As nobody knows (or cares), I have been dealing with real life issues such as unemployment, a fruitless job search, impending homelessness, and the fact that this very site will go down in May because I can’t afford hosting, and as such, this site has been forced to be put on the back burner. Even with all of this, I saw a story today on Destructoid (Source) that made it impossible for me to remain silent. Bluehole Entertainment, creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), has filed criminal charges in China against several creators of hack tools, leading 15 arrests and 5.1 million USD in fines. This news comes on the tail of it trying to sue several other companies over clones, and basically throwing a very public temper tantrum about Fortnite: Battle Royale taking their crown as the king of the genre. While the company’s official statement on the Steam Forums (Source) has spun this as an action to protect the players of the game from malicious software, and it seems that some of the produced hacks actually did contain Trojan viruses, has Bluehole crossed a line this time?
Hacks are dangerous to the users.
I’m going to come out and say it: I have used hacks in an online game. For many… many years, I played Final Fantasy XI online. For the first two years of this, I did everything by the book, ignoring ANY third party tools, even those that only improved the performance of the game. Square-Enix used the same line as every other company, that using hacks would not only lead to a ban, but could lead to a virus or spyware infection on your computer. Given that I loved the game and people I played it with, it just wasn’t worth the risk. I dealt with the performance issues, bad design, and needless grind put in place to do anything and everything in that game. However, after three years of this, I had had enough, and started using bots to automate crafting, speed and position hacks for obvious reasons, and tools that added map overlays and improved performance. At this point, having been free of it for all this time, a big part of what keeps me away at this point is the fact that I would be unable to find all of the hacks I used. These tools made the game playable for me (if you also played, all I have to mention is Parradamo Tor, and you know exactly what I mean). I never used them to gain an advantage over other players, as competition is what makes online play fun. That being said, in every online focused game, there have been a subset of players who only use tools to gain an unfair advantage over others. Game companies have always taken these infractions very seriously, banning players caught cheating and sending Cease and Desist notices to people who make and distribute tools and hacks. These companies are completely right to do this, as this makes people not want to keep playing their games. I have always believed this, even when I myself was using such cheats. That being said, I always said that the companies saying that these tools opened users to viruses and spyware was like being paranoid about razor blades in Halloween candy: i.e. largely a myth to scare people. While this does happen from time to time, it is not the reason these companies fight the use of these cheats. Which brings us, in a roundabout way, back to Bluehole, their tantrum, and today’s arrests.
Bluehole has crossed a line.
PUBG was a landmark title. It popularized many of the elements that have come to embody the current Battle Royale craze, from the player limit, to the shrinking combat area to force players to confront each other. The game, for this innovation, sat atop the throne of this genre for a long time, and apparently expected this to last forever. When Epic Games added a free-to-play Battle Royale mode to Fortnite, it wasn’t long before it knocked PUBG from the top spot, and since then, rather than improve their game to try to compete and regain their throne, Bluehole has thrown a public fit. They have lashed out at Epic, threatened and carried out on lawsuits, and generally acted like a vicious, spoiled child over being dethroned. While clones have undoubtedly come out, to paraphrase Jim Sterling from a recent Jimquisition episode (Source) , the only unique things they created were game mechanics, which typically are immune to copyright or trademark protection. If they were not, the entire video game industry would collapse. With today’s news, I posit that Bluehole has crossed a line from being a litigious, volatile company, to a truly nasty one. While creating hacks may be illegal in the jurisdictions involved, and the company is technically justified in filing these charges, let’s look for a moment at what this means. These hackers are likely to be charged under computer hacking laws, and given the scope of PUBG, they could easily have the maximum degree of these crimes, which carries a prison term of up to seven years (Source). Seven years in a Chinese prison. They could also be charged separately for each hack. To put this into perspective, because they messed with an online video game, these 15 people could be facing a very real death sentence. Chinese prisons are famously brutal, even a cursory Google search of the conditions of Chinese prisons reveal recent stories of slave labor, beatings, and torture of inmates. Anyone cheering these arrests because it makes their gaming session more fun should be ashamed.
Bluehole Entertainment is a company that deserves nobody’s business at this point. While it made a functional game that laid out the framework for an extremely successful genre, their behavior since has been unacceptable. Speaking personally, I hope that their continuous shit flinging will continue to bleed their player base, until there is nothing left. Supporting these companies with your money is more than just wanting to play a fun game, and we need to understand that. At this point, anyone who buys PUBG is not paying a company to make a better game, they are funding a company that was never ready for the spotlight, and is too busy throwing a temper tantrum with your cash.