Sunday, September 27, 2009

The tenacity of spammers in WoW

Last Monday I took the screenshot below of the spam in Stormwind made from dead bodies but waited so long to write about it that The Ancient Gaming Noob beat me to the punch with his story Corpse Spam in Stormwind.

I'd seen such spam in Stormwind before, but since I've not been around when when it was being created I'd wondered how the bodies were placed so accurately. TAGN answers that question:
I’ve sat and watch these URLs get spelled out. It looks like these bodies are just dropping out of the sky.
Obviously the spammers are using software to position the characters. I vaguely recall reading something about the WoW servers trusting the position information reported by the client; if true, the software can simply position a low level character in the air over the spot where the corpse is to be left and rely on falling damage to kill it.

At the time I took this screenshot I noticed that all the corpses have different names. The accounts being used may be filled with low level toons who are killed sequentially to produce the writing. If the number of characters per account is maxed out, not many accounts will be needed.

With all the recent discussion of impact in games, this corpse spam is an excellent example of the downside. The more ability a game gives a player to alter the game world, the greater the possibility for misuse. It's striking that WoW, which is the leading example of an unalterable theme park game world, still allows for this tiny bit of impact (a character's death leaves a corpse) which can be exploited by spammers. WoW is so popular that it's worthwhile for the spammers to spend the time and trouble to develop specialized software needed to create corpse spam.

On a related note, for the past few days I've been getting whispers from spammers pretending to be offering new free mounts. The spam attempts to send people to a website apparently purporting to be a Blizzard site in the hopes that players will log in using their game accounts. Of course their passwords are immediately stolen, their game character's stuff is sold off and the gold sent to another character operated by the spammer.

So anyone thinking about buying gold in World of Warcraft should consider this: Since Blizzard doesn't permit gold sales, the companies you buy it from get it through fraud, theft, and other illegal means. In buying gold you are endorsing and encouraging crooks.

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