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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

This started as a semi-private convo, based on one of my blog entries, but I wanted to open it up to you guys. Naturally I asked permission, because that's just the kind of guy I am.

Dan: (original post here: Dan's Post)

Me
well yeah... #1 does kinda make the rest of it pretty pointless.

As for #2, you neglect to mention that the bootleg Bnet also does not do any serial key validation, which means it's wide open for pirated
copies to play all they want. Pretty sure Blizzard has the right to defend against that. (Yes I know, they asked Blizzard for the algos to handle
the CD-keys... but that's part of their livelihood... I wouldn't give it up either.)

Dan:
yup...you're totally right about the cd keys.
they do have an absolute right to protect that.  i would too.
and its sucky that one aspect of the bnet tool is pirated usage.
but theres also the issue of what is the end user entitled to do with a product?  its a really gray area.  I wish they could have worked something out without having to sue the developers.
I think that shutting the doors on custom engineering is short sighted somewhat.
Piracy will always be a problem, but i think that going after these guys was the wrong approach.  other companies have embraced this kind of involvement from users and have just rolled with the fact that people will play a bogus copy with it.
i think the meltdown will be terribly exciting tho.  have a good time.  glad to see you're registered and ready!


me
Not being a part of the entire proceeding, I naturally have no idea about specifics. However, I have heard/read that Blizzard asked these guys to stop (cease and desist) several times before actually filing suit.

Software companies have a right (and in many cases, a legal obligation to shareholders) to vigorously defend their Intellectual Property. In fact, not doing so can cause them to lose such protection. Our legal system has made it an unfortunate necessity to "sue first, ask questions later" in order to ensure all your bases are covered. Companies like Blizzard get a bad rap in the process, but unfortunately it's the nature of the business.
 
In this case though, I am reluctant to believe that the decision to sue was reached lightly. Of course, when a company grows to Blizzard size, the corporate culture varies greatly from department to department. In this case, the legal department probably (hopefully?) has a very different opinion of end-user developers than their own development teams do...
 
You are correct that piracy has always been a problem, and it's one that Blizzard has been fighting for as long as I've known of them. The bnet tool is an interesting alternative for local play, and of course in the event Blizzard ever pulls the plug on Battle.Net. Unfortunately though, at this point it's not a legal option. Blizzard could alleviate some of the issue by pushing out there own standalone "LAN party in a box" version of Battle.Net. They wouldn't have to share the authentication algos with anyone. Just a thought! Of course, there would still be some unhappy people, due to the inability to play pirated games.
 
On that note, I think Blizzard should also deprecate the authentication requirements on any games more than x years (or versions) old. Seriously, once Diablo VI ships... is it really mission critical to keep validating the protection on Diablo II? Maybe from a legal standpoint it is... I don't know.
 
But yeah, Meltdown is going to rock!!


Dan:
You're absolutely right!  If they would supply a self installed server app, then I would definitely say that BNet would have no recourse but to stop.  And that would be such an easy fix to do, for the sake of their corporate reputation.  Others have done it and with smashing success.

I'm still concerned about what the consumer does or does not have a right to do with a purchased product. I understand that there are intellectual rights involved.  But modification and enhancement (in my opinion) should be acceptable, provided the modifier doesnt profit from their endeavor.
I like to think of this situation as it would apply to other retail products.  Say for instance, you bought a truck from chevy.  Now lets say that you're interested in towing a trailer, so you go down to the local trailer shop to get a trailer hitch put on.  Only you cant.  Chevy has sued the shops to put an end to hitches stating "having a hitch on your truck would allow you to to steal other peoples trailers."  Well you stop to think "I'm not interested in stealing trailers, i just want to tow my own."  So you build your own hitch and soon after Chevy comes after you.

Blizzard has said 'we dont want you reverse engineering the product because you might want to use it with pirated software.'  Well I dont want to use it with pirated software, I want to use it with my own.

So yeah...its a fine line between consumer rights and companies legally protecting their stuff. I'll be interested to see who wins out in this.
 
 
 
At this point... I'd like anyone else with an opinion to jump in and comment. Stupid and abusive posts will be deleted. Sorry. Keep it on topic.
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2005 1:17 PM Game Development , General Interest | Back to top


Comments on this post: Blizzard discussion...

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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Dan... Interesting analogy, but I'm not sure it applies. I see the trailer hitch as writing a 3rd party app that utilizes existing technology, as opposed to reverse engineering the truck and building a new one from scratch. Of course, with some EULAs... that's still an issue.

Some folks would say it's illegal to mod an XBox, because it allows you to play bootleg games. I think the jury is still out on that one too.

I'm not sure there is a clearcut answer here, but I think providing their own standalone server software, like Unreal Tournament does (for example) would be a step in the right direction. Continue to control the piracy (as much as possible) but give the masses the means to play together offline... like at LAN parties, etc...
Left by Chris on Jun 23, 2005 1:22 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
Requesting Gravatar...
well the trailer hitch was the best i could come up with on 4 hours of sleep. :)
but i totally agree with you on the standalone server issue.
Left by dan on Jun 23, 2005 4:47 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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I can't help but wonder where the computer industry would be if reverse-engineering was successfully stopped on the production of hardware as well as software. The market would probably still be ruled by IBM. No IBM-compatibles or anything.

But that also draws the question, what is it legally that makes software so different from hardware? After all, part of making an IBM-compatible computer was reverse-engineering the all-important BIOS.

Perhaps it was just the approach? I know that in those days, the engineers that did the reverse engineering and the engineers that actually built the end product were completely seperated from each other for legal reasons.

I just find that I can't be pro-anti-reverse-engineering (crap, that's a buttload to try to understand) when I've seen fine examples of how any industry can be better because of it.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I can't help but think that if the car were invented today, there wouldn't be nearly the growth as there was one-hundred years ago. What if the "first" auto-manufacturer were able to sue the next one because they "reverse-engineered" the engine. Or perhaps they reverse-engineered the chassis in order to plug in their own engines. I understand this is very much like comparing apples and oranges but it's fun to think about nonetheless.
Left by Jason Olson on Jun 23, 2005 5:06 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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just for the record, I'm not against the concept of reverse engineering. It's what you do with it afterwards that really matters. If you want to reverse engineer HA! in order to figure out how certain things work (or why they don't) that's fine... but if you recompile it, call it AH! and try to sell it, we're gonna be scrappin...
Left by BlogusMaximus on Jun 23, 2005 5:16 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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I'm with you Chris. I feel the same way.

My problem is that I have benefitted indirectly by exactly these kind of actions. After all, isn't that exactly what Compaq did to IBM with the IBM-compatible? And how has the computer industry turned out because of that decision?
Left by Jason Olson on Jun 23, 2005 6:24 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
Requesting Gravatar...
But is it really the same? I see hardware and software as two totally different beasts when it comes to replicating the results of reverse engineering.

I do concede your point, that the world has benefited from such actions, but those were revolutionary examples. The car... the PC... that's world changing stuff, perhaps too great to be contained within one company.

I'm thinking of stuff that doesn't necessarily affect mankind as a while, but deeply affects the profit margin and viability of a few. We're comparing entertainment to the home PC revolution. It doesn't wash...

Diablo II is a great game, Batlle.NET is an awesome service, but you can't really say that reverse engineering them will lead to the betterment of mankind. It just makes things a little more convenient for the very few, and could seriously impact the rightful owners of the technology in a manner that could keep them from creating more of the very technology we love so much and wanted to share.

Reverse engineering from a knowledge perspective is fine (IMO) but distributing what you have learned without permission is not.

(I can't really argue about the car or PC, those are excellent exceptions... and no I don't know how to determine what will be of significant import to warrant such an exception, but I know Battle.Net doesn't qualify.)

Not everything that can be reverse engineered and copied should be. Seriously... how many Big Mouth Billy Bass clones does the world need, anyway?
Left by BlogusMaximus on Jun 23, 2005 11:36 PM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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Yeah, I agree with you, it's a fine line. But you also have to look at the PC situation without using hindsight. In hindsight, yes, it was a total revolution. But I'm not so sure you could say the same thing before it even happened. After all, the Newton looked like it was going to start another revolution in computing and, well, it didn't. The point is that while it's easy to notice revolutionary changes in the past, it is nearly impossible to tell what's coming in the future.

Now, is there even a snowball's chance in hell that BNet would affect ANYTHING in the grand scope of things? Probably not. However, the line is much grayer than that. For instance, the idea of Free Speech not only protected the speech that you like, but is also very much protects other speech that gets your blood boiling in the same way. In that same vein, I can't help but think if reverse-engineering is allowed in revolutionary circumstances, why should't it be allowed under normal circumstances?

As for hardware and software being two totall different things, I would have to kindly disagree :). Even the line between software and hardware gets more blurry everyday. Look at things like FPGAs where the software actually describes the definition of the hardware itself. Or, the BIOS. That's just software (yet that is the part that made IBM-Compatibles possible). Even when I see where enterprise level software is going, it's becoming to look more like hardware every day. Look at message-oriented architectures for instance. They emulate hardware very much so. You have the message bus, various components attached to the message bus that communicate through it. Also, the idea of decoupling to make the system more extensible (i.e. plugging in different hard drives, disc media drives, power supplies, etc.). I don't see this trend going away either. I think that the further along that we progress, the more the line between hardware and software becomes blurred.
Left by Jason Olson on Jun 24, 2005 11:37 AM

# re: Blizzard discussion...
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Although, when reading back that comment, the whole "software and hardware lines becoming blurred" does sound like a bunch of philosophical B.S. I guess the way to think about it is "meta"-hardware (the hardware that is programmable to the point that the hardware itself is built at the meta-level to support being programmed in countless different ways).
Left by Jason Olson on Jun 24, 2005 11:39 AM

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