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Online game company Evony may not like the negative attention it has garnered online recently, but the company is about to get a lot more scrutiny after filing a libel lawsuit claiming defamation by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper and gaming marketer Bruce Everiss.

Evony recently drew media attention for a series of racy online ads. The multiplayer game may not have a lot of scantily clad women its game, but over a series of weeks, the company increasingly relied on semi undressed females in ads promoting itself online, eventually just cribbing pics out of lingerie catalogs and putting links to its site next to cleavage.

The company's methods led The Guardian to write an article titled "Has Evony become the most despised game on the web?" The company's owner took none too well to such allegations and has since sued for libel. Taking advantage of the country's favorable libel laws, Evony filed the suit in Australia. But while suing down under may have legal advantages for the company, it is only going to bring increased scrutiny on their business methods. And that is not likely to be a good thing.

Evony's CEO Eric Lam has in the past worked on gold farming — where a third party collects and sells virtual items to wealthier gamers in the developed world — and Everiss estimates that Lam earns as much as half a million dollars a day from his company Wowmine. Evony itself appears to be popular, the company claims over 5 milion users internationally, but Lam has been sued for click fraud by Microsoft and his marketing methods have garnered more than a little negative press.

Evony is played online and uses little memory from computers, which allows many users to play while at work relatively unnoticed. Gamers can purchase virtual items to help move up levels and make it easier to get ahead in the game.

But in addition to the ads that have earned the company attention online, many have claimed to be spammed by the site. Design elements on the game also bear a striking resemblance to games like World of Warcraft and Civilization.

Both Everiss and The Guardian have pointed out that players have been charged for items they did not intend to purchase. Also, Everiss has written that Evony might be spreading malware with its ubiquitous sexual ads.

Much of this prompted Evony to file a lawsuit asking Everiss to remove the complaints from his website, issue a formal apology and pay the company damages for lost business because of his criticism.

Everiss does not seem likely to do these things. He wrote a follow up post and noted the following:

"Australia has a very old fashioned libel law where the person who thinks they are libeled doesn’t have to prove anything. They can make all the accusations they want and the onus is on me to bring evidence to disprove every one. This is why Warren McKeon Dickson have listed so many silly and obvious things which everyone knows aren’t libel in their letter."

Libel tourism is a growing concern online, where individuals can find a country with the most favorable libel laws and sue from there for any item posted on the Internet. But regardless of the feasibility of the claims that Evony has filed, a lawsuit is not likely going to work out well for the company.

Instead of letting the complaints disappear, it invites far more scrutiny. According to Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law:

"It’s very hard to get complete vindication in a libel suit. No matter whether you win or lose, bringing a lawsuit has the potential to bring attention to complaints in ways that could be far more damaging even if you win the case.”

And in respect to the variety of complaints and their differing nature, that can't be good for Evony. Regarding the malware issue in their ads, a Google spokesperson told me this afternoon:

"We actively work to detect and remove sites that serve malware in our ad network, and we immediately suspend accounts found to contain ads that point to sites that install malware. As such, we've added this site to our malware list and are in the process of removing any offending sites from our ad network."

While Lam and Evony may have hoped that the threat of a lawsuit filed in Australia (and the subsequent fees that go with defending there) would force people to stop writing negatively about them, it's more likely to instigate the Streisand effect, and just further publicize criticisms.

"There are some really small time bloggers who are basically talking to themselves," says Goldman. "But when a lawsuit comes out, now we’re all going to say, 'What did they say?' Having those allegations repeated is extremely damaging."

And Everiss for one is stepping up his charges:

"If you want to help beat these people you can. Just cut and paste anything I have ever said about Evony on here and put it anywhere and everywhere on the web. You don’t even have to credit the source if you don’t want to. They cannot threaten everybody! The more that the truth about Evony is propagated the better the Streisand effect will be."

Image: TOBlender.com

Meghan Keane

Published 27 August, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

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Tiffany

The malware is not the ad.  There is a separate malware .exe and group doing the farming and referral spamming.  Regan needs to quickly profess the degree to which they are complicit with this group's activities.  There are signs of adsense spamming too.  It doesn't take much for a third party to steal some contact make an ad and link it to their referral account.

over 7 years ago

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Bruceongames

Evony have now issued proceedings against me. Here is their press release. The comments are well worth reading: http://www.bruceongames.com/2009/09/14/evony-press-release/

They have also been circulating an email about me. In this article I refute their allegations, one by one: http://www.bruceongames.com/2009/09/14/evony-libel-me/

about 7 years ago

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Lee

I am a student studying computer games design at uni and decided to investigate Evony.com. Just to see what some of these games are like etc. etc. The game is actually kind of cool (found myself addicted and even spent a little money on it). But I started to notice HUGE bandwidth use by the site as I played. I am not the only one either, there are comments on the evony forums about this. This is odd because all of the client info, the animations etc. are all downloaded in one big download at the start. There is no streaming media so I began to wonder what was going on. To cut a long story short I decided to break the law and reverse engineer Evony's client. Not to cheat. Not to rip them off or even to use even a scrap of the code. But just to poke about a bit and find out what was going on, maybe even offer them some ways to improve things. Aside from the fact that the whole thing is very poorly constructed (it is really very beginner coder level stuff. Reminds me of a lot of what the first year students produce for assignments) it contained some very interesting information. Included with the client are 2 peices of tracking software that monitor your web use and which applications you have open while the client is running. These do not install independently on the machine though due to the limitations of flash and do not actually damage anything. But they harvest massive volumes of information. My firewall was blocking a lot of outgoing transmissions and it turns out that these were the data trying to be sent out. So they know nothing about me. lol. However there is a LOT of data coming IN over the ports the client uses. In otherwords it is downloading something into my cache for use later. I have bandiwdth restriction which slows these types of tricks down and I completely clear my cache every couple of hours if I am heavily using the net. I also noticed that all the varanbles etc. are named Civony still and that there are multiple references to UMGE. Even a couple of folders are simply called UMGE, one of these folders contains one of the spyware programs. So I can only guess at where the data would end up if I didnt have a good firewall. There are also commented out sections in the code which contain references to UMGE and Lam himself, though low on details. Thank you for reading this. Lee

about 7 years ago

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Youtube

Interesting video with much info on Evony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFb9QKkNDU8

almost 7 years ago

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Lee

I got the new version Evony 3.08. My older version was 2.16.
The new version has all references to Eric Lam and UMGE removed.
Neither the comments in the hex code nor the decompiled Actionscript have anything that refers to them.
Also the scripts that enumerated the active programs and sent and retrieved data with the remote servers is gone,
except for the actual game network link to the Evony.com game servers.

Even the code is a bit neater and more efficient.
At least the heavy scrutiny on them is having some pluses. lol.

almost 7 years ago

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Bruceongames

Amazingly large swathes of evidence have vanished from the web! So I have written this article documenting it: http://www.bruceongames.com/2010/02/11/evony-and-the-disappearing-evidence-1/

almost 7 years ago

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Adam

I've played this game on and off for the last five months and to say their policing of the site and reactions to complaints regarding the comments and behaviour of some other players is abysmal, would be an understatement. I don't know about the Austarlian libel laws, but they must definitely have laws that cover homphobic and racist comments, and comments of an extreme sexual nature. It's staggering to monitor the World Chat facility and see the content of the insults and insinuation that goes on and to see the same people carrying on day after day. I even had to intervene personally with one male player on the behalf of a female player in my role as a police officer to make him aware of the UK laws he was potentailly breaking if the female had gone to the British police about him. All of this was sent off to Evony, an acknowledgement received and nothing done.  The abuses and other tricks that go on go completely against the blurb put out by Evony as to what behviours they "promote" and "expect" from their players.  The attitude that prevails is one of making as much money as possible in as short time a time span as possible.  But this matters not a jot to Evony because by the time the penny drops with a new player, that to be a success at the game you have to play almost full-time and spend money to achieve success (not free then), the person is so involved with the game that it takes a strong player to walk away and leave behind the time and money invested into their account.  For example I have in my account 60 unopened chests that contain special articles that will enhance my account and playing ability. The catch here is that to open each chest i must have a key, and to get a key i must buy a package costing me $30 within which a key is contained. This amounts to $1800 i would have to spend, and believe me there are people out there using their cards to do this. The only positive from this game is the people i have "met" playing it and that is what has brought me back to the game on my terms the second time aroudn with the resolve not to spend any money this time around even though some upgrades to the game can take up to 2 weeks to upload, unless you spend the money to shorten the length of time. So in short if you play the game be aware its not "free", unless you want to move quickly through it, it's not a short term commitment, unless you want to have your account attacked all the time, and it's not properly policed for it's abusive content, so adopt a thick skin, BUT you will meet some nice people from all over the world, who will make the hours spent playing a little less unbearable and not than a little more enjoyable.   

almost 7 years ago

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David Guo

Guo Yao Qi David (David Guo’s full name) is a top hacker and is the boss of Evony. He was involved in the 1999 hacking war between China and Taiwan. And he monetised his knowledge by founding the personal firewall company Sky Net. Here an article about David Guo as a hacker: http://shenzhen.ccw.com.cn/it/200104/0423.asp And here is the rough Google translation (Guo Yaoqi is also known as David Guo and owns Evony): http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http://shenzhen.ccw.com.cn/it/200104/0423.asp&ei=p2mLS_zxAoT40wTQyLnICw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://shenzhen.ccw.com.cn/it/200104/0423.asp%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG

almost 7 years ago

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John Armour

Lots of people are leaving Evony now. Some were banned for botting, some got fed up with the lack of customer care and others didn't like the interminable farming necessary.
Mostly they have moved to the many similar browser games. Current favourite is War of Legends, mainly because it is published in the UK and has good customer service and no endless farming.

over 6 years ago

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LjProdigy18

I have been playing evony since about May of 2009. I spent endless hours with growing and mainting troops and when the bots came out to automate farming for those who actually have a work life I did indeed take part. It's amusing to see the amount of bans that occured finally after about 6 months of botting, and then to see the amount of money and customers Evony has been losing lately due to lack of activity on the servers (because all the major alliances and players were perma banned). I did hear now too you can call Evony directly to get your account back even if you botted. In a ditch effort to get their clients back. Which many of the people i played with are refusing to go back to. And we have all gone back to playing WoW together. I just must say, good job Evony on slowing bringing urself closer and closer to ruin. And great job Lee on your findings in the evony code structure.

over 6 years ago

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Jamie

Check out www.freeevonycents.blogspot.com for free cents! :D

over 6 years ago

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Alex

I play this game while at work, and I do have to say, it is very addicting. However, I need to address the company of Evony for not doing it's job correctly, ripping people off, and lying to the public. Their intentions stay hidden (maybe they are funding terrorists). Their customer relationship is very poor. Overall, the company is ran by morons.

over 6 years ago

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Milica

I'm a longtime player of Evony. They are a bunch off thiefs as i can see. It's a free game, but you must pay if you want some results. They are punishing players and as they said on their forum, we DO NOT HAVE A FREEDOM OF SPEECH. It's ok when you have a throll but what about someone who made a payment and asking why he didn't get what he payed for? The game is braking almost every day, we're lagged, heroes missing after maintenance but there is no one to complaint to. If you do, you're banned.

over 6 years ago

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Peter Slivka

I spent $120 on server 160, and evony deleted my account (slipkid) i want a refund - this server's performance was awful

over 4 years ago

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BRADLEY SEVISON, self at privete

I have played this game for over 4 years, I never once had a issue with Malware, In fact the only issue i have had with the (((EVONY))) world, was the lag time on some of there servers. Now with that being Said, Evony works hard to solve that issue and the lag time comes from the amont of players using bots on the game and them making 100 accts each. Evony is not spamming people / players with malware and these accusations are slanderish and misinformed. It is more then likely from a rival company trying to cut down the EVONY Name. I for One have never heard or seen these Issues you are claiming to be Maleware not in my email or on site these accusations are not True thank you all from the player Kincaid

almost 2 years ago

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