WoW! Thoughts! — On the Dead Cities Incident

Thoughts on the massacres in Stormwind and Orgrimmar and the vulnerability of WoW.

On Sunday several WoW servers were impacted by an attack upon Stormwind and Orgrimmar.  Sadly, this was not an in-game event to further Alliance-Horde tensions, but rather this was a handful of players using an exploit to insta-kill everyone they could find.  They chose Stormwind and Orgrimmar due to their always high populations to guarantee maximum damage, and it worked.  Chaos and confusion ensued.

The issue appears to have been known to Blizzard previously, and used mainly to blow through dungeons.  With Blizzard due to hotfix the exploit, the offenders decided to wage open war on the populace.  Blizzard’s actions were relatively measured here; I’m not sure they realized that the exploit could even be used to target friendly characters.  Also, attacks of this scale are rare.  We haven’t seen this sort of activity since players could kite various bosses into the capitals.  I don’t think Blizzard expected this to be the outcome.

Blizzard rebooted the servers Sunday morning (PST) to fix the problem.  Instead, they compounded it.  Lately, restarting the Realms tends to cause a connectivity issue with the battle.net authentication servers.  The result was that the Realms servers were technically up (according to the Realm status page on the WoW forums), but anyone trying to sign in would hang at the “connecting” screen.  This has happened before, and I can only guess that Blizzard would have had more time to verify that the connection wouldn’t break on a restart if they weren’t forced to hotfix on a Sunday.

Regardless, the end result is that an outage that should only be fifteen minutes to an hour long wound up spanning the better part of an afternoon.  On a weekend with Mists barely two weeks old, and Brewfest and the Darkmoon Faire in full swing, the timing of this event was almost the worst it could have been for Blizzard.  The time from initial reports of people dying in the cities until the servers finally being available after the restart seems to have been eight hours.  By attempting to resolve an issue affecting only players on a set of servers in certain locations, Blizzard wound up denying access for everyone to the game.  Blizzard was not unlike our characters, who by trying to do right (serving their faction in claiming Pandaria) only served to create a massive problem (awakening the Sha.)

The problem here isn’t that this happened but rather that this is the latest in a string of attacks on Blizzard.  This same group is allegedly also responsible for using an exploit to crash the servers a few weeks ago.  Also, we recently had battle.net data stolen, resulting in everyone changing their passwords and updating their authenticators.  World of Warcraft is a popular game, but that only serves to make it a target.  Even though these incidents have all happened in such a short span of time, we’re lucky that we can still count on less than one hand the number of times the game has so been affected by malcontents.

Sadly though, Blizzard’s recourse may be limited.  These people appear to have been using trial accounts behind proxies to mask their identities.  Even as Blizzard fixes this exploit, these people can still roll low-level characters (or access their mains) and look for holes to use.  One can only hope that Blizzard has a few tricks up their sleeves, like the screenshot watermarks, that can help identify and then deny these people access to the game.  Otherwise, we have an established group with a reputation for attacking the game, and all we can do is wait for them to find another way to wreak havoc.  I’m sure Blizzard will do all they can to prevent this from happening again.  Only time will show if they can do enough.

One final note: Someone managed to record the event as it happened on Tichondrius.  This footage is awesome, but not because it shows Alliance dying left and right (FOR THE HORDE!!!!) and not for some of the varied player response to the deaths (my favorites are “THE RAPTURE!” and the person who tries to bow before the hacker in an act of subjugation, only to be immediately assassinated).  This is awesome because the player uses stealth (his class ability) to track the hacker as she rampages through Stormwind.  It’s always fun when people can play their class, and even though Blizzard certainly didn’t intend this, it was nice to see a rogue given the chance to sneak around like a rogue.  Next time, I want a hack that lets hunters use their pets in a special way.

WoW! Blurbs!

A Maine State Senate Candidate is attacked by her opponent for playing WoW.  An orc assassination rogue for senate?  I don’t believe it.  I could never see a politician backstabbing people.  http://games.slashdot.org/story/12/10/04/2217255/worldofwarcraftcharacterbecomescampaignissue

Mists sells 2.7 million at launch.  The WOW population is back up over 10 million.  But how many of them are registered voters in Maine?  http://eu.blizzard.com/engb/company/press/pressreleases.html?id=6147208

Patch 5.1 coming to the PTR soon.  On the one hand, we have Chen Stormstout stating, “If we explore Pandaria too quickly, we will quickly run out of Pandaria to explore.” with the clear implication that we should take our time with the new content, and on the other hand Blizzard is talking about throwing 5.1 at us already.  Make up your damn minds!!!  http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/7481208/Mists_of_Pandaria_-_Patch_51_PTR_Coming_Soon-10_5_2012

Mogu’shan Vaults is now live.  Heroic Mogu’shan Vaults is coming this week.   Meh… I’d rather keep running Dragon Soul.  http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/7435940/Mogu%E2%80%99shan_Vaults_Now_Live__Raid_Schedule-10_2_2012

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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