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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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  • This is rediculous (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kcbanner ( 929309 ) * on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:23AM (#27278989) Homepage Journal
    When I used to play WoW, I used many addons that made up for Blizzard's shortcomings in the UI. If the authors want to charge for these addons Blizzard should have absolutely no say in the matter. The developers are improving Blizzard's product to a more playable state, Blizzard should be paying them.
  • Good choice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kranfer ( 620510 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:24AM (#27279001) Homepage Journal
    I am happy about this change with WoW. I personally never saw a point in paying for an addon to the game. Although some of the addons look good that you pay for I am glad to see this change. Ah well just MY opinion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:41AM (#27279141)
    Blizzard is looking out for the players. They don't want some addon that throwing advertising or in game donations on a large percent of their user base.
  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rabbitbunny ( 1202531 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:53AM (#27279225)

    Christ, I thought you were just big headed since I've never heard of your addon. [] 3,215,622 Downloads [] 20,949,412 Downloads [] 49,914 Downloads

    (balance this with Auctioneer, which has a paltry 12 million downloads..)

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @11:54AM (#27279237)

    On the other hand your major competitor Carbonite, which in charging for the add-on and obfuscating their code has two separate issues with the new policy, will go out of business, while you can still remind people of the donations when they download updates.

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:00PM (#27279275)

    That's a nice lesson for anyone looking to earn some money: Write extensions for things which people already pay for or which are used by people who are used to paying for software. I've written add-ons for open source software and the total amount of donations is in the low triple digits, despite well over a million downloads.

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:01PM (#27279293) Homepage

    True. I don't think it will be enough, though if it turns out to be, I may re-evaluate things.

    A lot of people seem to be misinterpreting what I'm saying here (I don't say you are, necessarily, I'm just pointing this out.) A lot of people think that I don't like Blizzard's new policy, and thus I'm taking my toys and going home. This isn't actually what's happening. I *don't* like the new policy, but that's not what the real problem is.

    The problem is that the new policy makes it so I can't make a living off Questhelper. If I can't make a living off Questhelper, I'm not going to keep treating it like a full-time job.

    If someone figures out how to make it work like a full-time job again, I'll go back to it, but I don't actually think it's possible.

  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:29PM (#27279533)
    Start a subscription based newsletter. New releases get announced to donating newsletter subscribers first, along with links to download "BETA" (wink wink) releases using the subscribers info (too many downloads from one subscriber and they lose their subscription to your newsletter. Actually have the older releases for free download, so it can be shown that you are not charging for the product. Your newsletter is another product. The people that support you are your real time beta testers, nothing to do with the ability to download your "current" product... Hope you find a way to make it workout.
  • Re:QuestHelper (Score:2, Interesting)

    by American Terrorist ( 1494195 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:43PM (#27279653)

    Also, if there's any business managers out there who have a clever idea for how to still make a living off this, let me know. I'll pay you with a reasonable fraction of the results ;)

    I'm sure Blizzard would at least give you an interview. Sucks that you might have to move from the Bay Area to LA though. But if their quest UI is so painful that millions of people prefer yours, that's a damn good reason to hire you. I played WoW without any add-ons, but I had to use wowhead constantly to figure out how to do many of the quests. If it weren't for that website and thottbot I would've stopped playing long before I did.

  • Two things (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DetpackJump ( 1219130 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @12:46PM (#27279671)
    1) Blizzard probably doesn't want masses of users to be put at a disadvantage because they can't afford to buy the best add-ons.

    2) Blizzard probably doesn't want to deal with people suing them because these little business take hits every time there's an engine change that severely breaks an add-on or makes it irrelevant.
  • by Rabbitbunny ( 1202531 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @01:07PM (#27279821)

    1) Add-ons must be free of charge.
    All add-ons must be distributed free of charge. Developers may not create "premium" versions of add-ons with additional for-pay features, charge money to download an add-on, charge for services related to the add-on, or otherwise require some form of monetary compensation to download or access an add-on.

    You fail.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @03:36PM (#27281271) Journal

    I knew that all kinds of nasty would occur when it became blizzardvision. The PHBs at Activision have always been major douchebags and we really shouldn't be surprised they are going to RIAA the coders that help make their game playable. Deity forbid that someone other than the great blizzardvision should actually make a dollar. Just another case of short sighted greed by a big corp. They keep this up and they'll make EA look good! But that is the nice thing about competition. I'm sure that other MMOs would be happy to take the developers that blizavision pisses off.

    I just hope all the major game corps with their "how bad CAN we screw everyone and still get away with it?" attitude finally have it come back to bite them in the ass. Between the DRM from hell [] and crap like this it seems like the big corps are determined to run off all their customers. Oh well. Most of the AAA list titles I've seen and played lately sucked IMHO and I hope that more developers will come in to fill the gap. I personally don't care if a FPS has SOF I level graphics if it is FUN, which is something a lot of shooters I've played lately simply don't have any of. But if no little developers come in to fill the gap there are thousands of PC titles I still haven't gotten that should keep me happy for years.

    My boys have switched to MMOs that use micro-transactions as they said the big ones like WoW are just getting too much grinding to be fun. From the looks of things that may be the way the little guys can compete with the big guys without screwing their customer base. I'm all for competition so I hope this trend continues.

  • Re:Good choice (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:42PM (#27282973)

    ou can solicit donations on your website for your work, you just can't charge for it or advertise in game.

    The problem from website-only donation arises from the way most WoW users get their addons. Most download them from 3rd party websites such as Curse or WOWInterface. The user isn't required to (and in practice DOESN'T) visit the author's website.

    Without messages that inform the user that the possibility of donation even exists, most users won't donate. It's not that they're unwilling to - the authors of Questhelper and nUI work on their addons as full-time jobs, supported by donations - but rather that they're unaware of the possibility. Adding a single nag in the chatbox once very 2 or 3 weeks quintupled donations for Questhelper. If ingame donation messages are banned, working full-time on one of these addons is no longer viable, and they will cease being maintained. So, in fact, this change WILL reduce the number of addons available.

  • by astrocanis ( 1506149 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:25PM (#27283369)
    I disagree. I think this has absolutely nothing to do with what is immediately visible. Microsoft is going to, via it's subsidiary Massive, "offer" in-game ads to WoW players. Nobody is quite sure what form that could take. However, as Activision signed an exclusive with MS for this, any in-game advertising not explicitly created by MS will be a violation of that exclusivity. Money talks. Customers only matter any more in terms of demographic and purchasing profile. Even in WoW. Actually, since Activision took over, especially in WoW.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas