Ghost Town: World of Warcraft’s Accidental Genocide

By Alec Meer on October 8th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

Dear Mum, today I work I had to search for pictures of dead gnomes

No-one’s immune to hacking, and the bigger they are the harder they fall (but more quickly they recover, given the megabucks, etc). Over the weekend, someone manage to slip a knife into World of Warcraft’s ribs, finding an exploit that allowed the usually near-invincible NPCs inhabiting the capital cities of Stormwind and Ogrimmar to become as weak as asthmatic kitten (though this was done by by the exploiting players accessing kill commands, not the NPCs actually being weakened). Slaughter inevitably followed.

Anyone accessing the exploit could kill these NPCs, turning these once-proud cities into brutal, high-speed massacres. I wish I had been there.

Here’s a look at THE HORROR, THE HORROR. Of course the exploit was quickly identified, fixed and everyone restored to life, but that’s not the point. The point is that in a quasi-living game world, even one as over-familiar as World of Warcraft’s, surprising, strange things are still possible.

That video via PCG.

In my fondest, most impossible MMO dreams, when World of Warcraft finally starts to wind down in the year 3112, something like this will be officially sanctioned. The in-game NPC rulers will be overthrown, and then players need to work out what to do with a world in anarchy.


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  1. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Your write-up makes it sounds like the npcs were suddenly weaker, when the exploit involved some players simply getting their hands on some very powerful kill commands.

  2. President Weasel says:

    I remember the days when if someone hearthstoned quickly enough they could bring back some kind of troll plague from Zul’whateveritwas to the capital cities, and kill lower level players.
    I’m pretty sure I remember a plague spreading through EQ2 as well – I think I’ve been playing MMOs too long.

    • Loopy says:

      Yeah that was in September 2005, the boss Hakkar’s “Corrupted Blood” debuff that was applied to players in the Zul’Gurub raid. They found a way to transport it outside the raid instance using teleportation spells, mass chaos ensued. ;-)

    • f1x says:

      I remember after that they did a plague event on purpose (perhaps before WOTLK?), where you would be transformed into a zombie and could spread the zombification, I think your HP would decay while in zombie state + you had very few HP points and you were attackable, something like that

      Joining with some guildies and spreading the disease like mad among the AFK people in Ironforge, now that was fun + 1.000.000 report threats, awesome

      • Obc says:

        it was the pre wotlk event heralding the 3rd invasion by the scourge. it began slow you, once you have the plague you get a dot. when the dot runs down you become a zombie for a set amount of time after which you die. you had to bite other players to remain alive, doing this would spread the plague. at first the dot was on a 5 minute time, the zombie alive timer was 1 minute and you were weak but everything changed for the worse day by day. zombies would get stronger, you’d be alive much longer and the incubation time got lower.

        allies and horde could talk with each other when zombified. zombies were pretty much the 3rd faction. after 1,5 week about every place in azeroth and outland was decimated coz the guards would be turned into zombies too. the event changed the world completely with its unhaltable devestation. sooo much despair, sooo many qq’s, SOO MUCH AWESOMENESS, i loved every second of it, from its beginning in booty bay from some crates to seeing whole cities filled with skeletons and searching for a far away place to remain hidden to being turned and become the hunter to stay alive (…well technically you arent alive but you are also non dead…)

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Oh yes! I recall the various historical plagues of Azeroth with great fondness.

      I think the cycle of WoW occasionally becoming genuinely fascinating due to some (relatively harmless) bug until Blizzard scrambles to fix it back to boring stasis pretty well sums up the problems with modern MMORPG design.

      I.e. why isn’t this a real thing in WoW? Oh yeah, because we can’t have anything interrupt people grinding their dailies.

      Jeez. Sorry, I’m feeling very bitter this morning, carry on.

    • Carra says:

      That was fun :)

  3. tags 4 lyf says:

    Wowie zowie.

  4. Vorphalack says:

    Doom Lord Kazzak does Stormwind was a mildly amusing exploit of the game environment. The Zul’Gurub plague has gone down in history as the text book example of what happens when game mechanics go wrong. This video, however, was a whole lot of nothing. Just some bored nerds with a kill command they should have never been able to use. Beware of re-posting content from PCG who will whore out anything WoW related to keep it on the front page during expansion month.

  5. herschel says:

    The in-game NPC rulers will be overthrown, and then players need to work out what to do with a world in anarchy.

    That´s called sandbox.

  6. applecup says:

    Man I’d forgotten how ugly WoW is.

  7. Malibu Stacey says:

    In World of Warcraft this is big headline making news.

    In EVE-Online this is just another day.

  8. Calabi says:

    Are you sure they dont do this on purpose?

  9. jmtd says:

    I’m always amazed by how un-appealing WoW looks. Even your blurb made it sound exciting but the video was just ‘meh, some things fell over.’

    • Captchist says:

      It’s like a funny story you had to be there for.

      If your experience of WoW is watching a few youtube videos of bits of it, I’m not sure you’re getting the whole picture. Just as you wouldn’t be for a million other great games.

      I still don’t see the appeal of any Zelda, Metal Gear Solid etc, but then I imagine playing and immersing myself in them Vs seeing a few screenshots and bits of the game here and there are not the same.

      • Obc says:

        exactly. If i restart OoT i love everybit of it again. but if i see some small footage of it on YT or pic on the net only then i see just how “ugly” the 3d really was. the graphics havent aged well at all but i still love it (and MGS1).

  10. reddog says:

    No offense intended, but this article has wobbly facts.

    1) City NPCs are not near-invincible. You’re supposed to get many of them down with enough players backing you up. The opposite faction is prone to raid the city every once in a while (no actual reward is awarded for slaying the king / warchief, it’s just for giggles and PvP fun).

    2) The hack was pretty serious because it allowed the dullards in question to one-shot the **players** (and the NPCs).

    It’s not such a big deal if the bank or repair guy NPC suddenly drops dead. A player dubbing himself “Hahahahaha” and zapping all around him with a kill hack is.

    3) So, as you can see, the whole circus was not at all about weakening or killing the _NPCs._

  11. Tei says:

    Is like these TV series where the main character can die, or lose a arm, or make a girlfriend, but you know on the next episode he will be alone and with that arm ok again. Except in one episode the writers go a bit too far, and decide to kill everybody, or something too drastic.

  12. pilouuuu says:

    Am I the only one that was reminded of South Park WOW episode with this news?

  13. Supahewok says:

    Reminds me of the Fallador Massacre in Runescape back in ’06. A glitch in player housing enabled a lot of high level characters to attack other players in non-PVP zones.

  14. ockhamsbeard says:

    “The in-game NPC rulers will be overthrown, and then players need to work out what to do with a world in anarchy.”

    That’s precisely when I’d be interested in playing WoW.

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