WTF? Play World of Warcraft with an Xbox 360 controller

Originally posted on GGL Wire 10/16/07.

Playing WoW with an Xbox controller.

The latest utility from Xfire lets you play World of Warcraft with an Xbox 360 controller.

Blue Orb, Inc. today announced Switchblade, a software package designed to allow gamers to play Blizzard’s massively popular World of Warcraft using an Xbox 360 controller. SwitchBlade is available today for download for free exclusively from Xfire.

SwitchBlade is an easy-to-use application that brings a fully configured game controller interface to any PC game. Once SwitchBlade is installed, it provides a console gaming experience for the gamer looking for a new way to play popular PC games. The first game supported by SwitchBlade is World of Warcraft. Preconfigured key bindings map the Xbox 360 controller buttons to the most commonly used World of Warcraft controls.

Now let me just say that it’s barely possible to control WoW with a keyboard and mouse. The WoW interface is very well designed, for an MMORPG — but it’s not precisely friendly to console controllers. Then again, EA was able to create a console version of the real-time strategy game Battle for Middle Earth II; I didn’t believe it was possible to effectively control an RTS with a controller, but I was wrong.

I decided to try out WoW using SwitchBlade and a wired 360 controller. Continue reading

Washington Post: What’s So Bad About Cheating?

Originally posted 4/4/07 at Avataritoria.

Mike Musgrove, Washington Post Technology Columnist, does not understand why cheating is bad. I hope his golfing buddies know that.

Mr. Musgrove doesn’t get why we enjoy MMORPGs. Some people would say that disqualifies him from writing about MMOs. I disagree. Musgrove admits his ignorance. Then he thinks that maybe MMOs are only boring in the low levels, so maybe he should try a power leveling service.

He pays $24 to a Hong Kong gold farm to get his World of Warcraft character leveled to 20. Unfortunately, he finds the game just as dull. There’s just no pleasing some people.

But even after asking around, he just can’t see why power leveling would be bad. (He calls power-leveling meatbots “proxy fighters.” Isn’t that adorable?) He quotes the absurd self-justification of his HK gold pirate:

“The practice is analogous to someone who maintains a beautiful garden but doesn’t always have enough time to perform all the yard work himself, and therefore hires a gardener,” [HK/Singapore gold farming firm IGE’s chief operating officer, James Clarke] wrote in an e-mailed response to questions about the company. “Some purists might call hiring a gardener ‘cheating,’ but we believe most people are quite comfortable with it.”

Uh huh. I guess some purists might think hiring a gardener is “cheating,” but most people are quite comfortable with gardeners. What does that have to do with cheating in a game? Does this guy really think most WoW players are comfortable with the idea that the lvl 14 rogue in their PUG is an underpaid Chinese sweat shop laborer? Should I not care that someone paid money to “accomplish” in a moment what I worked (well, played) hard to accomplish?

I’ve made a big deal of the fact that MMOs are not competitive games. I’ve suggested that MMO players are meant to share strategies and resources, and not hoard them. But this raises the question, so what if someone buys levels? Or gold? Or items? Isn’t that just “sharing?”

The only way to answer a question like this is to ask, “How does it affect the game?” The kinds of sharing I’m talking about take place in the game, between characters. It’s part of the game itself. Power leveling and gold farming involve transactions outside the game, between players, made for out-of-game benefit (money). That’s what makes it cheating.

When playing Monopoly, I can state in front of everyone that another player and I are ganging up on a third player. That’s not cheating. But if I steal money from the bank and pass it surreptitiously to the second player, in exchange for non-game-related favor later, that’s just plain old cheating.

Of course, Monopoly is a competitive game with one winner. WoW is a cooperative game with no winners. But they are still both GAMES. And if you don’t play by the rules, you’re not playing. You’re just taking up bandwidth that could be used by people who actually want to play.

I’m not surprised that a Washington Post columnist lacks the internal ethical compass to recognize cheating. He’s probably one of those people who thinks that because Alberto Gonzalez didn’t break the law, he didn’t do anything wrong. Power leveling isn’t illegal, therefore it must not be wrong.

Link. Via MMO Gaming.

More from the Cheat-o-sphere — Blizzard Sues WoW Glider

Originally 2/19/07 posted on Avataritoria.

Blizzard Entertainment is taking legal action against the site that sells WoW Glider, a bot program that basically plays WoW for you. I learned about this from a rambling post over on Markee Dragon, a site that links to various bots, cheatware and gold famers.

I didn’t know about the WoW Glider situation because, of course, I don’t cheat. Hell, I feel guilty when I use the “World of Warcraft Atlas.”

Again a games developer is using? abusing? copyright law to control how its game is used. And again, I am torn. I don’t like publishers bullying gamers into using a product a specific way.

But I really, really don’t like cheaters.

WoW Glider sits and plays WoW while you are not at your computer, following a complex set of instructions. Some people think this isn’t cheating, since the user is not manufacturing illicit items or making walls invisible. After all, it’s just a more advanced example of the macros Blizzard lets you create, right? Right?

I’m not a lawyer. Avataritoria’s Paul Ang, who went to law school, always tells me there are no good or bad lawsuits — you either win or you don’t. This is a very lawyerly thing to think. He also reminds me often that the law has nothing to do with what’s right and what’s wrong. Also very lawyerly.

I have no doubt Blizzard will prevail in this legal action, since the current climate in law and politics is slavishly servile to corporate interests over fair use. But should Blizzard win? Do they have a point?

1.) Blizzard accuses WoW Glider of violating its intellectual property rights. This may be valid under the law, but it’s bogus in reality. Intellectual property law was invented to protect the right of artists to make money off their creative labor. It was not intended to prevent anybody else on Earth from ever making money off your labor ever, or to keep your ideas from being used in ways that annoy you or make your life harder. Intellectual property law has been amended to include these things, but it should not have been — fair use, a vital part of cultural development, has been hobbled and nearly eliminated as a result.

2.) Blizzard says that WoW Glider encourages users to violate the WoW Terms of Service. This is undeniably true, but I have two problems with it. First, I have no interest in non-negotiable boilerplate contracts that strip all of my rights as a consumer, and permit a corporation to change any provision they wish at any time. I’m not aware of any particular instance of Blizzard abusing their EULA, but cell phone companies do it all the time. The potential for abuse is enormous.

My other problem is, “yeah, so what?” WoW Glider permits users to break the rules. That makes the cheater the problem, not the cheat bot. WoW Glider has no legitimate use, to my knowledge — but the EULA isn’t violated until you log in and use it. Lots of people want to make bongs, lock picking kits and hack programs illegal, but I don’t. It’s not wrong to have the tool, it’s wrong to use it, and the distinction is important. (I’m well aware this goes against my long-held views on gun control; but guns kill people, and serve no other purpose at all, ever. I resent the idea of a device someone can point at me, press a button, and I’m dead.)

3.) Blizzard has pointed out that going after WoW Glider users and banning them costs Blizzard money. Yeah, well, boo hoo. As a paying, non-cheating WoW player, that’s why I pay you guys. Going after bot creators will never stop the creation of bots, any more than napalming cocaine farms cures drug addiction.

This all makes it sound like I support WoW Glider and oppose Blizzard. This is absolutely not true. I’d love to see cheatbots eradicated from the Earth, or at least from Azeroth. Players who cheat are scumbags. (I have respect for the people who break something like WoW apart, figure out how it works, and find all the hacks. But again, there’s a sharp clear line between hacking the game out of curiosity, and using that knowledge to ruin the game for everyone.)

But using the law to eliminate cheating makes me very nervous, not because Blizzard is doing harm, but because they may set precedents that will allow others to do harm. I’d really rather Blizzard stuck to finding cheaters and banning them.

That said, you won’t find me donating any money to WoW Glider’s legal defense.

WoW Is A Rip-off Of ‘Warhammer Online’; NOT The Other Way Around!

For some time now, I’ve been planning to write a post on this topic. This discussion thread on nudged me into finally doing it.

I’ve been a gamer since the earliest days of anything that can properly be called “gaming.” My first video game was Pong. My first computer was a TRS-80. My first role-playing game was “blue book” D&D. My first anime was Macross. I’m the original paleogamer.

I played all the great Games Workshop games; Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000, Space Hulk, Blood Bowl, and Talisman. Chaos Marauders is one of the greatest games of all time, and I still play it.

I’ve also followed the efforts of the Blizzard folks, who have yet to release a bad game. Lost Vikings 1 & 2, Warcraft 1-3, StarCraft, Diablo 1&2, and World of Warcraft. Hell, I even played StarCraft: Ghost at Blizzcon.

That said, I can assure all you young Padawan gamer n00bs that Warcraft is a direct and obvious rip-off of Warhammer. I have been informed by a reliable source that in the beginning, this was intentional — Blizzard and Games Workshop had an abortive relationship. But much if not most of the look, feel, and characterization of the Warcraft universe was at least inspired by the Warhammer universe.

Am I criticizing Blizzard in saying this? Nah. It’s really not a big deal. It’s all just a rip-off of Tolkien anyway. And Blizzard has certainly developed the Warcraft franchise into its own original, massive creative endeavor. The two legendaria have evolved in different directions; the Warcraft universe features serious storylines intermixed with light comedy and anachronisms, while Warhammer is noted for dark comedy in a grim and gritty world. At this point, saying that Azeroth is a ripoff of the World of Warhammer is just sniping.

What’s annoying is when uneducated howards, munchkins, n00bs and trolls complain that Warhammer Online rips off World of Warcraft. You know, because WoW was published first. Let’s ignore the fact that each game is part of a legacy of games.

They also complain that WOAR’s control scheme mimicks the WoW interface. No god, I should hope so! WoW has the best interface of any MMO I’ve played to date. Please, MMO publishers, steal WoW’s interface. I’m begging you.

In conclusion, WoW is a great game, indeed my favorite game of the moment. But it’s a rip-off of Warhammer. And I am very much looking forward to Warhammer Online.

Ten Things to Do While Waiting for WoW to Patch

1.) Make a tangy three-bean soup.
2.) Take care of your calluses and corns.
3.) Prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
4.) Carve a gourd into a birdhouse.
5.) Make a starship Enterprise out of a floppy disk.
6.) Learn to read Old Icelandic.
7.) Annotate your copy of “Moby Dick,” paying special attention to passages that support the theme of “the deceptiveness of fate.”
8.) Give yourself a home henna tattoo.
9.) Give yourself a home real tattoo.
10.) Experience “spiritual enlightenment” by drilling a hole in your own head.

Hilarious Podcast: Old Guy Tries To Understand ‘World of Warcraft’

David Warlick is a middle-aged teacher who produces his own podcast. In the most recent, he interviews his college-aged son as the young man plays World of Warcraft.

The interview is alternately hilarious and cringe-inducing. Mr. Warlick treats his son like an anthropological informant, and WoW like some strange ritual from an alien planet. To the man’s credit, he works very hard to understand what’s going on, and asks insightful questions.

If you’re a WoW veteran, you’ll probably find this painful. But if you’re a n00b — or even better, a concerned parent — who knows, this might be the best introduction you’ll get.