Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Game Over for Modders?

Filed under
Gaming

When the smoke clears around the Grand Theft Auto sex scandal, the innocent bystanders of the collision between politics, puritans and corporate dissembling may prove to be the community of "modders" who tinker with game content for their own amusement.

Game hackers have probed, tweaked and enhanced everything from Halo to The Sims 2 over the years without incurring the wrath of game makers -- despite widespread click-wrap contracts prohibiting unauthorized modifications, and ambiguities in copyright law that make distributing the hacks legally uncertain.

All that changed last week when game industry opponents and some Democratic lawmakers raised a furor over a sexually themed mini game baked into Rockstar Games' best-selling PC and console title GTA: San Andreas. The raunchy bonus material was hidden from normal play, but could be unlocked by a downloadable mod titled "Hot Coffee" developed by hacker Patrick Wildenborg of Deventer, Netherlands, last month.

Rockstar's parent company, Take Two Interactive, was quick to blame the modder and disavow responsibility for the racy content. In a July 13 press release, the company claimed that "a determined group of hackers" had gone to "significant trouble to alter scenes in the official version of the game," a process that the company said involved disassembling, recompiling and "altering the game's source code."

But on Wednesday, an investigation by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board concluded that Take Two was, in fact, responsible for the sex content, which was found in all three versions of San Andreas: the PC, Xbox and PlayStation2 discs. Wildenborg's Hot Coffee download merely made the scenes accessible.
The industry group revoked the game's M rating, which labeled it appropriate for players 17 or older, and re-filed it under AO for "adults only" -- raising the minimum age to 18, the year at which a delicate teen becomes less susceptible to the harmful influence of computer-generated cartoon sex.

The new rating has major retailers pulling the game from their shelves, while Take Two preps a replacement version that will satisfy the ESRB requirements for an M rating. The company now acknowledges that the sex scenes were shipped on the game discs, but describes them as vestigial code that was cut from gameplay before release, and was not intended to be accessible to players.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has called for an FTC investigation of the whole affair, but Take Two is trying to keep attention on the modders. Spokesman Jim Ankner won't say whether the company is removing the sexual content from the new discs (it is if it wants an M rating, the ESRB says) but instead emphasizes that the next release will have "enhanced security" against hackers like Wildenborg.

The company also said, in a Wednesday press release, that it's "exploring its legal options as it relates to companies that profited from creating and distributing tools for altering the content" of the game. Ankner declined to elaborate on what that might mean, but the PlayStation2 version of the Hot Coffee hack required the use of a consumer cheat device called "Action Replay" that allows players to tweak console games, typically to get extra lives or unlimited ammo.

The U.S. subsidiary of the company that makes Action Replay, Datel Design & Development, didn't return phone calls Thursday. A spokesman for U.S. distributor Intec says it's watching the controversy closely. "We're definitely staying on top of the issue to see how this plays out," said VP of marketing Mark Stanley.

In 1992, Nintendo lost a lawsuit against the maker of a similar customization tool called Game Genie, when a federal appeals court found that the device didn't infringe Nintendo's copyrights.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Q4OS 1.6, Orion

The significant Q4OS 1.6 'Orion' release receives the most recent Trinity R14.0.3 stable version. Trinity R14.0.3 is the third maintenance release of the R14 series, it is intended to promptly bring bug fixes to users, while preserving overall stability. The complete list and release notes you will find on the Trinity desktop environment website. New Q4OS 1.6 release includes set of new features and fixes. The default desktop look has been slightly changed, Q4OS 'Bourbon' start menu and taskbar has been polished a bit and has got a few enhancements, for example the icons size varies proportionally to the system panel. Native Desktop profiler tool has got new, optimized 'software to install' list. Read more

Learning More About Explicit Fencing & Android's Sync Framework

With the sync validation framework leaving the staging area in Linux 4.9 and other work going on around the Android sync framework and explicit fencing, this functionality is becoming a reality that ultimately benefits the Linux desktop. Collabora developer Gustavo Padovan presented at this week's LinuxCon 2016 conference about explicit fencing support in the mainline kernel with a "new era of graphics." Read more

Ubuntu Leftovers

Leftovers: Software Development

  • fakecloud
  • A new version of pristine-tar
  • Getting RSS feeds for news websites that don’t provide them
    On the technical side, this seems to be one of the most stable pieces of software I ever wrote. It never crashed or otherwise failed since I started running it, and fortunately I also didn’t have to update the HTML parsing code yet because of website changes. It’s written in Haskell, using the Scotty web framework, Cereal serialization library for storing the history of the past articles, http-conduit for fetching the websites, and html-conduit for parsing the HTML. Overall a very pleasant experience, thanks to the language being very convenient to write and preventing most silly mistakes at compile-time, and the high quality of the libraries.
  • Quick Highlight
    Martin Blanchard put together a new “quick highlight” plugin for Builder this last week. It was a great example of how to submit a new feature, so I just wanted to highlight it here. Post to bugzilla, attach a patch, and we will review quickly and help with any additional integration that might be necessary.