Online Games with User-Created Content

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TheWildDuck
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Joined: 06/26/2011

Hail fellows well met,

First, my thanks to the administrators for kindly accepting my application, in full knowledge that I can't add much to the tech or historical side of games - I hope to be able to repay your kindness in participation, smileys and speculative advice based on my grounding in the legal profession (subject to giant disclaimers).

I was wondering if any of you out there might be able to give me some insight on online games that:

1) allow the user to create content online (e.g. weaponry, poetry, dress designs etc.); and

2) the creations are available online, not merely client-side mods (i.e. not just the user creating the item can see them).

If it is possible for these items to be traded, or for 'real world' value to be substituted, that would be even better.

The reason I ask is that my Masters thesis entails, essentially, ripping apart EULAs. As part of said dissection I will be investigating clauses to the effect of 'all your creations are belong to us'. The difficulty I have encountered thus far is that, as far as I know, the creations made in-game are client-side, thus no one else sees the creations anyway. If a user were to intend to monetise something he had created, could he not simply delete it from his game, recreate it outside of the game and sell it without the game developers ever having a whiff of it?

If you could give me examples of games where the items are easily seen by others, that would be great. I will then go on to check the EULA/ToS in question. Also, if any of you know of any cases where a developer has claimed the copyright of a user's creation, I'd love to hear the story, even if it is only anecdotal. And if my technical understanding appears flawed, please feel free to correct me - my thesis may hinge on this point!

Thanks,

TWD

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TheWildDuck
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Joined: 06/26/2011
Thanks!

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your post - it actually covers some content that is far more interesting than my thesis! Alas, it is too late to change. I'd love to write an article about private servers sometime. There is actually well established EU law that permits reverse engineering, though I believe it's more a stick to beat IBM with for their non-competitive behaviour, back in the eighties.

Your point about the games no longer being available online is especially interesting - after the official server is shut down, it's still protected/protectable, so potentially the mirror sites still aren't allowed. I think Matt Barton made a similar point in his book about out-of-use games that still can't legally be emulated.

A point I will most definitely pick up on for my thesis is the Nintendo one - that's a really harsh EULA and I'm pretty sure it can't stand under EU rules. Of course, the EU being the supranational institution it is, the exact illegality will be decided by the Member State involved, but I'd love to see those clauses come to court. Those clauses would be struck out faster than you can say 'struck out'!

I'm pretty sure a lot of companies put a lot of 'bovine waste' into their EULAs on the presumption that the user will generally stick to them and it will never come to court.

The new proposed legislation actually raises a really interesting point, about which a friend of mine is basing his whole thesis on. There's a big question mark in Europe about how exactly games should be protected under copyright law. We recently had a case from the Czech Republic that decided that GUIs are not protected as part of the copyright of software, so that leaves us with protecting them either as databases (discrete elements in a certain arrangement) or as videos. However, videos require fixation (i.e. recording) which doesn't really take place when you play. So interestingly, the videos of the game might be copyrighted, but not the game itself!

I love law!

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Herschel
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Joined: 06/05/2011
Hi TWD, This info may or may

Hi TWD,

This info may or may not be relevant to your thesis, but I figured I'd do a little brain dump and see what sticks.

As was mentioned earlier, many MMOG players buy and sell characters, items, and in-game currency using real world currency, although this isn't really user-generated content, per se. Many of the companies frown upon this and will actively ban people caught trading (or farming), and is usually prohibited by their EULAs. Ultimately, it seems to be an impossible task to prevent this trading, as it still happens. It's arguable that the player should have the right to play the game in the manner he wishes.

On the subject of mods, yes, the modifications would only be visible to you and others with the mod installed. Despite this, many EULAs specifically prohibit reverse engineering or modifying parts of the game. A common project is to reverse engineer a MMOG's server in order to create a private server that can often be played on for free. This is also frowned upon by many companies. One example was bnetd, an emulation of Blizzard's Battle.net service. Blizzard took the creators to court for violation of their EULA and Terms of Use.

This has strong implications because many of these online games shut down after some indeterminate amount of time, rendering the game unplayable. These projects are the only way to keep these games alive, so I'm sure many of the people here would agree that they are historically significant.

The 3DS was recently criticized over its terms of use, which state that all content you create on the 3DS is effectively in Nintendo's property.

The Senate is considering a bill which may criminalize the video streaming of video games over the net. Videos based on games (such as streams of tournaments, strategy guides, etc.) could be considered a form of "user-created content".

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
yes Second life is made so

yes Second life is made so you can do anything (and I do mean anything) so I would guess they are the least restrictive. WOW is maybe the most restrictive, they will not tolerate anything that can give you and edge over other players. They let you move the interface around and set up stuff on that, but not much else. There where several mods that have been removed from the game. most could be exploited in some way to make the game easier or make running BOTS easier. There are several very easy to use BOTS for WOW that will just grind exp and money for you which are frowned upong by Blizzard (and me and everybody who plays the game legit).

Client side mods will only effect your side, nobody else will see them, and unfortnalty they can exploit the game very easy. lag "makers" will warp you past monsters (blush- yes I have tested these). packet Sniffers can captuer packets and decode them and run maps, trackers and such on secondary programs (yes WoW has these too). BUT!!!! most Online games keep track of what you run during your gaming sessions.. WOW for one takes snapshots of what you are running to keep people from running 3rd party tools to "mess with the game". Suprisingly no company in the world could get away with this... but They do (blizzard).

Most, if not all games companys could care less what you do on your end if it does not make the game easier or effect there game model. So changeing your hair color should bother anybody as nobody will see it but you on the client server setup. Most anything (loot, player and monster speed/damg/health/inventory is all on the server so you cant change anything that could benafit you ingame.

STonline only lets you manipulate missions, they ahve some mission generator, again, i havent looked at it at all, but I have heard good things about it. If anything People have proven they can do some amazing things with limited tools if given the chance.

TheWildDuck
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Joined: 06/26/2011
Thanks for the pointers, both

Thanks for the pointers, both of you :) Second Life was indeed my starting point, but their EULA is one of the most easygoing I could find, I was trying to find a games company that was particularly harsh so I could really go to town on it! I'll definitely check out STOnline and I recently installed WoW to check the install process and paperwork - watertight in many respects so I guess they either have extremely savvy lawyers or (more likely) they've had plenty of litigation where they've had to clean up.

Can I just double check my understanding of client-side mods? If I have a character that has brown hair, and I mod it to blue, am I then the only one who can see me with blue hair? Everyone else will still see it as brown, correct?

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
That's a great topic, Duck.

That's a great topic, Duck. I've heard off and on that EULAs are problematic because people just click them without reading (as their authors intend). It seems like getting people to sign contracts without letting them ask questions or even know that they're not drunk, coerced, or even who they claim to be. In short, just how well would one of the click-through EULAs really hold up in court?

But anyway, I agree with Clok, it sounds like Second Life is what you're after. You can create not just objects like clothes, but also scripts for things like dancing. It's actually very elaborate and as far as I know the biggest fish in the sea when it comes to user-generated content.

Wow will let you "craft" items and put them on the auction house, but you're not supposed to make actual money doing it. The people who try to make money from WOW are usually condemned as "gold farmers."

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I think the only one close to

I think the only one close to what you are looking for is "Second Life", I do know you can buy and sell and create content. I looked at this game quite some time ago so have very little info on it. Its more a social simulator than anything from my short time looking at it.

Star Trek Online lets you make mission, but I do believe its a fairly limited set of tools and doesnt allow for creation of new content, just re use content already in the game. Anotehr one I have not looked at in forever, but hear its been a fair hit with the people still playing STonline.

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