legal

Hawaii state rep Chris Lee urges gamers to contact their local governments about lockboxes

Say you were a legislator concerned about the lootbox/lockbox gambling issues in gaming. How would you actually go about drafting a law that targets predatory monetization without, as some people fear, sliding down a slippery slope into unfettered regulation so that suddenly all video games are illegal but Pong?

Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee, whom you’ll remember from his Reddit post and video on the subject a few weeks ago, has a new video out explaining just that, as his goal and that of other representatives in other states is to craft language that is tailored specifically to blocking the sale of gambleboxes to people under 21 (the legal age for gambling in the US). It’s clear from the video that Lee and the attorneys working on the potential bill actually understand the gacha mechanics and nastier algorithmic targeting tactics that some game studios employ.

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Fortnite settles one of its anti-cheater lawsuits out of court

If you’d forgotten, Fortnite wound up bringing a lawsuit against two people for cheating software being used in the game. One such suit hit a wrinkle when it turned out that the defendant was a minor, which has yet to be resolved. The other suit is all done and over with, though, as the developer has reportedly agreed to an out-of-court settlement regarding the lawsuit against Charles Vraspir.

The terms of the settlement forbid Vraspir from taking any actions similar to his prior ones, with a $5,000 penalty if he is found in breach of the agreement. The bright side for him is that he won’t have to pay a fine at all so long as he sticks to the terms of his agreement, so we can only hope for his own sake that he does so. It’s a somewhat anticlimactic ending to that particular matter, but probably the best one for all concerned parties.

Source: Gamasutra

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Milwaukee settles lawsuit over Pokemon Go-inspired park ordinance

The Milwaukee lawsuit sparked by Pokemon Go is finally over.

Back in February, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin issued an ordinance requiring video game developers like Niantic to obtain park permits before using those parks as MMOARG destinations, as Pokemon Go does. That was because the influx of visitors Niantic effectively sent to the parks caused thousands of dollars in damage, and taxpayers had had enough. The ordinance required ARG devs to follow the same rules as geocachers when developing game nodes within the park: purchase a permit and carry $1,000,000 in liability insurance for damages resulting from its players’ park use.

But a few months later, developer Candy Lab AR filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging that the ordinance violated and restricted the company’s “right to free speech” via regulation, that it was “unconstitutionally vague,” and that it held companies legally and financially responsible for the actions of players on park lands, the last of which Candy Lab said would be “financially prohibitive.”

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Mother of Fortnite cheater claims that her 14-year-old son is being used as a scapegoat

Last month, Fortnite developer Epic sued two alleged associates of a cheating software site as part of the studio’s hard-line approach to cheaters. Makes sense; cheating is not all right, and this approach has a chance to actually shut down some cheating. Only the mother of one of the defendants has come forward protesting Epic’s actions, stating that her 14-year-old son is being made into a scapegoat and is unfairly being targeted by this legal action.

The mother’s objections include the claims that she never gave parental consent for Fortnite’s terms and conditions, that the developers claims of profit lost on a free-to-play game are impossible to substantiate, and that her son did not help develop the cheating software but simply downloaded it as a user. Furthermore, she stated that the company released her son’s name, which is illegal under Delaware law when concerning a minor. You can draw your own conclusions about how valid her complaints are, but it may well add an extra wrinkle into the ongoing legal battle against cheating software.

Source: Kotaku

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UK Gambling Commission hints it may fight lootboxes with age ratings

While you were eating turkey and buying loot this past weekend, the lockbox saga was trundling onward.

The UK Gambling Commission has formally stated that it does not believe lootboxes and lockboxes should be classified as gambling – yet. “A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth,” says the commission. “In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.”

That said, the commission further notes that even if certain “activities” like lockboxes fail to meet the legal definition of gambling, it has a responsibility to parents and children.

“We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred. Where it does meet the definition of gambling it is our job to ensure that children are protected and we have lots of rules in place, like age verification requirements, to do that.”

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The Netherlands joins Belgium in investigating lockboxes as games of chance

Earlier this week, we reported on a move by the Belgian Gaming Commission to investigate lockboxes/lootboxes in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 to determine whether they constitute games of chance to the degree that they require regulation meant for gambling. Now it appears the Dutch have joined them.

According to NU.nl, the Dutch Gaming Authority is also investigating whether this particular game mechanic falls under the banner of online gambling, which according to the news outlet is currently banned in the Netherlands, while games of chance on the whole are subject to special licensing rules. According to the regulatory group, it is “still in a research phase.”

EA has insisted that Star Wars Battlefront 2’s lootcrates “are not gambling” for all the usual reasons online gaming studios trot out to confuse people about what games of chance are: that players win something, even if it’s lint, and that players can earn crates via play. Last night, the company announced it was disabling all microtransactions while it sorted out the continuing uproar.

Source: NU.nl via Eurogamer. Cheers, Veldan!

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Bossland gives up on WoW’s Honorbuddy cheat following Blizzard’s 2017 court victories

If you weren’t convinced that Blizzard defeated Bossland in its string of lawsuits already, you will be today. As The Nosy Gamer noticed, Bossland announced today that it’s ending sales for multiple hack, bot, and cheat programs that affected Blizzard games, including Honorbuddy (for World of Warcraft) and Hearthbuddy (for Hearthstone), though it looks as if Demonbuddy (Diablo III) will remain intact. Support for the discontinued cheats ends on December 31st.

The Bossland announcement is super classy, and by super classy, I mean not at all classy, as you might expect. The developers insist their paid cheat programs “provide no edge” and were intended to help time-starved players. They also claim Blizzard is winning only because of its supposed “decision to compromise the privacy of their players” by using checks that any studio that cares about cheating uses.

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Black Desert devs responds to datamining dust-up with stat transparency and apologies

Remember a week ago when Black Desert dataminers dug up dirt on the game’s so-called hidden stats, only to be booted off the subreddit by mods doing Pearl Abyss’ bidding? Remember how the dataminers just put it all up on a different sub beyond the reach of PA, practically daring PA to follow through on the legal action it threatened dataminers with earlier this year?

Consider the situation effectively defused. Kakao has apologized for creating “confusion among [its] beloved players by failing to deliver accurate information,” promising clarity on those stats. Indeed, clarity is arriving in the form of a producer letter from Pearl Abyss (which also apologizes profusely).

Executive Producer Jae-hee Kim says PA now plans to add accuracy, evasion, and damage reduction numbers to tooltips, noting that while hidden stats seemed like a fun idea originally, there is now too much of a “gap” between people in the know and everyone else. The studio also aims to tweak “ambiguity” on elixirs, boost drop rates party to the node level system, and provide transparency on future stats.

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Black Desert’s Reddit community erupts over Pearl Abyss’ datamining suppression

So how do you feel about dataminers? One player apparently datamined a significant chunk of info about Black Desert’s so-called hidden stats, posting everything to the game’s subreddit to finally end arguments over what those stats entail. But Pearl Abyss (the Korean developer, not the western publisher Kakao) put an end to it, requesting that the mods remove it, and one did just that.

In the midst of player uproar over what the community perceived as independent mods doing a Korean studio’s dirty work, the moderating team on the BDO sub told players that while it had been removed by an over-eager junior mod, the mods were suppressing the information until such time as Pearl Abyss could confirm or deny whether the datamined info could by used to “bypass anti-cheat safeguards and/or manipulate the client in ways that haven’t been done before,” which is a bit of a head-scratcher. The mods also casually mention, for some reason, their desire to stay in Pearl Abyss’ good graces for the purposes of running contests and events on the sub, giving opponents a sackful of ammo.

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EA has put the kibosh on a player-run Battlefield emulator – are MMOs next?

We don’t cover the Battlefield games much on Massively OP, but this particular story caught my attention anyway because of the company and subject involved. According to a piece on Gamasutra, EA has effectively stymied a player-run effort to resurrect several Battlefield games, including Battlefield Heroes, as de facto emulators with online services, which have attracted significant fan support.

Revive Network says it was issued a polite request – not a formal cease-and-desist demand – by EA’s legal team, casually asking the site-runners to put an end to distrbuting the clients that make the resurrection possible.

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The US government is considering DMCA exceptions for archived online games after all

Back in 2015, an exception was made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow for archival of aging video games that were otherwise inaccessible. This sort of exception needs to be periodically reviewed, it got a review, and no changes were made yet. That’s all very normal. But here’s the part that’s very relevant for fans of MMOs: the government is also considering whether or not that exception applies to online games that have been shut down.

Previously, it was ruled that the exception did not apply to games for which the majority of the data was stored on the hosting company’s servers, but the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment has put forth an argument that archiving these games and making them playable is an important preservation measure. It’s very important stuff if you’d like to hope for some of these older games to be kept around in some form for the future.

Source: Gamasutra

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Survival sandbox ROKH got bogged down in a ‘legal dispute,’ but it’s been resolved

It’s been a few weeks since ROKH’s last developer update, but there’s a reason for that: a legal dispute.

“Two teams were investigating the source code of ROKH to establish a fixing roadmap,” the devs explain on Steam. “It turned out that the project we had access to was incomplete. We had to enter in a legal dispute with our former development partner to get the latest version of the project source code as well as all available material of the project (engine, assets, documentation).”

That put Darewise “very much behind” on getting the new version out the testers, but in the meantime, the team is hard at work “refactoring the project to have it in a more stable state for development and fixing,” while a second goal is to “dig deeper into the gameplay bugs and optimization.”

ROKH, you’ll recall, is a Mars-themed survival sandbox that we’ve been watching since 2015. A canceled Kickstarter in 2016 saw the game delay a few times but ultimately launch into early access last May.

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Blizzard sues alleged Overwatch clone, bans World of Warcraft cheaters

Gone are the days when Chinese companies could get away with ripping off games left and right: Blizzard is going after another one of these alleged copyright-violating piles of crap.

The game in question is mobile title Heroes of Warfare; Japanese publication PC Watch reports that Blizzard’s Chinese conglom and publisher NetEase are suing the the maker, demanding and apology, restitution, and removal from Apple’s appstore, on the grounds of IP violations in China.

Meanwhile, stop cheating, cheaters. Your day has come, as the studio has apparently begun another round of six-month bans to folks who use cheat tools. Stoppit.

And in happier Blizzard news… here’s the whole WoW dev team. The fluffy white dog on the left personally made the no-flying-in-Argus decision, we’ve been informed by the PR collie being hoisted over on the right.

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