Behead The Prophet is the name of an unofficial add-on to World Of Warcraft (WoW). This add-on creates helpers (NPC) that will automatically (once commanded) fulfill some tasks for the player (healing, casting spells, grinding …) It has been presented at defcon17.
This is not the first time that such tool is offered. The interesting part is that such bots are considered as cheating tools by Blizzard Entertainment (the company behind WoW). Using them is a violation of the Terms of Usage.
The design of such tools is driven by different motivations: greed spirit, winning spirit, and hacking (in the golden meaning) spirit
Greed: Real money is exchanged in MMORPG. A typical example is gold farming where people will perform some tasks with your character on your behalf. China becomes worried about gold farming. It is probably not too much about ethics, it is mainly economical. These practices give more value to virtual money (that no State controls) and offer pathways for money laundering.
Winning: Some people want to succeed (with or without ethics). Their avatar will be like that, but they will most probably seek any virtual artifact that may give advantage. then, if they may have access to a tool that may change the odds…
Hacking spirit: This is a new frontier. It is a marvelous playground for programmers to test scripts, automation tools, … It is also a fight against the machine. This is rather similar with the community of home brew for the game consoles such as Wii or PS3.
Regardless of copyright issues, is Blizzard right to fight such unauthorized add-ons? Yes. Many of the players appreciate to struggle in these worlds because they have a fair chance to succeed. Everybody is with the same rules. Would there be many cheaters, then this assumption would be wrong. Increasing cheating would reduce the attractiveness of the game, thus meaning loss of players, thus loss of money.
Nevertheless, finding a solution to channel the creativity of the developers’ community could be worthwhile: for instance, through dedicated servers, or contests. This would most probably generate nice advances for Blizzard to integrate in newer version.