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Role Playing (Games)

Lineage III Source Code Stolen? 61

Posted by Zonk
from the a-whole-world-down-the-tubes dept.
Shack News and the Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo are reporting that sourcecode for the MMOG Lineage III may have been stolen. As the third Massively Multiplayer game in a huge-selling South Korean series released by publisher NCSoft, over a billion dollars may be lost as a result of this theft. "The Seoul Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that seven former NCsoft employees are suspected of having sold the technology to a major Japanese game company. The seven left the Korean firm in February and allowed the Japanese company to review the software during a job interview. Police believe that the technology might have been copied during the demonstration."
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Lineage III Source Code Stolen?

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  • The Departed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by biocute (936687) on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:00PM (#18933089) Homepage
    How did NCSoft know about the leaks?

    I don't think any company would publicize its interviews, and I doubt these former employees would sing about their code demonstration.

    That means there might be a NCSoft mole inside the competitor.
    • Re:The Departed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fishybell (516991) <fishybell@hotmaCOLAil.com minus caffeine> on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:14PM (#18933247) Homepage Journal
      Well, without reading TFA, I would say it's pretty similar to any other data loss incident. You notice someone has the data (or the internet has it) and you investigate. Oh, some of your previous employees work for them now, that's a pretty indicator of who-done-it. A few subpoenas later you've found out the entire story.

      A company I used to work for lost their customer data in a similar way. An employee quit and took the entire database with him. We noticed there was a problem when a large amount of the customers started telling us about a competitor trying to sell them their product. Well, my company looked into it, and a few subpoenas and a lawsuit later everything was fixed.

  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z0mb1eman (629653) on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:06PM (#18933171) Homepage
    They lost over $1 billion because of the theft?

    It's gotta suck only having one copy of the code. Now they gotta write it again from scratch, or hope the other company gives it back. They should've made backups.

    Wait, what?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by textstring (924171)
      must be that exchange rate
      thanks for the laugh
    • Leaked source code hurts a company not because they no longer have a copy of the code, but because the thousands of man hours that went into writing have been partially wasted. The code now needs to be rewritten to protect it from potential hackers and cheaters who will have a much easier time now that they know the inner workings of the code (remember the hl2 source leak?) Not to mention a rival company has acquired for free all your hard work and could effectively release a game very similar to lineage
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nog_lorp (896553) *
        I always find it interesting when jokes get modded horribly wrong.
        However, if they need to rewrite the source code when someone malicious has seen it... well then it already needed to be rewritten, because all it had was "security through obscurity".
        • Now *that* is insightful. Just assuming that nobody has your code so you don't need to write secure code is bad, but sadly a common practice.
        • by Jackmn (895532)

          well then it already needed to be rewritten, because all it had was "security through obscurity".

          That is the only protection there is against bots (cheats that simply provide input to the game in place of the player), be it aimbots in first person shooters or farming bots in MMORPGs. If your game rewards things that can be automated then there is absolutely no secure way of protecting your client from these types of cheats - the best you can do is make it as difficult as possible.

          One solution for MMORPG d

      • by Z0mb1eman (629653)
        Yeah, I was going for funny, not insightful... guess I should've put a smiley in or something.

        If the competitors are smart, they obviously won't use any of the code... but they now have a handy reference guide to see how they can solve problems they're likely to run up against (while presumably writing an MMORPG). Definitely a bummer, but I still can't see the $1 billion figure - especially since, as someone already pointed out, so much of the effort in an MMORPG is spent on creating the content. I rememb
      • by nog_lorp (896553) *
        For more on confusion between insight and humor, see http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=232907&cid =18936065 [slashdot.org] >>
      • by tsdw (937315)
        yeah I wouldn't even say funny ..whats going on with moderation today?
    • I'm a QA tester on a high profile upcoming PC Game, and the company for which I work has made it very clear that if we walk out of the building with a build of the code, it will cost them millions of dollars. I don't know the specifics, obviously, because I'm at the bottom of the food chain. But I'm willing to bet that they'd re-do a good portion of the source so that I (or whomever I give the build to) can't pull an Eli Whitney on them. I would never do that, and that's why I have my job. But the point
    • > They lost over $1 billion because of the theft?
      >
      > It's gotta suck only having one copy of the code. Now they gotta write it
      > again from scratch, or hope the other company gives it back.

      Exactly my thoughts. What do you know? Real life really is like movies!
  • Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knara (9377) on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:09PM (#18933201)
    The code was copied, not stolen. Talk about alarmist press. Even if one of their direct competitors got the code, what good is it going to do them? Players of lineage will continue to play lineage (cuz lineage people are obsessed, I think). It's not like someone's gonna be able to plop the code on some server farm in a couple weeks and make a competing mmo.
    • Re:Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:20PM (#18933311)

      The code was copied, not stolen.
      Indeed, when talking about movies and music we have contingents so ready to say "copyright infringement isn't theft" but when it's unpublished source code the terms "stolen" and "theft" are used without any hesitation.

      Can't we just agree to say "illegally copied" across the board?
      • It would definitely be less confusing for everyone involved.
      • by orasio (188021)

        The code was copied, not stolen.

        Indeed, when talking about movies and music we have contingents so ready to say "copyright infringement isn't theft" but when it's unpublished source code the terms "stolen" and "theft" are used without any hesitation.

        Can't we just agree to say "illegally copied" across the board?

        Copyright infringement is not theft.
        Anyway, this is not the same situation.

        This is about unpublished works.
        In general, movies are copied _if_, and _after_ they are published.

        When you share a secret, the secret does cease to exist.
        When you get a free copy of a published work, it doesn't change state.
        It's not the same thing. It's another issue, and should be judged differently.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MBGMorden (803437)
          Kinda hypocritical. Either you can "steal" a piece of information or you can't. Bringing in "states" and "unpublished" is needless and only serves to vilify one type of copying ("They stole teh codez!"), while condoning another ("I just got Spiderman 3 for free off Bittorrent!").

          Now, I'm fairly anti-copyright myself anyways, but I say lets hold the same attitude in all cases. Information wants to be free right? Well then these guys were information rights activists. Those guys at NCSoft were probably p
      • The difference is that confidential information derives some of its value from being confidential. So when it is released, it loses value. That would not be theft exactly, but close enough.
      • by asuffield (111848)

        Can't we just agree to say "illegally copied" across the board?

        "Illegal" is a decision for a judge to make, after examining all the facts - we are neither qualified nor in possession of those facts, so we cannot say it was definitely illegal. Making a factual statement, rather than a prejudiced one, requires you say it was merely "copied" - or, if you insist on stating all the details, "copied without the explicit permission of the company".

        It is important to realise that not everything is illegal just beca

        • by @madeus (24818)

          "Illegal" is a decision for a judge to make, after examining all the facts - we are neither qualified nor in possession of those facts, so we cannot say it was definitely illegal.

          If the software was copied, the only 'qualification' needed for the observation that it was almost certainly illegally done is common sense - or at least any knowlege of the sort of contracts companies like NC Soft require employees to sign.

          Do you imagine companies like NC Software allow software developers to own the IP and retain distribution rights for any software they write as employees of the company?

          The previous poster wasn't making a 'prejudiced' statement, no matter what agenda you are pushing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)
        How about "espionage"?
    • Re:Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday April 30, 2007 @04:38PM (#18933531)
      Furthermore, the competitors would be foolish to ever use the code. They'll get sued into the ground for copyright infringement.

      This sounds ridiculous. It's unlikely to cost anybody anything except legal fees.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DogDude (805747)
      It's not like someone's gonna be able to plop the code on some server farm in a couple weeks and make a competing mmo.

      Why not? If it was sold to a "large" company as the article suggests, that's entirely possible. I have no idea what "Lineage" is, but at the very least, the competition now knows exactly how "Lineage" is written, and this company has lost any competitive edge that it may have had based on technology.
      • Re:Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Miniluv (165290) on Monday April 30, 2007 @05:20PM (#18934083) Homepage
        MMOGs don't compete on technology for the most part, they compete on content and aesthetic. There is one possible exception to this, that being EVE Online in that they are basically the only un-sharded MMO I can find record of. And they talk pretty openly about most of the technology "secret sauce" that goes into sustaining their simultaneity numbers.
        • by Saffaya (702234)
          I cannot comment on Lineage III, but at the time of Lineage II the technology innovation aspect certainly had its place.

          Lineage II uses a heavily modified version of the Unreal engine, and was the first ever to include 'loading on the run' feature. That is, to load seamlessly landcape while running the game.
          Tim Sweeney went to NCSoft in Korea to give his ideas on how to implement this feature, as it was not present in the actual Unreal engine at the time.
          • by Saffaya (702234)
            by 'first ever' I meant concerning the Unreal engines, not other game engines of course.
          • by Miniluv (165290)
            Sure, it was a feature folks talked about. But its lack wouldn't have seriously hindered success, nor was its inclusion terribly key to said success was my point. My own experience as a gamer and amateur industry watcher is that content is 90% of the success. Atrociously bad tech can shoot down an otherwise great game, but really great tech cannot save one that lacks substance.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by tzhuge (1031302)
      Considering we're talking about an MMO, I think it's quite possible that someone could use the source to create malicious exploits. It may even be possible to make that MMO completely unplayable (steal player accounts?). Either way, I think the idea is that the company will have to make significant code changes or risk losing a lot of customers. Between the extra dev/QA time and the delayed time to market, making the changes doesn't come cheap either.
      • by Knara (9377)
        You make some interesting points, though I don't know if they would have to make "significant code changes" in order to avoid losing customers. If the code is exploitable, those changes should be made anyway, and if they don't know what could be exploited, then how would they know they had to fix it?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)
        If it was possible to do such things just by knowing how it works the developer is really, REALLY dumb and deserves the resulting fiasco. That's like being able to gain root on a box just because you know how the password hashing works. The mechanism isn't supposed to be the secret, the data it is fed is.
      • Neither of these are really major problems -- even if they were, they could be fixed fairly quickly (and usually are -- when the exploit is to the advantage of the player the servers are frequently torn down that evening and patches installed. If it's a bug to the disadavantage of players, it won't be fixed until the next release next week or month, if even then.)

        Pet casters can cast multiple pets? Servers torn down immediately. Pet casters have high end pets disabled by several levels? Meh, that can wa
    • Yes and no (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Monday April 30, 2007 @05:44PM (#18934347) Journal
      Yes and no. Mostly I think you haven't thought about it much. There are a couple of problems I can see there right away:

      1. Rampant cheating. Think WoW Glider on steroids. If you have the source code, you can write a client which looks to the server 100% like a player at the keyboard on the official client. Write a client which drives a whole group of player characters on a farming or ganking spree from a single machine. Which _will_ screw up the game, and drive people away. (Especially in a game where _all_ there is to do is farm and PvP.) That's money lost.

      Or you could delay the game and invest in changing the whole protocol, so the old code doesn't even work with the server any more. Which again is money lost. Both extra development time, and time in which you're not collecting the monthly fees. A single month delay, if you had, say, 1 million players, is 10 to 15 million dollars lost in fees alone.

      But even if you do, someone saw all your weak points. Yes, most games do rely on security through obscurity, because noone has the funds, computing power and bandwidth, to do everything on the server securely. There's invariably a lot of functionality in the client, and you basically keep your fingers crossed. Maybe you code some "tripwires" on the server to detect if someone did something awfully wrong, but (A) it's still keeping your fingers crossed that noone will do something that you haven't checked, and (B) more importantly, whoever saw the code now also knows exactly what to avoid.

      Basically, it's pretty much _the_ cheating nightmare scenario.

      2. Whoever has that code will have a trivial job of making some "emulated" servers and stealing your subscribers that way. It's one thing to have a shabby half-way there alternative server available after a year, it's entirely another thing to maybe have a 100% perfect alternative right at the start.

      And yes, that _is_ money lost, and not just profits lost. Most MMOs have far more content than a single-player RPG. (Even Oblivion is a spit in the bucket compared to the sheer size of WoW.) For most, basically the boxed copy is subsidized, and they're betting you'll stay there for more than 2-3 months to break even and start making a profit. That already doesn't leave you with that much pure profit, since the average player stays about 6 months on a MMO. If half your player base buys the boxed copy and buggers off to play on someone else's servers, you'll feel it. If you also over-estimated a little what population you'll get (and hence, how much can you spend on development), it can turn a moderately survivable game into a flop right there and then.

      Yes, we all can look at WoW and see one big money printing license. They actually underestimated how many players they'll get. Most MMOs aren't WoW, though. Flops are more common than successes. Even big names like EQ2 or TSO have managed to get only a fraction of the player base they counted on. They may not have seen the plug pulled outright, but then again, others did. It doesn't take much of a shove to topple a game which already missed the mark.
      • by Knara (9377)

        Yes and no. Mostly I think you haven't thought about it much. There are a couple of problems I can see there right away:

        1. Rampant cheating. Think WoW Glider on steroids. If you have the source code, you can write a client which looks to the server 100% like a player at the keyboard on the official client. Write a client which drives a whole group of player characters on a farming or ganking spree from a single machine. Which _will_ screw up the game, and drive people away. (Especially in a game where _all_ there is to do is farm and PvP.) That's money lost.

        I'd argue that if this was possible, the game code is already broken. In any event, there's any number of minor changes that could be made before release that can alleviate if not eliminate the problem. I don't see how any of it would require a huge investment in time.

        Or you could delay the game and invest in changing the whole protocol, so the old code doesn't even work with the server any more.

        Or change the protocol just enough that it doesn't work.

        Which again is money lost. Both extra development time, and time in which you're not collecting the monthly fees. A single month delay, if you had, say, 1 million players, is 10 to 15 million dollars lost in fees alone.

        Paper shuffling. No different than if a bug was found and the release was delayed.

        But even if you do, someone saw all your weak points. Yes, most games do rely on security through obscurity, because noone has the funds, computing power and bandwidth, to do everything on the server securely. There's invariably a lot of functionality in the client, and you basically keep your fingers crossed. Maybe you code some "tripwires" on the server to detect if someone did something awfully wrong, but (A) it's still keeping your fingers crossed that noone will do something that you haven't checked, and (B) more importantly, whoever saw the code now also knows exactly what to avoid.

        Basically, it's pretty much _the_ cheating nightmare scenario.

        I don't agree, frankly. The very fact that one knows the source has been copied makes you able to

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sethstorm (512897) *
          Lineage hit the mark a long time ago. It's not as big as WoW. MMOcharts lists them with between 1M and 1.25M current active accounts and by that metric the number 2 AND number 3 in the market. That player base isn't going anywhere because of this little flash in the pan.

          Now if you were to subtract all bot/raid farming accounts, and accounts in known botfarming regions(e.g. China), I'd bet that number would drop far from 1.25M.


          I'd argue that if this was possible, the game code is already broken. In any event
          • by Knara (9377)

            You seem to be under the mistake impression that I think all the exploits in an MMO can ever be closed. They can't, that's reality.

            And do you really think there's tens of thousands of bots/farmers in Lineage? I find that a dubious assertion at best. In any even, even if there were 250,000 of them, that still puts them at 1,000,000 active subscribers, well above any of the competition.

            • by sethstorm (512897) *

              You seem to be under the mistake impression that I think all the exploits in an MMO can ever be closed. They can't, that's reality.

              No. However, when almost nothing is done at all for well-known exploits (or even just the fact that the protocol itself has to transmit certain bits of information) that go on unchecked for years, there's something quite wrong. Think of it as the game where bad policy meets badly maintained code.


              And do you really think there's tens of thousands of bots/farmers in Lineage? I find
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Moraelin (679338)
          Methinks you're still underestimating it, or maybe I haven't explained it well enough:

          A) Just having a number of players in Lineage 2 doesn't mean you'll have the same audience in Lineage 3. Ask Turbine about Asheron's Call 2, which flopped abysmally. Just being the sequel to AC1 didn't say much. Or ask Sony about Everquest 2. They went from EQ1 being the #1 MMO to EQ2 being a niche game. So what makes you think that Lineage III has already hit the mark, when it's not even released yet?

          B) You don't seem to
  • hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991) *
    Now Japan is copying Korean technology? Talk about turnabout...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2007 @05:01PM (#18933853)
    This sounds like sour grapes because they got their team poached.

    Now they're on a fishing expedition. Sorry but anyone who thinks you need to steal code to write an MMORG when you just poached a team that wrote one, or that the owner of code loase money because someone else sees it, OR that interviews are conducted by reviewing your previous employer's code, is a complete idiot.

    The biggest component of an MMORPG is content and design, not actually the code. Sure there's server load ballancing and client pagine etc, but that is all tractible. Art (masses of it) and game design are king for MMORG, you don't need to steal code (and I am a programmer and have been a game programmer).

    If someone showed up for an interview with code the last thing you'd do is hire them.
    • But that makes me think, with all this closed source development, how can you tell if someone's ripping off someone else's code? Who audits the code?
    • If someone showed up for an interview with code the last thing you'd do is hire them.

      In the West, maybe. This is in Asia, where the culture is quite different. Stealing your old company's resources when you defect to a new company is quite common - even expected.

  • A billion dollars! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121)
    They made about a billion dollars so far. So presumably they expect to make the same amount again from their existing codebase. That's about the only part that seems not entirely unreasonable.

    Somehow, now that this code has been "stolen", they are unable to make another penny from it. Anything they would have made will go to the new possessor of the code.

    From the other comments, I'm clearly not the only one who thinks this makes no sense. For this to be worth that much, the code, and the code alone
  • Oh, the irony... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sethstorm (512897) * on Monday April 30, 2007 @06:35PM (#18934881) Homepage
    They protect their other product (Lineage II) with Themida and Gameguard, yet they let a little unauthorized third party program [towalker.com] walk right through, as well as not drop the botfarmers of the server(who have ruined the economy despite what some minority may say otherwise)

    I have no real sympathy for NCSoft in this case. Maybe if they dropped all the bots for good, stripped out the ineffective Gameguard / Themida, and supplanted the non-automated parts of L2Walker, they'd have a leg to stand on.
    • by nastilon (525562)
      There's a theory floating around the NC Soft owns some of the farming companies, and can artificially create accounts for the farmers or directly transfer in game money to them. It would count as a significant source of income, at least for Lineage 2.
  • 1 billion? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by TheLink (130905)
    They should have written it in perl. ;).

    Seriously though, what's the big deal? Even when people tried to emulate Blizzard's stuff legitimately they still got shut down.

    It's an MMOG, the number of useful "gems" in the code are probably really low. You'd probably be able to come up with those "gems" independently anyway.

    Also you could just get them to boast about their great new features to the media way before their release and a smart person in your company could figure out how to do it in 5 minutes. You do
  • This is the usual Korea vs. Japan nationalist bickering I see all over the net. And the source is notorious for these stupid articles, for example, their stories about the "unfair" labeling of the Sea of Japan which according to them should be called the East Sea. I would be more surprised if there were NOT accusations against the Japanese, since the Koreans had contact with them. But there's no proof the code was stolen, just unproven accusations. If there are any economic losses, it would be more the faul
  • Oh No! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alzheimers (467217) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:32AM (#18940571)
    Now Slugworth will be able to produce an inferior and cheaper version of the Everlasting Gobstopper!
  • I wonder if the code that was stolen was for the client or for the server? I know with L2 the big worry (beyond farmers / botters) was all the private servers that popped up on the net that people would use for free. As it stands most MMO's you can simply download the game client and after selling your soul and letting them have your CC number get to play using their servers. Is the lost money projections of lost subscription fees on account of people playing on free public servers instead of the farmer
  • NC Soft (Korea, not North America) is a horrible company and their bad karma just bit them where it counts. Look at Lineage 2 - so much potential yet they cater to chinese farmers instead of their audience. You can look on the corporate web site, North America & Europe provide half the revenue for Lineage 2 that Korea does, but are given no input on fundamental game mechanics. Consequently, what could have been the best MMORPG in its niche, for pvp, has devolved into rampant corruption, botting, farm

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