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The Lawbringer: Blizzard and Valve settle on DOTA

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Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

One of the highest-profile disputes in the gaming industry has come to a settlement agreement. Blizzard has agreed that it will back off from Valve's use of the DOTA trademark for commercial use, while Blizzard retains noncommercial use of the term for modders, map creators, and the community revolving around the game. In addition to the commercial/non-commercial separation, Blizzard has officially changed the name of its upcoming Blizzard DOTA to Blizzard All-Stars, so expect a new branding push soon. At the end of the day, I am still bewildered as to why we're fighting over DOTA, an acronym and phrase that comes packed with baggage and various connotations.

Back in 2010, Rob Pardo told Eurogamer essentially that trademarking DOTA was a slap in the face to the community that created the genre, and for a company that built a great deal of its success on mods, it seemed genuinely out of place for Valve. While everything is always about money, sometimes things are about money just a little less. With its own products announced using the DOTA name and former-DOTA developers having joined S2 Games and Riot Games to create Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends respectively, the MOBA genre is healthy.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Blizzard and Valve settle DOTA dispute, Blizzard DOTA officially Blizzard All-Stars

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Blizzard and Valve have been going back and forth about ownership of the DOTA title for awhile now. It's a complicated issue that's been summed up very well by Joystiq's JC Fletcher: "Which giant company has the rights to the fan-created, community-promoted word 'Dota?'"

As of today, it turns out Valve has those rights. The two giant companies have amicably settled the issue amongst themselves. Valve will release its DOTA title as Dota 2, and Blizzard will release its as Blizzard All-Stars. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of All-Stars, anyway. It gives the name some real flavor and, as stated by Blizzard VP Rob Pardo, "ultimately better reflects the design of our game."

Of course, regardless of the decisions made here, the fan community will inevitably continue calling this genre of games DOTA or some variation thereof. If you care to read the full press release regarding this agreement, hop behind the cut below.

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Filed under: News items, Heroes of the Storm

Rumble Between the Junglers: Questions about the DotA name

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

Behind the scenes, people are moving about, reading papers and commenting on filings and jockeying around the words of a paragraph to make it "feel" nicer. We don't like using the word "community," one might say, because it is a sympathetic word, and we do not need sympathy at this hearing. Thousands of dollars an hour are thrown at the problem for however long the team needs to work on it. I bet there were a few nice late-night sushi orders.

These are the stars of the show -- two copyright and trademark filing teams, potentially backed up by a litigation team, positioning over the DotA trademark ownership issue. Last week on The Lawbringer, I gave a summary of what is happening between Valve, Blizzard, Riot Games, and the DotA community, concluding that the fight over who owns the DotA name has to be fought now because of a fight brewing for years as the genre grew.

In order to expand our minds just a bit and start thinking like we want to understand the problem, we need to build a framework around the DotA issue with questions about what this is all about. Let's boil the issues down to simple questions.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Blizzard opposes Valve's DOTA trademark application

Blizzard has filed an opposition in Valve's ongoing trademark application to trademark the word DOTA, an acronym for the Defense of the Ancients map made popular through Warcraft III's custom map scene. DOTA was responsible for a good portion of Warcraft III's success and widespread competitive play, and the community has been calling the genre DOTA for many years before Valve began development of DOTA 2.

Valve hired on DOTA developer Icefrog to develop a new DOTA product from the ground up in house. Other DOTA developers went off to form Riot Games, which makes the incredibly popular League of Legends. And even as Riot tries to shift the nomenclature from DOTA to MOBA, the community that started it all is still winning out. Even Valve head honcho Gabe Newell said he didn't like the DOTA or MOBA acronym, instead substituting ARTS, or Action Real Time Strategy, in its place.

Filing an opposition does not necessarily mean that Blizzard wants to trademark DOTA -- it doesn't. Rather, an opposition makes light of information otherwise not seen and shows that there is more at stake and more people and parties have a stake in the word DOTA as being a community-owned term.

Valve and Gabe Newell responded to Blizzard's opposition by stating that the game being developed was a true sequel to DOTA and rightfully should have the moniker trademarked. However, the DOTA genre is still very much a term used to describe the three-lane tower setup of the classic DOTA map.

Blizzard will be releasing its own Blizzard DOTA game in the future through its brand new Battle.net Arcade system.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Divining just what that "non-personal system information" might be

As Eliah noted the other day, Blizzard is running another hardware survey -- your WoW client will be sending them information about what kinds of hardware are in your computer. They've done this before, and as you may have realized, this type of information helps them determine system requirements for future games. A few people have already speculated that they're testing the waters for another WoW expansion, but I doubt any expansion is that far along in the process yet: my guess is that this latest round of hardware testing is actually being done for final calibration on Starcraft II, due out this fall. Blizzard doesn't share this hardware information with us, but Valve, another company that has a really wide install base with its Steam service, does release regular information about the kinds of computers its games are running on.

There is, of course, another question here: do we really want Blizzard jumping in and taking this information from us? There aren't any obvious reasons to protect this information (most computers will give it up to any Internet-connected application without issue), but you never know: do you really want Blizzard checking out what's on your hard drive or what accessories you've hooked up to your computer? We'd presume that they don't dive into software information (like checking your computer's HD for signs of competing MMO installs), but certainly they could. The list of what they check includes: "CPU, RAM, operating system, video, audio, HD/CD/DVD, and network connection," but we don't know if that's everything or not (the Terms of Use, under "XVIII Acknowledgements" says something similar). And as Blizzard's alert says, while we do get a momentary notification that this information is being sent, users who have merged their Battle.net accounts will no longer even see that flash of a message, even though their info is still being sent. The ToS says Blizzard doesn't have to notify us of the survey, but they have in the past anyway.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Hardware, Account Security

Blizzard vs. Relic Entertainment in The Escapist's March Mayhem

The good folks over at the Escapist are giving March Madness a little game developer spin -- they've pitted 64 different videogame developers up against each other in an NCAA Basketball-style showdown, with readers voting for which dev moves on to the next match. And our favorite developer, Activision-Blizzard, is still in the running after a few rounds: they've beaten Wideload Games and Crytek, and are currently facing Relic Entertainment (makers of the Dawn of War RTS series, as well as the classic Homeworld). Unfortunately, Escapist had to list them as "Activision-Blizzard," though what we're really voting for here is Blizzard, since companies who make Activision's other hits (like Infinity Ward, who make the best Call of Duty games, as well as Neversoft, who've overseen most of the Guitar Hero games lately) have their own places in the showdown.

Blizzard's got a tough road ahead, though -- if they win, they're likely facing fan favorite Harmonix (heck, I love Harmonix), and then will probably show down against either Bioware or Rockstar, both extremely popular developers. The other side of the bracket will likely have heavyweights like Nintendo and Valve coming out of it, too, so it'll be a tough road if Blizzard wants to make it to the top.

To vote, you just have to head over to The Escapist's forums -- the next round starts tomorrow morning, and every few days they're moving the developers on to the next matchup. The final round will be decided on April 8th, and while of course winning means nothing at all, this is a nice chance to show off your developer pride. Say what you want about the recent class changes, but Blizzard has given you Starcraft, Diablo, and World of Warcraft -- how can you not vote for them?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Humor

15 Minutes of Fame: e-sportscaster tracks WoW tournies


15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes – from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

First off, let's establish this for the record: yes, there are people out there who play World of Warcraft professionally. There are pro teams, well known player personalities and an entire tournament scene. And behind it all, there are podcasters – "e-casters" – reporting on every twist and turn.

Meet JP McDaniel, a 22-year-old college journalism major and podcaster for ArenaCast. JP has combined the game he loves with school and work in what he hopes will be a springboard to a print journalism career in gaming. He's managed to roll his main up to 80 in the midst of podcasting, news updates, tournament travel and his studies. We talked with JP about his road into e-casting and his perspectives on where e-sports -- and competitive WoW, in particular -- are heading.

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Filed under: Podcasting, Features, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

WoW on Zazoox stations

Soley saw something strange at the airport in Denver: a console with PC games on it, including none other than World of Warcraft. Apparently there was a kiosk with a bunch of different games installed on it, and for a small fee, you could jump in and play any number of games, from Valve's FPSes (including Portal!) to our own big MMORPG.

The company doing this is called Zazoox -- they have a site that shows off all of their different consoles and offers them (for a price and a service charge) to vendors who can then put them up in public places. World of Warcraft isn't actually on their games list yet, so apparently it's just being tested in Denver and other places. Apparently, the price is 25 cents a minute, but as some of the commenters to Soley's post say, if you're entering your WoW password on what is basically a public computer and something goes wrong, it could cost you a lot more than that.

Of course, overseas in Asia, this kind of thing is common -- the vast majority of WoW players there play in public cafes and Internet houses, and in fact the pricing scheme of the game itself there is per hour, not per month like it is here. But for some reason, this kind of ubiquitous public gaming has never taken off in the West -- maybe Zazoox's consoles will get people playing out in public.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Hardware

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