World of Warcraft's developers regularly ban players for cheating. This week may have been their biggest disciplinary move yet, though. In one fell swoop, they banned over 100,000 players from their MMORPG.
Many of the banned players, who are barred from the game for six months, used a program called Honorbuddy. Honorbuddy is a bot program that automatically performed many tasks in the game for players. In addition to performing simple tasks like finding crafting materials or performing archaeology digs, the bot also autopiloted players through dungeons and battlegrounds. In other words, these characters were earning in-game rewards while the player wasn't even controlling them.
World of Warcraft is full of time-consuming grinds. For example, you need tons of ore to level up your Blacksmithing skill or a bunch of Honor to buy new player-versus-player gear. The player Garrisons introduced with the latest expansion give players even more tasks to accomplish.
A program that allows player to effortlessly make progress on these goals became popular. By having a bot complete these tasks, players can devote more time to more fun in-game activities. Honorbuddy's website says that over 200,000 users have registered to date. However, the new wave of bans from Blizzard suggests that they can now find players using Honorbuddy.
"It seems like Honorbuddy was detected, we are not sure, but looking at the BAN THREADS, we think that its the most likely option [at the moment]," an Honorbuddy developer said on that service's forums. "We are sorry for all your lost WOW Accounts, hopefully you can use them again after the 6 months ban is lifted. I have read here in the forums a bit, a lot of the accounts where 10 years old. This is a pity. We always say, do not use your valuable accounts as the risk is always there."
The Honorbuddy developers have temporarily closed authentication for their service. However, they're not willing to admit defeat just yet.
"We want to be offering Honorbuddy as soon as possible. Right now, we have no news for you. Please do bear with us - immediately we have news we will share it."
Whether or not Honorbuddy finds a way to avoid future detection by Blizzard, botting is still going to be an ongoing problem for World of Warcraft. The game's various goals require more time than many players have or are willing to spend. As a result, some of them are going to seek out ways to cut corners.