Otherland Developer Denies Claims Regarding “Hundreds of Fake Paid Reviews”

Otherland is an MMO by Drago Entertainment which launched via Steam’s early access programme and has a pretty dismal reputation among fans. Sadly, the game has suffered from bugs, and failed to live up to people’s expectations. Personally, I cannot comment on the game as I don’t own it, but the general consensus seems quite negative. Today, a number of strong allegations were targeted at the developer which claimed they had planted “hundreds of fake paid reviews” on Steam. This was allegedly done to falsely make the game seem more appealing throughout the community.

Specialist site, MMOs discussed the supposedly paid for reviews and their CEO said:

“Well it turns out that most of these user reviews are without a shred of a doubt fake. It doesn’t take a genius to realize these reviews are fake, as most of the positive reviews are left by users with “0.0 hours on record” and users that left no other reviews on Steam. What’s funny is that ALL of these fake positive reviews are in completely broken nonsensical English.”

The writer went onto analyze why they believe Drago Entertainment employed such unscrupulous tactics:

“It’s clear that the folks behind Otherland are disappointed with the game’s reception on Steam and are trying to boost sales in an incredibly shady way. As of this writing, the game only has 18 players online with a 30-day average of 8.2. The game is clearly a commercial flop and Drago Entertainment is trying anything and everything to get people to try the game. I mean, if you’re going to try to trick your customers into buying your game, you might as well spend a little bit more and get your fake reviews written by native English speakers. As is, these fake reviews are embarrassing for Drago Entertainment and won’t fool anyone who spends a couple of minutes checking out the reviews. More casual users though might be roped into buying the game if they only look at the “mostly positive” score on the game’s Steam page, which is unfortunate, as the game is pretty terrible.”

“This kind of deceptive marketing / manipulation of user reviews shouldn’t be allowed. Steam needs to take action and take these downs, as no one should be tricked into buying this game. I think Steam should just boot this game off the platform for trying to trick their customers, but that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Do you know any other games that use paid reviews on Steam to boost their sales?”

Given the serious nature of these claims, the developer released an official response on the Steam Discussion forum:

Although the owner of MMOs wasn’t impressed with their response and remarked:

“Are they serious? Are they claiming that the users they gave free keys to left these nonsensical “reviews”? This isn’t a one/two review thing, there are over a HUNDRED of these obviously fake reviews all blindly praising the game IN BROKEN ENGLISH. I’m not buying their story. Did they only give beta keys to people who spoke broken English? I think they got caught and came up with a terrible excuse. It’s possible that a couple of individuals at the developer’s office thought this was a good idea and acted on their own, but the payment had to be approved. People don’t leave fake reviews for free.”

This is a tricky situation as no-one categorically knows if the reviews were paid for apart from the developer. However, making such wild accusations without consulting the developer is only going to end in tears. I honestly don’t know who is telling the truth here, but it emphasizes how untrustworthy many reviews can be. Evidently, the time played is minimal and looks suspicious. On the other hand, many community reviews quickly click to the approve button on launch to make themselves feel better about their purchase.

As an individual, it’s perfectly fine to criticize a developer and make claims. However, if you are a journalist or work for a published site, any comments can be seen as slander and result in legal action. I want to reiterate that I’m not holding the blame on anyone here, but sites have to be so careful when making assertions even if the evidence looks quite legit. This entire situation raises questions about Steam reviews, and how the media investigates developers who are apparently overstretching their ethical responsibilities.

Rockstar Describes BBC GTA Drama as “Random, Made up B****cks”

Rockstar has publicly lambasted the BBC for producing a drama about the development of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The production, entitled, “The Gamechangers” charts the emotions of Rockstar producer, Sam Houser and stars everyone’s favourite wizard, Harry Potter, I mean Daniel Radcliffe. Bizarrely, Rockstar wasn’t even consulted about the drama and had no involvement in the story. This seems like a massive oversight as first-hand accounts from Rockstar staff would have greatly improved the plot’s accuracy.

The drama finally aired on September 15th and Rockstar proclaimed how absurd its production was and said:

Mainstream media has always been terrible at reporting video games and this is just another example. Grand Theft Auto V was highly-publicized for being violent and becoming the most successful entertainment launch ever. The BBC could have consulted with Rockstar and made a truly-brilliant production. Instead, they opted for a haphazard approach without any major research. Rockstar has already filled a trademark lawsuit against the BBC and they only have themselves to blame.

As video-games become even more widely accepted, mainstream media will attempt to cash in on that success. Frankly, this latest attempt is rather embarrassing and doesn’t help the BBC’s cause when trying to outline the value of the license fee.

Spotify’s CEO Clarifies New Privacy Policy After Controversy

Spotify’s updated terms and conditions page has caused outrage amongst users and resulted in a number of high profile individuals to cancel their membership. To access the Spotify streaming service, you need to accept a privacy policy which allows the company access to sensitive data including pictures, videos, messages and contact numbers. The official statement reads:

“With your permission, we may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files. Local law may require that you seek the consent of your contacts to provide their personal information to Spotify, which may use that information for the purposes specified in this Privacy Policy.” 

“Depending on the type of device that you use to interact with the Service and your settings, we may also collect information about your location based on, for example, your phone’s GPS location or other forms of locating mobile devices (e.g., Bluetooth). We may also collect sensor data (e.g., data about the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit).”

“You may integrate your Spotify account with Third Party Applications. If you do, we may receive similar information related to your interactions with the Service on the Third Party Application, as well as information about your publicly available activity on the Third Party Application. This includes, for example, your “Like”s and posts on Facebook.”

Unfortunately, Spotify’s handling of the new agreement has been fairly forthright and doesn’t really care if you disagree with the terms:

“If you don’t agree with the terms of this Privacy Policy, then please don’t use the Service.”

Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft, has been critical of the policy and believes the data snooping is a complete breach of privacy.  In lieu of the negative press, Spotify’s CEO has issued a statement to address people’s fears:

“In our new privacy policy, we indicated that we may ask your permission to access new types of information, including photos, mobile device location, voice controls, and your contacts.”

“Let me be crystal clear here: If you don’t want to share this kind of information, you don’t have to. We will ask for your express permission before accessing any of this data – and we will only use it for specific purposes that will allow you to customize your Spotify experience.”

According to Spotify, your data can only be accessed if you give express permission. However, does this mean an opt-in process? I’m quite sceptical as you have to agree to the new terms and conditions before accessing the service. This could constitute as a green light for Spotify to monitor you data usage and even sell it to third parties. Subsequently, I believe Spotify needs to go further and clarify the impact of accepting the privacy policy’s terms.

Controversy is Good For Reddit’s Business

Rumours of reddit’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it seems. The great exodus, predicted after the user revolt over former CEO Ellen Pao and objections toward new CEO Steve Huffman’s plans to clean up reddit’s “dark side”, never happened. In fact, the statistics show that reddit’s usership has increased by a factor of nine in the last month.

In May and June, reddit’s unique views were 175 million and 177 million, respectively. By July, in the wake of Pao’s exit and Huffman’s new hard-line approach, brought 195 million unique viewers for the month.

Last month, Pao was forced to resign by the reddit community as penance for the firing of Victoria Taylor, the site’s former head of community who was responsible for arranging the famous AMA posts. It was later revealed that Alexis Ohanian, reddit’s co-founder and board member, was the one responsible for Taylor’s sacking, not Pao. Former Chief Executive Yishan Wong also revealed in a candid post that, contrary to popular belief, Pao did not wish to implement large-scale censorship on the site, a policy that new CEO Huffman certainly is in favour of, ironically. Be careful what you wish for.

Rather than drive users away, though, it seems reddit’s soap opera has attracted a record number of rubber-neckers. It will be interesting, now that the controversy has died down, whether the site will be able to sustain those numbers across August.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

4chan Founder ‘Moot’ Leaves the Site

Founder of 4chan Christopher Poole, better known under the pseudonym ‘Moot’, has said farewell to the site he started 11 years ago. He said his goodbyes in a live broadcast on YouTube, watched by over 400,000 people.

‘Moot’ announced his departure in a front page post on 4chan on Wednesday, saying, “This is it for me. This is goodbye,” adding that it had been “a long time coming”.

“The journey has been marked by highs and lows, surprises and disappointments, but ultimately immense satisfaction. I’m humbled to have had the privilege of both founding and presiding over what is easily one of the greatest communities to ever grace the web,” he said.

No stranger to controversy, 4chan had a busy year, not least due to the infamous hack of celebrity iCloud accounts that revealed a number of nude photos, crudely nicknamed ‘The Fappening’. He concedes, “It took a toll. We had close to a billion page views that month. I was completely overwhelmed.”

As a parting message to the more notorious element of his old site, Moot said, “For people who are angry on the internet, I hope that one day you find the beauty in things.”

Source: The Guardian

Facebooks Emotion Study Now Linked to the Military

But wait, there’s more!

Recently we wrote about how Facebook users were outraged when they found out that 689,003 users news feeds were altered to display overly positive or negative content.

Since then, more information has surfaced showing that this emotion manipulation study also has possible ties to the military. As read on Mashable, an Army spokesman stated that in 2008 Cornell University sent a funding application to the military for a similar project, but was denied.

Controversy surrounding this 2012 research project pointed to the fact that the military had helped fund this possible unethical study, which Cornell has distanced itself from. The University originally issued a press release on June the 10th which confirmed military funding involvement in the emotion manipulation study from the Army Research Office. However as the military involvement became a common topic of discussion, Cornell chose to remove this acknowledgement.

On the first of July, SCG News reported that one of the studies authors, Jeffery Hancock, had previously received funding from the Department of Defense for other research projects including “Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes” which included this visualization program that depicts the spread of beliefs and disease.

The simple solution to solving this issue seems to be going straight to the source, but unfortunately when asked most parties declined to comment

“When asked whether Cornell University had ever sought any external funding, and in particular from the Army Research Office, a University spokesman declined to comment. The study’s authors, Hancock and Jamie Guillory, as well as a Facebook spokesperson, did not answer Mashable’s requests for comment either.” Mashable

However, Army Spokesman Wayne Hall has stated that they did not provide any funding to Cornell University and has never asked for them to make amendments to their press release.

With this information in hand, why was the Army credited in the first place? NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen commented on this issue through a public Facebook post:

“Why do I call this strange? Any time my work has been featured in an NYU press release, the PR officers involved show me drafts and coordinate closely with me, for the simple reason that they don’t want to mischaracterize scholarly work. So now we have to believe that Cornell’s Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, wasn’t shown or didn’t read the press release in which he is quoted about the study’s results (weird) or he did read it but somehow failed to notice that it said his study was funded by the Army when it actually wasn’t (weirder).
I think I would notice if my university was falsely telling the world that my research was partially funded by the Pentagon… but, hey, maybe there’s an innocent and boring explanation that I am overlooking.” Facebook

The last few lines of his quote ring the most truth about this whole ordeal.

Image courtesy of SCG news