW’s developers could very easily work in a “boost” system like WAR or CO to prevent that kind of twinking from happening.

    It’s not as bad as it was in EQ, where level 1 Paladins were roaming around in Armor of Ro. That was more akin to cheating than any current game’s system allows. NODROP and BoP items also make sure that the most powerful items are never allowed to get into twink hands, which again makes me think that it’s not cheating, only playing with a stacked deck, if you will.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a pretty fuzzy line, I think, because a twink is running around with items that new players, for instance, couldn’t possibly achieve. Heirloom items are a perfect example of this. Should player A be able to kick player B’s ass just because he’s got a level 80 character?

      • Which is why Blizzard implemented the non-XP only battlegrounds. That way actual PvP twinks only fight other twinks.

        The main problem with that is when said twinks get crazy and start ganking people in the world. And that’s where the fuzzy line comes in for me.

  14. Blue Kae says:

    The whole cheating thing aside, there are two huge differences between getting 1000 gold from one of your other characters or a friend and getting 1000 gold from a seller. First, you’re risking your account since because most MMO companies will ban you for buying gold. Second, you’re risking your money with no guarantee that you’re not getting scammed either in-game or in-real-life.

  15. Ferrel says:

    For the first time ever I’m going to have to say I completely disagree with just about very point of your article. I think the best I can do is say that I agree twinking gives an unfair advantage. Is it cheating however? Absolutely not by any definition.

    Cheating means you are violating the rules of the game. Getting a mob stuck so that you can fight it but it can’t fight you is cheating. Giving an item that is flagged as trade-ok and usable by any level to a character is not cheating. That is working within the rules of the game. If a developer wanted to ensure you couldn’t do it they would make it no-trade and place a level limit on it. If you then somehow figured out how to get it onto a character other than the original one you’ve cheated.

    “Twinking is cheating, just like buying gold is. In fact, it destroys virtual economies and worlds in more ways than gold farming ever could.”

    They’re not remotely close to the same thing. Buying gold with real money actually violates the ToS of most MMOs. Trading an item that is over powered to another character does not. I also have to say that your conclusion that it destroys a virtual economy is quite off base.

    Twinking stimulates the economy. Twinking DRIVES the economy of MMOs. Numerous items that would never be purchased or sold otherwise are so because someone wanted something that was “a little better” for another character. The majority of players I know spend more of their time at the auction houses buying for alternate characters than mains. Mains, after all, earned the loot on the way up.

    I think the anti-twinking craze has gone too far on the development side to be honest. The only reason anyone really got up in arms about it was because in EQ1 high level and powerful characters would camp the named mobs that mains needed just to sell the loot or give it to a twink. Given how few camps there were this practice was looked on very negatively and thus the “spin” started. From there draconian item levels have been put on loot more and more even though it is largely unnecessary in PvE games.

    The bottom line is that twinking comes down to one truth: If you earn the loot on any character you have the right to do with it whatever you want. If that means making your level 2 warrior godlike in his level bracket then so be it. You earned the right. This, in turn, means you’re more likely to play that character and possibly subscribe longer. In my eyes, if I’ve maxed my main, it shouldn’t be as hard to max my next character. Any and all “unfair advantage” simply disappears at max level and the balance is restored. It just means you get there quicker.

    PvP games are obviously different and need a lot more item and twinking control. I totally agree there in every way. Nobody is going to stick around to play if the fights are uneven. That still doesn’t make it cheating though.

    In PvE, however, I must maintain that twinking is more positive than negative.

    • Gordon says:

      You have a lot of very good points there :)

      I guess the thing I find confusing is that if the principle of equiping a character with items achieved from any source is OK, why isn’t it OK for someone to just buy the items? Sure, it’s against the TOS but is that the only reason? I mean the outcome is the same right. There’s no difference is someone spends 1hr farming 1k gold with their level 80 toon or if they just fork out $10 for it instead.

      • Ferrel says:

        In the simplest terms yes, being against the TOS is one of the major differences. One is literally against the rules. That isn’t why I think players are so against it however.

        It truly comes down a issue of perceptions. A lot of players still see MMOs as self contained environment. They’ve earned the $10 in reality for sure but they haven’t earned the item in game. In one way, MMOs are viewed to be a somewhat equal playing field since we all pay the same a month. The outcome is the same but how it is viewed is very different.

  16. Jon Do says:

    “The concept of supplying another character (even your own) with cash and equipment is certainly not within the spirit of MMORPGs”
    Oddly enough, that is a good description of the behavior of every NPC questgiver I’ve ever interacted with.

    Anyway…
    Do you twink?
    Because I’ve talked to people who twink, and from the tone of your post you seem to be under a common misconception that twinks are born when a person tires of playing their rich max-level toon.

    Most of the people I know who twink don’t have a max-level toon.
    And I know of one case of a twink, which I verified, who twinked his toon from playing the AH with that toon.
    Is that cheating too?

  17. Jadyn says:

    -Unfair advantage over other players
    I disagree on the concept of it being an unfair advantage. Other players rolling alts have the same opportunity to buy expensive gear. New players these days can make pretty good money selling a stack of copper for 8g, so they have the same opportunity as well. I knew a few players who never reached max level, and found ways to twink out their character.

    -Damage and level caps as a way to stop twinking
    I’d like to take this opportunity to put that concept in a different light: rather than a way to prevent twinking, they are a way to force people to keep leveling. Why prevent someone from reaching the power of a level 80 player simply because they haven’t killed as many mobs? There are numerous twinks who have logged MANY more hours than it takes to reach 80. Some managed to get the Explorer title with a little clever work (before they added the option to stop xp gain that is). Do these people deserve to gain less simply because they haven’t done the specific activity of killing equal level mobs?

    -Slippery slope
    What makes “chinese gold farmers” bad? Not the fact that you’re getting gold from someone else. It’s the fact that you’re funding an activity that is unpopular, potentially disruptive, and in recent months, downright illegal. These days, gold farmers don’t obtain their gold through farming, instead they often obtain it through hacking into accounts. I’m pretty sure your wife or friend didn’t do that. And the game would be much less fun if you weren’t able to help your friends out. How is giving money to your friend’s alt any different from giving money to a guildmate so they can buy pots for the next raid? How is buying gold from someone who hacked an account to get it similar to getting it from a friend?

    Looks like the best argument here is the idea that twinking ruins the game for new players. I have to admit, there’s no ironclad argument against that. The best I can do is argue that it happens with or without twinking.

    Example: lets take a player who did arena hardcore for a season or so, and got, say, 2k rating. Then that player got rather burnt out, and decided to roll an alt, and pvp at, say lvl 39. No twinking, just average gear. That player will completely destroy any new player who’s been playing for only a few weeks or months. The gear doesn’t matter; unless the class balance is really wierd, the former arena player will roll them because he’ll have much more experience with the game.

    That’s an extreme example, but ultimately it’s the same for any player who rerolls: the additional experience playing is an advantage that can’t be removed. So then where is the morality in all this? Is it wrong to use that experience to play the AH and make enough money to twink out that character, even without using your main’s money? Is it wrong to use that experience to figure out exactly what gear to use to make your character the strongest possible?

    In my opinion, it’s not so much a slippery slope as just a really large really vague area. Just as you can easily make twinking seem as bad as gold buying, you can easily make it seem the only natural activity for someone to do. Because ultimately, WoW is about growing stronger the longer you play. That’s universal. It’s just a matter of how much stronger, how fast, and in what way it is expressed. Most of the game works to drive players toward lvl 80 and then raiding as the main track to grow stronger over time. Other people prefer to follow a different path.

    And even at 80, the players who have been there longer are stronger, either skill-wise, or gear-wise. I’ve talked to players who quit the pvp game after playing at 19, tried pvp again when they got to 80, and quit again because they got squashed by people in arena epics.

  18. [...] received an email from CCP at the same time of reading both Tobold’s blog, OF Teeth and claws and We fly spitfires articles on twinking. I received an email from CCP, who are holding a “Power of Two” sale [...]

  19. Gnomeaggedon says:

    Cheating no…
    Unfair advantage over others, well I think before the great twink freeze of 3.2 the answer leaned towards yes… but, ultimately the opportunity was there for all.

    Did it disrupt the economy.. no. No more than someone taking hold of the market.

    You didn’t need the twink items to play WoW. You didn’t even need them for the BGs… sure they were an advantage, but they weren’t necessary.

    The reality was nearly all of the twink items could be gained by the individual themselves, they would have to be careful and occasionally grab some help from other characters (whether through instance running or cash injections).

    that level 19 item that sells for 100g… necessary to the average player… no – but they could fun their 1st 40 levels if it dropped… then they just needed to make decision, equip for 3 levels, or page for my mount?

  20. Its an interesting thought… but where do you draw the line? I have a twink toon in pvp… my level 76 druid. He was my main in BC with full season 4 gear and every slot except for my 57 stam trinket has resilience. Using a flask I’m at 499 resilience which combined with 15k hps unbuffed and being a resto druid means I’m damn near unkillable. Even going up against other 79 twinks i’m significantly stronger in power. Is he a twink? Well yeah he has max level professions and has the gold required for gems and enchants.

    Is it cheating?

    While it may feel like I’m cheating sometimes the answer has to be no. All of the gear was achieved during my lvl 70 grind during the last expansion and only gems and enchants have been updated and those were mostly while leveling up those professions on other toons.

    • Gordon says:

      Perhaps cheating is too strong of a word but it does highlight the issues with item progression in MMOs. If items make us either strong or weak, it can take away too much of the “skill” and create an unfair fight.

      • I think that is a major issue when it comes to PvP in WoW. The survivability between someone in full gladiator gear vs someone in blues and greens who just hit 80 or heck even someone in tier 9 is huge. In PvE you can be undergeared, but in general you are taking on challenges that your gear can handle. If you just hit 80 you won’t be running ToC heroic hardmodes but your gear won’t prevent you from runnin heroics.

        In PvP though you can be a fresh 80 in with veteran players. There is no appropriate place for a fresh 80 who wants to pvp to face equal challenge. Instead that player may end up (and likely will) against players in vastly superior and tailored gear.

      • Jadyn says:

        That’s the issue with any form of progression in any MMO where there’s pvp. You could use similar reasoning to point out that a lvl 50 vs a lvl 40 player is also unfair. And it is; it’s just not complained about as much, because there are more ways that high levels are kept away from lower level players, to avoid that problem.

  21. [...] “illegal bots” Epic Toon Blog Massively article on how spam “drains” MMOs Twinking(sending gold to another character whom you own) is another form of cheating A good first place to [...]

  22. Pär says:

    Nuts. I play a game for 5 years. I see everything (damn near) that it has to offer. On about 20 different characters. I see things that no-one else, among 11-20 million people who have played it, have ever seen. I play through the same starting zones about ten times.

    I want to level up a new character. You’re telling me I shouldn’t take some cash from one character and use it to buy gear for a new, low-level character?

    Nuts. Have fun and work inside the game’s system according to the rules laid down by the developers. I can buy stuff and send to my own alts – the developers don’t seem to mind and everyone has access to the exact same procedure. There’s no cheating here – it’s just accumulating resources and then using those resources.

  23. Josh says:

    Twinking not cheating. Its ecessive farming for something that is rare. You are justfying the destruction of friends, guilds, and trading. Wow.

  24. Chuck says:

    In my opinion, twinking is absolutely not cheating in the case of PVE. The logic here is if you’ve suffered to get one character up high, you have the right to assist your alts in getting up that high.

    Of course game developers are also free to place ingame countermeasures to reduce the effectiveness of twinking.

    The only time where twinking can really be considered cheating is PVP, where the twinked character will have an unfair advantage over the untwinked and be able to kill them easier.

    Sadly, twinking for low level battlegrounds and the like is pretty much a requirement to be competitive now. That is the real problem.

  25. anon says:

    twinking you alts or even friends for PVE is no more cheating that something like buying gear for your party members in dragon age or final fantasy or whatever. also they only started doing item level caps in DAoC? thats crazy, pretty sure single player RPGs had them years before that. pen and paper/tabletop RPGs definitely did.

  26. Theon Greyjoy says:

    Whoever wrote this article obviously dosn’t play MMOs or is a complete moron.

    “Twinking Is Just Another Form Of Cheating” -didn’t even bother reading the article, title tells me it is full of rubbish.

    A lot of MMO’s provide specific mechanisms for twinking, I play anarchy online a lot and it is pretty obvious the developers built the gameplay around twinking. Pretty much the whole game is about finding items that raise your stats so you can equip items higher than your level.

    Cheating is hacking or glitching. Anything you do within the obvious game mechanics is not cheating. It is up to the developers to make sure the game mechanics are properly balanced. Perhaps you have played some poorly designed games which make you think twinking is cheating.

    Another example is Eve online encourages dual boxing.

    As for buying gold. You are allowed to give gifts to friends or alts. You are not allowed to buy gold from shops online(for most mmos), again this is up to the f*** game developers to decide. If they allow it, obviously they don’t consider it cheating.

    And no it does not destroy virtual economies, it actually adds liquidity. A good example again is Eve online, you can in fact essentially buy isk with cash(via plex) from eve and eve still has a very good economy -the best of all MMOs in fact. Which destroys that point you made.

    Next time do some research before writing an article.
    Or how about actually play some MMOs if you want to write about them?

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