The Star Citizen refunds subreddit is often the home of big words and tall tales, but Redditor firefly212 did more than just talk: He actually tried to take Cloud Imperium to court over his refund request. Unfortunately for him, he lost in small claims court and the case has been sent to arbitration, as the judge apparently agreed with CIG that its retroactive policy regarding refund arbitration should apply even to donors and package-buyers who began contributing to the game before that policy existed.
“In mediation, CIG/RSI would not agree to refund the portion of my account not covered by the arbitration agreement. Though lawyers aren’t permitted, CIG/RSI lawyers drafted and submitted statements that were permitted. The judge declined to hear anything about the conscionability or lack of consideration in the TOS. Despite the top sentence on the TOS, CIG/RSI successfully argued that the arbitration clause should be applied to transactions even before the clause existed. CIG/RSI repeatedly argued that there is a playable game and that funds have been earned, but the judge did not rule that either. Following application of arbitration clause to transactions outside covered dates, court orders matter to arbitration, case is dismissed without prejudice.”
It looks as if Fortnite will launch the Playground this week, at least if the weekend update message is any guide; it’s touting a mode where you can “creativity run wild on your own private island.” The mode is supposed to be a limited-time one that gives players the time to actually gather resources and build stuff during the battle royale part of the game (instead of, you know, just hiding in bathtubs). If you die in this type of “creative” map, you’ll respawn and keep on zerging. As the studio explained a month ago,
“The Playground LTM will load you into the Battle Royale Map with some adjusted settings. Battle and build to your heart’s content with an extended period of time to roam around the map as well as increased resource generation. All treasure chests and ammo crates will be spawned, try droppin’ in different spots and scope out the loot. Friendly fire is on so you can scrimmage with your squad (up to 4 friends per match), but fear not you’ll respawn immediately.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
So here’s an interesting case that could impact online game development in the US. Apparently, a few weeks ago the Ninth Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a casual game, Big Fish Games’ Big Fish Casino, includes illegal gambling. You might be thinking, duh, it’s got casino in the name, of course it’s gambling, but that had nothing to do with the appeals decision, which returns the case to the lower district to reconsider. The ruling instead hinged on the fact that users have to keep buying chips (if they fail to come out ahead in their winnings of said chips, which they probably do because that’s how casinos work) to keep playing.
“Without virtual chips, a user is unable to play Big Fish Casino’s various games. […] Thus, if a user runs out of virtual chips and wants to continue playing Big Fish Casino, she must buy more chips to have ‘the privilege of playing the game.’ Likewise, if a user wins chips, the user wins the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino without charge. In sum, these virtual chips extend the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino.”
Looks like Valve is really going to have to pony up in that four-year Australia consumer protection case, which finally drew to a close today when the courts denied the gaming platform company’s final appeal.
Back in 2014, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took Valve to court in the country over Steam’s refund policy. Two years later, the Aussie courts found that Valve had insufficiently advertised and provided refunds to Australian Steam customers such that it violated consumer law in the country, though it did not believe Valve intended to deceive or mislead consumers. It fined Valve the $3M AUD, roughly $2.16M USD (then), which Valve appealed. Then in January of this year, Valve petitioned the Australian High Court for “special leave” for what’s basically a final appeal to set aside the ruling and fine.
Now, that court has denied Valve’s right to be heard, meaning the federal ruling against Valve will stand.
Are you surprised to be hearing about Bossland again? We’re surprised to be reporting on it. The German-based botmaker made headlines for the last few years thanks to ongoing litigation provoked by its sale of cheat, bot, and hack programs for multiple Blizzard games. Blizzard had pursued Bossland across multiple continents in an attempt to shut down the cheat programs, which Blizz argued violated its copyrights and cost it significant amounts of money to fight – money it was therefore not spending on its own games and customers. The drama finally culminated in 2017 with victories for Blizzard in a German Supreme Court ruling and a California federal court case that awarded Blizzard $8.5M in damages.
Though the German courts recently ruled not to enforce the US court’s decision (on the grounds that it considered the minimum statutory damages awarded to be excessive and punitive), Bossland ended sales for almost all of its hacks at the end of last year; as of today, the only ones remaining are for non-Blizzard games, specifically Final Fantasy XIV and Path of Exile, though according to the group’s latest newsletter, there’s a PUBG one tucked on the forums too.
Last week, we wrote about how PUBG Corp is suing NetEase (and NetEase is threatening to sue everyone) over alleged copyright infringement in regard to the battle royale genre and the companies’ respective games, in particular PUBG itself. The litany of gameplay concepts PUBG Corp includes as original to PUBG baffled both us and our readers – it’s everything from loot acquisition and air drops to waiting areas and sound effects. It’s absurd. So how legal is it?
As gaming attorney Pete Lewin writes on Gamasutra today, generally what is copyrightable – in the US, where the lawsuit has been filed – is the expression of the game’s ideas rather than the ideas themselves. “For example, Nintendo owns Mario (the expression), but not the concept of a plumber collecting gold coins and rescuing princesses (the idea),” he explains. “As such, PUBG Corp will undoubtedly own PUBG’s unique code, art assets, audio files etc as these represent its particular expression of its game design choices.”
Waaaay back in 2015, a group of ArcheAge players filed a lawsuit against Trion Worlds over the Patron perk mess. Veteran MMO players will recall that Trion’s original pitch for founder packs included a 10% discount for cash shop buyables. That discount never happened – specifically because in 2014 Trion “determined that the time to develop this perk would be significant.” After launch, the studio instead swapped the discount over to past and future credit packs.
That prompted players Aaron Van Fleet, Paul Ovberg and James Longfield to lodge a class action suit against Trion for, among other things, false advertising and violation of consumer laws. The original lawsuit also muddied the waters by wedging in a lockbox gambling issue and has since been tangled up in determinations over the game’s EULA and TOU, which Trion had sought to use to force arbitration out of court. Last year, the suit was turned over to First District Court of Appeals as Trion appealed the lower court’s ruling against arbitration.
On Friday, we covered PUBG Corp’s lawsuit against NetEase, which alleges that the Chinese company has infringed PUBG’s copyrights in its overt battle royale clones – there’s a whole itemized list of concepts the Bluehole subsidiary claims it has copyrighted, everything from incapping to airdrops, which in the aggregate seem reasonable but individually are absurd.
So why not add some more absurdity? As MMO Culture reports, NetEase has responded by threatening to sue… everybody but PUBG Corp. According to the publication’s translation, NetEase has stated it will sue companies that copied and “twisted” its own “creative features” in Rules of Survival and Knives Out, thereby wounding the “originality market.” It does not specifically mention PUBG Corp, but one might assume the company has retaliation and defense in mind.