I made multiple tools for extracting file formats that are found in (commercial) games. Where should I host the code? (e.g. Google Code, Sourceforge,....)

Normally it would be considered 'illegal' everywhere, but most of the time they are ignored. Where should I host it and what license should I choose for the project to be 'on the safe side'.

[I asked this question on SO and it got closed, meta suggested that it would fit here a bit more, if it doesn't even fit here please help me at least rephrase it]

Edit: An example: A game has glued together GZip compressed files with binary metadata slaped on them. (let's call them .archive files)

I KNOW that I'm not allowed to use that data for anything else then playing the game, but I'm interested in modding said files so I wrote a packer/unpacker for that .archive . Now I want to make it public on a project page, which one should I choose?

All the modding tools I saw till now have that 'ONLY FOR NON-PROFIT EDUCATIONAL USE' and they normally don't get taken down. But I want to be sure to choose an actual license for the sourcecode.

  • Either the question is vague, or I'm not getting it completely. File formats from commercial games.. are the file formats copyrighted? Is "extracting" from those files (which one owns by virtue of buying the game) legal as per the game licence?.. please elaborate, if possible mentioning the various formats you're talking about. – yati sagade Sep 28 '11 at 11:54
  • Edited it, is it clear now? – NopeAndNever Sep 28 '11 at 12:23

Mandatory Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer so please take this advice with a grain of salt. If in doubt, contact a lawyer that works in your jurisdiction

Depending on the game, I think you are confusing "illegal" with "against the Terms of Service". There is a big difference in one will get you huge fines (if it is civil) or jail time (if they are able to charge you with criminal acts) while the other will get you banned from the game (losing your $40 or so).

Games like Diablo 2, there is no law against opening the character files and editing it because you bought the game and you own that copy of the game and all associated files. However, on closed battle.net they don't like cheaters so if you are caught doing that, you'll be kicked off. You can still play with hacked/modded files on your own though.

Now, a game like World Of Warcraft has a EULA stating that you don't own the game or the files and that you are just licensing them from Blizzard. In that case, you would be breaking the EULA and they could suspend your account and possibly bring civil charges against you if they feel like you caused them financial hardships.

Bottom line is that it is dependent on the game and the terms that you agree to when you play. If you have doubts to the "legality" you could always ask the publisher of the game if it is ok that you create your mods or whatever you plan to do.

As for hosting the code, you could host it where ever you would normally host code: github, bitbucket, google code, sourceforge, etc. Just be aware that they will act in their best interest and if they get contacted by the game publisher they will most likely take down your code with no questions asked.

  • I have to agree that the main issue here is confusing "illegal" and "against TOS/EULA". Add to this that even if it might be against copyright there are still a fair number of fair use rules on your side. Basically as long as you don't try and sell it, or your tools don't help damage the online environment of a game you're not going to have any problems. – Chao Sep 28 '11 at 17:09
  • @Chao - very true. If you are reverse engineering for educational use, that seems to work in your favor. – Jetti Sep 28 '11 at 17:42
  • Clearing the terms helped me really understand the difference, I will just make it clear that it isn't for commericial interest and as long as it doesn't make waves it won't be a problem :-D. Funny sidenote: Gnie, a (probably?) professional guy in terms of game file format reverse engineering is selling his tools as well as the 3D Object converter guy :-( . – NopeAndNever Sep 29 '11 at 6:23

Normally it would be considered 'illegal' everywhere, but most of the time they are ignored. Where should I host it and what license should I choose for the project to be 'on the safe side'.

Your question is moot. If your software is illegal then you cant licence it legaly and no hosting provider will host it. If it is legal then you can use any of the providers/licences you want. I suggest you consult a lawer if your not sure if its legal or not.

I suspect that other modding tools are allowed by the game manufacturer so long as the mods are not for proffit. That would vary case by case though and you would need to talk to the manufacturers and/or a lawer.

  • Modding a game is (mostly) illegal because you don't own the files. You are allowed to play the game. I made modding tools and want to know what you professional programmers think were they would belong. Regardless many Wii specific hack tools are hosted on googlecode, normally they come with the aformentioned 'ONLY FOR NON-PROFIT...' mentioned before. There are even communites that revolve around reverse engineering game files like xentax.com – NopeAndNever Sep 28 '11 at 12:35

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