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Blizzard Exposes Detailed WoW Character Data 233

Gavin Scott writes "Blizzard has introduced a new web site called the Armory which lets you get information on any World of Warcraft character, extracted from their live databases, in near real-time. This exposes a great deal of information that was not previously obtainable including profession choices, skill levels for all skills, and the character's complete talent specification and all faction reputation data, along with all gear currently equipped. The complete roster of any guild or arena team is also available. Some players are upset about this, such as arena PvP teams who now have all their gear and talent choices exposed to the world, or players with non-standard or less-popular talent choices who fear they will have difficulty getting into pickup groups now that people can instantly find out everything about them. Are these complaints fair? Blizzard claims to own all the data and the characters, but at what point does this data represent personal choices and information about their players which would be covered by their own privacy policy? In a virtual society, should people be able to present a view of themselves that differs from (virtual) reality, or should all details be exposed?"
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Blizzard Exposes Detailed WoW Character Data

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  • Bad Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by celardore ( 844933 ) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:34PM (#18200880)
    I don't play this game, but I imagine that it would put people at a significant disadvantage in many situations. Trolls could find weaker players and go kill them easily. Personal privacy aside, I think this is a really bad idea. Imagine a war game (computer, real, whatever) where you know your enemies weaknesses, and they know yours. And it is not fair to say that everybody has access to this information and is fair game, because many will not know how to access this or even care about it. Bad move.

    This could make things like the WoW funeral massacre much more easy, and common. A group of assholes could easily pwn a group of noobs. Not fair, not cool in my eyes. I did download the trial after hearing a load of hype recently; Not my thing. Found it unentertaining, so I played Counter-strike instead for a bit with my real life friends over Ventrillo. That was much more fun.
  • by Phs2501 ( 559902 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:37PM (#18200926)
    Maybe now that they have this they can frickin' fix Inspect so you don't have to stay within 3cm of another player to look at their gear. (Inspect was "broken" several patches ago such that the window closed when the other player walked out of the [tiny] range allowed.)
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:38PM (#18200928)
    None of this is private information at all. It's like publishing sports statistics for everything from school games to professional sportsfolks.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:38PM (#18200934)
    I found out about this today. First I thought this may be a privacy issue. After some browsing, also of my own characters, I don't think so. One thing is that even if all your details are exposed, most players of other classes cannot really judge what works well and what does not. Also I doubt people will invest the time to ckeck on everybody they are inviting into a group.

    What I really like is the ability to get an overview over guilds and to get inspirations about skills and equipment by looking up people I know to play well.

    All in all, I think this is an interesting addition.

    BTW, it is fun to see how often names are used. Sadly, I don't have a single uniquely nameed character....
  • by lytlebill ( 659903 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:44PM (#18200996)
    So if Blizzard is so proud of their "comprehensive and up-to-date database" of character and item info, are they going to stop giving people who've had their accounts hacked the total BS "we can't restore gear because we have no way of knowing what you were equipped with" excuse anymore?
  • by cgori ( 11130 ) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @07:50PM (#18201066) Homepage Journal
    It's arena matches (especially among top-ranked players) that people care about. It's very different to know that 3 of the 5 opponents have engineering, therefore some crazy trinkets, and oh, that rogue is mutilate-build vs combat, or that mage is frost/fire/arcane spec'd. You might figure it out within 10 seconds of the match starting but if the match lasts 60 seconds tops, you lost a decent fraction of time to figuring it out, and probably didn't play the optimum counter-strategy.

    For the median player, or at least median arena participant it's a non-issue. It's only at the very top of the arena rankings (which are now going to be done like chess rankings...) that anyone will care. Those players will probably just respec before any match anyway so not as big a deal.

  • by jchenx ( 267053 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @08:01PM (#18201170) Journal

    I don't play this game, but I imagine that it would put people at a significant disadvantage in many situations. Trolls could find weaker players and go kill them easily. Personal privacy aside, I think this is a really bad idea. Imagine a war game (computer, real, whatever) where you know your enemies weaknesses, and they know yours. And it is not fair to say that everybody has access to this information and is fair game, because many will not know how to access this or even care about it. Bad move.
    Easier said than done. Yeah, you may find out that player NoobSauce isn't very good, since his gear sucks and his talent trees are a mess. But how the heck are you going to find him? For all you know, he's not even logged in or playing the game anymore. It doesn't help even in the reverse situation. For example, you notice Legolaughs is guarding the flag in a Battleground. Are you really going to ALT-TAB out, launch a web browser, go look up his talent spec, ALT-TAB back, then go to town? Of course not. Just knowing his class and level, which you can already get in-game, is mostly all you need. And then depending on what spells or skills he uses, you can get a pretty good idea of his talent specialization, if you really want to know that too.

    Where this DOES have an effect in PvP is with Arena teams, as several others have already suggested. Even then, I don't think it's terribly disruptive. Armory or not, just by playing the game and through normal means of communication (forums, chat, etc.), players were going to find out what class and talent combinations are used by the best teams anyway. Now that's information available to everyone, and not just those who frequent the WoW message boards.
  • Re:Bad Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @08:01PM (#18201174)
    Firstly, PvP in WoW is pretty much dead. There is no real point to it, apart from grinding rep in Battlegrounds. Nobody cares enough to look at their opponents builds. Now, with the addition of Arena teams, it might be different. If they take off, and there are some really skilled teams there, then that information might be useful. But knowing your opponents build and equipment is only going to be useful if you both teams are a) reasonable skilled and b) equally matched. Also, it's not hard to figure out most builds after fighting someone a couple of times, so it's not like the information couldn't be found anyway by hardcore players (who are the only ones who will really be able to benefit from it).
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @08:07PM (#18201232) Journal
    You only have your gear and attributes exposed in WOW. Warcraft3 replays had real complaints. People could totally steal your build order and the creep order you did. They could essentially copy your game play by watching a replay and be almost as formidable as you. This made all the effective builds known, and there was very little creativity in that RTS.
  • by Cali Thalen ( 627449 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @09:19PM (#18202060) Homepage

    It's more of a on-issue then people think...and most already think it's a non-issue.

    If you go into the arena, as soon as the battle starts (which is the first time you can see who your opponents are), drop into this website and look up one of the player's the time you see anything, you're already dead. The website isn't that fast, and you don't have that kind of time to research anything.

    Sure, you can look up every arena player on every server in your battle group, and try to memorize it all (thousands of players on each of 8 or so servers), and assuming that no one changes equipment in the mean time, and assuming that no one has equipment that they use only in arenas, and assuming that knowing all that will give you any edge at all (which usually it won't), then you may have an issue.

    Me...I'm less than concerned about it, and it's a cool toy whether or not it poses any kind of problems.
  • by jchenx ( 267053 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @09:20PM (#18202070) Journal
    Don't know if yours is a troll post, but oh well I'll bite.

    Sure, 90% of players won't care, but what about the high end gamers who develop a secret 2v2 PvP secret sauce?
    There is no "secret sauce" in PvP. All the stats of a fight are in the combat logs. You can get a pretty good idea of what the other team is doing, just by seeing what they do, as well as the stats. And if you're not looking at this data, then you're probably not the type to look at the Armory stats anyway.

    There also isn't a a simple "IWIN" button in PvP, despite what some forum posters think. Even if there is a certain combination of talents, spells, and classes that excel in PvP, you still have to be skilled enough to push all the buttons at the right time, have the reaction speed, etc.
  • by Shadukar ( 102027 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @09:29PM (#18202154)
    To put it briefly: this information is publicaly avalible - you can get this info in game without trying very hard.


    Talent specs:
    If you watch them for more than 10 minutes in game, killing things, you easily deduce most of their talent choices - certain builds for certain classes grant certain abilities, other choices make the player use certain spells over other spells. Even if you are on opposing factions, it doesnt matter, you can still easily tell what their spec is.

    You can walk up to any player (on your faction) and inspect them and see their gear. Even if you can't inspect them for some reason (on pvp servers you can only go one faction per server) - a lot of gear has unique graphics. Those that don't really doesn't matter.

    The only possible thing to complain about with knowing someone's gear is when you are in PVP and want to know what trinkets the opponent has. Ok, there is potential here: trinkets let you do certain stuff and if you are ready for that stuff, you might have a small adventage. Thing is, the data is not real time! It is possible to instantly switch trinkets (out of combat) and whatever info you just got is out of date! To make this point even less relevant/less impact, most trinkets have visual/combat log notification to everyone nearby when they are used!

    Another point to consider: In the past (i am not sure if this still happens) there was a number of mods which upon the user inspecting another player, would suck that data and upload it to thottbot. I was quite surprised to find a few of my characters having character's gear profiles on that site - obviously someone insepcted me while running that mod.

    So why is this such a huge issue?

    People love to whine. Especially people who do nothing important/special whole day, maybe they are bored, they want to feel wronged, then they want to feel like they are doing something, then they want to feel vindicated. It doesnt matter how dumb it is, they just go for it..

    Lets look at one of the coplaints from the summary: "they will have difficulty getting into pickup groups now that people can instantly find out everything about them"

    This is probably the dumbest thing i have ever heard and i read the WoW general forums:( If you join a group that is super picky/elitist and your gear is crap/you are a newb, you will get booted with this information or without. If the group doesnt care you dont have the best gear or is not picky or can carry your weight or is not elitist, then this Armory thing will not matter one bit.

    Quite often, yes, there are elitist groups/guilds/people playing when you approach them to group/quest/join/etc they will scrutinise you. They will ask for your spec and check your gear. With or without the Armory, if you do not meet their expectations, you will lose. I really don't see what the difference between having it or not having it makes.

    If you have a non-standard talent build (you have no clue how to play) or non-standard (read:crap) gear you will get kicked out of the group as soon as it becomes apparent - and it will. If your gear is good enough and you are not a newb, this Armory will once again make no difference.

    In reply to the article's closing: the question of "In a virtual society, should people be able to present a view of themselves that differs from (virtual) reality, or should all details be exposed?" is irrelevant, borderline sensationalist when their virtual details are virtually exposed to all other virtual people.

    Virtually non story about virtual whiners/complainers virtually looking for virtually something to virtually do.

    Go outside, get job, girlfriend/boyfriend, learn to code or paint or spear fish. Do something meaningful so that you don't jump on dumb whiner-wagon just to feel improtant/like you are acomplishing anything by puffing up your hairless chest about small stuff like this.

    And no, don't talk about "slippery slopies" or "but what about government..." or "
  • by jchenx ( 267053 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @09:48PM (#18202330) Journal
    I think what Blizzard realized is that privacy was gone anyway, thanks to a number of 3rd party sites that tracked much of the same data. And some of these places tracked a lot more information, some of which can be really used in a bad way. For example, there is a site that actually tracks your guild history (which ones you've been in, how long, etc.). So, if you're applying to a new guild, their leader could look you up at this site, and wonder, "Hmm, this guy has gone through X many guilds in Y months. That's not a good sign, so thumbs down to him!", even though you might have a legitimate reason for this.

    So, that said, I think the data that Blizzard has decided to make public is rather benign in comparison, especially since much of it is data that you can already access anyway (inspecting gear, reading combat logs, etc.). Rather than give a small minority of folks an advantage, who happen to know the right websites to visit or mods to install ... it's better to make it an official part of the game, and let basically everyone know where to find it.

    Additionally, there's a whole lot of people that want access to this information, and don't mind sharing out their own data. This is true especially for guilds. Why do you think these 3rd party sites and mods existed in the first place? So again, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

  • by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @11:50PM (#18203150)
    My guess is that they are trying to stop people from creating in game utilities that hit Blizzard's site in the background to pull character data. However, I'm going to assume that making it Flash will merely slow them down a little.
  • Re:Bad Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ustum ( 1065134 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @11:51PM (#18203160)
    If WoW were more serious about PVP (a la EVE Online, even with its...quirks?) then I'd call this a really egregious violation of player rights. However, since I regard WoW as largely PvE, that's where I would look for disadvantages. The harms here come up when someone doing something somewhat unique gets screwed out of grouping/looting/guilding/whatever because someone checked out some stats, and says "that's not what I think a fighter/healer/caster should use," and snubbed them. I play nonstandard builds as a rule; I've taken flak a number of times from people who expect a cookie-cutter response from me and find something slightly different. This is especially true for folks performing central roles in nonstandard ways: clerics, tanks, crowd controllers, and such. When I play those classes, especially with groups I'm less familiar with, I sometimes have to play a role I'm less than perfectly suited for. I get by and so does the group in the end, but you sometimes wouldn't have thought it likely given the builds I run. Making this information available shifts the social burden of being a "good player" one more step towards equipment and away from play skill. Is that shift outweighed by the very real convenience of having your character gear visible outside of the game environment? Maybe, but that's the question at hand here, not just a blanket statement about player privacy.
  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Friday March 02, 2007 @07:46AM (#18205366) Journal
    I really, really hate the abuse of the word "hacked" in this context.

    I remember back when I was doing the whole oper thing on a well-known IRC network. Every day, we'd get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of complaints from people complaining that their account with the network services had been "hacked". In every single case I ever encountered, it transpired that the individual in question had just fallen for an extremely simplistic con designed to get them to reveal their password. There's no element of "hacking" about it - it's just the exploitation of gullibility, stupidity, and the belief that it's possible to get something for nothing.

    I don't play WoW very much (although I do have a semi-active account I log into occasionally, but until the end of last year (when I more or less went cold-turkey), I was a pretty hardcore Final Fantasy XI player. "Hacked" accounts were a perennial topic in FFXI and, once again, it was inevitably the account owner's incompetence that led to the account being lost or vandalised. I'd say that the cases I heard of could be broken down into three broad areas:

    1) Keyloggers and malicious software - probably the closest to actual "hacking", these still relied on user greed and stupidity to steal accounts. Essentially, many of the third party programmes available for FFXI (all of which are banned under the TOS) actually contained keyloggers and the like which stole people's account passwords and reported them back to the author. Most of the malicious software in question would masquerade as cheats (eg. movement speed cheats), so frankly, people who lost their accounts this way got what they deserved.

    2) Social engineering/phishing attacks - slightly less common - probably the rarest of the three categories - but by no means unknown. The old familiar tricks all applied here: masquerading on forums as admins, offering powerlevelling or gil to people who signed up on sites using their Playonline passwords, the usual rubbish. I dare say a couple of people were stung by this purely on the basis of being naive, but again, most of the people who fell for this did so out of greed.

    3) Shared account passwords - in no way does this resemble "hacking". However, it was by far the most common means by which people would lose their accounts (or have them vandalised). I remember being in a linkshell once where a number of the senior members shared account passwords (although happily, I always opted out). When one of the leaders went bad, he did quite a bit of damage with the logins he had. In these cases, my sympathy was again limited - if you share your account password with somebody you just know online, you're asking for trouble. However, there were a few genuinely unfortunate cases, where people would have their accounts trashed after a real-life relationship with another player (often a girlfriend or boyfriend) went bad.

    So in short, assuming the situation with WoW is anything like the one with FFXI and Blizzard don't actually have horribly insecure servers, nobody in WoW is actually getting their account "hacked".
  • RP'ers nightmare (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Friday March 02, 2007 @05:17PM (#18211754) Homepage Journal
    Many Rp'ers may have different gear for different events. The people at one event may not need to know about the gear at another event.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl