Let’s go for a stroll – Part Two

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This is the second and final part of a scenic walk-through from our upcoming game, March On Oz.  As you can see in the video, we have weather conditions that affect the both the background scenery and foreground battle areas. The cold and snow-covered landscape getting you down? Check out the Pele’s relaxing and enjoying themselves in their own private hot springs at around the 0:35 mark. While there are a lot of flat, two-dimensional “cards” that we use for some of the scenery, the world itself is three-dimensional as you can see from all the stuff that is going on in that area. I wonder how we could use that kind of space in the future…

We’re walking now

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Anyone hungry?

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If Nexon’s apparent hunger for some American take-out is true  they may want some dessert after that tasty meal. True or not, here’s a nice bit of cake from our game for everyone to enjoy:

Reflections from a quiet Sunday afternoon

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Sitting here in the office, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, modifying my levels for our first game (20 down, 20 more to go), I got a bit more reflective than usual.  The result, well:

1) Two weeks ago I was speaking to an ex-Senior Executive from one of the game publishers and I asked him if he would return there under the right circumstances.  He answered quite quickly and said “No, I love the fact that now I only have to work with people who I like and respect.” I’ve thought about that answer since then and it makes a lot of sense to me. Now, I know most people aren’t fortunate enough to be able to dictate the terms/conditions of their jobs in the way that he can (and I can as well of course) but it really makes a difference when you are able to do that. I have nothing but respect for him as well as for those who stay somewhere because they need that job and have to “suck it up” in order to keep food on the table.  As I’ve said before, I know how lucky I am to not only be able to do that but also to be surrounded by a fine group of people all of which I both like and respect. To what my friend said, I would also add “and not have to work with people for whom a reality distortion field is part of their day-to-day existence.”  I’ve never been good at being anything but straightforward and while it has bitten me in the butt many times, I am not going to change that trait of mine anytime soon and I want this studio to be place where there is no room for a RDF and so far, CSE is exactly that. Oh, and for those who think that “reality distortion field” thing might be a subtle swipe at EA, nope. As I’ve said before the guys I reported to at EA never asked me to distort anything and they always have my respect for that.  And besides, if the day ever came that I wanted to talk about that kind of stuff, being subtle would never come into play.

2) As our game comes together nicely, I’m still blown away but they way our artists have been able to bring our ideas for our game’s inhabitants to life so quickly and with so much character. We’ve been working on this game for way less than a year and the things that they keep churning out just keep getting better and better. While this is certainly not my first rodeo, I’ve always been and remain deeply envious of people who can take a simple concept and bring it to life by drawing it. I can’t draw a lick and that is something I always wished I could do.

3) As I’m playing through our game I’m also blown away by how solid it is technically. Now, I know this doesn’t compare to an MMO in complexity but the way that our team has gone about programming this game has really made me smile. Our modular approach, heavy reliance on code reviews and other good practices may have made this game take a little longer to complete than it might have but it is more than worth it in the end.

4) The last three years have given me more time to spend with my family than ever before (spoken by the guy in the office on a Sunday of course) and for that I am deeply thankful. Growing up I was a gym rat which segued  to a gaming geek so it’s safe to say that I can be a bit “obsessive” about things at times so being able to spend more time at home, especially as my son prepares for the SATs, has been a really nice bonus for me.

5) Lin-Sanity will calm down and when it does, the Knicks will have a team that can really do some damage in the playoffs. They are not likely to win everything this year (the Heat couldn’t win in “Three Amigos Year One” last year) but next year looks interesting for them. They should have all their key players back and with a couple of tweaks they could be a serious contender for the title. The NY Rangers on the other hand, look capable of winning it all. I just hope Glen “I never met an overpriced player I haven’t liked” Sather doesn’t screw things up by giving away the store for Rick Nash (a great player but not worth what the GM is supposedly asking for him). Stay the course Glen, you have a really good team with a great young nucleus and some top junior/collegiate players. Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

6) I’m still a big believer in Rex Ryan. Maybe this year will be the humbling experience that we all need every so often in order to grow as both human beings and in our chosen professions.  It’s amazing what that can do for someone.

Okay, enough for now, time to get back to the levels, now where do I put that…

Everyone needs a little R&R now and then…

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Some of the guys relaxing after a tough day on the road.

Here come de judge, here come de judge, order in the courtroom, here come de judge

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Today’s not-so-mysterious guest columnist is James Dunstan, attorney-at-law and total geek like us.  He and I went to law school together and unfortunately, the pull of the dark side was too much for him.  Luckily though, he has maintained a sense of humor, love for gaming and has been involved in both my previous companies (AUSI & Mythic) from day one.  He has spent more than 25 years providing legal services to high technology, communications, and computer game law clients. He has been involved in almost every aspect of the digital revolution, from representing the true “fathers” of the Internet, to cable, telecommunication and media giants, to assisting computer game startups mature to profitable enterprises.  Jim has been an active “coder” since the early 1980s when he wrote computer games while in law school. Among the titles he’s provided most of the coding for include Lunar Eclipse Software’s “Return to the Moon” and “Mission: Planet Earth,” as well as writing the motion code for the first PC-based motionbased video arcade game, New Luna’s “Lunar Defense.”  He is the founder of Mobius Legal Group and he can be contacted at jdunstan@mobiuslegal.com.

So, without further ado, I present:

Warning: Do Not Use This MMO To Trim Your Hedge, And Other Happenings In CyberLaw – By James Dunstan

While the dog days of summer come to an end and we look forward to Fall’s changing colors, courts haven’t taken a lot of vacations. Two important decisions came down during August that remind us again that the real world can be a silly place to live.

We begin with the case of Craig Smallwood versus NCSoft. It seems that Mr. Smallwood launched a lawsuit in late 2009 in Hawaii, after his Lineage II accounts were banned. He accused NCSoft of all manner of heinous acts, including taking his money, not conducting a “fair and square” game, not uniformly enforcing its no botting and no gold farming rules, and the one that has hit the blogosphere, not warning him that Lineage II can be addictive. In short, a disgruntled subscriber run amok. The judge threw out the case once, but because he was proceeding pro se (without benefit of an attorney), the judge allowed him to amend his complaint. He refiled, this time doing a much better job, too good a job in fact, as NCSoft argued that the amended complaint had been ghostwritten by a lawyer, who actually showed up at the hearing. The judge agreed, smacked the lawyer, and then moved on to discuss the merits of the case.

Posts are running rampant about how the judge agreed with Smallwood on the addiction claim and is allowing the case to proceed. That’s true enough, but misses the far more important aspects of this decision. First, the judge found that the End User License Agreement (EULA) was valid. The impact of this? The provision that limits NCSoft’s liability to $65 for contract violations and negligence are fully enforceable. That means even if Smallwood can prove NCSoft breached its promise to run a “fair and square” game, or took three months of Smallwood’s money, all he gets back is $65. Second, the only way Smallwood can cash in big on this case is to prove that NCSoft was grossly negligent in not warning him that Lineage II is addictive. THAT will be an incredibly tall order, since Smallwood will have to prove both that Lineage II is addictive (whatever that is), and that NCSoft knew it was addictive and chose not to warn subscribers of this defect in the game.

For those of you who have heard me speak at various industry conferences know how hard I stress the importance of crafting an enforceable EULA. My 2007 LOGIN presentation “It’s All in the EULA” stemmed from the 2003 case Black Snow Enterprises v. Mythic Entertainment, the first virtual property case that I litigated. There, all plaintiff’s claims against Mythic’s Dark Age of Camelot were short-circuited when the judge agreed that the EULA was enforceable, and we were able to dismiss the case and turn it over to arbitration. Faced with very clear language in the EULA that banned all forms of gold farming and item selling, the case evaporated in a heartbeat. While my “stock” EULA does not use the term “addictive,” it has clear language urging players to take frequent breaks from the game, and that prolonged playing may trigger all manner of ills, including triggering dormant photosensitivity and halitosis (ok, maybe not halitosis). Depending on how good NCSoft’s EULA is (I haven’t gone back to read it, so it may or may not be fully enforceable), chances are Mr. Smallwood now faces a similar fate. While others in the blogosphere may scream about the silliness of placing these types of warnings on games (hence the apocryphal reference to warning labels on lawn mowers to not use them as hedge trimmers), I urge all game designers to spend the time and legal budget to craft a EULA that protects themselves against frivolous claims.

Our second summer reading exercise comes to us from Mississippi, where local television anchor Toni Miles sued Raycom Media, her former employer and owner of WLOX in Biloxi. Her claim was that Raycom was guilty of “cyber libel” for allowing viewers of its website to post comments in response to an article reporting that Ms. Miles was arrested for cocaine possession. The judge found that the article itself was true (she was arrested but the charges were later dropped), and that Raycom was protected by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as a web publisher from libel allegations related to the posts by readers. This is another huge win in a line of cases where courts have applied this immunity to websites that host third party forums. Those who lose sleep at night wondering if all the flame wars conducted in their user forums can come back to bite them can sleep a little easier.

Now, before folks start flaming Mr. Smallwood about his suit against NCSoft after reading the paragraph above, do remember that the CDA does not protect individual posters against libel. You may have to answer to Mr. Smallwood and Casper the Friendly Ghostlawyer.

James Dunstan

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So, thanks to Jim for this guest column.  Opinions expressed by my guest columnist are theirs alone and if you have any questions feel free to comment on this post or look it up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

Mark

Flame on!

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Okay, this should be interesting.  Glenn Beck has launched a new web site entitled TheBlaze.  I’m sure it won’t generate any controversy, personal attacks or rotten fruit hurled at him and I’m sure it will restore balance to the force and bring about world peace.  I can just imagine how his critics will have fun with the site and its name.  Tasty linkage here.

And just to clarify things, I’m not endorsing/criticizing GB, his views or anything else.  I’m just going to grab a nice big bowl of Edamame (I can’t eat popcorn on this damn diet) and watch the ensuing fun.

Mark

President Obama IS Muslim – Pruuf here!

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And besides that, he is also Christian, was born overseas, racist, hates white people, hates black people, is part of a polygamous marriage and has superpowers.  He also knows where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, can raise people from the dead, is secretly a communist and is a sleeper agent for an alien invasion force.  And this being the Internet, all someone needs to do is say it and suddenly, a whole lot of people believe (or say they believe) that it’s true, it’s true.

Now, to all of us who have spent way too much time on the Internet, we are used to this sort of stuff.  Accusations fly faster here than orders do at your local IHOP on a Sunday morning.  The fact that maybe as many as 20% of Americans believe that he is Muslim and/or was born overseas, shouldn’t shock anyone, yet it always seems to shock the journalists who then in turn, ask the prez if he finds the numbers shocking as well.  IDK, maybe they are all working on their best Claude Rains impersonation just in case Hollywood ever decides to remake Casablanca? I’m not surprised that 20% of Americans answered the question that way since you could probably survey people and ask them if they though William Shatner and Roseanne Barr ever recorded an operatic duet and many would say yes.  Well, maybe not that many but you get the point.

The real point though is that nobody should have to go through what President Obama is going through now.  He doesn’t get a free pass because he is the prez but he also shouldn’t have to answer the same questions over and over again simply because he is the prez.  And when he says “I can’t spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered to my head”, that sardonic remark sets more Internetizens reading his lips, looking for tells and then bashing him some more.  Unfortunately, this is all par for what became a worn out, par 2010, American golf course that is full of water traps, sand traps, bunkers (oh gawd, I said bunkers, conspiracy alert) and other assorted gotchas.  When President Bush failed miserably at pronouncing nuclear, the left bashed him, so now that the US has a Democrat/Progressive/Liberal/Communist/Socialist/Muslim/Martian president in office, it’s the other side’s turn to take potshots at the man.  What’s amusing in all of this is that during the election campaign, Obama was bashed because he was supposedly a devoted follower/adherent/love slave of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright who nobody would accuse of being a Muslim. In the real world, you can’t have it both ways.  Oh, never mind, it’s the Internet, of course you can.

FYI, I’m shocked as anybody that I’m writing a piece in defense of President Obama since when political discussions occur, I’ve sometimes been accused of being just a little to the right of Attila the Hun (which I guess puts me to the left of Glen Beck?).  As far as I’m concerned, since he was born in the US and he has said that he is Christian, why keep asking him, why keep the rumor going and worse, attacking him on it?  And since someone asked (though I thought I made this clear), I don’t care what religion he is.  I think that when anybody has to answer the same damn question time after time after time it doesn’t mean that the rumor is true.  Sometimes there is smoke but it’s not fire that is causing it, it’s somebody trying to blow something up your …

Oh, Mr. President, while you’re answering questions, could you please use your superpowers to tell me where my car keys are, I’ve misplaced them again.

Mark

Update: Made a slight change to wording for clarity’s sake.