The gaming Italian Job: Movie plots that really happened online

How incredible Hollywood stories played out in online games for real.

Ever thought about how unrealistic the plots of some of your favourite films seem? Think again - they happen all the time, and in the virtual world as well as the real one. Online games have played host to all sorts of bonkers storylines and events that their developers never intended to happen, or ever even saw coming.

Here, we take a trawl through the archives to look at the movie plots that really played out in your favourite games.

In The Line Of Fire

ultima online

Everyone knows about World of Warcraft, but the game that really established fantasy online roleplaying games (RPG) was Ultima Online, way back in the '90s. And well, it's the only online RPG to have played host to its creator’s (virtual) assassination. No, really.

Just as John Malkovich’s character sought to take out the president in The Day Of The Jackal, so a pesky bunch of UO players murdered the character of the man who invented the game, Richard Garriott.

During a beta test in 1997, Lord British, as his player was called, was scheduled to make an appearance in the game. His character was meant to be invincible, but when the server had to be restarted, he forgot to turn this power back on - thus giving a player known as Rainz the opportunity to set him on fire, much to the surprise of onlookers.

Of course, there was a slight deviation from the plot of the 1993 movie - the assassin actually got away with it, until he was banned from the game for other offences.

Ocean's Eleven

eve online heist

You might have heard of Eve Online: it's the one massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) that embraces the free market. So long as you don't actually cheat by breaking or hacking the game in some way, the developers at CCP Games tolerate all sort of in-game crimes, scams and swindles - even when players' real money is on the line.

The space exploration and mining game saw its most spectacular heist in 2005 when players from the Guiding Hand Social Club simultaneously robbed every vault and hangar of the Ubiqua Seraph bank across the entire galaxy, stealing or destroying more than 30 billion ISK (the in-game currency) of virtual goods - approximately £10,000 of players' real cash.

It was an elaborate stunt months in the planning, involving double agents worming their way into the Ubiqua Seraph organisation. And in a touch of Clooney and Pitt-esque class, all that was left in each vault was a note declaring that it had been visited by the Guiding Hand.

Outbreak

 

World of Warcraft is now eight years old and counting, so to keep players on their toes, the developers at Blizzard like to spice things up every now and again, throwing in an unexpected cataclysm or three.

But back in 2005, one went spectacularly wrong, in a way eerily reminiscent of the plot of killer virus flick Outbreak. Blizzard unleashed “corrupted blood”, a virtual virus in one dungeon of the game, which drained health and was uniquely contagious (you can see its effects in action in the video above). It was never designed to break out of the region, but even in video games, viruses don't behave quite like you expect.

The plague escaped its confines and into other territories: players watched their avatars waste away into nothing, while others roamed the entirety of Azeroth deliberately infecting others until Blizzard was forced to completely reset infected servers. Repeatedly.

Limitless

everquest

What if you could become a super human? In Limitless, Bradley Cooper finds out just what the perils of being all powerful really are - as did a lowly player in Everquest in 2001.

When Everquest developer Sony introduced a server with no rules, except one - players below level six could not be killed, to let them find their way in the game without being slaughtered - they didn't count on Fansy the level five bard, who found a loophole in the game, becoming all-powerful overnight.

He figured out that even though low level characters could not deal out much damage to higher level players on their own, his bard’s speed and invincibility because he was so weak allowed him to attract the attention of enormous, lethal sand giants - and then run away from them, causing a trail of destruction that killed other players.

For three days, Fansy roamed the land, laying waste to everyone in his path and crushing even the most experienced on the server. Only then were the developers alerted, closing the loophole, taking away his limitless tablets and rendering him "normal" once again.

Boiler Room

Eve Online 2

Boiler Room, the 2000 film about a classic financial scam, doesn't sound like a plot ripe for imitation in an online space exploration game, but then anything really does go in Eve Online. Last year saw a less glamorous heist than Guiding Hand's stunt, but one that swindled players out of even more real world money - more than one trillion ISK or about £32,000.

At a glance, the virtual bank of Phaser Inc seemed to be paying out solid returns to Eve Online players. Invest and get five percent returns every single week. Of course, it was too good to be true. It was a classic pyramid scheme, paying out early investors with the money from later ones - and as is always the case, eventually the perpetrator runs of out people to swindle.

In August 2011, after eight months of business Phaser Inc suddenly shut down, and the pair behind the venture, Eddie Lampert and Mordor Exuel, went on the virtual run, simply leaving a note on their website: “The most important question will be answered right here, right now. The ISK is gone; you will not see it ever again.”


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