PIXEL BURN – Overwatch, Destiny 2, DLC, Slaughtering Grounds dev wields DMCA

In which Matt posts a whole bunch of videos on here late again.
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[TRANSCRIPT]

Hello my name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, a bit later than usual, where I look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things to have happened in gaming news last week. Assuming this video doesn’t get taken down, for reasons I will explain later.

The biggest news item this week came out of Blizzcon right at the last bloody minute, meaning more work for me, about Blizzard’s new game Overwatch. Which was announced with this really bloody lovely cinematic trailer so Pixar-esque you could show it to a non-gamer, tell them it was the trailer to The Incredibles 2 and they’d probably believe you. They’d also probably really enjoy it, much like I did, since it was genuinely charming, dramatic and funny.

Although as a British person I do have one slight teensy tiny problem with it. Namely this character’s mockery of a Cockney accent.

(Covering ears, grimacing and hissing) IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

Overwatch is not an animated movie of course but actually Blizzard’s first foray into first-person shooters, as well as being an honest-to-goodness all new Intellectual Property with no connection to the worlds of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo or Blackthorne.

In fact Overwatch is Blizzard’s first all-new IP in 17 years. Feeling old yet?

So what’s it about? Well according to Blizzard it’s a team-based 6v6 multiplayer FPS with a focus on, and I quote, “fun, over-the-top characters,” Each with their own specific roles such as Tank, Support, Offense and Defense. and all sporting unique abilities. Like Reaper, an Offense character who can teleport, pull off a snazzy Equilibrium-style gun kata move called Death Blossom, and dresses like a Dark Lord of the Sith. Or Symmetra, who can place defensive turrets and drop teleporters for her teammates to use.

And when I say team-based I mean team-based, since Overwatch will not have a straight-up deathmatch mode. The two game modes revealed so far are Point Capture: essentially your standard FPS domination mode where you secure strategic locations around a map, and Payload where your team has to drive a large explosive device across the map into the other team’s base while they try to stop you.

Hmm, a team-based FPS with over-the-top cartoony characters each performing a specific role. Including a game mode where you deliver a payload into the enemy team’s base. Now where have I seen that before?

Indeed immediate comparisons to Valve’s own popular shooter couldn’t be more obvious. The environments are bright and colourful, the art design is in a very cartoony style, and distinct character silhouettes make it super-easy to identify specific characters even at a distance. Not to mention one of Overwatch’s game modes, Payload, is literally the same as TF2’s one.

Right on cue a gaggle of chattering pillocks immediately began complaining that Blizzard were “ripping-off” Valve. Because Blizzard have always been a churning font of absolute 100% originality haven’t they?

Blizzard’s entire existence has been based on taking inspiration and ideas from other sources and putting their own spin on it. Warcraft: Orcs versus Humans started life as a Warhammer Fantasy tie-in and the parallels are still blatantly obvious even to this day. Starcraft’s Zerg are almost identical to Warhammer 40,000’s Tyranids only with a bit more personality, Lost Vikings took more than a few cues from Lemmings, and Blackthorne was basically Prince of Persia with Shotguns.

While Overwatch might be drawing more than a few “inspirations” from TF2, there’s still enough to make it stand out as more than just an uninspired ripoff. In Overwatch’s case characters abilities are closer to those of hero units in MOBAs like League of Legends, specifically with how each hero in Overwatch has their own unique ultimate ability. Then there’s the Silver Age comics feel of the setting, the fixed team sizes, the curious decision to omit straight-up deathmatch and a decent number of women on the character roster.

Compared to the grand total of one in TF2’s linep. Possibly. Nobody really knows for sure what gender the Pyro is. Or whether they’re even human.

Besides, we’re not exactly drowning in colourful TF2-esque first-person-shooters right now are we? TF2 could always use some competition, and competition is good and healthy. Plus it’s nice to see more First Person Shooters going back to the fast-paced style of Quake and UT, with better use of vertical space, instead of yet another flat, plodding modern military shooter.

While some have criticised Blizzard for ripping-off TF2, others have expressed concern at Blizzard entering an already crowded market for a genre they’ve never previously worked in. Because we all know Blizzard have never done that before.

Yep, this certainly won’t be the first time Blizzard dived headlong into a crowded genre they’d never tackled before, and it worked out pretty well for them the last time. Ten years on World of Warcraft is still undisputably the top-dog of the MMO world, even if it is frayed around the edges and a bit long in the tooth. Blizzard have always had a knack for taking pre-existing concepts and refining them, and I don’t doubt Overwatch will be any different.

No official word has been given yet on whether or not Overwatch will be free to play, like TF2 is, free-to-play with microtransactions like Hearthstone, or good old fashioned “buy the game with a lump sum of cash and play it.” An actual release date has also yet to be confirmed, although you can sign up at the official Overwatch site for the beta test coming sometime in 2015. Which gives you plenty of time to play some TF2 while you wait I suppose.

Staying on the topic of First Person Shooters, CEO of Activision Publishing Eric Hirshberg confirmed this week in an earnings call that work has already begun on Destiny 2!

[Laughs hysterically]

I’m sorry. I’m wasn’t laughing at Destiny fans there by the way, not at all. I’m laughing at how fucking brazen this earnings call announcement is. Announcing a sequel before the first paid bit of DLC – sorry, I mean “Expansion”- has even been released is an outright slap in the face to Destiny fans. Activision are practically saying “Hey there shit-for-brains, we’re Activision and we can announce whatever the fuck we like! Now shut up and keep buying the DLC at TWENTY FUCKING QUID a pop!”

I know it’s an earnings call for money people and you have to tell them stuff like this but Jesus, Eric Hirshberg. Would it have really killed you to wait until AFTER The Dark Below was released? Or is this the only way you can get an erection nowadays?

It’s not really that much of a surprise to be honest, and it doesn’t mean Destiny 2 will be on store shelves by next Christmas. Although it has got me thinking about that whole Ten Year Plan for Destiny Bungie keep wittering on about. Bungie began working on Destiny in 2007 so does that seven year development period count towards the ten year grand plan? Or did the ten year Tolkienesque Narrative Saga Arc Bollocks officially start from release day? Does that mean we’ve five years to wait for Destiny 2 and another five years for Destiny 3, or will we see both instalments within three years? And will either of have some actual fucking content?

Speaking of DLC, CD Projekt Red have announced that The Witcher 3 will have a whopping SIXTEEN piece of DLC available for it in the weeks following its release on February 25th 2015.

Oh great, as if Ubisoft doing a squillion different pre-order editions or Bungie charging TWENTY FUCKING QUID for glorified map packs weren’t insult enough. Now CD Projekt Red are getting into this nonsense. Alright, spit it out. How much are you bastards going to nickel and dime us all for?

I think you dropped a number or two there by mistake. Come on, how much is it really?

Okay, now I know I’m definitely awake, how much is all this DLC going to cost?

Does not compute. Does not compute…oh wait, no. This is CD Projekt Red after all.

Yep, CD Projekt Red are giving away a whole bunch of little DLC odds-and-sods for The Witcher 3 completely for free. The stuff they’ve revealed so far are little niceties like outfits, beards and horse armour, yet there’s also actual proper quest content like a contract to rescue some missing miners. And all you need to do to get them is buy a physical or digital copy of The Witcher 3. No need to pre-order, no need to buy from a specific retailer and none of it platform-exclusive. Whatever version you buy on whatever platform, you get it all for free.

Well isn’t that just bloody nice of them. A shame such generosity is so rare nowadays.

Meanwhile the Sims 4 now has swimming pools in it! A staple of the series since the first game and conspicuous by their absense on the release of The Sims 4. The catch of course is it’s in the form of DLC.

Ahhh, of course. Alright EA, how much are you charging for it?

I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S REAL ANYMORE!

Oh, and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare came out. Like you really need ME to tell you that.

So instead I’m going to take a look at another developer abusing the copyright system, yet-a-fucking-gain, to censor criticism of their games.

And this week’s prize turd is Imminent Uprising, the developer of the game Slaughtering Grounds, who had their publisher, Digital Homicide LLC, file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act claim against a critical first impressions video of the game. Posted by Jim Sterling of The Escapist on his personal YouTube channel.

Specifically this video which I’m showing here for the purposes of commentary and news reporting under United States Fair Use laws, what with YouTube being an American company and all. To doubly cover myself I’m also invoking Fair Dealing with regards to sections 29, 30 and 178 of the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Which permits me to use this footage for criticism, review and news reporting so long as this video isn’t monetised. Which it isn’t. So if anyone from Imminent Uprising or Digital Homicide LLC are watching this and they have a problem with it, they can kiss my big fat cock. [PICTURE OF A COCKEREL]

Although if this YouTube channel and these Arizona Corporation Comission records are anything to go by, the developer and publisher are quite likely one and the same person: a Mr James O. Romine Jr. Not exactly Columbo of me I know, but it’s important to know these things for context.

Anyhow, the fun and games all kicked-off when the developer of Slaughtering Grounds – presumably Mr James O Romine Jr – created this video in response. Which is just Jim’s original video except covered in a bunch of insane ranting, in hard-to-read white text, complaining that Jim’s review-

It wasn’t a review, it was a first impressions video.

Emphasised the game’s negative qualities.

Of which there are clearly many.

That Jim hadn’t played the game before starting his video.

Because it’s a first impressions video. Playing it beforehand kinda defeats the purpose.

Criticised Jim for missing a bug about the landmines not working.

Indeed. How could he have missed such an obvious bug in an otherwise highly polished game.

Had a go at him for not turning off the game’s terrible looping music.

It’s your game! You put the music in there!

And generally a load of other crazy text that reads like the emotional outburst of a bitter developer.

Which is ultimately what it was, and I can understand why they did it. You pour your heart and soul into making something, only for some stranger on the internet to mock it for the amusement of an audience. It’s only natural you’d be upset.

Although I find it hard to be sympathetic when the developer promised Steam keys to anyone who voted for it on Greenlight, then banned from the game’s community hub anyone who dared asked for the key they were promised. Not to mention banning anyone offering critical feedback on the game and using sockpuppet accounts to post positive reviews for the game.

In response to this Jim took that video, narrated HIS own commentary over it and then uploaded it to his channel as a response to the response. Well, commentary is perhaps a poor choice of words there as Jim spends most of the video laughing his arse off.

The developer then took THAT video, slapped a black background on it and spunked out another wad of text in response – to Jim’s response to his original response, accusing Jim of committing 60 frames of copyright infringement per second” and other atrocities.

While ignoring his own copyright infringement, like using this blood splatter taken straight from a Google image search for “blood splatter” in his game. I know it’s the same one because I used that exact image myself to make this nightmarish ET abomination in a previous video.

For the record my use of that blood splatter image was a transformative work that does not supersede the original.

Sadly before Jim could plunge this whole sorry affair even deeper into Inception-style craziness, the developer of Slaughtering Grounds issued a DMCA against his original first impressions video. Unlike a mere ContentID match a DMCA is serious fucking legal business requiring a proper legal response what costs real money. DMCA’s are often deployed as a scare tactic and the mere threat of one is often, sadly, enough to make most people back down.

And here’s where we finally arrive at my big beef with the whole shebang. Because when you release any creative work to the public you are granting your consent for it to be scrutinised, and you have no authority over people’s opinion of it. Especially if you’re charging them money.

Nobody needs your permission to express their opinion on your precious snowflake of a creative work. A painting cannot be libelled. A videogame cannot be slandered. A movie cannot have its feelings hurt. You have no right to censor an honest opinion of your work with the threat of legal action.

You can however be accused of disparaging a product or company, as in the case of Palmer v Kleargear.com, but that requires the plaintiff to prove deliberate malice on your part and only applies if the comments you make are knowingly false. So for example if Jim said he hated the developer with the fury of a thousand suns and that Slaughtering Grounds was a vector for Ebola, that could be grounds for product disparagement. He didn’t though. All he said was that he thought the game was badly made, which is an opinion. Or so the internet tells me. I am not a lawyer.

Yet that’s precisely what the developer of Slaughtering Grounds has done here, banking on the fact that they’re an indie developer to give them some moral authority. Trying to paint this as a cruel “garmez jurnalist” picking on a poor, idealistic indie developer and earning money off the back of their hard work.

Which is bollocks of course. The developer is a sulky primadonna abusing a flawed law, which presumes guilt until proven otherwise, to remove an opinion they don’t like under the guise of copyright infringement and salve their wounded ego. And you can fucking quote me on that.

Whatever your own opinion of Jim Sterling – I quite like the bloke myself – incidents like this can happen to anyone who dares to put forward an opinion about something online, and threaten to set a dangerous precedent. Because if an indie developer can get away with censoring negative opinions of their game, you can bet your arsehole a triple-A publisher’s marketing department would start flinging DMCA’s left, right and centre to remove anything it deems “off-message.”

Showing how there’s a whole bunch of DLC content already in the main game? DMCA, eat shit.

Give a game a poor score in a video review? DMCA, eat shit.

Swearing in a Minecraft video? DMCA, eat shit.

Point out obvious flaws in a game being sold for real money, and expressing your opinion that it’s maybe not quite ready for prime time? DMCA, eat shit.

And so on and so forth.

The Slaughtering Grounds is still available to buy on Steam for real money, and needless to say I’m never going to touch it. Not even if it somehow magically transformed overnight into the greatest game ever made. Because a developer, any developer, who resorts to legal bullying tactics to censor people does not deserve either my time or my money. Nor do they deserve yours.

That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. If you liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and Digital Homicide LLC know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then feel free to create your own response video, to which I will then create my own response video, causing you to make another response video to my response video to which I will make response video, triggering another response video from you that-

 

 

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.