It's fine to take drastic action against somebody cheating in multiplayer. Those people are scum. But what happens when people begin to be banned for bending the rules of a game's singleplayer component?
Gamer gm0ney is accusing Blizzard of suspending his Starcraft II account for the use of "unauthorized cheat programs". The thing is, gm0ney claims to have never played the game's online multiplayer component, where such a thing would matter, and has only been enjoying its singleplayer game modes.
The "unauthorized cheat program" in question is a trainer developed by CheatHappens.com, which allows users to alter the rules of a game to make things a little easier/more enjoyable. Some of these things include granting the player unlimited minerals, the removal of cooldowns for unit building and an invincibility mode for all units.
These programs have been a part of PC gaming for years now, allowing gamers to take on a challenge at a pace and with the tools they want, not those offered by a developer. I've used a few of them myself from time to time, sometimes to get past tricky stages in a shooter, other times to give a strategy game a more "sandbox" feel.
So why ban somebody for using these tools? Welcome to the 21st century, where digital game purchases challenge traditional notions of game "ownership". Defending the decision, Blizzard reportedly responded to gm0ney with "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".
In other words, by making online authentication and account registration such an integral part of their game, Blizzard has blurred the lines between what a user wants to do with "their" game in solo play and what the publisher allows as part of a larger, integrated network.
We contacted Blizzard yesterday for confirmation of this report, and did not hear back from the publisher. Seeing as that leaves us with one side of a story, it's best to take it with a grain of salt.
UPDATE - Just to be clear, yes, we know there are singleplayer cheats included in the game. The issue we're wondering about here is the larger one of achievement integration and the concept of "ownership" of a digital game.
UPDATE 2 - Blizzard has issued the following statement to Kotaku on the matter:
Blizzard Entertainment is not banning StarCraft II players just for using single-player cheats. There's been some confusion in the last couple of days about the suspensions and bans meted out to players caught cheating in StarCraft II. It's important to point out first, that many of the 3rd-party hacks and cheats developed for StarCraft II contain both single- and multiplayer functionality. In order to protect the integrity of multiplayer competition, we are actively detecting cheat programs used in multiplayer modes whether there are human opponents or not.
That said, players who opt to use any type of 3rd party hacks do so at their own risk — there are already built-in cheat codes for StarCraft II single-player that can be used safely. Blizzard Entertainment has always taken cheating seriously and will continue to aggressively crackdown on players who cheat in our games.
Blizzard Bans Single Player Cheaters [CheatHappens]