Last week the creators of a Skyrim mod inspired by The Lord of the Rings called Middle-Earth Roleplaying Project (MERP) found itself staring down the barrel of a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros.
In an attempt to save the mod, the team behind MERP set up a petition urging fans and followers to convince Warner Bros. to rescind the order and make an exception for what they think could be a most exceptional mod... From the petition:
An interesting report on ShackNews reveals that some PC modifications created for Grand Theft Auto III will actually work with the recently released Android and iOS versions of the game. While the process of getting them to work is a bit cumbersome and might be complicated for some users, the results can lead to importing new cars, textures, songs, and more into the game.
Garry Newman, the man behind the popular Half-Life 2 mod, added a tiny surprise for anyone that pirates the commercial version of his modification: a secret error message. The Garry's Mod creator said via twitter that he had "Just enabled this error in GMod today. It happens when you pirated it. Having fun watching people complain."
When pressed by the community about it further, Newman said "I don't think the error isn't going to boost GMod sales. I just like to give people that paid something to be smug about."
The error message only happens in the pirated version of the mod, with the user's 64-bit Steam ID also forming part of the message. Newman has also taken the liberty of banning pirates from his forums.
Mod hosting site ModDB has succumbed to pressure from outside sources and has removed the Half-Life 2 mod, School Shooter: North American Tour 2012, from its database. In an open letter to its community, ModDB founder Scott "INtense!" Reismanis said that the site pulled the mod down after "getting quite a bit of mainstream press due to the controversial nature of the content." He went on to say that he got a lot of threatening mail from various sources and the authors of that mail believed that ModDB were the mod's creators.
The Half-Life 2 mod was created by mod group Checkerboarded Studios. The group was obviously pushing the enevelope when it came to its mod. "You are free to do whatever you want. As long as it involves shooting people," reads part of the mod's description.
We have to write a story about Jack Thompson today. The anti-video game firebrand and former Florida attorney fired off a letter to Valve Software threatening to do something (we're not sure what he is threatening to do because he hasn't indicated the consequences in his letter to Valve's CEO) if the company doesn't do something about the Half-Life 2 mod, "School Shooter: North American Tour 2012."
Before we get into what Valve can actually do about a mod it has nothing to do with, here is Thompson's letter:
An episode of The People's Court litigates a case involving Wii copyright infringement, piracy, and mod chips. But the case isn't really about all that - it's about a guy that wants a couple of hundred bucks over a modding deal gone sour. The judge, the plaintiff and the defendant never grasp the fact that something very illegal is going on here. Luckily for Nintendo, everyone's name is splashed on the screen for more dramatic litigation down the road - should they find out. We have a feeling they probably will..
And frankly, these two guys get what they deserve for going on a nationally syndicated show to fight each other over both committing multiple DMCA violations. Watch the video, be amazed at the stupidity. Thanks to Andrew Eisen's nameless friend who passed this hilarious video along.
Checkerboarded Studios is testing the boundaries of good taste and free speech with a new game modification for Half-Life 2 where the goal is partake in a school shooting called School Shooter: North American Tour 2012 (thanks Andrew Eisen). The Escapist caught up with mod maker known only as "Pawnstick," who attempted to explain the motivation of creating such a mod.
The gist of his comments on the game are not about how shocking, horrible, or in bad taste a mod such as his is, but about how there haven't been any exciting games representing school shootings. He calls Super Columbine Massacre "fucking boring." His inspiration for the mod came from Bully: Source, which he says tries to "educate the player" and calls "almost always fucking garbage."
Here is what he had to say about media coverage of Columbine:
Ryan Winzen's Starcraft II mod, World of StarCraft, has been rebranded as "Starcraft Universe," and Blizzard apparently approves of the name change and the direction of the mod after lawyers for the company talked to Winzen at length.
The focus of the mod remains the same, though Winzen has said that many misunderstood the multiplayer aspect of it, calling it an "MMO." That confusion did not help Winzen win any affection with Blizzard. Thankfully, all of that - including the name of the mod - is now water under the bridge.
It has been interesting journey for Winzen, who in the process of defending his modification, gained the favor of Blizzard and got a job offer from Riot Games (makers of the DOTA-like online game League of Legends). Blizzard has even offered to fly Winzen out to its headquarters to meet the StarCraft II development team.
element14 and modding expert Benjamin J. Heckendorn, a.k.a. "Ben Heck," have gone old school with a new modification that turns a Sega CDX into a smaller, more portable gaming system. The results of this experiment are available for viewing on "The Ben Heck Show." The show walks viewers through the design process - from the project layout and routing the components to installing a new custom controller interface and wiring the power.
"It was a blast to take something as awesome as the Sega CDX and make it even easier to use with a smaller footprint so I can bring it along with me just about anywhere," said Ben Heck. "Not only that, but I reminisced about Full Motion Video (FMV) games from the early '90's and a few diamonds in the rough like 'Snatcher' and 'Lunar: The Silver Star.'"
You can check out the episode to your left.
Rock, Paper Shotgun reports that there may be a happy ending to the World of StarCraft mod maker story we reported on yesterday. A very public story about Activision-Blizzard taking down video footage from his mod on YouTube caught the notice of someone from Riot Games, maker of the DOTA-like RPG strategy game League of Legends.
A Riot Games employee, commenting on the story over at Pixelated Geek, asked the World of StarCraft maker to contact him (her?) via email to talk about a job opportunity:
"Ryan, I'd love to hire you at Riotgames. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org We can at least chat about it."
Correction:An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Blizzard / Activision had served the maker of the World of StarCraft mod with a "Cease and Desist" letter. This was not the case, and we have corrected the record, headline, and story below to reflect that. Apologies to all parties involved. Corrected story below:
Activision has made a copyright infringement claim on YouTube, successfully getting a mod makers video removed from the service. The developer of World of StarCraft, an online StarCraft 2 MMO mod that combines the lore and gameplay elements of both games. Naturally the mod maker known only as "Ryan" is hurt and shocked by this action. Speaking at length on the mod's official forum, Ryan appeals to Activision to give him a break:
Sonderkommando were groups of workers (prisoners) who helped dispose of those killed in the camp. They were never directly involved in the killing of other prisoners. The uprising referred to in the mod happened after the camp's resistance group successfully blew up one of the crematoriums. From Wikipedia:
Federal Prosecutors in the nation’s first jury trial to test the anti-circumvention provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act abruptly asked that the case be dismissed today. Today's news comes on the heels of a tumultuous day in Federal Court yesterday. The presiding judge berated prosecutors for a litany of holes and contradictions in the government's case. The judge's strong words caused the prosecution to take a recess to decide whether to even bother to continue. They decided to forge ahead, and watched as their first witness ruined the case.
28-year-old Matthew Crippen will be on trial in late November for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by allegedly running a business modding Xbox 360 consoles.
Andrew Huang, who literally wrote the book on Xbox modding, wants to testify at Crippen’s trial that mod-chipping is not a violation of the DMCA, a law which makes it illegal to circumvent technology designed to prevent copyright infringement. Huang’s strategy is to give jurors a step-by-step tutorial on console modding to show that “what [Crippen] did was insufficient on his own to violate anything.”
Sony's PlayStation 3 has remained remarkably resilient to piracy, until now perhaps.
An article on a EuroGamer blog (thanks The Escapist) uses a pair of YouTube videos (here’s the first, the other is embedded above) from user OzModChips as the basis for its article.
The movies were made after OzModChips apparently received an anonymous package from Hong Kong, which was sent to various resellers of mod chips.
The process described:
While game modifications are generally looked at as derivative and infringing works, an academic paper argues that it would be fair to apply a licensing provision currently used in the music business to the mod community in order to advance the genre.
Cover Songs And Donkey Kong: The Rationale Behind Compulsory Licensing Of Musical Compositions Can Inform A Fairer Treatment Of User-Modified Videogame (PDF) was penned by John Baldrica, an attorney, and is published on the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology website.
Baldrica believes that a compulsory “mechanical” license provision of the Copyright Act, which allows musicians to record cover songs as long as they pay a “statutorily determined royalty” to the original song’s copyright holder, would do wonders for the mod market. Such movement would “feed the professional talent pool” in addition to granting the “freedom to produce the kind of new and creative works that the copyright system was intended to promote.”
The author notes that under the U.S. Copyright Act currently, “the creator of an original copyrightable piece of expression is given the exclusive right to authorize any derivative works,” meaning that game developers can effectively kill a modification to their game anytime they want to.
The problems are; what exactly defines a derivative work and who owns the new modded material that has been created?
…such analysis has been inconsistent in key cases involving modification of videogames. As discussed, treating a mod as nothing more than an alteration of the underlying copyrighted videogame would cause mods to fall under the doctrine of derivative works. It would also strip modders of copyright protection and subject them to liability if the modifications were unauthorized by the original copyright holder.
The compulsory licensing scheme for music has been called “instrumental in the development of the recording industry.” The author goes on to draw a series of parallels between the early days of the music business and the current state of computer software, calling the similarities “striking,” and furthering his belief that “mods’ similarities to musical recordings should merit analogous treatment under a similar statutory licensing regime.”
Unfortunately, Baldrica does not see any changes being made in the near future to the current system for two reasons: “a lack of political will from those outside of the videogame industry and a vested business interest in the status quo from those within.”
Expanding on the first reason, Baldrica writes:
Yet, unlike its concern for the promotion of musical recordings in the first years of the twentieth century, Congress does not appear inclined to grant statutory protections to promote development of videogames in the first years of the twenty-first.
And more on the second reason:
…the game developers and game publishing industry are reluctant to abandon a scheme in which they already enjoy substantial benefits and negotiation power.
Last week we reported on the story that a U.S. law firm was accepting submissions as part of a precursor to a possible class action lawsuit on behalf of users banned from Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.
AbingtonIP had put up a form on its website asking those affected by the ban for more information. The firm called the timing of Microsoft’s ban “convenient,” as it happened just before the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and may ultimately have resulted in an increase in subscriptions to Xbox Live.
Marc Whitten, General Manger of Xbox Live, told VentureBeat that the estimated number of Live members banned was way off and defended his company’s actions:
It’s a cat and mouse game. These were people that were pirating software. We try to keep sanctity of life from a safety and anti-cheating perspective and we protect our partners. We didn’t release the number. I cannot explain to you why people would think it was a million people. It wasn’t a million people. Check the veracity of that claim. It was one news source. I think we do a really good job understanding what people are doing on the system. That applies to intellectual property (piracy) and how we treat the community in terms of harassment.
Microsoft has once again taken out its ban stick, this time in an effort to prevent modified Xbox 360s from accessing Xbox Live.
A story on GamesIndustry.biz estimates the total number of banned accounts at around 600,000. Total Xbox Live accounts number over 20 million. Modded console owners will still be able to use their 360s offline.
The BBC (thanks beemoh) has reaction from one of the banned gamers, a 25-year old gamer dubbed “Raz.” Raz had his 360 modded in the back of a shop for £75 (approximately $125.00 U.S.). He estimated that the ability to pirate and copy games “saved” him about £600 (approximately $993.00 U.S.) and that he copied 30 or 40 games in all.
Ironically, Raz then had the temerity to complain about the high price of games:
I still think they should lower the prices. There are 16-year-old kids out there, they don't earn money so they go screaming to their parents saying, 'Can you buy me this game?
So Raz, are you going to buy another Xbox?
To be honest, I've contemplated whether to move to PlayStation 3 or buy another Xbox. I wouldn't do it again [chip the 360] but I really don't know if I'm going to get the Xbox again now."
It's always fun reading the Xbox Forums after such a widespread ban.
Here's something you don't see very often.
An unusual, religious-themed mod to Rome: Total War adds themes from the Book of Mormon to the popular PC real-time strategy franchise, reports Mormon Game Design:
Darren, from the UK, is a video game "modder." And he did his thing on Total War a while ago. He added Book of Mormon names and places to the game, allowing players to enter the Promised Land and the battles that took place between the Nephites and Lamanites! ...
As it is a mod, you will need a copy of Total War with the Barbarian Invasion expansion, along with the mod file provided by Darren, via the Book of Mormon Battles website...
Via: Mormon Times
Pirating games is one thing and those who engage in the practice assume all of the risks involved, legal and otherwise.
It seems that a group of homebrew types spent four years (!) modding a sequel which they dubbed Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Talk about a labor of love. As Stuart reports, the group use a ROM hack to mod the original source code:
If Square Enix had allowed the game to be released, the commercial impact would have been infinitesimal. It's being released as an IPS patch, not a complete Rom image; and if you're not sure what I'm talking about, that's the point – getting these things to run is for the homebrew community only.
As Stuart points out, some fan projects (Counter-Strike, for example) have turned into actual commercial games. And the video game industry is increasingly touting the idea of user-generated content to market certain games. But the message inherent in Square Enix's slap at its adoring, hardcore fans is of an entirely different nature. Stuart writes:
Think of the marketing benefits of embracing this passion, of inviting the creators to port the project over to the DS or on to WiiWare. It would be a radical departure from standard tactics but it would surely be more useful and forward-thinking than kicking the lawyers into action. How about a new mantra: embrace and assist?
A Grand Theft Auto modder's authentic depictions of real police vehicles have angered law enforcement officials in the Washington, D.C. area.
NBC reports that GTA videos of police vehicles from Prince William County, Montgomery County, and Fairfax County are available on YouTube:
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But don't tell that to some local police jurisdictions that are upset over YouTube videos depicting their cruisers in a video game...
One video even shows a digital officer getting out of a Fairfax County Police cruiser to gun down citizens on the street.
The Fairfax County Police Department finds the videos in very poor taste," said spokesperson Don Gotthardt. "One of the reasons we find it in poor taste is because of the way the officers are depicted."
THANKS TO: GamePolitics reader mdo7 for the tip!
A site which tracks developments in the Middle East reports that a radical Islamist website has posted a video game encouraging players to battle Americans, Israelis and Shi'ite Muslims.
Of the game, which appears to be a crude adaptation of a side-scroller, MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, writes:
On July 21, 2008 a member of the Islamist forum Al-Ikhlas posted a video game designed to encourage children to fight against "the forces of tyranny". The game enables the player to shoot at planes marked "Shi'ite", "Jewish" or "American".
Throughout the game, inciting speeches by Osama Bin Laden are heard, accompanied by the sounds of explosions and gunfire. The player is exposed to images of bin Laden, Zarqawi and other prominent Al-Qaeda members.
Although we don't know much about MEMRI, the site has in the past been given high praise by David Kaplan, chief investigative reporter for U.S. News & World Report:
MEMRI... does translations of media from the Muslim world, focused on jihadist propaganda and efforts by reformists. The group's new MEMRI Blog serves up news stories, videos, and postings from 60 leading Islamist websites. Hey, where else can you get headlines like "Mega-Evil Zionist Queen Stars in Iranian Sci-Fi Movie"?
GP: Big thanks to reader enbob for the tip!