If you missed last week's Archivist, I recounted some of WoW's earliest raid exploits. Guilds have been pushing for ways to make raids easier since Molten Core went live, whether for the glory of a first kill or simple convenience. This week, I'll continue our tour through this sordid side of raiding with more recent exploits. Many of them ended with suspensions.
Shadow Word: World First
In her heyday, Serpentshrine Cavern's Lady Vashj was considered one of the hardest raid bosses that the game had ever seen. In March 2007, more than two months since Serpentshrine went live with the release of The Burning Crusade, EU guild Nihilum posted screenshots of Vashj's loot and claimed the world-first kill. Nihilum was the dominant progression guild at the time, earning 20 world firsts throughout the expansion -- more than three times that of their closest competitor.
There was only one problem: An ex-member named Lewt claimed that Nihilum exploited a bug to kill Vashj. As with Razorgore and other bosses, the mechanism seemed to revolve around that troublesome spell Divine Intervention. Using the spell despawned the pillars that are connected to Vashj's health, leaving her with 1 HP. Lewt popped a Soulstone and killed her with Shadow Word: Death. He even provided a screenshot to prove it. He also went on to badmouth the guild about exploits in Blackwing Lair, gold buying practices, and even an unlikely situation where an officer was paying the guild leader's real-life bills.
Kungen, the guild's leader, said that Nihilum didn't know about the bug and was surprised when it happened. Note that he didn't deny getting help for his bills ...
The world may never know what really happened that day, but it certainly seems like something was fishy in Serpentshrine.
Even more Alone than usual
Wrath of the Lich King's raid bosses were not immune to exploits. The expansion brought new reasons to exploit bugs and quirks in the form of hard modes and achievements. One of the most challenging was Alone in the Dark, killing Ulduar's ultimate boss, Yogg-Saron, at the hardest possible difficulty. Yogg was no picnic even on the easier difficulties, so when US guild Exodus posted screenshots that they had earned the achievement, many players around the world were impressed.
Others were skeptical. EU guild Ensidia claimed that Exodus had used an exploit to bug out the hardest part of the achievement. Like Nihilum in The Burning Crusade, Ensidia owned the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, earning 20 world firsts. According to Ensidia, Exodus had managed to put the adds in the fight's final phase into a permanent evasion mode, removing the adds as a factor. Given how tough to manage those adds were without Thorim's help, doing so made the encounter significantly easier.
Blizzard investigated the incident and found that Exodus had indeed taken advantage of the mechanics. They hotfixed the bug and suspended Exodus members for 72 hours. The guild claimed that the encounter wasn't beatable as designed, a tacit admission of guilt.
When Ensidia accused Exodus of exploiting Yogg, Exodus shot back by saying Ensidia had used similar shady methods in the past. Ensidia, of course, cited the tried and true "clever use of game mechanics" defense. In the case of their world-first Lich King kill, however, Ensidia members were perhaps too clever for their own good.
On Feb. 3, 2010, Ensidia posted screenshots of their world first. The next day, Blizzard handed them the same 72-hour suspension that Exodus had suffered. Their loot and achievements were revoked. Unlike Exodus' suspension, Ensidia's caused a firestorm of debate.
The alleged exploit involved the use of an engineering item, Saronite Bombs. The bombs caused one of WoW's most bizarre bugs. Using them would actually rebuild the outer edge of the platform that falls away during certain phases of the fight. The val'kyrs that try to drop you off the platform would instead courteously place you back on your feet on the rebuilt section. Presumably they would then straighten your clothing for you and apologize.
Ensidia claimed that they couldn't figure out what was causing the bug because their rogues regularly used bombs for a small DPS boost. Another member contradicted those statements and said that Ensidia had identified the bombs as the source of the bug and continued to use them.
Players debated whether a guild should be responsible for an exploit if they don't know the source of it. Some felt that Ensidia should have notified Blizzard about the bug and that claiming a world first under those circumstances was unsportsmanlike at best.
No longer a Paragon
It wasn't Ensidia but rival EU guild Paragon who scored the world-first heroic Lich King kill. In Cataclysm, they added the world-first Sinestra and the world-first heroic Ragnaros to their trophy case.
Then patch 4.3 came out, and with it the raid finder. Like many new systems, the raid finder had a bug. This one allowed you to loot the same boss multiple times in the same week by zoning in and out of the raid. Many guilds took advantage of this exploit. Among them, Paragon had the highest profile.
Once again, Blizzard reacted swiftly. They issued suspensions and removed the extra loot from people's characters. Duly chastised, Paragon issued an apology about the situation.
It's interesting to note the pattern above. Without exception so far in WoW's history, top guilds in each era have been tainted with accusations of exploits. In most cases, those accusations turned out to be true.
This was also the case in vanilla WoW, though it wasn't an exploit but a hack. The US guild Overrated was arguably the top US Horde guild of its time. They got sick of clearing all of AQ-40 (The Temple of Ahn'Qiraj) while they worked on the original Naxxramas. So they hacked through the walls of the raid instance and proceeded to C'thun directly. Blizzard caught them red-handed and brought down an angry and very permanent banhammer on the guild. The guild later came clean and admitted wrongdoing, but they also claimed that it was "worth it in the end." I can't say I would have felt that way in their shoes. I wonder if everyone in the guild who was banned felt the same.
The chronicle of raid exploits presents a disturbing trend. The world's best progression raiders push themselves to the limit, and I understand how it can be difficult to resist when you find a way to make an encounter easier. Is it worth it, however, when your guild's good name is forever tainted?
The competition for world firsts in Mists will be intense. I would argue that those pursuing such goals have a greater obligation than most to earn their progression without exploits. They are, after all, making history.
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