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Hackers Game a Multiplayer World

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World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade

World of Warcraft is a popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, with more than 11.5 million subscribers as of December 2008.

Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Two programmers have hacked the World of Warcraft online game environment with a set of programs that automate in-game characters, which game developer Blizzard Entertainment has thus far failed to detect.

Programmer Christopher Mooney says his motivation for undertaking the Behead the Prophet project with colleague James Luedke was to figure out how "to change the environment and extend the game experience." The project features code for automating "helper" characters or bots, and Mooney and Luedke insist that their programs are not malevolent. They programmed their helpers to wait until a character from a particular guild requests aid and then follow that character's lead in taking actions such as healing, casting spells, and attacking foes.

To evade detection and legal issues, the programmers wrote a script in the Lua programming language that makes decisions according to game action, and those decisions are rendered in a specific color in a bar at the top of the screen. A second program uses this color to determine which keys to press to control the helper character. Mooney and Luedke presented their method at the recent DEFCON 17 conference.

Mooney contends that Blizzard should not attempt to remove bot programs, but rather start a small group of separate servers as a testbed for developers and players who want to experiment with character automation.

From Technology Review
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