Honor Buddy Authentication Closed After WoW Ban

Honor Buddy logoBlizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, recently banned more than 100,000 World of Warcraft accounts because of “botting”. As a result, the maker of a bot called Honorbuddy has decided to close Honorbuddy Authentication. This decision means that people who were using the Honorbuddy bot will no longer be able to do so.

Honorbuddy is a bot. Some World of Warcraft players were using it because it automated certain things in the game for them. For example, it was possible to use Honorbuddy to automatically cause your character to gather resources, level the character, and a variety of other things.

Blizzard Community Manager Lore recently posted information about the ban on the World of Warcraft forums. The forum post was titled “Recent Actions Against Botting in WoW”. The key part was this:

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots”. We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

There was no mention of any particular bot in the forum post. However, it appears that Honorbuddy might have been one of the bots that banned players were using. There is a post on the Honorbuddy forum titled “Honorbuddy Bans Statement”. Part of it said:

It seems like Honorbuddy was detected, we are not sure, but looking at BAN THREADS, we think that is the most likely option atm.

We are sorry for all your lost WOW Accounts, hopefully you can use them again after the 6 months ban is lifted. I have read here in the forums a bit, a lot of the accounts where [sic] 10 years old. This is a pity. We always say, do not use your valuable accounts as the risk is always there.

…With Honorbuddy you thought that we are unbeatable, we never thought that, we’ve succeeded since 2010 – Honorbuddy had not a single software detection. It seems there is one now.

…You ask yourself what happens next? For now we closed our Honorbuddy Authentication, when we know more details we will inform you.

The Honorbuddy website has a disclaimer at the bottom that says “This website is not associated with Activision Blizzard Inc. and Honorbuddy may be against their TOS/EULA.”

Banned WoW Player Posts Petition on WhiteHouse.Gov

We the People logo at WhiteHouse.gov petition websiteIt is not unheard of for players who have been banned from playing a video game, due to their own bad actions, to get online and complain about it. Blizzard Entertainment, maker of World of Warcraft (WoW) recently banned players who were using bots. One of those players felt the need to post a petition at WhiteHouse.gov about it.

It is against the Terms of Use of World of Warcraft for players to use bots. A bot can be described as “third-party programs that automate gameplay.” In short, players who don’t actually want to spend time playing a video game sometimes choose to use a bot that plays it for them. Or, a player might choose to use a bot in order to make certain aspects of the game easier for them. The reason doesn’t actually matter since the use of bots breaks the Terms of Use.

Blizzard Community Manager Lore posted some information about the ban on the World of Warcraft forums. The title of the forum post was “Recent Actions Against Botting in WoW”. It said (in part):

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots”. We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

As I mentioned, it is common for players who have been banned to go online and complain about it. Many will claim they were innocent and that Blizzard should reverse the ban. Others will insist that the ban was “unfair”. This is a fairly typical response.

This time, someone decided to take things a step farther and create a petition on WhiteHouse.Gov about the WoW ban. The petition is titled: “Today on 5/13/2015 The World of Warcraft Population demands unbanning their toon and to change the terms so we can play.” The “toon” they are referring to is the character they use when they play World of Warcraft.

The wording of the petition says: Today over half the pvp community that did not use their fingers to play have been banned. The other half were people who would use a program called T-Morph to do stupid things…Anyways we are demanding Blizzard to change their terms of service and fix this game so we can play again. WE do not want to see any lives lost due to A ban.

Please help us change this

Blizzard you are ruining everything

The rest of the petition is composed of a “ban list so far”. The creator of the petition is listed as “B.P.” who is from Fort Worth, Texas. In order to create a petition on the WhiteHouse.Gov “We the People” website, a person must be an American citizen. Those who sign the petition also have to be American citizens.

WoW petition at WhiteHouse.gov

I find it interesting that the banned players who created or signed the petition think that this is a situation that the Obama Administration should step into. The creator of the petition connected it to the following issues: Economy, Human Rights, Technology and Telecommunications.

I’m fairly certain that being banned from a video game, for using a “bot”, is not actually an infringement upon one’s human rights. The wording of the petition can be read as an admission that the players who were banned did, in fact, use a “bot”, including one called T-Morph.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me that the creator of the petition failed to follow the Terms of Participation required by those who post petitions. For example, part of it reads “You also agree not to post threats of unlawful violence or harm to any individual or group”. One could interpret the part of the petition that says “WE do not want to see any lives lost due to A ban” to be a threat of unlawful violence that could occur if Blizzard doesn’t reverse the ban.

In order for a petition to be searchable at WhiteHouse.gov, a petition must reach 150 signatures within 30 days. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 58 signatures. In order for a petition to receive a response from the Obama Administration, it must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days.

Steam Removes Payment Feature from Skyrim Workshop

Steam Workshop logoIt is amazing how quickly companies can respond to community feedback. Such is the case for Valve in regards to its Steam Workshop and the launch of paid mods in Skyrim. The payment feature for mods has been removed from the Steam Workshop just a few days after it was launched. The problem seems to be with the payment model for the mods.

Valve explains the situation in a post at Steam Workshop. Part of it states that their goal was “to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to better provide for their mod communities.”

But we underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim’s workshop. We understand our own game’s communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the best place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there’s a useful feature somewhere here.

Valve also says that anyone who spent money on a mod will be refunded the complete amount.

Bethesda, maker of The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim game, has also posted an update on their blog in regards to the paid Skyrim mods in Steam Workshop.

After discussion with Valve, and listening to our community, paid mods are being removed from Steam Workshop. Even though we had the best intentions, the feedback has been clear – this is not a feature you want. Your support means everything to us, and we hear you.

I’ve been reading through comments on both the Valve and Bethesda blog posts regarding this issue. There seem to be two main viewpoints about why the paid mods were removed. One is that people were upset because they did not want to pay for mods at all – they wanted to continue to obtain them for free. Previously, there were some Skyrim mods that were free to use.

The other view is that people were upset about the payment split. The mod creator would receive 25% of the payment, and the rest of the money would be split between Valve and Bethesda. It seems to me that some people felt that Valve and Bethesda were getting too much of the profit, and that others felt the price of mods would go up as creators attempted to make the effort they put into the mods worth the money they earned from them.

Steam Workshop Launches Paid Mods in Skyrim

Steam Workshop logoThe Steam Workshop has a new, streamlined, process that will enable mod creators to list and sell their creations. Players can now buy mods directly from the Workshop and have it immediately be usable in game.

Steam is starting with mods that connect to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (which is made by Bethesda Game Studios). They have a history of providing strong support for modifications in their games. Steam says there are now over 24,000 free mods available for Skyrim through the Steam Workshop.

The main idea here seems to be that players can now support the mod authors whose work they are using and enjoy. Those that create mods, and get paid for doing so, might decide to create new, higher quality, items and experiences that can be added to Skyrim.

Creators who want to make paid mods for Skyrim can make new cosmetic items, sound packs, custom skins, fancy houses, epic quests, or entire new cities. They can then set a price and earn a portion of each sale through the Steam Workshop. BBC reports that if a mod is sold, creators will receive 25% of the payment. The rest of the money is split between Valve and the studio or developer who originally made the game.

The implication seems to be that the ability to get paid by selling a mod for a game could, in the future, open up to games other than Skyrim. The information at Steam says “many more of your favorite Workshop games will support paid content in the coming weeks”.

Steam Limits Accounts in Effort to Fight Spam

Steam logoSteam has come up with a unique way to fight against spam. Steam users need to spend at least $5.00 USD in order to have full access to all of Steam’s features. The purpose is to limit what spammers and “malicious users” can do. The reasoning behind this decision is explained by Steam as:

We’ve chosen to limit access to these features as a means of protecting our customers from those who abuse Steam for purposes such as spamming and phishing.

Malicious users often operate in the community on accounts which have not spent any money, reducing the individual risk of performing the actions they do. One of the best pieces of information we can compare between regular users and malicious users are their spending habits as typically the accounts being used have no investment in their longevity. Due to this being a common scenario we have decided to restrict certain community features until an account has met or exceeded $5.00 USD in Steam.

It’s easy for “regular users” to avoid ending up with a limited account. You can add $5.00 USD to your Steam Wallet. You can buy a game(s) that are equal to $5.00 USD or more from the Steam store. Or, you can purchase a Steam gift that is equal to $5.00 USD from the Steam store and give it to a friend who also uses Steam. To me, it seems that $5.00 USD is a low enough amount so as not to be cost prohibitive for people who are using Steam in the way it was intended.

Those who have a limited account will be prevented from accessing several features. Some of those features include: sending friend invites, opening group chat, participating in the Steam Market, and posting frequently in the Steam Discussions. Those who have a limited account will not be able to vote on Greenlight, Steam Reviews, and Workshop items.

Zynga is Closing Eleven Games

Zynga logoZynga has announced that it will be closing eleven of its games on April 30, 2015. I first learned about this when I tried to play CafeVille and was presented with an informative page that discussed the upcoming end of the game. It was a fun, extremely simple, game that involved virtual food.

Zynga posted on its blog a “games update”. Part of it said:

Based on the natural evolution of our game storylines and changing consumer preferences, we have made the tough but important decision to close 11 of our older Web and mobile games, some of which have been in market for more than 4 years. The games impacted are: Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, Bubble Safari Mobile, Bubble Safari Ocean, CastleVille, ChefVille, Duck Dynasty Slots, Pioneer Trail, Puzzle Charms, Skateboard Slam, Riches of Olympus Slots, and Zynga Slots. All games will be ending by April 30th. Games have begun rolling out closure information via in-game messages and a thank you to players.

At the time I am writing this blog, Zynga has six games that are accessible to play on the website. Or, at least, they used to be. I’m having difficulty trying to play CafeVille today because the game keeps having an error and then refreshing (and making me lose progress). Your experience may vary.

Later on in the blog post, Zynga points out that they have three mobile games slated to launch later this year. Those games are Farmville: Harvest Swap, Empires & Allies and Dawn of Titans. There is no specific date on when those games will appear. Interestingly, the blog also says “…we are excited to usher in a new era of Zynga and NaturalMotion games that we hope you will enjoy.”

NaturalMotion is the creator of the Clumsy Ninja game that was featured in the Apple Keynote Event in 2012. It seems NaturalMotion joined Zynga in 2014.

Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset Review

Creative Logo

Earlier in the month on GNC, I reviewed Creative’s E1 Portable Amplifier, which improved the listening experience for headphone wearers. To go with the E1, I have the Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset, aimed squarely at gamers with a detachable flex mic and in-line controls. Priced at a penny under GB£40, the Inferno sits at the lower end of Creative’s range so expectations need to be set appropriately. With all this in mind, let’s take a look.

The Inferno headset comes inside a mainly black and red box with a transparent window on one side, showing off the goods inside, all held neatly in place with a lightweight plastic moulding.

Creative Inferno Box

Inside the box, there’s the red-infused SB Inferno headset. From the outer shells to the inner driver covers and the audio lead, it’s all red. It’s a good strong red which may not come across in the photos.

Creative SB Inferno in Red

The Inferno has a TRRS 3.5 mm jack (that’s the one with three black bands) and works out of the box with smartphones and tablets. For more old school devices with separate sockets for headphones and microphone, then there’s a splitter in the box too. Sadly, this doesn’t carry the red colouring and is boring black but on the plus side, the Inferno works with Sony’s PS4, connecting into the controllers.

Interrupting the red cable is the in-line control for adjusting the volume and turning the microphone on and off. With no controls for pause / play or FWD / RWD, it reminds us that the Inferno is primarily a headset for gaming rather than music listening.

Inferno Inline Remote

The flexible boom mic plugs into a socket on the left had ear cup and there’s a little shim to ensure correct insertion. It’s easily detached when not required – just pull.

Inferno Flexible Mic

But enough of the features….what is the Creative SB Inferno HyperX like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. The headband is a little bit too plastic for my taste but it does make the Inferno lightweight and doesn’t exert too much sideways pressure on the head. The cloth padding on the band and the ear cups is good and I wore the Inferno for several extended sessions without ear soreness. The Inferno has what I would describe as “snug” closed cups, meaning that the cups fit neatly over the ears and there’s not much movement inside the cup. I like this but it obviously depends on the relative size of your ears.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony. Overall, I thought that the Inferno provided even, balanced sound to the extent of being unexciting but the Creative headset is a clear step up from the average junk out there. With music listening, much of the sound came through but it certainly could have been a bit richer – it simply didn’t have the “wow” factor and was too flat for real appreciation. A little bit more bass and more depth across the board would be a big improvement.

As I’ve said in reviews before, these headsets are great in office. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well.

For games playing, the headset was good with the action coming across clearly from bullets to bombs. Machinery clanked away and steel screeched against concrete. Again a bit more oomph in the bass department would have been an improvement but there’s enough clarity to hear noises off. For the gamer, this can mean the difference between fragging or being fragged.

Overall, the Creative SB Inferno is right on the money. At an RRP of £39.99, the Inferno delivers nicely to the price point giving a decent gaming headset. It’s not for audiophiles but it doesn’t set out to be sonically superior, so I think the Inferno would have a good claim to be the best entry-level gaming headset.

Thanks to Creative for providing the review headset.

Maingear DRIFT is an Ultra Compact PC and Steam Gaming System

Maingear logoWhen people think of gaming systems, they often imagine large beige or black boxes overflowing with cables and accessories. And while these types of rigs may be fine with a certain class of gamer, there are many who’d prefer something compact and sleek to take them into their preferred virtual worlds of play. For those who’d like to devote a little less real estate to diodes and PC boards, Maingear offers its new DRIFT gaming system.

DRIFT is compact but speedy with an F-1 engine featuring a stylish unibody aluminum chassis that is whisper quiet thanks to an Epic 120 liquid cooling system and superbly engineered airflow. Powered by the latest in gaming technology, including Intel Core i7-4790K CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 290X GPUs, the DRIFT may look small but it’s definitely a might machine.

4K gaming is possible with DRIFT and its compact design is versatile enough that it can be placed either vertically or horizontally. It supports up to 16 GB of DDR memory, can hold 2 1TB SSD’s and a 6TB HDD, and can be fully upgraded and customized with Maingear’s automotive paint finish available in many colors and combinations.

DRIFT can be configured to boot directly into STEAM big picture mode with Windows and the system is now available for purchase directly from Maingear. Pricing begins at $949.00 without an operating system.

MSI Bridges the Performance and Affordability Gap with New Gaming PC’s

MSI laptopIt’s the eternal struggle. You need a powerful PC to maximize your gaming experience. And while high-end systems bring premium features and performance, they often demand an equally premium price. PC manufacturer MSI Computer Corp is making the divide between pricing and performance ever smaller with its new line of laptops and all-in-ones.

One qualification for a high-performance system is a quality graphics processor. MSI delivers here as the company’s Gaming 24GE AIOs, GE60/GE70 Apache and GP60/GP70 Leopard series gaming laptops will be outfitted with NVIDIA’s GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPU’s. Designed to bring desktop graphics to a laptop, NVIDIA’s latest GTX GPUs deliver impressive gameplay at 1080p resolutions, allowing gamers to experience even the smallest particles of digital dust. The new GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPUs also decrease energy consumption when compared to previous models, enabling longer play time without having to find a wall outlet.

Of course, high-quality video is nothing without a matching level of audio. That’s why MSI’c systems supply 3-D sound by Nahimic, an audio performance technology that offers virtual 7.1 sound in immersive high definition. Designed to work with standard stereo equipment, Nahimic technology transports gamers into the action, allowing them to sense every footstep, hear each bullet whizzing past, and feel every explosion around them. Nahimic technology highlights even the smallest sounds, intensifies gameplay by boosting bass, and reducing noise for optimum in-game voice clarity and comprehension. It also features a high definition audio recorder to easily capture studio quality sound. This new technology currently is available for the GE60 / GE70 Apache gaming notebooks and the Gaming 24GE AIO.

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Blizzard Fights Gold Sellers with WoW Token

Blizzard GoldBlizzard Entertainment is about to enable World of Warcraft players to securely purchase gold and to use their gold to buy game time. Something new, called a WoW Token, will make it harder for the illegal gold sellers to find people to scam. Why bother with gold sellers when the WoW Token will safely enable a player to purchase gold?

The concept behind the WoW Token is not new. Eve Online uses a similar system called PLEX. Wildstar uses a similar system called C.R.E.D.D.. However, this is the first time that something like this will be available to World of Warcraft players.

How does the WoW Token work? A player that needs more gold will be able to buy a WoW Token from the in game shop. That person can then sell the WoW Token in a special portion of the in game Auction House for gold. The player will get a quote of how much gold they will receive if another player buys that WoW Token.

Need game time, but don’t have enough real-world currency to purchase it? A player in that situation can buy a WoW Token from a special portion of the in game Auction House. The player can then redeem the WoW Token for 30 days of game time.

The cost of the WoW Token is going to be set by Blizzard Entertainment based on an algorithm that considers supply and demand. That means that players won’t have to bid for a WoW Token (like they can for other Auction House items). It also means that individual players won’t be able to set the price for the WoW Token they want to sell on the Auction House.

Best of all, the WoW Tokens, once purchased, cannot be sold directly to another player. They will be account bound. This makes it impossible for third-party illegal gold sellers to buy up all the WoW Tokens on the Auction House in an attempt to make money from them.