I've played the North American version of FFXI since it was in beta. I tell everyone, from my past experiences and current frustrations, that most SquareEnix employees (not just the GMs) do not care enough about the internal quality of their service to ban botters and gil sellers until it interferes with the entire game community (not just several worlds or economies). SE is completely responsible for ensuring a good atmosphere and playing environment, and they have done a poor job with this important aspect of their service since its inception. When the game structure fails to play out as it is intended by its designers, then a problem is apparent and should be remedied by the game staff.
I also speak from past experience with several foreign MMORPGs in which I have seen varying degrees of customer service and rule enforcement. In both Ragnarok Online (international, Japanese, Taiwanese & Korean services, all of which I have subscribed to at some point) and Priston Tale for instance, GMs take advantage of their power to ban suspect players by inspecting account logs and logs from characters which suspects have traded with or spoken to. GMs in every single MMORPG to date have had the power to alter account data, including but not limited to account deletion if authorized by the upper company management. Sometimes game staff may even contact a parent or guardian if the nature of the offense warrants such an action. The point is, GMs have the power to build and destroy as they feel necessary or reasonable, regardless of the player rules stated in the ToS. SE staff rarely carries out even the most simple and conclusive user requested game management tasks, so it is not surprising that they fail to adequately conduct account investigations for gil sellers. In Ragnarok Online, a GM may access and investigate any and all accounts without cause or justification. This is what you agree to when you click the "I Agree" button everytime you start playing the game. Gravity has been threatened with lawsuits many times for their (usually justified) management actions, but rarely has any player across the world actually followed up with any legal challenge. SE has nothing to be afraid of in this aspect, as SE could easily pay for a legal team to bat down nearly any child's case against them.
So, I've stated the following (1) It is the responsibility of the SquareEnix staff to ensure a well-rounded, quality gaming experience for all of its players using necessary means, (2) said means are not limited to temporary bannings, as stated in every MMORPG Terms of Service agreement to date, (3) much smaller companies such as Gravity have taken strong actions against players who purposely disrupted any aspect of the gameplay environment to make it less enjoyable for others, (4) GMs may use logged data transcripts to inspect any player activity and carry out punishment, (5) SE has no reason to fear legal threats, as their chances of being fined any dollar amount in a court of law for carrying out basic service management is minimal.
Having said all of this, I think it is only fair to point out that the actual population of any server is much greater than any number you will see on an unofficial report. There is no possible way to count the number of players in each world unless you stay logged in for months and compare search reports. Monitoring so many players on all worlds at once is damn near impossible even with a large staff. You can usually double the population reports you see on forums, they only count up to several days activity in most instances. It's also good to note that a well-conducted investigation may take up to 2 months for good results. If SE started conducting a torrent of hasty investigations against accused players, they would make many mistakes and the situation would only worsen for everyone. This is a problem in many MMORPGs right now.
Edited, Mon Oct 25 16:04:04 2004 by Katrii