On October 1, 2010, Blizzard began the unprecedented act of suspending and banning players for the use of cheats and trainers in SINGLE PLAYER games of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. Users found to be using cheats in SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN MODE and AI SKIRMISH mode were treated the same as if they had cheated in a multiplayer online match. For some, their accounts were suspended and for others their CD keys were disabled and they were completely locked out of playing even campaign mode in their legally purchased game.
“I was mostly shocked,” Cheat Happens gm0ney said of the ban e-mail. “Although with all of the news about bans and suspensions coming up, I was somewhat prepared. Blizzard has made it very public in the few months since the game’s release that they would take immediate action against anyone found cheating in any form of StarCraft 2. “We take cheating in our games very seriously,” said a Blizzard spokesperson in a press release. “If you’re caught cheating in Starcraft 2, Blizzard, as per the terms in the EULA reserves the right to ban your battle.net account and/or CD key from ever playing again, online or off. In essence, it’s the language of the EULA that’s in question in the argument as Blizzard states that “playing anything other than an unaltered game client violates the Battle.net terms or use. “We strongly recommend that you avoid using any hacks, cheats or exploits.”
Still though, some question Blizzard’s motives. “I’m surprised they took such a blind step without doing some research into the games played,” gm0ney added. The user has been through a similar situation before, with another game -- where he suspects the company had monetary motivations for the bans, “A bunch of people’s accounts got hacked and used cheats, so we all got banned. The company already had our money so they didn’t care about our accounts.” Many people, including Cheat Happens’ Business Operations Manager and Content Editor Chris O’Rorke, believe that Blizzard is also thinking monetarily, and points to the company’s blockbuster MMO World of Warcraft as evidence. In WoW, which (unlike Starcraft 2) carries with it a monthly fee, users who are found to be cheating are only handed temporary bans as to not interrupt the monthly flow of cash coming from those users.
A blizzard spokesperson defended the company and its actions, saying that the bannings were done in an effort to be fair to all users rather than for money. In an e-mail to a Cheat Happens user appealing their suspension, the company claims that single player Starcraft 2 games have an effect on multiplayer. “While single player games only appear to be you and a computer at first, your achievements and gamer score also carries weight and prestige for your online play,” read the email.
O’Rorke scoffs at the reply. “Our trainers help put the control back in the hands of the end-user and let them play the game the way they want to play it. Through our cheats and trainers, we try and enhance the games by offering the player new and different ways of playing. As long as these cheats don’t affect anyone but the person using them, why does anyone care? It’s not affecting any type of online ladders or standings or interrupting another person’s game. Some people argue that “achievements” can easily be gained by using cheats and this is the reason for banning people. Again, achievements are meant to mark a certain individual’s milestones within the game. They have no bearing on multiplayer standings, matches or games, regardless of what Blizzard might say. You can’t tell me that an individual’s single player achievements have any bearing on the multiplayer match of two completely different and random people on the other side of the globe. If the achievements were such a big deal, then why not simply disable them or disable a user’s ability to participate in online matches? There is no good reason to completely disable someone’s legally purchased game just because they cheated in single player mode and might one day play a multiplayer match. If Blizzard has the technology to detect single player cheats and trainers, surely they have the ability to merely disable or deactivate achievements just as they do when using the game's built-in cheat codes.”
O’Rorke says that when he heard about the bans, he was surprised. “I don’t think it’s fair and I would even go as far as to question its legality. I can completely understand, and even support, the banning of users that are intentionally cheating multiplayer games as this affects more than just the person doing the cheating,” said O’Rorke. “However, banning people for cheating in a single player game is utterly ridiculous.” O’Rorke adds that if you were to take the situation out of the gaming world, it seems even more ridiculous. “Would you buy a car if you knew that if you decided to switch out the factory stereo with a better, third party stereo, that someone would come and repossess your car in the middle of the night simply for doing so? It's a ridiculous proposition." O'Rorke continues by saying “Having been in the cheating business for over 13 years now, I’ve learned that people cheat for many different reasons. Some people have time constraints and want to be able to experience the entire game, so they cheat through the most difficult parts in order to reach the end. Some people might be older or handicapped or simply not possess the fast-twitch reflexes of a 12 year old which seems to be a requirement of some games these days. Ultimately, cheats and trainers help game publishers and are the reason that companies other than Blizzard don't start throwing out bans for single player use. Who is more likely to purchase additional DLC and sequels to a game, someone frustrated half way through that cannot finish the game or someone that was able to enjoy all the game had to offer, albeit with the use of cheats?”
So is there any way around the bans for those who cheat in single-player content? Apparently not, according to email correspondence received from Blizzard which states “Following a review of your case, we can confirm that the evidence presented was correct, and that the subsequent action taken was appropriate. Our decision in this matter stands, and will not be overturned. Please note, it is our policy never to reveal details regarding account investigations, beyond the information given in the original notice mail, for privacy and security reasons. We now consider this matter closed, and would not look to enter into further communication on the matter.” Mike Yurgalavage, Lead Trainer Programmer for Cheat Happens, finds this response almost comical. “Imagine if you were arrested for something and the legal system worked the same way. You would be accused and convicted without even knowing what you were accused of exactly nor how they got the evidence,” says Yurgalavage. Regardless, O’Rorke states that the situation won’t change how Cheat Happens does business in the future.
“We will continue to produce cheats and trainers that work in single player games because we believe it is each person’s right to be able to fully enjoy what each game has to offer,” O’Rorke said of his website. “It may take extra time on our part to safely separate the trainer's functions so that they only work in single player modes, but we will not simply give up and deny our users the ability to cheat in a game that they have purchased just because Blizzard doesn't care about their customers. Blizzard is the real loser here. By lumping all cheaters into the same category and banning people for using single player cheats, they are losing the support of gamers around the world.”
UPDATE: Oct 14, 2010
A Blizzard spokesperson had this to say regarding the article:
Blizzard Entertainment is not banning StarCraft II players just for using single-player cheats. There's been some confusion in the last couple of days about the suspensions and bans meted out to players caught cheating in StarCraft II. It's important to point out first, that many of the 3rd-party hacks and cheats developed for StarCraft II contain both single- and multiplayer functionality. In order to protect the integrity of multiplayer competition, we are actively detecting cheat programs used in multiplayer modes whether there are human opponents or not.
That said, players who opt to use any type of 3rd party hacks do so at their own risk -- there are already built-in cheat codes for StarCraft II single-player that can be used safely. Blizzard Entertainment has always taken cheating seriously and will continue to aggressively crackdown on players who cheat in our games.
This completely contradicts the follwing correspondence we received from Blizzard support:
We announced on Sep 14, 2010 5:04:38 PM UTC that we would begin taking a stance against Cheating in StarCraft II (Cheating in StarCraft II - StarCraft II). Upon further review of the action taken upon this account we see that a third-party program was detected several times after the posting this notification. Unfortunately we have determined that our original findings were accurate and the actions that were taken were in line with our current policies.
For privacy and security reasons, we are unable to disclose specific methods used for or the evidence obtained from one of our investigations.
We hope this has cleared up any concerns you may have and expect no further communication on this matter. Thank you for your time and understanding of our position.
Game Master Valakith
The following email, addressed to another one of our users, is probably the most disconcerting of all:
Thank you for contacting Blizzard Customer Support. As you may have noticed, a lot of websites have been posting information that we are banning single player cheaters. And while this information is true, there is a good reason for it. When you cheat in single player mode, the achievements that you earn directly affect your multiplayer standing. While we do realize that once you buy our games, they become your property, we do reserve the right to terminate your game at any time whenever we feel it is necessary. I hope this has cleared up any confusion.
Obviously the people at Blizzard are not on the same page and are doing a poor job of communicating their true policies with the end users. We continue to receive emails from people that were banned for using cheats and trainers in the SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN and VERSUS AI modes of the game. We will continue to update this article with any further developments.