Hearthstone “Bot” Accounts Banned Until 2015

Hearthstone logoBlizzard Entertainment, maker of Hearthstone (as well as several other well known games) has cracked down on the accounts that were using “bots”. Hearthstone is an online card game that is highly competitive. I am no longer surprised when some players feel the need to “bot” instead of actually play in an effort to do better in a competitive game. It is disappointing, though, when people cheat their way to victory.

Recently, Hearthstone did something about this problem. The Battle.net Hearthstone section has a post titled “Recent Actions Against Botting in Hearthstone”. The significant portion reads:

We’ve recently banned several thousand Hearthstone accounts that were associated with the use of third-party programs that automate gameplay, otherwise known as “bots” or “botting”. These accounts will be banned until 2015. As we’ve stated, fair play is at the core of the Hearthstone experience, and cheating and botting will not be tolerated.

It also very clearly states that: “From this point on, accounts found to be cheating will be permanently closed without warning.”

In addition, Hearthstone has banned accounts that were participating in “win-trading”. In short, “win trading” is when a player makes two accounts and queues them to play against each other over and over again. Doing that is against the Terms of Use in Hearthstone. The key portion of the announcement regarding “win trading” says:

We’ve recently banned Hearthstone accounts that were found to be participating in win trading. Win trading at any rank is something we do not take lightly, and is in violation of our Terms of Use. As we mentioned in our previous statement regarding fair play in Hearthstone, instances of cheating will not be tolerated. Accounts that were discovered participating in win trading have received permanent account closure and disqualification from events where ranking is used as a method of qualification.

It is my hope that these actions that Blizzard has taken will make Hearthstone less frustrating for the players who were playing the game without the use of “bots” or “win trading”. Personally, I’d like to see players reach a Rank via fair play instead of by cheating their way to it.

World of Warcraft Servers Coming to Australia

Blizzard GoldBlizzard Entertainment has announced an upcoming deployment of infrastructure that will support World of Warcraft players in Australia and New Zealand. These new servers are going to be hosted in Australia and will support the Oceanic realms.

This is huge news for people who live in Australia or New Zealand and who play World of Warcraft (WoW). The more localized servers will reduce the latency that many have experienced when they had to play WoW on the servers that were located in North America. In other words, this change should reduce the lag. Nobody likes lag, so this change should make a lot of people happy.

The only thing that people might not be so happy about is that the maintenance period for World of Warcraft will very likely be at the same time. It takes place on Tuesday in the wee hours of the morning when most players who live in North America are asleep. That same maintenance period falls into a part of the day in which many AU players would like to be able to get into the game.

I like that Blizzard Entertainment is starting to make an effort to reach out to players who are outside of North America. This week, they did a Launch Event for their upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion in Australia. Previous to this, Blizzard had local game servers for Diablo III. They also have local game servers for the players who are in the Technical Alpha of their upcoming Heroes of the Storm game.

Say Goodbye to the Diablo III Auction House

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment has officially shut down the Auction House in Diablo III. This includes both the gold Auction House and the real-money Auction House. A controversial concept right from the start has been removed from the game – forever.

For those who are unaware, the gold Auction House enabled players to take the items that they found in game and put them up for auction. Doing so could result in the sale of the item and some gold for the player who sold it.

The real-money Auction House functioned in a similar way. Players can take the items they found in the game and put them up for auction. The difference, though, was that instead of gold (the in-game currency) the items sold in the real-money Auction House allowed the seller to earn some real world money.

The real-money Auction House in Diablo III was the first time that Blizzard Entertainment created an auction house that could be used to earn real money (instead of in-game currency). I remember people being really excited by the idea of selling enough items to pay for their subscription to World of Warcraft (one of Blizzard Entertainment’s most popular games).

There were both positives and negatives to the Auction House system. On the one hand, the Auction House was a great way for players to obtain the items they were hoping to find in the game, but could not. Previous to a recent patch, the “loot” system in Diablo III was problematic. On the other hand, there were those who felt that the Auction House allowed players who had money to “pay to win”. They could buy the best items, and gain an advantage over players who didn’t have the real-world money to spend.

Love it or hate it, I think all players of Diablo III benefited from the Auction House (both types). For example, I’ve never used the Auction House. Several of my friends have, though, and they used it to buy some really awesome items. When they “outgrew” those items, they shared them with other players, including me. The removal of the Auction House is an “end to an era” in Diablo III, and it comes shortly before the Reaper of Souls expansion is released. Good times are ahead!

Battle.net Adds New SMS Protect Service

Battlenet logoGamers who play any of the games by Blizzard Entertainment may want to check this out. Battle.net has introduced a new way to protect your account from hackers. The new service is called SMS Protect. If you currently have your account protected by an authenticator, it is possible that you received an email from Battle.net about this.

It will send a text message to your cell phone every time suspicious activity is detected on your account. You will also get a text if your account is flagged for suspicious login activity, if your password has been changed, or if account security features are added or removed.

In other words, if something nefarious appears to be happing to your account, you won’t have to wait until you get home, and try to log in, to find out about it. You can get a text message about it, while you are away from your computer. All you need is a standard cell phone with a data plan. You also need to be in one of the countries that is currently supported by SMS Protect.

The sooner you know something has gone wrong, the sooner you can try to fix it. If you want to get texts, you have to log into your Battle.net account and enable the texts. (The “default” mode has the texts turned off).

Those of you who play World of Warcraft, Diablo III, or Starcraft hopefully are already using an authenticator to protect your account. The key-fob authenticators are still useful, and so are the mobile authenticators for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Those will still function as intended. You are not required to change over to the SMS Protect service if you do not want to. SMS Protect is simply one more tool to use to protect your characters and loot from hackers.

Blizzard’s Music Now on Pandora

pandora-logoPandora recently added music from video games by Blizzard Entertainment to its Video Game Music Station. You can now listen to music from World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Star Craft through Pandora for free. You can stream it through a browser or through a mobile Pandora client. It looks like this is available to people who are inside the United States only.

The music in video games has improved greatly since the early days. It started with catchy little tunes that you cannot get out of your head. How many of you can “sing” the Mario Bros. theme song, or the melody from Tetris? Today, video games have added epic soundtracks that can include full orchestras, ethereal vocals, and a moody soundscape. It has become complex, and rich, and something you can enjoy even if you don’t happen to play a particular video game.

In addition to music from World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft, the Pandora Video Games Music Station also includes music from games made by companies other than Blizzard. There are tracks from Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, and more. When I went to check this out, the Station selected music from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for me to listen to.