"World of Warcraft" has suffered a cataclysm. And we're not talking about "Cataclysm," the expansion to the hugely popular online fantasy game. We're talking about a massive epidemic of virtual deaths brought on by a plague ... of hackers.
On Sunday, thousands of players of the game suddenly found their characters dropping dead for what seemed to be no reason. Virtual corpses piled up in the cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar as well as Tarren Mill, Ragnaros and others.
According to Blizzard, the game's publisher, it was hackers that caused the mass die off. Hackers discovered an exploit in the game and went to work spreading instant-deaths across the land, Blizzard community manager Nethaera explained in the forums:
Earlier today, certain realms were affected by an in-game exploit, resulting in the deaths of player characters and non-player characters in some of the major cities. This exploit has already been hotfixed, so it should not be repeatable. It's safe to continue playing and adventuring in major cities and elsewhere in Azeroth.
As with any exploit, we are taking this disruptive action very seriously and conducting a thorough investigation. If you have information relating to this incident, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We apologize for the inconvenience some of you experienced as a result of this and appreciate your understanding.
Meanwhile, a person going by the name Jadd on YouTube and in the forums at "WoW" hack and exploit site Ownedcore has claimed responsibility for the virtual apocalypse.
"We didn't do any permanent damage," Jadd writes. "Some people liked it for a new topic of conversation and a funny stream to watch, and some people didn't. The people who didn't should be blaming Blizzard for not fixing it faster (4 hours of obvious use is sad)."
And the hacker adds, "It's not like I added 20000000 gold to everyone's inventory, and broke the economy; but look at the big Chinese gold seller companies, who are doing this every day. Now ask yourself who is really ruining the game. It's not us. That's my justification."
"We hope you find it as funny as we do! ," Jadd writes on this YouTube video showing off the instant-kill hack.
You can watch the slaughter in action via several YouTube videos. Check them out below:
Ultimately it's not the end of the world as "World of Warcraft" players know it. After all, players can resurrect their dead characters. Still, many "WoW" players were not amused.
"They really should face legal action if Blizzard can track them down by home address. This amount of disruption really is beyond just a minor thing or 2," wrote a player going by the name Dream Lifter in the "WoW" forums. "Doesn't matter is it is a bunch of kids or not, breaking the law is breaking the law. Think it is funny now, but when the police come in it won't be so funny anymore."
But then again, not everyone was particularly upset about the experience either.
"Personally I like it when this stuff happens," wrote a player going by the name Kitez in the game's forums. "Everyone complaining now will be telling this story fondly in a few months."
— via TGDaily
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Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti, and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.