We've long known that publishers of massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft don't like it when players mess with the purity of their games.
That's why they routinely issue stern warnings that anyone caught gold farming or buying accounts or using bots that automate various processes will be punished in some way, including being banned from the game.
But now, it seems, WoW publisher Blizzard Entertainment is taking its enmity toward this kind of behavior to the courts.
As reported by the BBC, Blizzard has sued the creator of a program, or "bot," known as MMO Glider. According to the MMO Glider site, the "tool...plays your World of Warcraft character for you, the way you want it. It grinds, it loots, it skins, it heals, it even farms soul shards...without you."
That is anathema to Blizzard, and the company is trying to get the courts to stop Glider's creator, Michael Donnelly, from selling it.
Blizzard's court filing asserts that "Blizzard's designs expectations are frustrated, and resources are allocated unevenly, when bots are introduced into the WoW universe, because bots spend far more time in-game than an ordinary player would and consume resources the entire time," according to the BBC.
Blizzard also argues that Glide infringes its copyright, the BBC writes, "because it copies the game into RAM in order to avoid detection by anti-cheat software."
But the legal drama doesn't end there. In his legal response, Donnelly retorts that Glide doesn't infringe Blizzard's copyright because the program doesn't create any copies of WoW code.
For now, the two sides are lining up their lawyers and awaiting the next step in what is sure to be a long, drawn-out legal wrangling. One does wonder, however, how an individual like Donnelly will be able to hold out against the formidable resources of an outfit like Blizzard, which is owned by conglomerate Vivendi.
To me, this is an interesting situation. There's no doubt that MMO publishers want to keep players from using cheats like Glider, and there's equally no doubt that people will always be coming up with ways to subvert the system and search out little edges like those to automate tasks that result in performance awards.Yet this case may not help resolve the age-old game play issues that have engaged many a scholar and player. That's because it may instead revolve around hard-core technical issues surrounding what exactly happens when players use Glider.
This, in some ways, is too bad because I think a lot of people are looking for some actual legal resolution of game-play issues. But if the court ends up making a decision that doesn't touch on such dilemmas, we'll just keep waiting for the next situation that will bring these issues before the bar.