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NFT mastermind says he created Ethereum because Warcraft nerfed his character

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WoW patch 3.1.0 made him ‘realize what horrors centralized services can bring’

Key Speakers At The TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 Summit
Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum, at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 Summit
Photo: Getty

Maybe take this with a grain of salt, but, the creator of Ethereum — the blockchain that spawned the NFT craze — says he was driven to create decentralized money because his World of Warcraft character was cruelly nerfed.

“I happily played World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, but one day Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell,” Vitalik Buterin, the programmer who developed Ethereum’s original concept in late 2013, says in a bio hosted at about.me. “I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring. I soon decided to quit.”

Ethereum’s World of Warcraft ties have been mentioned by Buterin before, including in a 2017 Wired profile. His about.me bio created a social media stir this weekend when Thomas Shadwell, a Google engineer, noticed and tweeted the comment.

Polygon has reached out to an Ethereum Foundation representative to ask if Buterin wants to elaborate on his remarks. No reply was received at publication time.

Buterin expressed broad suspicion of corporations in that Wired profile (but did not mention Blizzard Entertainment by name), telling the publication, “I saw everything to do with either government regulation or corporate control as just being plain evil. And I assumed that people in those institutions were kind of like Mr. Burns, sitting behind their desks saying, ‘Excellent. How can I screw a thousand people over this time.’”

Siphon Life was indeed removed by World of Warcraft patch 3.1.0 — “Secrets of Ulduar,” the first major content patch for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion that launched in November 2008. Patch 3.1.0 rolled out April 14, 2009. Buterin was 15 years old at the time.

At the time it was nerfed out of the game, Siphon Life would transfer 15 health per 3 seconds from the target to the spellcaster, for a maximum of 30 seconds. Patch 3.1.0 replaced that with a healing effect caused by the Warlock’s Corruption spell — they get healing equivalent to 40% of the damage done by Corruption. At the time, Engadget said the change was “one of Blizzard’s ways of simplifying [the Affliction tree’s] complicated repertoire.”

“It’s a buff to Corruption, but the talent itself no longer offers a DPS boost,” Engadget said, getting to the heart of Buterin’s teenage anguish. Paraphrasing Buterin’s own words, Wired said he “had recently quit playing World of Warcraft, and perhaps he was just looking for the next obsession to take its place.”

Buterin conceived of the platform that would become Ethereum in late 2013, announcing it along with three financial backers at a Bitcoin conference in Miami a few months later. Ethereum was positioned as a more robust platform that could incorporate real-world assets, such as stocks and property. This led to NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, which have effectively turned digital items like art, NBA video highlights, someone’s tweets, and, of course, porn, into assets commanding eye-popping prices.

So, there you have it: No Warcraft nerf, no NFTs! Of course, that’s a very reductionist view, even if it comes from the creator himself. The creator himself also lists his political affiliation as “intellectual hipster meta-contrarian,” and his occupation as “it’s complicated,” so maybe this origin story is similarly tongue-in-cheek.