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Flagship responds to the Hell Gate: London EULA-Adware debacle

Matt Warner

Many Hellgate: London players are crying, "don't adware me bro" after finding out that real-world deodorant ads for zombie slayers flicker on posters and signs during their gaming experience. Various adverts are implemented into the game by Massive Incorporated -- a company that specializes in accessible in-gaming ad distribution. Upon deeper inspection it was found Hellgate: London's EULA isn't all about rainbows and puppies and there is some cause for a revolt, I mean concern. If you aren't aware of what an EULA is, they "shrink-wrapped" contracts written in fancy legal word-play that most players click-off before diving into the game. Basically, the bedlam is over a clause in Hellgate: London's EULA that grants EA and its affiliates carte blanche with a player's sensitive data.

3. Consent to Use of Data. You agree that EA, its affiliates, and each Related Party may collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer, including without limitation your Internet Protocol address, operating system, application software and peripheral hardware, that may be gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, dynamically served content, product support and other services to you, including online play. EA and/or the Related Parties may also use this information in the aggregate and, in a form which does not personally identify you, to improve our products and services and we may share that aggregate data with our third party service providers.

Before those clenching their fists break a finger and swear to never purchase Hellgate: London because you think they are evil data moochers let me explain, hell, at least read Flagship's explanation first. This type of clause is standard in most MMOG EULA's -- go take a look at any MMOG EULA or check out ancient news about players discovering World of Warcraft's anti-cheating solution dubbed The Warden. Of course, most players are still ill-informed about EULA's, online security and what sometimes results is a nasty backlash over paranoia and fear. I definitely understand the negative reactions over the ads, but the EULA is there for several good reasons, one is to not only protect the developers but to also preserve the gaming experience. Flagship's well thought out response recapped after the jump:

  • Flagship & Ping0 aren't intentionally scanning computers for personal information or taking any sensitive information without your knowledge.
  • The "catch-all" part of the EULA is there as a means to combat hacks, unauthorized mods, and other abusive applications. The clause in question was specifically written for critical instances as Flagship studios may need to scan for hacks during gameplay to prevent exploiting and serious abuse.
  • EA does not determine Flagship Studios online and offline security. EA also has nothing to do with Massive Incorporated ad-serving system in the game.
  • Ads are implemented not for profit but to simulate real-world London. Massive Incorporated is more or less "meta-ware" and is a more than acceptable solution for something that otherwise requires extra development resources.
  • Hellgate: London and all the online components therein are controlled by Flagship Studios and Ping0.
  • The developers are gamers themselves and very protective and adamant about the the privacy rights for their players. Over the past six months Flagship Studios has worked to meet all the necessary guidelines to become certified with the ESRB Privacy Online program.
I applaud Flagship's response, while the legal dialect in EULA's has evolved over the years and can somewhat blur the lines, the only way to detect some forms of online cheating is through extreme measures and the developers must safeguard their actions or they may end up being liable for any damages -- that's a price players have to pay if we want to play an online game that isn't rampant with cheating and hacking. In the grand scheme of things the EULA and efforts by the developer alleviate fraud through the game and real intrusion by a hacker.

I don't like ads infiltrating my gaming experience, even if the ads supposedly add immersion and aren't intrusive by being subliminal. I do enjoy ads that are funny, but most real-word advertisements in games are far from funny, they're just annoying. I'm not interested in seeing posters plastered with the latest crappy movie Hollywood is trying to shove down our throats -- but given the setting, one that is based on the real-world and not a traditional fantasy setting, say elves and dragons drinking the latest flavored cola, I can live with it. The other issue is if ads must exist in the game I don't want developer resources wasted and feel that this is an acceptable alternative.

What do you think about adverts in a game setting based on a place in the real-world? Will the EULA affect your decision to buy Hellgate: London?

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