October 8, 2012
End of the World…of Warcraft That Is
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Cities filled with the dead, flesh turned to bone. This wasn´t a scene from a biblical plague in the old testament or the latest Hollywood blockbuster on the big screen, however. It transpired this past weekend across Europe — at least virtually in an online world. The irony is that it may have been predicted by a cartoon!
A few years ago the hit animated series South Park dedicated an episode to the popular online game World of Warcraft (WoW) that might now seem like an omen to recent events. That episode chronicled how a single rogue character was able to wreak havoc in the game, and the fictionalized executives at Blizzard, the developer of the popular massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), suggested, “this might be the end of the World (pause) of Warcraft.”
Over the weekend a hacker was apparently responsible for an incident in which WoW characters dropped dead by the thousands. It was reported that the entire populations of the European servers of Stormwind, Orgimmar, Tarren Mill, Ragnaros, Draenor and Twisting Nether were wiped out completely for more than four hours. Many called it an online pandemic, the likes of which have never been seen before.
It was the end of the world — pause - of warcraft, but users felt fine. Actually many were somewhat amused by the hack. Unlike with a real world pandemic, this one in WoW left no lasting effects. So while players and non-player characters — bots controlled by the game´s software — were “dead,” in video games death is seldom permanent.
Game developer Blizzard, which apologized for the problem, responded quickly and resolved it — and has vowed to continue to investigate to ensure that a more serious exploit won´t be found.
“This exploit has already been hotfixed, so it should not be repeatable,” Blizzard said in a statement. “It´s safe to continue playing and adventuring in major cities and elsewhere in Azeroth. As with any exploit, we are taking this disruptive action very seriously and conducting a thorough investigation.”
While this is just a game, it is also a significant property for Blizzard as WoW has more than 10 million subscribers worldwide, with almost half believed to be in China.
This particular hack is noteworthy in that it involved a level one character, the beginning level that all players start out as, and this character used a spell that reportedly is called “Aura of God.” It is able to “kill” everyone around, and somehow the hacker executed a script that made the spell truly god-worthy with the ability to do some significant, albeit temporary, damage.
According to TGDaily a hacker named “Jadd” has claimed responsibility for the hack on the Ownedcore forum, who wrote: “We didn't do any permanent damage. Some people liked it for a new topic of conversation and a funny stream to watch (sodapoppin), and some people didn't. The people who didn't should be blaming Blizzard for not fixing it faster (4 hours of obvious use is sad).”
“It´s not like I added 20000000 gold to everyone´s inventory, and broke the economy; but look at the big Chinese gold seller companies, who are doing this every day. Now ask yourself who is really ruining the game. It´s not us.”
In truth what was ruined was likely a weekend afternoon of gaming, but no doubt for WoW players this was truly a “wow” moment. For Blizzard it could be more worrisome, as events such as this one could make players question whether it is worth paying the monthly subscription to play if suddenly they are reduced to a pile of bones in cities of the dead. That certainly doesn´t sound like anyone´s idea of a good time.