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back to article World of Warcraft bot ban ticks off world of critics

A federal appeals panel has upheld a ban on the distribution of a once-popular World of Warcraft bot in a sprawling ruling that is sure to anger just about everyone with a stake in the debate over whether gamers have the right to tweak the titles they play. Tuesday's 3-0 decision from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals said …

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WTF?

Decisions, decisions

I'm not sure which side to applaud here; on the one hand the use of bots to achieve an unfair advantage in games is definitely cheating, especially on a paid for service; on the other the DMCA is evil in its encroachment on right to modify principles.

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Agreed completely Marcus

Hear Hear!

How can anyone think the DMCA was ever a good idea in the first place?

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Re: Decisions, decisions

I too have no problem with banning bots, but it should be dealt with under the US equivalent of the Computer Misuse Act as unauthorised access to a computer system, not under copyright law.

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Pirate

RE: Decisions, decisions

".....the use of bots to achieve an unfair advantage in games is definitely cheating...." But the bot in question only allowed plays to robot through standard activities, it didn't give them an advantage in PVP game play and wouldn't last five minutes in a dungeon or raid, it just removed the need for "grinding" to gain levels. Personally, I don't class that as cheating, just as stupid, seeing as you can level much faster by doing quests and instances rather than grinding anyway. Sure, you may level faster than someone that actually plays the game as you can leave Glider to run for hours longer than most players can actually spare to play, but it's a bit like buying a book and just reading the last chapter - how do you enjoy the story if that's all you do? And WoW has a very rich story line that botters will have missed out on. You might as well just buy a level seventy or higher character off eBay.

No, my main problem with botters is not those looking to level quickly, but those using bots to farm materials to sell in the auction houses, usually so they can sell the in-game gold for real money. Those kind of "players" should be banned as they reduce the options for those levelling their characters' professions normally and upset the economics of the game.

/Yeeaaargh, in finest Vashj'ir fashion!

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DMCA is evil

what is considered cheating here is defined by Blizzard and should so be policed by them. Not the legal system. It's their servers, their game, their own byelaws.

*** What does the DMCA or legal system have to do with it? ***

Basically this - blizzard has found out it cannot deal with botters and gold farmers to the extent it'd like to and so has gone squealing to the law. Lame.

I'm siding with Glider on this one as honestly, I can't see what they are doing that is *illegal*. Violating blizzards TOS yes.. but illegal? What sort of legal system would that be then?

For the record, I dislike gold farmers mainly because they spam chat you ...

... but the 'actual' bots are less of a problem.

They are mostly an annoyance when they queue battlegrounds ... but farming bots in the wild... well... I play on a pvp server with toons on both factions... If it's a farmbot, I can kill it.

I also find the bot-ted 'acrobatics' in SW and Org quite amusing.

Blizzard, FFS just deal with it, don't go crying to the law. It's lame. FAIL. Epic. No... Legendary.

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Stop

re

I fail to see why any level of any government should have anything to do with the code of conduct within an online game.

How exactly is it copyright infringement to have the computer play a game for you compared to playing it yourself?

Why do I have a feeling that the courts involved in this case have no freakin clue what they're talking about? This sounds like it is on the magnitude of the "internet is a series of fluid filled tubes" stupid.

Bots are bad, whatever. Blizzard's problem to find and ban them, the tax money of citizens should not be being spent to deal with it.

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As far as I can tell...

The use of the bot is against the terms of service of WoW. This means that Blizzard are within their rights to rerminate the accounts of people found to be using it. I have no problem with that. if people cheat in online games, they make it less enjoyable for others and consequently lose money for the producer in lost sales.

However, I can't see how this has anything to do with copyright. I guess it's easier for Blizzard to go after the one target making the bot software, rather than the thousands using it, but that doesn't make it a copyright issue just on the grounds of inconvenience. In my eyes, this guy is in the clear, it's the people who buy the bot and use it who are breaking their Ts&Cs and run the risk of getting kicked off their game.

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Boffin

Title

"But the bot in question only allowed plays to robot through standard activities"

Yes, the advertised use for the bot is grinding "low" levels, however, there are plenty of gold farmers and account looting bots that means "Glider" may not have such a passive dark-sibling. If we allow (turn a blind eye) to "low level" botting, where does it stop? lv20? Allow them to run low-level dungeons too?

Granted, it technically is Blizzard's fail here though. It wouldn't be terribly difficult for them to do a bot-weight Admin system in that factors overall playtime in a given timeframe, duration of play sessions, time-of-day of play sessions, types of actions during sessions (farming whelps or grinding mobs primarily?), use of in-game communications and social functions (member of a guild?), etc. Even a bit of ping-pong queries at the game client. For high-scoring suspected botters, a GM can pick tops from a list and shadow them, perhaps an automated in-game whisper for response. Teleport them on top of a mountain and see how their bot reacts. Granted, extreme measures of manipulation are reserved for high-scoring bots on this measure, but they can get temp-flagged as "non-bot" for a few months once proven legit.

Regardless of who's FAIL it is, DMCA is the wrong law to bring in. I'd definately side more on the unauthorized access to protected computer systems. It's tantamount to reverse engineering my VPN tunnel and building your own VPN client to access my network and interact with my servers. Client/Server communcations, be they encrypted or not, are the same in either case: you (client) send/receive info to my (server) network. If you shouldn't be there, and I gave narrow means of access, YOU are breaking the law by circumventing my client.

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WTF?

Way to support cheating El Reg.

"That's sure to tick off gamers and hackers who believe they should be able to modify the software they legally acquire"

Except of course, you don't "aquire" the game.

Aside from the "Licensed, not Purchased" argument, WoW is an MMO - you're paying for access, just like you don't aquire your local gym (even after paying membership and sign up fees) you don't own/aquire the game.

As a gamer I support this - The arguments made by this article are just like saying that an Olympic weightlifter should be able to use steroids - its their body after all.

Cheaters out! Its that simple.

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FAIL

It isn't about cheating

The problem isn't about Blizzard wanting to crack down on cheating; that's acceptable on its own terms, even free games like MUDs or Quake servers will ban bot cheaters. The problem here is that DMCA is being used for things that it shouldn't be used, equating a simple "cheating tool" to a warez game-pirating cracker. This has bad implications on stuff not even related to "copyright infringement" or even "MMORPG cheating".

According to this ruling, if I type "there is no cow level" on StarCraft, I'm BREAKING TEH LAW.

If I use one of those "Diablo character editors" to give my sorceress an instant lvl 32, I'M BREAKING TEH LAW.

Hell, I'm probably violating the DMCA if I type IDSPISPOPD while playing DOOM. "Oh noes! He's walking through walls!"

Yes, cheating on MMOs is wrong, but the ruling in this case is also wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right.

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A title is required, and is probably a DMCA violation

"According to this ruling, if I type "there is no cow level" on StarCraft, I'm BREAKING TEH LAW.

If I use one of those "Diablo character editors" to give my sorceress an instant lvl 32, I'M BREAKING TEH LAW.

Hell, I'm probably violating the DMCA if I type IDSPISPOPD while playing DOOM. "Oh noes! He's walking through walls!""

Actually, no, that isn't the case. The things you mention--the Diablo character editor, the Doom cheat code, and so on--are not violating an anti-circumvention measure; indeed, cheat codes built into a game can't possibly do this by definition, as they are PART fo the game.

Essentially, this ruling is not "cheating = breaking teh law," hysterics aside. It's "cheating by circumventing an anti-cheating mechanism that protects a game's database" is breaking teh law. You might not agree with that principle, but it's quite a lot different from what you're talking about.

In a subscription service where you're paying for access to someone else's resources rather than hacking a bit of software on your won computer, I think it's reasonable to bring matters of law into play. To move away from WoW for a moment, if you were to violate the rules of your country club, you could be arrested for trespassing on the golf course. That's not saying that cheating = breaking the law; it's saying that the owner fo the country club enjoys legal protection from unauthorized use.

Same is true of a gym, a public swimming pool, and so on. Even if you pay fees, you can't do whatever you want, and if you insist on violating the terms under which your membership applies, at some point the law will get involved.

Blizzard owns the servers, the databases, and the routers. Buying a boxed copy of World of Warcraft doesn't entitle a person to do whatever they want on those servers or with those databases. If someone continues to abuse those resources, eventually the law will get involved.

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re: Way to support cheating El Reg.

No - not that simple.

I loathe the bots and cheating, but in your gym analogy, all the gym can do to punish you for breaking terms and conditions is throw you out. If you hire someone to exercise for you they can block them from entry to the gym, but they can't stop someone from offering to exercise on your behalf.

Blizzard should certainly have the right to ban users caught cheating from connecting to their servers, but they shouldn't have the right to stop the sale of a third-party product. That's far too dangerous a principle to establish, regardless of our distaste for cheaters.

A good outcome for gamers is a bad outcome for freedom and a good outcome for freedom is a setback for gamers. Which is more important?

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Stop

Err

Thereisnocowlevel, etc are intended functions of the software put there by the developers, claiming using these would be illegal is as ridiculous as claiming you can no longer use space to open doors in doom. These people changed the game to cheat.

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Alert

@Chad H.

"Thereisnocowlevel, etc are intended functions of the software put there by the developers, claiming using these would be illegal is as ridiculous as claiming you can no longer use space to open doors in doom. These people changed the game to cheat."

I also mentioned the Diablo character editor thingy. IIRC, that one isn't an official Blizzard tool, it was a hack-thingy that allowed to create or edit characters to give them stuff like extra levels, abilities, inventory stuff. That one might probably fall under the DMCA violation according to this rule. Take in mind that Diablo is playable online, and the gameplay style is kind of MMO-ish. I also forgot to mention the FSGS thingy that allows you to use a custom Battle.net server instead of the Blizzard one. Very useful for LAN parties w/o internet access :)

Blizzard does have the right to boot/ban cheaters from their servers; after all, it is their service and I fully agree with that. It is the method which Blizzard is using to enforce this that I find as DMCA creep.

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You mean

I can't use my bot to go into a gym and do my exercising for me?

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Erm, no

You can exercise your butt but not your bot

hth

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Actually...

... recently someone did get legal action taken against them for using someone else's membership card ¬¬.

Amusingly, the company was defrauded out of.... 2p.

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Diablo characters

There are two portions to the Diablo online system, Open Battle.net where you can use locally saved characters online in a peer to peer gaming environment (and thus they can be edited, given top level items and so forth), and Battle.net itself, where your character is only ever stored server side, and Blizzard clamp down on incidences of cheating (duplication of items is the popular hack).

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I can't believe people downmarked you ...

Presumably those 5 (at the time I write this) either do not play MMOs or are cheaters themselves.

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Disagrree with Chad H.

If you were only paying for access, then anybody could have the game for free, and wouldn't have to buy the CD. You are buying a copy of the game code, and as such are an "owner" just like you own your television. You don't own the cable, however, that is rented out to you at a monthly price, just like your access to the online play.

So yes, you do own the game. No, you do not have a "right" to be allowed on their servers.

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Stop

It's no different to an initiation fee

But you aren't buying the code, again ignoring the "license"v "own" argument, the WOW purchase fee is no different to the initation fee charged by some clubs... If you were to, for example stump up the 300k mr trump asks as an initiation fee to trump national, you can be sure that mr Trump doesn't agree that you own the club, nor have the right to rewrite the rules of the club to suit you at the expense of everyone else.

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Stop

The club analogy is great...

...but flawed. Still, to explain in similar terms, let us say you need an access card to get into the club. You can buy that access card anywhere, it then belongs to you. Unlike an initiation fee, you actually get something tangible for your money. You can do anything you want with it, but if you go to the club and try to get inside restricted areas by hacking the card, they are well within their rights to throw you out or even sue you - but not because you hacked the card, but because you were trespassing and possibly doing damage to them by using it.

Similarly, creating bots or hacking software should NOT be a offense, especially not on DMCA grounds. It is using them that needs to be punished, and is being punished since quite a while. It is simply a necessary compromise between fighting cheaters and keeping personal freedoms.

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Sorry but your wrong

The game can be downloaded for free, you pay for a code that allows you to create an account

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Pint

Afraid not

YOU NEVER OWN SOFTWARE!

When are people going to get this? In extreme cases you own code if you buy it, but with 99% of the software most of us use, we simply license it. With FOSS that license is free, with commercial you pay, either way you still only have a license to USE software for a purpose for which it was sold. You could argue you own the physical media it came on, the printed materials are yours, although I believe even that has been contested in court.

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But you don't own the card.

I think pretty much every access card I have int wallet make it clear that the card remains the property of the issuer, not me.

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Re: club analogy

Except that the fee you pay is presumably for the right to enter the club, not for the access card. The access card is given to you as proof that you paid the fee. They are perfectly entitled, for example, to change the access system and ask you to swap the card for a new type of access token.

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Good

As a WoW player who has tried completing quests in zones with those bots running I applaud this decision.

The bots go around an area simply killing any creatures/mobs present which are frequently required to complete quests. They will stay there for hours, days and even weeks making what should be a fun game, into a frustrating PITA as you try to complete with a mindless bot repeatedly killing the things you need to progress.

This wasn't about whether you can mod a game to my mind, this was about ruining an MMORPG where these bots actions seriously affect *many* other peoples enjoyment.

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You have a point but missed the obvious fun

I spent many a happy hour thwarting the bots . With good timing you could let someone elses bot do your hard work for you . Oh and lets not forget the ones left to wander in pvp areas . Had a lot of fun with those lol .

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WTF?

The FBI should be involved?

This is about money. Blizzard saw their subscription base diminished and decided to blame the bot maker. Their contention is proved by Subban; bots are ruining our mmorpg! Never mind the fact that WoW is so tedious that people will actually buy a bot to play the game for them... So, let's call the FBI!!! They're not busy at them moment... We'll use them to ban and police any software and behaviors that might spoil the fun of our paying customers.

Blizzard need to grow a pair; and make the GAME more interesting, removing the raison d'etre for bots in the first place.

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Easily Answered! @ gauge symmetry

Don't play the game. If the game is sooooooo boring that a bot is needed by that person to play it, then I suggest that the game is not for that person.

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Paris Hilton

Ok...

So any game people use cheats on is in some way broken and the fault of publisher? There are, clearly, plenty of people who think the game is good, me for one, and even more who think the game is to easy.

Unfortunatly there will always be those who find any game to much effot. There used to be cheat codes in every magazine. Entire companys grew up around cheat hack cartrages and memory cards. This is not about the game being bad, or boreing, but about some people not wanting to play fair. It is also about gold farmers and people wanting money. There is some expensive stuff in the game that takes a long time to get because Blizz wanted to make it hard to get, but for some people they want this stuff now, with no work.

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WTF?

WTF?

"The bots go around an area simply killing any creatures/mobs present which are frequently required to complete quests"

Ignore them or just kill 'em... Never had much bother with farmbots.

On a pvp server I can't off hand think of any non-lowbie zones that are not contested.

So, just kill 'em.

Free honour. If they're the same faction, just get on your other opposing faction toon. Or I'm sure you have a guildie or mate with one of those.

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Happy

Depends on reach...

"...whether gamers have the right to tweak the titles they play..."

Someone wants to mod a game they play on their own system, I say "go right ahead" (extra levels, new weapons, whatever).

Someone wants to mod a game where *other people* play, I say this is cheating.

To put this into Soccer perspective - so long as a club's players only play amongst themselves, FIFA doesn't care if they inject steroids on a daily basis. The moment they play other clubs/players, FIFA will step in, test them, and throw them out of the competition. To continue on this theme - anyone supplying players with the drugs *or with methods to pass the drug tests* will also find themselves on the wrong end of the hurt stick.

To my mind, the same applies to on-line games :- you were told that bots aren't allowed; as a player, *the player* is banned from playing; as a supplier of the method to bypass the cheat-test, *the cheat supplier* gets sued.

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Anonymous Coward

But, Again,

You are missing the point of the problem. If you get chucked out of the FIFA-controlled game, you're thrown out based on the agreement not to use drugs. Blizzard are going an additional step and claiming DMCA violation, which means something quite different in legal terms than cheating. Case law will stand for the next trial, and bear in mind the history of these kinds of trial - it never ends "there", but will go to the next level.

Your analogy, funny enough agrees with the sentiment of the article (though I suspect you did not intend that).

To use your argument (and I don't intend to convey that the argument is -right-, I'm just trying to apply your thinking to the article):

Even though the club - or hell, you and your mates getting together for a game - may allow steroids and they're not illegal, you will not be permitted to use them because FIFA object to their use in professional games.

Again, some will say - "so who's gonna chase home users". That's not the question. The question you should have been asking is "so who's gonna be sued next for DMCA violations". And the precedent being set means that it can - winnable if argued based on case law - be the creators of those Space Quest 1 <insert any non-mmo-here> hack tools that are nothing to do with any service. Hell, it might even be a text walkthrough that gets attacked next.

Make sense?

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Boffin

@AC But Again

No, I think you're missing the point (directly from the article):

" Glider maker MDY Industries added the measure to evade a feature called the Warden..."

In other words, it's NOT the bot itself that violates the DMCA. It's the feature MDY added to the bot that was specifically written to evade Blizzard's protections.

The club analogy doesn't work because it doesn't have copyright involved. A better analogy would be a library.

You get a library card that gives you access to a library.

You then decide that you don't have time to read the introductory books, so you build a robot to do that for you and summarize the results.

The library then creates a system preventing robots from accessing copyrighted materials.

You then modify your robot to look so much like a human that the library security system can't tell the difference.

Now you've created a product specifically designed to circumvent access restrictions to copyrighted material. It ALSO breaks your library license agreement, but the modification is what allows the DMCA to come into play.

The only material difference between this scenario and the case in question is that the copyright in the original case belonged to the security system owner, whereas the copyright in this example does not necessarily belong to the library.

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Not worth the price

I hate game cheaters, so it is great that people cannot cheat in WOW anymore. But I really don't think it was worth the price paid. If to stop cheaters it means that we cannot have the freedom to own and modify the things that we have purchased, then leave the cheaters for another day. There must be ways to stop them that don't involve us having to shoot ourselves in the foot, to do so.

But yet again to solve a problem, a tool that was not designed for the job is used which create several other problems in the process. But as long as we have solved the original problem who cares, right? Laws should not be used like this.

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Well, sue LOADS of people then.

OK, any interference with program code loaded into memory is a voilation of dmca? so in windows those DLLs that get loaded automatically at process start that can intercept any system call - of which there are loads - sue them as well. its interfered.

like the patent rules which say you must protect against any infringement, it should be applied across the board.

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Is it really that simple?

Remember that this bot actually completes quests, so it has to have some pretty deep hooks into either the code or the quest data. If that code and quest data is protected by any encryption (which it surely is) then the bot has to break that encryption -- the "countermeasures" mentioned in the DCMA are employed and letter of the law is breached.

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Good for WoW

The DCMA should not be used for that, and should not even exist, but good for WoW.

I hate bots, even if I stopped playing long ago.

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Multiboxers

At the same time, blizzard has no issues with people who multibox (controlling 4,5,6+characters from the same terminal) - which is as bad, if not worse cheating than glider.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they pay a subscription for each of the characters they play.

Must be the money.

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Mek

Multiboxing: Not quite the case

Totally incorrect. Multi boxing requires a massive amount of setting up if your doing it properly and requires you to actually be at the machine controlling all the characters at the same time, which is no mean feat if your trying to output as much DPS as possible.

Take into account the new Cata zones. The amount of loot x off of Y mob, with the shere volume of people on the same quest. This takes a stupid amount of time whilst Multiboxing.

Its not as easy you make out, and 100% adds a completely different dimension to the game.

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Personally...

I don't like multiboxers and used to think in a similar way to yourself. But at the end of the day multiboxers are controlling the characters, it's not a bot. And they can be easily taken out if PvP is your problem.

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Anonymous Coward

hmmm

I take it you've never tanked and healed an instance as a multiboxer, because that is great fun. I can see the merit of people wanting to do instances that way, and also the way two boxers did Kara a while back... again, impressive. The amount of individual co-ordination is impressive.

In PvP, like that Shaman 5boxer, it's pretty lame. But the thing is, you just need to split the multiboxer up. You won't do it solo of course.

It's not without merit, multiboxing... if you find WoW easy, it's a way to make it more challenging. By the end of Burning Crusade I was tanking instances with my pet, while healing the instance with my Shaman, and acting as a DPSer too... not like tanking on a Hunter particularly easy in the first place!

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Re

The only difference between a multiboxer script and a botter script is that the botter presses the start key further in advance and the script takes longer to run. Multiboxers often input from the user more often than botters do, based on the actions they generally undertake.

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Anonymous Coward

I agree to disagree.

The bots I know of for games are nothing more than automated key pressers. This may be considered cheating to some people. But to say that these programs violate somebodies copyright is ludicrous. They do nothing to modify code or modify memory like trainers do.

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You and I both will get flamed

I think Glider should be allowed. It's useless for any end-game content, and levelling up is a chore after your 4th or 5th toon. I'd be more than happy to have a bot automate the "1, 2, 1, 2, loot, run, 1, 2, 1, 2, loot, run, 1, 2, 3 (heal) 1, 2, loot, run..." process of the first 30 or so levels while I watch a few episodes of House or Babylon 5.

If Glider could let you 8-man LK HC, then I'd say no, but if all you get are a few greens and a boat load of XP, I'm fine with it.

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Other players say: you have to EARN your characters

The way we think is: You want a collection of high-level characters, you have to earn it the hard way. It's boring? Tough. Essentially, we think you are being lazy.

Actually, I would mind less if it was used in instances. At least, it would not interfere with my gameplay. But then, I was not in the race to have the coolest weapons on the server. (Not playing at all anymore, actually)

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Pirate

DMCA is an ass but as a gamer I applaud this judgement

These bots are used to gain an unfair advantage over other players so as a gamer I totally agree with this product being banned. As for own/license its a virtual product really there is nothing to "own" you acquire the right to use it as agreed between software company and individual or more commonly referred to as a license. Now as for modifying the game ultimately on a single player game I don't think anyone would have a problem with it, but this game is accessing blizzard's servers which even apart from the DMCA argument there is another valid argument in that by connecting to blizzard's servers you are agreeing to respect their rules which includes not running a BOT.

Ultimately if you do not like the terms of the software license don't purchase the product, world of crackcraft is not a monopoly and neither is it essential to the running of your PC.

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purpose of bots

So, people use bots to get through the early levels quickly? I thought that bots were only used for gold farming?

...surely, if the game you're playing is so mind-numbingly boring that you'd rather buy a bot than playing it, then you should re-evaluate whether you should be playing the game in the first place...?

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People are getting confused..

Glider did not complete quests for you.

All it did was move your character around predefined paths killing mobs it detected there. There was no intelligence to it, and once you got a few bots in an area, as a player trying to complete quests it was a complete nightmare and could levae you virtually unable to find any mobs to kill to progress.

If the bots did quests, moved on and acted smarter they wouldn't be noticed different from normal players. That isn't how they behaved though and could really impact on real players ability to play. That is what was so bad about them.

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