This weekend thousands of players dropped dead where they stood in some of World of Warcraft’s greatest cities, from Orgrimmar to Ragnaros to Stormwind.
Entire populations winked out in a matter of hours, their skeletal corpses strewn across cobblestones like straw. It was as if Stephen King had visited Azeroth like the Red Death: an execution flash mob — The Stand as performance art.
“Orgrimmar got nuked, killing almost everything except for a few NPCs, all players and most of the NPC civilization died including Garrosh and Gamon,” wrote one user on the official WoW message board.
“It was really weird,” wrote another. “I was AFK [away from keyboard] for like one minute, and when I came back I was dead and so were everyone else, including NPCs and such. Really creepy.”
“Maybe it was…Maybe hack? Maybe it’s the nuke on Orgrimmar by the Alliance already?!” wrote a third. “Well…I was in the Hall of the Brave by that time. I died a hero’s death!”
Thousands of players were afflicted by what Blizzard quickly described as an “exploit,” apparently carried off by a trio of hackers who visited multiple servers with level one characters, circling above the cities on mounts and somehow instantly butchering everyone in sight.
According to an Ownedcore.com poster named Jadd, one of the alleged hackers, “The first account ban for using the kill hack was issued around 30 minutes before we started nuking cities.”
The hacker’s justification?
We didn’t do any permanent damage. Some people liked it for a new topic of conversation and a funny stream to watch … It’s not like I added 20000000 gold to everyone’s inventory, and broke the economy; but look at the big Chinese gold seller companies, who are doing this every day. Now ask yourself who is really ruining the game. It’s not us.
Here’s a video of the alleged hack in action, described by poster JaddMMOwned (presumably the same person) as “prior usage of the instant kill hack, before the incidents in major cities on multiple US and EU realms occurred.”
And here’s another video from a standpoint of one of the exploit’s victims in Stormwind.
Blizzard has already patched the game and issued the following statement through a community manager:
Earlier today [Sunday], certain realms were affected by an in-game exploit, resulting in the deaths of player characters and non-player characters in some of the major cities. This exploit has already been hotfixed, so it should not be repeatable. It’s safe to continue playing and adventuring in major cities and elsewhere in Azeroth.
As with any exploit, we are taking this disruptive action very seriously and conducting a thorough investigation. If you have information relating to this incident, please email email@example.com. We apologize for the inconvenience some of you experienced as a result of this and appreciate your understanding.
It’s certainly not the first time an MMO exploit’s made the news. Ultima Online vets will remember when, 15 years ago, a player managed to kill Lord British, the game’s most famous denizen, previously deemed untouchable. And who could forget the “Corrupted Blood” pandemic in WoW itself, where users willfully spread a deadly health-depleting spell that wiped out low level characters everywhere in what some have called the first virtual biological attack?
But I submit it gets no better than this: the Star Wars: The Old Republic “Getdown.”