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My Personal Advertising Experiment in All Points Bulletin

By June 27, 2010 May 29th, 2016 Personal Stories

I’ve been playing All Points Bulletin as of late, and have had a good time doing so. Despite numerous flaws, it has by far the best customization tools I have ever seen. The company that created the game is called Realtime Worlds, which was founded by David Jones, who is most commonly known for creating the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Below is a video on the GameSpot YouTube channel, in which Jones describes some of the customization tools available in the game.

The video does a decent job at giving you a quick overview, but you really have to use the tools to fully understand. You can make stuff that looks like it was made in Photoshop, that’s how advanced the customization options are. Layers, transparency, gradients, masks, custom symbols, all of these modifications/effects are possible in the APB editors.

So, given the flexibility, I decided to make use of the customization tools to design a sleeveless shirt for my character. My goal was to make something close to the Awesome smiley. Here’s what I came up with:

In-game character featuring an Awesome smiley shirt, which I made.

My character is an Enforcer, essentially a cop. Imagine seeing that happy smiley running towards you.

While definitely not perfect, I found it was a decent homage to the smiley, seen below:

Awesome Smiley

I got the image from this Wikipedia page.

I’ll likely work on a better version in the next couple days; however, after making such customizations – I realized something else. I could very easily use my in-game shirt to advertise for my website. APB already contains in-game advertisements, both visual and audio. I never had anything against this, given that they are trying to depict a modern urban environment, which does feature advertisements in real life. The idea of adding my own advertising intrigued me. As a quick test, I tried just stamping my domain on the back of my newly created shirt:

MattRefghi.com shown on the back of a shirt in APB

Pretty simple to make, and fairly easy to read – even when the player is running with low texture quality. Still, it brings up some interesting questions. First of all, did Realtime Worlds cover this possibility in the APB license agreement? Second, if my full name is visible in the game, should my behavior change?

To answer the first question, I checked the APB End User License Agreement, and I found what I was looking for. (UPDATE: As of May 29th, 2016, I link to their updated EULA, which may no longer feature the text I’m quoting.) See the bold text below:

Rules of Conduct
9.4 You shall not (and you agree to not) generate any User Generated Content, or use the Game in a way, that:
9.4.1 infringes the rights of any other person or entity (including, without limitation, their Intellectual Property Rights) (and references to “any other person or entity” shall include RTW);
9.4.2 breaches any Applicable Laws;
9.4.3 in RTW’s absolute discretion, RTW considers:
(a) is defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libellous, harmful, abusive, harassing, hateful, invasive of another’s privacy, sexually explicit, or offensive (whether in relation to race, sex, religion or otherwise) or denigrating to anyone’s reputation or general standing (whether or not actionable);
(b) is seeking to promote or encourage illegal activity;
(c) is false or misleading to others;
(d) is seeking to access another person’s personal information or information relating to another APB Account;
(e) is seeking to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of the Game or any servers or networks connected to the Game or another’s computer; or
(f) amounts to unwanted or unauthorised advertising or solicitation.
(g) is stalking or harassing of another person.

The wording there offers a lot of flexibility for Realtime Worlds. Is my advertising unauthorized, or unwanted? I’m not advertising for a commercial company here, just a personal domain, with a blog. Sure, one day, there may be a commercial component associated to my domain, but that’s not currently the case. Either way, they specifically say it is at their absolute discretion… so it could very well be seen as both unauthorized and unwanted, since it is entirely up to them.

The argument gets more complicated when you consider that APB creations can be manufactured. Once you come up with a design, for example, my Awesome homage shirt, you can sell copies of the shirt for in-game credit, or even credit towards APB playtime. To play APB, you have to buy hours of play, or subscribe to a monthly pay-to-play plan. Selling customizations for playtime credit is therefore an attractive option for people that want to play the game long-term. Now, if you sell something you create, it is forever related to your in-game character name – the person who owns it will always be able to see who manufactured it. This makes it possible for people to behave as fashion designers in game. Yet, in real life, what do we typically see on clothes when they’re part of a particular line? Logos. A reference to the line of clothing you are wearing, the manufacturer. So, if you’re manufacturing clothes in APB, is it wrong to put your domain on there? I’m not sure it is, but, of course, I feel it must be respectfully placed, and very small to not grab too much attention. I’m sure some people would do the opposite, though – so the argument still stands… though Realtime Worlds would ultimately decide.

Advertising also comes with a cost on the privacy side; consider this: my character’s name is actually “MattRefghi”, and his shirt, as you’ve now seen, sports my domain in a very visible fashion. When playing, I feel like I have to be careful with what I do or say, because it is pretty obvious who I am in real life. I was never a guy who was negative with other players, but sometimes I did utilize strategies that weren’t particularly pleasant for my targets. I’ll probably visit some of these strategies in a future post.  In APB, like real-life, I must consider my actions before I execute them, because they’re ultimately bound to me. As scary as that might seem to some, I think this is a good thing… people would be forced to behave with a certain amount of class if their online interactions were always bound to their real life identity. In multi-player games, Griefers would likely be greatly reduced, and everyone should have a better time online.

A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game that purposely irritates and harasses other players.

I may contact Realtime Worlds for more information – I think it would be interesting to see what they have to say on the matter. In the meantime, however, I’ll keep thinking of amusing customization ideas.

Update: A few days after posting this, here’s what Blizzard Entertainment announced:

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it.

[…]

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

I like it… but we’ll soon see whether the idea can float, or not.