Thursday, November 29, 2007

Latest Microsoft Bandwagon Lawsuit: Halo 3 is Defective

Information Week is reporting that a San Diego resident is suing Microsoft and Bungie because Halo 3 "consistently causes the Xbox 360 to crash, freeze, or lock up while the game is being played." I have a number of problems with this allegation and this suit. First and foremost, if Halo 3 were truly "defective" or caused the problems alleged, it seems reasonable to assume that message boards and blogs alike would have been exploding with those types of complaints since October. I dare say it might have broken the internet due to the volume of vocal complaints. However, this is the first time I have seen any such allegation, between the Rooster Teeth forums, Bungie forums, and forums or anywhere on the gaming blog circuit. The suit states: "Although faced with repeated and mounting consumer complaints and inquiries concerning this operational flaw in Halo 3, the defendants have failed to recall Halo 3 or otherwise remedy its failure to function on the Xbox 360." I would love to see a full version of the complaint and/or the "mounting consumer complaints" that are being referenced therein.

This brings me to the second issue. What the plaintiff is describing sounds far more like the well publicized problem with the Xbox 360 console rather than any problem with the game. And if that is the case, then the plaintiff should be taking advantage of the warranty repair process rather than filing a lawsuit. Which brings me to the third and final point, that given the available evidence, this seems like a rather simplistic attempt to profit from the game that set the new single day sales record. I have no problem with using the legal system to remedy actual problems, but at first glance, this suit seems like it's either misplaced blame or a shot in the dark. Once the pleadings make their way onto the internet in full, hopefully some more light will be shed on this case.

[Via Joystiq]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ABA Journal Top 100 Blawgs

Law of the Game has been added to the ABA Journal's list of "Top 100 Blawgs." To view the complete list, click here. Selection to the list means that Law of the Game is one of the "top 100 best websites by lawyers, for lawyers."

From now until January 2, there will be voting to determine the "favorites" among the categories. It is in the "Black Letter Law" category. I'd greatly appreciate if if you would take the time to vote for Law of the Game.

Vote Here

About the ABA Journal:
The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, and it is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. features breaking legal news updated as it happens by staff reporters throughout every business day, a directory of more than 1,500 lawyer blogs, and the full contents of the magazine.

About the ABA:
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poker Bots Causing Real Trouble

From the same wonderful people who brought gold farming bots to life, online poker bots may soon come online to harass online poker players according to the Freakonomics blog. The difference between bots of yore and the potential new breed of bots is that rather than just replicate mundane in-game tasks, poker bots will actually have to outplay their opponents. However, once poker is "solved" like checkers was "solved," it would seem the bot should be able to beat humans over the statistical long run, although any given hand may go one way or the other based on the simple "luck of the draw."

As the article points out, poker sites claim they will boot bots. This may prove more complex than anticipated. Randomization can be incorporated into bot play, or a human may simply reference the bot's choice and play accordingly. Penalizing players who do "too well" over the long term isn't a viable option either, as a good player can simply do well on the long term.

There is one point of contention I take with the article, and that is the classification of poker as "pure skill" like "chess and checkers." This is simply not the case. While poker has a defined and significant skill element, there is still a draw pattern that is not any result of player skill. Chess and checkers have no randomization at all. The pieces always start in the same place, and both players start with identical position. While poker does have skill, the simple dealing of cards at the beginning introduces an element of chance. While I don't wish to argue the varying levels of chance vs. skill in this post, I cannot agree with anyone who classifies poker as a "pure" chance or "pure" skill game. It contains elements of both.

Bots haven't toppled other online games, but the poker bot theory may provide the greatest anti-bot challenge to date. Only time will tell how online poker sites decide to deal with bot players, but I doubt that bots will end online poker.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kids, Cards, and Class Actions: The Xbox Live Lawsuit

Information Week is reporting about a class action lawsuit that resulted from a child using his parent's debit card to register for Xbox Live without permission. The damages are from an overdraft fee a year later when the automatic renewal occurred. While I'm sure many class action attorneys love the idea of being able to take a shot at Microsoft, this case makes me want to roll my eyes because it highlights three major points of personal responsibility, one of which is a legal issue.

First, the two non-legal points: financial responsibility and parental responsibility. Financial responsibility in the US has been a major problem as of late, especially given the debt trends in the country. However, I would assume most people monitor their cash flow to some extent. Accordingly, I find it hard to believe that the parent in this case didn't notice the original Xbox Live charge, and if he did, then it was irresponsible not to address the issue at that time and rather let it renew a year later. Second, the parent should be monitoring the child's activity, and it is ultimately the parent's fault the card was taken and used by the child. The parent should realize this at some point in the transaction before an entire year has elapsed.

This leaves the third issue, the concept of vicarious liability for the actions of your child, which I would consider a spin-off of parental responsibility. While this issue varies from state to state, many states do hold parents responsible for the actions of their children, be that vandalism or online piracy or, in this case, use of a parent's credit card. Given that Microsoft already refunded the charge, the vicarious liability would be limited to the bank overdraft fee, which still stems from the original action of the child. I'm not sure of the vicarious liability laws in the state where this action is being brought, however.

Ultimately, holding a parent liable for $35 in damages caused by the unsupervised action of their child seems like a pretty minimal penalty, and I would hope that the parent would take it as a very inexpensive lesson that they need to keep a closer eye on their child and their wallet. Instead, it has been turned into a class action suit against Microsoft. I can't predict the outcome of the case, but if it were entirely up to me, I would dismiss the suit without question.

[Via Joystiq]

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The "Jack Thompson Debate" Idea is Over-Rated

GamePolitics has run a number of stories on the rumor, later squashed, of a Jack Thompson debate at the GDC, in addition to the debate that already occurred. In fact, GP's recent poll is on this very topic. I'd like to voice an opinion that really hasn't surfaced in any of the gaming media on this topic.

The Jack Thompson Debate at GDC would be a waste of time and have no real benefit for the industry.

I'm sure more than a few readers may be outraged by this statement, but I have four specific reasons for my position.

1. It won't change Jack's position.
It has become readily apparent that no amount of reason, logic, or factual evidence, much less the vocal and emotional pleas from fans, will sway Mr. Thompson. He will, in all likelyhood, hold the same stance from now until his death in the distant future. And in the mean time, he will use every waking moment to fight what he considers the "good fight." Mr. Thompson is the definition of a zealot, and although another debate will likely serve point 4, it won't change Mr. Thompson's mind. In fact, I doubt his mind would change if he soundly lost a million debates.

2. It won't reach the mainstream media.
Ultimately, this whole issue is about the perception of the video game in the main stream media and in the main stream American's mind. A debate at a conference of game developers won't make it on CNN or FoxNews or MSNBC. At best, it will make its rounds through the game fan circles, the game media, and maybe the technology media crowd, who are already overwhelmingly opposed to Mr. Thompson's position. The impact on society at large would more than likely be negligible.

3. It gives Jack more free press and attention.
I know my mother always told me to ignore a bully. By bringing in Mr. Thompson for a debate, it will make him the center of attention. And, when asked about the event, I'm sure he will spin his take on the event to his benefit, no matter the outcome. It's another line for his resume that we don't need to provide.

4. Jack would lose, but the only benefit would be an ego boost to people in the industry.
Here's the one benefit, if you can consider it that. Essentially, no matter how large or small the loss, the industry will be happy. And perhaps a video of the event might make its rounds into more mainstream parts of society. But ultimately, it's an ego boost without an impact to the mainstream. We all need ego boosts sometime, but I really think the net benefit here is fairly minimal.

I must admit I am relieved to see that, so far, the GDC has not arranged for this debate to actually occur. To me, the circus that would follow the debate would detract from the conference, and ultimately prove to have little or no benefit to the anti-game censorship cause. However, that is just my opinion, and so feel free to disagree.

New Vernon Law Group Website


You may have noticed that the firm I work for has undergone a name change to The Vernon Law Group, PLLC. Accordingly, the firm needed a new web site, which I personally designed. I wanted to take this opportunity to invite you to visit the firm's new website at:

Please feel free to send any comments on the site or its structure to me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Silicon Knights v. Epic: Motion to Dismiss Denied, Discovery Begins

GameDaily is reporting that the Silicon Knights v. Epic case is moving ahead after Epic's motion to dismiss has been denied. While they have mentioned this is "common," they haven't actually explained what it means. A motion to dismiss is essentially a motion to determine that the case isn't one for which there is a remedy at law even if the facts are true as stated. In this case, it would be the basic equivalent of Epic saying that Silicon Knights hasn't made any actual legal claims in their case. The judge, by denying this claim, is simply saying that he believes there is a claim or at least there is the appearance of a claim that can be remedied by law. The reason that it is common for motions to dismiss to be denied is that there is rarely something presented that is so outlandish that it makes no resemblance to a claim that can be remedied at law. If you would like an example of a time when a motion to dismiss would be appropriate, I would direct you to this lawsuit against Michael Vick.

The motion to dismiss is not to be confused with a motion for summary judgment, which is basically asking for a ruling without a trial in favor of one party. Put as simply as possible, if Epic had moved for summary judgment, they would stating that even if the facts are viewed in the manner most favorable to Silicon Knights, Epic would still be victorious in its claim. Motions for summary judgment generally occur after discovery, so they could still occur in this case. There is also a motion for a directed verdict, which would come after the plaintiff presents its case and essentially says the plaintiff has not proven their case. To use the continuing example, after Silicon Knights rests their case, Epic could move for a directed verdict on the basis that Silicon Knights has not sufficiently met the burden of proof necessary for their claims.

In sum, the Silicon Knights v. Epic case is moving forward at this time. Law of the Game will being more commentary as more developments occur. If you would like to read more about these motions, or about other motions, please visit this Wikipedia article.

[Via Joystiq]

An Open Letter to Bungie

Dear Bungie,

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the "Playlist of the Living Dead" extravaganza yesterday on Live. The infection gametype has always been one I've enjoyed, from its latest iteration in Halo 3 to the older iterations in games like Perfect Dark Zero and the TimeSplitters series. To me, it's more interesting than a standard deathmatch but doesn't actually require much strategy or teamwork, like some of the team games. It's a happy medium that doesn't appear often in the ranked rotations.

I would love to see the All Infection playlist get permanent placement among the other ranked playlists. I know many people would opt to play pure infection as a ranked alternative to slayer or team slayer. Given that the number of players is significantly more than the Lone Wolves playlist, it makes for a more "fun" big atmosphere. A possible alternative here would be a Lone Wolves 8-13 size ranked list, where infection is sprinkled in. Another point is that people like to be able to play ranked with their friends, and the allowance to have a party of 4 join the ranked lists was a great addition.

In conclusion, I'd love for the all infection list to become a permanent ranked list for Halo 3 multiplayer, or in the alternative, a large (8-13) Lone Wolves list where infection is roughly half the games.