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WhatIsMorallyRight wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Does anyone know anything about mods (free, player-made, downloadable content) for video games?
  • Is using them typically sinful?

There was one I wanted to download for an older Star Wars game. I know they were originally illegal for the first game in the series. I also know mods were a banned topic on their forums. I think they took a license to use but the user wasn't responsible for any problems they had using them.

In a newer addition of the game, one that comes in a collection of multiple games, the license agreement includes rules governing new levels, which is another name for mods. This actually makes me comfortable with the morality of their use.

With the sequel — the one I'm interested in modding — mods were never a banned topic on the developer's forum, at least not any more. There are multiple topics about it on the company home page and none of them are locked. It appears that a forum moderator, not associated with the developer, placed a link to the mods on the site. I believe one of the developers congratulated a mod team for releasing such a large restoration mod. The developers wanted to do this in a patch, but (LA) Lucas Arts didn't allow them, so I don't know how LA feels about this issue. From what I know, Lucas Arts doesn't exists any longer as a game studio. I think (EA) Electronic Arts now fully owns the rights to making Star Wars video games.

Lastly, there are two passages in the License agreement (for the sequel) that make me curious. They are:

  1. You may not . . . modify or prepare derivative works of the Software, except as otherwise may be allowed herein . . .
  2. [you may not] design or distribute unauthorized levels."

This is from the first license agreement but it might have changed.

  • So in this case, what's the morality of using these?

Thanks

WhatIsMorallyRight

  { What is the morality behind playing these add-on components to video games? }

Bob replied:

Dear WhatIsMorallyRight,

Most of the protections that companies issue are against distribution of illegal and modified products that impinge on the quality and market share of their product.

There is no problem if you do not intend to share or distribute any product with others.

  • If you are simply playing with a modified version for your own enjoyment, and you did the modifying, then there is no problem.
  • If you are the recipient of another's modification, you are the beneficiary of illegal or at least illicit material and that does pose a moral problem.

It is therefore incumbent upon you to determine whether someone does in fact hold the rights to the software in question, and if so, you may seek permission from them directly.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

WhatIsMorallyRight replied:

Bob,

  • Does that include free files you can download that only temporarily change the game?

For example, you need the base game beforehand and don't pay for the files. You just download them and put them in folders. Sometimes they replace existing files, sometimes they don't.

Upon uninstalling the game the mod is gone. If you reinstalled it you would only have the base game and you would have to re-download the mod again.

  • If I modded the game and then chose to sell, the person who bought it would not receive, or know it was ever modded, so would this be okay?

I'm only asking this because I'm unsure how you would classify modding; mainly due to the fact that there are different kinds of modding. Even modding an Xbox game is different from modding a PC game. The former is for sure illegal. Then there are things like jail breaking phones which to my knowledge create permanent changes.

WhatIsMorallyRight

Bob replied:

WhatIsMorallyRight —

The same principle applies. Even if it is temporary and for free, it may still violate the user agreement and therefore be illegal hence illicit.

I would fire off an e-mail to the owner of the rights to the program to see if there are any objections; if not, feel free to use it.

Bob

WhatIsMorallyRight replied:

Thanks for the reply Bob.

I had already sent a message to one of the writers on Twitter. I probably should go through a more official channel. He told me that the developers of the mod deserve praise. He has said this before, when the mod was finished but didn't address my specific question about legality.

The reason I consider this possibly important is because the developers wanted to do what the mod did, as a patch. The game was rushed and so a lot of content got cut. Lucas Arts didn't allow them to do so thus I wonder if their opinions differ. As of now, Lucas Arts doesn't exist as a game studio so I doubt they can be contacted. Also, it's unlikely that EA would ever get back to me.

  • Do you have any thoughts?

The message I sent to one of the writers was to one of the lead writers of the game in question, not one of the mod developers. He still works for the company that made the game, if that's important.

WhatIsMorallyRight

Bob replied:


Keep communicating with them. I'm sure your efforts to keep things above board will afford you a clear conscience.

Peace,

Bob

WhatIsMorallyRight replied:

I will.

I did look at all of their web sites and none of them had a contact option. I could e-mail Tech. Support but this doesn't really qualify. All I have to go by is:

  • the team member's tweet where he congratulated the mod team.
  • the presence of this discussion on their forums, and
  • the fact that the modders are in the open and no one's been sued.

I wish I could access the license agreement for the version I'm playing because that might actually have more information on the rules governing mods. Such a section indicates legality.

Thanks for your advice.

WhatIsMorallyRight

WhatIsMorallyRight followed-up later:

Hi guys,

Sorry to revive this but I have been looking back over information and wanted your opinion.

First, I reread my tweet to one of the game's developers and he actually told me the mod I was interested in was worth playing. Again, this doesn't speak for the publisher, Lucas Arts. Also, I looked at the games files. In them I found an override folder which is primarily used for mods.

This is a version I have just purchased and never modded. Without mods, the folder is completely empty. The only thing that raises any question are the two passages from the License Agreement I quoted in my original question.

  • Am I right that this information indicates licitness?

Thanks,

WhatIsMorallyRight

Mike replied:

Hi, WhatIsMorallyRight —

I'm a bit of a gamer myself seeing my nephews got me addicted to certain video games and I can relate to a good portion of what you said with Bob.

If you are concerned about what the end buyer is allowed and not allowed to do, just call Tech. Support for the game manufacturer, whether it's Lucas Arts, EA, or any other company like Blizzard, and ask them. If one company has bought out or acquired another company, call them. Many manufacturers, not only have a forum, but also a ticket system for problems and questions.

If they don't address your specific question about legality, follow-up and be more specific.

We can't know the nuances of your specific situation. Just let your conscience be your guide. The Lord knows you are trying make the most moral choices and that's the key to your whole issue.

Mike

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