Pirates Liberate Games From Battle.net To Send Message To Activision Blizzard

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Hacking, cracking, piracy group Blizzless Project has released special versions of Starcraft: Remastered, Warcraft III: Reforged, and Diablo II: Resurrected, enabling them to be played offline with no connection to Battle.net. In what appears to be a message to Activision Blizzard, the team suggests it will put right what the company has been doing wrong.

blizzless-logoWhen videogames first began hitting the market more than 40 years ago, budgets were low, expectations were low, and customers were easily pleased.

Today’s market has taken all of that and turned it on its head. Fueled by the type of budgets available to filmmakers and faced with massive competition, the videogame business abandoned its bedroom-coding roots long ago.

In many respects, that’s clearly a good thing but in others, not so much.

Today’s gamers can find the experience of dealing with corporations jarring, especially when their concerns are perceived to be less important than company profits. Most can do nothing about that if they want to keep playing games but it’s still possible for a tiny minority to make enough noise to get noticed.

Blizzless Project Breaks Gaming Shackles

After LAN gaming provided the momentum, internet gaming was the logical progression most gamers wanted. On the flip side, the logical progression for many developers was to use heightened connectivity as a way to grant or deny access to games, while controlling, squeezing, and data mining their customers.

All of these things and more are cited by the Blizzless Project as motivations for their recent actions.

Starting a few days ago, Blizzless – a group thought to be from Russia – began releasing modified versions of classic Blizzard games. Starcraft: Remastered, Warcraft III: Reforged, and Diablo II: Resurrected were all made available via the group’s Discord channel, minus the mandatory requirement for the games to maintain a connection to Battle.net.

“The Blizzless Project is a project to remove restrictions in the classic products of a well-known company, imposed by network binding to servers,” a Blizzless Project statement reads.

“Our team sees the goal in developing alternative servers to be able to use the purchased products without restrictions, without collecting personal data (telemetry) and after the termination of support.”

Team Likely to Receive Pushback From Activision Blizzard

The idea of liberating games from Battle.net certainly isn’t new. In March 1998, the emulation package ‘bnetd’ hit the StarCraft scene. Initially branded ‘StarHack’, the reverse-engineered project soon ran into trouble after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Software Publishers Association.

Developer Mark Baysinger abandoned the project later that year, but because the project was open sourced under the GNU General Public License, it lived on long enough to get sued by Blizzard. The case was an early test of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and despite support from EFF, the developers were comprehensively defeated.

Blizzless seem unconcerned by the case law but freeing these titles from Battle.net is just one of their many motivators.

Take Away Our Games, We Take Them Back

Among the many grievances highlighted by Blizzless, the idea that games can be bought and then taken away on a whim will be most familiar to gamers. Alongside the launch of Warcraft III: Reforged, Blizzard forced all players using the Battle.net version of Warcraft III to upgrade to the Reforged client. The company then shut down the original game’s servers.

Blizzless is also unhappy at the way Russian and Belarusian gamers have been treated in response to their governments’ actions in Ukraine.

“Events around the world have shown that access to products can be easily denied due to your nationality and where you live,” the group notes, adding that the ‘Every voice matters‘ slogan “is now nothing more than a vestige.”

Finally, and perhaps with an eye on how ‘bnetd’ survived longer than expected two decades ago, Blizzless says that opening up its work might be possible in the future.

“We plan to release some of our source code when we’re done so that the community can explore and use it,” the group says. Given the above, it would be somewhat hypocritical not to.


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