Wut Oh, Part Two

Someone filed a class-action lawsuit about World of Warcraft.

But it isn’t filed against Blizzard. Oh no. Been there, done that. No… this is against…

IGE.

For gold farming.

And devaluing the gold piece.

And throwing Arena matches.

I swear to God, I am not making any of this up. The best part? Given that a key assumption in the lawsuit is as follows:

Because of IGE’s infusion of gold, virtual currency being held by honest Subscribers is constantly devalued. The devaluation of this virtual currency has an economic value in real dollars as reflected on Defendants’ website.

…if this actually moves forward, you could see Blizzard entering into the suit… on IGE’s side. Because as Raph put it in his comments,

Should Blizzard devalue their own currency, would a class action suit appear against them for that? Banking law, here we come…

Cats and dogs living together, me oh my. Making games is certainly starting to get… complicated.

Wut Oh, Part One

As commented on by Raph Koster and Matt Mihaly, a ruling came through in the Bragg v. Linden lawsuit: Linden Labs gets spanked hard, and the concept of click-through Terms of Service along with it. To quote Matt:

Agreeing to arbitration is part of the Terms of Service for using Second Life, and Bragg admits he clicked ‘accept’ on the ToS screen before accessing SL. The judge launches into an attack on multiple parts of Linden’s ToS, saying that they represent a contract of adhesion by virtue of the one-sidedness, the inability to negotiate an alternative with Linden Labs, and the fact that Linden’s ToS says arbitration only for the customer, but that Linden can ban people at any time, for any reason (that is effectively what virtually every ToS for every MMO says).

And, to quote Raph:

What it boils down to, though, is that the court is saying that some pretty common elements of TOS agreements may be considered unfair by law — and in this case, the fact that Linden deals in real money makes this point especially acute. Ironically, the fact that Bragg is a lawyer himself actually hurts his case (since it can be deduced that he of all people should have been able to parse the TOS before agreeing to it).

I’m not a lawyer – I don’t even play one on TV. But in my admittedly heavily biased view, knocking out the legal standing of TOS agreements may well make it difficult, if not impossible, to actually regulate — and thus to actually, you know, operate an MMO.

Eve: CCP Strikes Back

In an astoundingly detailed (with many screenshots of internal tools and emails), vehement and visceral news posting, CCP’s internal affairs posts a detailed journal of their investigation, which concluded: Goonfleet deliberately attacked Eve Online.

Since last Friday, an unnamed corporation posted over 4000 times on EVE’s message boards concerning these allegations. In addition, 1046 posts were made on Digg.com; 235 comments were added on Slashdot; and made multiple EVE-related edits on Wikipedia. Each of these sites was hit within a few hours of each other, at the start of the three-day Memorial Day weekend in the US and a three-day weekend in Iceland, all referencing unfounded allegations — now proven to be false — that occurred three weeks ago or longer.

The volume and timing of these near-simultaneous references is no coincidence: we were the target of a carefully constructed and well-timed social engineering effort by one of the largest player groups in our community. The intention? To undermine EVE Online and the credibility of CCP Games.

More specifically, the objective of this scheme was to permanently paint CCP as a biased and corrupt company that favors a select group of players over the rest of our community. In this particular case, instead of receiving notification of a possible problem and sufficient time to examine and address it, we faced a coordinated and hostile attack executed on our forums, Digg, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and other outlets at the beginning of a three-day weekend. We believe this speaks volumes of the intention of the person(s) responsible for orchestrating this scheme. Verification of this can be readily found on the forums of the people responsible—or at least could, the last time we looked.

Claims that the goal of this effort was to expose corruption within the company cannot be taken seriously. They are simply a smokescreen intended to mobilize and use the EVE community against CCP. There is no evidence to support the claim of information sent to CCP concerning internal corruption and wrongdoings on the part of our employees is being systematically suppressed.

The fact that this attack took place over a holiday weekend was especially revealing of motive, which we believe was specifically by design to ensure that CCP would not be able to react as fast and efficiently as we would under normal circumstances. The allegations investigated above by this internal affairs department will also be examined by our legal resources, as we do not intend to sit idly by while our servers, community and reputation are under attack.

It’s not every day an MMO declares war on a huge segment of their own community. Then again, Eve is pretty damn hardcore.

Note that prior to this, public sentiment was pretty strongly against CCP’s handling of the matter. It’ll be interesting to see what the fallout from this is.

So. My opinions (and they are just that: opinions):

* The snapshots of dev tools looked genuine. (Although why they’d use web-based CS front ends makes me cry.) It either proves that the Goon guild in question did in fact request CS help weeks ago (the main element of their complaint was that they didn’t), or that CCP has sunk to fabricating evidence (and if you believe that, there’s nothing that will convince you otherwise). That debunks the most damning of the allegations, that a CCP dev was spying on Goonfleet for BoB.

* The volunteer canned for locking horns with BoB was briefly addressed, but not as conclusively as the above. It also wasn’t as damning. When you have volunteers, you have drama. It comes with the territory. It’s why most games that have volunteer programs have them very limited, and on a very tight leash.

* The BoB member bragging about having CCP devs on his IM list wasn’t addressed at all. Let me look at my IM list real quick… I still have about 20 DAOC players on mine from when I worked there. It’s not unusual at all, and certainly not evidence of wrongdoing. It’s a very quick way to gain feedback, from the hardcore players who know more about the game than you do. Just because I would talk to DAOC TLs and the like doesn’t mean I’d flip relics for them. Presumably CCP has online metrics to measure that sort of foolishness anyway… especially after being burned once already.

* Goons have a long and storied history of stirring things up. As a poster on somethingawful.com said,

To be quite honest I don’t really put it past the Mittani (Goonfleet leader), moral scruples are not in his job description.

(Disclaimer: I played with a Goonguild on DAOC earlier this year for a few weeks. No one seemed to have horns or flaming hooves.)

* CCP to date has done a spectacularly bad job of community management. I haven’t addressed this much publically, because it goes against my wish to never speak ill of competitors. But this could have been handled better. Much better. In particular, CCP has a habit of making posts they dislike not locked, but disappear. That makes it appear as though they have something to hide… even if they don’t. And it gives credence to those who allege that they do.

PvP games are serious business. You have the hardest of the hardest core, looking for every advantage possible. And Eve is the hardest of the hardcore PvP game out there. If you’re working on a game with a PvP component, there’s a lot to learn from all this in how to run your own game – and how not to.

And as players, about the best advice you can get came from the normally tongue-tied CM Kieron:

If you think CCP is in the wrong, we welcome constructive dialogue and criticism. If you feel we as an entity are corrupt and abhorrent, we bid you good luck in finding a game and company that suits your interests. If you agree with our assessment, we thank you for sharing our opinion and ask that you continue playing EVE in your normal manner.

Probably The Most Popular Move Blizzard Ever Took

From their community CM comes this:

As many of you know, the latest content patch, along with many great new content additions, contains technical counter-measures designed to combat in-game gold spamming. Our efforts to reduce in-game abuse and create a fun, safe environment for everyone are never-ending.

With that said, we felt that it was important to share with the community just how serious we are in our efforts to combat this type of abuse. Blizzard has filed a federal lawsuit against the operators of Peons4hire, a popular gold-selling organization which many of you have no doubt seen advertised. As part of the lawsuit, the operators of Peons4hire have been asked to immediately cease all in-game spamming efforts by all entities and websites under their control.

If this organization refuses to act accordingly, further legal action will be taken. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of this topic.

While I don’t think anyone at all who’s played a WoW character for more than 10 minutes actually objects to this I’m not sure how they’re doing this legally, or whether this is happening in the US or in peons4hire.com’s home of China. EULA violation? CAN-SPAM act? To quote a Something Awful emoticon, IT IS A MYSTERY!

Eve Blows Up. Again.

Uh oh.

There was briefly this official comment

The moderators have alerted CCP and the IA team regarding allegations of Dev misconduct. They will conduct their investigation, however its the weekend so it will take some time for the Devs to provide an answer. Please be patient.

before the boards exploded. Literally. As in “Temporarily Offline”. Edit: They came back shortly thereafter, with the following note:

Our forums have now been taken down due to the load generated by player response to allegations of developer misconduct. We urge people to wait until the facts are out, rather than taking sensationalist statements at face value. Our preliminary findings indicate that what happened what simply a developer doing his job ingame. He joined the corporation in order to access their POS, which was bugged.

We humbly ask our players to trust that the internal monitoring of our employers is being taken seriously. The current allegations will be fully investigated and we will publish our findings at the first opportunity. Please understand that this may not be today or tomorrow, but this issue will not be ignored.

F13 thread already in progress.