The Facts About Ensidia's "Lich King Scandal"

This isn't the first time we've seen world-class raiding guilds lose their "World First" achievements due to "exploiting a bug or game mechanics," but Ensidia's recent scandal is rife with controversy.

When the average World of Warcraft player thinks of "competitive" gameplay, PvP/Arena is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But there is another aspect to competition in the world's most-popular MMO; a group of elite, hardcore players—many who train at the "professional" level—trying to make their way to the top of PvE gameplay. At the "local" level, these are the top-rated guilds on your server; the guilds that consistently earn the "Server First" achievements for endgame raid content. At the national and international levels, only the best guilds compete for "World First" raiding achievements (a few of which actually earn a living playing WoW by picking up corporate sponsorship deals).

The release of patch 3.3.2 last week—including the final chapter of the "Fall of the Lich King" endgame content in Icecrown Citadel—ushered in an especially-prominent event in WoW's living history; who would be the first to defeat the infamous Lich King? As many predicted, professional raiding guild Ensidia claimed the world's first 25-man kill. Around the same time, Blizzard announced an emergency hotfix to address a bug that allowed players to exploit the Lich King encounter, significantly reducing its difficulty. Shortly after, we learned that Ensidia did employ the exploit, and—regardless of the players' intent or ignorance—Blizzard revoked the achievement and slapped a 72-hour ban on guild. The WoW blogosphere ignited with scathing debates and talks of scandal—but more importantly, the community raised some fundamental and significant questions about raid design, as well.

ZAM's main goal, in this editorial, is to update readers regarding the facts surrounding recent events. As we've already seen in both forums and blogs, community opinion regarding the issue is commonly voiced without weighing both sides. It's a subject that admittedly riles up the community, especially among fans who disagreed with Ensidia's actions in the past (more on that later).

Hardcore WoW raiding is a deeply-competitive form of gameplay at the "world-first" level. Professionally-backed PvE raiding is a bit less prevalent among the "e-sport" industry than you might expect, given the size and international success of World of Warcraft. Nevertheless, the top guilds that consistently battle for PvE dominance are well-known throughout the hardcore raiding community, followed by tens of thousands of fans around the world.

In an earlier editorial, ZAM explored the possible reasons why Blizzard hasn't fully embraced WoW as an e-sport to the extent of other game publishers. However, that editorial addressed PvP gameplay, which is the main aspect of competitive WoW actively followed by fans. Competitive PvE raiding is still a significant niche, though; a relatively small circle of guilds at the top of the charts regularly compete for world- and region-first achievements, some of which receive corporate sponsorship to fund their gameplay.

Beyond the obvious benefits that funding provides, sponsored guilds are often invited to Blizzard and other gaming events to compete in timed dungeon runs and showcase upcoming content. Relationships like these supply even more incentive for these elite guilds to stay on top, which is why today's raiding fans have come to expect a pretty short list of potential "competitors" for world-firsts. In a way, professional raiding has bred discontent among some fans, because the community is usually able to predict the winning guilds based on raid progression aggregator sites like WoWProgress and GuildOx.

That's why it didn't come as a surprise to many fans when Ensidia (Tarren Mill-EU) scored the world's first 25-man Lich King kill last Wednesday, following Blood Legion's (Illidan-US) 10-man victory (via WoW.com). Although Blood Legion's 10-man kill was nothing to scoff at, the 25-man raid encounter is usually considered the ultimate test of skill, taking into account the small window of time in which these guilds have to learn a brand-new boss strategy.

The victory was short-lived, though; Blizzard announced an emergency hotfix that would disable the siege damage caused by Saronite Bombs and Global Thermal Sapper Charges. It's one of the strangest bugs we've heard of recently (Lich King encounter spoilers ahead!), but the siege damage caused by these Engineering weapons was unintentionally reducing the difficulty of the fight. "The siege damage of the bombs was causing the Frozen Throne platform to rebuild," Blizzard explained in the post, "which greatly decreases the difficulty of the encounter." If you're interested to learn more about the mechanics of the Lich King battle (and the reason why "rebuilding" the Frozen Throne platform would have reduced its difficulty), check out Wowhead's Lich King encounter summary.

After the announcement, some players began to speculate that Ensidia used the exploit to score the world's first Lich King victory. Admittedly, most of the speculation probably came from community members who vehemently opposed the guild because of similar scenarios in the past. One of the most popular examples was the world-first "Alone in the Darkness" (Defeat Yogg-Saron without the assistance of any Keepers) fiasco; check out this editorial at WoWRiot for more information. According to opponents, Ensidia hasn't always manifested a great display of sportsmanship, and this isn't the first time the guild has utilized an exploit—intentionally or not—to achieve a world-first.

A few hours after the developers announced the hotfix, Blizzard issued Ensidia a 72-hour ban and revoked its world-first achievement and raid loot. Ensidia confirmed the ban was issued for exploiting the siege mechanic bug, although its members say they weren't intentionally using the exploit at the time. Ensidia explained that the group's Rogue, Naihiko, was using Saronite Bombs as part of his normal DPS rotation: "We're talking about an everyday normal DPS rotation item that the Naihiko has used on every boss in ICC," Nessaj wrote in the post. "How do one distingquish [sic] between what is causing a bug when it is related to an item you use all the time?"

Most Rogues with Engineering will agree; throwing bombs as part of your rotation is a common practice to add a little extra damage. But despite the provided WoL report screenshots Ensidia offers, the community generally agrees that it comes down to whether or not the guild actively utilized the exploit after learning about it (according to WoW.com, Ensidia member "Muqq" was aware of the bug before they earned the 25-man achievement).

In the post announcing its ban, Ensidia provides a few links to its members' personal blogs; several players write about the incident in more detail and express their feelings regarding Blizzard's decision to ban them (and more importantly, the revocation of their world-first achievement). Some of the blog posts contain a bit of swearing, but the common theme is that Ensidia thinks Blizzard should have more-thoroughly play-tested the encounter before releasing it to live servers. If you can stomach it, check out the full blog post links in the announcement above, or click here, here and here to read a few.

Is Ensidia guilty of exploiting a known bug to help ensure its reputation as the world's top raiding guild? Or was this another example of Blizzard punishing its players for mistakenly succumbing to issues that could have been avoided if the developers had properly tested the mechanics before release? That's for our readers to decide.

Finally, in case you're wondering; Paragon (EU-Lighting's Blade) was the first "official" guild to claim the world-first 25-man Lich King victory on Feb. 4 at around 11 p.m. GMT, according to WoWProgress. Ensidia was able to reclaim its victory on Feb. 7 after its ban lifted (still placing it within the first 10 guilds worldwide to complete the achievement). Let's all hope for a smoother and drama-free competition for the Lich King "hard mode" world-first in the days to come…

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Exploits?
# Feb 12 2010 at 7:25 AM Rating: Decent
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I've read alot of perspectives on the whole Ensidia debate. There are alot of posts stating how it's Blizzards fault for allowing such bugs to influence the outcome and then penalize a person or a guild for discovering it and / or using it.

I agree with this view to a point. However, there has to be alot more to the story then a guild going in to kill the Lich-King and *accidentally* discovering this bug. I understand Ensidia's defense, and there were probably many there who had no idea what was happening, but it just seems to me that there had to be a few who were clearly aware of the bug. Blizzard has the ability to view chat logs, event logs, and many other dynamics that we don't have access to.

Why not stop them in the process if a GM was watching? To give them an oppurtunity to review the data and make a decision.

If you found a glitch in the game.... say you found a way to glitch gold and make yourself money at will... if you decided to repetively use it, and then were subsequently banned, would you really be surprised and blame Blizzard? Are you going to use the same defense that your innocent because it's their bug and they should have known about it?
better testing
# Feb 11 2010 at 4:33 PM Rating: Decent
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Blizz should reset up the PTR as not public. By now they should have a list of guild that would want to test content and kill it. Really one server set aside for these guys wouldn't hurt anything and let them play for free.
I am sure if this content had been tested on a private server this stuff would be less likely.

The chance to play with other world class guilds, free of gold spam, and content months(maybe weeks) ahead. Really is there any down sides to this?
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PTR My Ass...
# Feb 11 2010 at 3:04 AM Rating: Decent
PTR should be used to test if the content is to hard for the Average Joe.

This isn't the first time a major bug has gotten out because so few actually use PTR to test; it's all about getting free end-game (pvp/e) gear and wtfpwning the other side...because "hey, it's not like this place will be here in a month."

I've gone on the PTR, and rarely have I seen "LFM <new raid/dungeon>" it's mostly smack talk, "horde/alliance raiding <city>", or other **** that is usually found in Trade Channel on Live.

I seriously wonder how much pre-PTR testing actually goes on...I mean seriously like with the flower power being stealable...HELLO, ITS [MAGIC]! what makes you think mages won't steal it? And how the **** do you forget to make an object indestructible by players.

Thank you, Ensidia,

You once again prove that Blizzard now releases **** wrapped in pretty wrapping paper.
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A bit rough
# Feb 09 2010 at 8:31 PM Rating: Default
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It does seem a bit rough. Regardless of the guild's motives in the kill, I don't think they can really be stripped of their achievement because bliz didn't pick up a big that should have been picked up in testing. If it's that significant in any case it should have been picked up.
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lame
# Feb 09 2010 at 12:47 PM Rating: Default
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Well my take on it is Blizzard should have had this bug fixed before it went live. This is what they have test servers for. I can see taking the achievement back and even taking back the loot. But the 72 ban is just bull crap.
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# Feb 09 2010 at 8:36 AM Rating: Decent
with the part that Blizz should really spend more time testing their stuff. Wither or not Muqq (or any of the other members) knew about the exploit or not before they fought him (how would they? I'm under the impression they got the kill on the 1st night?), if a GM was watching them and possible saw the exploit being done and did nothing THEN I don't see why later they were stripped.

It is like in football games. The ref doesn't call a face mask, and in the end the other team wins because there was no penalty. Then later that night is is clearly pointed out that there was a face mask, the NFL doesn't go back and tell the team who won "oh, hey guys, uh your player did grab his face mask. So yea, you don't get this win and we are just going to pretend this game didn't happen, kkthxbye."

I don't know the actual time frame w/ Ensidia but I assume (as I was a WoW break when this all happened) they were already done with the fight, had World 1st, and were proudly showing off their skill when Blizz decided to Hot Fix the fight.
And then it is when other guilds (sponsored or not) started to voice their opinion about Ensidia.

It is then that GMs went back and saw they had used the exploit that ONLY works in 25-man mode (I guess because they wiped 4-5 times? and this is when they learned about it?)...
If a GM had been watching, did he close his eyes every time the used a bomb? did he not see the platform reform? Was there even a GM watching them?

To many variables, but all could have been different if Blizz would have tested their stuff better before letting it go live.
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flip side
# Feb 09 2010 at 8:21 AM Rating: Good
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Can you imagine the flip side? When you fail to down a boss, and possibly a world first at that, because the boss kills your last raid member at 1% and you'd be sitting there going, "Man if I did my normal rotation with the saronite bombs we'd have downed it for the extra 100dps?" You can't expect people to stop doing what they've always done because suddenly its giving unexpected results.
Didn't need to report it. Should have been warned.
# Feb 09 2010 at 5:44 AM Rating: Decent
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The GMs that were watching should have let Ensidia know beforehand, or when the bug happened, either why it happened or given them a warning not to use it or they would get banned. I mean GMs have always been watching Ensidia kill bosses and get world firsts, they have never been banned and they have most certainly "used exploits" before, simply because Blizzard hasn't tested the bosses properly before Ensidia gets to them. Never before have they gotten banned doing exactly what they did here. Sitting there watching without saying a word and then banning Ensidia, I just don't see how that can be justified.

Someone made a sports reference and talked about sticking to the rules. Well the thing is, in sports they all push the limit too, they go as far as they can to win as long as the referee lets them. If in all previous matches a referee does not give so much as a yellow card for something, it is the same thing as condoning or saying that it is not against the rules.(Since world-first condernders are more or less beta-testing the encounters one could see why "special rules" COULD apply.) In this case, it is as if, all of a sudden and without warning the referee sees the EXACT same thing happen and despite his own non-actions previous matches, he now does not only give a yellow card/warning, but he decided that he is retroactively going to give the whole team a red card and give the trophy to someone else.

The funny thing with all this is that later Ensidia went and killed 25-man LK with their alts... They would have won the encounter either way, using the bug or not, but since PREVIOUSLY there had been no problems doing what they did, they decided to go the easier route(when/if the bug happened).

Other "world first contenders" have done the same thing in the past so it is hardly something new, the only thing new here is Blizzard decided to target one guild and set an example, without and instead of a warning.
Didn't need to report it. Should have been warned.
# Feb 09 2010 at 7:09 AM Rating: Good
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so have you been in one of these guilds to know if they have been warned before?
maybe they had been warned everytime and this time they decided "enough warnings we NEED to do something about this" because it is going against the rules its that simple...if you saw someone using an exploit in a top level arena match (basic pvp equivalent) would you say "oh but its in the game so it isnt cheating" or "oh they werent told beforehand so they shouldnt get penalised" no it is going to get you disqualifed and probably banned
basically it is not blizzards gm's job to go around to people telling them there is an exploit it should be OBVIOUS 'ok this is an exploit so we WONT use it because we could get banned"
if an exam or test has some of the answers on it then it should be obvious that you dont use the answers on there because that is cheating and will get you punished why should it be any different in game?
sponsored events
# Feb 08 2010 at 11:37 PM Rating: Good
Quote:
sponsored guilds are often invited to Blizzard and other gaming events to compete in timed dungeon runs and showcase upcoming content.

If I was Blizz, I certainly would NOT invite Ensidia to showcase new content, just from fear of them using an exploit during the event. It's really not a matter of whether they cheated or not - It's whether they can be trusted in the future.

Edited, Feb 8th 2010 9:38pm by ohmikeghod
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sponsored events
# Feb 09 2010 at 2:47 AM Rating: Excellent
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Yeah, but it's all about the $$$...
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Blizz and the push.
# Feb 08 2010 at 10:31 PM Rating: Good
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Ok. I'm not hard core. As a matter of fact I only log about 20hrs a week playing, mostly on the weekend. Until this report I had no idea that there was an achieve for being first in the world. I have to say this though.
1) If the game has a set of rules, and those rules allow you or don't allow you to do something, if it lets you, is it really cheating?
2) In being a good sport, and my
    personal belief
, IF they knew about it, any of them, they should have at least asked to make sure. My favoite line in something like this is, "Please make sure I'm playing by the rules, 'cause I'm going to beat you anyway and it just feels so much better when I do it fair."

And the one that I really want to state.
3) We have evolved into a world, and community (computer users espically) where companys are ok with, and frankly we have enabled them to release software before it is truly ready. Why? They can patch it later! It's ok to release broken stuff cause we can fix it later. While you won't go to the store to buy a 250$ Knife that hasn't been sharpened, it's ok to blow 300$ on Windows V.xx and just get patches to fix it. Get your latest mp3 player here, oh yeah EXPECT to see patches to it's software at a later time cause we know there are things wrong with it. And here is a game where people play for money, honor and fame.... and because our fans want it faster, smaller and tighter we are going to put it out now, not because we want to do our best and give our customers the best we can, but because our users have no patience, and we need to make it easier for them 'cause they say it's a challenge. Yeah it's ok, we know it has problems. Yeah we know somewhere in there it's broke, but that's ok! We can patch it up later! Oh you used the broken part of our broken game to beat us? Sorry, we are going to take your fame, and your money! Yeah, we changed the rules after you beat us at our game, but that's ok!!! This is a 4th grade playground where we make them up as we go!
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Blizz and the push.
# Feb 08 2010 at 10:56 PM Rating: Excellent
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93 posts
Quote:
"Please make sure I'm playing by the rules, 'cause I'm going to beat you anyway and it just feels so much better when I do it fair."


This.
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Blizz and the push.
# Feb 08 2010 at 10:51 PM Rating: Decent
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well yes it IS cheating because it is a bug that blizz didnt know about and it was something that was obviously NOT intentionally like it
if a soccer team or football team won the final cause the ref didnt see a foul or didnt know a rule would it still be considered cheating? of course it would its no different here really
they used something that was obviously not intentional to get the world first achievement and so its fair enough they got their world first taken off them
Blizz and the push.
# Feb 09 2010 at 10:28 AM Rating: Good
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Blizz clearly did know about it, since they are described as having been working on the hotfix even as Ensidia was downing the boss. And I am not sure how so many people decide that (for example, as mentioned on the wow forums) the net thing with Vashj was intentional but this one was unintentional and somehow that's "obvious" from inside teh encounter. What's "obvious" to me in a fight is that something either does or does not work. If it does wor, I don't generally assume that's because of a bug Blizzard hasn't discovered yet....

Whatever one's opinion on Ensidia and this event - the extrapolations from "i don't like Ensidia and they are cheaters" to "this is obvious, everyone should have known, clearly the fact that it is being discussed after the fact means it was obvious to them at the time" suggest to me that our educational system is failing students on the topic of deductive/inductive reasoning, logic, and scientific method.
Blizz and the push.
# Feb 10 2010 at 1:02 AM Rating: Good
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so you seriously think that blizzard would make an encounter that is so much easier if you have an engineer? if it was something that you got given just for that fight...fair enough but it is obviously a bug if something that very few people actually have makes a fight so much easier...plus how does something blowing up and restoring the platform make sense anyway?
Should have reported it
# Feb 08 2010 at 7:38 PM Rating: Excellent
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I'm sure a guild like Ensidia has GMs at their beck and call (and would truly be surprised if there wasn't one watching them as they were killing him). They should have reported the bug and done it correctly, finishing the fight while knowing that the bug exists and cheapening the fight (after they had already done it on 10man and know that it isn't supposed to work that way) is pretty poorly played. Just reminds me of how they bugged Vashj on their world-first for that kill and I believe C'thun was also bugged for their kill too.
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Should have reported it
# Feb 08 2010 at 9:32 PM Rating: Excellent
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Well, apparently Ensidia (or at least, "Muqq") knew about the bug before they scored the 25-man achievement. In one of the links above, I referenced this to a blog post over at WoW.com; the writer said that Muqq acknowledged the exploit after they scored the 10-man kill, and he wrote that it only applies to the 25-man version. As far as I was able to deduce, at least some of the players knew about the bug, but Ensidia's stance is that there was only one Rogue in the group, and he was using Saronite Bombs as he always does, as part of his normal DPS rotation. So yeah; you basically have to take that as you will, and decide for yourself.

Also, a few months back during the whole Yogg fiasco, Blizzard posted in the forums that they usually always have GMs watching the very first endgame encounters with guilds that they suspect might achieve a world-first. If memory serves, they also said that sometimes they aren't able to watch every single second of the fight, or something like that. Blizzard will never comment on internal stuff like that, so we probably won't find out if GMs were watching Ensidia's entire Lich King fight. But you're right; just to be safe, Ensidia probably should have contacted a GM before the 25-man version of the raid and asked them to watch the fight to make sure it was a "clean" kill, or asked for clarification about using bombs. But on the other hand, if Ensidia knew about the bug/exploit before they started the 25-man fight, they should have made sure that the Rogue (or any other Engineers) weren't using Saronite Bombs...If I was about to start a raid that could possibly lead to a world-first kill, I would have made damn sure that I covered my guild's **** if I knew Blizzard announced an "exploit" bug, especially if my guild had dealt with issues like these before.
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