US courts have once again aligned with game companies in a lawsuit against cheaters and purveyors of cheat programs.
This time, it’s Take-Two Interactive doing the winning. The Grand Theft Auto developer had sued Georgia man David Zipperer for essentially creating and distributing for profit a GTAV/GTAO hack, Menyoo, designed for griefing and cheating purposes. While the court dismissed Take-Two’s claim that Zipperer had engaged in “unfair competition” to the tune of half a million dollars in corporate losses, it did grant the company’s petition for an injunction against the hacker, who is now legally barred from selling his hacks.
Similar suits have been won by both Blizzard and Epic; Epic has been on a tear suing cheatmakers and promoters one by one, while Blizzard famously took bot-maker Bossland to court, ultimately running the cheaters out of business.
Rockstar and Take-Two specifically have begun taking a tougher stance on mods that veer into cheating territory. Gamers will recall that last year, the companies sent cease-and-desist letters to legitimate modders whose tools supposedly enabled less legitimate mods to exist, causing much dismay across the community.
MMO-watchers will recall that just before the turn of the new year, Crytek filed to sue Cloud Imperium, the company behind the sprawling and controversial crowdfunded MMO Star Citizen. Crytek alleged that CIG infringed its copyrights by using CryEngine to develop non-Star Citizen game assets in the form of Squadron 42 while misusing Crytek’s logo in marketing materials and Crytek’s CryEngine in the form of Star Engine. As recompense for this supposed breach, Crytek demanded a significant sum, including direct damages, lost profits, and punitive damages, as well as a permanent injunction against CIG’s use of CryEngine.
CIG, for its part, has denied the accusations, calling it a “meritless” lawsuit; it’s pointed to the licensing agreement that limits liability and damages from contract breaches, as well as asserted that it’s not using Crytek’s engine (any more) and that name changes to and expansions of Star Citizen’s “online universe” do not constitute a new game.
Remember back in April, when Korea-based PUBG Corp. accused China-based Netease of ripping off PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with its battle royale titles Knives Out (which is making bank) and Rules of Survival, and subsequently lodged a lawsuit against it in the US courts? Then remember when Netease threatened to sue everybody who cloned it and PUBG dropped its other lawsuit against Epic Games?
Netease has responded to PUBG Corp.’s complaint against it with a motion to dismiss, predictably arguing that no company is entitled to ownership of an entire genre like battle royale and that the copyright act protects only original expression; specifically, it claims PUBC Corp. cannot legally copyright things like game lobbies and health bars.
Three years in, a player-led lawsuit against Trion Worlds concerning false advertising and lockboxes in ArcheAge continues to bounce around the California court system.
The suit, filed back in 2015 by Aaron Van Fleet, Paul Ovberg and James Longfield, alleged that Trion violated consumer laws, falsely advertised a 10% founder perk discount for its cash shop, and went against California laws concerning illegal lotteries. While Trion tried to move the case to arbitration, the courts decided that there were some worrysome discrepancies between ArcheAge’s EULA and TOU and so kept the suit going.
MMO Fallout posted an update on the case, mostly to say that the lawsuit is still going, that Trion is still trying to get it taken out of court, and that the plaintiff had amended the complaint with a very minor update. The article expresses concern over the one and only exhibit for its case, which is a series of screenshots showing player dissent in the forums over these issues.
Making its way through the German court system right now is a case that could be of considerable importance to consumer protections, and not just in Germany.
As German website Computer Base reports (via TechPowerUp and some Google translate because my German has gotten too rusty), a Munich Regional High Court ruling in a consumer lawsuit against MediaMarkt effectively argues that vague promises like “coming soon” are off-limits for dealers of preorder items. In October, the judges ruled in favor of the consumer in a case over a Samsung Galaxy preorder; this past May, the higher regional court upheld that judgment, and an appeal to the top court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) was rebuffed.
“In the view of the judges, this information was too vague to comply with the statutory information obligation of the providers. According to this, potential customers should know before the end of the ordering process how long the delivery time will be at the maximum.”
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.”
Last week, we reported on an emerging lawsuit lodged over the new Westworld mobile game. Bethsoft is suing Behaviour Interactive and Warner Bros. over what it characterizes as copyright theft from Fallout Shelter. Behaviour (you know it from MMO Eternal Crusade) developed Fallout Shelter for Bethsoft and stands accused of reusing its design, actual code (complete with identical bugs), and “substantially similar gameplay” for Westworld for Warner Bros., entirely without permission. Bethsoft claims Behaviour and WB breached their contract, misappropriated trade secrets, infringed on copyrights, and unfairly competed with it in relation to the two games; it demands that the court put a halt to distribution of the Westworld game and award Bethesda appropriate damages.
Warner Bros. isn’t rolling over for this. The media conglom told GamesIndustry.biz that Bethsoft’s claims are unsubstantiated and untrue – that WB never asked Behaviour to re-use Fallout Shelter’s code, and that Behaviour didn’t do it anyway.
The international community is becoming aware of the problems of lootboxes, and that means that laws are being formed in response to the business model. But there is another approach to dealing with them: you can kick the can down the road by condemning them and doing nothing else, which is the route the French gambling authority Autorité de regulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) took. Upon review, the organization condemned lootboxes and noted that they were bad, but stopped well short of actually putting any laws in place to prevent lootboxes.
This is significant, as classifying lootboxes as gambling would change the laws under which they are controlled… but the authority stops shy of doing that, even as it mentioned that lootboxes are definitely like gambling and certainly promote gambling behaviors. But they’re not considered technically gambling and thus remain in a legally nebulous zone, with the official recommendation to vote on more conclusive statements later. So the resolution is to resolve things later. Proactive!
Playing a game of linking awful online activities to white supremacist movements is like the worst possible variant of the old Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, but it’s important to note. You know that guy in your Overwatch match who’s spouting out a whole bunch of offensive slurs? He may very well be there to actively recruit for white supremacist movements according to former white supremacist leader Christian Piccolini.
In a recent AMA Piccolini explained that operators are there using various techniques to draw in vulnerable people, with various “recruiters” in basically any popular online game. Piccolini specifies Fortnite, Minecraft, and Call of Duty while also noting that it’s really any popular online title with enough people playing. This probably doesn’t come as any major surprise to people who have long followed the path of watching “trolling” racism and misogyny used as a front for actual racism and misogyny, but it’s certainly another smoking gun.
It looks like the big legal feud between PUBG and Fortnite is already drawing to a close, as Bloomberg reports PUBG Corp. has withdrawn its lawsuit against Epic Games.
PUBG Corp. lodged its lawsuit in January, claiming that the Fortnite company had plagiarized PUBG’s interface and in-game items, which wasn’t the wildest claim around, as Bluehole had previously pointed out Epic’s potential for conflicts of interest thanks to its stewardship of Unreal Engine, on which both games are built. Plus, Fortnite was originally launched last summer 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.
Neither PUBG Corp. nor Epic has discussed the case or PUBG Corp. reasons for dropping its suit. PUBG Corp.’s lawsuit against Netease apparently soldiers on.
Way back in January, Blizzard Korea announced that it was working with Korea’s National Policy Agency cyber crime unit to track and arrest the perpetrators of Overwatch hacking and cheating crimes, following an investigation that lasted throughout most of 2017. Thirteen individuals were identified, and then the courts moved in. In May, one hacker received a suspended sentence, while another was fined $10,000. A third, Dot Esports reports this week, has now been sentenced: He’ll sit in prison for a whole year, apparently being more harshly punished due to his having made a truckton of money off his hack program.
In happier news, Blizzard released a brief teaser for what’s probably the game’s next hero, if player speculation holds. Seriously, people think the wrecking ball is actually the hero.
And that’s not even peak 2018. This is: A year and a half ago, Blizzard began trying to patent the algorithm that determines Overwatch’s plays of the game. And we’re just finding out about it this week.
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.”
A trio of companies known best to our audience for their MMOs are gearing up for a big court battle in the streets of Sweetwater.
Bethsoft is apparently suing Behaviour Interactive and Warner Bros. over alleged copyright theft in the brand-new Westworld mobile game. You’ll recall Behaviour from its development of MMO Eternal Crusade, and of course Bethsoft owns Fallout – it’s Fallout Shelter that Bethsoft believes was “ripped off” here.
Bethsoft says Behaviour and WB breached their contract, misappropriated trade secrets, infringed on copyrights, and unfairly competed with it in relation to the two games. Apparently, Behaviour developed Fallout Shelter for Bethsoft and stands accused of reusing its design, actual code (complete with identical bugs), and “substantially similar gameplay” for Westworld for Warner Bros., entirely without permission.