How does Blizzard catch Private Server Players?

General
Hello all!

So I was reading a post recently about exploiting, account trading, gold sellers....etc (all that illegal stuff) and one of the subjects was private servers and emulators.

I always knew that private servers were maybe kinda sorta illegal (I wasn't really sure before), and I knew that those hosting private server had been sued by Blizzard before, but only recently did I find out that Blizzard can ban a player's retail WoW account for connecting to an unofficial WoW server.

So my question is how does Blizzard find players of that kind? I'm curious to know how they get about knowing if they've connected to an unregistered WoW server or not. And what happens if the player in question has multiple accounts? Do all of those accounts get banned/suspended? What if the player has up to 10 different battle.net accounts with an active WoW account with each?

Many thanks! :)
My guess is that something in the actual game software does some checking or sends some info to Blizzard. Blizzard won't tell you how they catch people.

I don't know what account(s) they would ban or how they would choose which ones to ban.
01/08/2014 05:34Posted by Dottie
My guess is that something in the actual game software does some checking or sends some info to Blizzard. Blizzard won't tell you how they catch people.

I don't know what account(s) they would ban or how they would choose which ones to ban.


I doubt that very much.

@OP

Playing a private server is against Blizzard's Terms of Service.

Hosting your own for public use is Copyright Infringement.
Playing a private server is against Blizzard's Terms of Service.

Hosting your own for public use is Copyright Infringement.


I understand that the latter is a legal issue, but either way the party involved receives a sanction.

I was just curious about the sanctioning of the players, that's all.
Playing on a private server has nothing to do with your retail account.
Most private servers use a entirely different client than the official blizzard ones with just a modified realm list, they can go after the owners but the players connecting to will be hard to get.
Blizzard can scan your WoW folder selectively during the battle.net update process and find files which are considered "Third Party Services" such as third party "Launcher" software or Third party "Realmlist changing" software, this goes for other third party services too, such as bots or connection "Disruptors" Such as Tmorph and Peerblock, Unlike other MMO's Blizzards identification of this type of rule-breaking is rather basic and relies on your account being "Reported" and then "Investigated"

Blizzard however can find this stuff pretty easily and if it has a signature Blizzard thinks is particularly harmful they can effectively ban your account on the spot.

Many hackers/bots can freely play the game until reported (And thus investigated) The server can automatically detect "Illegal movements" as well as other illegal actions as it does sometimes incorrectly (Using Goblin Glider in old raids can DC you) If your movements are considered "Impossible" it may also warrant an investigation into your account.

Unless you are specifically "Investigated" or you admit to rule-breaking to a game-master then you'll likely not come under investigation. although the server can sometimes pick up rule-breaking by itself without the need of a representative.
---

Quick note, most live-streamers on twitch break the rules by using Tmorph and Private servers, they haven't been "Banned" as Blizzard simply doesn't pursue these incursions unless incredibly serious and tends to be relatively lenient on these breaches of the terms. Some Private servers have been running for years.

Blizzard tends to pursue and shut down pirvate servers which make profit off of players OR Private servers with current content (such as Warlords of Draenor and Mists of Pandaria)

But, make no mistake, playing on ANY private server IS breaking the code of conduct, as is everything else I've mentioned. Unless you want to risk your account, then don't use anything apart from official files or files deemed as "addons" Even some addons (Such as oQueue) effectively break the rules, however Blizzard doesn't pursue these either.
Finding these players would cost time and resources.

If they found them the only usable recourse would be to ban them.

They probably don't have a wow account to ban as they're playing on a private server.

Ergo, you spend time and resources for nothing.
Banning people would be a waste of time, money and effort anyway.

If they have an official subscription but also play on a private server, then Blizzard would simply be losing out money by banning them.

If they don't have an official subscription and play on a private server, there's nothing to ban.

Either way, it's a lot of hassle to go through for no real benefit.

So yes, OP, you're perfectly safe to play on a private server without risk of your official account being banned.
02/08/2014 20:26Posted by ßow
Blizzard can scan your WoW folder selectively during the battle.net update process and find files which are considered "Third Party Services" such as third party "Launcher" software or Third party "Realmlist changing" software, this goes for other third party services too, such as bots or connection "Disruptors" Such as Tmorph and Peerblock, Unlike other MMO's Blizzards identification of this type of rule-breaking is rather basic and relies on your account being "Reported" and then "Investigated"

Blizzard however can find this stuff pretty easily and if it has a signature Blizzard thinks is particularly harmful they can effectively ban your account on the spot.

Many hackers/bots can freely play the game until reported (And thus investigated) The server can automatically detect "Illegal movements" as well as other illegal actions as it does sometimes incorrectly (Using Goblin Glider in old raids can DC you) If your movements are considered "Impossible" it may also warrant an investigation into your account.

Unless you are specifically "Investigated" or you admit to rule-breaking to a game-master then you'll likely not come under investigation. although the server can sometimes pick up rule-breaking by itself without the need of a representative.
---

Quick note, most live-streamers on twitch break the rules by using Tmorph and Private servers, they haven't been "Banned" as Blizzard simply doesn't pursue these incursions unless incredibly serious and tends to be relatively lenient on these breaches of the terms. Some Private servers have been running for years.

Blizzard tends to pursue and shut down pirvate servers which make profit off of players OR Private servers with current content (such as Warlords of Draenor and Mists of Pandaria)

But, make no mistake, playing on ANY private server IS breaking the code of conduct, as is everything else I've mentioned. Unless you want to risk your account, then don't use anything apart from official files or files deemed as "addons" Even some addons (Such as oQueue) effectively break the rules, however Blizzard doesn't pursue these either.
Most of this apply to botting but not very much of it apply to private servers at all.

These often user older versions of the client being installed in completely different directories than the one that the blizzard battle.net client can scan and detect changes to, they are also often modified to suit the needs of the community running them. They are also completely separate from the blizzard one, it does not use the same install or client.

Private servers does more than just changing the realm list too. They often also have a completely different registration system where you create a account with the community the server use and not using your official blizzard one.

Because of this it is extremely hard for blizzard to link people connecting to them to their real account, they can however go after the owners of the community with threats of legal action and send cease and desist letters.
02/08/2014 20:26Posted by ßow
Even some addons (Such as oQueue) effectively break the rules

How does oQ break the rules? It was practically endorsed by Blizzard CMs o.O Edit: or is this about the 'beer donation' button thing?
03/08/2014 11:45Posted by Nyshae
02/08/2014 20:26Posted by ßow
Even some addons (Such as oQueue) effectively break the rules

How does oQ break the rules? It was practically endorsed by Blizzard CMs o.O Edit: or is this about the 'beer donation' button thing?


I believe curse dropped them because of that button but it's not put people off using it.
So even tho they can detect if you've made changes in your wow folder, if I just download the complety different launcher from a private server and put it on my E: disk instead of my SSD, they would never be able to see that I play on that private server unless they do an actual IP check, which is illegal cause of privacy invasion right?

So say i've been playing wow since BC, loving it and have an active recurring subscription, but I have real life friends who want to play but don't have/don't want to pay the money. I could probably just play a private server with them on for instance a WOTLK server whilst playing WoD legit.

Also, can someone explain how a private server running on for instance BC or WOTLK is illegal. I mean were already at WoD, so who cares if someone uses a very outdated version to have some fun with friends?
I mean I get how they're using a copyrighted game for their own good, but it's outdated and people would probably play those servers for a reason.
Not sure if they bother much. My personal rough estimates would be that at least 30-60% (if not more) have set their foot into a private server(be it playing still or some time ago). And going against like half of your sub base? Yeah right. :D Unless you are literally shouting that your play on privates on every possible Blizz forum then I doubt they will care much. :D

Hosts/owners have a different story. But even that if the private server is very popular with a big player base then Blizz "besieges" them. If its a small local server with max 50 people on then they don't bother with it as well(not sure if they would even notice its existence xD)
Yeah but that's exactly my point, I mean blizz has to stay in there standards and obviously sue bigtime private servers, because if a company like blizzard would do nothing about copyright infringement, nobody would believe in their security to keep people from going to private servers. But like you said, they proably don't mind private servers with just a handfull of players, but why even care for a private server running on outdated stuff?
They do not ban you for playing on a private server. They go after the ones hosting the servers if they can though.
23/05/2015 18:08Posted by Toje
But like you said, they proably don't mind private servers with just a handfull of players, but why even care for a private server running on outdated stuff?


AFAIK the issue is that someone playing on a private server is using a blizzard product without blizz getting anything in return for it. I don't really know the ins and outs of private servers, but I'd imagine it's pretty easy to get a download of the game client without paying for it (wouldn't imagine non blizz servers are too fussy about product keys) so that's a big chunk of change they'd be missing out on.
I get that, but they won't make any money of Vanilla, BC, WOTLK anyway, atleast not alot because everything upto MoP is now actually included into the game world of warcraft when you buy it so to speak. You only have to buy MoP and WoD seperately ATM. They would miss out on some money, but nothing that would hurt their bank I believe. I love the game, and I have absolutely no trouble paying for it. But I would love to be able to go back to WOTLK for instance, and maybe play it every once in a while with friends who don't have the money or aren't willing to pay money on a monthly basis.
You're not gonna make money of a product which is atleast 5 years old for instance, so why care if that product if privatised for a very very small audience compared to the real thing.
I often get the impression Blizzard don't give a rat's !@# about private servers. Do a quick Google search and you'll find hundreds of them. Some are very popular with thousands of players on them. If Blizzard really cared enough about them, and if a simple Google search is all it takes to find them, I'm pretty they could bring civil action and get them shut down if they wanted.
23/05/2015 21:03Posted by Semina
I often get the impression Blizzard don't give a rat's !@# about private servers. Do a quick Google search and you'll find hundreds of them. Some are very popular with thousands of players on them. If Blizzard really cared enough about them, and if a simple Google search is all it takes to find them, I'm pretty they could bring civil action and get them shut down if they wanted.

they did take down scape. a huge server which makes someone else a lot of money using your copyrighted material made it a target.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/16/blizzard-awarded-88m-from-wow-private-server-lawsuit/

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