Leslee was banned from Lord of the Rings Online. You should read the whole thing (it’s not long) to get the details, but basically Turbine thinks her account was potentially hacked, so they suspended it. Re-activating the account will take two weeks. In the meantime…
It’s pretty outrageous, and it does not speak well of the inner workings of Turbine if this is how they run their show. You’d have to be a sociopath or an idiot to approve a string of policies that operate this way.
Here is where Turbine is messing up:
1. Vague Accusations against the customer
Turbine things the account was “potentially compromised” – meaning they suspect something might be wrong. That’s not good enough. You should make sure a crime has actually been committed before you try to punish somebody.
If you’re not certain of a problem enough to put it in writing, then maybe you shouldn’t be taking such drastic action against your customers over it?
2. Lack of transparency
What happened to the account? What made them think it was improperly accessed? They refuse to say. Turbine just says something went wrong, without providing any details at all.
This is simply not good enough. A two week paid ban costs the customer $7 or $8. Once you’re talking about taking money and time from customers, you need to offer more than “take our word for it.” There is no recourse for the falsely accused.
How do we even know the system is working right?
Moreover, the customer has no idea what they might have done wrong or how they might have set off this mysterious “hacker detection”. It might be something innocuous. But the customer might end up doing it again because they have no way of knowing what’s causing the problem.
3. Ham-fisted response
How does a two-week ban help anyone? Are we really supposed to believe that there’s a team of investigators working for ten business days to get to the bottom of this? Of course not. They say the two weeks is not a punishment, but when the cutoff time is arbitrary like this it’s hard to see it as anything else. They do nothing to find the alleged “hacker”. They do nothing to explain what they thought there was a hacker. They just turn you off and then feed you into the customer service mill for a couple of weeks.
I’m sure the account is locked down for two weeks, then someone comes along and flips the switch to let you back in. It may even be automated.
I’m sure someone will jump in and point out another MMO that does this, but that’s no excuse. This is rotten, it’s unfair, and probably a good bit worse than the problem they were trying to solve in the first place.
EDIT: I’d like to add that this behavior would obviously not fly from most other types of service-related businesses. IF anyone wanted to put out the cash to fight this, they first thing they’d run into is the EULA. “Oh, you agreed to let us treat you like this when you signed up for the service.” So any challenge could very well come down to a test of the viability of the EULA as a binding agreement. It’s been tested before, but there’s still lots of room to fight over it.
It would not be a short battle.
The game was a dud, and I'm convinced a big part of that is due to the way the game leaned into its story. Its terrible, cringe-inducing story.
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41 thoughts on “Arrested for Your Own Protection”
Boo, indeed. This is reprehensible behavior.
I’d demand a refund, and take legal action if I don’t receive it. It’s about time game companies start acting like, well, REAL companies – you know, besides a steady flow of income having responsibilities and stuff…
I read this on her blog (I’ve been following it since you linked it about a month ago). I, also, was appalled.
I’m glad you’re helping to spread the word on this. If Turbine’s PR dept has any sense at all, they’ll patch up her issue so as to tamp down the player outrage!
I can see where a player whose account actually was being accessed by a third player would appreciate this kind of response. Having somebody get a hold of your password and clean out your character’s inventory could be VERY painful.
Unfortunately, their solution sucks due to the lack of communication and transparency that you mentioned. A suspended till you change your password or indicate that you ran a virus scan or whatnot would put the power to reactivate the account with the player, instead of a random 2 week time period.
This is ridiculous. The EULA doesn’t even specify this specific behavior, other than their right to terminate service with no refund for any or no reason. Which itself should not exist. It’s like saying “We will take your money for this product, but we won’t have to give you the product.”
From their EULA:
3. We reserve the right to transfer or cease the operation of the Game at any time or to terminate your license to the Software and your access to the Game at any time, without notice or refund, for any reason whatsoever, including. without limitation, as a result of your breach of this EULA, the Code of Conduct, or the Terms of Service, if we are unable to verify or authenticate any information you provide to us, or if we discontinue offering the Game.
Assuming that the 2 week outage is the best way to respond, at the very least a 2 week credit should go onto the account so that the user doesn’t pay for more time than they get. And if they want to keep the customer and have a good image they had better give more than that.
I’ve got a little sympathy for Turbine here. A lot of accounts get hacked and that creates a big problem. The account gets stripped, the victim is miserable, some customer service rep at the company has to go figure out how to restore the account. And most people who play MMOs have no idea about how their computer was hacked or how to restore it to a clean state.
The underlying cause of all this mess is real money trade. There are organized criminal enterprises who steal Warcraft accounts, strip the gold, then sell it for real dollars. They’re making millions of dollars a year and the only one who can even try to fight it is Blizzard. LotRO is a much smaller game but a quick Google search shows there’s a market for gold there too. ($1 / 1 gold, it seems). That gold is coming from somewhere, and I am fairly certain a lot of it is stolen.
The unacceptable part of Turbine’s response is the two weeks. They need to respond faster to their paying customers. If I were designing an MMO today, I’d have a very simple clear rollback procedure that could be activated with a single button press.
Thank you bringing this to your reader’s attention, Shamus.
I should have been more clear in my blog to state that what REALLY bothered me about this entire ordeal was that Turbine gave me absolutely NO indication as to WHAT they thought the offending program/action might be.
I immediately started trying to “diagnose” the problem:
Maybe there was something in FRAPS (the program I use to take the screen shots)?
Maybe there’s something in Steam’s updater that’s conflicting?
Maybe it’s because I’m using Windows 7?
The list in my head went on and on…
Of course, Turbine can’t bother to give me any information that might actually be helpful. They just ban me and tell me to run my anti virus software.
Quick note: You can’t find a court case in Canada where a EULA wasn’t thrown out by the judge. They aren’t legally binding here for several reasons.
I’m not sure what the situation is in other countries. As for Turbine… I’m not surprised. It’s consistently amazing what Turbine and other MMO companies do to their customers on a regular basis.
EULAs aren’t contracts. Torte law requires a witnessed signature not signed under duress as a minimum for an enforceable contract. I don’t understand how a EULA could ever stand up when tested in court.
Many games have this “we can do whatever we want with the product you’ve bought, even alter or take it back for whatever reason we may think necessary”.
It’s like :we don’t care if our product terminates your computer, and if we had a bad dream or if we took some drugs and have hallucinations as a consequince, we would take it back.Because we can.
May they get pirated to hell.
I’m not a huge fan of Turbine’s corporate end. Because I first made an account to play DDO (for free), I was then unable to use that account for a free trial of LotRO. It wasn’t a huge deal, since I was able to just make a new account, but it seems exceedingly pointless to have that restriction in place, especially when it’s next to no trouble to just make a second account. I still find myself enjoying DDO (for free!), even though they omitted spears from the game for no defensible reason. And I can’t display my cloak. But, it’s free, so who can complain?
I’m not sure any MMO company suspends payments while you’re locked (I’m pretty sure that WoW, the game that I GM for, doesn’t, but that’s a billing issue). However, if their CS is anything like ours, if you ask for compensation, there’s a good chance that they’ll grant it. Once they restore access to your account, I’d try contacting their billing department and seeing if they can’t grant some comp time.
Two weeks is a bit on the high side for getting it back, but compromised account investigations are extremely complex and thorough (speaking from experience here). I’m not sure if Turbine restores items lost on a compromised account, but at Blizzard, we’re up over a week on that queue right now. We don’t like it, but that’s the nature of the game. And that’s at Blizzard, with a much larger CS department (to say the least) and vastly more resources.
Yes, getting your account locked sucks. I remember one weekend where I got locked out from my online banking account because I forgot my password and couldn’t remember if there was a period in one of the answers to my questions or not, and I made a few too many tries. >.< But preventing exploitive access can save a lot of headaches in the long run, especially if their investigation queue is high right now (and it sounds like it is).
Legal action over what amounts to probably $8 probably isn’t worth the hassle unless you’re hell bent on making an example of them, potentially at your own personal expense.
I’m not sure how Turbine accepts payment, but I’m betting credit is the most common. And if you’re paying by credit, you might have better luck just disputing any charges that come up as a service that was not delivered as agreed. For that though, I think you’re likely to want correspondence showing that you’ve addressed the company directly with concerns that they’re billing you for a service that they’re not providing and that they have refused to reinstate the service or cancel billing.
Although with either of those methods, I wouldn’t exactly count on them re-enabling your account in a timely manner. Also, the time you spend disputing the charge will probably be worth more than the $8 you’re saving, so it’s likely only worth it if you’re looking to make a point.
DISCLAIMER: I’m hardly a lawyer or an banking type person, and have never had to dispute a charge, so I’m working on pure theory here. At least it’s something to look at.
The only circumstance I can think of where that kind of action would be justified would be if a player logged in one day and suddenly mailed all their best items and cash to an unknown third party. Then it would be reasonable to suspect it wasn’t really the owner of the account who did this, and take steps to prevent any further damage while you work out who did it and how, then put things back the way they were. But in this particular case, we have no idea at all what’s happened. Was it the worst-case scenario I outline above? You can’t rule it out, but you also can’t confirm it in any way because you can’t look at the characters and see their inventory.
I have been extremely unimpressed with Turbine’s customer service. I played Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 for years. I have had 2 unacceptably poor interactions with Turbine.
1) Asheron’s Call 1: Turbine migrated from microsoft’s zone to their own login system. I was not playing at the time. A bit later I tried to reinstate my account and was told that since I had not migrated over during their migration period, I had to buy a new game subscription and petition them for a fee IIRC to “look for” my account and that they would not guarantee success. This is an extremely old game with very few but loyal subscribers. It seems to me that alienating your small but loyal fanbase is pretty stupid.
2) Asheron’s Call 2: when you first create an AC2 account it prompts you to create an account name. By default the game made the account name [email protected] (something like that, I don’t recall exactly) a dummy email account format. You did actually enter a real email somewhere, but it defaulted to the dummy one as your account name. When I lost my password and tried to recover it, Turbine kept sending the information to the dummy email account THAT THEIR GAME ENGINE MADE ME CREATE. I kept emailing their customer service and they acknowledged it was a problem that a lot of people had but they had no solutions. I finally got back in by remembering my own password by trial and error. My wife never did so she cancelled her account.
Both of these experiences would have been easily avoidable with some QA in their account management department. Blizzard certainly doesn’t give me this type of grief.
Sesoron makes a decent distinction. While LotRO is a beautiful and fun game that I will probably be playing for years to come….Their suits/corporate folks are terrible. (Customer service has never been an issue for me, but then, I’ve never had a problem that required me to contact them.) Look at ANYTHING that their head PR guy, Jeffery Steefel, says, and you’ll find misinformation. I bitterly remember his hype about the Legendary Item system…
What I expected: “a weapon that levels with you from around level 30, and you never change it. It becomes your own, and like Sting and Narsil, they are as much a part of your character as your surname.”
What we got: “A grind that starts at level 50 where you ditch an old legendary item for a new one if it comes out with better stats. Finding the “perfect” item is a rare thing, and even after that you have to continue to grind legendary items and deconstruct them to get the best relics you can…”
So I’ve learned to just enjoy the game and mostly ignore what the suits come out with, whether its future game update information or good reviews of their customer service.
If they won’t comp the time, cancel the account, then call the CC company and refuse the charge. “They charged me for a service that wasn’t provided for 2 weeks, and refused to stop billing me during this time”.
Usually if you tell any customer service drone that they can fix it or you can cancel your account, they’ll play ball.
I have always wondered how a EULA can possibly be binding, given that they are on the INSIDE of the box, but I have already paid for the game by the time I open it, and you can’t return opened software.
Seems that this sort of thing happens all the time though. Microsoft is banning people from simply playing modern warfare 2: I don’t remember the guy in the store making me promise not to cook a grenade, then switch to my Javelin and then get killed. But by all the gaming sites I follow, do that and you will not just get banned from that game, but from xbox live alltogether.
similarly, a guy got banned from WOW some months back simply for using a shirt that blizzard accidentally gave him to clean out some of the endgame bosses. (the shirt was something like use: everyone within 30 yards dies instantly, 100 charges). What amazed me about that one was that at the time I was listening to Wow Insider, and the guys on the podcast actually claimed that Blizzard was RIGHT to ban a guy for simply playing the game. That wasn’t even an exploit. That was getting given an item and then using the item in the way that the item was apparently designed to be used, and not griefing other players at all, like for example, going into a rival faction’s capital and spamming it in the middle of the auction house.
What is the gaming world coming to? I can’t imagine getting banned from the Wolfenstein 3d or Doom because I used cheat codes. And I certainly wouldn’t feel bad about messing around with a glitch that the development team couldn’t be bothered to fix.
My WoW account got hacked a while back, so I can confirm that they do have a similar system. However, while WoW might lock your account automatically based on certain things, the unlocking only happens when you tell them to. So, they put it in your hands to secure your account. Much more user-friendly.
And timmins, that guy, karatechop, received that item on accident. It’s a developer-only item that got sent to him by mistake. He could have pointed out the error, but instead decided to screw with the system and go get a bunch of “first achievements” based on having a literal “I win” button.
Bannable offense? Debatable. Irresponsible player behavior? You betcha.
Edit: I just read through some of the comments I missed, and Sean M, lemme thank you and the rest of your staff for being great at what you do. My account got hacked twice, the second time because my anti-virus programs didn’t clear out all the junk after the first time I got hacked, and the GMs and CS folks took great care of me and were really responsive to me. So . . . thanks. Keep up the good work.
No, it’s not a developer only item. It WAS a developer only item. And then they gave it to a player. At which point, it was a player and developer item. The guy wasn’t supposed to get it, perhaps, but he did not do anything “wrong” to get it. It arrived in his mailbox.
I get that the community decides that realm firsts are important, but I don’t see any reason why this should be enforced on the player base. Removing someone’s realm firsts as “that doesn’t count, you aren’t supposed to do it that way”? sure. But banning for simply using an item you got given to do something no one else had before? The bosses were there. They could be attacked. I don’t see how it’s irresponsible to attack them, especially since he didn’t do anything “wrong” to get given the item he used. I would have been all over that, and I wouldn’t have felt sorry afterwards. I would have just thought “hey, this is ten minutes of entertainment”.
This is one of the many reasons why I don’t play mmo’s.
The first comment I’d have to make is: wait to see if it really takes 2 weeks before going on about it. Sometimes you just get very standard messages about tickets that aren’t always true.
Second, also wait to see if you get comped the time once it’s resolved.
Third, while they say that you should scan for viruses, it might not be anything about your computer that caused them to lock the account, so if you’ve got reasonable restrictions don’t worry about it too much. When they let you back in, if you keep playing, change your password — just in case someone did get in — and hope it doesn’t happen again.
Fourth, in reference to this:
“Imagine if your cable TV company contacted you stating that they think your next door neighbor is leeching your cable signal. As a precaution, they're turning off your cable TV service for the next few weeks, but they're going to continue to bill you for it until they get the issue resolved.”
You mean that’s NOT what they do? Have they just not thought of it yet?
Of course, you can also fight them in the arena of public opinion, which is what you’re doing here.
It’s usually cheaper, faster, and more effective than a battery of attorneys.
+1 to “deny credit card charge”.
First call customer service and politely demand (not ask) for the two-week refund. Inform that that as you did not receive a service for that time, you expect not to be charged, and will refuse any charges on your card.
If they charge, call the CC company and refuse the charge. Give the reasons. At that point, it’s now up to Turbine to *prove* that service was provided. (And if memory services, they’ll also be given a “chargeback fee” from the card company).
Of course, Turbine might just turn off your account at this point, but do you really want to do business with a company that charges you for no service?
For the legally curious: speaking with some law students who have completed relevant classes (Tortes and Contracts), “duress” would be highly unlikely to ever apply to an EULA, as “duress” is a precise legal term that pretty much applies only to physical harm, not financial loss.
An EULA may fairly easily be ruled as “unconscionable”, however, as there is no effective way to refuse the contract – the software cannot be returned effectively, and you have already paid for it before even seeing the contract.
MMO EULAs may be more enforceable, however, as you often have not already paid for the product (most MMOs allow you to download the client rather than having to buy a box) before you see and agree to the EULA.
For those who aren’t aware, the argument for the legality of EULAs is essentially:
Copyright law prohibits some copying. Installing the software onto your computer makes a copy onto your hard drive. Running the game makes another copy into your RAM. For handwavey, magical reasons with no basis in reality, these copies aren’t fair use. Therefore you need extra permission to make those copies. They’re happy to give you that permission, just agree to this EULA to gain it.
There is in US law a clause that says that installing and running software that you own is always fair use. The counter argument is that they didn’t sell it to you, they licensed it to you; check the EULA.
So, you have to agree to the EULA because otherwise you can’t legally install or run the software. You can’t legally install or run the software because the EULA says so.
This is all obviously bullshit of the highest order, and I feel a little sadder whenever I think about it.
As krellen notes, MMOs are on more legally sound footing. You have no inherent right to connect to their servers, so they can make you agree to just about anything in exchange for the right to access it.
As someone who actually works with licensing and volume licenses, I can vouch that Alan is very much correct about the legal bullshit of the EULA defence: the way actual software licensing works is not even remotely similar to the way software purchases from your average store works.
The disk is the kicker: without the disk, you have no software. With a license, the software is pretty much always available somewhere, so long as you still have available licenses for it. Since I cannot demand that EA replace my lost/stolen/broken Dragon Age CD (for instance), they are quite obviously not licensing me the software.
I wonder how much one would be allowed to gather in term of money to pay for legal activism against video game companies?
Paypal to collect, gathered in a fund, on the absolute condition that it will be used to pay solely for competent lawyers who won’t accept out of court settlement. The whole point would be to fight those mis-behaviors (all of them, actually).
The trick would be able to find a way to break the delaying tactics of companies like EA.
(Darn it, I am sorry, please apologise my distraction)
Do you think such a fund would be able to gather more than what is given to help the creation of Dwarf Fortress? Play Dwarf Fortress!
Brought to mind is how my bank responds when a mysterious transaction is made to my account. They don’t suddenly close off my debit card or any other access. They call me up and give me the details about the transfer and ask if I had done it or not.
Oddly enough the ONE TIME my bank account was hacked, they didn’t catch it. Still, they at least call me when all of a sudden there’s a charge I made that is odd (as for the hack, someone got my card info somehow and used it for some online game where you gave them money to get in-game money. I contacted the company and got no response. I could have probably tried some lawsuit bullshit, but is it really worth the time?).
The way I see it, if Turbine thought the activity was suspicious, then they should have contacted her and asked if she had done this or that activity during play at this such and such a time of day. Her account being locked at this point would be understandable. If she says “no, I wasn’t online at that time”, then “sorry, but we need to keep your account closed for a while. We won’t charge you for the time it is closed”. Otherwise “okay, account is opened back up, sorry for the trouble”.
Any mook can understand THAT, at least.
That is a seriously skunky way to do business. I really hope she gets things resolved, and is able to get some sort of compensation.
This is the problem of doing business with a company that provides intangible services, I suppose. And since that’s obviously the way of the future, I sincerely hope that we as a society can come up with some sort of better system. Not just for MMOs you understand, but for services like them in general.
Blizzard does something similar, but I think they handle it a bit better. In their case, they might automatically “soft lock” an account for 24 hours if there is a serious and drastic change in IP address in a short period of time. For instance, the account is logged into from LA, then two hours later from China. Or if it’s accessed in Texas, then five minutes later from Canada. This implies one of two things: that the user is sharing the account (forbidden by Blizz’s rules), or the account has been hacked. In either case, there’s a soft-lock that requires you to change the password, then the account becomes usable again within 24 hours of changing the password.
In Leslee’s case, it sounds like a similar case. I wonder if she ever uses an internet proxy of some sort? Otherwise I have no idea how her IP would change enough to trip any security system. Maybe Turbine just has really crappy and really easily-tripped security policies.
Joe Cool: Anyone that uses a VPN can also have wide swings in apparent location. Trouble with the VPN while travelling for work & tries to connect directly = sudden move from A to B. Kick the kids at home off the account first for C (and perhaps D if a tunnel is set up from home also).
Dragon Age: Origins is what happens when the Bioware writing staff brings in an adolescent boy and is forced to listen to all his suggestions.
This kind of bullshit is one of the reasons I don’t play MMOs anymore. MMOs can be fun, sometimes, but it just isn’t worth the stress of having to deal with crap like this when I can just play a single-player game. There, I have all the control, and my ability to play is not subject to some outside force that can arbitrarily decide to take my game away.
I think Shamus has a ton of articles talking about just the thing that game companies do to stop you from playing your single player game; apparently it’s some “anty-piracy” thing that doesn’t work, but they keep using it cause probably they get a kick out of seeing people mad at them (remember: there’s no such thing as bad publicity)
Yeah, but at least with those single player games I have the option of finding a crack or fix to remove anti-piracy measures. What I was mostly getting at though, is there is nobody to ban me from playing my games if I use a cheat code or decide to mess around in ways the designers didn’t intend. I don’t need to worry about server downtime or hackers. There is no risk of me losing my long-earned characters because of a sever error. (My hard drive might crash, sure – but that’s MY responsibility) With MMO’s all the power is in the hands of the company.
But personally, most of the games I play are pre-2000 anyway, when the most intrusive anti-piracy measure was disk checks.
To Timmins, regarding the Wow player who received the “God item” and wreaked havoc with it. You say “The guy wasn't supposed to get it, perhaps, but he did not do anything ‘wrong’ to get it. It arrived in his mailbox.”
This is completely wrong. Real life example. Sometimes your bank will accidentally deposit someone else’s money into your account. Suddenly you have an extra $200. Guess what? It’s not a gift. You can’t just go spend it. If you spend it, ie if you take advantage of this mistake, you are liable for that $200 when they realize the mistake and reverse the deposit.
To argue that you’re in the right over a mistake such as this is silly.
@King’s Man, 1) I think you responded to the wrong post. 2) That would be Resident Evil. DA is the result of Bioware’s writer’s getting “dark and angsty” in middle school.
A mailbox. Not a bank account. And blizzard has been very careful to state that in game items and money have no cash value. (no doubt because they would be immediately exposed to all sorts of litigation for market manipulation and price fixing, due to the control over the economy that they have).
Suppose that someone that you were expecting a package from, or that you have an ongoing relationship, sends you an unexpected package? Is it theft to use it? I just got a package in my mailbox. It’s wrapped in green paper. I wasn’t going to call the bomb squad, or use return to sender. I wasn’t EXPECTING it, but if it arrives in my mailbox, with my name on it, I wouldn’t feel bad about using it. If the sender asked for it back, I would surely give it back, but until proven otherwise, I assume it’s meant for me. And this guy didn’t run off and STEAL the item. He just used it.
It might be theft to intercept an item from another player, though it could also be an honest mistake or simply an assumption that the other party knew what they were doing, to keep it, but Activision-Blizzard is not deprived of the virtual commodities they dispense when someone recieves them. They have an unlimited supply of virtual goods, and so it can not be possible to steal something if it is not removed from the rightful owner’s possession.
Not to mention, I am never even sure if stealing is WRONG in a multiplayer game. I mean, none of the stuff is real, or worth anything, and single player video games have a LONG pedigree of institutionalized stealing, RPG’s especially. Eve online is clearly okay with it, and even somewhat endorses it, But I am not aware of any term in the blizzard EULA which requires in game commodities be considered to be real property, or for any system of laws to be applied regarding their use (such as, for example, the country you live in).
And blizzard has been very careful to state that in game items and money have no cash value. (no doubt because they would be immediately exposed to all sorts of litigation for market manipulation and price fixing, due to the control over the economy that they have).
No, they don’t state any such thing, which would be foolish since it can be easily disproved by sitting in any given city with trade chat turned on for five minutes or so.
What they do say is that everything in game is the property of Blizzard. If you don’t own it, you can’t sue for damages if it’s lost, and getting it isn’t income. Nobody wants to fund the IRS by way of dragon hoard, save maybe the IRS, nor does anyone want it to be impossible to change the game without lawsuits because Blizzard ‘maliciously’ changed something so that your inventory is now worth less, whether by way of bug fix, or that you need new craftables with an expansion, or the new dungeon drops stuff that supercedes what you were hoarding.
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