November 2006

The Walls Have Eyes, But Are Missing Form And Function

Gamespot has a story on a WoW guild that was banned for “wall-hacking” AQ40 because, well, let’s just go straight to C’thun, OK?

The usually insightful PlayNoEvil security blog asks “uh, isn’t that supposed to be impossible on an MMO? With, like servers and stuff?”

Hah. See, the whole “everything must be server side! the client is in the hands of the enemy!” gestalt is true. But the other side of that coin is that the more processing you can shuffle off onto the client, the less melting down into ash the servers get.

So, every MMO does SOME client-side wizardry, most of which is completely harmless if you hack it. Things like assembling text strings on the client, deciding which particle effect plays where, etc.

The trick is when you cross that line of “if the players find out, we’re screwed!” Or, more to the point, “if the players find out, we’ll ban them.” For example, speedhacking is a very common, and very difficult to defeat client side exploit in MMOs. In DAOC, the server simply did (and still does) periodic checks to see if a person is moving a bit too fast (ok, quite a bit too fast) and silently flags that account for a CSR to pop on and confirm, yes, this character is mowing down people at Mach 5, it’s time to convince him or her to play another game. (Of course, once players figured out this was happening, it was surprising how many people insisted that they were “hit with lag spikes”.)

So which is more harmful – a client-side exploit waiting to be discovered, or a server-side overload (something World of Warcraft has been plagued with, in many forms, due to sheer load) that prevents anyone from playing when the servers crash? And don’t say “none of the above”, because you missed Candyland back at the I-35 turnoff.


From Korea, land of the morning calm and the evening starcraft, comes this report:

Virtual reality that has been the craze of so many Koreans is moving into the real world _ violently.

Hyon-P, a compound word derived from \’e2\’80\’9chyonsil” (reality) and an online game term “Player Kill’s P,” is spreading among people more involved in their online lives than their real ones.

The 28 students are not the only ones who experienced Hyon-P. Two teenagers scuffled on Kangnam Boulevard, one of the most crowded areas in Seoul, last September after they got into a row on a Web site known for its members’ activeness. Their punches were recorded and uploaded on numerous Web sites, and the footage became one of the most searched-for video clips on portal Web sites.

No word on if Jack Thompson is busily brushing up on his hangul.

Today on “People Unclear On The Concept”…

…1UP (by way of “Games for Windows”, formerly “Computer Gaming World”, and I’m all out of parentheticals) posted a review of Neverwinter Nights 2. The reviewer disliked it – not because of weak dialogue or heavy system requirements or a clunky user interface. No. The reviewer disliked it because in his opinion, D&D is obsolete.

A revelatory, polarizing experience that — in the wake of newer, better alternatives — makes you question the very notion of “RPG by numbers.” It foists Wizards of the Coast’s latest v3.5 D&D system (a molehill that’s become a mountain at this point) onto your hard drive with stunning fidelity, then tacks on dozens of artificial-looking areas vaguely linked by forget-table plot points you check off like grocery to-do’s.

These may well be valid points, but I’m not sure that in this case the reviewer is the target audience for this game. And frankly, considering Obsidian’s reputation for quality dialogue and storytelling, I’d expect considerably more than a few snarky asides in the midst of how superior you feel you are to the D&D ruleset addressing what appears to be a weak effort by them in this regard. That’s what I would want to see in a relevant review, not cracks about “OMG, not hit points and armor class AGAIN!” in, um, a licensed D&D product.

Perhaps the next review can be a negative review of “Company of Heroes” because, really, haven’t we seen ENOUGH Germans in World War 2? Wait, I know, how about a review of Civilization 4, which complains about how you can’t zoom in like in Dynasty Warriors and fight the battles yourself. That would be AWESOME.

As seen in a Quarter to Three thread, where the reviewer responds and his editor lets us all know how handsome a devil he is.

Update: The review’s been pulled from 1Up’s web site. To quote GfW’s editor, Jeff Green:

It’s not the score that got this thing pulled. ( For all I know that score is still valid. ) It’s also not the opinion of angry fanbois that got it pulled.

It’s the issue of tone/fairness brought up in this thread. And that was the fault of the Ziff Davis editors—meaning, among other people, me. I stand by Peckham. You can throw your rocks at me.