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Blizzard Asserts Rights Over Independent Add-Ons 344

bugnuts writes "Blizzard has announced a policy change regarding add-ons for the popular game World of Warcraft which asserts requirements on UI programmers, such as disallowing charging for the program, obfuscation, or soliciting donations. Add-ons are voluntarily-installed UI programs that add functionality to the game, programmed in Lua, which can do various tasks that hook into the WoW engine. The new policy has some obvious requirements, such as not loading the servers or spamming users, and it looks like an attempt to make things more accessible and free for the end user. But unlike FOSS, it adds other requirements that assert control over these independently coded programs, such as distribution and fees. Blizzard can already control the ultimate functionality of add-ons by changing the hooks into the WoW engine. They have exercised this ability in the past, e.g. to disable add-ons that automate movement and facilitate 'one-button' combat. Should they be able to make demands on independent programmers' copyrighted works, such as forbidding download fees or advertising, when those programmers are not under contract to code for Blizzard? Is this like Microsoft asserting control over what programmers may code for Windows?"
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Blizzard Asserts Rights Over Independent Add-Ons

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:23AM (#27278991)

    If you want to play with their code and platform, you need to follow their rules or not play at all.

    Just as you can't close your code if it incorporates GPL code, Blizzard doesn't want you charging people for your add-ons if you code for their platform.

  • Re:pedantry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:31AM (#27279065)

    And you can develop your add-on for WoW and not follow Blizzard's rules as long as you never distribute it.

    Your pedantry doesn't really prove anything, though.

  • Its their app (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:38AM (#27279123) Homepage Journal

    They can make any demands they want.

    You are also free to take your business ( and code ) elsewhere and put them out of business.

  • by Rabbitbunny ( 1202531 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:42AM (#27279147)

    Exactly, Blizzard derives increased value from users taking the time to level a second character due to QuestHelper []. Many users use Auctioneer []. While those are free with exceptional support there are also many that are not free such as Zygors' Guides ($50) [], Carbonite ($2.50/mo) [], Brian Kopp's Guide/Addon ($59.99) [], Joanas' Levelling Guide ($77) [], and QuestUp ($47) [].

    You'll note that the paid addons are for quest assistance.

    You'll note that Brian Kopp (previously featured on slashdot []) is now making cash by selling an ingame version of his guide, me thinks this is retribution.

    Also, as an addon author myself I can only say "Go ahead, turn off all your API's, see how that works out. I can farm other games".

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:51AM (#27279211)

    If you want to play with their code and platform, you need to follow their rules or not play at all.

    I was going to call bullshit, but after reading TFA, I completely agree with them in every single point. Misleading summary.

    This is not "software development" in the traditional sense. It's a proprietary platform, where everything you do affects many other people as well. This "unlike FOSS" crap is completely sensationalist.

    Let's see the 'offending' terms:

    4) Add-ons may not include advertisements.

    Oh my, we won't have to get adblock for wow! Outrage!

    5) Add-ons may not solicit donations.
    Add-ons may not include requests for donations. We recognize the immense amount of effort and resources that go into developing an add-on; however, such requests should be limited to the add-on website or distribution site and should not appear in the game.

    Same here.

    So, what was the news again?

  • by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:04PM (#27279307) Homepage

    If someone takes the time to code the addon they should be able to ask for whatever they want for it

    Nope, when you live under someones roof you play by their rules. It might be kindof a dick move, but it's their API and they have every right to control how it's used. And it's not like this stipulation is unheard of; Microsoft has similar rules surrounding use of their GamerTag API as well as Google Maps with their free API (this is an oversimplification, but in general you are not allowed to use GMap mashups in for-pay websites).

    It is their labor not Blizzard's.

    Not to belittle the work of modders, but the fact that they can write add-ons at all is due to the substantial amount of resources that Blizzard has invested not only in the development of the API, but also the game itself and the massive server infrastructure.

    I may not like it (I haven't decide either way yet whether it's a good or bad move - I'm very wary of Blizzard ever since the bnetd fiasco []). But they are absolutely within their rights to do this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:06PM (#27279325)

    Don't forget Blizzard likes to copy popular addons and make them into their own UI release.

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:16PM (#27279411) Homepage

    Companies like Blizzard are very conscious of the "in-game experience" and want to control that as much as possible.

    I agree with this, but keep in mind that UI mods are entirely voluntary - if someone doesn't like the donation nags, they can turn off QH. Also, fewer UI mods being available means, on average, a worse experience for players.

    As for it "hurting them", unfortunately I think you over-estimate how many of their 12 million users even use plug-ins, never mind base their continued patronage on their availability. I would be willing to bet that if they turned off the add-on API tomorrow, they'd lose less than 1% of their player base. There would be some grumbling from another 1% - 2%, but in the end it really wouldn't matter much.

    I estimate that Questhelper alone is used by 10-20% of the WoW player base. I think there would be more grumbling than you think.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:18PM (#27279429)

    Ridiculous indeed, to forbid donations. This policy has already removed one vital addon from our repertoire. Outfitter download is no longer possible as of yesterday (Friday).

    Control player and server spamming, yes, that makes sense. Control independent developers' donations is just greedy or else it says that developers' time and skills are worthless. If that were the case, then they should be working for free too.

    Instead of cutting their supporters off at the ankles, imitating the great addons badly, and annoying their customers, why don't they put in place a program like most big companies do, to buy the best addons from the independent developers?

  • Re:Its their app (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:21PM (#27279465)

    What you are advocating is "might makes right"

    Were it not for the restraint of the legal system, I'm sure many companies wouldn't hesitate to rob you blind, literally.

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:26PM (#27279503) Homepage Journal

    We get together and develop a open source updater that uses bittorrent to do updates, every user of the client keeps copies of all the addons and peices are sent to update the swarm. All clients check the addon hoster for a MD5 hash so it can validate the downlaods so bad people cant corrupt addons.

    The community provides the bandwidth, you get an advertising platform, and hopefully people stay happy while we give Blizzard the finger.

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:35PM (#27279591)
    I think it has more to do with fairness than anything else. Blizzard has always taken a strong stance on balance. If someone produces a UI addon that makes the game easier, but only for those that can afford it, it creates an inbalance which in turn could upset Blizzards financials. If these addons a free, then they are available to anyone with the will to install them. It makes good business sense that they would attempt to control addons like this.
  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @01:08PM (#27279831)

    Really, the news is that WoW (especially high end PVE and PVP) is not playable without a few addons (5 ?), and is really much better if you have a bunch of them (I have 20-30).

    Blizzard does not even offer an AddonStore, or an addon update tool.

    Blizzard is trying to have it both ways:
    1- having a crappy client that is so lacking in so many respects that add-ons are at minimum an appreciable comfort, but really more of a vital necessity; Blizzard is counting on hackers to fill the gaps, which they usually do much better than blizzard's efforts.
    2- preventing devs from selling their work, or requesting donations at all within the game. At minimum, allowing for a reminder that "The Autoroxx Addon survives thanks to your donations, go to ... to contribute" when logging in would be... elegant.

    Blizzard should implement an AddonStore modelled on the iPhone's Appstore, with free and not free addons, and share revenue; and also implement an auto-update feature to keep addons up to date.

    If a lot of people are willing to pay for an addon, it is a strong signal that the addon is useful, and blizzard should either license it to include in their vanilla client, or try to duplicate it.

    The best reasons I can think of why Blizzard is not doing that yet is
    1- they actually want players to visit those addon sites, that are owned by gold sellers. I'm growing very suspicious of the relationship between Blizzard and gold sellers, given how little they do to rein them in.
    2- they know they can't do addons right (right now, they seem to be unable to do basic class design right), and just want a free ride on the back of unpaid devs.

  • Anti-MS? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by slaad ( 589282 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @01:30PM (#27279981)
    Is this like Microsoft asserting control over what programmers may code for Windows?

    Not even slightly. Such a requirement for an OS would impact every piece of software that a user runs. WoW is just a single application. The two aren't even close and even the mere suggestion comes off like an anti-MS rant (or perhaps rather an attempt at transferring an anti-MS sentiment towards Blizzard.)
  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @01:45PM (#27280113) Homepage

    Indeed, nothing new. For example Epic Games has the "no-commercial mods" rule for years. It pretty much comes down to, "if you want to use our tools, runtime (i.e. te game) and content then you are not allowed to charge people for it".

    Although, they don't have a "no begging" rule. And actually, I don't think I ever saw a mod for an Epic Game contain any begging.

  • by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @04:01PM (#27281523)

    Lets try that again:

    such requests should be limited to the add-on website OR DISTRIBUTION SITE and should not appear in the game.

    Of course its up to and whoever to actually implement the charge-throughs (or simply not allow direct downloads for addons that wish to charge), but Blizzard themselves isn't denying the fact that users mostly go to or or similar.

    On the other hand, if curse & friends decide not to bother, it will make it extremely hard for new addons to get exposure if they want to charge.

  • by Majik Sheff ( 930627 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @04:31PM (#27281781) Journal

    I'm just glad to see them cracking down on obfuscation. Nothing enrages me quite like being handed the source code and being completely unable to do anything useful with it.

  • Re:simple solution (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @04:49PM (#27281937)
    You're aware that the person you're replying to never actually said that, and the quoted text actually belongs to the summary?

    Oh, you *are*, and you only replied there rather than at the top level because you wanted your message to appear nearer the start than earlier messages? Naughty, naughty...
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @05:58PM (#27282609)

    You don't need addons. You may like addons, but you sure as hell don't need them. WoW is perfectly playable without any addons. In fact, I know a number of people who play with a very minimal number of addons for the reason that addons usually break when a new version comes out. So they don't use man, and the ones they do use are non-critical. Personally I use a few, but none that are "I must have it or I can't play." I am perfectly capable of disabling all my addons and still doing just fine.

    What's more, WoW has a very good UI built in. I've played more than a few MMORPGs (Everquest, DAoC, EvE, Starwars Galaxies, and Warhammer) and WoW has be far the best UI. It is easy to use, and includes a high degree of built-in customization. For that matter, the addon interface is just another level. The most basic is the point and click menus and such. If you need more complexity, there's macros which require some basic scripting but not much. Need more than that? No problem you can full out program the UI using XML and LUA. What's more, you can share it with the world.

    Also, Blizzard DOES take popular addons and make something like them in the game. Biggest one I can think of is the raid frames. Back in the day, there was no display for the whole raid, and thus no easy way to heal a raid. CTRaid became popular for this reason. It was a pain in the ass to use, and kinda flaky at times, but useful to raiders. So what happened? Blizzard modified WoW to have it's own raid frames, and to give addons like CT easy means of communicating things.

    Your post just sounds like whining about a game that won't do things "Your way." Well ok, but recognize you aren't the only player. Lots of people may not think that "your way" is right. So if you don't find it fun, go find another game to play. Seriously, WoW isn't the only game out there, not even the only MMO. Some people like other games, nothing wrong with that. However, if your bitch is with the UI, well I'd be prepared to be disappointed. WoW's UI is one of the very best. That was only of the biggest pains when I tries Warhammer. The UI in that game was so rouge as compared to what I was used to in WoW. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't near as good as what WoW had.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.