miércoles, 24 de octubre de 2012

Not your usual "Banned from Diablo 3 for using LINUX" post

(Update) November 15-th / 2012

Received a phone call from Blizzard entertainment to clarify me that the mistaken ban had nothing to do with Linux and was due to an issue with their tools.

I perceived the phone call as a request for me to stop annoying Blizzard by posting about this, so I will stop now (sort of good mooded at the moment for the refund and free license, you know).

(Update) November 14-th / 2012

I actually got unbanned. As you can see in this post, after my first support ticket was denied I didn't really insist on the topic and made a new purchase. So two weeks later I receive the surprise that they found evidence that the ban was a mistake and that they were going to refund the second purchase (they did).

I guess the Diablo gods blessed me. I think that what helped me was that I found the specific warden/WINE bug that affected me and I knew the actual date in which I fixed it. So I mentioned it in the ticket. Even though the ticket was dismissed quickly, I guess they paid a bit more attention later.

Original Post

I have something to confess. This month I went to the US. And taking advantage of the possibility to finally buy original games at the fairish markup of 60.00 USD, I took two copies of Diablo 3 (one for me and one for my brother). We have already played the Starter edition (more game companies please do this: offer a limited, but not time-limited version of your game for free). so I knew it was likely I was going to enjoy it.

I also knew about the fuss there was in July about WINE (LINUX) users getting banned from Diablo 3. But I researched. For starters, Blizzard public face Bashiok said that you won't get banned for using Linux and that only cheaters were getting banned. Then I tried to find if after these July reports more people were getting banned. Some Linux users even in July were reporting that they were not getting banned. It seemed to be worth the try. I really dislike having to reboot windows just to play a game.

Ever since playing the Starter Edition, I had some glitches when playing in WINE. From a sporadic login issue (freeze). Logging out taking very long time. And "partial" disconnects. Although you are able to play the game, using interface elements outside the game would crash in some 150 seconds. It was annoying, but I could still play.

Last week, patch 1.05 of Diablo 3 was released and suddenly, I was not having those issues. I was able to use all features normally. Able to log out or close the game in an instant. Able to leave the gold auction house open for a while and monitor my sales of mediocre items for a couple of thousands of gold. It was wonderful. I was very happy that they made BNET more stable and that it improved WINE compatibility!.

Not really. Because some 24 hours after, I started to get the issues again. Until Sunday 21-th when I was really tired (after seeing how the game is supposed to work, you no longer can stand the partially working solution). And put on my WINE bug investigator hat. I decided to try to google for the sympthons individually. Sometimes I would get a freeze at a stage of the logging in process. So I found a WINE bug report. Diablo 3: Hangs on "Authenticating Credentials". It was... clarifying. The people in the comments were able to confirm that there were issues with Warden's connection getting lost because of some memory management issues when WINE is run in some 64 bits versions of Linux/GNU distributions that have more than 2GB. I happen to be running exactly that, ubuntu 12.04 64 bits with 4 GB of RAM. This Warden issue would then cause many symptons that were exactly like what I was experiencing. The handy WINE experts even came up with a solution : "setarch i386 -3 path to diablo 3.exe". I tried this solution and voila! Issues gone!

I had fixed my issues... but then terror had invaded my heart in a way much worse than any of the silly (and kind of comical) story of Diablo 3 could... That day I learned that all this time I was managing to play Diablo 3 without Warden's approval. Warden being the infamous automated cheater detection software that bans people automatically was quite a concern. This explains why it all was working for a while after 1.05 - Warden happened to have been just disabled for a while after the release.

If I was smarter than I am. I would have given all my gold and better items to my windows-using brother and wait for my ban. For some reason I kind of harbored the hope that Blizzard would figure out that warden stopped crashing when I was playing and that they would leave it all behind. That was foolish. As I was banned yesterday.

Appealing the ban is completely ineffective

This part of the story is quite common. I received an email that I have read in the past. It is the exact same email everyone banned because of warden's "findings" find. "Account action needed .... Blah blah blah.... Reason : Unauthorized third party apps" blah blah blah."

Blizzard includes an appeal process for the account ban. But I could not feel hopeful about it. Because I have already read exactly the same response I had. "An additional review" was done and they "confirmed their initial findings". Funny though. Because I sent my support ticket late in the night when Tech support is not at work and I received my reply 15 minutes after the tech support starting work hour. It is hard to believe that they really analyzed all the details I sent them. Including my findings about the WINE-Warden bug that caused me to unknowingly play diablo 3 without warden. The bug report thread and how I fixed it by Sunday.

I now feel fairly certain that the reply about the "additional review" is completely automated. I really doubt Blizzard tech support really have time to deal with all the ban appeals. Or that they really care. (What is the economic incentive? Banned players have already paid for their accounts, and if they have to buy a new one due to being banned, it is more profit).

It is not really Blizzard's fault... At least not 100%

This is the part that you will find unusual about this post. Since I know the exact cause of the ban, I cannot really blame Blizzard or feel ultra offended for losing 60 bucks.

The issue that caused Warden to fail is a combination of random factors. Using a 64 bit Linux OS, having more than 3GB of RAM. I bet things like WINE version and connection speed may have an effect too. Linux is not a supported OS. Which means that Blizzard do not have any duty to fix any Warden bug in these settings.

Also consider some perspective. If Warden stopped working then Blizzard have record that you (intentionally or not) bypassed their cheater protection. How exactly can they know if it was intentional? What if I am really a cheater that is just taking advantage of the Linux / WINE issues to bypass protection? The terms of service which I signed entitle Blizzard to be as paranoid as they want and to ban whoever they want.

I cannot really blame blizzard. They have to rely on Warden blindly. Else they would be admitting their security measure blows and is full of false positives and negatives. Without their automated Warden, Blizzard would really have no defense against hordes of cheating apps.

Not WINE's fault either.

The problem with software like Warden is that it is very secretive. And probably have to rely on very specific operating system tidbits. It is by definition something that WINE developers cannot even test. If it relies in obscure windows functions, then it is more likely than not that WINE will not work the way Blizzard expect windows to work.

In this regards, I find it impressive and very nice that previous games that used Warden have not come up with similar issues. Warcraft III, Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft are some of the best games you can run almost flawlessly in WINE. It is too bad that Diablo 3's warden is potentially more drastic (and bugged) and thus has had these issues.

It is really my fault

Let us see. I knew there was a big risk of getting banned. I knew that Blizzard relies on a terrible automated cheater detection software which who knows if WINE can really support. I also did not bother to fix issues that I could have fixed the first day. The setarch workaround was available long before I started playing the Starter edition version.

What I lost

I do not really make a big deal out of the 60 dollars I spent. I take these 60 USD as not wasted but spent in at least making WINE better and hopefully my info can prevent others from getting banned too. I am gonna get a new account and play from windows because Diablo 3 turned out to be very fun. Specially playing it with my brother.

What I really lost today is simply put, the ability to run the game from Linux. Dual booting is really an annoyance. I have not booted my windows copy in years, and since diablo 3 is only I will have to make sure windows is clean of anything that would clog my connection. I will also really miss the ability to run diablo 3 in a window while I browse the Internet or use my favorite Linux apps.

I even think that since I was able to run D3 is a very minimal desktop environment with no other apps and just a terminal window, I might get worse performance in windows.

To be honest, I think two ways of freely playing a good and fun game (This is the best work Blizzard have done in years), at the comfort of my Linux setup. I think it was worth the 60 bucks.

My conclusion

If you are planning to play a video game that is always or mostly on-line. And the video game has a draconian automated cheater detection program that is known for making false positive and is trigger-happy about permanent bans. Do not play it in WINE. Your odds are really against you. If the makers of that video game decide to ban you. There is really nothing you can do. The current terms of service give players zero to no rights. I suggest you to get games that have real Linux/GNU clients. People say Valve is going to be releasing some.

If you do not want to get banned, do not play Diablo 3 in Linux. It would be nice if this was not true, but it is.

(Update) But really...

Blizzard need to be more honest about their true stance regarding WINE and Linux. If I was not encouraged by Bashiok's claim that only cheaters were getting banned, I could have avoided this.

A more realistic and more accurate stance would be:

Linux is not supported. Although we will not ban anyone specifically for the reason of using Linux; Please note that due to compatibility issues we cannot always predict, your setup could cause false positives in our cheater detection software. We may not always be able to confirm that those are false positives and thus your account might be suspended permanently.

Things like Warden bugs that are only triggered by WINE in few OS configurations are really an issue that Blizzard have to acknowledge before saying that they only ban cheaters. I take the fall (bought a new account) for taking this risk, but the risk should be stated.

1 comentario:

  1. Still banned me because of 'issue with their tools' I assume since they never say why (which I understand). Well written article. I still agree with your advice:

    "do not play Diablo 3 in Linux"

    I managed a few hundred hours before I was banned, but there is no way to know which combination of memory, unix processes, WINE, errors in Blizzard software that will get you banned.

    If you want to play Blizzard, play on MAC or Windows.

    I'm not about to boot to another operating system or use a virtual machine to play so I'm out of luck.

    good writing.