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The Ban Hammer Swings to What Effect?

Suzie Ford Posted:
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It has been quite a while since Blizzard issued a far reaching number of World of Warcraft bans but last week saw that lull end with over 100,000 player accounts being blocked for bot usage. The most common program for which players were censured was the Honorbuddy bot program that essentially automates play during PvP matches and with plug ins that can also make certain PvE tasks automatic as well. These player accounts received a temporary restrictions that will see them unable to play WoW for six months.

Community manager Bashiok wrote:

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots.” We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

“But It Was Just That One Time…”

Interestingly enough, player reaction has been split along two lines. The vast majority of the community supports Blizzard’s decision, even if wishing that the bans should have been permanent rather than temporary. In addition, many believe that the banhammer should be dropped more frequently and on a more regular basis in order to curb gold sellers and professional bot-users profusely and make their activities profitless. 

(Warning: Video contains explicit language)

Others, however, vehemently argue that Blizzard is alternately either shooting itself in the foot by banning “righteous players who stepped off the road” (thereby losing ‘honest’ subscribers) or that Blizzard “encourages” botting by making such a huge number of time-consuming achievements that many feel requires the use of bots to complete.  This latter group feels the ban penalizes honest players who only “botted a little bit” and that the six month play prohibition is too long.

Blizzard Targeting Bossland?

It appears that, at least at this early stage, there are three major implications stemming from the WoW sanctions against bot users: Continued development and use of Honorbuddy, PvP and the in-game economy.

The most targeted program used by those who were banned is Honorbuddy created by Bossland. For those who did not know, Blizzard has been embroiled in a long legal battle with Bossland over this and other programs used for selling gold in Diablo 3. Late last week, Blizzard lost the first round of its $7M case and was ordered to pay Bossland’s legal fees to this point. Many posters on the Bossland forums have written that the ban seems to have been specifically directed at Honorbuddy users in retaliation for the loss.

The developers of Honorbuddy seem to agree:

With Honorbuddy you thought that we are unbeateable, we never thought that, we've succeeded since 2010 - Honorbuddy had not a single software detection. It seems there is one now. It also seems that Blizzard was really pissed at our first win at the court of appeals in Hamburg. It might have been coincidental. Nothing is for sure.

Even saying this, Bossland has also admitted to temporary defeat by the current wave of bans:

It seems like Honorbuddy was detected, we are not sure, but looking at the BAN THREADS, we think that it’s the most likely option atm. We are sorry for all your lost WOW Accounts, hopefully you can use them again after the 6 months ban is lifted. I have read here in the forums a bit, a lot of the accounts where 10 years old. This is a pity. We always say, do not use your valuable accounts as the risk is always there.

Update May 16: We want to be offering Honorbuddy as soon as possible. Right now, we have no news for you. Please do bear with us - immediately we have news we will share it.

It will remain to be seen how long Honorbuddy, or another program of its ilk, remains out of use in WoW. Bossland is doubtless hard at work programming a new bot after proudly stating that the current version of Honorbuddy had been “undetectable” since 2010.

In Game Implications for PvP & the Economy

As early as the day the hammer hit, PvP queue times seemed to increase greatly. Players looking for Random Battlegrounds or Ashran found themselves waiting much longer than normal without the bots to fill in the required numbers to begin a battle. However, on a more positive note, players have reported much more spirited and tactical battles rather than simply zerging through every random battle ground or Ashran group. Obviously, this is what Blizzard was hoping for.

In addition to the ramifications felt in PvP, PvE players have noted a change. One of the main PvE bot functions has been the collection of crafting reagents prior to selling them on the Auction House. Automated collection of reagents in such a manner has devalued the stockpile and made it more profitable to vendor items rather than attempt to place them on the market. The in-game economy has not yet, but will undoubtedly, take a big hit initially as the enormous stores of crafting resources, etc. is reduced. Many materials had become nearly worthless prior to Blizzard’s action. The hope is that the market will eventually correct itself and that players will be able to profit from the sale of their items on the AH.

But Is It Enough?

Whether or not Blizzard will follow up with subsequent bans will become evident over time. No matter what else, it is clear that there will be both short- and long-term implications to action, both in PvP and in PvE.

For now, the debate continues to rage on the Blizzard forums about the message that was sent. On the one hand, the bans appear to have sent a clear warning that bot use is not something Blizzard takes lightly. On the other, the fact that these accounts were not permanently banned appears as only a very minor slap on the wrist instead of a “real” punishment.

Did Blizzard do the right thing by making bans temporary? What do you think of bot users overall and of those who use programs like Honorbuddy? If you’ve been playing this past week, have you noticed any difference?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments.


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom