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Blizzard Awarded $6M Damages From MMOGlider 460

dw604 writes "The makers of MMOGlider have been found in breach of the World of Warcraft terms of service and are forced to pay Blizzard $6M in damages." There's a lot of sticky issues on this one. Mostly I'm amazed that MMOGlider had that kind of cash.
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Blizzard Awarded $6M Damages From MMOGlider

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  • Finances & Conflict (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:08AM (#25218065) Journal

    Mostly I'm amazed that MMOGlider had that kind of cash.

    MMOGlider is the application, MDY would be the holder of the finances. After scanning the article, it seems that he is estimated to have sold 100,000 copies at $25 a pop resulting in $2.5 million ... then you have all the costs of hosting and developing and lawyering and all that.

    And as the bottom of the article says:

    The case is due to go to court again in January 2009 when the remaining issues in the legal conflict look likely to be settled.

    At issue will be whether MDY broke the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and whether Mr Donnelly will have to pay the damages from his own pocket.

    And there you have it, in all likelihood they are not sitting on $6 million. As the article says, it's a good thing MDY won its arguments about the 'damages' their program caused to Blizzard otherwise they would be looking at $12 or $18 million settlements.

    And there's your sticky issue, what exactly are the damages. I hate this because if I know it's happening, it ruins WoW for me. But on the other hand, does it really ruin the game if someone magically goes from 1 to 70 in two weeks without working for it? I might be jaded that I had to put in hours of muscle distrophying arthritis inducing clicking to get there ... but what's different now? So another player has more gold or resources, it's a tiny leg up in that game as the best items are won in PVP or require meticulous PVE to acquire.

    The stickiest issue is that a lot of us are conflicted. It pisses us off that WoW is a little less fair but on the surface this was a guy who avoided all technical attempts Blizzard tried to thwart him in a great game of cat & mouse. In the end, he could claim he was just selling software that users happened to use to violate Blizzard's TOS and EULA with. I've heard the same arguments about BitTorrent and would probably side with the software makers in this case ...

    I guess for me 'sticky' isn't a good description of it. No, there are two core ideologies which are conflicting here. The gamer in me says that games should be as fair as possible. WoW is already naturally flawed to some degree in this way and it is Blizzard's responsibility to keep the playing field level. MMOGlider upsets this 'fairness' and destroys the inherent fun in the game. On the other side of the issue he was just a guy writing software and selling it. I could throw him in with the likes of spammers and botnet masters but it was just a legitimate client program running on a paying user's machine.

    Add to this what we've suffered through from Blizzard including rootkits [] and unfounded bans [] and it's an issue that strikes very close to home.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki.cox@net> on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:16AM (#25218165)

    Why are players bothering with online games that can be manipulated by manipulating the local client's RAM? Isn't the whole point of "Online" supposed to make client side vulnerabilities moot?

  • by Duffy13 ( 1135411 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:42AM (#25218593)
    Actually, bots usually play much much worse then real players. However, they have the benefit of being able to run all the time. The trade off is it may take longer to accomplish a level, but you don't actually have to sit there for it.
  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:45AM (#25218647) Homepage Journal

    But on the other hand, does it really ruin the game if someone magically goes from 1 to 70 in two weeks without working for it?

    If the in-game economy depends on players, then yes it does potentially damage you. MMORPGs have economic systems built into them which usually work like real-world systems - prices depend on scarcity of items, among other things. So if automated playing makes rare items readily available, the economy changes.

    For a normal player, this might result in the game "not working" anymore. If game progress requires gold, and most of the ways to gain gold depend on the economy being intact, e.g. you being able to loot, or craft, rare items and sell them for good value, then that part of the game might break down for you, and with it everything that depends on you having enough gold available.

    On the other hand, game balance in PvP games might also become problematic. I stopped playing Guild Wars when not having all-green (green being the rarest item category) equipment had become a kind of mark. If everyone has a full set of "unique" items, they aren't unique at all.

    My own game, for example, includes code that does actually limit the number of unique items - the more there already are in the world, the less the chance that a new one can be found. Which, on the other hand, also requires that items deteriorate over time and then vanish from the game - something that not every MMORPG player will want to happen with his equipment. (my game isn't a MMORPG and the items not very important, so it works in that context.)

    As you can see, it can have quite extensive effects.

  • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @10:52AM (#25218775)

    I don't see the conflict. In fact, I think this case is ridiculous. A game should be fair? Ok, I am all for that. But simply building a tool that allows people to play unfairly does not constitute a crime or a civil offense. It might be immoral, but then my moral may be different of yours. Perhaps if you were in a tournament and someone uses a cheat, you could sue the cheater (and not the developer of the cheat, unless he happens to be the same person) for damages. But Blizzard? What damages did they had?

    Besides, I don't see how he could have infringed their copyright since he doesn't distribute the game. If people cannot meddle with their own RAM because what's in there is protected by IP laws, we live in a very fucked world already.

    I don't think you read the documents involved (including the stipulated damages issues already posted here).

    Basically, Blizzard isn't just selling the software to users, but also the ongoing experience of the MMO which involves not only operating the servers and updating software, but also ensuring that the use of the software by legitimate customers isn't interrupted by illegitimate users.

    A tremendous number of players find themselves disrupted by these Glider bots, and that's the damage.

  • by Wildclaw ( 15718 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @11:12AM (#25219085)

    Mostly, I think, "So what?" Glider has no reason to be bound to the agreement, and I still can't see a basis for the damages. Violate the agreement, get kicked off their server.

    Read up on tortious interference.

    Willfully helping someone to violate a contract is often illegal. And that is where the fact that the functionality sold that people use to violate the contract doesn't have any secondary legal functionality, making the intention clear.

  • hypotethically .. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @11:21AM (#25219251)

    I i had a real robot ( no i dont mean biped humanoid ) that would be able to play for me using a mouse, screen and a keyboard .. they would sue the company that made the robot ?

    And its not that far fetched, as a hardware you need just a camera watching the TV, and two inputs to PS2 and USB ports on my puter ..

    So where do they draw the line ?

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @11:35AM (#25219577)

    Why the fuck shouldn't it be free to see the court order?

  • by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @11:48AM (#25219817)
    A bad 70th level player is a bad 70th level player, regardless of whether they used a bot or mindlessly wandered through the same tasks themselves. Going through the same motions as the bot will not necessarily make them a better player.

    The general grinding task will to some extent make you better. If you think about it, why do students do repetitive math problems? Doing it once does not reinforce the skills. Now I won't argue that excessive grinding can also turn people from the game, but they do make people "work" to level. If you could get to level 70 quickly, you would still find bad players since it would be easy to find "guides" to help you. Maybe the grinding also discourages being "power leveled" since a level 70 would find it boring to easily kill the 30 murlocs for some quest when the player should be able to do it on their own.
  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) * <> on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @01:01PM (#25221051) Journal

    Actually, the issue is remarkably similar. Only the enforcement is different.

    A: "Leadership of Blizzard is upset that computers are used to get secret advantages".

    B: "Leadership of Chess is upset that computers are used to get secret advantages."

    For every game there is an unspoken challenge to build an AI to bust it. Some games are easier to crack than others. Checkers is completely toast. WOW is still "only partly broken".

  • by karmatic ( 776420 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @02:15PM (#25222257)

    The computer doesn't play the game "better". If you've ever encountered one out in the wild you'd notice that they're truly idiotic little critters that play terribly. It's just that they AUTOMATE the process. This allows to things: easy powerleveling or easy gold farming.

    There's a slight flaw with your argument. You only know you've encountered one in the wild if it's so mind-numbingly stupid that you can tell. The ones that play _better_ don't get noticed.

    Some of them do play better than humans. Genetic algorithms work wonderfully when constrained to as few options as WoW gives you. In fact, it's even possible to train by observing the in-game data (player health, # of mobs, mob health %, player/mob mana, class types, cooldown times, etc.), and using that to build a genetic algorithm that plays like a player.

    This gives you a bot that plays like a player.

    You can extract terrain data directly from the .mpqs, use it to build a map. When going from point A to point B, assign a higher weight to points within a road, with points in the "middle" of a road higher than those on the edges.

    Data-mining (or crawling thottbot) allows you to determine the average levels for mobs in an area, this also gets factored into the cost for the pathing algorithm.

    To save space, the entire world is mapped at a very low resolution. There are then several intermediate resolutions used for more fine-grained navigation. Once you get close, MOBs are within the Potentially Viewable Set, and are sent to the client, allowing for detailed pathing to be done by the client.

    So, to get from point A to point B, one loads the world map (with it's associated costs), loads the source and destination areas from the medium-res map, then paths the client area using live data. As you approach the next area in the path, the medium-level maps are loaded in order.

    This gives you a bot that knows how to get somewhere.

    Data-mining quests, combined with location data (start location, etc.), quest type (acquisition vs kill X vs escort) allows one to determine relatively quickly what quests can be stacked together easily to minimize grinding. Using the navigation system, one can determine the most efficient way to get to quests, and which ones will be fastest.

    The only real issue with this approach is that you have to keep track of the XP the client has - if the XP goes up when the bot is not playing, you have to exclude all quests that _could_ have been completed, unless you want to run the risk of wasted time.

    Yes, I wrote a WoW bot, and it plays almost exactly like I do. It won't get on more than 8-10 hours a day, and the start times and play times vary. I always supervise my bots - they check in, and alert me when people talk to them, try to group, etc. You would never know it's a bot.

    My bot even automates Auctioneer, and is smart enough to know whether something is worth more by itself, as a stack, or disenchanted. It will mail things to alts, shove stuff in guild vaults (good if you end up banned), snipe auctions when the server is less busy. It uses neural networking to determine whether or not an action is likely to turn a profit, helping avoid issues where things get dumped on the market and there's a glut. It plays the odds and determines how likely I am to get burned on the deal.

  • by karmatic ( 776420 ) on Wednesday October 01, 2008 @02:34PM (#25222517)

    Why is that better than "gold farming"? First: lots of materials are much harder to farm (e.g. to get a Large Prismatic Shard, you need to be in an instance, get a "blue" drop, disenchant/destroy the drop, and get a shard as result ... bots hardly can do that solo).
    It's not hard for a bot to get in a group - there are lots of (for example) HealBots. I bought a 60 priest off eBay (some time ago), and had a number of groups say I was the best healer they ever had.

    Also, running an instance with bots really isn't that hard, since the game forces you into fairly defined roles to begin with. The game really doesn't require that much skill.

    One of the projects I did (back before ISXWarden stopped working) was a genetic algorithm AI bot. It started with no knowledge of the game whatsoever beyond what one gets inspecting the spellbook.

    The logger went through and took snapshots while instance grinding of all players and MOBs. How many enemies, who they were targeting, what spells were cast, how much health/mana everyone had, player levels, etc.

    Next came the learning stage. Each player was examined in the Armory to determine their talent points spent in each tree.

    Random algorithms were generated, including tests and actions. This was done for each class and talent tree, and the algorithms were run. The ones that behaved most like the recorded data were kept, and used to spawn more of them.

    For simplicity sake, the bot didn't abort casting willingly, since it would greatly increase the number of permutations, and didn't seem to matter much in my (not particulary objective) opinion.

    After about 2 months of part-time data gathering, and a month or so of "reproduction" - I had algorithms that behaved like very good players. They wouldn't do all the inventory management, etc., but that was all hard-coded.

"I'll rob that rich person and give it to some poor deserving slob. That will *prove* I'm Robin Hood." -- Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, _Robin Hood Daffy_