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September 2021
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Nintendo Shuts Down Another 'Smash' Tournament Due To Mod Use, With No Piracy As A Concern

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Late last year, we discussed a predictably odd move by Nintendo to shut down a Smash Bros. tournament called The Big House over its use of a mod called "slippi." Slippi essentially unbreaks the 20 year old game when it comes to competitive online play. Otherwise, the whole thing basically doesn't work from a online play perspective. And, with all kinds of events going virtual, The Big House attempted to run its tournament virtually, meaning that participants would have to use a digitized version of the game they owned, along with the mod, in order to participate. After it nixed the tourney, Nintendo put out the following statement:

Unfortunately, the upcoming Big House tournament announced plans to host an online tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee that requires use of illegally copied versions of the game in conjunction with a mod called ‘Slippi’ during their online event. Nintendo therefore contacted the tournament organizers to ask them to stop. They refused, leaving Nintendo no choice but to step in to protect its intellectual property and brands. Nintendo cannot condone or allow piracy of its intellectual property.
Many of us rolled our eyes at the statement. After all, digitizing your own owned game in order to participate in the tournament is not "piracy." The game was bought and paid for by participants. The use of slippi doesn't really factor into the equation and, yet, its use seemed to be the deciding factor in the shut down. In other words, the target seemed to be the mod and not piracy.Well, that appears to be confirmed now that Nintendo has shut down a tournament called "Riptide", hosted at a waterpark in Ohio in-person, due to its use of a mod called "Project+".
The inaugural Riptide Smash Bros. event was supposed to happen last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. But 2021 has introduced another hitch. The three-day fighting game extravaganza at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio will now no longer feature Project+, a variant of the popular Project M mod for Smash Bros. Brawl that makes the 2008 Wii game fit for high-level competitive play.“Riptide was contacted recently by a Nintendo of America, Inc. representative regarding our Project+ events,” the event’s organizers wrote on Twitter last Friday. “As a result of that conversation, there will be no Project+ tournaments or setups at Riptide.”
Note that the event was scheduled to go off on September 10th. Participants are getting refunds for their entry fees, given the last minute cancellation, but not for any money spent on transportation or accommodations needed to attend the event. Flights, hotels, etc. are all going unrefunded. And, understandably, people are pissed.
“Super cool of @NintendoAmerica to cancel an event that’s been planned for months just 2 weeks before it happens!” wrote Melee pro JoSniffy on Twitter. “It’s so considerate to all of the people that bought plane tickets and hotels months ago, which are now useless. Keep up the great work Nintendo!”
Notably, there are zero piracy concerns at play here. The event and mod require disc copies of the game to play. The entire competition was to be conducted in-person, with no online play. Nintendo has made no public statement at the time of this writing as to why the tourney was cancelled, leaving it completely open to confusion and speculation.
“This is unforgivable at this point,” wrote past Melee champion Hungrybox on Twitter. “There’s no legitimate reason for @Nintendo to do this that doesn’t include a complete disconnect with the current culture of their consumers. Insanity.”
And so the rest of the Riptide event will go on as scheduled, but this one tournament is shut down, leaving participants that paid for accommodations in the lurch. Why?Control, obviously. With no piracy to be concerned about, all we're left with is the use of the Project+ mod. Nintendo quite famously hates modding communities and takes every opportunity to retain strict control over how its games are played. Why it wants to go to war with its own fans and customers in this way, meanwhile, has been an open question for years.

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posted at: 12:00am on 02-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Content Moderation Case Study: Spam "Hacks" in Among Us (2020)

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Summary: From August to October of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic had no end in sight and plenty of people were still stuck at home, on lockdown, unable to gather with others, the video game Among Us became incredibly popular as a kind of party game when there were no parties. The game had already been out for a while, but for unclear reasons it became the go-to game during the pandemic. It was so popular that the company behind it, InnerSloth, cancelled its plans for a sequel, promising instead to focus on fixing up the existing game and dealing with some of the bugs that were popping up from such widespread usage.

Among the bugs that InnerSloth had to deal with was the ability to hack the game with various apps and tools that allowed users to possess more powers in the game than they should be able to have.This came to a head in late October of 2020, when the game was apparently overrun by spam promoting a YouTuber named “Eris Loris.” Some of the spam had political messaging, but all of it told people to subscribe to that user’s YouTube account. Sometimes it came with vaguely worded threats of hacking if you didn’t subscribe. Other times it just told people to subscribe.While this attack was variously described as both a “hack” and a “spammer,” it appears that it was a combination of both at work. The end result was spamming players in the game and making it impossible to keep playing, but it was also carried out via a hack that filled the game with bots designed to spread the message. The person who goes by the name Eris Loris told the website Kotaku that he did it because he thought it was funny:
“I was curious to see what would happen, and personally I found it funny,” Loris told Kotaku in a DM. “The anger and hatred is the part that makes it funny. If you care about a game and are willing to go and spam dislike some random dude on the internet because you can’t play it for 3 minutes, it’s stupid.” — “Eris Loris” to Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson
InnerSloth admitted that it was aware of the problem and asked players to “bare with us” [sic] and only play private games or with players they knew and trusted until updates were made to the server. A developer for the game separately warned users that he was rolling out changes using a “faster method than I’ve done before” and, as such, that things might break.Company Considerations:
  • How much effort should be put towards preventative measures to try to block spamming, even before an app or service becomes wildly popular?
  • At what level does spamming reach a point that it is critical to change the code of a game, perhaps even using “faster” and less reliable methods to combat the spamming than would normally be used?
  • How do you balance resource allocations between having engineers improving the product and adding new features as compared to fighting back against malicious actors?
Issue Considerations:
  • When something becomes popular, there are always those with nefarious intentions who want to take advantage of the platform's popularity. Should companies proactively prepare for the unintended consequences of success? What can companies put in place to anticipate the actions of bad actors?
  • Spammers and hackers sometimes go hand in hand with popular games and platforms. What are other risks (beyond just losing players/customers) if companies allow, or are slow at the removal, of those bad actors from the platform?
  • Many developers leave platforms somewhat open to encourage third party developers to build on additional tools and services that make a game or service more useful. How does a developer determine the trade-offs between an open system to promote innovation and someone abusing that openness?
Resolution: The rapid updates Among Us developers made to the Among Us servers appeared to do the trick, and the Eris Loris spam quickly diminished soon after. There were some questions about whether or not there would be legal consequences for whoever was behind the attacks, but to date, nothing has happened.There still remain a number of Among Us hacks out there, and some people have attempted to follow in the footsteps of Eris Loris — including someone going by the name Sire Soril (Eris Loris backwards) — but it appears that none of these have had much success at all, suggesting that InnerSloth’s initial fix was pretty successful in limiting the kinds of attacks that overwhelmed the system in October of 2020.Originally posted to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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posted at: 12:00am on 02-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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