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Jack Thompson Sanctioned by Florida Court for Abuse of Process

Categories: DecisionsJack Thompson

Text of Sanction Order (March 20, 2008)
Text of Show Cause Order (February 19, 2008)

wo Florida bar disciplinary proceedings are pending against Jack Thompson. On April 12, 2007, the Supreme Court of Florida warned Jack Thompson that he could be sanctioned if he continued to submit inappropriate filings. Thompson filed over 50 subsequent filings. On February 19, the Court issued a ‘show cause’ order:

It appears to the Court that you have abused the legal system by submitting numerous frivolous and inappropriate filings in this Court. Therefore, it is ordered that you shall show cause on or before March 5, 2008, why this Court should not find that you have abused the legal system process and impose upon you a sanction for abusing the legal system…

Apparently Mr. Thompson was unable to show such cause. The court decided Thompson’s “constant abusive filings” were repetitive, frivolous and insulting. As such the Court (per Curium – 7 concurring judges) has issued the following order sanctioning Mr. Thompson:

Accordingly, in order to preserve the right of access for all litigants and promote the interests of justice, the Clerk of this Court is hereby instructed to reject for filing any future pleadings, petitions, motions, documents, or other filings submitted by John Bruce Thompson, unless signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar other than himself. Under the sanction herein imposed, Thompson is not being denied access to the courts; that access is simply being limited due to his abusiveness. Thompson may petition the Court, but may do so only through the assistance of counsel, whenever such counsel determines that the filing has merit and can be filed in good faith. However, Thompson’s frivolous and abusive filings must immediately come to an end. Further, if Thompson submits a filing in violation of this order, he may be subjected to contempt proceedings or other appropriate sanctions..

Sources: GamePolitics.com | Joystiq | Wired | Next Generation | ars technica | Escapist | Law.com

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UK’s Video Appeals Committee Rules in Favour of Manhunt 2 – Again

Categories: DecisionsGame BansGame Ratings

In June 2007, the British Board of Film Classification refused to rate Rockstar’s highly violent and controversial video game Manhunt 2 – effectively banning it from distribution in the U.K. The BBFC called it “unremittingly bleak, callous and sadistic”. An edited version of the game was submitted to the BBFC in October 2007. It too was effectively banned. This was the first video game ban in Britain since 1997.

Rockstar appealed the ban to the Video Appeals Committee of the BBFC which ruled last December, 4 to 3, in Rockstar’s favour. The BBFC sought judicial review of the VAC’s decision from the British High Court. The court found that VAC’s decision was flawed by a clear error of law (see here, here and here). The High Court requested the VAC to reconsider its decision under new guidelines specified by the court.

In January 2008, the VAC did reconsider under the new guidelines but voted once again, 4 to 3, in favour of giving the game a certificate 18 rating, meaning it can be sold in Britain but is suitable for adults only.

In view of the second ruling, the BBFC released a statement saying it will not challenge the ruling any further and will issue the ’18′ rating. The edited version of the game (which is the same as the ‘reworked’ version of the game released in the U.S. under an “M’ rating) is expected to be on U.K. store shelves in June.

Click here for Wikipedia’s Timeline.

Dale’s Note: I have not yet found the text of the High Court decision or the ‘new guidelines’ it presented to the VAC. If I do, I will post them here.

Sources: BBC | Telegraph.co.uk | GameIndustry.biz 1| GameIndustry.biz 2 | MCV | BCS | Joystiq | Computer Active | Dose.ca | vnunet.com | Games Digest | EuroGamer 1 | EuroGamer 2

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Take Two Settles with Jack Thompson

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonSettlementsViolent Game Law Cases

Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release (April 17, 2007)
Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

Take-Two and Jack Thompson have settled their GTA IV/Manhunt 2 suit and counter suit. Thompson has agreed:

  1. not to sue or threaten to sue over the sale and distribution of ANY game – not just Manhunt 2 and GTA IV as sought in the original complaint – designed, published, manufactured, distributed or sold by Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc.;
  2. not to threaten such suits; and
  3. to communicate with Take-Two only through its lawyers.

However, Thompson will still be free to criticize the content and distribution of such games and to represent third-party plaintiffs in actions against Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc. alleging individual harm.

Dale’s Comment: It is odd for a settlement to contain an explicit agreement to limit communication with an opposing party to communication through counsel as the rules of professional conduct in most jurisdictions specifically prohibit lawyers from communicating directly with persons represented by counsel.


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Denver to Allow M-Rated Game Ads on Transit

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board Actions

On the advice from counsel, Denver’s Regional Transportation District authority voted 12-3 to permit the continued advertising of M-rated and above games on its regional transit system. Such bans exist in Portland and Boston.

Sources: Rocky Mountain News | GamePolitics.com

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GRAW 2 Seized by Mexican State Chihuahua

Categories: Disgruntled CountriesGame Bans

All copies of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warefighter 2 are to be seized in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. The game depicts U.S. special forces military actions to stop terrorist attacks, including a nuclear strike, from being launched from that state against the U.S.

Dale’s Comment: In my opinion GRAW 2 along with Gears of War are the best shooters released on the 360 to date. Terrific Game! But, Halo 3 is just around the corner.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | Kotaku | Yahoo@ Games | XBox 360 Fanboy | joystiq

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Telefilm Announces Video Game Developer Competition Finalists

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry IncentivesStartup Game Developer Issues

Competition Rules

The Canadian federal agency, Telefilm, has announced the four finalists in round 2 of its video game developer competition. The finalists are:

The finalists were chosen at this years’ Game Developers Conference.

In the prior round, each finalist had won $50,000 to explore their proposed game, seek venture capital etc.. In this round 2, each of the four finalists received a further $250,000 to develop a prototype of their game. In September a winner will be chosen at Vancouver’s VidFest. The winner will receive a further $500,000 to launch their game.

In addition to the four finalists above, on January 15, 2007 the following additional $50K round 1 winnners were announced:

Good luck to all.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameCareerGuide.com | CBC.ca | PlayBack | Canada.com

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Jack Thompson Countersues Take-Two

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonViolent Game Law Cases

Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

In response to last-week’s Take-Take-Two law-suit seeking to preemptively stop him from bringing suit:

  1. to stop the sale and distribution of Manhunt 2 (due out in the summer of 2007) and GTA IV (due out in October 2007); and
  2. seeking pre-publication review of the games;

as he did in the past with Bully, Thompson has predictably brought a countersuit accusing Take-Two of racketeering and violation of his civil rights.Astonishingly, Thompson, in the original counterclaim (subsequently amended), Thompson accused Take-Two of conspiring with prominent online gaming publications GamePolitics, Kotaku, Spong, Joystiq, Gamespot, IGN, Game Informer, Electronic Gaming Weekly, Penny Arcade, and others to commit racketeering activities!Specifically, Thompson originally claimed that such “conspiracy” violated section 18 USC 241 which states, in part:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in ny State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or njoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;… They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;

Wow, this is, err, novel! As noted by GamePolitics.com, however, Thompson subsequently amended the counterclaim from 20 pages down to the following single pargraph:

If the court finds that it has jurisdiction over this matter, it should review the video games in question, allow a review of those games by this defendant and then hear argument if requested by this defendant as to wherein the Plaintiff should be enjoined from distributing video games to minors.


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Getting Up Distributed Via Downloads in Australia Despite Ban

Categories: Game BansRetail Sales

Despite the February 2006 ban of Marc Ecko’s Getting up by The Board of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), an Australian computer software distributor, Mindscape, was distributing the game in Australia via downloads from its quicky.com.au website.

It appears the game was being hosted by the website’s U.S. service provider without Mindscape’s knowledge.

Since the story broke the game was taken off the site. The Australian Communications and Media Authority told Screen Play that penalties of up to $110,000 may apply to corporations selling computer games that have been refused classification.

Sources: Syndey Morning Herald | GamePolitics.com | theage.com.au

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Take Two Seeks to Enjoin Thompson From Brining GTA IV & Manhunt 2 Suits

Categories: "Inside Baseball"InjunctionsJack ThompsonViolent Game Laws

Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

In response to pre-existing threats form Jack Thompson, Take-Two Interactive has preemptively asked the Southern District Court of Florida to provide declaratory and injunctive relief against Jack Thompson to stop him from bringing suit:

  1. to stop the sale and distribution of Manhunt 2 (due out in the summer of 2007) and GTA IV (due out in October 2007); and
  2. seeking pre-publication review of the games;

as he did in the past with Bully. In the words of the complaint:

…declaratory relief is especially necessary here because Thompson has a history of making multiple threats of legal action, whether substantiated or not, both against Plaintiff as well as the retailers who purchase the video games and offer them for sale to the public.

Dale’s Comment: Interestingly, the firm representing Take-Two in this action, Blank Rome, LLP, is the same firm that previously had sought to have Jack Thompson held in contempt of court.


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China Curbs Use of Virtual Money

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsVirtual Crime CasesVirtual Property CasesVirtual Property Taxation

In an effort to stave off a new form of money laundering, prohibited gambling and threats to the Chinese yuan (Chinese currency), Chinese Web sites have been ordered to limit the use of virtual money. Public prosecutor Yang Tao says “The QQ coin is challenging the status of the [yuan] as the only legitimate currency in China.”

Specifically, virtual money may only be used to buy virtual products and services the companies provide themselves, issuance will be limited, and users are “strictly forbidden” from trading it into legal tender for a profit.

QQ coins, issued by Tencent.com – China’s largest instant-messaging service provider – are the most popular form of online credits used by 220 million users. They are being used to pay for an increasing array of services including gambling, phone sex services and shopping online


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Game Development Outsourcing Firm Babel Media Doubles Montreal Facility

Categories: Canadian Developers

Following the lead of its target customers, Eidos, EA, Ubisoft and others, game industry outsourcing and post production specialist Babel Media has announced plans to increase its Montreal capacity from 150 to 500 employees. From Babel’s press release:

“We have recently signed contracts with clients who, without exaggeration, own some of the greatest Intellectual Property (IP) in the world,“ said Algy Williams, Managing Director of Babel. “We will be testing their games across all platforms, including PS3 and Xbox 360, and we need to recruit talented and motivated people who are looking for a career in the games industry”.

It is unclear from the press releases whether or not Babel benefits from Quebec’s game industry tax incentives.

Earlier: The Other Bloke’s Blog Post on the Establishment of Babel’s Initial Facility in 2005

Sources: Gamasutra | Joystiq | Babel Press Release

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Blizzard/Vivendi Countersue WowGlider ‘bot Creator

Categories: Antitrust/Competition CasesBotsCheatingCopyright CasesDMCA-TPM CasesGold FarmingHackingTortious InterferenceTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Case Management Summary (March 27, 2007)
Text of Blizzard’s/Vivendi’s Answer & Counterclaim (Feb 16, 2007)
Text of MDY’s (Donnelly’s) Complaint (Oct 25, 2006)

Michael Donnelly created a ‘bot’ program called WowGlider (since renamed to simply “Glider” in response to Blizzard’s trademark complaints) that allows players of the wildly popular World of Warcraft (“WOW”) MMORPG to automate their game play and keep their character “playing” 24/7.

Using this bot the player can continue to level up and harvest gold 24/7 without actually having to play the game – an activity widely considered to be cheating. The use of such “bots” circumvent Blizzard’s security/anti-cheating measures and are prohibited by WOW’s EULA and terms of use.

In the fall of 2006 Blizzard (and its parent Vivendi) demanded Donnelly cease selling the bot. In response, On October 25, 2006 Donnelly’s company MDY filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Arizona seeking a Declaratory Judgment that it is not infringing any rights, copyright or otherwise owned by Blizzard and Vivendi.


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Eidos Sets Up Shop In Montreal With Help of Quebec Government

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry Incentives

Publisher/Developer Eidos Interactive, Ltd. (a division of SCi Entertainment Group PLC), most famous for its Tomb Raider and Hitman franchises, has announced plans to take advantage of Quebec’s tax and other incentives and open up a new development studio in Montreal. Details include:

  • studio to be headed by former Babel/Ubisoft exec Stéphane D’Astous
  • 110 jobs (including 70 developer positions) will be created in 2007 with 350 jobs in total to be created over 3 years
  • Montreal to pay 40% of salaries and a three year tax holiday
  • new studio to develop next-gen titles
  • studio to consist of three next-gen development teams
  • first title will be based on existing IP

Dale’s Comment: With the previous employment pilfering spats between EA and Ubisoft Montreal, one can only anticipate this sudden increase in demand for developer talent will create even more pressures between these big three Montreal developers.

Related: Gamasutra Interview with Stéphane D’Astous on new studio (Feb 19, 2007)

Sources: Gamasutra I | Gamasutra II (background info) | GameSpot | Spong | CBC.ca

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eBay Bans Virtual Property / RMT Auctions

Categories: Gold FarmingVirtual Property Cases

Hot on the heals of South Korean Gold Famers forming a lobby group, EBay has banned the sale of such virtual property on its popular online auction system – often referred to as Real Money Trading (“RMT”) of virtual goods. Many online gaming publishers prohibit such trading, while others, like Linden Lab’s popular MMRPG, Second Life, not only permit it, but encourage it and even promote it as a beneficial feature to gamers.

Specifically, the following items cannot be auctioned of on eBay going forward:

  • characters
  • in-game currency (a.k.a. “gold”)
  • weapons
  • character attire
  • online game accounts

Significantly, the eBay ban does not apply to RMT of Second Life virtual property.

This ban will be a boon to IGE, a popular site for real money trading of virtual property. While eBay is likely doing this to avoid lawsuits from online gaming publishers that prohibit RMT, it is also walking away from a huge growth “industry” with the value of such annual trading estimated to be between $200 M and $1 billion.

Sources: CNet | GamePolitics.com | Slashdot | TechNewsWorld | Gamasutra | Wired | Virtual Economics | SeekinAlpha

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PC World: Virtual Gold Could Draw Real Taxes

Categories: Virtual Property CasesVirtual Property Taxation

PC World discusses Congressional investigations into whether virtual gains will be taxable.

Click here to read the article.

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Gold Farmers Form Lobby Group in South Korea

Categories: Gold FarmingTrade AssociationsVirtual Property Cases

In an attempt to legitimize their ‘business’ and lobby governments, South Korean virtual gold farmers have formed the lobby group Digital Asset Distribution Promotion Association (DADPA). The “industry” is reportedly worth $1 billion a year.

Sources: Ars Technica | GamePolitics.com | ETNews | Ralph Koster

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Midway Blitz – Yet Another Video Game Banned in Australia

Categories: Game BansGame Ratings

Midway Blitz becomes the latest video game to be denied an official age classification in Australia by the OFLC, making it illegal for the game to be sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in the country. This time it was denied classification because of drug use by some game characters. The OFLC Media Release reads, in part:

Specifically, in the course of the game, the player may access what are purported to be both legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs for the members of their team. Choosing to use these drugs, which each have different characteristics, will have effects on team-members, such as improving their speed while also making them more susceptible to injury. Fake urine samples may also be acquired for avoiding positive drug tests.

While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s view there is an incentive to use them. By using them judiciously, the player can improve the performance of their football team (while managing the negative effects) and have a better chance of winning games, thereby winning bets and climbing the league table.

Blitz’s local distributor Red Ant, has not decided yet whether to appeal.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | OFLC Media Release

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EU Considers Unified Violent Games Restrictions

Categories: Game RatingsLegal ReformViolent Game Laws

Germany is leading the European Union in calling for the EU to adopt an Europe-wide standardized labeling system with age restrictions and warnings. Each country would be free to set their own ratings.

Sources: Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com

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Canadian Video Game Market Grows by 22% in 2006

Categories: Canadian Developers

According to the Canadian Press, Canadians spent $933 million on video games in 2006, growing the market by 22%. Revenue from console sales ($349M) were up 43 percent. The Nintendo DS Lite was the best selling hardware of the year – 374K units sold. And, surprise, surprise, EA’s NHL 07 was the highest selling game in Canada for the year. The next biggest sellers were, in order:

  •  New Super Mario Bros
  • Gears of War
  • Final Fantasy XII
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • GTA: Liberty City Stories
  • Super Mario 64 DS
  • GTA:  San Andreas
  • Brain Age
  • Gran Turismo 4

Sources: Gamasutra | CTV.ca

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Second Life Viewer & Server Software to be Released as Open Source

Categories: Open Source

Second Life Viewer Contribution Agreement

Linden Lab has announced that it will release both its Second Life viewer and, eventually, server software source codes under version 2 of the general public license (GPL). Linden Lab will maintain control of official versions of the software.

Linden may accept updates/modifications of the code from its user community, but if it does so, the contributor must agree to a contribution agreement where, among other things, the contributor assigns joint copyright ownership and grants a perpetual patent license to Linden Labs.

Dale’s Comment: While this may have been an inevitable obligation if the underlying code used to create Second Life’s viewer and server software was, itself, GPL-sourced software, I wonder if this will result in increasingly effective hacks against the Second Life virtual world.

It certainly ushers in a possible unprecedented new open source direction for MMORPG gaming publishers/developers. Like Valve (Half Life/Counterstrike), id (Quake), Ubisoft (Ghost Recon) and others before them, if successfully implemented, Linden Labs just might harness the creative skills of an army of open source modders/developers willing to make ongoing contributions to enhance Second Life – for free! User-generated content is a huge driver in the video game industry and, in particular, the whole Internet 2.0 phenomena, of which Second Life is a part.


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Germany Restricts Crackdown Sales

Categories: Game BansGame RatingsViolent Game Law Cases

Along with Gears of War and Dead Rising before it, Germany’s USK has decided not to rate the video Crackdown. The result is not a total game ban. However, the game cannot be sold to minors, cannot be marketed in Germany and stores cannot display it on racks. Rather, it can only be sold to adults from under the counter.

Dale’s Comment: Crackdown has been one of my most enjoyed 360 games in the first quarter of 2007. Importantly, the May 16 Halo 3 public demo of will only be available to a select few and those that purchase specially marked Crackddown units. There will be more than a few disappointed minors in Germany looking forward to playing the Halo 3 public demo.

Sources: GameSpot | GamePolitics.com | Business Week

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Nassau County New York Mandates ESRB Ratings Signage

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsGame RatingsNew LawsRetail Sales

Following both the States of Georgia and Washington, New York State county, Nassau, enacted a law requiring video game retailers to post signs explaining the ERSB rating system.

Source: GamePolitics.com

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Variety: Xbox 360 Video Marketplace Succeeding

Categories: Digital DistributionFeatured Articles

For  years I have called for video-download services to be provided directly to a TV-connected consumer electronics product such as the Xbox, TiVo or PS3. This Variety article discusses how the Xbox 360's new Internet-based video-on-demand service is having relative success (where others have failed) due to its available HD content and its direct connection to the TV.

The relative success of video downloads on Microsoft's Xbox Live and disappointment of Amazon.com's Unbox point to two factors that differentiate Xbox from Amazon and its many other competitors — consumers who download a movie want a simple way to watch it on their TV, and those with high-def TVs want high-def content.

A primary reason for its success lies also in the fact that DRM is not a relevant consideration for most users when the content is delivered directly to the display unit of choice. iVOD services to PCs have largely failed because most people do not want to watch TV and movies on their computers. And the DRM used by most of those services preclude users from copying the movie onto a DVD for playback where they want to watch them – in the living room. 

FYI: Joystiq has a pretty good preview of the system here including a YouTube demo. Note that the demo was done early-on. As I understand it the slow-downloads and other glitches experienced in the early days have been resolved.

Sources: Variety | Joystiq | XBox 360 Fanboy

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RedOctane & The Ant Commandos Settle Guitar Hero Controller Dispute

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesProduct PackagingSettlementsTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

As expected, on December 22 The Ant Commandos and RedOctane settled their Guitar Hero controller/peripheral suit and countersuit. 1Up.com summarizes the dispute in this amusing way:

Anyway, so RedOctane sued the Ant Commandos, claiming rights infringement on their popular Gibson SG brand of guitar controllers. The Commandos fired back claiming that the SG stepped all over their existing patents on technology for 3-button Guitar Freaks! guitars. Everybody was fingerpointing, it sucked.

While details of the settlement have not been disclosed a representative of Ant Commandos confirmed to GameSpot that its products would continue to be distributed. Jack Black and the Rightous Gods of Rock will be happy with this outcome!

Dale’s Comment: Until I discovered that neither the Ant Commando nor the RedOctane controllers will work with the PS3, one of the primary reasons I wanted to purchase a PS3 was to play Guitar Hero. I had hoped that like most PS2 games, it would be playable on the PS3. Happily, Guitar Hero 2 is coming to the XBox 360 so I won’t need to purchase a PS2 in order to finally play this game.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | 1UP.com | GameIndustry.biz

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New Book: Unreal Tournament Game Programming for Teens

Categories: Startup Game Developer Issues

As some of my readers are interested in how to get started in the game development business I thought I would pass this along. A college and university game development professor (John Flynt) and a programmer who taught himself to program at 11 years of age (Brandon Booth) have collaborated on a new book – Unreal Tournament Game Programming for Teens. The text is described as follows:

Unreal Tournament Game Programming for Teens provides you with a structured but entertaining way to learn how to develop your own simple computer games using Unreal Tournament. It addresses the fundamentals of computer programming by allowing you to work with UnrealScript and the Unreal Level Editor. You’ll begin with programming basics and will then quickly progress to creating elementary events and games within the modification framework provided by Unreal Tournament. This book does not involve actual game play with Unreal Tournament, but rather focuses on how to derive classes from the classes in the Unreal Tournament class hierarchy, how to use features of the Unreal Level Editor, and how to work with the syntax of UnrealScript. Using the skills you develop as you work through the book, you can begin exploring how to program a number of events characteristic of Unreal Tournament.

The paperback version of the text is available here on Amazon.com for $20.39 as at the time of this writing. Two similar books are: Game Programming for Teens (2005) and Visual Basic Game Programming for Teens (2004).

Sources: Gamasutra | GameCareerGuide.com | Amazon.com

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