Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Thursday 16 November 2006

Blizzard Bans - could it be you? [Lurks]

It seems that a bunch of people have been banned from World of Warcraft today due to some new detection mechanism from Blizzard for finding of 'bots' or basically stuff which automatically farms things to make gold while unattended. In general our attitude to that is good! but while one newer guild member of ours recounts the story of being banned, another also tells a story about having been banned a long time ago. No decent reason given, just a late terse reply that no action will be undertaken to renew the account.
Now, some caveats. I suspect that Blizzard aren't complete morons and that this latest chap has been doing something which warranted getting banned. He'd certainly not admit it to us, given the guild's dim view on this sort of thing. However the longer term member I trust implicitly since there's no real reason for him not to fess up about the whole thing.
Basically Blizzard spawn a task that looks for 'third party programs' that interfere with the operation of WoW. I don't know any real details having not looked into it and simply trusting that not being inclined to do this sort of thing, I'd be pretty safe. However there's stories of people getting banned for running WoW under WINE on Linux and other stuff too.
So the question is here, is there a chance that they could just decide that some application we're running - I don't know Netlimiter, some clipboard tool or something like that - is a third party application and then just ban us. And then wont tell you why, other than you've been caught doing something against T&Cs and refusing to talk further or reinstate your account. Is this a possibility?
I think I'd like to know because as an officer in a large end-game raiding guild, wearing equipment which I've spent months accruing, if they did that I'd just jack in the game and vow not to give them another penny. Course I'm not saying they'd care, they have millions of subscribers and I'm sure they've got it all worked out. They need to take action against these people and the odd banned innocent accounts, well, if they were a real WoW nutter they'd probably just start again?
However we have a guild of over one hundred accounts. I think we have some kind of right to know how we'll be treated. I want to know that if I'm putting all this time and effort in the game, and most importantly helping to organise it for many many others too, that I'd have some kind of protection against them falsely deciding to ban my account. I bought some gold awhile back, is that banworthy? I run the guild raid bank and have 8000G in it, does that look like I'm a farmer and I'm selling gold? You tell me.
What I think they ought to do is put up a public list of the servers, names of accounts etc of banned folks and tell everyone why they're banned. We'd like to know, why not tell us? It's not personal information. Also, there should be a proper appeals process. I'd hate, if hypothetically-speaking our guildmaster was just banned out of the blue, to end up having to do the childish thing of threatening many people of quitting the game but is that, at the end of the day, the only thing we have?
That said, at least some part of Blizzard's customer service team is actually commercially minded and responds to this sort of thing beyond the legendary bot-like insanely unhelpful replies we currently get for any enquiry. Our server had a guild come back from the dead and a player who had sharded all of his gear got it reinstated, all by promising that players would come back to the game and re-subscribe.
So maybe we have to give a thought to it. Maybe we have to work it out ahead of time, if Blizzard wont square with us from the outset, and start saying that we as a guild agree to pack in the game if they're not actually going to give us a proper human response to banning any one of our players.
I'd like to believe that mistakes in something so important as automatically banning accounts can't happen, that Blizzard would be absolutely sure but come on, we've played this game for a couple of years and we've seen they're as fallible as any other software developer. It's just most other companies don't see the whole thing as some big numbers game and forgo any human interaction in this kind of process at all.


  1. Our concern deepens further since it seems that at least some people have confirmed that they've been banned for using Logitech G15 keyboards. Now this is a little odd since the G15 is specifically supported by Blizzard, you get queues for getting on the server and joining the battlegrounds, you get a log of whispers and even your character stats displayed on the thing. However if you macro stuff, you're likely to get banned. Here's a well documented case.
    Now, personally I don't find the G15s macro functionality particularly helpful for anything in WoW because it just soldiers on issuing a string of timed key presses. Nothing you couldn't do yourself, indeed have to do yourself. Nothing that works while unattended since you can't see anything from in game. I'm using the G15 purely for the extra G-keys and the teamspeak plug-in and that's the case with most of us, I think.
    But do we know? You read this guy's account and I'm struck by firstly how if you were a human being you'd clearly say, right sorry yes pal we don't like what you're doing with the G15. You've been suspended for awhile, please don't do it again. Here's your account back. Nothing of the sort, they just refused to under any circumstances. And we have a chap in the guild who got the same kind of treatment awhile back and he really is none the wiser as why he was banned. Frankly I'm amazed he kept playing.
    And here's the rub, really. We're playing in Blizzard's sand box. They don't have to comply to any form of decency which we'd expect out, say, in the real world where you aren't locked into companies with the same kind of massively invested time and effort. The thing we have to hold over them is 'only' a tenner a month subscription when they have millions, but what they hold over us is basically our entire hobby that we're invested in several nights of every week for a couple of years.
    I actually feel a bit scared that they have us over such a barrel and have demonstrated how they're absolute experts at blanking you completely if any of this should happen to you somehow. They're not doing this, I think, because they want to be malicious. They're doing it because they don't want to spend the time in getting this stuff right. It's a crap way to do business I think.

  2. Let me add from my perspective that I suspect that having instigated a ban, their lawyers briefing will say "you either do or you don't. If you create a precedent for un-banning someone you will be totally fucked from a support point of view and potentially for claims against you for time lost under the monthly subscription model. So i.e. you can't unban once you've done it"
    Lawyers. I get to beat em up for a living cos I understand them. Their power unbounded is fairly horrible.

  3. That's fairly absurd though. I can think of countless businesses that don't operate like that. I guess the best example would be an ISP. You're talking about having a subscription here, they chuck you out and refuse to discuss it. I don't care if they have lawyers, that's just crap customer service and a shitty way to do business that spreads bad faith. And more worrisome in general is that it leads folks like us to wander if this is a good idea as a hobby. Knowing that at any point they could arbitrarily just accuse you of something and that's it, yer out on yer ear.

  4. Oh I utterly agree. Like I alluded to, that's what lawyers and egotistical businessmen will do when rapidly converging in an ever decreasing tight rectal circle of their own self importance. Flounce around like the last days of Vichy or Elton-John-in-residence - no matter how fucked the logic or how much they piss off the people that supported them to this point they think they are doing *right*.
    In the "good" old days it used to be kiddies running dot-com bust-jobs who would flame up and say the most unsupported shit and treat people outrageously badly. Now you have to have a seriously winning game to do it. But it's not all that different. It's self-inflated, self-important nutters creating isle-amic courts without possibility of appeal or reprieve.
    And then one day, you find you've pissed off all the people that feed you. And then very very rapidly no-one gives a shit any more. EQ2 anyone?

  5. If I was banned I'd be annoyed but move on. I'm not hardcore though, folk who have sunk say a thousand hours into this game would react differently.
    As customer service, yeah their attitude is appalling. When you consider the number of people involved for them to support however, it's hardly surprising.
    Would a guild have power here, given you've got +100 members giving cash monthly as a collective would you have bargaining power with blizzard? I'm guessing not, but something GL's could explore with the blizz support HQ's?
    The guy did get the opportunity to express his view though and obtained a non automated response as well. I know you were talking about it in TS last night "why allow the macro system if it could endanger your account" etc..
    The outcry if it was removed would be enormous! Even wee things like itemrack, saves a lot of messing about but really it's cheating. Decursive too, thats a big exploit that I can fully understand them wanting removed.
    For me Guild Leaders should have a facility to argue on behalf of their guildees if they have something thats defendable. Doesn't help the guy playing solo, so to speak, but it'd be something. A customer that blizzard could trust and a method of feedback open to players.

  6. When you've got 6.5m global subscribers, what's your tolerance rate? It's not 1%, it's not 0.1%... we're ants and fleas invading their servers. So be heavy handed - bring out that pest control!
    About reasons for being autobanned - the point is not the keyboard, but clearly that's given you a bit of a stir. It's about probably AFK gameplay. If its got to the point when you want to macro your gameplay, and you want to one-hand WOW whilst your other hand is scratching your crotch whilst you watch Sky Movies, well yep, you're playing the game like a bot and you have overcooked the macros.
    If Blizz keep things as is, this helps draw the line. Don't automate gameplay. Don't appear to be AFK. Don't stand there hitting a mob for an hour to level up, because you're obviously not evnjoying the game, and its an exploit, and you're almost entirely AFK. Play the game as its meant to be, don't drift into automated play - and everyone is fan-daby-dozy.

  7. I agree with what you're saying but I think you've most the post point entirely. The issue is that people have been banned that aren't doing anything like that. Exactly what is and isn't allowed isn't particularly well defined and they have provided a potent in-game Blizzard-sanctioned mechanism to macro as it stands. We have people banned who really have no idea why they're banned and they've not touched any blatant exploits, Logitech G15 mapping or anything else.
    I fully support them banning people in the first place, that's not the issue. The point is rather more that we're investing god only knows what sort of hours into the game with no guarantee that they wont come along and arbitrarily decide something is bad, boot you and you'll have no recourse for appeal. That makes you think if it's a wise decision to continue to invest those hours eh?

  8. The daft thing is that their attitude probably increases their support workload in the long run, since somebody banned without reason (to them) is going to keep trying to find out what happened or what they supposedly did wrong.
    If they automatically banned somebody for 2 weeks when they seemed to have an issue, emailed them to say why, flagged the account in case it happened again when a permanent ban would happen then people would at least know where they stood.
    Using that infernix guy as an example look how much time it took for him to find out he had been banned for unattended gameplay, even with the fairly automated responses they provide, somebody still would have had to deal with each support call whereas a useful initial email and temporary ban somebody would tend to accept without chasing things.