Blizzard Goes After WoW Classic Bots and Warms up for AQ

This week saw some WoW Classic news related to bots and cheating as well as a stress test on the public test realm.

Classic is as classic does

The big announcement was that Blizzard had banned 74K accounts for EULA violations.

We’ve recently completed a round of actions against players who were found to be cheating in World of Warcraft.

We rarely communicate publicly about this, because we’ve found that describing our sources and methods can make it easier for malicious actors to work around them, but we feel that it’s worthwhile to expand on the subject today, as many players have recently asked us for more details.

Including today’s actions, over the last month in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe regions, we’ve closed or suspended over 74,000 WoW accounts that were found to be in violation of our End-User License Agreement 68. The majority of these were found to be using gameplay automation tools, typically to farm resources or kill enemies much more efficiently than legitimate players can.

While today’s suspensions were applied in a batch (often referred to as a “banwave”), it is a top priority for us to identify accounts that are botting and remove them. Our team works around the clock, every day of the week, and many of the suspensions and account closures over the last few months have gone out in the middle of the night, or on weekends.

Like you, we play World of Warcraft. We understand what it’s like to spot a player in-game who appears to be botting. We always want to eliminate the botting player, if it can be proved that they are indeed cheating. And that raises a big difficulty in addressing this issue – we have to prove to ourselves that the accused player is not a person who’s actually controlling a character with their hands on a keyboard.

We use powerful systems to determine if the suspected player is using an identifiable cheat, and our heuristics (which we do not outline publicly) are constantly improving and evolving. But when we examine a suspect and these measurements aren’t out of line, we have to manually gather evidence against the accused player, which can be very time consuming and complex. It’s worthwhile though, because we never want to take action against a legitimate player.

Yes, there have been cases where a legitimate player appeared (to another player) to be botting. In those cases, where a legitimate player is reported and then cleared of wrongdoing, it can be very frustrating to the reporting player to again see what they think is a bot. We’ve also seen examples where the reported player was caught exploiting the game, and was removed from the game, and then quickly returned to doing the same thing on a new account with the same character name. That’s an infuriating sight for the players who initially reported it. We greatly appreciate your reports, and we understand how you feel about this.

We’re ultimately working to unravel a challenging circumstance. Real money trading drives third parties to put an enormous amount of effort into circumventing our detection systems. As much as this is a very high priority for us, it is the only priority for profit-driven botting organizations. The bans we issue are simply a cost of doing business for them.

We’re working on further improvements to every part of the game that might address cheating issues more swiftly and completely, and we’ll continue to let you know as those next steps are taken.

Thank you very much for your feedback on these issues, and thank you for your reports!

Ars Technica even did a story about the “bot mafias” that were present in WoW Classic. and how they have messed with the economy, all no doubt in furtherance of illicit gold sales.

I know I have seen a bunch of gold seller spam email messages showing up on my characters lately.

I have multiple screen shots of similar messages

I have been using the “Report Player” button to respond to these, so hopefully I helped target a few bad actors.

In addition, Blizzard made a change to the number of instances a player can access during a single day.

As part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate exploitative and automated gameplay, with scheduled weekly maintenance in each region, we’re implementing the following change to our settings on all WoW Classic realms:

  • You may now enter a maximum of 30 unique instances (dungeon and raid) per day, per realm.

This restriction complements the current limit of 5 instances per hour. Now, when a player enters a dungeon or a raid, the game checks to see if they have entered 5 instances in the last hour or 30 instances in the last 24 hours, and if they have, they cannot enter the instance until enough time has elapsed. This check is across all of your characters on your realm.

These limits only apply to dungeon and raid instances, and do not apply to PvP battlegrounds.

I had run into the old “five instances per hour” limit while trying to get the Hydrocane to drop in Gnomeregan, but the overall cap will now close that out a bit more thoroughly I suppose.  (I didn’t need nearly that many instances to get the drop on multiple characters.)

And then, in a note about things to come, Blizzard also did a stress test on the PTR on Thursday to test Silithus and the Ahn’Qiraj (AQ) opening event.  They have already posted a summary of how that went.  We shall see if they do anything with the information they collected.

Finally, layering, which Blizzard had to turn on again for a few realms recently due to queues, has been worked on to make sure that it will function correctly when these events hit the live servers.

9 thoughts on “Blizzard Goes After WoW Classic Bots and Warms up for AQ

  1. bhagpuss

    I’m still in two minds on tradeable in-game currencies and in-game economies. Given the incredible problems caused to all MMOs by RMT and currency farming (including farming for every kind of drop or material than can be converted somehow into currency) and the immense cost and effort required to keep things under evena semblance of control, I do wonder why developers don’t simply drop the idea of economies and trade between players completely.

    I’ve spent a long time thinking about how that could work and it always seems to have huge drawbacks but are even the worst of those as bad as the problems having economies and player-to-player trade brings? Are there any major MMOs (or even minor) in which no items or currencies are tradeable between players at all? I can’t think of one that I’ve played off hand but then maybe I wouldn’t always notice.

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  2. mikeazariah

    Bots are a drag on a lot of games (well, not minecraft) and I am always glad when the devs report out about it, letting the players know that an effort IS being made

    m

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  3. Archey

    Until recently, Elite Dangerous had no means of trading between characters. To my understanding (as I’m not currently playing), that JUST changed, within the last months With the release of fleet carriers, players can sell things to the owner of the carrier.

    But, from its launch till now there has been no player to player economy in E:D.

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  4. Redbeard

    Bots had been farming Alterac Valley since forever, and I’ve been in AV runs where over 1/4 of the Alliance is hidden away in the harpy area, moving just enough to get the overall honor/rep while doing none of the work. If this means fewer bots, I’m fine with that.

    One other item that Blizz is testing is a tweak to Alterac Valley, preventing the Horde from accessing a back door around the Dun Baldar South tower. That had been giving the Alliance heartburn as the Alliance doesn’t have a similar back door to the Frostwolf area.

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  5. Shintar

    I’ve been following this whole story with some confusion. As a more casual player I can’t say that I’ve noticed any of this… after hearing so much about it, the only effect it’s had so far is that I eye people farming out in the wild somewhat suspiciously if their movements seem even slightly robotic.

    Also, hearing people get outraged about the 30 instances limit was mind-boggling to me. I can’t really imagine running into that being a problem even if I was playing Classic as my main game, but apparently farming instances 24/7 is a thing among genuine players too…

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  6. kiantremayne

    @Bhagpuss – I can’t think of any MMOs that don’t allow some form of trade or exchange between players, and I’m not sure how multiplayer a game would be if you started locking down player interaction that much. And it still wouldn’t solve the actual problem of bots and bad actors, they’d just be offering power levelling services or dungeon speed runs abusing the exploit du jour instead of gold.
    If there’s any way for players to offer some in-game assistance to others in return for an out-of-game financial transaction, there will be those who want to pay for such services and those happy to provide them with no concern for how doing so shits all over the game experience. I’m not sure what develops can do apart from set clear rules, wield the banhammer on transgressors, and try to design a game that people actually want to play rather than pay to have played for them, and even then their will always be those whose desire to be seen to have the trappings of success and whose available real life funds exceed their desire to actually earn the trappings in-game.

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  7. Redbeard

    @Shintar–
    Never underestimate the power of people who want the Hand of Justice to drop in BRD. I’ve been on enough of those runs to believe that the existence of HoJ is a myth; I’ve never seen it drop. But that doesn’t deter people from trying to farm for it.

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  8. Gray's Otome

    I’ve never played WoW, but when I used to play FFXI, bots were hard to figure out or even report back in early 2009ish. I am glad you’ve written a post about what your team plans to do as with Square Enix… we never really got anything from them. It was similar to how you’d ban the character but then they would come back in another server or the same server and have the same exact name and etc. (▼へ▼メ)

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  9. Mailvaltar

    @Bhagpuss – BDO doesn’t allow direct trading between characters and never has. The only interactions are via the auction house, which incurs a significant loss.

    I don’t like it, tbh, and I’m not sure I would even play an MMORPG that had no trading whatsoever.
    For example, I spend so much time – and have so much fun – in ArcheAge planting and harvesting crops to craft potions with, which I then sell to other players for a pretty nice profit. Without the ability to sell stuff the only sources of income (not only for me, but for everybody) would be to grind mobs or run tradepacks all day. I don’t think I’d still be playing if it was like that.

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