Eight Days   29 comments

For those who were blissfully unaware, there was a fairly serious exploit utilizing the LFR tool that permitted people to jerry rig the way the dungeon loot was set up and loot gear from multiple different LFR ID’s. Not multiple loot from LFR, but literally multiple loot items from multiple LFR instances, even after they had been technically “locked out” of being able to loot after they had killed, and been eligible for loot, in their initial LFR. Jarre talked about it some when it was first uncovered and made widely public. Paragon admitted to knowingly using the exploit and acknowledged that they were aware it was not Blizzard’s intent to allow one player to loot from more than one instance. Vodka was frustrated that they followed the rules and maximized the system “legally” and were lumped in with everyone else in people’s minds simply by virtue of being a highly progressed and publicized guild.

Hotfixes flew and Blizzard had a few stern words to players.  The raiding community waited with bated breath to see what punishment Blizzard would hand down for those deemed to have taken advantage of the exploit.  Blizzard responded last night handing out a plethora of eight-day bans to not only those who looted the items, but to those who participated to facilitate the exploit in any fashion.   Of course, they also stripped every one of their ill-gotten gains.

As the news came down, we started talking about it in guild chat.  I was quite honestly surprised by the diversity of opinions on the punishment that was given. Several people thought that taking the gear away was sufficient and that the 8 day ban was excessive. The most common argument made was that it was Blizzard’s fault that the bug was even available in the first place.  That if they had properly QA’d their content, it would have never been an issue.  This was an argument that brought back memories of Ensidia’s first Lich King kill.

For me, personally, I am on board with the punishment that Blizzard handed down, and I find it aptly fitting to the exploit committed. As I’m not part of the “race”, and little affected by the benefits of the exploit, let me see if I can objectively voice my opinions on the matter.

From my standpoint here, it seems to me that people purposefully manipulated a system that for seven years has only allowed you to obtain gear from a raid lockout weekly.  People knowingly did this to give them the proverbial “leg up” when heroic content was open, so that they cold move through it with greater success and ease than others – and in turn obtain a higher “ranking” (which, if you’ve been here long, know how I feel about progress rankings).  In addition to that, it has been somewhat widely know in the progress circle that a sim was done showing that it is literally impossible to meet the DPS check required for heroic Ultraxion in current BiS Firelands gear – the good, old-fashioned gear cockblock that we’ve seen many times before, intended to slow people down.  Which, of course, made maximizing as much gear as possible, as early as possible, very desirable for those running the “race”.

I feel that a punishment that specifically frustrates the intentions for exploiting (pushing through content faster for better shot at “winning” the ranking game) is justly apt, and is well done by Blizzard without being overly harsh.

Let me take a step back and see if I can counter some of the things I heard during the discussions in guild chat – most specifically “it’s Blizzard’s fault for releasing content with a bug that big”.  While to an extent, I do agree that Blizzard holds some responsiblity, I do not agree that it is “Blizzard’s fault”.  All Blizzard did was provide the opportunity for the exploit to occur it was a conscious decision on the part of each player that participated to knowingly take advantage of an opportunity that they knew was wrong.

The fact that Blizzard introduced content with a bug, does not mean that players had to take advantage of it.  The way I reasoned it last night would be that it was akin to a supermarket that kept fresh fruits or veggies outside of the store, where they are not well monitored and more apt to be stolen.  Using the same rationale that is applied above by the “it’s blizzard’s fault” camp – by virtue of making those fruits and veggies easier to be stolen, it’s the store’s own fault for putting them on display outside and the thief has no responsibility for stealing them at all, even though it’s well-known that our society does not tolerate thievery. 

Now, if you were presented with the market situation above, and you were arrested by the police because you stole fruits and veggies from the market, would you tell the police that you did nothing wrong because the grocer made a mistake by keeping his fruits and veggies in a less supervised area making it easier for you to steal them?  Would you side with the thief or would you say that the thief made a conscious decision to steal fruits and veggies, and under our societal standards he should receive an apt punishment? I wager that most people would take the stand that the grocer, while perhaps not business savvy, was not in the wrong – and that the thief acted poorly by giving those fruits and veggies a five-finger discount.

So why would that thought process change when it comes to something virtual? Substitute Blizzard for the grocer, and substitute the exploiters in the position of the thief.  Do our moral values go defunct because we’ve virtualized them?  If not, then why would you hold Blizzard any more at fault than you would the grocer?

Regardless, I am fascinated by the conversation and the diversity it has shown.  I will admit that I was a little shocked at some of my guildmate’s responses to it – as I had thought they would have been on the same page as I was on this. And that’s not even touching on the subject of the light this puts onto the raiding community (which is a post in and of itself). I’m curious to what the overall community thinks.  I’m sure there is a diversity in opinion on this outside of my guild, so I’d like to know what you think.  Do you think that Blizzard was too harsh?  Not harsh enough? Do you feel that the players who exploited were in the wrong?  Or do you feel that they were just maximizing an opportunity?

Posted December 6, 2011 by Beruthiel in Deep Thoughts, Raiding

29 responses to “Eight Days

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  1. I personally feel the punishment fit the crime. Long story short, Blizzard has no obligation to be consistent with their punishments, we accept the ToU and the consequences that they entail.

    Regardless of how and if the content was QA’ed properly, they gamed the system knowingly and willingly.

  2. I’m glad to see they’re handing out bans. I was afraid they may just take the gear and leave it at that. What lesson would players learn from that? People need to understand that if you abuse the rules, you have to suffer the consequences, otherwise what motivation do players have to obey the rules? If they’d only taken the equipment, then the guilds who abused the bug suffer no loss, and are right in line with other guilds on the progress.

    I’m glad to see that Blizzard took a firm hand on the issue. It was an obvious exploit, and nobody can say they didn’t know exactly what they were doing or that they were abusing the rules they explicitly had to accept when the patch landed.

    If the race for “progress” is pushing guilds to make stupid decisions like this, then they’ve gone too far.

    • Wrong about “the guilds who abused the bug [would] suffer no loss.” They’d have lost one chance at drops per toon. By removing all the gear, you also take away what they could have gotten by running LFR repeatedly, each time with 3 mains (who share no gear) and 22 alts. A ton of people would have two piece available; a decent number would have had four piece. With just a little luck, and by running LFR before the week’s normal raid, all the tanks could have their raid-cooldown-4P bonuses. Lacking those options is a significant penalty on its own.

      Note that I certainly don’t condone what they did, I just feel that bans should be reserved strictly for actions that have negatively impacted the experience of other players–which this hadn’t done yet, and a more proportional solution was available that would still ensure it wouldn’t.

  3. Yeah, I found Jarre’s point by point analysis of why the punishment was just were all spot on. I too would be kinda disturbed at guidies who felt that this was harsh or that there should even be no punishment beyond the removal of the ill-gotten gains. What they did was very deliberate, and completely invalidates the authenticity of a world first claim or even the whole race itself. Your market example is right on target and for Blizzard to do anything less than they did, would explicitly tell every raider that taking advantage of every system exploit available to you is the correct choice to make.

    The punishment is also perfect; its not a permanent loss, yet it hits the perpetrators directly in the place that created the incentive to act on this exploit. Its as if Edgar Allen Poe wrote it himself, I only wish the encounter designers were as clever in finding ways to stop DPSers from standing in the fire 🙂

    As was brought up in the comments in Jarre’s article, the karatechop GM item exploit was a very similar incident and that incurred a perma-ban. So be thankful it was just 8 days…

    Its good to see Paragon owning up to the issue, and also good to see Vodka standing up for themselves to clear their name. I did find the following comment from Vodka interesting:

    “The truth is it is getting out of hand, having to run LFR or split raids just so you have every gear advantage you can get. … How is that fun? I guess what I am wondering is, what happened to the “do what you want, when you want” mentality that was mentioned at Blizzcon.”

    How is everything else they do to min/max like having everyone drop Jewelcrafting for Blacksmithing for a patch, or even on a per encounter basis as has been reported in the past considered “fun”?

  4. I am totally on board with the punishment. Those who exploited the loophole did so in complete knowledge of how Blizz has always handled lockouts and that Blizz has said all along that those in the LFR can only receive one piece of loot per boss per lockout. It’s been that way for a very long time now. Those that used the exploit did it in full knowledge that it was wrong and deserve their punishment. It doesn’t matter if you are a more casual style raider or in the run for world firsts, if you break the rules, you pay, period.

    btw, Beru, I love your snow…. 🙂

  5. I think Blizzard’s punishments were light given that it was a known exploit and repeatedly done. You cant repeatedly ‘accidentally’ assign loot.

    I tend to think this sort of thing is common among raiders. If they have an exploit to use on a boss they use it. Wall Walking or Shirt killing – it doesnt matter what it is if they can ‘beat’ a boss.

    That said this is a very easy to spot and test exploit. Blizzard has really been letting the quality of their systems slide.

  6. I guess on a side note – this ban will only work out in those guilds Favor if you think about it.

    If any other guild manages a world first – it will have the dreaded ‘ * ‘ attached to it.

    If Ensidia, Premo, etc manage to score a world first despite the 8 day ban, it only cements their position as a world ranked guild.

    • Why would other guild’s achievements earn an asterisk? The infracting guilds too themselves out of the game.

      I’m going to put an asterisk on all world firsts achieved previously. They were only earned because my guild decided not to put in way more time and effort and attention to detail then they did.

  7. If the punishment isn’t severe, people might get the idea that they can get away with it again, or that you might get “one free shot.” If they felt like they needed to cheat to keep their “edge” then it’s they who are deluded for many, many reasons.

    Don’t cheat, it’s not a good idea. The More You Know(tm)

    To play devil’s advocate:

    What Paragon et al. did has no affect really on the rest of the raiding population, so punishing them is like going after the kid that fills in the crossword after looking in the back for the answer. This would have more meaning if their gains deprived many others of accomplishments (stealing a server first title or something).

    • “This would have more meaning if their gains deprived many others of accomplishments (stealing a server first title or something)”

      That’s exactly what this exploit does, it puts legitimate attempts at “firsts” at a disadvantage.

  8. 8 days to a world first competitive raiding guild is major and pretty massive…

    8 days means they won’t get heroics down this reset— and thusly “WORLD FIRST YORS’HAJ!. That then sets them back a week in gear (and Valor), but not just gear… a FULL WEEKS worth of /heroic/ gear. This will then continue to set them back week after week, as the guilds they “compete” with will have a week’s headstart on strategies and gear. Enter the last 3 fights… Ultraxion is a healing and DPS check. With their healers and DPS “1 week behind” this will likely impact their ability to compete on those ‘first kills’.

    etc… etc… etc….

    Deserved? Perhaps.
    Should they have known this was different than just “creative use of boss mechanics”: IMO: yes.
    Substantial? Definitely

  9. I wouldn’t really say it’s like the outdoor stands at a market, actually, because that entails some degree of trust on the market’s behalf that no one will steal from them. But this wasn’t a conscious “be good guys, don’t exploit” decision on Blizzard’s behalf, but a loophole that the exploiters found, likely – I’d assume, for Blizz not to fix it – without Blizzard ever knowing. It would be more like discovering that if you tapped your garage door opener 13 times in rapid succession while holding it up to the radio, it opened your neighbor’s garage door. If you walked in and stole everything, it would hardly be the neighbor’s fault for simply owning a garage to begin with. 😉

    I think the 8 days is fine. It’s enough to hurt and sting.

  10. the problem is those who have played for a long time, have over and over again seen people benefit from glitches and other exploits without having any serious consequences.

    Here’s the question you should be asking. What is wrong with game design when people are looking for ways to bypass your system? Grinding sucks… this will always be the root of these kinds of issues. 8 day ban vs the chance of bypassing months of grinding……small pain vs big gain.

    • As a large generalization, humans are inherently lazy creatures and will cut corners to make their lives easier. Spears weren’t very efficient for killing so we came up with bows. Then we realized that animals would be way easier to kill if they were penned up and had nowhere to run. Just look how much time and effort we’ve put into computers to take care of difficult or mundane tasks. Heck, being lazy could be argued as a trait of survival. Not spending more energy than you need to get by is what just about every species on the planet does.

      If there was a simple button you had to push to get purples in WoW, people would push it. Oh, there’d be plenty of griping from a lot of people and it wouldn’t be fun at all…but you know that the majority of people would simply press the button anyways.

      As for the general grindiness of WoW, it’s been improving with each expansion IMHO. Ever tried to get exalted with the Hydraxian Waterlords? It takes several MONTHS if not years.

  11. I think that anyone that knowingly participated in the exploit fully deserves the banhammer in addition to the gear strip. Come on guys. Vodka didn’t do it, probably largely in part because they were smart enough to KNOW this was an exploit that would have banmammers involved at some point, in addition to the fact that it was gaming the system and an unfair advantage. I do give Vodka MAJOR props for not participating in this exploit.

    I think the punishment is absolutely perfect- they not ONLY lose the gear, but progression time, which in the race for world and server firsts is the part that’s really going to sting.

    What REALLY disgusts me is that this was known back on the PTR and guess who the ONLY TOP GUILD was to actually formally report it? You guessed it, the same guys that refused to use the exploit- Vodka.

  12. I agreed with what they did, specially with the ban part. They were trying to circumvent the system that is there to “gate” content. They cheated, but it is what many in modern society find acceptable because of the “no opportunity missed” combined with “someone else is doing it too.”

    I am glad that a group like vodka exists.

  13. It seems most of the readers hear agree with your post. I personally agree as well. My question is one of who thought it was OK in your guild and those online. Does it come down to what the current WoW (Gaming) & current RL morals come down to? Does age play a factor? Is it the current generation of Fast Results for Little Effort? I personally would like to see a poll that links age & moral stand on the topic.

  14. The whole blizzard shouldn’t of released buggy content argument so its their fault reminds me of a friend of mine. This friend is an investment banker so I regularly “remind” him that he is responsible for the downfall of society. In reality my friend wasn’t involved in the markets that caused the crash (or so he tells me) but I do remember having one conversation with him about it that really shocked me. He argued that you couldn’t blame the bankers for what happened the responsibility was with the regulators for allowing the risky trades to go on. His opinion seemed to be that the bankers job was to make as much money as possible for their bank and these risky trades made the bank a lot of money at the time. In his opinion it was the regulators job to make sure the bankers didn’t go too far and as it seemed they had gone too far it was the regulators who were at fault. I was unsympathetic to this viewpoint as I believe that everyone has a responsibility to be as good a person as they can be and I think everyone should take responsibility for what they do without needing someone to tell them that this is wrong.
    Likewise I am unsympathetic towards the guilds who got caught exploiting, they knew it was wrong and yet they did it anyway. Just because it is possible and even potentially unpunished to do something doesn’t mean you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions.

    • While his argument that it’s the fault of the regulators is incomplete at best, he *does* have a point that it’s not all on the bankers. Thousands upon thousands of people spent money that they had no hope of paying back. People are absolute idiots about credit–far too many think it’s just magic, money appearing out of nowhere, with no thought of spending responsibly. Banks shouldn’t have agreed to loans for those people, regulations shouldn’t have allowed them to make the loans anyway, AND the people shouldn’t have spend money they couldn’t pay back. There’s more than enough blame to go around.

  15. there was a bug.. ppl exploited it.. ppl admitted to exploiting it.. and ppl got punished for it.. well-deserved..

    ppl pointing finger at blizz is just ridiculous.. if u buy a kitchen knife and stab someone to death.. do u blame the knife maker? or u gonna say u didnt know stabbing someone will kill them..

  16. I can understand Paragon’s position, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do they do what every other hardcore progression guild was already doing, cop the probable ban and keep everything on an even footing, or do they not do it, and either be disadvantaged in the race or get world firsts without most of the real competition being in the race.

    I tend to think that removing the gear would have been sufficient penalty, or maybe block them for a day, but a whole week?? It’s such a shame that some of the most talented players can’t join the race until next week – kinda dulls the excitement of watching how the top guilds are doing.

  17. From your:
    “So why would that thought process change when it comes to something virtual? Substitute Blizzard for the grocer, and substitute the exploiters in the position of the thief. Do our moral values go defunct because we’ve virtualized them? If not, then why would you hold Blizzard any more at fault than you would the grocer?:

    I don’t hold Blizzard at fault. But nor did those guilds actually steal anything from the grocer yet.

    They found a hole in the back wall. They snuck in. But all they did was pick up some carts and fill them with merchandise–but they didn’t leave the store yet. They didn’t actually accomplish anything that affected other shoppers–or even the grocer, significantly. They didn’t do anything that couldn’t be fixed with having to put everything back on the shelves.

    They didn’t actually receive any rewards yet. The gear is NOT a reward–the reward would have been using the gear to help down heroics faster. I don’t feel Blizzard should punish abuse of a mechanic. Instead, they should punish gaining unfair advantages. If the abuse didn’t yet result in an advantage, and the abuse can just be rolled back, then do it. No one complains about cheat codes in single player games–and until (what would have been) tonight’s raid, that’s basically what it was.

    Now, had they not been caught yet and used the items tonight, then throw the book at them. That would mean they didn’t just find and mess with a loophole, but they actually impacted the experience of other players. *That* is the issue about which Blizzard must remain vigilant. Take the gear back–all of it, so the proportional punishment is the wasted time and not getting even the one run worth of gear for the week.

    Removal from the community should be a punishment reserved for the crime of negatively impacting the experience of other players. That just didn’t happen, here.

    • I saw it more like a formula 1 race. On the practice laps to determine starting position on the grid, one of the drivers notices a possible short cut in the track and takes it. All the other drivers see them do it and most follow so they dont drop behind. Is it cheating ? Yes.

      In WoW, is loss of the gear and a week ban an appropriate punishment? IMO yes its the ideal punishment not overly harsh but they will definately feel it. Kudos to Vodka for resisting the temptation and it must have been very hard.

      • So you put them in the last starting position. They didn’t actually get an advantage yet–they *tried* to get an advantage. You still have the opportunity to negate their attempt, plus a bit (there’s the preventative measure).

        If the point of the practice laps is determining starting position, and someone cheats on the practice laps, give them the worst starting position.
        If someone cheats during the actual race, you give them the worst race result.
        If someone cheats during the actual race, and you don’t catch them until after the fact, *that’s* when your only available option is to stop them from competing in future races.

        And notice, in fact, that it’s when the individual is caught *after* “getting away with it” that they receive the most harsh punishment. There’s all the disincentive to cheat you need.

  18. I told the raiders in my guild to not even think of using this exploit as it was just bad and illegal, and i was pretty sure a ban would be the result.

    After logging in yesterday evening i was glad to see everyone online and no bans in our regular roster.

    So, hands up from the people who thought they could get away with a stunt like this then? Decking yourself out in LFR gear within a week and thinking blizz wouldn’t take notice or wouldn’t care?
    I just sat there reading through the QQ thread of ppl trying to justify something *everyone* knows is just wrong. WRONG.

    Those top-guilds that did this with the express purpose of obtaining high rankings are like athletes using illegal performance enhancing substances for the olympic games. The end justifies the means apparently, at least for these peope.

    No, just No.

  19. We had the discussion in Vent before the raid tonight and it was very divisive. In the end our GM had to shut us all up as it was escalating to be a bit unpleasant.
    It seems to me that those who used the glitch are being unfairly demonized by a whole chunk of the community. They didn’t have the advantage of the hindsight we have now. They were in a race, a race that they spend a great deal of time and energy trying to win. Someone made a time-pressured call to go down a path that it seemed like others in the race were already running down–a path that Blizzard seemed to have provided, and were possibly OK with, since they knew about it since the PTR. There was not the complete certainty on the day that people are now ascribing.

    They didn’t write code, or hack code. Nobody got hurt, nobody died, nobody got a First. Yeah, they deserved to have the gear taken off them. Maybe they had to be suspended because it was all so visible. But I can’t come at some of the bad mouthing and deprecating comments that they are copping now.

  20. This is really how Blizzard should handle exploits going forward, as they seem to be more routinely used by those in the world first races. Basically it seems like the biggest penalty for any of these guilds would be to make it so they are forced to sit out of the race, so they are forced to. Now granted it seems these guilds are driven enough to where eight days won’t be a huge setback, but it may be enough to make them think twice before they run off and use whatever exploit pops up in the first tier of the next expansion.

  21. I completely agree with Blizzard and with you, Beru, on this. What has dismayed me over the years is the number of people who would look at your store example and say, “Yes, it’s ok because this is a virtual world.” What is it with that? If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. The virtual setting doesn’t make it ok. On the other hand, I’m one of those people who would not do the “torture the prisoner” quest in the Borean Tundra either. It just felt wrong.

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