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MindArk all at sea

Swedish MMRPG developer raided by court officials

MindArk got an unpleasant surprise when their offices in Gothenburg were raided by around 70 Swedish court officials, having received allegations that the company was using software without a license. This actually took place way back in April, but for some reason (presumably related to on-going legal action surrounding the case) details have only just emerged today. According to the press release which we received from the developer this morning, the raid was brought about by accusations from Microsoft and three other unnamed companies, which we understand to have been Adobe, Autodesk (makers of 3DS Max) and Macromedia (of Shockwave Flash infamy). Naturally MindArk vigorously denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the company "has procured licenses for all software used in its offices", and furthermore that "MindArk is one of the companies with the most stringent policies regarding software licenses in use by its employees". MindArk MD Jan Welter Timkrans went on to launch some fairly wild accusations of his own, suggesting that Microsoft were trying to disrupt the release of MindArk's massively multiplayer role-playing game Project Entropia to reduce competition for their own effort Asheron's Call. "All through our development process we have kept track of which companies are visiting our site on the Internet and without comparison Microsoft has been one of the most frequent visitors", Jan reports. Whatever the reasons behind the raid though, MindArk are considering taking legal action of their own against Microsoft and the other companies that lodged the complaints. According to a representative, the Swedes would be seeking "a substantial number of millions of United States dollars" in damages. And thanks to Project Entropia's one big innovation, the ability to exchange real life and in-game currency, the company is promising to promptly convert any court winnings into Entropian Dollars for players to uncover in the game. Aw, bless. This isn't the only problem to have beset Project Entropia in the last few months though. A recent power cut caused the loss of some data, resulting in equipment going missing, and players have experienced bugs and server connection issues which have caused lost items as well. As these in-game objects are worth actual real world money, some of the beta testers were obviously quite irate about the situation, and MindArk are currently polling them on whether they would prefer to get a full refund for any money they've put into the game so far at the expense of having everybody's character data wiped, or for the beta to continue uninterrupted but with no refunds. The developer is promising that safeguards are being introduced to make sure that this doesn't happen in the final game, but that's cold comfort for those who now face the choice of either losing money or dozens of hours of work on their characters. To make matters worse, one beta tester e-mailed us recently to complain that she was being charged a $10 withdrawal fee to cover the cost of converting her remaining Project Entropia Dollars back into real world cash and transferring it to her bank account. Unfortunately, while the issue of compensation is being voted on, no transfers are being accepted anyway, leaving those who want out stuck in limbo. Project Entropia is certainly an ambitious effort, especially for a rookie development team, and the idea of being able to convert real world cash into in-game currency and vice versa is a novel one. Sadly the fine details are obviously causing some problems for MindArk. Related Feature - MindArk interview (May 2001)

Source - press release