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FIFA to crack down on Ultimate Team cheating and coin-farming

Despite banning "hundreds of thousands" of accounts in FIFA's Ultimate Team mode since February, EA Sports says cheating, bot use, and coin farming and selling remains such a problem that they have to warn users they face automatic and permanent bans for certain prohibited activities.

FIFA 15, according to lead producer Marcel Kuhn, will deploy with automated systems that recognize these abuses, where in the past they were policed manually. A post today on EA Sports' official site prescribes a "straight red" card — that's a total account ban — issued for any discovered instance of coin selling or farming, or for using exploits to record false match results in FIFA Ultimate Team on PC.

"In the past, this banning has been manual and labor intensive," Kuhn told Polygon. "That's part of our counteraction against this."

FIFA's Ultimate Team, which inaugurated the card-collecting/fantasy-sports mode back in FIFA 09, has grown to about 12 million unique players. Its transfer market, in which players buy and sell cards for in-game currency, has come under assault from bots that automatically buy items and farm them for coins, which are then resold,

Coins are the in-game currency awarded for regular play in FIFA, and used to acquire the randomized packs of player cards and boosts one uses to build his or her Ultimate Team. A separate currency can be bought, from EA, for real money and applied to these purchases as well. That is not transferrable and EA is the only one that sells it.

Bottom line, anyone selling coins is doing so illegally, EA Sports says, and trafficking or promoting the sale of coins enough times can get you permanently banned, too.

"Our system, the environment and its balancing, is all designed within the boundaries of a human doing things within it," Kuhn said. "With the amount of traffic these bots generate, we have to start taking proactive countermeasures against it."

Bots and scripts that flood the transfer market get legitimate transfers stuck in a loop where the transaction is never completed. Players also can lose coins even after being outbid, and/or lose the item up for sale. Bots also corrupt the search feature in the transfer market.

The coins reaped from this practice are then sold to players who use them to gain an advantage in Ultimate Team that FIFA considers unfair and disruptive to the internal economy. "Some coin sellers have been found to be involved in phishing and account compromise activities," EA Sports said in its official announcement. "We are not and never have been affiliated with any coin seller or coin selling websites, and cannot take responsibility for your personal information being compromised as a result of any transaction you undertake with these sites."

Kuhn said FIFA has a dedicated internal team to handle bannings and investigations. Players who think they were wrongly sanctioned can appeal their case here. They're also encouraged to report coin selling or coin promoting to:

"In the past, the size of the problem was not what it has become in the past couple of years," said Kuhn. He declined to answer when asked if the cheating was coming from a specific platform. "Now it is at a point where there are such clear outliers [in some transactions] as to be human influence on the system, so that we can now switch to an automated system [that recognizes these actions] to chop this stuff down."

For more about cheating, its effect on Ultimate Team, and EA Sports' enforcement policy, see the link below.

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