Video Game News From Trotting Krips

Old News - Now Archived

On Tuesday, Lum the Mad broke news on his website regarding an announced change to the Everquest End-User License Agreement.

"The... change to the User Agreement and Software license concerns our efforts to stop people from hacking EverQuest and from doing malicious acts that we feel can affect EverQuest as an ongoing business concern. We have developed the technology to check for these hacking tools/programs and report that fact back to us. Without getting into the specifics of this technology, I can say that we in no way will search a user's hard drive(aside from the EverQuest directory during the patching process), registry nor will we send back any information other than the fact that a user is in fact running one of these programs (specifically we are NOT sending information about everything the user is running back to our servers). It's disturbing that the amount of recent developments in the hacking community force us to do this. Many will say 'ShowEQ' isn't worth worrying about. To us, it's cheating and it's not something we can allow in a game like EverQuest where it affects other people's enjoyment of the game. In addition, although this is the first time we'll be acknowledging this, ShowEQ isn't the worst offender. Recently we had someone attempting to bring down our servers with another malicious program. We were able to quickly identify what was going on and insure this didn't happen again, but nonetheless the potential is there and we need to be able to quickly identify and stop these types of programs. Again, I want to say it clearly that we will in NO WAY send any information back to the Everquest servers other than information regarding programs that we feel interfere with the intended operation of EverQuest. We have had this technology available for some time, but recently we've found it's going to be neccessary to go to greater lengths to stop this kind of thing. To those of you concerned about privacy (and rightly so) I want to say that we feel it's neccessary to do this but we want you to be informed that we are going to try these measures to protect both ourselves and the game's players.

Here is the text of this change:

'You hereby grant us permission to download Game-related files to you. You also grant us permission to access, extract and upload (i) Game-related data as part of the patching process and (ii)
data relating to any program that we, in our reasonable discretion, determine interferes with the proper operation of EverQuest.'


John Smedley
President and CEO
Verant Interactive, Inc."



While the net effect of these changes to the EULA are admirable (it really is to get rid of those that would cheat), the problem is what it and our personal computers represent.

People will treat each other like absolute slime when it comes to anonymous settings. Obviously, you can see this in massively-multiplayer on-line role playing games,  but you'll also encounter it if you do a lot of freeway driving as well. Without getting into a discussion on the inherent (lack of?) goodness of mankind, it's been my experience that when operating under a "secret" or untraceable name (or, in the event of license plates, a realistically untraceable one) you are that much more apt to play the part of the toady.

There's no reason to think that this line of thinking doesn't exist on the other side of the modem as well.

I would be fairly confident in betting that neither Smed, Brian Hook, nor the rest of the dev team have enough time or desire to root through our hard drives, individually and in concert, and report us. It's one layer of trust, but one that is probably, in the real world, OK. The thing is, we're trusting that it stops there. We're trusting that additional information isn't sent. We're trusting that our registries aren't scanned. We're trusting that non-authorized personnel doesn't end up having access to our processes -- that some guy doesn't come in at 4am on a Sunday and laugh himself silly because we've all got "Als Scan" CDs in our CD-ROMs and oh, by the way, here are their names and these are their IP addys.

Individually, none of it is likely to happen. I get that. But collectively, the temptation for abuse is there -- and what do we get for giving out that level of trust? At least when I've put that much faith in my girlfriend, she swallows.

Personally computers are not simply passionless boxes that let us play video games. Not to anyone older than thirteen, anyway. If we're hardcore enough to invest mad time in a game that requires mad time like EQ then we've probably got the whole of our existence hanging about there. Our planners, e-mail, diaries, (yes, pr0n archives), work-related projects... anything we like. Much in the same way that people demonstrate a dark side in anonymous settings, none of us are pure and good in our own minds, either. Sure -- no one would argue that writing about, in great detail, about how you're going to machine gun the drama club is a Bad Thing. But your personal computer is an extension of your Self. It's become it. It's your business. A lot of us wouldn't want our mothers rooting around them -- why should we allow a game company?

People put a high value on privacy because sometimes it just fucking sucks having to be "good" all the time. An end-user license agreement that compromises our privacy puts an incredible amount of faith in people who are just as good and bad as we are, with limited consequences if it does become abused. Thoughts of some class-action suit against a company backed by one of the largest and richest entertainment corporations (Sony) isn't a fair trade. We're giving up an incredible amount of privacy and getting -- hopefully -- a marginably better gaming experience.

That Verant wants to make the game an enjoyable experience for everyone is laudable. These particular means to meet that end are not.




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