legal

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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CNN alleges that Russia used Pokemon Go to try to spread dissent in the USA

It always gets a bit bumpy when politics, international intrigue, and video games collide, so hold on for this one.

According to CNN, Russia’s Internet Research Agency — an organization devoted to create unrest in the USA — tapped into Pokemon Go as a way to do this. How could this be? Apparently, the agency ran a contest on a site in 2016 that encouraged supporters of Black Lives Matter to hunt down Pokemon near sites of police brutality and to even change their character names to victims.

It seems dubious whether the “Don’t Shoot Us” campaign and contest had any effect on players or interfered with politics. CNN couldn’t find anyone who actually participated in it, and the campaign’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts have all since been suspended.

Source: CNN via The Verge. Thanks Sally!

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Fortnite patches battle royale, adds BattlEye anti-cheat measures, and sues cheaters

Are you one of the 10M people who’ve dipped into Fortnite’s battle royal mode? Or perhaps one of the 500K who played concurrently this past weekend? Then you’ll want to point your eyeballs at the game’s latest patch. The 1.7.1 update brings battle royale stats, a monster power balance in the Save the World mode, and changes to the progression system for Challenge the Horde game mode. At least if the studio can get the kinks worked out, anyway. My favorite patch note? “Added a few structures near Tomato Town.”

Of note, Epic says it’s making good on its promise to upend cheaters, having now implemented the contentious but widespread third-party BattlEye program, even for PvE players. The program is used in multiple games but has been criticized heavily for privacy violations, most recently by the ARK Survival Evolved community. Epic, however, has stated on Reddit that BattlEye was not to blame for the recent spate of false positives in cheat detection.

That isn’t to say nobody’s to blame. Indeed, the company is apparently personally suing the creators of two sub-based cheat service, AddictedCheats, at least one of whom has been “banned from Fortnite at least nine times,” according to the filing. MOP readers will recall that Blizzard’s enjoyed a measure of litigation success over cheat-vendors preying on its own games, so we’ll see whether Epic does too.

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Asheron’s Call emulator lead explains what went down with the cease-and-desist

What are lawyers good for? Pouring lemon juice on the open wounds of an MMO community desperately trying to hold on to the remnant of their closed game, apparently.

The closure of at least one Asheron’s Call emulator earlier this month was confirmed this week to be what many assumed: a cease-and-desist letter from Warner Bros. One of the main forces behind the emulator projects, a player named Pea, posted an account stating how he initially wrote to WB about the game’s closure and his growing involvement in the emulator scene.

Pea noted that prior the game’s shutdown, Turbine had released some information about the client that made creating emulators “significantly easier” from fans. He also assumed that WB did not care about the Asheron’s Call franchise and had abandoned it, which fed into the emulator projects taking root.

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FTC settles CS:GO Lotto influencer corruption complaint

It’s not enough for the CS:GO community to bleed players to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds; nope, this week it’s taking another blow in the form of legal action against CS:GO YouTubers and profiteers.

You’ll recall that Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell ran afoul of both Valve and the law last year, when the Washington State Gambling Commission began cracking down on Valve for allegedly facilitating gambling via a skin API that allowed websites like CS:GO Lotto to use skins as gambling currency, netting the site a billion bucks last year. Indeed, there was even a class action RICO lawsuit filed against both Valve and several CS:GO gambling website owners, including Martin and Cassell, though that suit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

That wasn’t the end of it, however; last week, the FTC settled its case against the CS:GO Lotto duo for failing to disclose that they owned the website while promoting it through various seemingly unrelated influencer platforms, particularly YouTube, both its own platforms and paid influencers’ platforms.

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Korea’s FTC to investigate Blizzard’s StarCraft: Remastered hourly fees

The Korean StarCraft community is up in arms this week over Blizzard’s rerelease of the game — more specifically, its plan to effectively double-dip into the pockets of the very internet cafe culture that’s kept StarCraft a household name into 2017.

The Korean Herald reports that South Korea’s PC bang association has petitioned Korea’s Fair Trade Commission to intervene, arguing that Blizzard is improperly double-charging an hourly fee for StarCraft: Remastered when they’ve already long since paid a flat fee for the StarCraft license.

The bangs point out that they’ve been forced to install the upgraded version because of stability issues; but for that, they say, the upgraded version contains no new content and isn’t worthy of new fees, alleging that Blizzard is “misappropriating its superior market status to push unfair measures to PC bang owners, most of which are small-sized business owners.”

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League of Legends skin based on soccer player Edgar Davids is going to cost Riot money

See the charming dark-skinned gent in the header image? That’s the Striker Lucian skin in League of Legends. It also strongly resembles the kit, hairstyle, and distinctive eyewear of Edgar Davids, a retired soccer player who was pretty good at the game and wore a similar kit at the time of the skin’s introduction. And now that skin is going to cost Riot Games some money because a Dutch court has ruled that the skin infringes upon Davids’ personal rights.

The resemblance was, of course, intentional; Riot’s core argument was that players would recognize the character as Lucian first and foremost, but the court ultimately decided that it’s close enough to Davids’ likeness that he’s still entitled to compensation. So however much money the skin has made in the Netherlands, a percentage of that will go to Davids. Good news for Davids, bad news for Riot, neutral news for whoever has no deep investment in soccer.

Source: Het Parool via Kotaku

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Crunch mode caused a young Netmarble game developer’s death, Korean government says

South Korean MMO studio Netmarble is being criticized this week for contributing to the death of an overworked game developer in 2016.

The Korea Times is reporting that the government agency Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service has acknowledged that the Netmarble employee “died from a work-related cause” when he passed away from coronary arteriosclerosis (heart disease).

“The employee had been subject to irregular night-time work and excess duty in the 12 weeks before he developed the symptoms and it has been confirmed that the employee had worked 89 hours a week in seven weeks prior to developing symptoms,” the government documents state. “Considering the worker was in his 20s and that his health checkup did not show any underlying symptoms, the correlation between the worker’s death and work is recognized.”

The game developer’s family’s filing for compensation has consequently been approved. According to the paper, there were two other deaths the same year. As MMO Culture reports, Netmarble now forbids excessive overtime work in its substudios.

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Pokemon Go is being sued over the disastrous Chicago live event

If you live in the midwest and are out only a ticket and a tank of gas for your trip to the botched Pokemon Go event a week and change ago, you were probably mollified by Niantic’s vow to reimburse your ticket fee and grant you some free in-game currency. If you spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars to travel to the event from far away, however, $100 in Pokemon Go cash is not going to cut it. That’s the impetus behind a new class-action lawsuit being filed on behalf of “20 or 30” people who say that Niantic failed to keep its promises and should reimburse their travel.

“We’re not seeking any relief with respect to the failure to get legendary Pokémon, because Niantic is offering that,” the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Thomas Zimmerman, explained to Polygon. “But Niantic is not offering to refund people’s travel expenses for coming to Chicago. Most of the people came from out of state, many people from other countries — I talked to someone who flew in from Japan.”

Given just how much money Niantic made from RMT during a single day of the event, we figure the studio’s probably good to reimburse some overseas guests for travel, but in light of how hard the studio has fought to avoid legal culpability for its actions in the past, we doubt it’ll be that simple.

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Pokemon Go: Milwaukee County lawsuit injunction and preparing for legendaries

Back in February, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, tried to prevent Pokemon Go player-inflicted park damage by requiring ARG developers, including Niantic, to acquire permits before implementing games within the park. The county was subsequently sued by Texas Rope’ Em dev Candy Lab AR this past spring, and now, a judge has granted an injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance until after the lawsuit’s been resolved, noting not only that it’s unconstitutional but nearly impossible to execute.

In happier POGO news, Legendary Pokemon are coming to Pokemon Go. Unlike other Pokemon, Legendaries cannot be put into gyms to defend, but they should make raids a little bit easier. Trainers at the Chicago event will have a set of challenges to meet, but players not attending also need to help out. PokemonGO Hub has a great chart for finding out when the events begin if you need a little guidance. On the way to legendaries, players can unlock bonuses to just about everything, from Star Dust to increased spawns.

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Riot Games files a lawsuit against the developer of an alleged League of Legends clone

Once upon a time, a studio named Riot Games made a game called League of Legends, which was essentially a Warcraft III map given some slight adjustments and a new coat of paint to avoid copyright infringement. Now, that studio is very successful because LoL made roughly all of the money ever printed, and it’s suing another developer on the basis of that studio skipping the “slight adjustments and new coat of paint” phase of the plan.

You can check out a trailer for Mobile Legends below, and… well, that does look similar, but it’s really up to the courts whether it’s similar enough to shut down the operation. It’s developed by Shanghai Moontown Technology and has already been removed and re-submitted from Google Play under a slightly different name. Time will tell if the lawsuit moves forward or not.

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With the Lord of the Rings lawsuit settled, LOTRO moves on with sunflowers and Weatherstock IX

It looks like things are cooling down on the legal front following a protracted court lawsuit between Warner Bros. and the Tolkien Estate concerning alleged “digital exploitation” of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises. The five-year suit was finally settled, with both parties stating that they are looking forward to “working together” going forward.

Now that Lord of the Rings Online can breathe a sigh of relief that this won’t have the potential to cause issues, it can turn its attention to more important matters. Like awesomely cute sunflower-themed rewards from its currently operating Summer Festival. Hey, it’s important to bring some sunshine into Mordor later this year!

The community is also gearing up for Weatherstock IX, which is scheduled for Saturday, July 22nd on the Landroval server. The massive player-run concert will run twice as long as in past years, with 19 bands participating. Just in case you were wondering, yes, it will be livestreamed.

Source: Hollywood Reporter, Weatherstock IX. Thanks Sally!

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ZeniMax seeks another half billion bucks in Oculus injunction hearing

The Oculus/ZeniMax Media lawsuit still isn’t over, all these years after the start: ZeniMax is this week arguing before a Texas district court that Oculus should be forced to remove its VR products from sale or pony up royalties.

Earlier this year, courts awarded ZeniMax half a billion dollars in damages from Facebook-owned Oculus, having found that the VR company was guilty of copyright infringement, false designation, and failing to comply with a non-disclosure agreement. At the time, Oculus declared that a victory because the jury didn’t find it guilty of stealing trade secrets.

The new injunction filed by ZeniMax seeks to double that sum to compensate it for “ongoing harm.” Facebook and Oculus are contesting everything, of course, including the original verdict.

Even the judge seems tired of it all, reportedly having told listeners that he aimed to “resolve the heck out of [this] big, hairy fight.”

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