Belgium Considers Some Loot Boxes to be Gambling

The Belgium Gaming Commission posted a press release (machine translation) after conducting a thorough investigation into loot boxes in video games. The Commission has judged that at least three video games are in violation of the gambling legislation.

The press release states: “Players can buy a ‘loot box’ against payment – which can give them an advantage in the game – without knowing their content in advance.” This is a violation of Belgium’s gambling legislation. Belgium notes that children often come into contact with the loot box system, and they cannot allow that.

The Gaming Commission investigated four video games: Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. “Those video games are connected to their own age system (PEGI). That system decides on the content of video games, but does not consider whether there is systematic use, winning or losing of real money.”

To speak of a game of chance, the Gaming Commission uses four parameters. If there is a game element, a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game. In the case of FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the Gaming Commission decides that the system of loot boxes forms a game of chance that is subject to Belgian gaming law. The developer of Star Wars Battlefront II made some adjustments shortly after the launch, so that the system of loot boxes in that game no longer technically forms a game of chance.

The press release also says: “The games with paid loot boxes, as currently offered in our country, are therefore in violation of the gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law. The loot boxes must therefore also be removed. If that does not happen, operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros. When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled.”

Ashland University Adds Fortnite to its Gaming Titles

Ashland University announced that it will be adding Fortnite Battle Royale to its esports program in the fall of 2018. The University is offering scholarships in esports.

Ashland University is located in Ashland, Ohio. It has an esports team that already includes League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League. Head coach Josh Buchanan announced that Ashland University will be adding Fortnite Battle Royale to its AU Eagles Esports titles. It will be the first known collegiate esports program in the country to add the title to its official offerings.

The Eagles will announce plans to conduct open tryouts for Fortnite players next school year. Anyone who is interested in joining the Ashland University esports team can fill out a form. Head Coach Josh Buchanan will be in touch with those who fill out that form.

The AU esports program is offering scholarships in esports for up to $4,000 based on player skill level and academic requirements.

The university plans to create a gaming center in the lower level of the library. It will have 25 gaming stations, complete with gaming PCs, accessories, and peripherals. Ashland University has secured sponsorships with gaming chair provider OPSEAT and mousepad provider Sloth Esports.

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Amazon Robot in your Home #1276

An Amazon Robot roaming in your home in the next couple of years is a distinct possibility. This show is jammed packed full of goodies and some easter eggs in the links below. Late show release due to my insane schedule and not finishing with a client to literally almost midnight last nite. Enjoy the podcast see you on Friday.

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Universal FanCon has been Postponed

Universal FanCon has been postponed “until further notice”. The announcement came about a week before the event was to be held. No official reason was given.

According to its Facebook page, Universal FanCon celebrates diversity and inclusion in our fandoms. The inaugural Universal FanCon was to be held on April 27-29 in Baltimore, Maryland. Their Kickstarter (which is still up) describes Universal FanCon as “First multi-fandom Con dedicated to inclusion, highlighting Women, LGBTQ, the Disabled and Persons of Color.”

On April 20, the Universal FanCon Twitter posted a tweet that said the event would be “postponed until further notice”.

An FAQ followed on the Universal FanCon website. The first question is: “Why are you postponing FanCon?” The answer: “Currently we are in a financial deficit that will not allow us to operate the convention within budget. Accordingly, we have made the decision to postpone and reschedule FanCon so we can put forward the type of event our fans deserve.”

The FAQ indicates that the organizers do not know how long the event will be postponed. They are going to fully assess their options and then make an announcement after that. The FAQ states that the event is not canceled.

There is information on the FAQ that might answer some questions from people who have already taken days off of work, booked a hotel room, or paid for a flight to the event. Those who were scheduled guests, or on a panel, or who were going as a vendor may want to contact Universal FanCon for more details.

Campo Santo has Joined Valve

Campo Santo announced that the company has agreed to join Valve. I haven’t been able to find a statement about this from Valve. Kotaku reported that three people familiar with the news confirmed that Valve had purchased Campo Santo.

Campo Santo describes itself as “a small but scrappy game developer in San Francisco, CA.” They released Firewatch in 2016 and have sold over 1.5 million copies. They are co-producing a full adaptation of Firewatch and working on their second game, In the Valley of Gods.

Valve has produced award-winning games, leading-edge technologies, and a groundbreaking social entertainment platform. They are the makers of Half-Life, Half-Life Episodes 1 and 2, Left 4 Dead, Left for Dead 2, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Portal, and Portal 2. Valve has a social entertainment platform called Steam that gives players instant access to more than 1,800 game titles and connects 35 million active users to each other.

Campo Santo posted a blog titled “Campo Santo News” that has more details about their recent decision to join Valve. Here are a few key points:

The twelve of use at Campo Santo have agreed to join Valve, where we will maintain our jobs as video game developers and continue production on our current project, In the Valley of the Gods…

…In Valve, we found a group of folks who, to their core, feel the same way about the work that they do (this, you may be surprised to learn, doesn’t happen every day). In us, they found a group with unique experience and valuable, diverse perspectives. It quickly became an obvious match…

Campo Santo states that they are still making In the Valley of the Gods (as a Valve game), and will still support Firewatch.

SmugMug has Acquired Flickr

SmugMug announced that it has acquired Flickr. SmugMug believes “You are not our product. You are our priority.” Those who are current users of either SmugMug or Flickr should read SmugMug’s FAQ page.

According to its FAQ, your SmugMug and Flickr accounts will remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future. Users will continue to log in with their current credentials and have the same experience they are used to.

If things change in the future for Flickr, SmugMug says it will be as transparent as possible about the process and give users as much notice as they can about the issues that matter to you.

Users will still be able to access their Flickr or SmugMug photos, and those photos will retain the same URL. Over time, SmugMug will be migrating Flickr onto SmugMug’s technology infrastructure, and user’s Flickr photos will move as a part of that migration. However, the photos themselves will remain on Flickr.

It is important to know that Flickr users should read over SmugMug’s Terms of Service. You will have 30 days (from the date an email about SmugMug’s terms was sent) to either accept SmugMug’s Terms or to opt out. If you do nothing, your Flickr account will transition from Yahoo’s Terms to SmugMug’s Terms. If you don’t want to make that change, you can delete your Flickr account.

SmugMug says that it will continue to offer Flickr’s free accounts, stating “We are not making any changes to Flickr plans or rates at this time”. SmugMug will let Flickr Pro customers know if that changes.

Those who currently have a Flickr Pro subscription will continue to enjoy all the benefits of Pro membership. SmugMug does not offer a free account. Plans range from $3.99/month to $29.99/month.

Heroes of the Storm Silences Accounts for Offensive Language

Heroes of the Storm, made by Blizzard Entertainment, is now able to silence the accounts of players who use offensive language and harass their teammates. This is being implemented in addition to the weekly suspension and ban waves.

Community Manager Nate Valenta posted the following on a Heroes of the Storm Forum post on April 18, 2018:

Starting today, we’re implementing new technology that enhances our ability to validate the accuracy of reports. This will allow us to increase the rate that we issue account silences and ranked suspensions to players who are frequently and consistently reported for using offensive language. These actions are aimed at those who regularly use offensive language to harass, antagonize, and abuse one or more of their teammates. This type of behavior not only ruins the experience for those who are targeted, but also damages team morale, effectively degrading the fun for everyone in a match.

The post continues by making it clear that the weekly suspension and ban waves for non-participation and intentionally dying will continue. Players who have recently reported another player for going AFK (away from keyboard), refusing to participate, or intentionally dying should keep an eye on their email inbox associated with their account for updates regarding actions taken by Blizzard agains the player they reported.

Heroes of the Storm is a game that requires a team of players to battle against an opposing team of players. It makes absolutely no sense for a player to use offensive language to harass or antagonize teammates. It’s nice to see Blizzard doing something to curtail this type of behavior.

Amazon Average Pay #1275

Amazon has revealed that it Global average pay is around $28,000. I am not sure what to think to be honest. Let’s hear your opinion. This is the second of what will be six shows from the east coast, I am hoping at some point the sun will actually come out and warm it up out here.

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Blizzard Balance Gifting is Now Available

Blizzard Entertainment is now allowing players to send Blizzard Balance to their friends. This is a brand new change that will give players the option to send some of their own Blizzard Balance to a friend who also plays Blizzard’s games.

We’re expanding our gifting service by allowing you to send Blizzard Balance to your friends, offering you the benefits of retail gift cards in a new and easy-to-use digital format.

Blizzard Balance is an electronic balance players can use to purchase Blizzard Entertainment games and services. Funds added to Blizzard Balance are not refundable and cannot be converted into cash. Blizzard Balance can only be used to buy designated Blizzard Entertainment products and services.

You cannot use Blizzard Balance to make a purchase on the PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace. This is worth pointing out because some players are playing Overwatch and Diablo III on consoles.

To send a Blizzard Balance gift, the first thing you need to do is visit the Blizzard Shop. Select one of the suggested values – or enter a custom amount. Click the “Gift Balance” button and select the friend you want to send it to.

Blizzard will deliver your gift to your friend, along with a notification and personalized message. Your friend will then be able to claim the digital gift card balance onto their account. Players will also be notified on the Blizzard App when a friend has sent them Blizzard Balance – and can claim that gift through the app.