Wizards Wrote Me A Very Large Check, That's Why
So the email in my inbox went something like this:
"REMOVE THE PLACE WHERE IT SAYS YOU CAN GET THE BACKWASH PROGRAM FOR APPRENTICE. WE WANT LESS CHEATERS - NOT MORE! What in the HELL were you THINKING?!"
And I can't really blame 'em for being angry... But I guess I can, too.
The deal is that many people were very pissed off at me for actually posting a direct link to the cheat program that allows you to hack Apprentice. What possible reasons could I have to do something terrible and awful like that? Does StarCity condone cheating?
Of course we don't. Nobody should. But it was an editorial call as to why I posted that link... So let me walk you through my logic.
In the Magic Online vs. Apprentice wars that are currently raging on this site, at least three pro-Apprentice articles said something much like this:
"Nobody I know cheats on Apprentice, and it's stupid to think that anybody would. Furthermore, cheating on Apprentice is hard and you can usually tell."
Now, I've used Apprentice a couple of times, but I can by no means say that I'm an expert at it. So when an article came across my desk showing that not only was it possible to cheat at Apprentice, but that it was ridiculously easy to do so and darn near undetectable, that was a major point in the debate.
I did a web search to see if any site I could pinpoint had a discussion on everything Backwash could do without necessarily having a link to Backwash... But alas, there wasn't.* All the pages I found offered Backwash for download as well.
To fully show all sides considered, telling people exactly what Backwash could and couldn't do was vital - and nobody had published an article on it.
Regrettably, I had to link. It wasn't an easy decision.
Immediately, I got angry emails from Apprentice fans everywhere - including some online organizers. They told me that I was an idiot for publishing a link, since it encouraged cheaters and wrecked whole leagues. I should have never told anyone that Backwash existed.
I asked, innocently enough, isn't there a patch? Some way of stopping it?
"No," was the outraged reply."Well, there is kind of a patch, but it only works on really fast connections. So there's no way to stop Backwash once it gets started. Please don't tell anybody."
This actually made me feel better about my decision to post the link.
(Although as I write this, I've gotten an email from the admirably level-headed Christian Sieber, who claims that MTGOnline has a way of detecting Backwash, and I encourage everyone to check out his excellent article.)
Why? Let me posit something else from another industry: Anyone who's been hit by the Outlook-specific SIRCAM virus (or any of the host of others that plague the platform) knows that Microsoft Outlook is a buggy, security-flawed program.**** Furthermore, you can write viruses that really exploit holes in Outlook.
No debate on the Outlook-versus-Eudora issue is complete without a mention of that.
Now let's say that there's a raging debate on Outlook, and that innocent people are saying things like,"Nobody I know would write viruses for Outlook, and even if they did it could be stopped."
Let's go even further and say that there was a virus that Outlook couldn't be patched for. Say that a virus was going around that covertly sent out copies of every email you sent to a specifed address, and that Microsoft knew about it.
If you found out that Microsoft's reaction was,"No, we can't fix it - but don't tell anybody," you'd be furious at Microsoft.
The inability of the Powers That Be to fix these gaping holes would be evidence of a corporation gone mad with power - of a corporation that would sooner shaft innocent users and allow those who did know how to exploit viruses to completely destroy those who didn't. Evidence of a company that was willing to bury damaging information in order to continue their dominance.
Evidence of flawed morality, to my way of thinking.
Knowing that Outlook had unpatchable security leaks would be - and should be - a major point in any debate that involves Outlook.
Likewise, I don't encourage cheating**... But if Backwash is such a problem in the Apprentice community that it can destroy entire leagues, then that needs to be said, not covered up.
Is that encouraging cheating? Possibly (though I tend to think that pretty much everyone who wants to cheat already is by now).
Is that getting a problem out in the open, thus encouraging others to do something about it? I think so.
Is that protecting people who are being cheated on Apprentice, right now, by letting them know how vulnerable they are?
Now, here's the other issue: I have been told by reliable sources that the Backwash cheat code could be patched up, but due to legal issues with the arrangement between Wizards of the Coast and the now-defunct Dragon Studios, the code can't be released.
Now that's an issue which I will stand behind. Anyone who wants to start some sort of petition clarifying the issue (with proof, please, in the form of emails of letters from Wizards) and try to get a write-in campaign to force Wizards' hand can find support from me right here on StarCity. I'll cheerfully provide the platform to help out the little guy. When it comes to the Apprentice-versus-Magic Online issue, I am truly without an opinion.
Would I do it again? No, in retrospect, I probably should have cut-and-copied some of the relevant text off of the Backwash website. We all make mistakes occasionally, and I'll try to avoid this one in the future. But I still don't think what I did was wrong.
It was also asked of me:"Would you have Casey McCarrell demonstrate his stacking technique?"*** Damn straight I would. For every bozoboy who'd spend hours trying to imitate it, five honest players could see what to look for when someone cheats and try to head it off.
The answer to dishonesty is not ignorance - the answer, the only answer, is exposure.
When only cheaters know how to cheat, then only honest people get shafted because they don't know what to look for. That's wrong.
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy
* - At least not that I could find after a half-hour search; I don't get paid enough to spend a day doing research, sadly.
** - Though I tend to be a little more neutral on the topic than others. It happens. We have to stop it.
*** - Legally, of course, nobody knows what Casey did. I make no assumptions.
**** - I use Outlook, incidentally. Oops.