A Vancouver parent has launched a proposed class-action lawsuit against the makers of Fortnite, saying the popular video game is designed to be “as addictive as possible” for children.
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Microsoft signed a 10-year licensing deal to bring Activision’s Call of Duty franchise to Japanese cloud gaming provider Ubitus on Wednesday, the latest move by the company to address regulatory worries about its bid for the games maker.
While Xbox maker Microsoft is likely to secure EU antitrust approval for acquiring Activision with such licensing deals and other behavioural remedies, it is facing headwinds in the United States and Britain.
“Microsoft and Ubitus, a leading cloud gaming provider, have signed a 10-year partnership to stream Xbox PC Games as well as Activision Blizzard titles after the acquisition closes,” the chief executive of Microsoft’s gaming division, Phil Spencer, said in a tweet.
The company agreed a similar deal with cloud gaming provider Boosteroid a day earlier, on top of agreements with Nvidia, Nintendo and U.S. distributor Valve Corp, owner of the world’s largest video game distribution platform, Steam.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
A Vancouver parent has launched a proposed class-action lawsuit against the makers of Fortnite, saying the popular video game is designed to be “as addictive as possible” for children.
In the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday, the plaintiff identified only as A.B. says her son downloaded Fortnite in 2018 and “developed an adverse dependence on the game.”
The statement of claim says the game incorporates a number of intentional design choices such as offering rewards for completing challenges and making frequent updates, which encourages players to return repeatedly.
The statement says Fortnite creator Epic Games enriches itself by making content and customization options purchasable via an in-game currency, which are purchased with real cash.
The class-action lawsuit would still need approval from a judge and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
The plaintiff is seeking damages alleging the game breaches the B.C. Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, as well as for “unjust enrichment” and medical expenses for psychological or physical injuries, among other claims.
“Video games have been around for decades, but Fortnite is unique in that the science and psychology of addiction and cognitive development are at the core of the game’s design,” the court statement says.
It describes the game as “predatory and exploitative,” given its popularity among minors.
In a written statement, Epic Games communications director Natalie Munoz said the company will “fight these inflammatory allegations.”
“These claims do not reflect how Fortnite operates and ignore all the ways parents can control their child’s experience through Epic’s Parental Controls,” she said.
As examples, Munoz said parental controls “enable guardians to supervise their child’s experience, including limiting purchases and receiving playtime reports.”
Social settings can also “default to the highest privacy option for minors” and Cabined Accounts “provide a tailored experience for younger players.”
Also, Munoz said the company has a daily spending limit for players under 13.
In the statement, A.B. says her son began playing Fortnite: Battle Royale on a Sony PlayStation 4 game console when he was nine years old. The boy, she said, soon began buying various Fortnite products while adding the game to different platforms at home, including on mobile phone and computer.
Since that time, A.B. says Epic Games “received payment for numerous charges” made to her credit card without her authorization. The statement says A.B.’s son spent “thousands of dollars” on in-game purchases.
“If Epic Games had warned A.B. that playing Fortnite could lead to psychological harm and financial expense, A.B. would not have allowed (her son) to download Fortnite,” the statement says.
The lawsuit, if approved by the court, would cover three classes of plaintiffs: an “Addiction Class” of people who suffered after developing a dependence on Fortnite, a “Minor Purchaser Class” that includes gamers who made purchases in the game while under the age of majority, and an “Accidental Purchaser Class” of users who mistakenly bought items due to the game’s design.
The lawsuit would cover all persons affected by Fortnite in Canada except Quebec, where Epic lost its attempt last month to appeal a court decision there to authorize a similar class-action suit.
In the Quebec class-action appeal attempt, Epic lawyers argued the claims that children were becoming addicted to Fortnite were “based purely on speculation,” and no scientific consensus exists on cyberaddiction.
Epic Games also said in the Quebec case that it was not given a chance to argue against the claim that minors who bought Fortnite’s in-game currency were taken advantage of.
Quebec Appeal Court Justice Guy Cournoyer said in his decision that Epic did not demonstrate any significant error on the lower court judge’s decision to authorize the class-action lawsuit in that case.
Epic said in documents made public in a separate legal battle with Apple in the United States that Fortnite made more than US$9 billion combined in 2018 and 2019.
The legal claim against the video maker in Quebec still needs to be argued in court.
The rise of artificial general intelligence — now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley — will bring change that is “orders of magnitude” greater than anything the world has yet seen, observers say. But are we ready?
AGI — defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to more narrow artificial intelligence, such as the headline-grabbing ChatGPT — could free people from menial tasks and usher in a new era of creativity.
But such a historic paradigm shift could also threaten jobs and raise insurmountable social issues, experts warn.
Previous technological advances from electricity to the internet ignited powerful social change, says Siqi Chen, chief executive of San Francisco startup Runway.
“But what we’re looking at now is intelligence itself… This is the first time we’re able to create intelligence itself and increase its amount in the universe,” he told AFP.
Change, as a result, will be “orders of magnitude greater than every other technological change we’ve ever had in history.”
And such an exciting, frightening shift is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, envisioning using AGI to tackle climate change, for example, but also warning that it is a tool that we want to be as “steerable as possible.”
It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that brought the long dreamt of idea of AGI one giant leap closer to reality.
OpenAI, the company behind the generative software that churns out essays, poems and computing code on command, this week released an even more powerful version of the tech that operates it — GPT-4.
It says the technology will not only be able to process text but also images, and produce more complex content such as legal complaints or video games.
As such it “exhibits human-level performance” on some benchmarks, the company said.
The success of OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, has ignited an arms race of sorts in Silicon Valley as tech giants seek to push their generative AI tools to the next level — though they remain wary of chatbots going off the rails.
Already, AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can summarize meetings, draft emails, create websites, craft ad campaigns and more — giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of in the future.
“We spend too much time consumed by the drudgery,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft corporate vice president.
With artificial intelligence Spataro wants to “rediscover the soul of work,” he said during a Microsoft presentation on Thursday.
Artificial intelligence can also cut costs, some suggest.
British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he used GPT-4 for a coding project, which a “very good” developer had told him would cost 5,000 pounds ($6,000) and take two weeks.
“GPT-4 delivered the same in 3 hours, for $0.11,” he tweeted. “Genuinely mind boggling.”
But that raises the question of the threat to human jobs, with entrepreneur Chen acknowledging that the technology could one day build a startup like his — or an even better version.
“How am I going to make a living and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he was counting on solutions to emerge.
Ubiquitous artificial intelligence also puts a question mark over creative authenticity as songs, images, art and more are cranked out by software instead of people.
Will humans shun education, relying instead on software to do the thinking for them?
And, who is to be trusted to make the AI unbiased, accurate, and adaptable to different countries and cultures?
AGI is “probably coming at us faster than we can process,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative AI company.
The technology raises an existential question for humanity, she told AFP.
“If there is going to be something more powerful than us and more intelligent than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhou asked.
“And do we harness it? Or does it harness us?”
OpenAI says it plans to build AGI gradually with the aim of benefitting all of humanity, but it has conceded that the software has safety flaws.
Safety is a “process,” OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said in an interview with the MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “highly desirable” for companies to “come up with some kind of process that allows for slower releases of models with these completely unprecedented capabilities.”
But for now, says Zhou, slowing down is just not part of the ethos.
“The power is concentrated around those who can build this stuff. And they make the decisions around this, and they are inclined to move fast,” she says.
The international order itself could be at stake, she suggests.
“The pressure between US and China has been immense,” Zhou says, adding that the artificial intelligence race invokes the Cold War era.
“There is definitely the risk with AGI that if one country figures that out faster, will they dominate?” she asks.
“And so I think the fear is, don’t stop because we can’t lose.”
While I am hoping to see the Diablo 4 beta extended at least another day due to its login issues, I have done about everything you can do in it on one character. I’ve finished the story, maxed at level 25, attempted (and failed) to kill a world boss. And I like it a lot, I really do.
But do some aspects need work? Yeah, sure. And no, I don’t just mean login queues and disconnects, deeply annoying aspects of any live game launch, but something Diablo 4 especially doesn’t need after Diablo 3’s launch. That’s a bit obvious, however, so let’s dig a little deeper.
Other Tech Issues – One thing everyone noticed immediately on PC was that for whatever reason, Diablo 4 is a memory hog. There seems to be some sort of bad memory leak issue in certain instances that can really become problematic in time, if not kill the game outright. On top of that, even without running out of memory completely, there was a fair bit of stuttering on PC I want to avoid at launch. In some instances, I also kept running into areas that simply wouldn’t load at all, and my character was left running in place until I quit out and went back in. Also the game crashed roughly 75% of the time I tried to go back to the title screen or quit entirely.
Map Problems – There is no transparent overlay for the map, which seems like something you sort of need in a Diablo game, and essentially any ARPG. Past that, even if you do use the map tools they have, the minimap is borderline useless given how zoomed-in it is, so you’ll need to pull up the full map obstructing your view frequently. There should be a middleground here, because right now, you just have to pull up the full map all the time which is more intrusive than an overlay would be normally, which was plenty easy to toggle on and off before.
The UI – The UI is…fine, but I’d argue it’s not great. It looks a bit unfinished and a bit too mobile-like for my tastes. It’s better than say, Lost Ark, I guess, but not by much, and I think Diablo 3 wins in this department, for now. I’d like to see more work done on the icons, and things like the skill tree screen, which seems to lean a little too heavily into Diablo 2 styling, a game which is 23 years old, and as such, this all looks a little dated.
Fast Travel – This may be a problem solved with mounts, but it really did seem like there were way too many sprawling zones without fast travel points anywhere near them. Past that, the entire TP system is a little weird, as you have to teleport back to a town then to your party if you’re in one. It also took me the entire beta to learn there’s a separate, hidden way in the emote wheel to teleport back to the entrance of a dungeon.
Aesthetics, At Times – While in general, I do love many of the dark, blood-soaked areas of the map and I understand wanting to head back to Diablo 2 vibes, at times things go from spooky and gross to just sort of…drab. The graphics are great and some zones are eye-popping, but others are desaturated to the point of blandness where art direction can feel all but absent. I am curious to see more locations, certainly, before rendering a final verdict here.
MMO Things – I am mixed on the MMO elements of this, as instead of Diablo moving more into MMO territory, during all these server errors I sure found myself wishing for a wholly offline single player version of this, which I suppose is an impossibility in 2023. I find it odd that despite the focus on multiplayer, things like dungeons and strongholds don’t have matchmaking like Lost Ark. And the world boss? While a cool concept, I felt like I had zero control over my instance, which had too few people and too many of them underleveled for us to even have a prayer of beating the thing. There do not seem to be a ton of social tools to organize the MMO elements like there are in other games other than very generalized things like world chat. Maybe this will change for the better in the live game, but it’s not great in the beta.
Enemy Density And Diversity – I feel like I kept running into the exact same 8-10 enemy mob clusters literally everywhere outside of brief horde segments, and I wanted things to be mixed up a bit. And while I know many specific enemies are staples of Diablo lore, I feel like 95% of things I saw were remixed from past games, and not in terribly interesting ways. Again, it’s a big game and there’s a lot more ahead, but I haven’t seen much creativity in this area at the start here.
Playing It Safe? – This is perhaps my general critique of the entire experience. I love past Diablo games, like we all do. This feels like a new Diablo game that has inserted in a lot of Lost Ark-like MMO elements without changing all that much else. Weirdly, the biggest leap forward is probably the storytelling with fantastic cutscenes and a genuinely intriguing plot with Lilith, something lacking in past games. I just feel like maybe I wanted the game to evolve in more ways rather than trying to “fix” Diablo 3 (which was great!) by going back to a bunch of Diablo 2-but-modernized reworks. But again, it’s still early, I haven’t seen all the changes or explored every new system.
What do you think?
Update (3/20): Alright, I think I can expand on things with a few more issues here. now that I’ve played even more.
Legendary Affixes – I’m a little concerned that many of the legendaries I’ve seen so far feel a bit…dull. Not Diablo 3 launch-level dull, as those were famously just mostly boosted stats with little else, but at least in early days here, I’m not seeing anything terribly exciting even after a few dozen drops. Maybe the better ones come later, but also the new inclusion of “Unique” drops makes all this a bit more confusing.
Dungeon Repetitiveness – The more dungeons I ended up doing around the map, the more they started to blur together and by the end, they were kind of just feeling like Greater Rifts, a mish-mash of objectives and bosses that repeat pretty frequently. Again, this could be a beta thing, and certain things are being held back, but it seems like everything was “transport these three cubes to three pedestals” or “kill these three minibosses” before a final boss, and often the same final boss as other dungeons. I know there is a way to turn dungeons into “Nightmare Dungeons” in the future which perhaps will make them a bit more interesting, but I’m not sure what the mechanics are there just yet.
Potions – I don’t know how I feel about the new potion system over health globes, as it just sort of feels like a more convoluted system compared to health globes. I kept running into a situation where I needed to heal just like 10% of my health because I was full on potions and would need to spend one so I could pick up another one that just dropped. If this was a health globe, I would have just hoovered it up automatically, skipping a step. Maybe once more regen perks are in place this will change.
Skill Respecing – It’s not terrible, but it also seems unnecessarily complicated compared to Diablo 3. I am not opposed to returning to a skill point system and having gear give +levels to those, but I kept running into situations where I’d say, get a new legendary bow that modifies my main attack, and yet I couldn’t just go and change that attack. Since that was the first node, I would have to go back and respec everything about my build, even though I was keeping 95% of the rest of it the same, which was a lot with 25 skill points, so I can only imagine what it will be like with 50 or more. Diablo 3 allowing you to change individual skills and runes independently of one another felt better to me.
Lilith – Just kidding Lilith is perfect in every way. All hail Lilith!
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