Josh Shaffer

Video game maker goes after cheaters, including a 14-year-old boy

Epic Games going after video game cheaters

Cary-based Epic Games alleges that Fortnite video game cheaters create and distribute codes that give players and advantage.
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Cary-based Epic Games alleges that Fortnite video game cheaters create and distribute codes that give players and advantage.

Epic Games has sued at least nine people in federal court – including a 14-year-old boy – for cheating at the popular video game “Fortnite.” Such cheating, Epic says, spoils the fun for honest players and costs the company money in lost sales.

Epic, based in Cary, alleges the players either created or used codes designed to give them a competitive advantage in the game, which involves building forts, scavenging gear and fighting waves of monsters.

Using the cheat codes, players could then kill weaker characters for fun, especially those “streamers” who create video recordings of their own games. The suit said some of the players publicly bragged about cheating and encouraged others to do the same, a practice that cost Epic lost sales and profits.

“Nobody likes a cheater,” the suit said. “And nobody likes playing with cheaters. These axioms are particularly true in this case.”

Founded in 1991, Epic has also created games such as “Gears of War” and “Infinity Blade.” “Fortnite” first appeared in 2013 and got widely released in July. With more than 7 million players worldwide, “Fortnite” is on track to be Epic’s most successful game, the suit said.

Four defendants were sued in U.S. District Court for North Carolina’s Eastern District: Charles Vraspir of Minnesota; Brandon Broom of Canada; Mason Foret of Louisiana and Caleb Rogers of Delaware. All of them are accused of copyright infringement and breach of contract, having agreed to Epic’s terms of use before playing the game.

The suit described Vraspir as a support/help person for AddictedCheats.net, a Web site that sells game hacks. Vraspir was banned from playing “Fortnite” nine times, the suit said.

“He publicly celebrates in the cheat provider’s discussion channel when he successfully stream snipes, i.e. killing streamers as they stream, by posting comments like ‘Yes I got them!’ and ‘LOL I (expletive) them,’ the suit said. “Defendant understands the profound harm his cheating, and the cheating he promotes and induces others to commit, can cause a game like Fortnite, effectively killing it.”

Vraspir could not immediately be reached.

Another defendant, Rogers, is accused of posting YouTube videos of himself cheating at “Fortnite,” demonstrating his methods for 8,000 followers. The suit said YouTube took down his post repeatedly, but Rogers put it back using a different account.

His file includes a letter from Lauren Rogers, who appears to be the defendant’s mother, describing him as a 14-year-old boy playing without his parents’ permission.

“Caleb obtained existing cheats from a website with a public view,” Rogers wrote in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard. “They are using a 14-year-old child as a scape goat to make an example of him.”

Five more defendants were sued in California: James Mendes of South Africa; Konstantin Rak of Russia; Olekseevich Stegailo of Ukraine; Philip Josefsson of Sweden and Artem Yakovenko of Russia. They stand accused of developing “Fortnite” cheat codes and advertising them on YouTube.

The cheating suit has attracted some attention in the gaming press and some commentary from interested observers, including fantasy author and lifelong gamer Tom Liberman in St. Louis.

“There isn’t much point in playing whenever you start a new game an invincible opponent arrives and kills you,” he wrote on his blog. “It’s not fun for the streamer and it is not enjoyable for the audience to watch. Therefore, the streamer stops playing which, in turn, directly affects game sales.”

In its suit, Epic asks the court to order the North Carolina defendants to stop all activities, destroy all copies of cheats and hacks and pay unspecified damages.

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