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Role Playing (Games) Government The Courts News

Blizzard Sues Creator of WoW Bot 701

Posted by Zonk
from the kind-of-defeating-the-point-of-an-mmo dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, are suing Michael Donnelly, the creator of the MMO Glider program, which performs key tasks in the game automatically. Blizzard says the software bot infringes the company's copyright and potentially damages the game. 'Blizzard's designs expectations are frustrated, and resources are allocated unevenly, when bots are introduced into the WoW universe, because bots spend far more time in-game than an ordinary player would and consume resources the entire time,' Blizzard wrote in its legal submission to the court. More than 100,000 copies of the tool have been sold while more than 10 million people around the world play Warcraft. Donnelly says his tool does not infringe Blizzard's copyright because no 'copy' of the Warcraft game client software is ever made. The two parties are now awaiting a summary judgment in the case."
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Blizzard Sues Creator of WoW Bot

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  • Bots are overrated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garylian (870843) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:49PM (#22875282)
    Bots are grossly overrated for MMOs for the most part. Sure, there are some few players that will use them in WoW and other games, but for the most part, people want to experience the game. And many bot users are very easy to spot, as their users don't put in enough to make it believable.

    I am kind of surprised that Blizzard is doing this, but I think it's just a publicity thing, and they don't really care if they make any cash off of it. They are just trying to placate the masses on the forums that worry about every single little thing they can.

    The reality is, bots make money for Blizzard. Once an account is banned, the player has to purchase a new box of the game to start playing again. And with the expansion, that's 2 boxes. So, Blizzard makes money off of the players that register new accounts/CDs every time they get banned.

    Besides, most gold farmers are played by humans, not bots.
  • Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FST (766202) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:52PM (#22875310) Journal
    Maybe instead of suing people who run bots to avoid grinding, they should make grinding less boring/time-consuming? Grinding is really the only reason they aren't getting $15/mo from me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:55PM (#22875348)
    Maybe Blizzard should take money they're putting into suing this guy and put it into a game people don't want to have a bot play for them.
  • by Talondel (693866) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:55PM (#22875360)
    I believe the argument would go like this:

    You have a right to copy the program into RAM in order to run it, if that copy is going to be used for a purpose that complies with the EULA.

    However, here the programmer is using the program in a way that doesn't comply with the EULA. Therefore, he is not only violating the EULA, but also their copyright, because he is making a copy for an unauthorized purpose.
  • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexhard (778254) <alexhard&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:55PM (#22875368) Homepage
    The problem is not bots, it's crappy game design. Once your paying customers start wanting to pay in order NOT to play your game, you know your designer is a complete retard. Then again, it seems that making games not very fun is a highly successful business model..Who would've guessed?
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:59PM (#22875396) Homepage Journal
    Yes indeed, it's the old "copy into ram" bullshit.

    For an overview of the legal situation see:

    http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/st_org/iptf/articles/content/1997041501.html [bc.edu]

    It'll never work.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:08PM (#22875528) Journal

    This is only a problem in a game like WoW where you can't lose items on death

    Now I've never played WoW, but I understand that it is very, very popular. So when you say "Who cares?" I think the answer is likely to be a lot. You may not personally care for the set up of the game, but I think we can all agree that when the structure of a game is dictated by what is and isn't easy for bots to cheat at, that's an overall negative thing. Reducing options and choice = bad.
  • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:09PM (#22875538)
    Can't you be glad that they're taking action, but not necessarily like the action they're taking?
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:09PM (#22875540) Journal
    No free-for-all PvP RPG server or game has ever been successfuly long term (compared to other MMOs or servers in the same year/game).

    Griefers always dominate - it's John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory proven every day. Griefers are far worse than any amount of bots.

    Eve Online is the first potential counter-example, and they've been very careful about the rules.
  • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:12PM (#22875588) Journal

    You're overlooking something - trial accounts. Someone could set up multiple trial accounts and run bots on them, then funnel all the money to a main account. That's how it generally works on some of the more heavily-botted MMOs.

    If I recall, a trial account cannot trade with a full account. However, it may be possible for a trial account to access the auction house. If that is so, the main account would merely have to put some trash items up for large sums of money and have the trial accounts purchase them.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nuzak (959558) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:15PM (#22875624) Journal
    The winding road up the mountain of money that Blizzard sits atop of is littered with the corpses of games that "will be" X or Y while WoW delivers a game experience that people want. Not some grand artistic or social vision, a game with just enough (and I would even say only enough) depth to keep you coming back. Hell, they're down every tuesday morning and they're still regarded as the smoothest MMO experience around.

    Darkfall wants to make your items lootable, they're welcome to try it. Whether people actually enjoy this level of realism is a reality they're going to face on their balance sheet.

    Me, I'm looking forward to Warhammer Online, but I don't hold any illusions that it will radically change the mechanics or culture of the MMO genre. I will throw my money at what's fun.

  • by KevMar (471257) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:18PM (#22875656) Homepage Journal
    It may be a weak argument but it will require the wow Glider to hire a legal team to fight it. Its just another way them to attack.

    I dont know if this is just another attack or Blizzard claiming defeat. Blizzard has been in a hacking war with bots for a long time. Blizzard was winning for a long time but wow glider is on top of the game now.

    Just how do you hide from a program that is looking for you when they have access to your binaries? I don't want to say I support botting, but I have to give that dev team credit for doing such a good job.
  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:26PM (#22875762)
    At most it might infringe upon the terms and conditions of WoW. But that would need to be taken up with the users, not the author.

    Just another example of a company aiming its litigation at the wrong target.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:28PM (#22875782)
    WoW doesn't mandate it. You can never spend a single day grinding and have plenty of things to do. The problem comes from people who get in to this pissing match of having to have something just because others have it. So they want to automate it.

    If people would just play the game to have fun, it wouldn't be a problem. It is a game, you don't "need" anything in it. Just do whatever it is you like to do. If you like to grind (surprisingly some people do) then grind. If you don't, don't. However don't get mad and say that you should get reward X that the grinders get.

    More or less, Blizzard has a bunch of different kinds of rewards for different things. You can't get any reward doing any thing. However whatever it is you like doing, there are rewards for it.

    The problem is when people aren't playing it to have fun, but playing it because they want to have all the best of everything. Well, that's pretty hard, since you have to do a whole bunch of different things. So they'll get bots to grind and such. That is just stupid. If all you care about is having the best, what's the point? The point should be to do whatever is fun. It is all just a game, none of it matters, other than to have fun.
  • by Darth (29071) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:30PM (#22875802) Homepage
    In the case of an EULA or a subscriber agreement the agreement is with the player, not the bot creator. I don't see any way they can go after him with either of those. They could sue their subscribers with them if they could reliably detect which users are using a bot, which they seem to be asserting they cannot do.

    I also like the part where they say it interferes with their design expectations. Who cares? The fact that they didn't accomodate someone playing the game 24/7 doesn't have any bearing on the legality of the bot. The only way i can think that that would be relevant is if the terms of use limited the time a user can play. Even then, they'd have to sue the player, not the bot maker.

    I'll be surprised if this doesn't get thrown out of court. I'm a little surprised that after he blew off their legal threat, they didn't try to just buy him out to get rid of it.

    I'm not a lawyer though, so i suspect a lot of things happen in court that would surprise me.

  • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:31PM (#22875806) Homepage Journal
    Since World of Warcraft is a game where players simulate fighting wars, presumably World of Chorecraft would be a game where players simulate doing chores. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much what The Sims is ... and yet it's weirdly addictive, unlike doing the same things in real life.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:43PM (#22875942)
    To see that this is what is always likely to happen. Looking at human history, it has historically been the strong dominating the weak, the few privileged exploiting the poor many. You come to realise that the relative stability and equality we enjoy in some nations is an anomaly of history, and took some incredible circumstances and efforts to create. For all that, they still aren't perfect.

    So it should be ho surprise at all that is what happens in unrestricted games. Perhaps if some great leaders played the game they could inspire the masses to band together and overthrow the griefers. A George Washington of the gaming world. However, that isn't real likely since the masses can simply take their money to another game. There's no reason to put up with crap and try to make it better, there's other companies who'll be happy to do that.

    My response to all the people who claim what a "problem" the design of WoW is and how much better their pet game is is the same one another poster made in this thread: 10 million users. They are doing something right.

    As a long time gamer, I have to say WoW is the first MMORPG that has held my attention for more than about 6 months. Everquest was just awful, I quit that one after a month. DAoC was fun for awhile, I played for a few months, quit for a year, came back for a few months, quit again. Eve Online was... Well... Really boring. Tried it in beta, never signed up. Starwars Galaxies had a lot of promise, but it seemed as though Sony had a team dedicated to tracking down and eliminating anything fun. Lasted about 4 months.

    WoW, however, I've been playing since a month after it came out, and I still play to this day. Is it perfect? No, of course not. However it seems to be able to keep things fun. I continue to be amused by it, and find that it is enough amusement to justify $15/month.

    It seems to me that the people who primarily have a problem with WoW are the asshole griefers, who are mad that they can't become infinitely more powerful than everyone else, that they can't totally dominate. Well, I'm ok with that. If that segment has to be excluded, that's fine, because a whole lot of the rest of us find it fun.

    And that is really what matters. Games are not about some magical standard of purity, they are not about perfect realism, they are not about testing you as a person. They are entertainment, pure and simple. So if they are good amusement for the money to you, then your money is well spent on them. If they are not, then your money is better spent elsewhere.

    So a good game is quite simply one that people find fun. If people find it fun, they'll buy it and play it, and that is success.
  • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:44PM (#22875952) Journal
    For once, Blizzard has definitely done something wrong...sued for the wrong things all the way around here. Sue for damages? Sure. Copyright? No. Trademark? No.

    The guy has disclaimers on his site about using MMOglider that pretty much state "Blizzard doesn't like this", so no, Blizzard can't really do a lot about it.

    Unless the guy doesn't have the resources to pay for the lawyer, I would suspect that the odds are in the mmoglider guy's favor.
  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:47PM (#22875974)
    Trial accounts can't access the mail or auction systems, probably for this exact reason.

    Plus, with a level 20 restriction, you're cut off from the actual money-making part of the game.
  • Re:Sweet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beer_Smurf (700116) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:56PM (#22876078) Homepage
    Maybe even an Electric Monk to read Slashdot for you.

    "The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe."

    D Adams
  • by statemachine (840641) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:18PM (#22876266)

    So it should be ho surprise at all that is what happens in unrestricted games. Perhaps if some great leaders played the game they could inspire the masses to band together and overthrow the griefers. A George Washington of the gaming world. However, that isn't real likely since the masses can simply take their money to another game. There's no reason to put up with crap and try to make it better, there's other companies who'll be happy to do that.

    With unrestricted games, it's the "griefers" who suffer no consequence for their actions. The original MUDs used to have a little bit of built-in protection for this that dynamically rated players at good and evil, and this was used to keep players out of certain areas. However, most of the areas had no restrictions, which frustrated those who didn't like PvP. A long-term casual player wants to be Good, spends a lot of time, then gets offed by a griefer or a band of griefers, and is thus reset at a great loss to that player. A griefer doesn't care about the game, but about causing misery to other people, so getting killed and reset every now and then doesn't matter. They're sociopaths. Having "leaders" won't matter without some type of justice system and enforcement.

    If there were a game that allowed PvP but also allowed players to jail and execute the in-game characters, that might be better, assuming you could actually ban the real person. But, disallowing PvP is just so much simpler.

    People don't like real life. That's why there are games. And if the games start emulating the harshness of real life, people will stop playing those games.
  • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:19PM (#22876276)
    I came up with this kooky business model to make a lot of money, and for a while it made a lot of money. I thereby conclude it should be made law, since it is profitable to me, and it should be illegal for anybody to change the world around my business model in a way that might invalidate it.

    This "kooky business model" draws about 10,000,00 subscribers world-wide into PC gaming.

    Explain to me your god-given right to disrupt a legitimate business, enable and profit from the cheaters, and spoil the fun for everyone else.

    Explain to me why your argument won't drive developers to program exclusively for the tightly enclosed console game platforms. Explain to me why it won't drive developers to employ ever-more-rigorous-DRM.

  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:24PM (#22876320) Homepage Journal
    you're ignoring Blizzard's business model, and their argument. The money from the box/cd that you buy in the store is negligible compared to the monthly fees that are paid.

    Blizzard has the highest profits by having a large subscriber base that doesn't play often. BOTs use much more resources on the servers at Blizzard; they use up more bandwidth, more computational and data resources, etc, than the normal user.

    There is also the extraordinary dissatisfaction the non-bot players have with the experience when, in a battleground, they know that if they fight their asses off for 20 minutes to win Alterac Valley, anyone that is a bot or afk is going to get the same bonus honor and same daily bonuses as they are. Would you like to see a coworker get paid almost as much as you for literally not even being there at all? That is a serious PR issue for Blizzard. To keep the normal player base (the ones that aren't using as much resources - ie, the ones that are more profitable) happy, they get rid of the few folk that aren't as profitable anyway. Blizzard doesn't care if the BOT user buys a new CD; they'd actually prefer that person not ever play again, most likely.

    You're also forgetting that many people find enjoyment by having more power, control, etc. If I can make a bot that gets me 75k honor in a week or two with no work from me, then I can use that honor to buy high-end items, and then come back and actually play the game at that point, with the benefit that the afk activity provided. Your character actually gains quite a bit while you're not there, if no one reports it. Even the losing team gets some honor.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by admdrew (782761) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:30PM (#22876368) Homepage

    The reason people dislike griefers stems from the fact that it's essentially an infringement on their ability to enjoy the game. It's not necessarily an emotional attachment that causes others to be unhappy with you.
    - first, getting killed in that fashion is frustrating, as it's often impossible to have a fighting chance against a griefer (they're high enough level to safely grief others).
    - second, it can render a large amount of time to be completely wasted - in Eve, losing your ship is a huge deal for a new player, and can set them back hours or days.
    - third, it can go against the spirit of the game - when you grief someone in WoW or Eve or any other similar MMO, you're not doing it primarily for experience, money, honor, etc, you're doing it because it's cheap and easy entertainment for you at the expense of someone else.

  • by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:42PM (#22876462)
    Blizzard DOES need to do something about WOW glider, it's very disruptive to the game environment, but they are arguing the wrong legal angle entirely. They SHOULD be using an argument that the program in question is disruptive to the game environment (and "encouraging" players to violate the contract that lets them use the online service) rather than trying to claim some sort of copyright violation. The legal angle they are using in this case is extremely lame, and they definitely need better laywers. Surely the fact that this product is sold promoting and encouraging people to disrupt the game environment would be enough for a court without having to drag some crazy half brained copyright argument into it.
  • by Nullav (1053766) <moc@l[ ]g.valluN ['iam' in gap]> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:52PM (#22876540)
    "Police are stupid anyway. I can wave around whatever I want in my hand in whatever direction I want to." Perhaps a poor analogy, but god damnit, you're not just running it in your memory. You're also wasting CPU time, memory, and storage space on their machines for a character that you're not even playing with most of the time you're on. You're going against the rules of the game (the ToS), you're automating exactly what the game's centered around because you find it boring and, most importantly, you're just being an ass.
  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:03PM (#22876648) Homepage

    WoW Glider works by copying the entire game into memory.

    However, as received by the player, it does not contain any of the WoW code. If there is any derivative work here it isn't created until the player uses this WoW Glider program, in combination with the player's own copy of the game, to create a combined in-memory executable. Ergo, if Blizzard wants to sue someone over creating an unauthorized derivative work they should be suing the players that use this mod -- not that I think they would succeed, given a competent judge, since the combined work is not being distributed. Likewise, any ToS violation should be the player's responsibility, since it was the player, not the maker of this program, who agreed to abide by the terms of service.

  • Mixed opinions... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Myrcutio (1006333) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:05PM (#22876664)
    The bot writer might actually be entitled to write his program without regards to how it is used.

    It is certainly not illegal for someone to cheat at a video game, even though it violates the EULA. Blizzard would have to prove that this man selling a cheat program causes them damage, and that he is liable for that damage. Currently, cheat programs do not fall under the spam or malware category, they are not malicious code. It will be hard for Blizzard to convince a judge that a paying customer running a bot is costing them money.

    On the one hand I root for blizzard to weed out griefers and farmers, they can hurt the gameplay experience. On the other hand though i'm not sure that what this man is selling is actually criminal. It's not very sportsmanlike, but i don't think it's illegal.
  • by javajeff (73413) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:21PM (#22876776)
    Unfortunately, people do not care if they get any value from a killing a 20 with their 70. They do it for their enjoyment. It is a grief tactic, and the level 20 can do nothing. I personally do not plan to buy any MMORPG game that does not have balanced PVP. Between the bunny hopping, gear differences, and level differences, I think that WOW is a terrible PVP game. People are much better off playing shooters, which is what I choose to do now that I know better. I also think Guild Wars PVP is much superior to WOW, and Guild Wars 2 should be an incredible advancement in the genre.
  • by FreshOuttaMaps (1087811) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:42PM (#22876974)
    By your logic Blizzard is suing the wrong party. To continue your analogy, they are suing the gun manufacturer. To win outright they have to prove the Glider software violates the law.
  • by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:54PM (#22877084)

    If the extra resources used are such a problem for them, why don't they just do the sensible thing and have a tiered pricing structure? If bots really use a lot more time than real players do, then it should be pretty easy for them to pick a number of hours per month which is sufficient for 99% of their actual players, and then charge anyone who uses more time a higher fee. It's a bit like all the ISPs crying foul over P2P users using "too much" data on their "unlimited" plans. If their pricing structure is untenable, then they should fix the pricing structure.

    Also, if the bot doesn't do anything a player couldn't do anyway (if they were sufficiently skilled) then what does it matter? If it does do things the client doesn't allow, then it's reasonable to pursue him over that, but it seems like it'd be more straightforward to fix their server to not allow it.

    The game already has to deal with a large range of players, from casual gamers who maybe get in a few hours a week to the obsessive teens who spend their every waking moment in the game levelling their character. A bot that does the tedious work gives casual players a chance to experience the game as a high level character that they probably wouldn't get otherwise. If Blizzard doesn't want people doing this, maybe they should make the game less tedious.

    On the other hand, if Blizzard is successful at pursuing anyone using bots to make the game less of a chore, hopefully it'll result in a few less WoW addicts. Possibly they don't want people to experience the "end game", as then they might realise how boring and pointless the whole thing is and stop paying the monthly subscription fee.

    On the whole, it does seem that they don't have a very strong case against the program's author, only against its users as they're the ones violating the ToS and so on. Possibly they could get him for reverse engineering the game code, which I presume he would've needed to do in order to write the program; but proving that could be difficult.

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:04PM (#22877160)

    Don't be silly. If I write an application that requires Windows, I'm not making a derivative work, and Microsoft can't sue me for requiring windows.

    That's a bad analogy; Microsoft releases and documents APIs just for that purpose - just look at MSDN sometime.

    The equivalent to what you said would be Blizzard suing someone over writing a LUA script, which they aren't - somebody hijacked their entire program.

    The "suing Apple and Microsoft because their operating systems copy the game to RAM" is a non sequitur. You bought the license to do that - run a copy in RAM. You did not buy a license to run two copies so you can cheat the game - on top of violate the EULA.

    Granted, it would be easier to go after the individual players - but better to attack the problem at its source. I have zero sympathy for people who spend money to cheat at a game, nor do I have sympathy for the $millionaire who makes it all possible.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:23PM (#22877296) Journal
    I'm not aware that Blizzard offered a free CD-Key validation service to the BNetD project, so that argument is invalidated.

    Why is it that anyone who stands up for something worth standing up for (like the right to run a multiplayer game on your own terms) gets called stupid here when they get stamped on?

    What were the BNetD team supposed to do? Roll over and throw away hundreds of man-hours of painstaking work when the bullies came along to try and sweep the flaws in their copy-protection scheme under the carpet? No, they stood up for the right to reverse engineer, for your right to enjoy your games how you choose, for the right to get on with their tinkering without interference from corporate bullies. A bunch of bad laws and incompetent judges later and they've lost the case though in defiance of all reason and common sense.

    And what do you have to say for it? that they're stupid for fighting the battle. It's not just 'fun to villify' Blizzard for this - they deserve far worse than villification - they've abused the courts to wreck other people's hard work because it exposed the obvious flaw in their copy-protection system, but for a game which was already old enough that it was past the best of its cash-cow days anyway - StarCraft and BroodWar were already in the budget section by the time Blizzard kicked up a fuss, and as for D1 and WarII... there was no legitimate moral reason to object to the project, there was no meaningful business reason, the entire action was, in my opinion, pure spite.

    When someone comes along to hurt you out of spite, you don't just cower and crawl away so they'll leave you alone, you stand up to them and you won't be stupid for doing it. That they lost when they stood up is to the eternal shame and humiliation of the whole system of 'justice' which has let down the BNetD team, and every person who thought that it could, just once, find correctly.
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:53PM (#22877570)
    "Actually, bnetd tried to discuss the issue with blizzard so they could authenticate against their CD-key servers. It's not like the effort wasn't made. Blizzard refused, because they would much rather sue them out of existence. And that's exactly what they did."

    I remember. But look at this from another perspective: They wanted to be able to send any CD-Key they want to Blizzard and get a yes/no response. Does that really make sense from a copy protection point of view? Did anybody really expect Blizzard to go "well, alright, here's your own way of verifying any CD-Key you run across..."? Personally, for practical reasons or even for greedy ones, I don't see how.

    Blizzard chose to sue them out of existence, but they did get a C&D. In other words, they had their opportunity to bow out, too. At least that would have spared us the whole DMCA bullshit that followed. That battle could have been saved for something other than copy protection. Blizzard was greedy, but they did not act unpredictably, here. If, for the noblest of noble reasons, I tried to create my own server to authenticate Windows XP/Vista boxes, could I reaaaaaaaaaaallllllly go crying about how big bad mean ol Microsoft was bullying me with their lawyers?
  • by scragz (654271) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:00PM (#22877652) Homepage
    They should terminate his subscription post haste. I don't have the terms handy but that would be pretty crappy if they stated that Blizzard could sue you for playing a game in a way they didn't like.
  • by Cecil (37810) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:32PM (#22877906) Homepage
    But look at this from another perspective: They wanted to be able to send any CD-Key they want to Blizzard and get a yes/no response. Does that really make sense from a copy protection point of view?

    I don't see the issue. I can already send any CD-Key I want to Blizzard and get a yes/no response. It's a little more inconvenient as I have to start up the game and try to connect to a network game, but it's not like the ability isn't there. If the concern is that they could do it *faster*, that's an easy problem to solve, and simple involves forcing a delay in response, on the server side if necessary.

    But again, this is all a lot of work for a company who has no interest in supporting people's rights to use the products they buy outside of Blizzard's own carefully chaperoned sandbox. So a lawsuit was the obvious choice. I'm not disagreeing that it wasn't an obvious choice for them, of course it was. I'm saying they need to change their whole world outlook so that perhaps that's not the obvious choice anymore. Your community and your fans are what counts in the long term, not your short-term profits.

    If, for the noblest of noble reasons, I tried to create my own server to authenticate Windows XP/Vista boxes, could I reaaaaaaaaaaallllllly go crying about how big bad mean ol Microsoft was bullying me with their lawyers?

    If your server was just going to be a passthrough to authenticate through Microsoft's own servers, I don't see the problem. And either way, as long as it was really for the "noblest of noble reasons" I would still support you, and any smart company would too.

    Companies -- and this goes beyond gaming, beyond even computers -- need to start remembering who butters their damn bread. The customer may not always be right, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't always treat them with all due respect.
  • by Z34107 (925136) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:21PM (#22878242)

    Just another example of a company aiming its litigation at the wrong target.

    Or... the right target. They could cut off every individual botting user... and they've tried that. But, these users are impossible to find because of this one individual millionaire who managed to make his program (currently) undetectable.

    So... they could sue every individual user. But, we run into the "finding them" problem again.

    So... they could sue the one person making it all possible, and profiting handsomely for it. This is the logical target - go for the one person responsible rather than lots of individuals - but also, apparently, the most difficult. Going for WoW Glider's maker solves the problem; going for his customers doesn't. So, you can't fault them for trying.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:38AM (#22878930) Homepage
    Agreed.

    And as far as I'm concerned, the best games are those that do not require a considerable investment of my time. (Clearly, this is not the case for everyone and I can certainly identify with longer-playing games with goals and missions that often do require a considerable time investment... I have been hooked on quite a few games in the past!)

    Largely, I view games that inspire THIS level of investment in time, money and other resources, to be absolutely harmful to people with vulnerable personality types. I have a nephew that had wasted his high school career on up through his 21st birthday so far by living this obsessive gamer lifestyle. He now works more than one part-time job, still lives with parents and is trying to 'catch up' with junior college and such. He's a VERY smart kid and could have done a lot better if the time and energy he put into the game were directed elsewhere.

    I know another guy who, as far as I can tell, is still an addictive gamer. So far among his list of major losses has been his wife and kids, two houses, and numerous well-paying jos. (No, this guy is NOT me, but I don't find it difficult to imagine myself in his place... the main difference is that somehow I can see the harm coming and know when to stop playing before harm occurs.) His other friends have been talking "intervention."

    I blame the highly successful gaming industry in general. There are people who are vulnerable to gamer addiction and people who are not. (There are people like me who are somewhere in the middle... I can see both ends of the extreme.) I think gaming on this level should come with warnings and disclaimers and the like. And much like tobacco and gambling industries, I think they should morally provide assistance to those who have been damaged through the use of their products and services. (Some casinos have banned particular people specifically because they are addicts and as such run some serious liabilities if they allow addicts to play and lose money.) And I think it is undeniable that gaming on this level is designed with the addictive/obsessive gamer in mind. Just as with tobacco, it is engineered to exploit addicts. It's a proven effective business model, but it's also immoral to exploit such personality weaknesses for profit. They cannot be blind to the fact that their business model is largely supported through people wasting their lives and at some point, they should be held accountable for it.

    Perhaps I'm straying too far from the topic which is about this game automation enhancement. But I think of it this way: it would be like marketing some sort of pill that allows a smoker to smoke fewer cigarettes while maintaining his addiction and then having the tobacco industry sue you for essentially exploiting their business model for your own profits. It doesn't alleviate all of the symptoms and harmful effects of being a smoker, but it does have some affect to mitigate some of them and most certainly interrupts their income. Bots make the gaming experience less involving while still feeding the addiction and craving for the results of play.

    I'm against bots. I'm against gaming at this level. I'm against both sides of this dispute. But I believe that ultimately, Blizzard's real complaint can't be issued in court which is that someone else is exploiting their business model and 'tapping into' their stream of income. So now they're fabricating bullshit legal claims in an attempt to cut off this leach.
  • by Walkingshark (711886) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:57AM (#22879004) Homepage
    I wonder if they'll try and force him to give up his source during discovery. That might very well be the angle they're looking at in this whole thing.
  • by Sapphon (214287) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @05:16AM (#22879724) Journal
    The article says that 100'000 copies of this tool have been sold, which implies ~100'000 users. While it is strictly speaking the fault of the user that Blizzard is suffering damage, the root cause is the creator and vendor of the tool.

    As such it certainly makes sense for the Blizzard to go after Donnelly, since
    a) if they stop him, they stop further sales of the bot
    b) it's lot easier to litigate against one person than 100'000
    c) you get much less bad press for litigating against one person than 100'000
    d) the 100'000 are still bringing in income (as paying customers), just less of it. Blizzard probably doesn't want to scare them off with litigation. Donnelly, on the other hand, just costs them money.

    Blizzard's in a lose-lose situation: litigation against Donnelly is legally unclear, but litigation against 100'000 users would cause an uproar.

    The choice of target is in fact quite rational from a game-theoretic perspective. And from an emotive perspective, you could always compare it to going after the crack dealer rather than the addict :-)
  • This is one of those cases where the "end user license" is able to (supposedly) enforce a contract that can't be proven that the user has in fact agreed to.

    I, for one, consider anything in a license agreement that goes beyond the strict authority to copy the software and attempts to ascribe "rights" to the publisher that are not granted in copyright law to be illegal.

    For instance, I can purchase a "license" that would allow me to re-publish major excepts from a book, or in the case of computer software I can buy a license that would allow me to incorporate a major subroutine library into a computer software product that I am in turn re-selling. These kind of licenses are quite common, and are entirely within the purview of the concept of who has "the right to copy" the copyrighted product. They can have some restrictions, and there are even "regional" licenses that you can offer a "right" to distribute a product in a certain region of the world, like separate licenses for distribution to North America vs. Europe.

    If I violate the license terms, my "rights" to republish and sell that software then also terminate. But customers I've sold the software to previously under the license terms still have legal software.

    The problem here is that the publisher, in this case Blizzard, is attempting to retroactively revoke the previously granted authority to copy the contents of the game from the CD-ROM (or via network download) to the hard drive of the computer after the copy has been made. Furthermore, it is presuming that the first sale doctrine doesn't apply to electronic media. Yes, I know that is currently disputed, but it hasn't been proven to be invalid either.

    Even if a "formal contract" was entered into the mix between the customer and the software publisher that goes well above and beyond conventional copyright licensing terms, you still have to prove who signed the contract in the first place. Were the terms to the contract understood and legible? Was the contract even valid? Can anti-reverse engineering clauses even be added to such a contract of any kind, much less introduced as a mere copyright license arrangement?

    This isn't unique even to the software industry, as I got involved with a technical specification contract that had some similar kinds of clauses that involved a physical dead-tree book. But in that case I had to physically sign my name as the recipient of the book and there was a documentation trail in terms of even legal custody of the material. I'm certain that Blizzard can't prove that sort of documentation at all.

    Another issue to be raised by the defense is the issue of being able to understand what some other individual has done which is impacting the operation of the computer which you own. Blizzard doesn't own the PC that the defendant is using, and a legitimate use of reverse engineering is to understand how a piece of software may cause harm to the operations of other software or the general performance of their equipment.

    This is a weak case for Blizzard, even though I sympathize deeply with their wanting to keep 'bot makers off of their servers. I personally think that invoking copyright law is entirely the wrong way to do it, particularly license agreements that are shaky to begin with. Real harm can be claimed by Blizzard in terms of the impact of the software upon their servers, but that is something similar to a denial of service attack and something more along the lines of vandalism, not necessarily anything that has to do with contract or copyright law. I'm sure criminal law statues could be read to apply here, but that is something else entirely different.
  • by ukyoCE (106879) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @08:16AM (#22880714) Journal
    I'm not going to argue that it's a good thing the law is on Blizzard's side in the BNETD case. But there are NUMEROUS cans of worms involved in letting 3rd-party software connect to your infrastructure. There is plenty of reason for Blizzard, as a company, to not want BNETD to exist.

    Imagine of Blizzard did provide BNETD with a cd-key-auth mechanism. Now Blizzard is spending their time and money supporting a 3rd-party app that really doesn't bring any money to Blizzard except in the case that Battle.net is extremely poor or unusable. (ie: why would anyone use BNETD over battle.net unless battle.net stinks?) Blizzard would rather have a single entry point into Battle.net and no 3rd-party code to support or worry about breaking. Don't you think Blizzard would just love it to hear customers complaining on their forums about how the latest update broke some 3rd party competitor to their own battle.net?

    That's if Blizzard tried to "support" BNETD. Without them supporting BNETD with a cd-key-auth mechanism, it's primary audience is people interested in pirating Blizzard games and still using them online. This is 99% of the interest in BNETD anyway, since Battle.net is in fact a perfectly good service. So it's hard for me to get all teary-eyed for them, even though I do think reverse engineering should be legal.

    It's interesting to compare BNETD to Gaim. AOL used to tweak their protocol frequently, partially in an attempt to break the reverse engineers "haxing" into their system. Eventually they sued Gaim for trademark infringement. But the end result is that Gaim changed their name, continued to work on AOL's network the entire time, and now AOL opening up their network in an official capacity. This isn't something that makes sense for online games (yet).

    Anyway...I guess all I was getting at is that Blizzard has plenty of good reasons to want BNETD shut down, and unfortunately the law in the U.S. is very unforgiving of reverse engineering at the moment.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @11:40AM (#22883132)
    Why would they need to? You seem to assume that by adding it all up you can shock me. No, sorry, I know how much I paid. It is far less than I paid in the same time for my Internet connection, or for cable TV, or even for computer hardware. It is a good value for the amount of entertainment I get. That is all that matters to me. If I feel that something gives me a good amount of entertainment for the dollars, then it is a good deal. I mean consider that people spend near that much to see a single movie. They are up to $10/ticket here, and we are cheaper than much of the nation. That's just to see one 2-3 hour show. Makes $15 for as much as you wish to play a month seem real cheap.

    So no, sorry, you aren't surprising me. In the same amount of time I spent over $1,500 on cable TV, as did a whole lot of America. I like being entertained, and I'll pay for it.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:01PM (#22884150)

    While it is strictly speaking the fault of the user that Blizzard is suffering damage, the root cause is the creator and vendor of the tool.

    No, the root cause is the undelaying model of WoW: it is impossible to create content fast enough to keep people playing, so Blizzard keeps adding the modern equivalent of mazes in old adventure games, obstacles whose only purpose is to take time. This might not be fatal in itself - for example, mining for resources in Star Control 2 [sourceforge.net] was exciting and fun - but Blizzard has failed utterly to make their speedbumps fun rather than just plain tedious. That is why this program exists: to fix a perceived problem in WoW.

    The real-world WoW gold market, leveling services, and this program are all symptoms of Blizzards's failure, not its cause.

    Besides, Blizzard isn't "suffering damage", they're at worst losing revenue due to users canceling their subscriptions. It is not illegal for a company to benefit at the expense of another company; and if it is, then the entire foundation of capitalism and market economy needs to be reviewed.

  • by nschubach (922175) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @03:00PM (#22885638) Journal
    The problem I had with LOTRO was the quests. There were too many simple quests and not enough complicated multi-part quests. Also, killing mobs for exp isn't always fun, but I love dungeon exploration and I like getting experience for the mobs killed. I also prefer to skip quests as most of the time they are meaningless gather/fed ex. If I remember correctly (it's been a while since I played) LOTRO gave no experience for mob kills. It was either that or I got upset at the lack of underworld areas that I so desperately wanted to explore (ie: no dungeons.) Either way, I got bored of it quite quickly.

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