Archive for May, 2009

When Child Porn Laws Go Bad

Friday, May 29th, 2009

You are a criminal.  You may not have known that but if you are fairly media savvy then most likely you are a criminal based on this conviction of a comic book collector.

Here’s the quick summary: a man who is a prolific collector of Japanese manga (comics) was found guilty of child pornography because of artwork in a series of manga that he was importing depicting depraved sex acts with children.  According to the article, this is a man who collected ALL types of manga and not just this style which puts him in the realm of what should have been considered an art collector.  He faces up to 15 years in jail.

So here’s the problem – this is a victimless crime.  There is no one who has been hurt… no one who has been wronged…  no one to be compensated.  These are drawings of fictional characters.  And the law has been left purposely vague (although less vague than the first iteration) so that it can cover things it was never meant to cover.  So now a comic collector is being put in jail and resources that could have been used to catch and prosecute real child pornographers has been wasted.

Welcome to the new world that allows for an idea to be illegal.  The most common anology to this is that if we play a video game that has us kill a virtual person are we then considered a murderer?  Sounds far-fetched doesn’t it? Now think about every school shooting over the past few years and how many times video games were blamed as influencers of the mentally flawed people who commited these crimes.

So where does the line get drawn?  Do we need to burn every copy of Lolita?  Should fans of Dakota Fanning get thrown in jail for watching Hounddog?  I guess we can’t make any more gang movies… ya know, unless no one dies of unnatural causes in them.  Slumdog Millionaire should have been X-rated based on this kind of thinking (oh wait, everyone loved it and it won awards).

What’s your opinion? (please read the article or be familiar with the case before venting)

The Valve saga is over

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

You may have read my previous post ranting about Valve and Steam and their support staff.  Well, I’m not taking back what I said about the support staff because I was treated poorly.  However, the issue has been resolved in an acceptable manner.

After asking twice to talk to a manager, I got an e-mail signed by a different person that repeated the exact same policy without even bothering to look into my case.  No introduction, no indication that were indeed a manager or anyone other than the same person as before but signing a different name.  I got pissed.

I drafted a nice reply to them stating that I was sending the details of my case to the founder of the company and all the senior management listed on the corporate website that had e-mail available to the public.  I also told them that I was going to be contacting every gaming forum and news and review site and writing letters to the editors of every mainstream game magazine I knew of.  I let them know that they had one week to fix this before I started because I really didn’t want to go through all that work.  After sending the reply I sent the same to three execs at Valve and gave them my contact information.

My mobile phone was ringing within five minutes.

Doug Valente from Valve called me himself and we chatted for about 15 minutes.  He tried to explain the problem and why they have the policies that they do.  He pointed out some vague wording on my game box that is supposed to say that it is restricted but really only says that the game can only be sold in Hong Kong or Macau.  No restrictions.  He relented.  I read him off a few more things from the box and the discs to prove that I indeed had a legal copy of the software.

He told me that the issue would be resolved and I would have a new CD Key by the time I got home that night.  Sure enough, when I logged onto Steam, there were a bunch of new messages waiting for me.

Doug Valente was very nice to talk with and I really appreciated him taking the time to listen to me unlike his support staff.  He admitted that the Steam support guys are a bit jaded when it comes to people trying to pull the wool over their eyes and sometimes can lose sight of the big picture.  I hope that he addresses that with them.

Thanks Doug!

So I’m satisfied – although I dread ever needing to work with Valve or Steam’s support again.  At least I have Doug’s e-mail address and direct phone number if I ever need it.

Valve & Steam support is useless

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

About a week ago I posted that I was having trouble with Valve and Steam support in fixing a region coding problem with their software called The Orange Box that I purchased in Hong Kong.

According to Valve Corporation’s first line support, all packaging is clearly labeled that the software is region restricted to the region it was purchased in.  I would never buy software for the PC that was labeled like that and because of that I read the box and asked questions about EVERY piece of software I purchased while I lived there.  I still have the retail box that I purchased which says nothing, anywhere, not even in the fine print about having ANY region or territory restrictions.

Since my last post, I have made full color scans of both the retail box and the quick reference card from inside the box that has the CD Key.  I sent them these so that they could see for themselves that there is nothing on there about region or territory restrictions.  I asked them to please escalate the issue to management if they still could not help me.
Here’s the response I got:

A staff member has replied to your question:

Hello Vincent,
We cannot accept pdf files for image verification.

You must submit your photos as a jpg, or gif.

That said, in restricted territories all official packaging for our games contains wording indicating if the game has any restrictions.

We will not be able to lift the restriction, nor provide you with a replacement CD Key for this issue.

So much for attempting to be helpful.

So today I have again, politely asked them to escalate this to their management or give me the contact information of their management so I can talk to them directly.  I paid roughly $45 USD for this game and I don’t feel that I should be punished because some of their packaging is not labeled as they THINK it is.

I don’t really want to spend hours creating accounts on forums and creating posts about how horrible Valve Corporation and Steam software is but if they can’t even be bothered to replace a simple CD Key that has no monetary value (since I already bought the game) then I don’t see a whole lot of choice.  It won’t be the first time I’ve made a formal complaint to the Better Business Bureau either.

Just telling me to buy their software a second time is not a good enough response.  It’s ridiculous and callous and is the face of everything that is wrong with modern tech support and business today.

There’s no reason to think that you will have a similar problem with a company until it happens to you.  What will you do when that day comes?  Roll over and accept being screwed over or try to put up a fight?  Help me get the word out.  I can’t be the only person having this problem and if their tech support is this useless in this case I’m betting there are a lot of screwed over former Valve users out there.
Link back to this post if you want to help out.  Every bit of exposure helps.

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Software news

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Recently the following software news has been filtering through the web: MicroFocus aquires Borland.

And…?

Yeah, me too. Who cares? I didn’t even know either company was still around. I had assumed they had both withered away with the likes of Interplay and Origin Systems. So I guess the real news headline should have been: OMG Borland and MicroFocus still exist!?!

Which of course all of this is as newsworthy as this post. I’m just saying.

Steam is pissing me off

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Are you familiar with Valve and their Steam software service?  Are you a user of their service?  If so, here’s some information you may want to know.  Because Steam is really starting to piss me off.

In general, Steam is a decent way to buy games online.  It had a horrible start with the launch of Half-Life 2 and the industry had all but written Steam off at that point.  But Valve was able to fix the problems and make Steam into what it is today.  Normally, I would be generally satisfied with that.

Unfortunately though it seems that Steam has felt the need to use region restrictions on their retail software just like the movie industry does with DVDs.  This doesn’t affect most people who only buy their games and software locally but for those of us who travel or order from online retailers, this can be a serious issue.

While I was living in Hong Kong I purchased Valve’s The Orange Box because I wanted to play Portal and Team Fortress 2.  So I took a train to a software store and picked up a copy.  Nowhere on the box or packaging does it say it’s region restricted and everything is in English like I would expect back home in the States.  Excellent.  So I install it and play and all is well.

Now I’m back home and this past weekend I decided that I wanted to play Team Fortress 2 again.  I’ve had to get a new PC since my previous one died after the move so I needed to reinstall.  So what happens?  When I try and install any of the games in The Orange Box, it pops up a message that says that the CD Key I used is region restricted and unusable in my territory.  WTF?

I tried changing my time zone and my location in Steam but nothing helped.  I guess it must key off of IP addresses since it is an online service.  So I contacted their support for help.  The answer I get?  That they can delete the region restricted key from my account so that I may be so priveleged as to purchase their software again.  Uhhh…  NO.

They referred me to a very unhelpful FAQ entry on their site that says that the message I got was from region or territory restriction and that I should return my software to the retailer.  I’m not sure if these guys at Steam have ever had to buy and return a piece of software but it’s not possible.  Stores do not allow returns of opened software.  Idiots.

And that unhelpful FAQ entry also states that all region restricted retail boxes are clearly marked that they are restricted.  I still have the case and everything that came in it.  There is not a damn thing on it that says restricted in any way.  So my next step is to scan in the sleeve from my retail box and send it to them.

I’m not asking for much.  They recently sold The Orange Box on sale for $9.99 USD.  I’ve already invested almost $50 USD into buying this software so I don’t see why they can’t just give me a new key code without the restrictions that are not listed on what I bought.

I’ll let everyone know what happens.  Because if this doesn’t end with my getting what I paid for, then I will figure out every SEO trick just to see what $9.99 USD worth of BAD PUBLICITY can really do.  Which should be interesting since I work at a PR and communications company.