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CCP Games kills a fan remake of Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines

MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, World of Darkness, Miscellaneous

If CCP were any more dedicated to preventing people from using things they're not using, they'd be Harmony Gold.
With World of Darkness canned, the closest fans can get to experiencing the source material in video game form comes from Activision's 2003 Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Unfortunately, the game was released in a half-finished state and suffers from multiple glitches, balance issues, and general weirdness, not to mention graphics that have aged very poorly. Fortunately, the fan community rallied and set to work on an unofficial remake requiring the original. Double-unfortunately, CCP Games sent that fan remake a cease-and-desist.

Although Activision technically owns the rights to the game, the IP remains in the hands of CCP due to its acquisition of White Wolf several years prior. The fans responsible for the remake are attempting to negotiate a way to keep development going, as the remake would have been unplayable without the original game. It's bad news for fans of the flawed but brilliant title and really anyone who would like to play a game based off the franchise any time within the next decade.

The Game Archaeologist: Perpetual's Star Trek Online

Sci-Fi, Culture, MMO Industry, Star Trek Online, Legal, The Game Archaeologist

sto
If you're among the legions of Trekkies, then you are almost certainly aware of Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online. Since early 2010, players have boldly gone where no one has gone before in this MMO that blends spaceship battles, ground combat, and faithful tie-ins to the long-running franchise. Star Trek Online appears to be thriving following a free-to-play adaptation and two expansions, and some see it as the only official continuation of the TV series right now.

But what players encounter in Star Trek Online is not what it originally started out as. You may or may not know that STO began development under Perpetual Entertainment, which handled the game for several years until it went bankrupt and passed the license and art assets to Cryptic.

It's another tantalizing historical "what if?" scenario to think about what this game would look like if Perpetual had taken it to launch and beyond. But what did this version of Star Trek Online look like? Let's investigate.

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Elite: Dangerous considers granting even more refunds

Sci-Fi, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Elite: Dangerous, Buy-to-Play

Elite: Dangerous might grant refunds to more people than originally thought.

Last week, Frontier admitted that it had canceled a planned offline mode for the game, which led to David Braben's announcement that limited refunds would be given to preorder customers who'd never logged in to test the game but not to other backers. As of last night, Frontier is apparently reconsidering that decision. Wrote the studio boss,
We initially declined some people's request for refund as our records showed they have already played Elite: Dangerous online. After listening to many of the comments I received after my AMA here, we have since re-opened these requests and informed those people that we will be contacting them so that we can fully understand their individual situation before making a more informed decision. We will be contacting them each in the next few working days.
If any Massively readers have successfully received a refund, let us know in the comments.

[Thanks, Cotic.]

Activision Blizzard resolves class action lawsuits

MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous

Allegations of backroom deals were sorted by further backroom deals.
When Activision Blizzard bought itself to be freed from Vivendi, there was no shortage of unhappy shareholders, leading to several class action lawsuits filed against the company and other attendant actors in response to the whole process. Those suits have now been resolved and the case is now closed; the parties have settled out of court, with the proposed settlement seeing some of the defendants paying a total of $275 million to Activision Blizzard as well as multiple insurance companies.

The Board of Directors wrote in a statement that "the transaction, structured through the efforts and significant personal investment of Bobby Kotick and Brian Kelly, has contributed to the creation of over $3 billion of value for shareholders" and that they are "pleased to be able to put this matter to rest."

Adjustments have also been made to said Activision Blizzard board of directors and aspects of the corporate structure, with the company paying all legal fees of the plaintiffs. Since multiple defendants were involved in the suit (including Activision Blizzard itself), it's still unclear exactly who took the hit for this particular lawsuit, but it does mean that the matter has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

Blizzard fights Snail Games over panda design

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Legal

pandaaaaa
Fresh off of a win with its Hearthstone lawsuit, Blizzard is jumping right back in to the legal waters with a fight against Snail Games.

What did Snail do to anger the glacial giant so? Apparently, the developer is coming out with a mobile game named Taichi Panda that features a panda, and you can already see where this is going. Blizzard and its Chinese partner NetEase claims that Snail's panda design is far too similar to those seen in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. NetEase also has an issue with Shaman and Goblin art styles in the mobile game.

NetEase is requesting that Apple take down the mobile app, while Snail is defending its design choices.

Snail Games sued by former director of development on Age of Wushu

Fantasy, Historical, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Legal, Age of Wushu

Couldn't you guys just settle this with spinkicks to the jaw?
Breaking up is hard to do, especially when you're dealing with an international corporation and it's less a matter of "breaking up" and more a matter of "being terminated, then filing a lawsuit." David Runyan, former director of game development at Snail Games USA during Age of Wushu's development, is suing the company's founder and CEO Shi Hai on the grounds of unfair termination and racist practices during his year with the company.

Runyan claims that Shi Hai made frequent and capricious change to the staff of Snail Games USA, spoke in racist terms about the Americans he was working with, and then ultimately fired Runyan due to a medically approved period when he was working from his home. Snail Games has yet to make any comment in response to the lawsuit. Offers to settle this matter via an honorable duel in Age of Wushu were apparently not entertained.

World of Warcraft hit by DDoS attack on expansion launch day

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Bugs, Expansions, Legal, Subscription

wow
There's something about a major launch that brings out all of the cyber griefers, and Warlords of Draenor's launch day is no different. Blizzard confirmed this evening that the game was hit by direct denial of service (DDoS) attacks that have been causing issues, and the studio is taking steps to combat it, including temporarily lowering the maximum populations on servers:
We're excited to finally launch Warlords of Draenor and explore this new world with you, but we know that the experience has been less than ideal as we approach our first full day of launch. Europe was our first region to launch, and we encountered a few issues due to the sheer number of players attempting to enter Draenor from a single location. We worked to add multiple new ways to access Draenor, and this helped ease some of the initial rush into the new expansion as players were able to access it from their capital cities, as well as from the shrines in Pandaria. While that solution helped a ton for our North American launch, we ran into a few other issues, including a distributed denial of service attack, that resulted in increased latency.
Later this evening, Bashiok updated players on the ongoing server issues as they unfolded over US prime time:
We're continuing to work toward greater realm stability and address the service issues impacting latency. Our current biggest hurdle is the concentration of players in specific areas and zones, and an unexpected effect of that concentration on the realm stability. We're continuing to maintain a lowered realm population cap to help with the stability, which is resulting in increased queue times. We're seeing some increase in individual zones drop which are causing localized player disconnections as we get into primetime in the Americas, and if someone is disconnected they will quite likely run into a queue to log back in. Work is progressing on improving realm stability through fixes targeting individual in-game issues, as well as on the backend game and network services.

Turbine pledges to act on LotRO player event griefing

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Free-to-Play, Legal

lotro
Concern over trolls disrupting and griefing player-run events in Lord of the Rings Online has been hitting our inboxes here at Massively, which is why it's good to see Turbine take an official position today against such griefing in the future.

According to a post on the forums, the studio will be "making a concerted effort" to combat trolls and encourage the continuation of player-run events. GMs pledged to take action on help tickets as well as monitor such events as they occur, but said that it will limit such policing efforts to stage areas only.

"We know that players moving throughout the performance area on mounts can be particularly frustrating and distracting," the studio said. "To combat this problem we're looking into what options are available to help combat this behavior in designated performance (stage) areas. We'll also be removing players who are mounted from the stage area manually in the meantime."

[Thanks to George for the tip!]

Blizzard wins lawsuit and shuts down Hearthstone clone

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Legal, Hearthstone

hearthstone
Back in January we reported that Blizzard levied a lawsuit against Unico Interactive for its game, Legend of Crouching Dragon, which Blizzard claimed was a reskinned clone of Hearthstone.

It looks as though the courts agreed, awarding Blizzard and its Chinese partner NetEase $1.6 million due to copyright infringement. Legend of Crouching Dragon has been removed from app stores, and Unico said that it will be reimbursing players for money spent on it to date.

Even with the ruling, Unico remains defiant against "false stories" in the press and claims that it hasn't seen any official order to pay compensation to Blizzard.

EA's quarterly net revenue is up, apparently in spite of SWTOR

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Legal, Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtor
Electronics Arts had a bit to say about Star Wars: The Old Republic in its November 4th quarterly report -- and none of it good.

The publisher named the sci-fi MMO as one of the properties that had decreased in revenue over the period. While EA's net revenue is up $295 million across the board, "this increase was partially offset by a $181 million decrease in revenue primarily from the SimCity, Crysis and Dead Space franchises, and Star Wars: The Old Republic."

It remains to be seen whether next month's Shadow of Revan expansion will give the MMO a healthy bump in revenue when it is released.

Warner Bros. plans more layoffs through early 2015

Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous, Infinite Crisis

warner bros
The rocky situation for Warner Bros. is far from over. Game Informer is reporting that the conglomerate is planning more layoffs through "most business groups" starting this week and going through early 2015. Variety says that up to 1,000 employees from TV, film, and other divisions will be let go from the cuts.

This report stems from a staff memo that discusses this internal, company-wide restructuring. While Turbine was not specifically mentioned, there is concern following the recent bout of layoffs that hit the Lord of the Rings Online developer.

EFF wants to legalize tinkering with shuttered online games

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking six exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, one of which may affect your enjoyment of video games and possibly MMOs at some point in the future. In a nutshell, the EFF wants to legalize tinkering with titles which have had their online functions terminated.

"The fair use doctrine enables the manipulation and copying of software code in order to gain access to the ideas and functions embedded within it that are not protected by copyright, including server communication protocols," the EFF says.

Unfortunately for MMO emulator fans, the petition doesn't apply to "persistent world" titles at present.

Seldon Crisis removes Asimov references following IP dispute

Betas, Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, Legal, Sandbox, Crowdfunding

seldon crisis
The sci-fi sandbox Seldon Crisis initially tried to draw attention to itself through copious amounts of name-dropping with revered author Isaac Asimov, although it turns out that this marketing plan may have backfired. Its Kickstarter campaign has been canceled, with page saying the game is "the subject of an intellectual property dispute."

The team attempted to clarify the situation with a post earlier this week: "We were/are speaking with the Asimov estate regarding a partnership, but until those talks are concluded we were asked to not mention certain elements of his novels. This is completely understandable (copyright law demands holders actively protect their copyright or they can lose it). We have taken the necessary measures to fully comply with what has been stated."

In the meantime, Seldon Crisis' fundraising efforts have moved over to Indiegogo, where the team is attempting to rake in £250,000 over the next month.

Trion explains why ArcheAge uses Hackshield

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge

HackShield
Ever since ArcheAge's launch, Massively has been deluged with queries about Trion's use of Hackshield, an anti-cheating toolkit created by Korean company AhnLab, Inc. Western gamers aren't traditionally fond of such security programs; as of the time of this writing, even Hackshield's meager entry under AhnLab's English Wikipedia entry has been vandalized, presumably by disgruntled internet denizens. ArcheAge's Hackshield implementation recently provoked one Redditor to issue an open letter essentially accusing Trion of illegally and secretively installing a third-party rootkit on every computer that runs Glyph.

We spoke to Trion about the legalities and efficacies of the program. Specifically, we asked about five topics:
  • Whether the program is being installed without permission,
  • Whether it is legal to install it in in this way around the globe,
  • Whether it is causing technical problems for users as claimed,
  • Whether it is fully uninstalling when ArcheAge/Glyph are uninstalled,
  • And whether it actually works, given weekend reports about exploits.

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Singapore gambling law may put MMO lockboxes at risk

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

A proposed remote gambling bill in Singapore may put MMOs that use lockbox systems, as well as players who purchase lockboxes with real-world money, in danger of being prosecuted or being run out of town.

According to Games in Asia, the law's broad definitions of what consitutes remote gambling may impact freemium and free-to-play MMOs: "This, according to Stamford Law, will 'outlaw the freemium model where monetization is primarily via in-app purchases,' and does not specify from whom the purchases of virtual objects are made. This means that both game developers, who sell in-app purchases, and players, who make these in-app purchases, can be persecuted [sic]."

The bill will come under additional scrutiny this week. If the language isn't changed, then even foreign developers can be charged for advertising or operating an MMO in the country with real money-infused "games of chance."

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