and i’m sure a large majority of the population would agree with that.  it’s why tiger woods can’t shill gatorade anymore.  why bernie madoff went to jail.  why everyone is suspicious of the banker in monopoly.  and it is, of course, why everyone hates rogues in world of warcraft.

damn rogues…  dirty, cowardly, cheap bastard rogues…

but i digress.

for those who don’t know, blizzard entertainment is the brainchild behind three great franchises – adventure series diablo, as well as real time strategy games warcraft and starcraft.  traditionally it can be said that they know how to make a game.  today’s mayhem concerns the latter franchise, starcraft, which saw the highly popular starcraft II launch earlier this year.  it opens up questions on fairness and to what extent a player actually owns the game they purchase.

naturally cheating in an online realm would have its consequences, making one’s opponents not stand a chance against you, regardless in skill or strategy (ugh stupid rogues).  in addition, it also brings risk of a ban.  which is precisely what happened in starcraft II.  5000 players who were using cheat hacks were banned from the game for, well, obvious reasons – they cheat.  so normal circumstances considered, i guess blizzard is acting on part of the good and on behalf of other players – the playing field has to be level for any real online competition and fair play to exist, and encountering cheating players makes others just want to turn the game off.  i’ve been in a number rounds of counter strike, quake, and other first person shooters for example where it was clear as day that one of the opposing players was using an aim-bot.  i immediately dropped game to find other ones.  playing on the wrong end of those conditions makes it impossible to achieve the end goal of playing most games in the first place – to have fun.

but there’s a slight anomaly in the story here – the cheating players (those infamous 5000) that blizzard has chosen to ban are using cheats in single player missions.  not against other people.  single player. against the starcraft AI., i.e. “the computer.”  anyone who is familiar with blizzard’s past releases would probably agree that this seems extremely strange, given blizzard’s practices on single player cheating in the past.  they actually included cheat codes as part of the software in their real time strategy games, starting with the original warcraft onward.  for instance, typing WHOSYOURDADDY in the console would activate god mode in warcraft 3, meaning your units took no damage and basically destroyed everything they touched in one hit.  but do it now, and blizzard will bring the hammer down upon you.

and who can forget the level skip code from the first starcraft? THEREISNOCOWLEVEL.  a classic.

and why?  achievements.  at least that’s one of their reasons.

some of my own achievements, from world of warcraft

that’s right, achievements.  little digital awards that often provide no real value aside from being able to brag to cohorts in your online community about all the things you’ve done.  blizzard added an achievement system similar to PS3’s trophies and xbox 360 achievements to their blockbuster MMO world of warcraft in october 2009.  which for that particular game works well – earning certain achievements for great feats actually granted you in-game benefits and perks that are otherwise unavailable.  but this stock achievement concept has since expanded into blizzard’s online community, batle.net, which bridges a player’s feats in all three of their franchises – warcraft, starcraft, and diablo – into a single player account and public identity.  blizzard’s argument now is that if cheats are overlooked in single player missions, then achievements in starcraft II would be rendered meaningless – as the degree of difficulty would be outright nullified.  which i can understand, BUT…

what does that mean as far as a user using the software they paid for as the see fit in a single player setting?  it’s a weird line that’s been completely blurred between single player and multiplayer in this case – players can play by themselves running single player campaign missions, not caring about achievements or online play, but the publisher can still see them because they have to log on to battle.net first to play at all.  and what’s the big deal?  no one gets hurt, and someone who wants to play alone can play alone.  cheating against the computer doesn’t affect anyone but that player.  and they paid for that right, damn it.  these days online components of games are getting far more common.  can’t i just play on my own and obliterate everything to please my own twisted whims?


what makes no sense is that there is a way around this.  what’s even more odd is that blizzard has done it before.  back in the days of the first diablo, two versions of battle.net existed – battle.net and open battle.net.  why is it so hard for blizzard to have a line of demarcation letting the system know whether a player is playing open against the computer or “for achievement” against the user and act accordingly?  i mean there is a “guest” mode, but that removes all social interaction with your friends list and other social functions.

i absolutely cannot be the first one to think of this.  does this solution seem over-simplified?  i don’t think so – it feels like a pretty practical application of occam’s razor to me.

jason schreier in wired magazine’s game|life blog did a piece on an anonymous gamer affected by this going by the moniker gm0ney.  you can read it here for some more detailed information on what happened.  cheatshappen.com, the site where the starcraft hack was downloaded from, also address this on their site.

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Rob October 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm

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About Tushar

Author and creator of Technical Fowl. IT/Tech hero. Jiu Jitsu purple belt. Enjoying the venn diagram intersection of tech, gaming, business, and politics.

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