Bones, skeletons buried in Chinese version of fantasy game

Updated: 2007-07-12 07:43

Bones and skeletons have disappeared from the Chinese version of the popular online fantasy game, World of Warcraft (WoW), sparking fierce criticism from the nation's army of players.

Chinese mainland gamers waited half a year longer than their US counterparts for the upgraded version of the monster-killing game, only to find that the figures of familiar skeletal characters had been fleshed out.

In the new version, the skeletons, or regular characters, have flesh instead; and the bones symbolizing dead characters have been changed to graves.

An employee of the public relations department of The9, which runs WoW in China, was quoted by Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily as saying the changes were made according to "China's particular situation and relevant regulations".

"It's to promote a healthy and harmonious on-line environment," the staff member said.

However, Zhao Yurun, public relations director of The9, said the changes were made as part of an "operational strategy".

He said the company updates the game seven to eight times each year, adding patches that require no government approval to the original version.

He said the changes in the latest version were the foundation for the first official expansion of WoW, "The Burning Crusade", which is waiting approval by the State Press and Publication Administration (SPPA) and is expected to be released this summer.

"We hope the expansion pack will get the approval in acknowledgement of the self-regulatory regime of our company," Zhao said.

Gamers have complained the changes made the game dull and vented their displeasure on the official WoW website, filling more than 10 pages with criticism.

More than 500 gamers signed a post announcing they will boycott the game.

"Why should we accept the so-called good appearance without being consulted?" asked player "Cai Xu".

"We don't need such harmony," wrote "Xue Linglong".

Wang Cong, a journalist who has played the game for two years, said he will continue to play, but "I just think it's odd to make such meaningless changes".

Some gamers have even started a "Save the Bones" campaign on bbs.ngacn.com, another popular website for WoW players in China.

The gamers, eager to revive the skeletons, last month started programming a patch that will allow them to alter game models to see skeletons and bones on their screens again.

Although they risk their game accounts being frozen by The9, as game model alternation is strictly prohibited in the user agreement, more than 250 players downloaded the patch on the first day of its release.

The game, launched by California-based Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, is one of the most popular on-line role-playing games involving multiple players.

It has 8.5 million players worldwide, including more than 3.5 million in China.

"The Burning Crusade" was released in other countries on January 16.

The government has been urging Internet companies to clean up websites and offer only legal and "healthy" content.

More than 100 news websites in China pledged in May to exclude pornographic and violent content from their websites.

Online games, such as WoW, have long been accused of disrupting students' studies and inducing delinquent behavior among youngsters disturbed by the violence in many games.

The number of Internet users on the Chinese manland reached 123 million in mid-2006. About 15 percent - or 18 million - are under the age of 18.

Xinhua

(China Daily 07/12/2007 page1)