Monday, February 8, 2010

Exploits vs. Creative game mechanic use

Well, it’s happened. In case you’ve been disconnected from the internet for the last week, let me give you a quick rundown. Ensidia defeated Arthas in ICC25 for the world first kill – and promptly got a 72 hour ban for using an ‘exploit’ to trivialize the encounter. I’m not saying they intentionally used an exploit, or that Blizzard’s reaction was right (or fair). I instead want to examine the use of ‘creative game mechanics’.

The exploit in question seems to be the use of Engineering charges/bombs on some ice-blocks that appear during the encounter. While I’m not quite sure as to what these blocks are exactly (I plan on seeing the first pull blind), this sounds exactly like something Ensidia (or any other top guild) would do. Utilize every advantage possible to get through an encounter – even if they knowingly use a bug. While the data from mmo-champion seems to absolve any intentional misuse, and I don’t believe anyone was able to actually test the fight on the PTR, the fact remains that Blizzard felt it was an exploit – and took action.

Using every trick in the book

Let’s flash back to Vanilla WoW for just a minute, and I’m not even going to touch AQ-40 or Naxx – I’m just going to look at BWL.

Now my guild wasn’t anywhere near server firsts, let along world firsts, at the time – but we still tried to use every option that was available to us – outside of downright cheating. Need more Fire Resist for Vael? MC a mob in BRS and get the buff (what a nightmare that was). Problems gathering all the adds on Nef? Use Battle Shout spam.

Both of these were eventually removed/changed in the game, but it shows that bugs and exploits have been available for a long time. Remember the rogue who solo’d the chess event in Kara by sneaking in (and maybe wall hacking) past all the trash? Well, now the trash can see through stealth.

Were these exploits, hacks, or just clever use of in game mechanics? What about standing on the stables roof in AB? Using the ledge in HoR? Door strategy for Twins? Zerging Sarth 3D? Pet tanking? Some of these are specifically forbidden by Blizzard (you can catch a ban for using the AB tactic), but some are either overlooked or encouraged (door strat). Some get fixed through game changes (pet tanking Sarth 3D), and some are just ignored because the content is now a year old (zerging Sarth before a single drake can land).

To cheat, or not to cheat – that is the question

Regardless if you agree that any of the above (or any of the other exploits that have taken place in Wrath) are technically cheats – you can’t deny that they are bypassing certain elements of the encounter that were intended to be a part of it. The choice to use these methods is entirely in the hands of the raiders (and the guild leadership), and ultimately on the shoulders of the leadership.

The question is though – is it really a cheat? Let’s look at Ensidia’s hard mode Hodir kill. In order to get the requisite DPS buff, they kited/chained/MC’d mobs from Freya’s room over to Hodir – and then proceeded to roll him. I’m not saying it was easy, but it certainly allowed them to complete the achievement ahead of the expected curve.

Is it really cheating though? It’s not like someone was able to Google some cheat-codes and punch in the Contra 40 lives code to make this happen. Instead some extremely creative players saw an opportunity and the raid tried it with great success. How many other times did this end in disaster? Where is that invisible line between amazing side effect (using a /cancelaura on a Paladin’s Divine Sacrifice) to game breaking exploit (holding Yogg’s adds by healing from the brain room)?

So does the punishment fit the crime?

Short of any evidence proving that Ensidia was aware that their actions were exploitive, I’d have to say no. This action will have ramifications far beyond losing the world first title – they will now be a full week behind in progression against any other guild that takes Arthas down this week. The only way I can see this as being ‘fair’ is if no other 25 man guild actually downs Arthas (yeah, good luck with that) before the reset.

Of course if they knew it was an exploit, then I’d say perma-ban them. I mean really, it’s one thing to utilize an existing mechanic; it’s another entirely if they had someone standing at a specific point doing a specific action every time.


Most of us have that niggling voice inside that lets us know that something about your actions is wrong. Say what you want about this being just a game – if that was the case nobody would be upset about this and bloggers everywhere would have to find a new topic for the day.

I don’t condone cheating, but I applaud the creative use of in game mechanics. Blizzard will never be able to catch every bug, simply due to the ratio of players to staff. There are some amazingly creative players out there, and trying to come up with every possible solution just isn’t viable. Right or wrong though, it’s Blizzard’s game in the end.

Who knows, this may speak of things yet to come. Watch out wall walkers.

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