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Blizzard's Overwatch bumps into trademark issues

Sci-Fi, Super-hero, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous, Overwatch

Time to cancel the game and replace it with more orcs, probably.
Remember when no one knew what Overwatch was and we were all speculating it was some sort of expansion based on the fact that the trademark had been filed? Oh, it was a more innocent time. Unfortunately for that trademark, it might be having a little bit of a problem after all, as it has come to light that another company filed an earlier claim for the trademark that would supersede Blizzard's use of the name due to likelihood of confusion.

The trademark that has already been filed is for an app that can be used to provide enhanced functionality for paintball matches, laser tag matches, and the like. Both trademark applications are currently suspended pending investigations, so it remains to be seen whether Blizzard will be pushing forward or will change the name of the game to something legally different. Like Oversupervise, for instance.

Lizard Squad hacker arrested for cyber-fraud

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

lizard squad
A form of justice may have come to bear on one of the members of Lizard Squad. Today, police in Britain have arrested 22-year-old Vinnie Omari, who has connections to the hacker group, for alleged cyber-fraud.

The arrest is unrelated to some of the recent activities of Lizard Squad, which includes shutting down the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live over Christmas, DDoS attacks on Destiny this past September, and a bomb threat made on a plane carrying SOE President John Smedley last August. Omari was sought in connection to PayPal thefts from 2013 to 2014.

Perfect World founder seeks to take the company private

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

perfect world logo
Perfect World may be going private in the future, if its founder and chairman of the board Michael Yufeng Chi has anything to say about it.

Chi submitted a proposal on December 31st of last year to buy up all remaining shares of the studio. He already owns some of the company's stocks, although it is unclear what percentage he has. The company has put together a committee to evaluate the proposal.

Perfect World is the Chinese parent company of North America's Perfect World Entertainment, which in turn oversees Cryptic Studios. It recently appointed Yunfan Zhang as its new COO.

LotRO cracks down on superman exploit

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

An exploit that is allowing Lord of the Rings Online players to super-charge their toons is on the end of a stern warning by Turbine today. The studio says that it has already banned and will continue to ban accounts seen using this deliberate loophole.

"It has come to our attention that some players have been utilizing an exploit to change how powerful their characters are in the game world," the studio posted today. "Upon receiving reports of the issue we began an investigation. Due to the way our log system works we can definitively detect every account that is taking advantage of this exploit."

Turbine is currently working on a fix for the problem.

[Thanks to Superswim for the tip!]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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