Single-Player Hacks Can Get You Banned From StarCraft II
At the beginning of this month, we saw Blizzard's banhammer fall on 5,000 StarCraft II players who had been caught cheating in the game. If you thought those bans only affected players cheating in the game's online multiplayer mode, think again. Apparently some players have been banned because they used hacks in single-player encounters.
Pro-cheating site Cheat Happens has the story of user gm0ney who had his Battle.net account suspended recently. Gm0ney alleges that he never used hacks online, though he had used them for single-player campaign missions and skirmishes. A hack is a program that runs alongside the game and affects it, which is different from your standard cheat code. In-game cheats still exist for StarCraft II, but those automatically disable achievements and will not result in a ban.
Blizzard supposedly explained the ban to the user by noting that Achievements gained in single-player modes have an affect on the community and online play: "While single player games only appear to be you and a computer at first, your achievements and gamer score also carries weight and prestige for your online play." It's worth noting that Microsoft has similarly banned and suspended Xbox Live players for using cheats and exploits to gain Achievements, even in single-player modes.
It's also important to recognize that Cheat Happens, the site reporting on this incident, offers hacks and trainer programs at a price, so they potentially stand to lose money if people don't want to risk purchasing cheats when they might get banned for it. Cheat Happens operation manager Chris O'Rorke defended a gamer's right to use these cheats and hacks for single-player modes:
"Our trainers help put the control back in the hands of the end-user and let them play the game the way they want to play it. Through our cheats and trainers, we try and enhance the games by offering the player new and different ways of playing. As long as these cheats don’t affect anyone but the person using them, why does anyone care? It’s not affecting any type of online ladders or standings or interrupting another person’s game. Some people argue that 'achievements' can easily be gained by using cheats and this is the reason for banning people. Again, achievements are meant to mark a certain individual’s milestones within the game. They have no bearing on multiplayer standings, matches or games, regardless of what Blizzard might say. You can’t tell me that an individual’s single player achievements have any bearing on the multiplayer match of two completely different and random people on the other side of the globe. If the achievements were such a big deal, then why not simply disable them or disable a user’s ability to participate in online matches? There is no good reason to completely disable someone’s legally purchased game just because they cheated in single player mode and might one day play a multiplayer match. If Blizzard has the technology to detect single player cheats and trainers, surely they have the ability to merely disable or deactivate achievements just as they do when using the game's built-in cheat codes."
Personally, as someone who has a good number of Battle.net Achievements, I tend to agree with Blizzard. As meaningless as Achievements are, it's going to annoy me if suddenly millions of players have the hardest Achievements in the game unlocked, and there's no way to tell if they did so legitimately.
We're awaiting an official response from Blizzard on this issue. In the meantime, what do you think? Should single-player hacks be allowed, or should they be a bannable offense for games that are part of a network like Xbox Live or Battle.net?