Five on Friday - June 30, 2006

1. Can you explain what has happened with the Aegis of Grace in Pub41?
Ando: One of the engineers came across a bug that was causing item properties not to update correctly on old items after changes were made to their templates. This had the unintended side-effect of essentially fixing items that had been essentially "bugged" in the past.

After making this fix and putting it on Origin and Pacific, the Dev Team realized the modification had affected older "pre-patch" Aegis of Grace helms, which were rare because they could be worn by humans and had the wrong art. So a decision had to be made before we published pub41 to the rest of the shards. On one hand, this bug fix was needed by the Dev Team because it was interfering with some work that was being done. On the other hand, we didn't want to make these items no longer useful to humans who had always had them before. So a change was made so that all Aegis of Grace helms, both old and new, can now be worn by both humans and elves. Also, the older helms will continue to display the horned helm art instead of the circlet art (with the exception of the old ones on Origin and Pacific that had already been modified, which from what I understand were more difficult to change back - though this is still being looked into).

2. What kind of timeframe are we talking about with the delay of the Inu event? Weeks, months, a year?
Darkscribe: The fiction cycle will return as soon as we re-rig and script a couple things. Before the end of July, the in-game story will continue. I’m sorry for the delay. As for the announcement, I can’t say when we’ll make it yet. As soon as I have a firm timeline, I’ll let the community know.

3. When will players outside of Japan be able to purchase personal attendants?
Darkscribe: We’ll put them on sale as a micro-transaction in August.

4.Why does PunkBuster need to reserve the right to publish screenshots of the UO game window? What would this be used for?
Tony Ray, Founder of PunkBuster: Screenshots are requested by server admins and are returned to the server that the player joined. Each server admin can decide if he/she wants to request screenshots and also what to do with any that are returned. The screenshots taken by PunkBuster are only of the game window, not the user's desktop or other programs running. Our comments about this activity are to inform players that the server admin makes decisions regarding captured screenshots so that they can avoid servers that take screenshots if they so desire.

Screenshots never come to Even Balance directly. We do not use screenshots for banning purposes, etc. But some server admins use screenshots to catch cheaters who use visually based hacks (i.e. where evidence of a hack shows up on the screen while it is running). If the UO team decides to request screenshots via PB, they will also decide what to do with those screenshots. Those decisions are completely out of our hands.

Some admins publish screenshots to a website as a form of shaming punks who were caught cheating on their servers. Also admin community groups such as publish screenshots among their membership when they catch punks cheating on their servers.

Note from the UO Team: We have no intention of publishing screenshots taken with PunkBuster. However, we currently can monitor what happens in UO, and have the right to publish screenshots we take already, so PunkBuster doesn't really change anything here. Also, we currently do not plan to use the screenshot function at this time.

5. The PunkBuster EULA sounds very broad reaching in terms of what it allows Even Balance to do with a user's computer. However, the privacy policy is narrower in scope and spells out that full hard drive scans won't take place and that private data isn't transmitted to the PunkBuster server. What is the reasoning behind the difference between the two, and is the privacy policy legally binding? (e.g., could PunkBuster one day decide to start uploading my financial records and reading them because of what's in the EULA?)
Tony Ray, Founder of PunkBuster: Our EULA spells out in no uncertain terms exactly what PunkBuster is permitted to do from a contractual standpoint. In no case would it protect against breaking U.S. or Texas laws (which I believe the example question about financial records pertains to). The reason the EULA has to be so broad is that PB must be permitted to look at anything and everything on the computer. Otherwise, cheat/hack authors would design and write their hacks to avoid detection by masquerading as "private data" or whatever PunkBuster is designed to not look at.

Running any software program involves a level of trust whether or not the end-user acknowledges that to be the case. Contrast our EULA with licenses of other software that people download and run all the time - you never really know what a program or operating system is going to do until it happens, if even then. Our goal is to be up front and explain exactly what measures PB may take in order to provide as level a playing field as possible for all participants who desire to compete in a cheat free environment.

On the other hand, our Privacy Policy was written as more of a plain language expression of our intents and purposes (as opposed to a legal agreement). We follow our Privacy Policy as a matter of business integrity and to maintain our treasured reputation among end-users and our clients. It is the standard against which we believe all anti-cheat software should be measured. I couldn't really speak to whether it is legally binding from a technical standpoint as I have no background in judicial training, but we consider it to be so in practice. Its main purpose is more to answer questions about how PunkBuster actually operates in the real world rather than to define legal liability.

See Also