Corrupted Blood brought about the end of the World…of Warcraft

February 10, 2009

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I never realized the extent of how far this affected players around the world – Here is how things spread like wildfire in the game and why doctors and scientists used it as a model for studying how real-life diseases can spread in a major urban environment – BBC News even covered it…see below!
– FlashAddict

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Corrupted Blood was a virtual plague that infected characters in the computer game World of Warcraft, spreading rapidly from character to character. Its resemblance to real-life disease epidemics drew international attention.

Corrupted Blood Plague taking place in Ironforge

The “epidemic” began on September 13, 2005 when Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of World of Warcraft, introduced a new instance dungeon called Zul’Gurub into the game as part of patch 1.7. Inside was a boss named Hakkar the Soulflayer, alluded to as the “blood god”. Players who fought Hakkar were affected by his debuff (a spell which has a negative effect over a fixed period of time). The debuff, in this case, was Corrupted Blood, a spell that caused 263–337 points of damage (compared to the average health of 2500–5000 for a character of the highest level, and with those at the mid-levels having about 1500) every two seconds to the afflicted character. The affliction was passed on to any characters standing too close to an infected character. While the curse would kill most lower-level characters in a matter of seconds, higher-level characters could keep themselves alive (via healing spells, having high stamina, or other means) long enough to spread the disease around the immense landscape inside the game. Death caused by the debuff did not cause any durability penalty, unlike most other causes of death in the game. The disease would eventually go away as time passed or when the infected character died.

The only way that a player was able to bring the disease outside of Zul’Gurub was by allowing a pet to get the debuff, dismissing the pet in less than five seconds, then summoning it in a populated area. (When dismissed, the pet retains the debuff and the timer of the debuff is paused.) This debuff transmission technique was first seen with the “living bomb” debuff from Baron Geddon in Molten Core. The plague was spread by players’ pets that contracted the disease and also by malicious players known as “griefers”, who found ways to bring the digital virus into heavily inhabited areas.

After a few days, Corrupted Blood had become World of Warcraft‘s version of the Black Death, rendering entire cities uninhabitable and causing players to avoid large clusters of others, and in many cases, causing players to avoid major cities altogether.

Due to the curse’s peculiar behavior—it was never meant to leave Zul’Gurub—the ability to infect pets and NPCs was a side effect unconsidered by the developers. The intended behavior involves the final boss fight with Hakkar. Every so often, Hakkar will cast this debuff on a random player, effectively forcing players to be spread apart, or in the case of melee classes, to move away from Hakkar before spreading it to the other melee classes. Blizzard Entertainment tried several times to fix the problem, including imposing a quarantine on certain places. This “plague” was eventually “cured” by restarting the servers, and changing the mechanics of the Hakkar encounter to eliminate the spreading of the effect from character to character. Hakkar still has an ability called Corrupted Blood, but it now takes the form of a red bolt launched at a random player fighting the boss. The player and those nearby take damage, and receive a heavy damage over time, but the effect no longer spreads further.

Due to the large scale outbreak of the “plague” (some servers had half of their characters infected), it drew wide attention from the media.

In March 2007, Ran D Balicer, an epidemiologist physician at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, published an article in the Journal Epidemiology describing the similarities between this outbreak and the recent SARS and avian influenza outbreaks. Dr Balicer suggested role-playing games could serve as an advanced platform for modeling the dissemination of infectious diseases. In a follow-up article in the journal Science, the game Second Life was suggested as another possible platform for these studies.

In August 2007, Nina Fefferman, a Tufts University assistant research professor of public health and family medicine, called for research on this incident, citing the resemblances with biological plagues. Some scientists want to study how people would react to environmental pathogens, by using the virtual counterpart as a point of reference. Subsequently she co-authored a paper in the journal “Lancet Infectious Diseases” discussing the epidemiological and disease modeling implications of the outbreak, along with Eric Lofgren, a University of North Carolina graduate student.

In addition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested statistics on this event for research on epidemics, but it is unknown if they followed through with their request after learning that it was just caused by a bug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_blood

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Deadly plague hits Warcraft world

By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

Players get the chance to be heroes in World of Warcraft

A deadly virtual plague has broken out in the online game World of Warcraft.

Although limited to only a few of the game’s servers the numbers of characters that have fallen victim is thought to be in the thousands.

Originally it was thought that the deadly digital disease was the result of a programming bug in a location only recently added to the Warcraft game.

However, it now appears that players kicked off the plague and then kept it spreading after the first outbreak.

Since its launch in November 2004, World of Warcraft (Wow) has become the most widely played massively multiplayer online (MMO) game in the world.

Its creator, Blizzard, claims that now more than four million people are regular players.

Last rites

Wow is an online game that gives players the chance to adventure in the fantasy world of Azeroth that is populated by the usual mixture of humans, elves, orcs and other fantastic beasts.

As players explore the world, the characters they control become more powerful as they complete quests, kill monsters and find magical items and artefacts that boost abilities.

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

The Warcraft world is a familiar fantasy setting

To give these powerful characters more of a challenge, Blizzard regularly introduces new places to explore in the online world.

In the last week, it added the Zul’Gurub dungeon which gave players a chance to confront and kill the fearsome Hakkar – the god of Blood.

In his death throes Hakkar hits foes with a “corrupted blood” infection that can instantly kill weaker characters.

The infection was only supposed to affect those in the immediate vicinity of Hakkar’s corpse but some players found a way to transfer it to other areas of the game by infecting an in-game virtual pet with it.

This pet was then unleashed in the orc capital city of Ogrimmar and proved hugely effective as the Corrupted Blood plague spread from player to player.

Although computer controlled characters did not contract the plague, they are said to have acted as “carriers” and infected player-controlled characters they encountered.

Body count

The first server, or “realm” as Blizzard calls them, affected by the plague was Archimonde; but it is known to have spread to at least two others.

The spread of the disease could have been limited by the fact that Hakkar is difficult to kill, so some realms may not yet have got round to killing him and unleashing his parting shot.

Artwork for World of Warcraft, Blizzard

In World of Warcraft players can be orcs, humans or other fantastic creatures

The digital disease instantly killed lower level characters and did not take much longer to kill even powerful characters.

Many online discussion sites were buzzing with reports from the disaster zones with some describing seeing “hundreds” of bodies lying in the virtual streets of the online towns and cities.

“The debate amongst players now is if it really was intentional although due to the effects of the problem it seems unlikely,” Paul Younger, an editor on the unofficial worldofwar.net site, told the BBC News website.

“It’s giving players something to talk about and could possibly be considered the first proper ‘world event'”, he said.

Luckily the death of a character in World of Warcraft is not final so all those killed were soon resurrected.

Blizzard tried to control the plague by staging rolling re-starts of all the servers supporting the Warcraft realms and applying quick fixes.

However, there are reports that this has not solved all the problems and that isolated pockets of plague are breaking out again.

The “Corrupted Blood” plague is not the first virtual disease to break out in game worlds. In May 2000 many players of The Sims were outraged when their game characters died because of an infection contracted from a dirty virtual guinea pig.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4272418.stm

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