legal

Two teens who allegedly contributed to Call of Duty swatting murder plead not guilty

Reuters has an update on the ongoing criminal cases against the some of the defendants in the Call of Duty swatting incident from last year that led to an innocent man’s death.

As we’ve previously chronicled, California resident Tyler Barriss reportedly called Wichita police to detail a supposed murder/hostage/arson in progress back at the end of 2017, using the address of what he apparently believed was one Call of Duty player intended as the focus of the ensuing police harassment, as provided by another player and played out live on Twitter. The address used, however, was for an unrelated person, father of two Andrew Finch, who was subsequently shot and killed by police after opening his door. Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter and extradited to Kansas, having tweeted an admission of guilt and being suspected of multiple other incidents, including a bomb threat; while in prison, he even tweeted out new threats.

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The Game Archaeologist: The tangled legal history of Interplay’s canceled Fallout Online

With the recent revelation that Bethesda’s Fallout 76 is going to be an online multiplayer survival game, players who have been hoping for a Fallout MMO finally have something to anticipate. Sure, it’s not a proper MMORPG, but it’s all we could ask for in this day and age, right?

Actually, Fallout 76 isn’t the first time that the Fallout series was heading for online shenanigans, nor is it the closest concept to a pure MMO. Years ago, an attempt was made by the original creators of the Fallout series to bring an online game to the community, but this effort was stymied by Bethesda and a mess of legal issues.

For those who look back at the Interplay era of Fallout with deep fondness, the thought of the canceled Fallout Online project is a sore wound that continues to cause pain whenever prodded. Which is, I guess, what I’ll be doing today as we look at what Fallout Online was going to be — and why it never came to be.

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Steam’s new moderation policy is even less of a moderation policy than before

If you have learned nothing about Steam, you have probably noticed that Valve is actively disinterested in moderating, curating, or really interacting with the platform beyond collecting money from games sold there. So it’s surprising that Valve’s latest policy update somehow manages to be even less involved in moderation, stating that there will be absolutely no moderation except for games that are outright illegal or “blatantly trolling.” So you will be able to see adult-only games on there, maybe, as well as absolutely no rules against hate speech, gambling scams, or any of the other problems people have asked the multi-billion-dollar company to deal with.

This has already attracted quite a bit of commentary, ranging from pointing out that permitting anything on Steam does make a statement on Valve’s values to pointing out that it abdicates responsibility to keep things cheaper to just asking what this means for games that have had to cut content. But, hey, nudity is allowed now, because the only way to permit that is to say that absolutely everything is permitted. After all, if you allow bare breasts, how can you then say it’s not all right to have a group called “Kill All Trans [HIDEOUS SLUR] Now”? Obviously they’re exactly the same thing.

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PUBG Corp sues Epic Games, claiming Fortnite plagiarized its UI and items

Last autumn, Bluehole and PUBG Corp locked horns with Epic Games over PUBG’s assertion that Fortnite had all but ripped off PUBG’s battle royale mode and that it was considering some sort of action. Bluehole later walked back the spat, arguing that it wasn’t claiming copyright over battle royale but was instead objecting to the fact that Epic had access to PUBG’s deepest secrets and code because of Epic’s stewardship of Unreal Engine and had become a competitor after the fact. Bluehole then set about suing Netease over its battle royale clones, Knives Out and Rules of Survival. Netease retaliated by threatening to sue everyone else. That sideshow continues.

But now it appears Bluehole’s made its way back to Fortnite, as multiple outlets picked up a Korea Times piece on a lawsuit the Korean company filed in January; it claims Epic Games plagiarized PUBG’s interface and in-game items. Fortnite was originally launched as a co-op, PvE-centric building game but quickly added a battle royale mode in an apparent attempt to catch up to PUBG and had swept past PUBG’s saturation in just a few months, setting records left and right.

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Call of Duty swatting murder sees three men charged in federal court

At the end of 2017, a Call of Duty swatting incident in Kansas took the life of a completely innocent man after police killed him following a fake tip to the wrong address, but it does appear that multiple people will finally be held responsible.

As we’ve previously chronicled, California resident Tyler Barriss reportedly called Wichita police to detail a supposed murder/hostage/arson in progress, using the address of what he apparently believed was one Call of Duty player intended as the focus of the ensuing police harassment, as provided by another player and played out live on Twitter. The address used, however, was apparently for a completely unrelated person, father of two Andrew Finch, who was subsequently shot and killed by police after opening his door. Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter and extradited to Kansas, having tweeted an admission of guilt and being suspected of multiple other incidents, including a bomb threat. While in prison, Barriss even tweeted out new threats.

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Expect e-sports betting to blossom thanks to new Supreme Court ruling

Gambling and gaming are two sides of the same coin. You guys wouldn’t believe how many gambling companies request to put ads on MOP every month (unsuccessfully!), so clearly advertisers believe there’s plenty of overlap in the groups. And the debate over gambling in video games – whether we’re talking about lockbox monetization schemes or watching bureaucrats home in on skin gambling – isn’t going away. In fact, it’s about to get much bigger as gamblers are walloped from still another direction.

This week the Supreme Court effectively overturned PASPA – the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – in deciding Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The ruling hinged on the section of PASPA that basically barred local governments from licensing betting on sports games, reserving that power for the federal government. The act had been interpreted to include e-sports once e-sports became a thing as well. The state of New Jersey and the NCAA went to war over the statue, battling in court over the last seven years, and now, New Jersey, or at least the gambling institutions of New Jersey, has won.

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Daybreak update: Renova boss questioned over Columbus Nova’s alleged payment to Michael Cohen

MMOs and politics once again collide this week as last night CNN broke the news that Robert Mueller’s FBI team has zeroed in on Russian oligarch and Renova Group chairman Viktor Vekselberg as part of the Special Counsel investigation into Russian election interference, questioning Vekselberg about money Renova’s US “affiliate” transferred to US President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen. (Tangentially, those allegations were brought to light by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti.)

And the name of that US affiliate under investigation? Yeah, it’s Columbus Nova, the firm that claimed it acquired MMORPG studio Daybreak back in 2015. Here we go again.

“FBI agents asked Vekselberg about payments his company’s American affiliate, Columbus Nova, made to Cohen, according to one source,” CNN reports. “The Russian was questioned as well about $300,000 in political donations by Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s American cousin who is the head of Columbus Nova, sources said.” Columbus Nova claimed to CNN that it is “owned and controlled by Americans”; it further denies any use of “Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments” to Cohen.

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World of Warcraft DDOSer sentenced to a year in prison, Blizzard chats about Battle for Azeroth’s latest round of faction wars

Blizzard is not messing around with DDOS attacks. The BBC has a piece out on a World of Warcraft player from Romania, Calin Mateias, who was apparently extradited to California, charged with conducting a denial of service attack on WoW’s servers back in 2010. He pleaded guilty to “causing damage to a protected computer,” will sit for a year in prison, and was fined around $30,000 to boot. The saddest part is that he was DDOSing servers to get back at guildies over raid loot and participation.

In other WoW news, production director John Hight spoke to PCGamesN about the march toward Battle for Azeroth; he not only teases the story arc but philosophizes about the on-again, off-again war between the factions.

“We thought it would be appropriate and very interesting to say that the biggest threat now in Azeroth is each other. Can we, without that uniting threat of the Burning Legion, come together – or are we going to battle each other? And as you can see in Battle for Azeroth, we’re going to fight it out.”

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Niantic stages a second attempt at a summer Chicago Pokemon Go Fest after settling class-action lawsuit

It’s no exaggeration to say that last year’s Pokemon Go Fest was a complete and total disaster. It made a ton of money – almost $6M on the second day alone – but the PR fallout was epic, as thousands of people who paid to attend couldn’t actually get into the event park and thousands more couldn’t connect to the game once inside thanks to overloaded cell networks. On top of the logistical nightmare, the event turned out to be a pay-to-win debacle too. When Niantic CEO John Hanke took the stage to calm everyone and apologize, he was met with boos from his own die-hard fans. A spokesperson later said the studio was “horrified” with the way the event turned out and refunded all players for their tickets (and then some). That didn’t stop players who’d paid to travel long distances to Chicago for the event from forging ahead with a class-action lawsuit, which Niantic quite recently settled to the tune of $1.5M.

Since then, Niantic has run several successful events of a similar magnitude to last year’s Chicago event, including a massive festival in Yokohama, and they’ve all gone well, which must surely give the company courage for announcing a series of summer events dubbed Pokemon Go Summer Tour 2018.

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Chinese authorities arrest 15 more accused PUBG hackers, fining them over $5M

Bluehole and PUBG Corp are apparently continuing their government-backed crackdown on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds cheaters.

Last week, PUBG Corp told Steam players that it takes cheating seriously and has upgraded its security measures. “In the meantime, we’ve also been continuously gathering information on hack developers (and sellers) and have been working extensively with multiple partners and judicial authorities to bring these people to justice,” the studio writes. “Earlier this month, on April 25th, 15 suspects were arrested for developing and selling hacking/cheating programs that affect PUBG. It was confirmed that malicious code, including Trojan horse software, was included in some of these programs and was used to steal user information.”

The studio indicates the suspects, all in China and being dealt with by Chinese authorities, have been fined the rough equivalent of $5.1M USD for their infractions. Prison time is historically a potential factor in cases like these in China as well, but the report doesn’t mention it.

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Kids these days: Fortnite fights a 14-year-old in court, signs 13-year-old to e-sports team

Epic Games is still doggedly pursuing supposed Fortnite cheaters. As we reported back in November, one of the defendants in Epic’s many lawsuits is a 14-year-old boy who stands accused of streaming and promoting cheats on his YouTube channel. At the time, his mother sent an informal letter to the court, arguing that her son didn’t actually develop cheats, that Epic had unlawfully released his name (as a minor), and that Epic was unfairly scapegoating him.

As TorrentFreak (via GIbiz) noted, the court took that letter as a motion to dismiss (the family hadn’t responded officially otherwise). Epic has since refiled its complaint as a reply to that motion, claiming that it didn’t know the kid was a minor and that he had agreed to the EULA.

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Belgium orders Overwatch, CSGO, and FIFA 18 to remove lockboxes or face criminal penalties

Back in 2017, at the height of mainstream outrage over lockbox shenanigans, Belgium became one of the very first countries to take the problem seriously (instead of just passing the buck). The Belgian committee assigned to investigate concluded in November that “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling” and pledged to ban them.

Now, the country has effectively done just that. Its Gaming Commission spent several months investigating multiple games, ultimately finding that Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are operating in violation of its laws specifically because of their lockbox mechanics.

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Roblox takes down popular Pokemon-themed MMO

One of the big dangers of granting content creation tools to the community — especially in a game that swings some game revenue back to creators — is the very real possibility that people will try to encroach on licensed and copy protected IPs.

It looks like this was the case with Roblox’s Pokemon Brick Bronze, which touched on a franchise you may know. Brick Bronze was whipped up by a passel of player developers and enjoyed a very strong following (strong enough, in fact, that the game inspired its own wiki).

Nintendo might have gotten wind of the project, hoever, because Pokemon Brick Bronze was taken down on April 18th to be reviewed and quite possibly shuttered forever by the team at Roblox. To make this situation even stickier, there was money involved, and many players are demanding refunds spent on Brick Bronze.

Brick Bronze had a huge following, with tens of thousands of players logging in to enjoy the free Pokemon MMO.

Source: Reddit. Thanks Joe!

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