Not So Massively: Cloud Imperium threatens a lawsuit (October 5, 2015)

    
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Online gaming and e-sports are getting bigger by the day, and there are literally hundreds of popular online games out there that don’t really fit into the MMO category. Join me each week for Not So Massively, where I gather together the top stories from the biggest MOBAs, competitive card games, first person shooters, and other popular online games in one place.

The big story this week is that the ongoing drama surrounding Star Citizen has now reached boiling point as Cloud Imperium Games is now threatening to sue The Escapist Magazine unless its demands are met. Dota 2 players are up in arms over details of the new Fall digital compendium, and player activity has dropped by 16%. We also have some awesome new characters from SMITE and Heroes of the Storm, a hacking rumour from Splatoon, a $70,000 prize pool for mobile MOBA Vainglory, and Jagex’s Block N Load is now free-to-play!

If there’s a game or story you’d like to see covered in next week’s Not So Massively, please drop us a tip and let us know.

starcitizenThe recent drama surrounding Star Citizen reached new heights this week after gaming blog The Escapist published an article that made serious claims of illegal activity against Cloud Imperium Games. The article by writer Lizzy Finnegan quoted seven different anonymous sources purporting to be ex-employees who made claims of severe harassment, illegal activity in the workplace, and private misuse of crowdfunded money. Marketing Director Sandi Gardiner was singled out by the article for reportedly screaming and swearing at staff and for allegedly enforcing illegal racist hiring policies. Chris Roberts issued a lengthy rebuttal of the piece on the Star Citizen website, calling it “conjecture, falsehoods and opinions of disgruntled ex-employees enflamed by Derek Smart’s personal quest to destroy Star Citizen.”

The Escapist’s Managing Editor John Keefer stands by the article and asserts that all sources used in it had been appropriately vetted according to journalistic standards. It was later pointed out by a user on Reddit that small parts of some quotes in the article seem to match anonymous reviews on Glassdoor. The reviews in question all appeared within a few days of each other and just before the offending article was published, leading to speculation that they may have been faked or part of a coordinated effort by interested parties. Keefer categorically denies sourcing any quotes from Glassdoor, stating that the sources actually reached out to Lizzy Finnegan via phone following her article Eject! Eject! Is Star Citizen Going to Crash and Burn? on September 25th and did so before the reviews were posted. Keefer also asserts that the identities of the sources were visually confirmed by comparing their pictures on Skype with LinkedIn profiles or other images available on the web.

In response, Cloud Imperium’s Co-Founder and Attorney Ortwin Freyermuth issued a strongly worded five-page letter to John Keefer and The Escapist Magazine. The letter claims that the site has caused considerable distress to Sandi Gardiner and others at CIG, ignored easily obtainable evidence that contradicts the sources’ claims, and failed to account for possible collusion between the sources. CIG has demanded an immediate retraction of the article, a formal apology, and an independent investigation into the creation of the article and the motivations of its writer. If the company’s demands aren’t met by the end of business today, it has threatened to pursue legal action against the site and the offending article’s author in both the US and the UK. As of this evening, The Escapist has posted that it stands by its coverage and now claims more sources have emerged.

In actual game development news, CIG released its latest Star Marine Status Update and sat for an interview on Star Citizen’s engine architecture and zoning optimization (thanks, Cardboard and Vikingr!).

blocknloadJagex’s quirky first person shooter Block N Load officially went free-to-play this week. The competitive MOBA-like game pits two teams against each other in a fight to infiltrate and destroy the other’s base, with the twist that each team first has to build its base from blocks and place traps, weapons and supplies throughout it. Block N Load is available to download for free through Steam and uses a similar business model to League of Legends with a free character rotation and microtransactions.

dota2Dota 2‘s fall competitive season kicked off this week with the release of a new digital compendium full of challenges and prizes. This short competitive season will continue until November 16th and culminates in the Frankfurt Major Finals with $3,000,000 US in prize money up for grabs. The new compendium enables in-game challenges that unlock virtual coins, which can then be wagered in matches or redeemed for exclusive rewards. As expected, you can also spend cash directly on levels for your compendium to unlock rewards. This compendium won’t be contributing to competitive prize pools, and players have complained that many of items unlocked through it can’t ever be traded on the secondary market or even gifted to a friend.

This week we also learned that the number of active Dota 2 players worldwide dropped by around 16% throughout the month of September despite the release of the Dota 2 Reborn update. The drop has been blamed on a combination of factors, most notably the fact that The International is now behind us and students will have gone back to school this month. Other possible causes include the variety of bugs players have been experiencing since the update, and the new engine’s increased system requirements.

heroesofthestormWith StarCraft 2‘s Legacy of the Void expanding due to land on November 10, Blizzard is doing a little cross-promotion by dropping classic Starcraft characters Lt Morales and Artanis into Heroes of the Storm. Artanis is a tough melee damage-dealer, while Lt Morales is a squishy support medic who can shield or heal allies and regenerates health when out of combat. Both characters are now available for testing on the public test server and will soon make their way to the main game.

If you’ve ever thought the respawn timers in Heroes of the Storm‘s early game were too short for teams to make significant strategic pushes, be sure to check out tomorrow’s live test session on the public test realm. The developers are trying out longer death timers for the first ten game levels and adjusted stat gains from leveling up in the Cursed Hollow Scaling Test map, which is accessible through the custom games menu.

leagueoflegends

The first week of the North American group stages are now complete in this year’s League of Legends world championship tournament, and things are looking good this year for Cloud9, SKTelekom T1, and Origen, all of whom have won their first three matches. Counter Logic Gaming and KOO Tigers are both topping Group A with two wins and one loss each, while favourites Invictus Gaming and Fnatic have both lost two of their three matches. Next week will see the second set of group stage matches to find out which teams will advance to the knockout round and which ones will be eliminated.

smite

In the mythical clash of deities that is SMITE, there’s certainly no shortage of Sun Gods. Now it looks like there’ll be one more with the upcoming release of Sol, a powerful Norse sun goddess. In SMITE, Sol is a ranged caster who gains a stacking heat buff that grants magic damage and attack speed as she hits with basic attacks and spells. Sol also has a self-heal and can turn into a fiery wisp to evade enemy movement-impairing effects. (With thanks to Sorenthaz for his faithful SMITE tips!)

splatoonSplatoon released its new Carbon Roller Deco weapon that comes with an auto-seeking special ability. A strange rumour has been floating around Splatoon communities this week about a dangerous hack involving the Octoling character model. We recently reported on a hack that lets players turn their characters from squidlings into fully playable octolings that can even be used online. The new rumour warns that players who encounter an octoling in their game must not quit the game after the match until the octoling character quits first or risk strange things happening to their game.

Some versions of the rumour warn that Splatoon fills your plaza area with players from your last match, and that the act of trying to add an octoling to your plaza messes it up and the plaza freezes. The problem reportedly clears itself automatically when the next Splatfest begins, as this resets the plaza. Other rumours claim that this glitch can reset your character level to 1, but none of the rumours have been substantiated with evidence so far. Players are nonetheless advising that you periodically back up your save game to a USB pen drive.

vainglory-titleMobile MOBA Vainglory released Patch 1.9 this week and kicked off its Autumnal competitive season with the promise of $70,000 US in prize money to be won. A total of $10,000 will be split among the teams participating the NA and EU pre-season and season qualifiers, and $15,000 for each league’s finals. The pre-season qualifiers are now available on Twitch to watch on demand. Patch 1.9 also saw the release of new hero and unstoppable hulk Phinn, who gains bonus armour and health from items and is resistant to all slow effects. He can also fling out a hook to drag enemies into melee range, making him a great hero for chasing down fleeting enemies.

inothernews

  • War Thunder demoed its new tech rendering and destructible environment (thanks, Zariarn!).
  • And Wargaming released its first-look video of the upcoming Master of Orion remake.

Every week, Brendan Drain scours the net to bring you all the latest news from from the world of MOBAs, lobby-based games, and other online multiplayer games that aren’t quite MMOs in Not So Massively. If there’s anything you want to see covered here, post a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com to let him know!
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annoyedbadger
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annoyedbadger

wow, only just read that letter from SC…..petty, petulant, and defensive much? 
Whoever wrote that is a total arsehole. Whether you agree with the escapist or not, we should all get behind condemning heavy handed attacks and threats against journalism.
Puts me right off SC to be honest if its developed by arseholes like this.

Nyphur
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Nyphur

Dobablo Nyphur Damonvile The problem is that new MOO reboot is actually changing some the core elements from the first game. For example, they’re adding starlanes that will make the gameplay very different to the classic. It also looks like ships may be stationed at individual planets instead of star systems, and they’ve said tactical combat isn’t going to be a big focus. It might still be a great game, but as a remake of a classic it’s going to be compared exhaustively to MOO1/2 in terms of gameplay and people may be disappointed to see it’s different.

Wayshuba
Guest
Wayshuba

Vikingr Dobablo I so wish that were true. One has only to look at the Tom Brady DeflateGate case, and the outcome, to see just how unfair the world is. The NFL did a meticulous job smearing Tom Brady without any evidence whatsoever that there was any wrong doing to begin with. I mean when a Federal Judge asks the accuser if they have any evidence at all that the accused did anything wrong and your answer to the judge in NO, it shows how it can happen. That didn’t stop the NFL from running Tom Brady and the Patriots name through the mud, however.

In other words, character assassination happens all the time with little recourse, sometimes even in a court of law. It is an unfortunate side effect of the First Amendment.

Wayshuba
Guest
Wayshuba

Dobablo Wayshuba Thanks for the chuckle this morning. :) However, on a serious note, I think 38 Studios might have stood a chance to raise more money and finish their endeavor had the RI Governor not made the public statements he did, which pretty much sunk any hope of raising additional funding.

Now CiG faces the same problem. Highly negative perception and toxic allegations that could sink the ship. Of course, if it does and CiG uses this incident as an excuse no one should except it. They have far exceeded the goals they committed would help them release the title, saying they couldn’t raise anymore as a result of this when they already have more than enough will blatantly show these accusations were indeed true.

Wayshuba
Guest
Wayshuba

Vikingr Wayshuba No, I understand she is hurt. What I am not willing to accept at this moment is if she is completely blameless. There are two sides to this story, and only factual discovery in court may get to the bottom of it. Ask yourself this, what if the allegations in the article leveled against her are indeed true?

Here is what I find hard to swallow personally – that multiple people have laid out those allegations. Even a disgruntled employee, much less several of them, would know the severity of making these accusations. There is enough other “dirt” in that article without several accusations, with different specific incidents, to accuse someone of a federal crime. Additionally, regardless of one thinks of TE, they are intelligent enough to know what those accusations being printed would infer. One of those allegations even mentions these were in e-mails. That should be easy to uncover in court during the discovery process. I cannot believe someone would print or claim something so completely damning, risking potential state and/or federal investigation, if it were completely false.

If there surfaces even so much as one email with the language claimed in the article, it will be all over for CiG in the case. I hope they are dead certain nothing exists in writing to prove the allegations otherwise it is going to be a rather disappointing court case.

Closet crier
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Closet crier

DavidRennie 
No the filing of a lawsuit is always public, after that the judge can squash all other information coming out. 
Hope you get a chance to read it before it is deleted for trolling.

raincoat
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raincoat

Dobablo raincoat “Knowing there is $8m left in bucket A is a little meaningless
without knowing how they allocate costs and their full balance sheet.”
Exactly. But when ex-employees go around saying this it affects public perception and makes people feel skittish because it sounds bad, regardless of how true or relevant it is.

Dobablo
Guest
Dobablo

Wayshuba It is massively erroneous to state that 38 Studios was in financial trouble. If people had not asked those mean questions and given them the money they had asked for everything would have been fine. #CurtSchillingLogic

Dobablo
Guest
Dobablo

Nyphur Damonvile Reboots these days often seem to take the most basic aspect of the gameplay and then add features back in over the course of the expansions. It is like feature Jenga.

Game 1 has some basic stuff.
Game 2 fiddles with the first and adds more features.
Game 3 adds some more stuff.
New (and old) players find the whole thing too complicating or that the good bits have been diluted and the whole franchise falls over.

Rebooted Game 4 comes out with just the very basics from the distilled from the original series.
Expansion 1 is released including some of the more loved features from the original series.

At least in the rebooted series things are less likely to get messed up because all the features can be planned from the start even though they are not included.

Dobablo
Guest
Dobablo

raincoat “less than $8 million of what was raised from the crowdfunding efforts left”
CIS would point out that they have other sources of revenue and say that their monthly expenditure is in line with their monthly revenue.
Knowing there is $8m left in bucket A is a little meaningless without knowing how they allocate costs and their full balance sheet.