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Blizzard Asserts Rights Over Independent Add-Ons

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the at-least-there's-no-wow-app-store dept.

Programming 344

bugnuts writes "Blizzard has announced a policy change regarding add-ons for the popular game World of Warcraft which asserts requirements on UI programmers, such as disallowing charging for the program, obfuscation, or soliciting donations. Add-ons are voluntarily-installed UI programs that add functionality to the game, programmed in Lua, which can do various tasks that hook into the WoW engine. The new policy has some obvious requirements, such as not loading the servers or spamming users, and it looks like an attempt to make things more accessible and free for the end user. But unlike FOSS, it adds other requirements that assert control over these independently coded programs, such as distribution and fees. Blizzard can already control the ultimate functionality of add-ons by changing the hooks into the WoW engine. They have exercised this ability in the past, e.g. to disable add-ons that automate movement and facilitate 'one-button' combat. Should they be able to make demands on independent programmers' copyrighted works, such as forbidding download fees or advertising, when those programmers are not under contract to code for Blizzard? Is this like Microsoft asserting control over what programmers may code for Windows?"

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simple solution (0, Troll)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27278967)

don't code add-ons for blizzard products, idiots!
get outta the basement and find a nice girl.

Re:simple solution (0, Offtopic)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279755)

Is this like Microsoft asserting control over what programmers may code for Windows?"

No and that's stupid flame bait.

It's comparable to Stallman's hate against XEmacs .so loading facility and equally as idiotic.

SLA5HD0T CH3M1STS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27278979)

ch3-ch2-c=o
        |
        ch2-ch3
ketone

Re:SLA5HD0T CH3M1STS! (1)

king_nebuchadnezzar (1134313) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279631)

CH3CH2COCH2CH3 is ethan-2-one

This is rediculous (4, Interesting)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 5 years ago | (#27278989)

When I used to play WoW, I used many addons that made up for Blizzard's shortcomings in the UI. If the authors want to charge for these addons Blizzard should have absolutely no say in the matter. The developers are improving Blizzard's product to a more playable state, Blizzard should be paying them.

This is Madness! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279085)

The developers are getting experience in coding and publicity, or they made the addon originally for themselves then decided to share it.

I doubt all the addon developers are doing it out of the the goodness of their hearts.

Some are out just for profit EX. Carbonite full, and of the ingame leveling guides...

Re:This is rediculous (5, Insightful)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279147)

Exactly, Blizzard derives increased value from users taking the time to level a second character due to QuestHelper [curse.com] . Many users use Auctioneer [auctioneeraddon.com] . While those are free with exceptional support there are also many that are not free such as Zygors' Guides ($50) [zygorguides.com] , Carbonite ($2.50/mo) [carboniteaddon.com] , Brian Kopp's Guide/Addon ($59.99) [briankopp.com] , Joanas' Levelling Guide ($77) [joanasworld.com] , and QuestUp ($47) [teamidemise.com] .

You'll note that the paid addons are for quest assistance.

You'll note that Brian Kopp (previously featured on slashdot [slashdot.org] ) is now making cash by selling an ingame version of his guide, me thinks this is retribution.

Also, as an addon author myself I can only say "Go ahead, turn off all your API's, see how that works out. I can farm other games".

Re:This is rediculous (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279325)

Don't forget Blizzard likes to copy popular addons and make them into their own UI release.

Re:This is rediculous (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279429)

Ridiculous indeed, to forbid donations. This policy has already removed one vital addon from our repertoire. Outfitter download is no longer possible as of yesterday (Friday).

Control player and server spamming, yes, that makes sense. Control independent developers' donations is just greedy or else it says that developers' time and skills are worthless. If that were the case, then they should be working for free too.

Instead of cutting their supporters off at the ankles, imitating the great addons badly, and annoying their customers, why don't they put in place a program like most big companies do, to buy the best addons from the independent developers?

Re:This is rediculous (5, Informative)

jombeewoof (1107009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279501)

FTFA or website rather.

Paraphrased because I don't want to open the site up again.
YOU CAN SOLICIT DONATIONS FROM YOUR WEBSITE OR DISTRIBUTION METHOD, BUT NOT IN GAME.

sorry for the caps, but I think you're not smart enough to read small letters.

Re:This is rediculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279521)

Blizz has every right to stop people from profiting off their products.

Re:This is rediculous (4, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279591)

I think it has more to do with fairness than anything else. Blizzard has always taken a strong stance on balance. If someone produces a UI addon that makes the game easier, but only for those that can afford it, it creates an inbalance which in turn could upset Blizzards financials. If these addons a free, then they are available to anyone with the will to install them. It makes good business sense that they would attempt to control addons like this.

Re:This is rediculous (2, Informative)

Detkloo (1496433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279727)

5) Add-ons may not solicit donations. Add-ons may not include requests for donations. We recognize the immense amount of effort and resources that go into developing an add-on; however, such requests should be limited to the add-on website or distribution site and should not appear in the game. Hardly the same thing as "forbidding download fees or advertising"

No, it's more like the GPL (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27278991)

If you want to play with their code and platform, you need to follow their rules or not play at all.

Just as you can't close your code if it incorporates GPL code, Blizzard doesn't want you charging people for your add-ons if you code for their platform.

pedantry (0, Redundant)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279047)

you can close your gpl code-so long as it stays 100% in house

however you can't then charge for it or re-distribute it

I'm sure someone will technically correct me right now- but it is an important element

Re:pedantry (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279065)

And you can develop your add-on for WoW and not follow Blizzard's rules as long as you never distribute it.

Your pedantry doesn't really prove anything, though.

Re:pedantry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279153)

Some of Blizzard's rules seem to apply even if you don't distribute it. Also it's not clear if add-ons are a derivative (a requirement for GPL-like conditions to apply) or original work.

Maybe the best way to think of it is conditions on communicating with Blizzard's servers.

Re:pedantry (1)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279383)

You're not actually communicating with their servers, addons can't get out of the sandbox. Think about it like running a widget on your desktop.

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279069)

Like you said, it's their platform and their rules.

All of these add-ons qualify as "derivative works," so Blizzard could decide to be total jerks and absorb the parts they like and ban the rest, without even bothering to give the authors credit.

People who decide to write the add-ons do so in the context of the license agreement, which sets definite boundaries.

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279139)

Except that you can still charge people for your code if it incorporates GPL code.
Whereas if you code add-ons for WoW you may not charge money, nor are you required to make it free software.

I don't see what this has to do with the GPL at all.

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279211)

If you want to play with their code and platform, you need to follow their rules or not play at all.

I was going to call bullshit, but after reading TFA, I completely agree with them in every single point. Misleading summary.

This is not "software development" in the traditional sense. It's a proprietary platform, where everything you do affects many other people as well. This "unlike FOSS" crap is completely sensationalist.

Let's see the 'offending' terms:

4) Add-ons may not include advertisements.

Oh my, we won't have to get adblock for wow! Outrage!

5) Add-ons may not solicit donations.
Add-ons may not include requests for donations. We recognize the immense amount of effort and resources that go into developing an add-on; however, such requests should be limited to the add-on website or distribution site and should not appear in the game.

Same here.

So, what was the news again?

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279339)

At least as far as the GPL v2.... (I am not going into the v3 can of worms.)

The problem is that I don't think that linking has much to do with whether you have a derivative work of not. If someone wants to make a proprietary add-on to a GPL project, I am willing to bet that the question of whether it is linked dynamically to the software or communicates through sockets will have very little bearing on whether it is a derivative work. THis is assuming that "aggregative work" means the same thing as "compiled or collected work" and "work based on the program" means "derivative work" (in the same sense that a movie may be "based on" a book--- If I rewrite the GCC in, say, Python, that is a derivative work).

(Functional elements, like API's, are NOT covered by copyright. OTOH, expressive elements like user interfaces are. So there are plenty of cases where loosely coupled programs could be derivative, and tightly coupled ones would not.)

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279447)

If it's linked it's derivative, it uses the GPL code to do something.

This is why we have the LGPL.

Re:No, it's more like the GPL (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279757)

So does a network client. But if I write a network client for MySQL's protocols without using their libraries, then nobody argues that this has any requirement to be GPL. Also no copyright license is ever required to run the software and the GPL makes it clear that is not governed. Therefore ONLY actions prohibited otherwise by copyright law (at least regarding the GPL v2) are governed.

Does Microsoft have a copyright basis to make arbitrary demands regarding all code running on the platform? Can Microsoft sue MinGW developers for creating a work which is derivative of Windows without permission?

GPL FAQ (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279673)

I am willing to bet that the question of whether it is linked dynamically to the software or communicates through sockets will have very little bearing on whether it is a derivative work.

Courts take the intent of the parties into account when interpreting licenses or other legal documents. For GNU software, this intent would include philosophy documents published by the FSF such as its GPL FAQ [gnu.org] , which states that a program that communicates over a documented socket interface is less likely to be considered "combined".

Good choice (1, Interesting)

Kranfer (620510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279001)

I am happy about this change with WoW. I personally never saw a point in paying for an addon to the game. Although some of the addons look good that you pay for I am glad to see this change. Ah well just MY opinion.

Re:Good choice (1)

Tihstae (86842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279093)

So are you going to complain when there aren't any addons? If someone takes the time to code the addon they should be able to ask for whatever they want for it . It is their labor not Blizzard's. If they do it for their own pleasure and the thanks from the people that use it is enough payment for their labor then the developer can give it away for free.

All this will do is reduce the number of addons available. Blizzard make good games but has their head up their ass when it comes to understanding the people that play their games.

Re:Good choice (5, Informative)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279187)

All this will do is reduce the number of addons available.

No it won't, it'll just reduce the number of addons spamming your message window with "OMG PLZ SEND MONEY". TFA specifically says you can solicit donations on your website for your work, you just can't charge for it or advertise in game.

Re:Good choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279719)

No it won't, it'll just reduce the number of addons spamming your message window with "OMG PLZ SEND MONEY". TFA specifically says you can solicit donations on your website for your work, you just can't charge for it or advertise in game.

Someone with mod points please mod this up.

Re:Good choice (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279753)

Except it happened already. The single most popular quest assistance addon, quest helper is officially discontinued because of this. Author stated his reasons in the update log very clearly - money loss due to inability to request donations in-game.

Frankly, the reason why "asking for money on homepage/download page" is very simple - there are thousands of add-ons for WoW all made by different developers. As a result, the addons are downloaded from large portal sites such as curse gaming or wowinterface, which for obvious reasons prefer to keep advertisement space and money coming from it to themselves. As a result, addon makers who make complex addons, or addons that require large amount of maintenance which they did on donated funds are screwed.

Their house, their rules. (5, Insightful)

nobodyman (90587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279307)

If someone takes the time to code the addon they should be able to ask for whatever they want for it

Nope, when you live under someones roof you play by their rules. It might be kindof a dick move, but it's their API and they have every right to control how it's used. And it's not like this stipulation is unheard of; Microsoft has similar rules surrounding use of their GamerTag API as well as Google Maps with their free API (this is an oversimplification, but in general you are not allowed to use GMap mashups in for-pay websites).

It is their labor not Blizzard's.

Not to belittle the work of modders, but the fact that they can write add-ons at all is due to the substantial amount of resources that Blizzard has invested not only in the development of the API, but also the game itself and the massive server infrastructure.

I may not like it (I haven't decide either way yet whether it's a good or bad move - I'm very wary of Blizzard ever since the bnetd fiasco [wikipedia.org] ). But they are absolutely within their rights to do this.

Re:Good choice (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279449)

The number of addons that solicit donations or charge for use is very, very low. Like, less than a tenth of a percent low. I won't cry a bit to see any of them go.

Changes don't forbid advertising or donations (5, Informative)

TimTucker (982832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279017)

Just skimming through the changes, it doesn't look like they forbid advertising or donations: just in-game advertising or requests for donations. (i.e.: an add-on developer would still be perfectly free to solicit donations or include advertising on the site where they offer the add-on for download)

Re:Changes don't forbid advertising or donations (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279095)

So they want to forbid nagware? I can support that.

Not at all... (1)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279049)

In the first place I think you would have to be nuts to pay for an add in for a game. It's not like it's an expansion pack or anything like that.
Then there is also the fact that the game does belong to Blizzard, and is run at their expense, yes, you pay them to be able to play it. They still have the right to control the gaming experience.
The comparison with Microsloth Windoze is flawed, in that what Blizzard offers is only a game, and there is only the one reason for it - entertainment. When was the last time you found Windoze entertaining?

Windows and gaming (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279687)

When was the last time you found Windoze entertaining?

Solitaire has been part of Windows since 1.0. And one of the main advantages of Windows over GNU/Linux is that Windows can natively run more games.

It's a lot like closed source drivers in Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279077)

As long as you code to an API, you do not need to agree to any terms and conditions. You can publish your code any way you like and charge for it or give it away. This way you can publish closed source drivers for Linux: Because you do not distribute the Linux kernel, you are not bound by the GPL. The same with WoW: If you are not bound by a contract and don't use any of their code, you're free to do what you want.

It's their football (1)

iconic999 (1295483) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279083)

It's their system, they make the rules. Isn't this obvious? I don't think the comparison with Windows is valid. Windows is the dominant desktop OS. WoW is hardly necessary for anything.

For pennies a day (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279097)

you too can keep impoverished, starving lawyers fed and clothed by being creative.

Re:For pennies a day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279233)

Wouldn't it be more effective to mulch the rich ones, and let the poor ones take it as a sign?

Its their app (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279123)

They can make any demands they want.

You are also free to take your business ( and code ) elsewhere and put them out of business.

Re:Its their app (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279179)

They can make any demands they want.

That doesn't mean they're legally entitled to have those demands met. Let me guess - YANAL?

Re:Its their app (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279421)

Yeah, good luck with that. I'd like to see an addon so powerful and popular that the lack of it would cause WoW to lose millions of subscribers.

Re:Its their app (1)

jombeewoof (1107009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279651)

auctioneer would probably be as popular.
not that we would stop playing but it would make it significantly less enjoyable.

Re:Its their app (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279465)

What you are advocating is "might makes right"

Were it not for the restraint of the legal system, I'm sure many companies wouldn't hesitate to rob you blind, literally.

I can see a valid concern (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279129)

In WOW the style and feel of the world is important. Tools like these could ruin that without certain restrictions. Then again, so can't players.

QuestHelper (5, Informative)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279137)

I'll chime in here.

I'm the current sole author/maintainer of what I believe is the world's most popular World of Warcraft UI Mod, QuestHelper. About half a year ago I took it over from an abandoned/unmaintained and rapidly degrading state, and I've treated it like a full-time job since. I'm perhaps two or three weeks ago from releasing Version 1.0, which is a huge set of changes to dramatically reduce CPU and memory usage, as well as produce better output from the mod and be far, far easier to maintain and modify in the future.

I used to be fully donation-supported - that means my apartment in the Bay Area, food, gas, utilities, all of that, thanks to the generosity of users.

The funny thing about donations is that a lot of people will gladly donate, but you have to remind them. Depending on how you count it, adding a simple unobtrusive message on logon saying "hey we're donation-supported, if you really like QH please donate" increased income anywhere from five-fold to hundred-fold. That said, even with that message, my income was starting to drop below sustainability levels - I was hoping that v1.0 would fix that, as well as breaking some code in the Wowmatrix client that was actually disabling my donation request.

(Ironically, it seems like the message may not have been noticable enough, as a large number of people have told me that they never even saw it after using QH for months. So it goes.)

Now, I'm not donation-supported. I can't put that message up, and I know from experience that I won't get enough without it. I can keep up the donation box on the actual website, but the fact is that just won't provide enough for me to keep going - most people don't even look at the website. I should mention that I fully believe this is within Blizzard's rights to do - I don't have any grounds to sue or anything - but I do believe it sucks. So I'm going to be releasing version 1.0 (watch for it in 2 or 3 weeks, it'd be sooner but I'm going to GDC and that will eat a week), and then just putting it in a mothballed maintenance release, as the remaining donations I'll get anyway should be enough for that.

I think this is a mistake caused by Blizzard's overzealous legal team. I think, for some reason, Blizzard is terrified at the idea of anyone besides them making money on anything related to their game. I'm not sure why they're banning donation requests ingame but not out-of-game - I think they're just confused. However, they've killed off a good number of UI mods thanks to this, and I think ultimately this is going to hurt them quite a bit.

I'll field questions, as long as they're sanely-written.

If you'd like to donate, I'd love for a little bit extra to cover the 1.0 release - here's the link [quest-helper.com] . Anything you can give is appreciated, of course, though not expected and not required.

Also, if there's any business managers out there who have a clever idea for how to still make a living off this, let me know. I'll pay you with a reasonable fraction of the results ;)

Re:QuestHelper (5, Interesting)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279225)

Christ, I thought you were just big headed since I've never heard of your addon.

http://www.wowinterface.com/downloads/info9896-QuestHelper.html [wowinterface.com] 3,215,622 Downloads
http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/quest-helper.aspx [curse.com] 20,949,412 Downloads
http://wowui.incgamers.com/?p=mod&m=6145 [incgamers.com] 49,914 Downloads

(balance this with Auctioneer, which has a paltry 12 million downloads..)

Re:QuestHelper (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279275)

That's a nice lesson for anyone looking to earn some money: Write extensions for things which people already pay for or which are used by people who are used to paying for software. I've written add-ons for open source software and the total amount of donations is in the low triple digits, despite well over a million downloads.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279419)

I would say a majority of those downloads occurred before he took over development.

Never the less, it is a great add on. One of the most useful for the game.

Re:QuestHelper (4, Informative)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279513)

Actually, all of those downloads occured after I took over development - curse.com did a major site redesign a month or two after I started things up, and as part of that, they reset the download count.

I'm rather proud to have broken 20 million. That's a lot of downloads. :)

Re:QuestHelper (4, Funny)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279433)

I'm pretty sure I have more users than many entire MMORPGs :)

Re:QuestHelper (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279231)

  1. Write an update-notifier into the addon
  2. Release updates often
  3. Nag when they update

Re:QuestHelper (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279261)

I can't write it into the addon for several reasons (can't nag, can't communicate outside the WoW universe, for two of them.) I could, in theory, write my own updater, but I suspect few people would use it, and I'd have to pay for bandwidth myself, and overall I just don't think it's viable.

Yes, a possibility, but one that I think is an expensive long-shot.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279605)

You can do an update notifier like WIM. Since you already share location information with the guild. You can share version information, so when one person updates, it will inform everyone else.

Re:QuestHelper (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279237)

On the other hand your major competitor Carbonite, which in charging for the add-on and obfuscating their code has two separate issues with the new policy, will go out of business, while you can still remind people of the donations when they download updates.

Re:QuestHelper (3, Interesting)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279293)

True. I don't think it will be enough, though if it turns out to be, I may re-evaluate things.

A lot of people seem to be misinterpreting what I'm saying here (I don't say you are, necessarily, I'm just pointing this out.) A lot of people think that I don't like Blizzard's new policy, and thus I'm taking my toys and going home. This isn't actually what's happening. I *don't* like the new policy, but that's not what the real problem is.

The problem is that the new policy makes it so I can't make a living off Questhelper. If I can't make a living off Questhelper, I'm not going to keep treating it like a full-time job.

If someone figures out how to make it work like a full-time job again, I'll go back to it, but I don't actually think it's possible.

Re:QuestHelper (2, Insightful)

Bruha (412869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279503)

We get together and develop a open source updater that uses bittorrent to do updates, every user of the client keeps copies of all the addons and peices are sent to update the swarm. All clients check the addon hoster for a MD5 hash so it can validate the downlaods so bad people cant corrupt addons.

The community provides the bandwidth, you get an advertising platform, and hopefully people stay happy while we give Blizzard the finger.

Re:QuestHelper (3, Interesting)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279533)

Start a subscription based newsletter. New releases get announced to donating newsletter subscribers first, along with links to download "BETA" (wink wink) releases using the subscribers info (too many downloads from one subscriber and they lose their subscription to your newsletter. Actually have the older releases for free download, so it can be shown that you are not charging for the product. Your newsletter is another product. The people that support you are your real time beta testers, nothing to do with the ability to download your "current" product... Hope you find a way to make it workout.

Re:QuestHelper (1)

neopirate (606861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279297)

Quest helper is VERY nice for people leveling or doing daily quests. I have recomended it to those perpetually lost people who can't find thier way from point A to B.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279317)

I'm no business manager by a long shot, but the best idea I can think of to survive off of donations is to do the following:

Offer the updates to people visiting your site. Once they visit, it should announce on the site that donations are what keeps new updates coming, and that you would appreciate any amount. As an added bonus, offer some sort of special add on to donation users only (IE, donate and you get access to a new addon). Or, have a beta version of your newest add-on available before the official release with the use of donations.

That seems to work for most donation-only things: if you offer some incentive to donate, people who wouldn't donate before, would.

But that's just my two cents. I know that I donate to things if they are useful to me, but the average user won't donate unless they feel they have something to gain from it.

As for a question...How fast do you think this change will be noticeable for the average player? If it takes a few months for the number of add-ons to dwindle, the players might not even notice; but if there's a sudden removal of a large portion of add-ons, how would the players react? Just food for thought; I don't expect answers since you're not the Blizzard Team ;)

Re:QuestHelper (3, Informative)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279363)

As an added bonus, offer some sort of special add on to donation users only (IE, donate and you get access to a new addon). Or, have a beta version of your newest add-on available before the official release with the use of donations.

These specific things are not permitted - in general, I can't tie *anything* UI-mod-related to money, in any form.

I cannot offer any sort of in-game incentive to donation. I cannot offer beta versions, I cannot offer unlocked features, I can't even make a little sprite that says "THANKS FOR DONATING" that you can right-click to turn off.

As for a question...How fast do you think this change will be noticeable for the average player?

There will be a chunk at the beginning (QH, Carbonite, nUI, Mappy et al), but the bulk of the effect will be a largely-unnoticable reduction in the number of people who bother to write UI mods. I'm pretty sure it'll be impossible to actually calculate, and largely impossible to detect.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279323)

Wouldn't it be easy to just add a script to the Quest Helper that would pop up a donation screen like MIRC does on opening if you haven't bought it? Or Release a "slimmed" Down version and then for a "Donation" you can have the "Full Blown" version...

Re:QuestHelper (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279381)

Both of these ideas are explicitly disallowed by the new policy.

Re:QuestHelper (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279373)

I think this is a mistake caused by Blizzard's overzealous legal team. I think, for some reason, Blizzard is terrified at the idea of anyone besides them making money on anything related to their game. I'm not sure why they're banning donation requests ingame but not out-of-game - I think they're just confused. However, they've killed off a good number of UI mods thanks to this, and I think ultimately this is going to hurt them quite a bit.

I'm not going to deny that this will suck for you, and I do sympathize but honestly ... you're the outlier in the dataset. I would say there are only a handful of people in the world who derive their entire income from writing a lua plug-in for a MMORPG.

The question you ask regarding why they would ban in-game donation requests is fairly simple - they don't want nagware running inside their game. Companies like Blizzard are very conscious of the "in-game experience" and want to control that as much as possible.

You may be somewhat correct that this is also driven by their legal dept., but not for the reason you suggest. They may be concerned about liability issues, or labor/compensation issues. IANAL nor pretend to be, so even that may be way off as well.

As for it "hurting them", unfortunately I think you over-estimate how many of their 12 million users even use plug-ins, never mind base their continued patronage on their availability. I would be willing to bet that if they turned off the add-on API tomorrow, they'd lose less than 1% of their player base. There would be some grumbling from another 1% - 2%, but in the end it really wouldn't matter much.

- Roach

Re:QuestHelper (3, Insightful)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279411)

Companies like Blizzard are very conscious of the "in-game experience" and want to control that as much as possible.

I agree with this, but keep in mind that UI mods are entirely voluntary - if someone doesn't like the donation nags, they can turn off QH. Also, fewer UI mods being available means, on average, a worse experience for players.

As for it "hurting them", unfortunately I think you over-estimate how many of their 12 million users even use plug-ins, never mind base their continued patronage on their availability. I would be willing to bet that if they turned off the add-on API tomorrow, they'd lose less than 1% of their player base. There would be some grumbling from another 1% - 2%, but in the end it really wouldn't matter much.

I estimate that Questhelper alone is used by 10-20% of the WoW player base. I think there would be more grumbling than you think.

Re:QuestHelper (0, Redundant)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279575)

Also, fewer UI mods being available means, on average, a worse experience for players.

In your opinion. Theirs appears to differ.

I guarantee you they know that some UI mods will be lost (along with some players) any time they change the API usage requirements/rules. They probably employ an analytics guy whose entire job is to predict the numbers on that :)

If there wasn't a compelling reason for them to cause that, they wouldn't do it. They are not in business to reduce their subscription base.

That same numbers guy may have figured out that the game experience for the majority of their players would be better with fewer UI mods. Who knows.

- Roach

Re:QuestHelper (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279391)

So wait, because of this, you might stop making QH, so more people will be using Carbonite and helping make it better instead of the quest addon that crashes in Dalaran and gets all of Northrend quests wrong more often than right? I'm OK with this.

Re:QuestHelper (2, Informative)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279467)

Carbonite is far more dead than QH is. Very shortly, your option is going to be QH or nothing.

(That said, try it out again in v1.0. Most of the issues should be fixed then.)

Share the wealth (1)

neopirate (606861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279425)

After further thought. You should write a letter asking for donations from people @ curse, wowui, etc. They are making money (site visits) from people wanting the updated version of your work. Also I would see if WoWinsider would write a review of your plight. I know alot of people would say; "Hey I love that damn usefull addon!" and "My girlfriend woulda never been able to level my toon for me." and thus donation to keep you going. I know the slashdot communtiy might not be the best place to tell people. Might try .. and I hate to say it .. WoW forums. /feels sick. I would do it under an alt of course. That is of course if bringing attention to you would prompt Blizz to break you.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279427)

Cheers to you man! I hope that everything continues to work out for you. Your work rocks and is appreciated by all of us.

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279489)

Also, besides disabling the functions needed for your add on to function. What else can they even do to stop you from keeping the donate link somewhere visible in game? (Chat printout, or somewhere in the options, etc.)

Re:QuestHelper (1)

wtbname (926051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279551)

This fucking sucks. Quest Helper is one of the best mods out there. Your solicitation for donations is FAR FAR from annoying or inappropriate. It turns my vision red to think of these rules driving people like you out of business. BLIZZARD: THEY HELP ME. THEY HELP YOU. THEY MAKE A LIVING. CALL OFF THE GOD DAMNED JACKBOOTS. BULLSHIT. Where the hell can I nagware Blizzard to death about this issue?

Re:QuestHelper (2, Interesting)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279653)

Also, if there's any business managers out there who have a clever idea for how to still make a living off this, let me know. I'll pay you with a reasonable fraction of the results ;)

I'm sure Blizzard would at least give you an interview. Sucks that you might have to move from the Bay Area to LA though. But if their quest UI is so painful that millions of people prefer yours, that's a damn good reason to hire you. I played WoW without any add-ons, but I had to use wowhead constantly to figure out how to do many of the quests. If it weren't for that website and thottbot I would've stopped playing long before I did.

Re:QuestHelper (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279703)

Oh, they probably would, but if I were going to work for someone else's game company, I'd have companies much further up my list than Blizzard ;)

Doublefine, for example. Man, it's actually really tempting to try getting a job there. And I wouldn't even have to move! :D

Re:QuestHelper (0)

Rendus (2430) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279667)

I've not donated for QuestHelper for the same reason I haven't for Auctioneer:

You're too aggressive about soliciting those donations. Just like I don't respond to beggars in game, I don't respond to begging add-ons in game.

Re:QuestHelper (1)

American Terrorist (1494195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279759)

Just like I don't respond to beggars in game, I don't respond to begging add-ons in game.

The difference is beggars don't offer anything in return. You obviously find this useful, and it provides some value to you; God forbid he ask for some voluntary compensation. If someone offers to powerlevel your twink in scarlet monastery from 20-40 would you not respond when they asked for some help in return? This is a similar concept; it helps you level faster.

Re:QuestHelper (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279681)

Thanks for this addon.

this is good for the player (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279141)

Blizzard is looking out for the players. They don't want some addon that throwing advertising or in game donations on a large percent of their user base.

Good - Assert control & prevent account hijack (1)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279143)

They need to assert control over third party mods to prevent rampant account hijacking. Too many users are installing sketchy addons that steal account information for gold sellers, so "add-on code must be completely visible" is great.

Re:Good - Assert control & prevent account hij (1)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279249)

Fail. Addons can't steal passwords.

Re:Good - Assert control & prevent account hij (1)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279397)

Fail, indeed. And info stealer keygens don't exist?

Re:Good - Assert control & prevent account hij (1)

Rabbitbunny (1202531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279577)

[Citation Needed]

The only remote possibility would be a user downloading an *.exe from a non-mainstream site, then running it without out first checking it out.

I know of no mainstream addon site that allows *.exe

Just admit it, your powerleveler stole your account.

No they cant. (-1, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279163)

its illegal. they cant do it. its as if microsoft trying to assert rights on programs that run on windows platform.

this is one of the STUPIDEST shit i heard this year. i doubt anything stupider will come up.

Re:No they cant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279271)

its illegal. they cant do it. its as if microsoft trying to assert rights on programs that run on windows platform.

this is one of the STUPIDEST shit i heard this year. i doubt anything stupider will come up.

And yet here your response is...

Re:No they cant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279295)

Since they won the case against Glider for altering WoW in a way against the EULA I think it gave them grounds to enforce this policy.

What I think caused this problem was an addon called Carbonite(www.carbomiteaddon.com) They charged to use the addon, they just made a in-game ad supoorted version after mysteriously the free version of their addon became expired/disabled. They also program the addon in a way that others cannot see what is in the code, therefore making it both a security risk to blizzard/accounts and protecting it from being copied. Out of all the addons out there, this one falls under most of the categories that bizzard just changed.

Re:No they cant. (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279469)

Yeah ... illegal, not so much.

It's a private game for which you pay a fee to play. They set the rules. They could turn off the add-on API tomorrow if they wanted to. It's their game.

Oh, and MS is under no legal obligation to provide an SDK or API, just so you know.

Although your analogy is flawed in hundreds of ways (apples, meet oranges), the short answer is that until the court system says otherwise, software EULAs are valid and they can assert whatever rights are in the contract you agreed to.

As for stupid ... not for them it's not. They want to control the "in game" experience. It's their game. Don't like it ... don't play it.

- Roach

Compare to Xbox (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279737)

its as if microsoft trying to assert rights on programs that run on windows platform.

What about Microsoft trying to assert rights on programs that run on Xbox 360 platform? No wait, it does.

No Legal Standing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279167)

I can't see how Blizzard could ever hope to pursue and legal action related to this. WoW addons don't redistribute any of Blizzard's code, they just use functions that Blizzard defined. I assume Blizzard is just going to use this as an excuse to block certain addons in-game.

Well (1)

Miv333 (1180543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279217)

"Is this like Microsoft asserting control over what programmers may code for Windows?" They do. Compare the customizability of windows vs linux.

Re:Well (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279375)

The only reason windows gets away with that crap is because MS is a monopoly and can rightly (in the might makes right sense at least) say "screw off, it's not like we have to do squat for you. Competition? never heard of it".

Blizzard is overreaching here and needs to be put in place before it, to, becomes too big to resist.

Why allow plugins at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279247)

I thought the custom plugin support was strange from the get-go. WoW servers (like most / all other MMOG servers) trust the client with too much information, then Blizzard allow people to write plugins to take advantage of that information, then they try to reign in the plugins they consider 'bad' (which as far as I can tell they can decide for any reason).

It all seems an unnecessarily complicated process, as well as one that is rather unfriendly towards plugin developers (they can block your plugin at any time). Why not use the resources to design a decent GUI yourself and disallow plugins altogether?

Targetting "Carbonite"? (3, Informative)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279301)

It's just conjecture of course, but from poking around a couple wow-specific boards and discussions going on there, it looks like the only two well-used add-ons this will affect are Carbonite and QuestHelper. QH apparently had a minor request for donation in-game that they will likely just remove. Carbonite however has full-on subscription plans they require for their "full" version. I looked around their site and forums [carboniteaddon.com] but couldn't find anything official as to what they're planning to do.

Possibly impacted by this also is the bejeweled add-on; I don't believe this was open source?

Open Platform (1)

CougMerrik (1221450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279313)

This is dumb. They created an open platform for people to develop on and which allows for their users to *voluntarily* get that code and use it to make their game experience better. And while Blizzard can change that platform however they'd like, they should not be able to control the content of what their users voluntarily download and use.

If someone wants to make a Quest Helper add-on that doesn't ask for donations, I'm sure they're more than free to do so.

The problem here is that Blizzard is expecting high quality work for free, and won't even let the people who create that work remind people that it continues to be supported and enhanced for free, and request help to continue their work. Past a certain point, Blizzard may want to consider assisting these developers because they add significant value to the game.

Understandable... (1)

pcardno (450934) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279401)

Strikes me that the rule about not being allowed to charge for addons might be something that has come out of stories like this - iPhone App Causes Google To Shut Down SMS Service [slashdot.org] .

If there are loads of add-ons out there that a lot of people have paid a lot of money for, it kind of limits what Blizzard can do with the Wow add-on API. If they, for example, do something that disables or breaks an add-on that has been bought by 500,000 players for $10 a piece, they'd come under huge pressure to reinstate the functionality in the API, even though they themselves make nothing out of it and it costs them time and effort to do it. It'd also be a major PR issue.

Purely to avoid that risk (i.e. having to support API functionality for someone else's financial gain), I think I'd ban paid add-ons as well.

based on what? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279415)

There is no contractual agreement between the add-on developer and Blizzard; what legal basis would Blizzard have for imposing any conditions?

Note that FOSS licenses do not restrict what kinds of add-ons you can write for a piece of software or how you distribute your own code, they only impose conditions on you when you distribute someone else's code.

WOW TOS (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279743)

There is no contractual agreement between the add-on developer and Blizzard

The terms of service of World of Warcraft are a contractual agreement. Without a WoW account, the add-on developer cannot test his work.

Don't like it (2, Informative)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279455)

I may be in the minority (everybody loves free, right?), but I think this is a bad move. I really don't see it as fundamentally different from Apple deciding that all iPhone apps must be free.

Banning users from charging for their addons is questionable. Banning users from even mentioning in-game that their addon relies on donations is just stupid. If you are familiar at all with WoW addons, you know that the author's site is in the minority of the places people get the addon from. There are a lot of 3rd party collection sites, and there a lot of 3rd party addon installers that install and update the addon for you. Basically, this is like if a different group made Windows Paintbrush and tried soliciting donations on their website. How likely is that that people will go there, see it and donate? Now imagine it was far more useful than paintbrush.

The reason this is colossally stupid is twofold. First, if someone makes a commercial addon, other addon creators will see it and realize it's possible to clone. If it's a really good addon, they will clone it and release it for free. Sounds familiar, no? This is basically a large part of the way OSS works.

The second reason is that addons become work, if the addon is at all complex and popular (aka useful). At some point, you're spending a lot of time supporting the addon that could be spent doing other work for money, playing WoW, or just actually enjoying your life. As codebases age, they definitely fall out of that "enjoying your life" category. This is why donations can actually motivate you to work on an addon when you would have otherwise abandoned it.

The people who take a simplistic view that "other people shouldn't be making money off of Blizzard's hard work!" either do not understand or are too dogmatic to consider the reality. Addons add value to WoW. Blizzard makes money off of addons, be they free or pay, through increased subscriptions. There are numerous users who would stop playing if addons weren't around to make up for the deficiencies in WoW's UI. Addons also very frequently serve as their research department, as you will often see a new version of WoW incorporate the concepts of a popular addon.

This will result in many popular addons being discontinued. It will result in many addon authors losing interest in the game (I used to build addons even once I had lost interest in actually playing.) It will result in many players dropping out of the game because of lack of addon support (WoW updates and UI code changes typically mean that an addon will stop working within a year of being abandoned).

This is financially bad for Blizzard. However, if it's only 0.01% of their income, they will likely not care. I guess the new policy will be a good form of market research to see just how important the addon community is.

BTW, this has already been discussed [worldofwarcraft.com] in much more detail by the people who actually make addons. For those who aren't in the community, I'd recommend you read it to see how it has already killed some popular addons that relied on donations.

Your assertion should yield a debug event (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27279567)

There is a difference between Blizzard's LUA framework and M$ API.

Blizzard's LUA framework is meant to create an experience, NOT a marketplace. Which is why they are doing this to protect their end-users, and to disassociate viral developers from any association with Blizzard's products.

Blizzard's image is golden right now, and they want to make sure it stays that way, hence their drastic efforts. But seriously, I do not know how Blizzard can protect their golden image, as gold always invites criminals.

The only real control that Blizzard has is the pathway via LUA API to the product. This is where Blizzard should really focus their attention rather than on independant developers. I think Blizzard is straying too much from their fantastic coding ethics, and letting the legal team tarnish their reputation...

Two things (1, Interesting)

DetpackJump (1219130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27279671)

1) Blizzard probably doesn't want masses of users to be put at a disadvantage because they can't afford to buy the best add-ons.

2) Blizzard probably doesn't want to deal with people suing them because these little business take hits every time there's an engine change that severely breaks an add-on or makes it irrelevant.
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