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Legal status of modding


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What's the legal status of modding the game?

Forgive me if I am opening a thread unnecessarily but I couldn't find any topic on the matter.

 

From the EULA, I take it is not allowed. From the paragraph 2:

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This license does not allow you to make any commercial use or any derivative use of the Software (including without limitation any of its individual elements or Content). ... You agree not to copy, distribute, republish, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, modify, adapt, rent, sell, or create derivative works of any portion of the Software.

Furthermore from paragraph 6, kinda says the same or similar things:

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You are not permitted to ... manufacture any derivative products based on the Software or any part of it, or otherwise exploit the Software other than for your personal use. You are not permitted to apply any form of analysis to the Software by means of "reverse engineering", decompiling, disassembling, translating or adapting the Software, nor may you attempt to recover the source code from the object code of the Software, ...

My only conclusion of this is that it is not allowed. You are not allowed to modify it, and in the process of making a mod, you often look into the resources files, which you are not allowed. As any analysis or even decompiling is disallowed.

 

Yet, modding seems to be encouraged by the game developers, and according the documentation of the HoN Mod Manager:

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HoN has always allowed modding of the game client for non-competitive gameplay.

It is however uncertain, if the word "allowed" here refers to the possibility, or legal status of modding.

 

Would be great with a response from the developers themselves to have some kind of clarity on the matter.

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Editing XML and Lua game files locally is allowed, and you can change cosmetics on your end as you wish. Tournament mode guards against such mods in tournaments, and even in actual games, any advantage you can gain from such mods is minimal. 

 

Modifying the game code in memory, using hacks or otherwise changing internal game code is not allowed if you are doing it with malicious intent. This means tools like zoom hack. 

Edited by ElementUser
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Unfortunately, the EULA does not distinguish the two things, but rather just classifies everything as disallowed. But I assume what you are saying, look the other way when people modify the former.

Additionally, some cool UI mods have modified some of the original UI textures. Distributing the derived work in any way would be a breach of copyright and the EULA. Like before, paragraph 2:

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The Software is licensed, not sold. ... By using or accessing the Software you agree to comply with the copyright, trademark, service mark, and all other applicable laws that protect the Software. You agree not to copy, distribute, republish, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, modify, adapt, rent, sell, or create derivative works of any portion of the Software.

 

Furthermore, there is some cool stat websites, honstats.com and hon-stats.herokuapp.com, which make the use of icons and textures of the game. This redistribution of the copyrighted material in my understanding is also a breach. At least I couldn't find any additional agreement/exception for the use of this material when using the API.

 

So, is it okay to do these things? or should you expect to get a cease and desist if you do?

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9 minutes ago, Hokter said:

But I assume what you are saying, look the other way when people modify the former.

That's common I guess. As long as you could sue people for basically everything, you can choose later for what you want to actually sue them.
However I'm not sure if this is the case here.

Mods in honmod (or s2z) format do not actually modify game files (on disk). Also you don't "decompile" or "reverse engineer" anything, you just extract zip-files and see all the lua, xml and other files. They are basically just there, so you're not breaking the EULA by looking at those files.
The way you modify the game is by copying these files and changing something. And by placing those files at an other zip-file in your hon-directory, HoN automatically picks the modified files. But technically you didn't modify the original file, you copied it.
Now that might quailfy as "distributing a copy of any portion of the Software". However honmods, do usually not contain relevant portions of those files. Instead they only contain the changed lines (and maybe one before and after that) and the tool which applies those mods to your game, copy the actual file.
So I guess most people would probably see this as either fine or grey area. But I guess so is copying (parts of) the changelogs or even single hero names.

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3 minutes ago, Manu311 said:

Mods in honmod (or s2z) format do not actually modify game files (on disk). Also you don't "decompile" or "reverse engineer" anything, you just extract zip-files and see all the lua, xml and other files. They are basically just there, so you're not breaking the EULA by looking at those files.
The way you modify the game is by copying these files and changing something. And by placing those files at an other zip-file in your hon-directory, HoN automatically picks the modified files. But technically you didn't modify the original file, you copied it.
Now that might quailfy as "distributing a copy of any portion of the Software". However honmods, do usually not contain relevant portions of those files. Instead they only contain the changed lines (and maybe one before and after that) and the tool which applies those mods to your game, copy the actual file.
So I guess most people would probably see this as either fine or grey area. But I guess so is copying (parts of) the changelogs or even single hero names.

I know how the honmods work, and I would say, it's a very gray area and matter of interpretation.

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You are not permitted to apply any form of analysis to the Software by means of "reverse engineering", decompiling, disassembling, translating or adapting the Software

Extracting the zip files may be interpreted as decompiling, or disassembling, or translating somehow. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know. But I could see one argue the case.

 

I have been working on a mod, and in order to get it to work. As I have yet to find good documentation on things, I have been forced to run a lot of analysis on various triggers to figure out what they trigger on, and what data they send. This could be argued to be some sort of analysis and/or "reverse engineering".

 

Whether adding additional .s2z files is "modifying" the software or not can also be argued. I mean it is gray, and I am not a lawyer. That is why I'm at least trying to raise the question. Because sure, you aren't modifying any of the existing software files, but you do modify how the software behaves.

 

I'm not here to ruin anything. Don't get me wrong. I am very enthusiastic toward modding. I think it would be healthy and should be in the interest of the modding community to have a more clear definition of these things.

 

It is very heartbreaking if you put hundreds of hours into some work, only to be hit with a cease and desist.

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1 hour ago, Hokter said:

Extracting the zip files may be interpreted as decompiling, or disassembling, or translating somehow. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know. But I could see one argue the case.

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A decompiler is a computer program that translates an executable file to a high-level source file which can be recompiled successfully.

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A disassembler is a computer program that translates machine language into assembly language

Both quotes from wikipedia. Zip files are neither machine language nor executables. And even the content of those files is neither of those. So I would say that's fine.

Storing a file on your disk which does not overwrite files from the program itself, is definitely not changing the game itself. The option to do this is an interface provided by the software itself. Since it's encouraged to use that interface by providing an official mod-forum for it, it's also clearly not an internal interface either, which I would almost bet on it being legal to use it. It would be easy for anyone who compiles the software to prevent HoN from loading more than the provided few s2z files, but they choose to not do that either.

I feel like law is full of gray areas and no one knows anything for sure - which is why courts and lawyers exist I guess 😅. Lawyers will most of the time just try to be on the save side with everything, so if you can find a gray area which has been used by a lot of others, it's almost always save. Also since HoN is kinda global and not swimming in money, I assume you can do basically everything you want - as long as you're not very clearly breaking the eula and/or law and costing them a bunch of money, you'll not get sued at all. So I wouldn't worry about mods - especially if they don't provide big and unfair advantages.

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22 minutes ago, Manu311 said:

Both quotes from wikipedia. Zip files are neither machine language nor executables. And even the content of those files is neither of those. So I would say that's fine.

I see your points, but I wouldn't trust it in a court of law. Just like you mention, there is a reason there is judges and lawyers. They may have a different interpretation of things, disassemble could be interpreted as more general word, or they may think decompressing could be seen as a "translation". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

22 minutes ago, Manu311 said:

Storing a file on your disk which does not overwrite files from the program itself, is definitely not changing the game itself. The option to do this is an interface provided by the software itself. Since it's encouraged to use that interface by providing an official mod-forum for it, it's also clearly not an internal interface either, which I would almost bet on it being legal to use it. It would be easy for anyone who compiles the software to prevent HoN from loading more than the provided few s2z files, but they choose to not do that either.

I wholehardedly disagree. Adding .s2z files does alter the behavior of the game, thus changing it. Just because there is an interface does not give you the right to use as you wish. It's like saying just because I leave my door unlocked, you're allowed to use it.

It may be so that HoN embraces the usage of the interface, or modding basically. But generally speaking, just because an interface exists gives you no right to use it to your liking.

29 minutes ago, Manu311 said:

I feel like law is full of gray areas and no one knows anything for sure - which is why courts and lawyers exist I guess 😅. Lawyers will most of the time just try to be on the save side with everything, so if you can find a gray area which has been used by a lot of others, it's almost always save. Also since HoN is kinda global and not swimming in money, I assume you can do basically everything you want - as long as you're not very clearly breaking the eula and/or law and costing them a bunch of money, you'll not get sued at all. So I wouldn't worry about mods - especially if they don't provide big and unfair advantages.

Probably, as in, if you do it they'll probably not pursue you. But it doesn't make it right. I would much more prefer it to have an official blessing. Which right now I think is not clear cut.

 

I think one would be pretty safe making mods, as HoN does embrace it somewhat, so if they would pursue you. You could make quite a strong case that since they encourage it, they must also allow it. But it's a big gray area, there's a whole Wikipedia page about it. But this is mostly all still mods we're talking. Example, those websites I listed, they aren't mods in the same sense. Are they allowed to use the copyrighted material? Legally speaking, probably not. But then again, they're not making damage, and if anything probably the opposite, and thus HoN doesn't care. Personally, I don't find that comforting enough.

 

I also remember back in the days, there use to be a AoE indicator mod for purchase. Which in my interpretation is a big no no, EULA paragraph 2

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... This license does not allow you to make any commercial use or any derivative use of the Software (including without limitation any of its individual elements or Content). ... You agree not to copy, distribute, republish, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, modify, adapt, rent, sell, or create derivative works of any portion of the Software. ...

Of course it's a question of whether a mod makes "use" of the software. I mean the mod is quite useless by itself. I don't know, but it would be good to know what HoN thinks about it.

 

Not that I am planning to make any mods for sale. I'm more of a open source kind of person. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't consider taking donations, which is another gray area then.

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It would help us more to identify your issue if you told us what you're working on. I've been creating avatar mods for a long time now and by no means do these mods enhance game play. Its purely for aesthetics and I guess the only thing you can manipulate that could alter game play is the attack FPS (auto attack animations) to be really smooth but I would hardly call that cheating since anyone can do that if they know what values to change.

If you're using a mod that will enhance gameplay such as zoom out mod then yes that's not allowed. In my opinion, there are several mods currently that shouldn't be allowed, such as the stomp mod, show inventory above HP bar, rune spawn timer, etc. These mods take away the skill aspect of the game that you're required to have in order to be a better player and if you take these things away from them, then they start becoming a liability to your team due to your dependency on mods that make your gameplay easier.

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On 11/28/2021 at 5:06 PM, ElementUser said:

If you're taking money for it & openly asking people to do so, that's a red flag.

If you let us know exactly what you're going to do with it, I can just tell you if Garena's legal team will likely go after you or not. Most likely, they will not, but you never know.

Like I said, I wasn't planning on taking money. It was more like, Buy Me a Coffee?, as an example.

 

1 hour ago, Whyzozerious said:

It would help us more to identify your issue if you told us what you're working on. ... If you're using a mod that will enhance gameplay such as zoom out mod then yes that's not allowed. ...

My issue isn't whether "the mod" is allowed. It is about mods in general. As I have stated above, my interpretation of the EULA is that it is strictly disallowed to make mods. Yet, HoN seem to embrace it. So @ElementUser said modifying XML and Lua is fine. That's a nice affirmation, but doesn't clear all the fog.

 

I.e. there use to be a mod called Portrait Enhancement, which made the center UI look slightly different. I was able to find this reddit post that has a image of it (though the topic is about something else). It contains a lot of textures from HoN, with more and with less modifications to them. Distributing such a mod is violation of copyright law. Which is a violoation in and of itself, but additionally, against the EULA, paragraph 2

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... This license does not allow you to make any commercial use or any derivative use of the Software (including without limitation any of its individual elements or Content). By using or accessing the Software you agree to comply with the copyright, trademark, service mark, and all other applicable laws that protect the Software. You agree not to copy, distribute, republish, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, modify, adapt, rent, sell, or create derivative works of any portion of the Software. ...

Sharing your mod, or sharing it's source code to e.g. GitHub would make you in violation.

 

1 hour ago, Whyzozerious said:

... In my opinion, there are several mods currently that shouldn't be allowed, such as the stomp mod, show inventory above HP bar, rune spawn timer, etc. These mods take away the skill aspect of the game that you're required to have in order to be a better player and if you take these things away from them, then they start becoming a liability to your team due to your dependency on mods that make your gameplay easier.

Personally, none of these things could ever make up for what people lack the most. Game sense.

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Unless you tell us what you're working on, I don't see this discussion going anywhere any time soon.

TL;DR: there's like a 99% chance that you are safe based on what I've seen mentioned, but you can't be 100% sure unless we know what it is that you're working on.

Edited by ElementUser
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