Ghost Town: World of Warcraft’s Accidental Genocide

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.


  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.

    • Boozebeard says:

      Yeah, what’s happening in the video and what this article describes are not the same thing at all :S

    • Torn says:

      Yep it’s apparently accessing / sending commands which players wouldn’t normally be able to do (i.e. “kill selected target”).

      It’s not reducing health of things, or making NPCs attackable by just anyone.

      link to

    • Alec Meer says:

      I just didn’t explain it well because I’m too busy snorting coke off the backs of the prostitutes the XCOM and DIshonored publishers bought us

      • Ian says:

        Only off their BACKS? I didn’t realise you were such an old-fashioned gent at heart, Alec.

        • Drayk says:

          Urban dictionary defines BACK as = An especially fine woman’s butt.

          All credit is then humbly given to Sir-Mix-a-Lot. A man I discovered trough an RPS article.

          I think it’s safe to assume what Sir Alec’s comment meant.

      • lijenstina says:

        Real PC players snort heroin using a 12 gauge shotgun barrel.

        • Arglebargle says:

          Man, kids these days…. What happened to the real elite, the absynthe and tarantula venom fanciers??

          • Zorn says:

            They’re not all gone, good sir, they’re not all gone. At least in this dusty post industrial area, from which these lines are sent, there are at least two connoisseurs left.

          • iniudan says:

            Absinthe is something I can buy in any liquor store around here… not really something considered hardcore beyond the false reputation that temperance movement gave it in the early 20th century. If there was a reason for absinthe to be bad back then it was mostly due to the fact that it was a highly popular distilled alcohol and due to that reason there was a high number of cheap low quality production, which for distilled alcohol is always a bad thing, for those kind of alcohol need quality production, has low quality might not go through all the process to make sure it doesn’t contain poisonous form of alcohol.

      • Carra says:

        Those must be some high class prostitutes seeing how much you like both.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Refreshing honesty!

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        Does this mean we should expect a gonzo piece from Alec in the coming weeks then?

        “Hookers and hooks, a mark of the ninja all night playfest”

  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. ;-)

      • Phantoon says:

        Actually, it was by dismissing hunter pets before the debuff went away.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          Yeah, that worked with the bomb debuff too, from Baron Geddon. Suicide bombing in the auction house was a tradition since early 2005.

        • whorhay says:

          Warlocks could do it as well with their Void Walker pet, they had a way to store the pet instead of dismissing it.

      • Nesetalis says:

        I got hit by that fun little thing.. >.<

      • Baines says:

        Wasn’t that the plague that Star Wars The Old Republic tried to copy in a tightly controlled, water-down, pretty much neutered form?

    • 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…)

        • f1x says:

          exactly! THAT, and that was awesome,
          if they did more stuff like that I would gladly return to wow ;D

    • 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.

    • Nesetalis says:

      agreed. After playing guildwars, I can never go back. But the game is almost a decade old now.

    • Carra says:

      The new zones actually look very nice. The polygon count may be low but the art style still is amazing.

  7. Malibu Stacey says:

    In World of Warcraft this is big headline making news.

    In EVE-Online this is just another day.

    • Hypocee says:

      EVE? The SomethingAwful MMO?

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        If you meant “dominated by SA”, yes. The goons still have the biggest alliance IIRC.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      I know they have a laissez faire attitude to managing player behaviour, but they let people abuse admin commands every day? Damn.

    • J_C says:

      100% right Sir. :)

  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?

    • BathroomCitizen says:

      Haha, you’re not the only one, mate!

      I was going to post that before I read your comment :)

  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.