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Hackers' bomb threat allegedly reroutes SOE's president's plane

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous

Smed
Hackers who implicated themselves in this weekend's PlayStation Network outage have apparently stepped up their attacks on Sony with a casual bomb threat made over Twitter that may have diverted a plane carrying SOE president John Smedley. In addition to tweeting several mocking threats about the flight as well as an image purporting to be Smed's e-ticket, the hacker account sent this message to American Airlines:
.@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley's plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this.
Smed tweeted earlier today that his plane had been rerouted to Phoenix over "security reasons." Local news stations report that the FBI is investigating the threats.

[Developing]

The Daily Grind: Are MMO mods and emulators on their way out?

Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Legal, Miscellaneous

E&B
We don't talk about emulators on Massively often because we're forbidden to encourage illegal activities or link or name specific emulators save those rare few publicly sanctioned by studios (so please don't). In fact, we've written before that emulators are a frustrating topic for many of our writers since gamers pour boatloads of creativity and technical skill into both legal and illegal emulators for games dead and alive, creativity that we can't write about even when we'd like to.

I can't be the only one who's wondered whether legit modders and underworld emulator coders are abandoning their craft in favor of more legal ventures, however. There might be more sunsetted MMOs, moddable UIs, and calls for "classic" game versions than ever, but the rise of low-risk crowdfunding, easy Steam greenlighting, and modular multiplayer titles that encourage customization makes me suspect that people who once modded shady MMO emulators or built interfaces for the masses are being lured away to work on something more legitimate or profitable or resume-worthy.

What do you think? Are emulators and modding going out of fashion? (Please don't link to anything illegal!)

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

APB update pwns cheaters and creates quicker matchups

Patches, PvP, Free-to-Play, Legal, All Points Bulletin

APB
APB: Reloaded has moved beyond merely shaking a fist at cheaters to waging war on them.

Today, Reloaded Games released its Open Conflict patch that contains the much-vaunted "FairFight" technology that monitors for illicit behavior and nips it in the bud on the spot. This system also publicly shames hackers and botters as they are banned so that the entire server can witness their downfall.

Open Conflict also contains cloud saves for character settings and a new matchmaking mode that lumps people together based on availability instead of skill.

[Source: Reloaded Games press release]

Dungeon Fighter Online thieves go to jail

Fantasy, Free-to-Play, Legal, Dungeon Fighter Online

dfo
A pair of cyber-thieves have been sentenced to two years of prison time in China for stealing from another player in Dungeon Fighter Online.

The unemployed thieves stole the login and password of a player, accessed his account, and sold off his inventory to the tune of $6,405. They were caught soon after and will face not only jail but fines for the crime.

Late last year 10 Chinese thieves were caught stealing World of Warcraft accounts and selling players' possessions. They too received about two years in jail and had to cough up fines.

[Thanks to Hagu for the tip!]

Nerd Kingdom on Yogventures!'s implosion and the future of TUG

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crowdfunding

Yesterday, Massively reported on the impending bankruptcy filing and cancellation of Kickstarted Winterkewl/Yogscast game Yogventures! and the alleged transfer of its assets over to TUG, a sandbox game by Nerd Kingdom that we've written about since its reveal last year. Journalists and gamers have suggested that in spite its claims to the contrary, Yogscast itself might be liable for refunds, as would any beneficiary of assets entangled in a future bankruptcy filing. We spoke to TUG's Peter "Ino" Salinas to shed light on the situation and its implications for TUG.

Massively: Yogscast has distanced itself from Winterkewl, the studio making Yogventures!, but statements made by Winterkewl seem to suggest that Yogscast is simply transferring its support for Winterkewl's game to your pre-existing game, TUG, causing Yogventures to go bankrupt and disavowing any obligation to underwrite the spent half million in Kickstarter funds. Is that your understanding of the situation? Can you clarify it for our readers?

Nerd Kingdom's Peter Salinas: There are a lot of details to the discussions that Yogs and Winterkewl had before we started to develop our friendship with the Yogscast. We were also honestly wary of the situation ourselves at first, having been aware of Yogventures! around the time we did our own Kickstarter campaign. The reality of the situation was this: A young and ambitious developer overscoped a project... this would not be the first time that happened; it's just a total bummer that it had to happen with a massive community involved. And during that time, the Yogscast group, knowing little enough about development, agreed to let them use their likeness in their own project. Yogs knew that Yogscast itself was not equipped to manage the project, so they let Winterkewl use their brand and a community to build on. Sadly in that process, all the milestones that were set by Winterkewl, which would have allowed the Yogscast to promote the project, never were hit. How can you promote or make an experience with nothing to share? Even we had our own time to put in before we were able to demonstrate anything reasonable.

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IeSF changes its mind, opens all tournaments to women

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous, Hearthstone

iesf
Following the enormous outcry of gamers angry that International eSports Federation had forbidden women from some of its tournaments, including Hearthstone, the organization decided to open up the playing field to both genders.

"Upon hearing these concerns, the IeSF convoked an emergency session of the IeSF Board to respond," the Federation posted on the official site. "As a result, IeSF shall have two event categories: 'Open for All' events and events that are reserved for women. The events which were initially set aside as the male division will now be open to all genders, and the events which were initially set as the female division will remain as they were."

The IeSF defended its former rationale for segregating men and women in the event, saying that it did so to encourage female players to engage in the tournaments: "The IeSF's female-only competitions aim to bring more diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events. Without efforts to improve representation, e-sports can't achieve true gender equality."

[To clarify since there's some confusion in the comments: Men can now participate in all five games. Women can now participate in all five games on the same teams as the men. Women can additionally play in women-only brackets for SC2 and Tekken Tag. Those two games are included in the games men can play in the mixed gender lineup (Tekken Tag wasn't available to men originally, just as Hearthstone was blocked from women, but this has been rectified). Neither men nor women are now barred from any game in the tourney.]

WildStar bans thousands of botters

Sci-Fi, Launches, Legal, WildStar, Subscription

wildstar
Carbine Executive Producer Jeremy Gaffney informed the WildStar community last night that the team is waging a serious fight against botters, having suspended 7,300 accounts in the last few days.

"Obviously 7,300 is a tiny fraction of the overall player base, but it's a noticeable chunk of the current bots," Gaffney wrote. He pointed out that over half of those accounts were regular players who had their accounts hijacked and urged players to use two-factor authentication as a preventative measure.

To aid in the war against bots, the team will be improving the reporting process and tuning its automated bot detection. Gaffney said that the studio will be unrelenting in its prosecution of such accounts: "We're attacking this with a full-spectrum approach as a placeholder until we get to the better tools that should help in the short-medium term. We acknowledge it sucks when you see obvious cheaters, and we're working to eliminate it."

Oculus slams ZeniMax in latest legal statement

MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Virtual Reality

The war of words continues between Oculus VR and ZeniMax. The latest salvo comes courtesy of a legal statement issued by the former in which it denies ZeniMax's claim that key tech was developed by John Carmack before he left ZeniMax for Oculus.

"By deliberately misstating some facts and omitting others, ZeniMax makes the incredible assertion that it, a videogame software publishing company for personal computers and consoles like the Sony PlayStation, invented and developed a virtual reality hardware and software system," the statement reads, in part.

It goes on to state that the Oculus VR headset tech was developed by Palmer Luckey and that the "lawsuit is nothing more than ZeniMax seeking to correct for a massive missed opportunity through the assertion of meritless litigation."

Toontown Online 'homage' illustrates emulator quandary

Culture, MMO Industry, Legal, Family, Miscellaneous

toontown
Disney's Toontown Online was shut down last year, but that hasn't kept fans from working on a so-called "homage" to the game.

A team of 24 or so volunteer developers have been working on making Toontown Rewritten with publicly available images and their own skills as programmers and artists. While the team isn't charging players to access the title, its status as a de facto emulator could put it in jeopardy with the Mouse House. Disney hasn't commented on it yet, but copyright attorney Scott Landsbaum noted the quandary that such projects face: "When does a fan homage that is beneficial to your brand cross the line to infringement that can no longer happen?"

Analyst Michael Pachter claimed that it was "unusual" for fans to take on such emulator projects, which was rebutted by Raph Koster, who tweeted, "Sorry Pachter, but hasn't EVERY shuttered MMO (and some open ones) been remade by fans?"

A similar project for the also-defunct Pirates of the Caribbean Online claims that Disney has given the emulator its blessing.

DreamHack Hearthstone tournament plagued by cheating allegations

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Legal, Hearthstone

Hearthstone
Did he or didn't he cheat? That's the controversial question surrounding a Hearthstone tournament winner this week.

At the DreamHack Hearthstone tournament, Radu Dima won 3-0 in the final round and was rewarded with a $10,000 check. However, during the second game Dima received a message on Battle.net revealing the details of his opponent's hand. Dima reported the message after the match, and the officials declared that the information would not have helped him and said that he could keep playing. But this prompted viewers to go back to look at earlier Battle.net messages that some are saying contain coded hints about opponents' cards.

The organizers of the tournament have yet to comment on the situation. Dima declared on Reddit this morning that he won fair and square.

ZeniMax Media formally files suit against Oculus

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding

Polygon reports that it has obtained a copy of the court filing showing that ZeniMax Media, familiar to MMO players as the parent company of The Elder Scrolls Online's ZeniMax Online Studios, has sued Oculus VR for misappropriation and commercial exploitation of "copyrighted code, trade secrets, and 'technical know-how'" in relation to Oculus' virtual reality tech.

ZeniMax Media earlier this month accused Oculus (by way of developer John Carmack) of using and exploiting "ZeniMax's technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax." Oculus and Carmack strongly denied those claims.

38 Studios knew $75M loan wasn't enough to finish Project Copernicus

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

38 Studios
Emails surfacing from the legal fracas concerning 38 Studios and its loan from Rhode Island indicate that the studio knew the loan was not nearly enough to fully fund the game but decided to hide that from outsiders.

38 Studios Vice Chairman Thomas Zaccagnino allegedly sent one the damning emails, urging a few studio execs to remain mum on the financial situation: "I really do not think we should highlight the fact that we might be under-capitalized... [it] won't go over well with the staff or board."

The email was in response to CEO Jen MacLean, who wrote that she was concerned that the state wasn't delivering the full $75 million from the agreement and that the project would fall short of funding because of this.

One lawyer involved in both the deal and the lawsuit said that the state knew that the deal wasn't enough to fully fund: "The [EDC] Board was acutely aware that the capital needs of 38 Studios where [sic] in excess of $125MM as acknowledged in the 2010 EDC Inducement Resolution[.] The Board also knew that the net proceeds of the EDC Loan would be less than $75MM."

HEX developers reject copyright infringement allegations

Business Models, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, News Items, Trading Card Games, Legal, Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding, HEX

HEX
Last week, Wizards of the Coast filed a lawsuit accusing Cryptozoic, the studio behind upcoming MMOTCG HEX, of "willful infringement of intellectual property rights," among other patent and trademark infringement claims. Cryptozoic has responded this week with a statement rejecting what it's calling "frivolous" complaints:
Although we take all pending litigation seriously, we do not find any merit to the allegations in the complaint. We do not expect this frivolous legal action to impact our efforts to deliver a compelling and entertaining game experience to our customers.

HEX: Shards of Fate is a digital only MMO-TCG that attempts to innovate what a digital trading card game can be. Its digital only nature allows it to push the boundaries in ways a traditional paper TCG never could. As a small company, the daunting task of defending ourselves from the bullying of a much larger corporation is difficult, but we are committed to HEX: Shards of Fate and ultimately we will prevail.

We respect intellectual property rights, but the right to make a TCG is not exclusive to WOTC. Many TCGs can, and do, coexist consistent with any IP rights WOTC might have. While IP rights are important, so is fair competition. WOTC cannot snuff out fair competition with frivolous infringement assertions.
The original complaint is viewable online.

Wizards of the Coast accuses MMOTCG HEX of copyright infringement

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Trading Card Games, Legal, Miscellaneous, HEX

In a press release issued today, Wizards of the Coast announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Cryptozoic, the studio behind MMOTCG HEX, which is currently in closed beta. WotC alleges "willful infringement of intellectual property rights":
May 14, 2014 (Renton, WA) – Today Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS), filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington against Cryptozoic Entertainment, LLC and its alter ego, Hex Entertainment, LLC (collectively, "Cryptozoic"), for willful infringement of intellectual property rights.

Cryptozoic develops and publishes the digital trading card game, Hex: Shards of Fate, a clone of the world famous tabletop collectable trading card game, Magic: The Gathering®, and its digital expressions, Magic Online® and the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers® franchise.

"Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast vigorously protect our intellectual property. This infringement suit against Cryptozoic demonstrates that while we appreciate a robust and thriving trading card game industry, we will not permit the misappropriation of our intellectual property" said Barbara Finigan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Hasbro. "We attempted to resolve this issue, but Cryptozoic was unwilling to settle the matter."

The suit includes claims for copyright, patent and trade dress infringement.
[Developing. With thanks to dddd for the tip!]

CCP permabans EVE monument vandals

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, MMO Industry, Legal, DUST 514, Sandbox

EVE
Citing a "zero tolerance approach to dealing with harassment and victimization in the EVE Universe," CCP announced today that it has permanently banned the three vandals who defaced the new EVE monument in Reykjavik, Iceland. A fourth individual received a six-month ban.

"
The fact that the monument was vandalized is an insult to the entire community, not just to the individual who's name was directly targeted by the vandalism," the studio posted.

The ban includes not only CCP's games but attendance at Fanfest as well. CCP declined to release the in-game names of the individuals and said that any future development related to the incident will be kept confidential.

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