July 2006. I am not playing this game anymore, for a couple of months now, and haven't had a single second thought. This page serves only as a reference. Thanks, but don't bother mailing me to sue, reroll, don't ask me how to run a bot (I *don't* know since I never did, not even if you don't believe me), don't ask me how to repair your WoW installation, and definately don't ask me to start a character on your server. I don't care about the game anymore. Thank God. :)

March 21st, 17AM CET FINAL UPDATE:The final word has been said on this, check the very end of the page.

March 18th, 2AM CET UPDATE:For revisiting readers, I have added more information and a video at the end of this page.

I have played WoW for about a year and have a 60 mage on a PVE server with a fair amount of purple stuff. Mostly played WoW on Windows. Took a break for a few weeks in October, then started to fiddle with WoW on Linux by using WINE (took a while but it's reasonably stable), and then decided to roll a priest on a PVP server. However, on Sunday the 19th of February, I got banned from WoW.

The first mail I received:

Account Name: INFERNIX
Type of Violation: suspected use of third-party software
Consequences for Account: account suspended pending investigation

Greetings,

We are sending you this email to inform you that we have, unfortunately, had to suspend your World of Warcraft account pending investigation for the use of third-party software. If you wish to review our current Rules and Polices, they can be found at: http://en.wow-europe.com/termsofuse.shtml

Further enquiries regarding your account status, should be directed to: Wowaccountrevieweu@blizzard.com

Please do not reply to this email as you will receive an automated response.

Regards,

English Game Master Team
Blizzard Europe


I replied them with the following e-mail:

Dear Sir/Madam,

First, if I actually did violate the rules, I apoligise in advance. Still I would like to explain a few things that might help in your investigation.

I am an experienced network engineer for an ISP and I am often running World of Warcraft on Linux through the use of WINE ( www.winehq.com ). Yes, I am part of a 0.2% userbase of people playing WoW on Linux. However, I do not know in what way this would affect your detection of using third party software, and I also do not know if it violates the TOS - but this seems unlikely.

Secondly, I have a programmable keyboard that will input keystrokes with the use of a macro button. I am unsure whether this is considered a violation because a keyboard is not 'third-party software'. However, if the use of programmable keyboards is a violation, I probably have violated the TOS and will apoligise for that. For example, I have used the programmable macro keys to swap different armor and weapon sets.

I regret that this has happened and would like to ask you to reconsider your decision, if at all possible.

I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

infernix

Shortly thereafter, I received a reply which basically told me to wait:

Greetings,

Your account has been temporarily suspended whilst it is investigated for possible use of unauthorised third party programs. We shall contact you, via e-mail, upon the finalisation of our investigation, to advise you of our conclusions.

If you wish to review our current Rules and Polices, they can be found at:
http://www.wow-europe.com/en/policy/

Regards,

Asarhuli
Account Administration Team
Blizzard Entertainment Europe

So I awaited their investigation. To my surprise, the next mail was a fatal one:

Greetings,

We are writing to inform you that we have, unfortunately, had to cancel your World of Warcraft account:

Account Name: INFERNIX
Date of Violation: 19/02/06
Type of Violation: Witnessed and confirmed use of third party program - Boting
Consequences for Account: Account Cancellation

It is with regret that we take this type of action, however, it is in the best interest of the World of Warcraft community as a whole, and for the integrity of the game, that your access to the World of Warcraft servers be cancelled.

If you wish to review our current Rules and Polices, they can be found at:
http://www.wow-europe.com/en/policy/

Regards,

Jarkhil
Account Administration Team
Blizzard Entertainment Europe

I was not going to leave it at this. So I went and tried to explain, with more detail, what might have caused them to think I would be using botting software:

Dear sir,

I have just gotten off the phone with your billing department. They said that only you can help me from this point on.

As I have explained in my original e-mail, I am playing World of Warcraft on Linux quite often. I work for an ISP as a network engineer and adminster dozens of Linux servers. Sometimes I have reboot to windows because it is not always stable due to the state of ATI's Linux drivers. It can run stable for days, or sometimes crash every 15 minutes. Their OpenGL support isn't nearly as good as NVidias on Linux.

At the time of the suspension I was playing WoW on Linux. I was training my weapon skills because I recently turned to level 60. I had programmed the switching of weapons (I use Wardrobe for that) to my programmable keyboard and was fighting a low-level healing mob to upgrade all my weapon skills to 300. As you might very well know, this takes hours, and while I was training my different weapon skills by pressing the macro keys and healing myself every now and then, I watched some movies on my TV, because fighting a level 25 healing mob doesn't require much attention if you're a level 60 priest.

I have already explained that the use of WINE might affect the software you use to detect third party programs. For example, applications run on WINE do not show any process lists because it isn't really Windows which is running underneath. Most likely all that would show is WOW.EXE in the procss list.

I have also apoligised in advance if using a programmable keyboard violates the TOS - but your TOS does not say anything about using such keyboards. Even manufacturers say that their keyboards are usable for World of Warcraft; see the Logitech page for their G15 keyboard for example ( http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/details/US/EN,CRID=2166,CONTENTID=10717 ). However, I have not even gotten an explanation for why I have been banned. All it says is "Witnessed and confirmed use of third party software".

If you are saying that playing World of Warcraft on Linux is using "third party software" and is illegal, then why isn't it in the TOS? And how can it be botting? Is the use of programmable keyboards botting? Is the repeated use of macro keys on a keyboard botting?

Please take my explanations serious. It would be particulary unfriendly to Linux users if you are banning them because of WINE, and if it's not because of WINE but because of using a programmable keyboard, please quote the TOS where it states that pushing macro keys is the same as 'botting'. Again, I have not used any cheating software whatsoever. I do not even think any cheating software would ever run on WINE.

I am looking forward to a reply and ask of you that you seriously reconsider your decision. I can be reached at +31-xxxxxxxxx if you want to discuss this over the phone.

Yours sincerely,
infernix

I had thought this would explain it well. I had by now already looked up some of these botting tools. Most of them seem to require MS .NET Framework - that's just never even going to run on WINE. One thing I forgot to mention here, which someone pointed out, is that my TV in this case is my 2nd computer. I have 2 19" screens next to eachother. One for the movie, one for WoW. So I wasn't away from the computer at all. However, their stance remained the same:

Greetings,

Thank you for explaining your situation further, however the fact still remains; your character was found interacting with the surroundings unattended and the advantage gained from this is a clear violation to both our Term of Use and a common sense of fair play.

The details of this case was reviewed a second time and we can confirm that the evidence presented is entirely correct, and that the subsequent action taken is appropriate. We would not look to enter into any further communications on this issue as the matter is now considered closed.

Regards,


Fjosky
Account Administration Team
Blizzard Entertainment Europe
http://www.wow-europe.com/en/support/

So it seems that if I use a programmable keyboard I am botting. However I suspect their 3rd party detection software saw a very strange enviroinment in which WoW was running; that combined with the repetitive task of healing myself, switching weapons, and casting Hex of Weakness programmed in my keyboard, I am viewed as a bot. I have sent them another e-mail to which I got the same response as above:

Dear sir/madam,

In response to the communications sent with your Account Administration department, I have been given a permanent suspension. I feel that this is inappropriate.

The ban is based on the fact that i was found 1) "interacting with the surroundings unattended" and that 2) "the advantage gained from this is a violation of the ToU and common sense of fair play"..

Now lets examine these two statements.

I have explained that I have a programmable keyboard. In my initial mail I already wrote that this might have lead to a violation, but I was unsure at the time, and apologized in advance. In my second mail I again pointed out that I used macro buttons to switch weapons in order to train my weapon skills from 270-275 to 300. This simply does not require much attention if you have a level 60 priest; you simply take low-level weapons up against a low-level healing mob, and then you keep hitting it. I had already done this several times * without * the use of keyboard macros. At the time of the ban I had configured my keyboard to switch weapons, cast hex of weakness and renew myself, all with the press of a button. None of these actions involved the use of cheats or hacks whatsoever. I had put myself on /DND with the note that I was watching movies and was not paying much attention to the game, which i muted because of the movies I was watching. Now it is quite well possible that during that time people contacted me in-game without me replying. After all, it was from the late hours of Saturday till the early hours of Sunday and I was watching the movie screen 99% of the time. After pushing the macro keys for some hours I found myself logged off and unable to log back in. However, unattended is simply not the case, as I was near the computer. How else were I to activate the macro on my keyboard? I do have a cat, i admit, but I am quite sure it's incapable of such actions. And no, I haven't tried training my cat to play WoW. Besides, Blizzard employees have stated in a blue post on the EU forums:

"We have looked into this matter and haven't found reasonable cause to disallow usage of its functions for use in world of Warcraft. We do, however, reserve the right to come back to this statement at a later point, at which we will inform our players."

The link to this post is http://forums-en.wow-europe.com/thread.aspx?FN=wow-general-en&T=705675&P=5

Now to the advantage gained. What exactly did I gain? All I did is train my weapon skills. I did not gain any gold, did not gain any experience at level 60, no honor, not even any loot whatsoever. I did not gain any skills or advantages that I would not otherwise have while playing the game. So what did I gain here that is a violation, and how is the tedious task of upgrading my weapon skills against the terms of use? Let alone the fact that I am a priest - it is more of a fetish to upgrade weapon skills on a priest than anything else, since wands out-dps weapons on a priest starting around level 60. Especially if the attack power is going to be removed in 1.10 - but i digress.

Even if you still feel that I am at fault for programming my keyboard in a way you do not deem appropriate, why was I not given a warning? Did I not apologize from the first mail I sent, even though I have now found out that Blizzard does not condemn the use of programmable keyboards? I have even spoken for nearly an hour with a representative of your billing department to explain the matter but he was unable to help me.

I am sending you this because I feel I have been depicted as a player who actually does use third party software and farm unattended for hours, gain gold, loot, experience and whatnot. I gained none of these things, yet I have still been banned. The explanations for why I have been banned look much like an automated reply and this is why I am mailing you this. I am putting in great effort to explain my characters behavior, yet I get almost nothing in return except one-liners.

I am looking forward to a reply. Please, take my mails seriously, as I take yours. I can be reached at +31-xxxxxxxxxx if you want to discuss this over the phone.

Yours sincerely,

infernix

I have now mailed them on their customer concerns mailbox, however, I doubt that will lead to anything except another "We would not look to enter into any further communications on this issue as the matter is now considered closed." reply. But I keep my hopes up. Meanwhile, I sent another mail to the account review team:

Dear Account Review team,

I have played WoW for nearly 3000 hours. I have now spent close to 300 Euros on your game. Recently I have been permanently suspended. I have tried to explain in great detail that I was using my programmable macro keyboard, and I was not using 3rd party software to gain an unfair advantage. During the I used the macro keyboard I did not gain anything except about 30 skillpoints in my Priest weapon skills, which I am positive your logs will show. I am sure you have my thorough emails in your ticketing system however; I don't want to discuss the issue itself, since we seem to be past that now.

What I am concerned about is that I did not receive a warning, but instead got a permanent ban right away. This is not conform the Penalty Volcano found here:http://www.blizzard.com/support/wowgm/?id=agm01714p

Even if you really feel that the evidence you have gathered show that I am botting, I still feel that a permanent ban is inappropriate. I am happy to accept a two month long suspension from the game, but I feel a permanent ban is too harsh. Especially considering the upcoming expansion I am still planning to buy. I have spent a lot of time building a raiding alliance on my mage, on which I have gathered a fair amount of epic items. The sheer amount of time and money spent on this game from my end should at least give you some idea about what kind of a gamer I am.

I know that you are not interested in communicating with me on the issue, which is why I will send you a plain paper letter soon to express my seriousness about this once more. Please, reconsider your decision. I am not a gold farming bot, nor am I an afk level bot - I am a real person who simply tries to get the most out of the game.

Yours Sincerely,

infernix

A friend of mine made a forum post on the General European forums. It got deleted the next morning though, and the guy got banned from the forums for posting it. Here's the post:

Recently friend of me got a friendly message from Blizzard saying that his account was closed, due to using unallowed third-party software. The problem is, that the Blizzard is wrong.

I don't want to go much into details, you can read the full story on the page linked below. The thing is that what he did is was using a macro programmable keyboard, which is even advertized as a great tool for WoW players. But what more important is, he was playing under Linux, using Wine, so our guess, is that game spotted very odd environment, and Blizzard assumend he is using some sort of hacks.

The problem now is, that Blizzard announced his decicion, and closed the case without getting in any discussion at all. There was no chance to explain whatsoever. My friend is getting autoresponse messages. Calling and snail-mailing various Blizzard departaments doesn't give any result. They haven't got him a warning, a 72 hour suspension, nothing. Account was closed. Cya. After spending over 3000 hours in the game, getting two characters to 60 (gearing one of those in BWL) he gets permanent suspension for using a macro keyboard while leveling his priest in weapon skills from 270-300. GJ Blizzard.

There are various reasons I am posting this story here. First of all we are still is looking for any help we can get to get him back into the game. Does anyone knows where to go, who to call/write/whatever. Did any of you got experience, or know anything about similiar case? Besides, this also got me thinking whats the point on spending time into this game, if you can get misjudged and kicked in the but just like that, without a single chance to explain yourself, or a warning.

If you want to know more details go to http://infernix.net/wowban/ You can find the story, mails exchanged with Blizzard and detailed info on the case.

Any help will be really appreciated.

--
Hal 60 Priest - Shadowsong
Halock 60 Warlock - Chromaggus

Some other threads popped up here and there. Some people don't believe I was upgrading my weapon skills; however, Blizzards logs will show no loot gained. In fact, I was hitting a single mob all the time (read my mails). I have about 300to 400 gold on my mage and my priest - I don't need to AFK gold grind. Money isn't an issue, nor is XP at level 60. Not to mention it was a level 25 mob...

And another thing, to all the people who think I lie and I was running a bot: you go and try to get any bot program running under WINE, on Linux. After this whole thing I actually looked at some of this software, and guess what? They all need MS .NET Framework. That's really never ever going to run on Linux with WINE. Anyway, it's up to you if you believe me or not.

Blizzard put the lid on some of the forum talk. I quote: We do not discuss bans on the forums. If your friend has an issue with a ban, he should reply to the email he would have been sent. I agree with them. I would love to solve this over e-mail; however, AccountReview mails get auto-replied stating that they do not want to communicate with me. My WoWConcerns e-mails have yet to be repied. I still hope they will.


So, if anything, let this be a warning: even if Blizzard states that programmable keyboards are OK, you will get banned if you use them, depending on the situation. Its just a shame that due to the massive real botters, they aren't open to any real world explanations.

GG Blizz :(

Update.

I have received numerous e-mails from all around the world and I would like to thank you all for your attention and support. Some of the information I add in this update comes from you. I really appreciate it.

A few things could use some more clarification. I will try to address some of the points raised in response to my story.

Some people did not believe that it was possible for a level 60 character to attack a low level creature indefinately. For those that don't believe this, or don't have the experience with the game mechanics, I have recorded a 10 minute example movie (Filefront mirror) at a friends place which shows how easy it is to accomplish this. A few notes. The video is made with a level 27 priest. The attack damage he does is similar to the damage a level 60 priest does with the lowest damage weapon around. Because of the lower level priest, I have to use shielding and a healing spell instead of renew, but this is a technicality. I also don't swap weapons here since I had only a staff to equip, but this can be done easily with the Wardrobe addon. You'll also notice the DefendYourself addon; more on addons later. The point of this demonstration is that you can clearly see that this can go on forever, because the mana (which is used for healing, both the priest and the creatures) will regenerate to full every single time. You can also see that I don't need to use the mouse to do this, I am just pressing keys most of the time. Images speak louder than words, right? :)

Many people told me that I was an idealist/idiot for explaining myself the way I did. Call it what you want - I believe that when a person has the most information possible, the best decision can be made. In that light I tried to explain what I was doing in the best way I could. This is why I explained about WINE, the keyboard, the fact that I was watching movies etcetera. Either way, this is how I believed to best handle this situation. I had also already sent Blizzard Europe a signed plain paper letter (the one which they have to sign for when they receive it), but have not received any response to it.

Now onto WINE. In my very first mail I already mentioned that I thought it was unlikely that WINE would be the reason for the ban, simply because I didn't believe that to be possible. But anyone who has used WINE will know that it doesn't exactly behave like Windows, and since The Warden is a separate piece of code that is ran, with no way of verifying if it ran successfully, I figured I better mention it so it might explain any strange response they might've received from it. However, since I was playing on WINE for a while already, and many other people are too, I didn't think this would be the reason. Unfortunately Blizzard never denied nor confirmed this, so I kept mentioning it. It would be nice if Blizzard could simply state that the use of WINE is OK with them, or whether or not The Warden (more on that later) runs succesfully on it. For people who want more information about how to play Warcraft on Linux with WINE, you can go to the Gentoo site or to another good site by Redeeman (recommended).

Which leads to the keyboard and its use or abuse. Before we go into this, anyone without knowledge of World of Warcraft will want to know that Blizzard themselves put an API, a programming interface language, inside the game itself, to allow players to develop their own scripts and GUI tools, called addons. The code is written in LUA. Blizzard controls this API and no commands are in place to actually violate the TOS. However, historically, parts of their API functions have been removed because it allowed too much automation, and the upcoming 1.10 patch will also include one of these removals of API functions. So the problem lies here - on the one hand there are numerous addons available that automate complicated in-game functions, and on the other hand there is a restriction to this automation to prevent abuse. Another banned player mailed me about addon called AutoTravel which used functions that were removed because the automated travelling was not allowed. He told me that he got banned several months ago, when the addon still worked, for using the addons autotravel mode to travel around the map to mines (resources), which he then had to manually mine by using the mouse.

Now here's the catch - there is no control over anything outside of the game. So, third-party software is therefore disallowed as it would generate an advantage that Blizzard is actively trying to stop inside the game's API. So if I use my programmable keyboard to automate tasks, however boring and dull (check the movie and realize that at higher levels it really takes hours for all types of weapons you want to train) to an extent that Blizzard deems inappropriate, I am botting.

A word on bots and cheats/hacks. Bots are programs that hide themselves from the game's cheat detection software, or at least try to, because The Warden is pretty sophisticated in its detection methods. Botting programs are designed to fully automate gameplay. They are called bots because they have a basic AI that reads memory from the active World of Warcraft game about the players health, the targets health, the position in the world etcetera. These bots are then configured to allow for completely unattended leveling, traveling, "farming/grinding" (repeated kiling and looting of creatures) for items and gold. This is what really hurts the game, because it influences the in-game economy. The items get sold in-game, and then the farmer sells his gold online for real money. The big difference here is that a programmable keyboard is not a bot. It has no knowledge of anything except the keystrokes that are recorded and played back. It is obvious that a programmable keyboard cannot be used to program a bot to such an extent as that it would have intelligence. A cheat or hack is something that goes further than reading the WoW memory, but actually altering it. Examples are teleport hacks in which the player moves around in a way that is not possible without alteration of the WoW memory. Players who use teleport hacks can't be killed because an opposing player can never get close enough. So the difference is obvious here, I was not botting and I definately was not cheating/hacking.

Fortunately Blizzard gave an official response to the matter on their forums, both on the European as well as on the US forum. This clarifies the issue, as the violation is clearly related to unattended gameplay. So the reason I got banned was not the fact that I was using the automation, but that I wasn't paying enough attention to the game. Now anyone with a brain knows that the most essential part of the game, getting together and playing with or against other players, cannot be automated, let alone be done unattended. It is about teamwork with 5 to 40 people against enemies you cannot possibly kill unattended. This is how I spent virtually all my time in the game, except for the waiting for other players, server queues, battleground queues, creature respawns, in-game flying etcetera. The rush you get from playing against other people and the satisfaction you get from finally killing that big scary textured model for the first time, with 40 people cheering in your ear over voice chat. Joking and chatting away about anything while doing an instance (dungeon) for the 120th time and meanwhile breaking your previous time record. This is what's fun about the game, and it's not done unattended.

I invite any of you to view the video I made, to disregard the pulling part in the beginning and killing part in the end, and then to loop it for several hours. Try not to fall asleep, or worse, die of boredom. I can understand their stance, really. But when viewed in context, I still do not believe the violation I made should result in the harsh and permanent penalty I received. I indeed paid very little attention to the game while I was training weapon skills, but is this such a grave penalty? In all the hours I spent on it, leading groups of up to 40 people over voice to try and master the game together, I get permanently removed for automating gameplay while watching movies instead of paying full attention to the game where I was performing a most boring task. In percentages, about 0.1% of my total playtime is spent on weapon skill training. And any WoW player knows that a priest's physical damage with weapons is about the same figure, just to put things in context. A suspension and a removal of gained skillpoints would be much more appropriate. Unfortunately things went differently.

Lastly, a word to the people who say I should praise Blizzard for banning me, so I can get a life. You're probably right on the getting a life part. But I seem to enjoy wasting time this way, although it's a lot less fun now. I'm sure one day in the nearby future it's been enough. Summer is due, anyway. To each his own, I suppose :)

Final update. I had sent another e-mail because I still hadn't heard anything in response to my plain paper mail. So without further ado:

Greetings,

Thank you for your e-mail, the European Account Administration Team has not currently received any plain paper correspondence from yourself and, as such, we are unable to respond to this.

Having fully reviewed all of the associated information and correspondence, we can confirm that this account has been permanently closed for unattended game play and that we would not look to reactivate it under any circumstances.

If you wish to review our current Rules and Polices, they can be found at:
http://www.wow-europe.com/en/policy/

Regards,

Devolution
Account Administration Team
Blizzard Entertainment Europe
http://www.wow-europe.com/en/

Funny that a signed letter did not come through - e.g. a letter that they have to sign for when the mail delivery man comes to their mailbox. Oh well, their wording is clear. Farewell and goodbye.

infernix - banned ex-60 human mage & ex-60 troll facemelter

infernix@infernix.net

Referring sites:
Slashdot, Digg.com, The Inquirer, IDG.se