With the release of WoW Cataclysm, Azeroth will be re-forged and "classic zones will be forever changed by the cataclysm". At first glance, this seems like a nice way to appease some of those old nostalgic feelings.. you know, starting from the beginning again and levelling through familiar territory. But will that actually be the ultimate effect?

Blizzard's launch of Cataclysm could finally end the Classic/Pre-TBC Realm question, or it could be a strategic move to implement it in future expansion packs.

One of my sources tells me that "Classic WoW Realms" has been discussed internally at higher levels and at great length for quite a while now. It might not mean anything at all, but it also might mean that certain executives have a vision or plan for the game that they're not yet ready to reveal.. and may all depend on what happens with Cataclysm.

It will never happen!

You're probably thinking to yourself, "But Blizzard SAID there will never be classic realms!"

There are even a TON of articles discussing Vanilla WoW realms, and they have all said "Blizzard flatly denies that they will ever create a Pre-TBC server", "Blizzard confirms no vanilla ever", etc.

But that's not exactly true. Here's what Vaneras (the source of all those posts) actually said:

Kalgan pretty much said the same thing. I would have been completely satisifed if they had said, "Blizzard will NEVER launch a classic realm. I promise. This will never happen." But, they didn't.

Instead the official statement was "Sorry, but at this moment in time we have no plans.."

There are 3 things wrong with this statement:
  1. "Not at this moment in time" - Logically, that means that they COULD have plans immediately AFTER the post. This is also classic corporate-speak which I wrote about it in an earlier post.
  2. "We have no plans" - Of course they have plans! They been talking about it, thinking about it, the server teams have been planning the migration in their minds in case it ever does happen. Just because you have a plan or blueprint, doesn't mean you're going to build it. The word "intention" would have explained better.
  3. Sorry to sound harsh, but Vaneras is just a CS Forum Representative on the EU Forums. He has no idea what the direction and vision of the Sr. Management team is.
Blizzard's Intention

Blizzard wants to slim things down (ie, reduce talents, remove character traits, massive stat changes, etc) in order to more easily manage the game. "Dumbing down" the game, as some people have put it, makes it much easier to escape the constant balancing act while also increasing general appeal of the game (people can jump in and play more easily). At least, that's the belief.

It could also be a way of closing the chapter on Classic WoW Realms by telling the players, "We're pushing forwards and innovating. You have to keep up with our changes. We're not looking back and neither are you."

Hmmm.. "major character changes", "moving into a new system", "old world is gone forever tough luck". This sounds just like SWG before they had their own cataclysm.

Blizzard's Possible Strategy?

But here's where all of those changes could be a very smart, long-term, and strategic move.

In Cataclysm, the world and it's citizens will be completely changed, forcing them into new world. Once the old world is gone, the need for nostalgia and familiarity will grow much stronger and with more players.

TBC and WOTLK will be remaining the same, but the Pre-TBC (Classic) world will be completely wiped off the map, so to speak.

That need for old world style gameplay has already happened with the hardcore classic players. But with the new and drastic change upcoming, it will influence additional hardcore and even casual players as well. That's a huge number of players that may lose interest in the game in 1-2 years timeframe, all because a requested feature was never implemented (ie, developers not listening to the customer.)

In order to combat a negative change in customers, the next expansion pack would have to be something very new and extraordinary:
  • Level cap to 100 or higher.
  • 2 or more Hero Classes
  • Brand new skills and spells.
  • New classes, not just 1.
  • New races, not just 1.
  • 2-3 times as many new Raids/Zones, and not reused canvases.
  • And maybe (well timed*) Classic Realms to lure the hardcore and casual players back in?
(* nostalgia reaches drastic levels in 1-2 years & new exp. pack comes out in 1-2 years.)

If Classic Realms don't get implemented, then they have to innovate (gasp) something for the next expansion pack. But this actually makes sense, and they have nothing to lose by doing it.

Note: There are a lot of arguments against classic realms because of the great deal of problems that they used to experience (server stability, latency, no resilience, class balance, long AVs, long raids, hard to get epic items and mounts, world bosses, attunment chains, etc.) But all of that can be fixed and patched properly while still having the same Pre-TBC experience. Do you think Blizzard would really implement realms EXACTLY as they were? (And with which patch? There were TONS of changes in Pre-TBC.) This argument, however, will take too long to discuss and is off-topic, so I'll skip it for now. Let's just say though, that it can be done and done well. There would also be options when selecting a new realm to join - full classic server (2 variations), TBC realm, WOTLK realm, etc. If you don't mind hardwork to grind for gear, go with the full classic. It's not mandatory, just new realms to choose from.

Cataclysm is a test!

Cataclysm is an attempt to rejuvenate WoW and bring in more people. Since their customer base is decreasing, Cataclysm might also be a test to see what people really want. Blizzard (hopefully) will be watching the trends to make their next decision.

If the customer base decreases because they miss the old world, then classic realms is a definite possibility. For example, if interest in Vanilla-WoW Private Servers significantly increases (approx 8 months to 2 years) after Cataclysm, then that's a sign that they've been looking for. If one market can't provide a much needed service or feature, customers will simply goto another market - ie, private servers (currently in the thousands.)

Here's what the trends are showing right now. There's already a massive increase in the need for classic realms, and users are moving away from Official Servers to Private Servers instead (ie, they're choosing someone else over Blizzard who is actually providing the requested feature.)

ScapeGaming (was a commonly utilized WoW Private Server) had over 420,000 users but are currently involved in a legal case with Blizzard.  That's just one private server and it's larger than most 2nd-tier MMO's!

So you can say that there's a definite interest and strong user base playing on WoW private servers.

Or am I just wrong, and Blizzard doesn't consider long-term variables like this?

Cataclysm might just be the final nail in the coffin. If so, it could also be a slap in the face: it's like a constant reminder of times gone by, and how you will always be pushed forwards against your will.

Will Cataclysm actually appease the need for nostalgia, or will it cause even more players to evoke nostalgic feelings who to bring back to the "good ol' days"?

If it doesn't appease their needs and they don't plan on launching Classic realms, Cataclysm will just be another expansion pack (probably the 2nd last for WoW), you'll see a lot of preservation webpages popup (ie, images/videos of the old world), a large increase in private servers, and a significant drop in customers. Can the next expansion pack save them though? If so, it needs to be something big.

Don't underestimate the power of nostalgia

So about this "nostalgia" feeling.. can WoW user really be THAT influenced by it, and can it really cause such a mass exodus of players?

Consider this:
  • It's already happened (albeit in a slightly different form) with the SWG MMORPG.
  • Marketers use nostalgia to influence what you purchase. It's highly effective.
  • WoW developers have already put nostalgic pieces in the game already ("Captain Placeholder" is returning in Cataclysm no less).
  • It's hardwired into all human brains.
  • It's so significant to our behavior that it was once believed to be a cerebral disease.
  • Nostalgia can cause emotional pain or joy, which has a huge impact on our decisions (see conditioned response.)
Summary

For the tl;dr readers, here's the condensed version. There are 3 possible outcomes:
  • If Cataclysm appeases the need for nostalgia, it will be a big win for Blizzard and finally closes the chapter on vanilla WoW. (There are trends that will prove this: internal records, WoW forum posts, Google interest searches, and number of Private Servers / User counts.)
  • If Cataclysm evokes increased nostalgia (visible trends again), Blizzard may introduce a "huge feature" in the next expansion pack.. classic realms (and perhaps variants to choose from.) A very smart strategy, and a way to reduce development costs on the next expansion. =]
  • If Cataclysm does increase nostalgia, more users ask for Pre-TBC realms, and trends increase in favor of Vanilla WoW servers (e.g. private servers, posts, requests, etc.) but the feature is never introduced, sales will not be hurt but existing customers will leave. Keep in mind that customer counts and sales have decreased and the existing customers are the ones that they desperately need to hold onto.

Blogspot Migration Completed

Posted by Daeity On Friday, July 30, 2010

Alright, I've completed migrating the blog over from Posterous. It's too bad all of the comments and pageviews couldn't be moved over. It was nice to see all of those tens-of-thousands of visitors to the page (Wordpress + Posterous combined hit 50,000 visitors in under a week). =]

Guess I gotta hit the reset counter, though, in making this latest transition. Hopefully it will be the last.

Video: The "Real" Reason Why There Is No Starcraft 2 LAN Play

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, July 28, 2010


So far, it looks like that YouTube video hit ~30,000 views in a just a couple days after posting. =]
It's a classic "Blizzard Meeting" parody that's been done in the past, my favorite being the Fangtooth Paladin clip.
Other than that, on the side I've been busy collecting information on Blizzard's Next-Gen MMO. I have a few contacts at Blizzard and I've been putting together some pieces (it's not A LOT, but enough to get a good idea of what they have planned). It sounds pretty cool actually, but I'll have more details within the next few weeks I hope.

The Monetization of Battle.Net

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, July 25, 2010

With the launch of SC2 early next week, I'm really looking forwards to one little thing that many have forgotten: Battle.net in-game ads.

I've been really curious how exactly they're going to pull it off. Of course, it probably won't be implemented right away so as not to spoil the beginner's experience - but you should see something implemented in the upcoming months.

In case you've forgotten (or weren't aware), in-game ads have been updated in Blizzard's TOU documents and Blizzard has hired Microsoft's Massive Inc. to delivery the advertisements. You'll see ads placed mostly on in-game posters, billboards, buildings, or really any texture.

DISCLOSURES; THIRD PARTY FEATURES. Massive Inc..

Blizzard's Games and the Service may incorporate technology of Massive Incorporated ("Massive"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft"), that enables in-game advertising, and the display of other similar in-game objects, which are downloaded temporarily to your personal computer and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Massive may collect some information about the game and the advertisements delivered to you, as well as standard information that is sent when your personal computer or game console connects to the Internet including your Internet protocol (IP) address. Massive will use this information to transmit and measure in-game advertising, as well as to improve the products and services of Massive and its affiliates. None of the information collected by Massive will be used to identify you. For additional details regarding Massive's in-game advertising practices, please see Massive's In-Game Advertising privacy statement at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=122085&clcid=0x409. The trademarks and copyrighted material contained in all in-game advertising are the property of the respective owners. Portions of the Service are © 2008 Massive Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Note: A new advertising page is being created for BNet 2.0, but you can still see the old one at: http://classic.battle.net/advertising/advertising-info.aspx

When Rob Pardo first announced Blizzard's new directive (making more money from Battle.net), a lot of people were worried that he meant subscription based fees for SC2 and Diablo 3. However, Blizzard has promised that it is not their intention.

But Blizzard isn't exactly known for keeping their promises.

In World of Warcraft, for example, a lot of the promised content that was never implemented comes to mind. They also said that there would be no micro-transactions for World of Warcraft.

Regarding Diablo 3, Rob Pardo said in the interview: "Here's the way I would put it. We're definitely not looking at turning Diablo into a subscription based game."

That leaves it open to interpretation, in case they change their minds later. It's "corporate-speak", and you'll see that a lot of that same wording from gaming industry representatives:
  • "We currently do not have any plans for.."
  • "We're not looking at it right now.."
  • "Presently, we have no plans to.."
Rockstar Games said the same about Red Dead Redemption for the PC. Guess we'll see..

Now personally, I don't think SC2 or Diablo 3 will be subscription based.. but Battle.Net might be, especially because of their new corporate direction and vision. The "free online versions" of SC2 and Diablo 3 will always be an available option, but BNet could incorporate subscription based fees for premium content and features (e.g. to make things more "convenient" for users like priority queuing or special access to events and competitions.)

Just like WoW, they're going to milk BNet for all it's worth.. virtual sales (micro-transactions), real sales (merchandising), and targeted advertising. I'm sure you'll see a Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 "store" in the future.. specialty pets, premium maps, customization of characters (paid name changes), special upgrades, or unit model changes. I can't wait to spend $25 to change my Terran unit armor from blue to red!

With the social networking features being added, it's going to significantly increase ad-targeting potential as well as increase sales (users inviting friends, promoting the game, etc.) It's funny how so many corporations are trying to cash in on each other's markets. Twitter wants to get into advertising, Google wants to be a social platform, Facebook wants to be a search engine, and Blizzard wants it all. (Blizzard's new social features are also being heavily incorporated into their "Next Gen MMO" but I'll talk about that later..)

Starcraft 2 LAN Play - Why was it really removed?

I often wonder if the monetization of BNet was the deciding factor in leaving LAN play out of Starcraft 2.

You see, when users are playing LAN Starcraft 2, there's really no purpose to being online - or should I say, that's a common belief. An internet connection might just get in the way of gameplay, so independent networks are created for small/medium LAN parties (30-50 people on one DSL will plug up the pipe and even be against ISP terms of service). Usually though, LAN parties will have internet access. But Blizzard can't take that chance! If users aren't connected to the internet, then they won't be receiving in-game advertisements.. all of that potential revenue lost.. it's completely unacceptable.

It's easier just to remove LAN play, save some money on development, and blame it on the classic piracy scapegoat.

Here was Blizzard's (Bob Colayco, Blizzard PR) official response regarding LAN play:
"We don't currently plan to support LAN play with StarCraft II, as we are building Battle.net to be the ideal destination for multiplayer gaming with StarCraft II and future Blizzard Entertainment games. While this was a difficult decision for us, we felt that moving away from LAN play and directing players to our upgraded Battle.net service was the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience with StarCraft II and safeguard against piracy."
Blizzard also said, "We want to make an online experience so good, that you won't want to have a LAN party." (Source)

So the reason for removing LAN play is because it doesn't fit in with the direction of BNet services (interesting.. like ad-targeting perhaps?), it will ENSURE a quality multiplayer experience, and it will safeguard against piracy.

* UPDATE: I've created a visual aid (Fair Use FTW)


But how can you have a "quality multiplayer experience" if you lose internet connectivity, are under heavy latency, Blizzard servers crash, or your ISP has issues? Can you ENSURE 100% uptime of servers and personal internet connections? Bottlenecking the users does not ensure quality.

Regarding piracy, there is no safeguard against piracy. (Unless it's a streaming game where no data is stored locally.) Every single game has been cracked and there has never been any method of "copy protection" that has actually "protected against copying." Copy protection is a myth.. there are "copy protection approaches" but that's it. In fact, removing copy protection measures actually makes it more convenient for the user and improves their gaming experience (case in point: No-CD cracks.)

If Blizzard doesn't implement a much-need feature, then someone ELSE will implement it.

Look at Kali for example, it filled a void because of a missing feature.

And then there's BNetD and PvPGN which are fully available (and open-source) BNet emulators that allow LAN play of Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Brood War, Diablo 1 and Diablo 2. There are thousands of BNet emulated servers out there providing the service that everyone wants.

Future versions (and probably alternative software) will support SC2 and Diablo 3. Blizzard knows this, there will be LAN play and they won't be the ones providing it.

History has proven that removing features to prevent piracy will actually increase piracy. Those who forget the past and all that.

(On a side note.. wouldn't it be funny if private BNet servers implemented their own in-game advertisements? WoW gold sellers would be a nice touch.)

* UPDATE:

Two months after that video was released, Bobby Kotick has now decided NOT to implement in-game advertisements into Starcraft 2. I guess they changed their minds after the massive uproar (just like mandatory Real ID).
"There was a time where we thought advertising and sponsorship was a big opportunity, but what we realized is our customers are paying $60 for a game or paying a monthly subscription fee and they don't really want to be barraged with sponsorship or advertising," Kotick explained.
They were fully intending to implement in-game ads, they had a relationship with Massive, Inc. all set, but now the plan has been cancelled, their Terms of Use has been revised again, and that new Battle.net (2.0) advertising page was pulled too. =]

Security of Battle.net Email Accounts

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Something very interesting just happened to me. And coincidentally enough, this also fits in with the ongoing Blizzard Series.

Back in 2006, I created a highly unusual and unique Gmail account that was used strictly for one of my WoW accounts (I own many). I didn't want any spam sent to the account, hence the reason for it's length and unique name.

Think something like: kaba23.blaaey.sphlnxtoo.blzzmain@gmail.com (This isn't the actual email address.)

The only place the email account name was ever "shared" was on my WoW Account. That was the entire purpose for the email address actually, for WoW only. The email address is not public, never used, and highly unique.

I should note that it's been 4 years now and I have never received even a single spam message on the Gmail account.

So here's what happened:

  • I requested an automated password change from Battle.net (couldn't remember the WoW Login password).
  • I logged into the Gmail account to reset the BNet password.
  • I reactivated the old WoW account (which hasn't been active in 2.5 years mind you).
  • Although I haven't received any spam messages in 4 years, I suddenly received one from a WoW Spammer approximately 3 hours after activating my WoW Account. I was shocked.
  • This was all done from a very secure (and virtualized) PC and this is actually the very first WoW Spam message I've ever received on any of my Gmail accounts.

How on earth did they find me?

Is it possible that my email address was leaked by Blizzard (well, someone from Blizzard)? And why did I receive a spam message so quickly? Did I happen to request a password change at just the right time when transactions were being monitored?

One of the primary defenses that Blizzard supporters use (when questioned about internal account theft) is that GM/CS Forum Reps/etc do not ask for passwords, and that they do not have access to passwords and can only reset them.

I always get a chuckle whenever they use this defense.. mostly because their only exposure is to GMs/Support and they have no idea what goes on behind the curtain. GMs may not have access to passwords through their ugly-homegrown-support-interface, but they sure can see your email addresses or ask for them. Targeted WoW Account Phishing sure is a lot easier when you have a database of actual WoW users!

Sure, there are "security measures in place" for GMs/Support Users, but that same policy does not apply to the IT team, administrators, the policy creators, the CEO, and database admins who have raw access to account and billing information.

Are passwords actually encrypted at the database end? Consider this: the more complicated the encryption and security measures, the more time it takes to approve your password/account and login. How quickly can you login on a slow day? Also, certain email traffic isn't encrypted.. so it would be quite easy for an internal employee to sniff SMTP traffic for email addresses or intercept password reset URLs. Packet sniffing is monitored internally by the way, but there are always ways to avoid detection or at least capture. Some interesting things to think about.

On a side note, while digging through my old Blizzard conversations I came across more stuff related to encryption that may interest you. A work colleague and I used to frequently discuss this topic and various security strategy. Right now he's doing some neat stuff that you should check out. So, back around 2004-2005, I hunted around for a PHP coder to help construct a webapp built around reputation, where users could earn points much like Reddit. But, I wanted the points system to act as currency so that the users could trade or exchange the fake money for merchandise. Security of the data was really important, and the site would need to reach a critical mass of users before ever being feasible however. Long story short, we worked out that because it had to be decentralized, there was no way we would be able to do it through a website. It would be possible to encrypt data amongst thousands of users so that records would be set in stone and ensure security of the points. Trust was paramount. I never ended up building the site, but a few months ago, he finally starting making some progress on the app thanks to advancement in the peer-to-peer field. He ended up hacking a bunch of stuff together and created the kind of idea we always wanted to do. It's like a P2P cash application and he explained in more detail here (not long, just a few pages). And, you can download the latest 0.20 version here. Please note that this is still very early in development and pretty buggy. But it's very interesting and you might like to try it out.

It's also interesting to note (while I'm on the subject of encryption and passwords) is that the reason GMs and Customer Support make a point that they'll "never ask for your account password" is because they already have FULL access to your account without your knowledge or permission. (As if your permission really matters though.)

It's actually quite common for a GM to login to your account to test issues, see if mods are interfering with your gameplay, or to fix problems while you're offline. So, if someone from Blizzard ever tells you that their employees don't have access to your account, that's completely untrue. They can login to and access it whenever they want.

Shortly after the Starcraft 2 Digital Download was made available by Blizzard, it was allegedly cracked by "vernam7" from the StarCrack team. You can check out the details on the Nibbits.com forum.


He says he can install the game and play all Single Player campaigns (cannot connect to B.Net obviously.)

Unfortunately, he's not allowing anyone access to the crack until the official release date (07-27).

This has resulted in a lot of anger and seething frustration amongst the Nibbits.com forum members, while others are applauding vernam7 for his choice not to release the crack.

He has "ethics", after all. (Direct Link)


Chances are that someone else will crack it before 07-27, someone always does. Although I'm not condoning this (I'm buying on 07-27 myself), please demonstrate precaution and be very careful what you download out there, there are plenty of people that will be releasing malicious code and keyloggers in the guise of a Starcraft 2 Retail Crack. Because of the mass anticipation, lots of people will be installing without confirming it's authenticity first. =]


A little background on vernam7:

He's the creator of the "sc2ALLin1 (Current Version: v9.9.0) Offline Starcraft 2 Beta Launcher/Tool". It's a user friendly launcher tool that allows you to play the SC2 beta offline, without CD-keys, load skirmish battles and watch replays. If you are in the beta, it also allows you to play WAN and downloads updates manually. He has been called a trusted member of the SC2 cracking scene by the Nibbits forum community, so there's a good chance that he has indeed cracked the digital download. Guess we'll find out on 07/27 though, or if it was all one giant crack-tease.

What's funny though, is that he really wanted to tell everyone that he cracked the Retail version but had no intention of giving it to anyone. We live in a society of instant gratification and self-entitlement, and he must have realized how the community would have reacted. It looks like he's getting a little upset and just wants everyone to drop the subject now though. =]



Forum User "Duke" writes:

"People should stop complaining about him not cracking the full retail game. To be honest it is better he doesn't, Blizzard deserves there money for making such a good game. Anyways the game well be cracked eventually, so just wait if you are really to poor to buy it. On another note idk why verman7 even mentioned he cracked the game..kinda a slap in the face to others + showing off since he is not releasing it"

I'm still waiting for a user named "buster.motherboy" to write "It's like he gets off on being withholding."

Anyhow,

For those that are waiting to pay for the retail version, here's a link to the Official Digital Download.

It's a 7GB installation package by the way.

If Blizzard was smart, though, they would have made the digital download a large (but incomplete) component of the total package and left critical files absent that would be downloaded as "updates" when the time comes. So, it would be possible to "crack the installer" to start the install the software, but it would still need to be download critical components of the package (ie, to decrypt the .MPQE files) or download key game-related files (without which, the game could not run at all.) Or maybe even a combination of both, so if the .MPQE files were decrypted, it would have been a complete waste of time since everything is time-locked at the server end anyways. (Unless they can patch the retail back together using beta files.)

Update (07/16/10)

Looks like a couple other individuals have also claimed to have cracked the Digital Download version of Starcraft 2. I'm waiting for confirmation (they say it's very simple process, but there's no automated executable at the moment.) However, they might be referring to just cracking the install package. The scene groups haven't started working on the crack yet. Meanwhile, Vernam7 is being criticized on the Nibbits & Darkblizz forums for not releasing the crack, but has provided basic instructions on what he did to crack the retail version.

Update (07/19/10)

Vernam7 has created a forum to discuss questions related to the SC2 retail crack, unfortunately most of his time seems to be spent deleting troll posts. Link: http://sc2.nibbits.com/forums/29/view/907/about-starcraft-ii-retail-crack

Yesterday, he wrote: "soon an anonymous user will upload a retail crack......."

Update (07/20/10)

Has now been two days since Vernam7 promised that an "anonymous user" would release the retail crack. If he could elaborate on what "soon" means, that might be helpful.

Update (07/22/10)

Vernam7 has been "cleaning house" on all of the Starcraft 2 forums, and removing various posts related to his crack and promises. It appears that hundreds of forum posts have suddenly gone missing. How very disappointing..


I'm guessing what probably happened was that he simply changed the appearance of the installer (.xml edit) and believed he had suddenly made progress in "cracking" the game. He got so excited, he posted his news to everyone on the forums before fulling testing. But then he realized shortly after words that he still couldn't install the game, and because he had already posted the news (and got everyone excited) and didn't want to disappoint his fans or apologize - so he simply claimed "ethical reasons" not to release the crack. Funny how someone's personal ethics are so easily malleable: it's ethical to hack one version of SC2, but not another version. =]

As Nu would say, "This is my belief! At least for now..."

Update (07/26/10)

Still no word from Vernam7, not that it matters now that the Retail DVD is out. It's really too bad - I had such high hopes that Vernam7 was indeed telling the truth about the digital download crack. But since he hasn't been able to provide a shred of evidence to back up his claim, it doesn't appear that is original statement was accurate.

Just a note to comment posters, please don't attach Retail Authentication codes or links to the new retail crack. I'm just reporting on Vernam7's claims, because it's interesting news. 

But, I already have my SC2 pre-order and didn't want any pirated material in this post. =]
Vernam7 is currently testing a means of using the SC2ALLIN1 tool with the retail DVD (ie, tricking the beta launcher into loading the retail maps.) It's not a crack for the digital download as promised, but for those that are comfortable with registry tweaks, it might make it possible to play some of the map files that come with the retail DVD. Save function may or may not work, it still requires testing - and other than that, you're pretty much just loading map files like the beta launcher so you're not really doing the proper single player campaigns. Now that the retail DVD is out though, you should see a proper crack for it from the scene groups.

Another update:

He's currently writing in the forums that there is no launcher nor any crack for the retail yet. 

He's working on creating one right now. So.. if he's starting to make a crack now (that he finally has the retail), I guess that confirms that his announcement made almost 2 weeks ago was indeed false.

Update (07/27/10)


It's not exactly clear whether this will fully unlock SC2 Digital Download or if it just allows skirmish play. However, he did mention a full automatic crack being worked on over the next few days.

Another update: The manual crack is now available on his webpage (for enGB only, the rest will be released after he gets some sleep) and there's a lot of excitement (e.g. "Ha! Told you he could do it!" etc.), but I really hope it's not the executables from the Retail DVD. He promised a crack for the Digital Download that he already had as is. Sil3nt-de4th has been posting a link to Vernam7's crack on various torrent webpages, so you'll see plenty of links to the crack in the wild.

(Funny Note: Silentdeath has been accused many times on the forums for being Vernam7's alias. Not sure if there's any truth to that though. There's always been a lot of drama on the Nibbits forum for some reason..)

So anyways, if anyone can test the manual crack and confirm, please let me know if it fully unlocked your Digital Download - allowing full Campaign play, with cinematics and Save/Load features. (Not a "Guest" account, or simply a map/skirmish launcher like the current SC2ALLIN1 Beta launcher.) I'm sure others would like to know..

Confirmed: Save/Load and other critical features are not working as of yet. He'll be working on it later.

Yet another cleanup of the forum posts is being done. All of the "bad" posts are being removed (ie, features not working, crashes, can't quit, etc.) and all of the "good" posts are being kept. Vernam7's crack is now on several torrent webpages, however some other individuals are taking credit for the crack. So, exercise caution if you download from torrent webpages, they're not the original and may contain malicious code.

Update (07/28/10)

The "final crack" has been released on the Nibbits forum (there's a link since they removed the file from the forum so that they're not hosting the file anymore). All languages are supported and save/load are supposed to work using a work-around launcher to get into the campaign missions. No word on a scene release of the Retail DVD. It's too bad the Digital Download was never actually cracked back when it first came out.. it required the boxed retail package to come out before anyone really attempted cracking the software.

Update (07/28/10)

The RELOADED crack is now out, it opens up full offline functionality of the software (e.g. save/load, quitting the game, campaigns, cutscenes, map editor, multilanguage, etc.) So, no more worries about registry tweaks and crashing/bugs from the modified beta launcher.

Summary

So, it looks like my guess has been confirmed. The original Digital Download was never actually cracked by Vernam7, he simply bypassed some install menu items by editing unencrypted .MPQ files to show a different display. Vernam7 later confirmed on the forums that he didn't actually start work on the crack until he received the real Starcraft 2 Retail Box which he pre-ordered and received the day before 07-27 (which is when he _really_ started work on the crack.) He utilized his existing beta launcher and tricked it into thinking the retail package was still the beta software, allowing him to launch campaign maps.

Another interest note. In his "I have ethics" post, he stated that he would never give out any spoilers (screenshots, etc). However, he started posting on the forums that he would Private Message select Nibbits users with spoilers. Talk about contradictory. The "select users" were obviously excited, thinking that he had provided them "secret information" from the game - but it was actually data pulled from the official SC2 Manual that was stored in the unencrypted .MPQ file and from the online SC2 Cinematics on Youtube. ALL of the ingame SC2 cinematics were available on YouTube on July 24 by the user "christos75". Let's just say there were a LOT of big spoilers. He later had to pull all of the videos because of a possible DMCA complaint.


.. and so ends the history of Vernam7's crack. A wonderful tale of a troll who kept everyone on the edge of their seats for almost 2 weeks waiting for some form of confirmation, and when a semi-functional-tricked-out-beta-launcher was finally released, it was ultimately stolen and taken credit by another individual calling his group "LIBERTY".

This (now boring) period of history shall now be forgotten in the dim recesses of time.

World of Warcraft Nostalgia

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, July 15, 2010

With all of these posts about Blizzard/WoW, I was feeling a little nostalgic and broke out an old list I had created back in April 2008. It was originally posted to gamefaqs.com (moderator removed it - he "didn't consider it appropriate for the WoW Forum" for some reason) and then I posted it on the Age Of Conan Beta forums too.

Here's the list so far. If you can remember some fond (or not-so-fond) memories of World of Warcraft during the beta and first couple years of retail, please let me know.

  • Block values were added to shields. Blocking an attack used to avoid ALL damage of an attack.
  • There were Shields and Bucklers. Pallies/Warriors had shields & Rogues/Shamans had Bucklers.
  • Rogues had the "Block" ability in their skillset.
  • There were "Spear weapons" and Druids could use them. Druids could also equip Polearms.
  • Players earned skill points based on experience points from killing monsters. Skill points could be spent on tradeskills (changed to "Professions" later), weapon skills, purchasing mounts, and to increase attributes!
  • "Plainsrunning" was the Tauren's only Racial Trait. Here's an excerpt from Blizzard on mounts: "Mounts are expensive and race specific, but players can spend skill points to learn how to ride other mounts. Mounts can be bought or acquired through quests. In order to summon a mount, you must use a specific scroll. Upon dismounting, the mount disappears (though the scroll remains in your inventory). Mounts come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, and provide an armor bonus." Taurens did not have mounts, they "instead have a special racial ability called Plains Running which allows them to run very quickly for a certain amount of time."
  • Zeppelins and Boats frequently dropped you into the sea (sometimes resulting in death depending how far out you were).
  • You auto-dismounted on all STV bridges.
  • Hunters had focus, not Mana. (Note: this is making a comeback in Cataclysm)
  • Dwarf Mages! Although this was removed at one point, players were able to keep their Dwarf Mages until end of beta. (Will be coming back in Cataclysm, yay!)
  • Mages had the spell "Sleep". Polymorph replaced it later.
  • Cross faction mounts (Gnomes on Wolves).
  • Frost Armor and Ice Armor Stacking.
  • Mages had the Invisibility spell at earlier levels. There was Lesser Invisibility, Invisibility and Greater Invisibility. They could also cast while invisible. (Invis Pyroblasting FTW.)
  • Undead spoke [Common], not [Gutterspeak].
  • Shamans had spell "Molten Blast".
  • The Warlock talent Ruin was called Holocaust. (Guess why it was removed.)
  • Innerfire gave Attack Power.
  • Cities had no maps and guards didn't provide directions. Difficult to navigate cities.
  • Quest rewards were not soulbound. High levels were paying well for [Sticky Glue] from newbies.
  • There were no auction houses.
  • Guild Creation by just typing a command.
  • Before BGs, massive raids on enemy cities. Hillsbrad still hasn't changed much.
  • Alliance outnumbering Horde by atleast 3:1 (in some cases 4-5:1) on all beginning servers.
  • Warlocks could summon anyone from anywhere.
  • Spell damage had no "up to" coefficient so you could cast level 1 spells for 5 mana and 1 second cast times and get crazy dps.
  • Mage Frost Nova looked like a blue shackle. (YouTube Link: "Warcraft Beta Mage".) Remember those ogres?
  • Mana ALWAYS regenerated.
  • Shaman Water Walking did not break on damage. Could stay in Ghostwolf form while on water too. (They re-introduced this as a Glyph, except for dmg part)
  • SM Cath was the endgame.
  • Warlocks could heal themselves and resurrect other players.
  • Undead Players were completely immune to Sleep, Charm, Fear, Polymorph, etc (Passive ability). Shackle Undead and Turn Undead worked on them.
  • Rogue Feign generated a combo point.. and it didn't break Sap.
  • Warriors could charge anywhere, in or out of combat, and didn't need a target.
  • Instant cast Mind Blasts.
  • Warlock DoT "Mind Rot", Mages had spell "Phantasm".
  • Lockpicking was a tradeskill that anyone could learn.
  • Weapons/gear had no durability.
  • Killing guards gave Honor points.
  • Bandages could not be interrupted. You could run while 'casting'.
  • You could sap multiple targets, and it could be used while they were in combat.
  • Enchanting took herbs.
  • Warlocks could speak Demonic.
  • The sludge in UC has harmful to non-Undead.
  • The character models looked human, and not cartoonish.
  • Warlocks could banish Humanoids.
  • Hunter pets grew bigger and bigger as they levelled. Caused raiding problems, unable to target.
  • Undead could breath underwater indefinitely.
  • Shadowform increased damage by 20%, and reducing damage taken by 20%.
  • There were human druids.
  • Shamans could lay down as many totems as they wanted, not just limited to 1 per element.
  • Warlocks could wear leather.
  • Outdoor world PVP was actually fun.
  • Could cast "Curse of Doom" on players.
  • Captain Placeholder! (YouTube Link: The Lament of Captain Placeholder)
  • There was no language barrier. You could gank and trash talk players.
  • Rogues had "Feign Death" ability, and Druids had "Play Dead" while in Cat Form.
  • Polymorph affected Beasts, Dragonkin, Dragons, Giants, and Critters.
  • Priest ability: "Brainwash"
  • Mind Control was amazing. Could use all of the enemy's abilities, and you could buy items/mounts with enemy NPCs.
  • BoP was called "Bind on Acquire"
  • Bodies decomposed slowly when you rezzed.
  • Players could use Ghost Form to travel long distances, and rez at far off locations.
  • Blizzard said that at level 40, you could specialize in skills to become a Hero Class. The available hero classes would depend on your base class and race. Human Paladin became Death Knight, Dwarven Warrior became Mountain King, Night Elf Hunter became Demon Hunter, Orc Shaman became Far Seer, etc. (This was all long before TBC keep in mind. You can still see old WoW posts via archive.org)
  • Blizzard promised that they would fix player ganking by introducing Dishonor Kills (DK). This was changed to Battlegrounds a few months later and ganking was never fixed.
  • Blizzard promised Player Housing.
  • Blizzard promised substantial new content each month. There were supposed to be major content patches every month with "new quests, new items, and new adventures" (Link) as well as new zones/dungeons/etc.
  • "Track Humanoid" was called "Man Tracking".
  • You could eat or drink while engaged in combat.
  • Levels were capped at 45, and then 50, and so on.
  • Shamans were once the most overpowered class by far.
  • Classic Shaman bugs: Sentry Totem trick, no fall damage, and lava swimming without taking damage.
  • The naming policy was very strict and heavily enforced. You wouldn't be able to get away with the name "Spam", "Teabag" or "Chucknorris". All names had to be unique, and not named after "real life" words or names. Special characters were also not permitted.
Here are some old screenshots promoting the game when it first came out. I'm searching for an old Forum post where a Blizzard representative stated "substantial content updates every month" and showed a list of planned areas, new instances, items, classes, etc. I suspect they quickly stopped doing that once they understood the time and resources required, and just decided to create the expansion packs instead.

Old WoW Webpage #1
Old WoW Webpage #2
Old WoW Webpage #3

*UPDATE: I found the Gamefaqs.com appeal email. Tee hee..
ORIGINAL ARTICLE POSTED - 5/6/2008 9:27:53 AM

TOPIC DELETED BY MODERATOR - 5/6/2008 5:29:01 PM

Action: Topic Deleted
Reason: Off-Topic Posting
Status: "Upheld - This moderation has been upheld by another moderator. This means that two different moderators have agreed that this message is a TOS violation."

TOPIC DELETION UPHELD BY 3RD MODERATOR - 5/10/2008 3:18:34 PM
"It was a topic about the WoW beta mainly."
Apparently, 3 moderators (who really knows if it was more than 1 person though) decided that WoW beta nostalgia didn't belong on the WoW Forums. It was also posted on the Official AoC webpage forums though (there was a discussion and comparison to WoW prior to launch), and ended up getting over 5,000 views, 250 views, and I received ~50 private messages thanking me for the post. The moderators there didn't even have an issue with it.

Apparently there weren't too many lists out there that collected this type of information. It always gives me warm fuzzy feelings everytime I look at it though since I was in the closed beta myself. I hope you have fond memories as well reading this. (If I missed anything, let me know.)

While I was looking around for public Blizzard employee information, I came across an old article from wow.com called "Account security mythbusting."

It's a very entertaining read, you should check it out.

The article was written by Michael Sacco (Dec 31st / 2008) where he disproves various "myths" about the company due to his vast experience working for Blizzard Entertainment.

Here were my 2 favorite parts from the article:

MYTH: Blizzard's internal security has been compromised, which is why these notices have gone up.

Blizzard's internal security has never been compromised. If your account is compromised, it is your fault.

Take it from the dude who worked there--it's not Blizzard's fault that your account was compromised.

Myth Status: BUSTED
Wow! That's a very bold statement!

Although... he does mention "hackers" breaking into Blizzard from the outside. That's a different approach then what I was writing about. I don't think he considered internal theft. It's not called "hacking" if the employee simply copies-and-pastes customer details into an email. =]

Monitoring software would catch that, though, but there are more sneaky ways to escort information outside of the building. Excluding malicious activity, sometimes it's just accidental: employees leaving USB/laptops in their cars, media disposal policy is weak leaving recoverable data on harddrives, or backup tapes going missing.

Like I said though, no security is foolproof and there's no such thing as 100% security. It's simply Data Security 101.
MYTH: Blizzard Authenticators can be hacked, removed, or bypassed by a third party.

Myth Status: BUSTED
Blizzard Authenticators can be removed by social engineering means (he confirms a couple ways). As for stating that it's impossible for Blizzard Authenticators to be hacked or bypassed.. sorry, it did happen.

Encryption can _eventually_ be brute force cracked (so I try to avoid words like "impossible", "never" or "can't"), but after all that there's no point in encryption if there's a keylogger on your PC.

His article has a few other "myths" too, but they're irrelevant to my earlier posts.

The following is a little background on Michael Sacco by the way.

He was a Blizzard employee (CS Forum Representative for 3 years) under the name Belfaire. His previous work experience before becoming a Joystiq editor were:
  • Community Representative (1 Year 1 Month)
  • Team Manager (11 Months)
  • In-Game Support Representative (10 Months)
  • Retail Clothing
I didn't see any internal affairs or IT/Security related positions in his past. (Typically, you're privy to different levels of information based on your pay grade and the circles you operate in.)

Also, from what I was told by Blizzard employees, the internal affairs positions were part of a very small and "elite" team, and you were selected rather than applying for the position. This team was also heavily discouraged from interacting with the other ("regular") employees due to their important responsibilities.