Galactic Plunder | SteamWorld Heist 2

This game is incredible! The graphics and music are impeccable and unique, and the gameplay is no exception – an interesting twist on turn-based RPG’s with awesome ‘ricochet’-style mechanics.

From their Steam page: “Command a steam-driven pirate crew in a series of epic tactical shootouts. Inspired by classics like XCOM and Worms, SteamWorld Heist is turn-based strategy with a twist: You manually aim the guns of your robots, allowing for insane skill shots and bullet-bouncing action!”

Visit on Steam:

Galactic Plunder | SteamWorld Heist 2

Cowbot Bebop | SteamWorld Heist 1

This game is incredible! The graphics and music are impeccable and unique, and the gameplay is no exception – an interesting twist on turn-based RPG’s with awesome ‘ricochet’-style mechanics. And as of uploading, it’s on sale on Steam for under $5!

From their Steam page: “Command a steam-driven pirate crew in a series of epic tactical shootouts. Inspired by classics like XCOM and Worms, SteamWorld Heist is turn-based strategy with a twist: You manually aim the guns of your robots, allowing for insane skill shots and bullet-bouncing action!”

Visit on Steam:

Cowbot Bebop | SteamWorld Heist 1

Gambling, for Children | Just Cosmetics – A Loot Box Story

Humble Beginnings

Loot Boxes. Like all great evils, they come from humble beginnings, where perhaps the first time they were utilized was in the 2007 Chinese free-to-play title ZT Online. The prevalence of pc bangs in China, which are more or less LAN gaming cafes, meant players could practically play any popular games for free so long as they were at a cafe with the game available. This, combined with a lack of disposable income to spend on premium titles and widespread, rampant piracy pushed developers to change their approach to monetization. By giving their game away for free and devising content to sell in-game that players will want to buy, they could trump all of these problems and improve their game tremendously, both in terms of accessibility and profitability.

“…these systems are inherently designed to rope children into an experience that is for all intents and purposes gambling.”

The free-to-play supported-by-microtransactions-and-loot-boxes model flourished in Asia and spread its way around the globe, and we all know about the dirty, dirty things that have been going on in the various mobile app stores since then, or the rotten garbage that’s been festering on Facebook for far too long, but for a while, North America’s and Europe’s gaming industries were relatively clean as far as microtransactions, and subsequently in-game gambling went, so long as you didn’t go stomping about in either of those two muck holes.

The Android and iOS App Stores, where many of the modern schemes in the Western triple-A market were refined in “freemium” mobile games.

As much as I’d like to think – as much as we’d all like to think this lack of microtransactions in our games was out of honor and a desire to preserve them from such indignities as gambling for upgrades instead of playing the game for them, I think we all know in the bottoms of our hearts that they just hadn’t realized quite how juicy of a cash cow they were letting go un-pimped in their domain.

Players Equals Profits

Smelling your untaken money in the air, in 2011 Valve would make what was ultimately a very smart business decision by converting their premium 2007 title Team Fortress 2 into a free-to-play game supported by microtransactions with a loot box and key system. Within nine months of becoming free-to-play, Team Fortress 2 had revenue increases by a factor of twelve, no doubt partially due to their now-much-larger player-base, which had the complementary effect of also improving the game for other players through the increased population.


By this time, Activision had long-sank its fangs of corruption into Blizzard, and when they released Diablo 3 in 2012 with a fully-integrated real-world-money auction house, they delivered unto the beloved franchise what was, among a myriad of other problems, the finishing blow, the coup-de-grace on a title released by a developer that had previously and up until then hit the nail on the head time after time again with games like Warcraft 2 and 3, Diablos the first and 2, Starcraft, World of Warcraft and all of their assorted expansions. In what was generally agreed to be far too little far too late, the game was salvaged and heavily revamped, but the stain never quite came all the way out. It’s a kind of sadness that’s rare, that’s far too reminiscent of what Square Enix went through with Final Fantasy XIV, an MMORPG they had to quite literally completely scrap the 1.0 of and rebuild from the ground up.

Of course, we’re here to talk about loot boxes, and the point is that the developers saw that Valve was eating. And they saw that Valve was eating good. And suddenly, they were all in their boardrooms meeting with their executives, and they were salivating and foaming at their mouths, and they began devising strategies as to what might best feed them, because they were hungry too.

From Baby Steps to Overreaching

Around Team Fortress 2’s conversion to free-to-play, EA was also getting some bites in, although unlike Team Fortress 2, EA wants to sell you their game at full retail price, and then they want you to spend more money on microtransactions in-game. In their premium FIFA series EA sold booster packs filled with soccer player trading cards of assorted rarities for use in a multiplayer game mode where players build and upgrade their teams using said cards.

EA also pulled some of the same tomfoolery with Mass Effect 3, a premium, full-price triple-A title that featured a co-op mode with so-called “equipment packs” which could be bought either using credits you obtained through grinding out missions, or by spending real-world money on “BioWare points” and exchanging those for the equipment packs.

EA’s Dead Space 3 was one of the first single-player triple-A titles in the Western market to offer a truly “pay-to-win” monetization scheme.

The envelope would continue to be pushed, and what do you know –  EA are the ones that kept a-pushin’. Their 2013 full-price title Dead Space 3 launched with microtransactions in its single-player campaign, selling crafting materials that could be found in-game to players, henceforth allowing them to purchase advantages such as weapon upgrades outright in what was surely one of the first truly pay-to-win schemes to penetrate the Western market. EA was eating, and they were eating good. Really good. Not good enough to keep Visceral Games’ doors open to continue developing more games, but some beasts know no satiation.

Gambling, for Children

Returning to our friends at Valve – the ones who sort of kicked off this whole feeding frenzy against your own consumers trend – they too had developed a bigger appetite, and with the release of Counter Strike: Global Offensive and its 2013 Arms Deal update, they were well on their way to bigger and better scandals. The skins in CS:GO’s loot crates would go on to create a blackmarket currency fueled in large part by gamers under the legal gambling age, but because of the relatively new existence of these economic systems, they lie in legal grey areas that have been exploited numerous times on record to varying degrees, including famously by Tmartn, who failed to disclose he owned a skins gambling website that he promoted on his Twitch and YouTube channels for several months, to his following, which is made up largely of viewers too young to legally gamble. As recently as June of 2017 case-opening and gambling websites have been exposed as being able to fix rolls on the back end for streamers that promote their gambling service. Reports have even described a so-called “rape mode” that allows contestants to receive only the lowest-valued of items in their winnings whenever it is engaged, regardless of what amounts they may be betting, and it has been alleged that virtually all skins gambling websites operate on this same made-to-be-abused architecture.

Richard Lewis reports on a so-called “rape mode” that a skins-gambling site architect revealed to him as standard in most skins-gambling websites.

“They’re Just Cosmetics”

Back to the loot boxes themselves, we arrive finally at Overwatch in 2016. Activision Blizzard has been a thing for quite a while now, and microtransactions are here to stay. Overwatch releases for $40, or $60 for the Collector’s Edition that all games need to have for some reason (dev/pub greed), and it’s a smashing success. The kind of success you’d expect Blizzard to achieve with a new franchise debut. And loot boxes are one of it’s core features – but don’t worry, they’re just cosmetics. If you want a particular skin or weapon, the only means to obtain it is to receive so many duplicates at such an abysmal return rate on said duplicates in terms of crafting materials that it could take weeks of farming to save up just for one item, and the only way to get that item you want is to farm more and more and more for that one item, or throw more and more money at loot boxes until you have enough dust to craft that one item. Or, you catch a lucky break – one hell of a lucky break – and get it as a drop. “But, they’re just cosmetics, so any criticism of this system is useless or unfair.” That argument just doesn’t hold any water, and the issue for me goes back to the fact that these systems are inherently designed to rope children into an experience that is for all intents and purposes gambling. The issue for me is that time and time again, these developers ask to reach inside your pocket, while flashing giant “buy” buttons in your face, while doing market research and patenting matchmaking that will encourage you to spend for the premium item that your spender opponent just beat you with because they had an unfair objective advantage. Enough is never enough when it comes to corporate greed and consumers will eventually have to draw a line somewhere. Overwatch thankfully has not been perverted to the extent of selling anything beyond cosmetics, but to talk about the modern scourge of microtransactions and loot boxes in gaming and not mention Blizzard’s enormous role in their recent popularity would be to do the history of this evil manifestation a disservice.

Blizzard certainly isn’t perfect, and they certainly are going in a scary direction. They’ve recently announced that certain skins for new Heroes of the Storm heroes will now only be purchasable with gems – a currency that is primarily only available via purchase with real-world money – as bundles. This prevents players who have been saving the other in-game crafting materials from circumventing a real-money purchase, but thankfully a big corporation like Activision Blizzard has the corporate double-talk to defend this decision for days, and they simply presented it as a win for their players. We can all respect that they have to make some money, but choosing bigger bucks over happier players has been part of the Heroes repertoire for a while now – for instance, by creating one legendary skin, coloring it five times, and adding it to the game as five distinct legendary skins – so, maybe you get lucky and the skin you want drops out of that loot chest! But it’s not in the color you want. And if that same skin drops again in the same color, you can’t just unlock another color variation, such as the one you want – you have to accept 400 shards, or 25% of the full crafted value of a legendary skin. This system may seem a little “accidentally unfair” and perhaps it even started that way, but this is a system of severely poor diminishing returns that Blizzard has used time and time again, with intent and to an effect of wild success. They’ve wholly embraced the shift to “gaming as a service,” but we’d have to be blind to not see what may be on the horizon for them, and it’s scary, and it’s disappointing. Lately, most of Blizzard’s games revolve primarily around satisfying daily quest requirements, and most of them are lacking a sense of real progression, and that seems to be a big part of what “gaming as a service” is. They’ve recently even gone so far as to release Starcraft 2 as a free-to-play game, bringing it in line with Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. Starcraft 2’s multiplayer may benefit from this move but so far there’s no reason to expect it will contribute to any long-lived major increase in its player-base. Regardless, it’s a bold move that brings a great game to more people, but it’s hard not to question the motive in comparison to the rest of their modern lineup. Blizzard’s priorities have evolved over the years: creating amazing experiences through innovative, addicting, and rewarding video games has become second to conjuring up anti-consumer schemes in the name of satisfying shareholders.

Most of Blizzard’s modern line-up relies upon daily quest systems to unlock currencies as a means to circumvent having to make real-world purchases – but as mentioned with Heroes of the Storm, the options for non-paying players are becoming fewer and fewer.

Microtransactions Today

The big story right now, of course, is Star Wars Battlefront 2. Everyone else has already said everything there is to say, and I highly recommend the most recent Co-Optional Podcast, or any of the relevant videos Jim Sterling has put out over the past month or so, should you need to get caught up. It’s the most blatant example of a greedy, pay-to-win money-grab that we’ve seen from a developer to date, and of course it was EA, and of course they did so using an intellectual property (Star Wars) they knew it would work with. It’s worth mentioning, people are currently rejoicing as EA finally decided to remove the microtransactions from Battlefront 2. They realized that they done goofed and are probably tired of the negative press, so they removed the microtransactions. Well, temporarily. Some people are patting EA on the back and saying good on you, but as we’ve covered, it’s temporary, which means sooner or later they’ll be back –  and when they are, we can judge their new system on its own merits, but it’s EA, so we can anticipate that they will be awful, they will probably still have pay-to-win elements, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hardly changed at all. Perhaps this suspension is just a device to weather the debut of their product – because games as a service is not just about launch sales. It’s about ongoing sales.

“Blizzard’s priorities have evolved over the years: creating amazing experiences through innovative, addicting, and rewarding video games has become second to conjuring up anti-consumer schemes in the name of satisfying shareholders.”

And the big story before Battlefront 2? It was Warner Brothers and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. One of the executive producers at Monolith, the developers, a gentleman by the name of Michael Forgey passed away. Warner Bros released a DLC in Forgey’s memory and actually attempted to profit off of Forgey’s death under the guise of a charitable cause. There was a charitable cause, of course, but it would only receive a portion of the DLC revenue from a small portion of the areas Warner Bros was collecting money from. The greed of these publishers. I honestly don’t know what to say on this one. It just disgusts me.

The Forthog Orc-Slayer DLC for Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor was used deceptively by Warner Bros. to profit off the death of one of Monolith’s developers – despicable.

There are still lots of great indie things happening – just look at Cuphead – and in a lot of ways 2017 has been a great year for video games. Some major studios are now even vowing to stay away from loot boxes, cognisant of the detriment they have yielded for some of the titans of the industry. Within the past few days, it’s been announced that Belgium is investigating Blizzard and EA in association with their loot boxes and the gambling element present in their games, but it’s too early to know just what to make of this investigation yet. One thing is for certain with this developer greed: it will get worse before it gets better.

Gambling, for Children | Just Cosmetics – A Loot Box Story

The Dismal Debut of Car Mechanic Simulator 2018


Players say “unfinished” state of automobile-centered game is “inexcusable.”


On 28 July 2017, developer Red Dot Games, in tandem with publisher PlayWay S.A. released Car Mechanic Simulator 2018, a game in which, as you might imagine, players take on the role of an automobile mechanic. The standalone game is sold for $19.99 USD on the Steam storefront, and a “Silver Edition” is also offered for $26.97 as a bundle with two DLC packs. The DLC packs are also purchasable individually for $4.99 each and include additional in-game vehicles.

CMS 2018 is the logical successor of Car Mechanic Simulator 2015, by the same developer and publisher, and which boasts very positive recent and overall reviews on the Steam storefront. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the 2018 iteration of the game due to it being released in a state that many players have described as “unfinished,” resulting in mixed reviews.

“CMS 18 is nothing but a public paid beta access game, in it’s current state, and even with the devs patching it up almost daily, there are so many things wrong with this game that makes it hard to enjoy, because bugs will eventually prohibit you from progressing, or force you to start over.”

Mr. Awesome, Steam user, 99.8hrs of CMS 2018 playtime on record.


It’s worth noting that Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 is not being sold or advertised as an “early access”-model game.

In addition to the myriad of performance issues and game-breaking glitches, many players have voiced concerns over features that were supposedly listed on the Steam storefront, but were not included in the game at launch. The developers addressed these criticisms in a recent post on their Steam forum where they contested some claims, while conceding to others:


Click here to read the full post.

Red Dot Games seems to be working diligently on an earnest attempt at rectifying the problems that members of their playerbase have vocalized, and while that is a relief to hear, one still has to question how they would not expect such a negative reaction when releasing a supposedly finished title in such a poor state.

As they’re serving such a niche audience, it’s entirely possible the developer realized that their playerbase did not have a lot in the way of alternative options. Here’s to hoping CMS 2018 manages to right its wrongs, if not for the sake of the franchise, then for the sake of its players.

The Dismal Debut of Car Mechanic Simulator 2018

To Catch an Editor: Jonathan Holmes, Destructoid, & Fake News in Games Journalism

On 15 July 2017, an article was published on the front page of Destructoid, an independent video gaming news website, titled “River City Ransom: Underground taken off Steam due to DMCA claim” by a one Jonathan Holmes.


To Catch an Editor

As some of you might imagine, the article was centered around former industry composer Alex Mauer. One would reasonably expect this article to include mention of their documented DMCA abuse, in which they fraudulently filed DMCA Takedown Notices in an effort to extort YouTubers into harassing developer Imagos Softworks to extract unearned payments from them, and the eventual removal of RCRU from the Steam storefront due to Alex’s further perjurious claims. In addition to these major offenses, Mauer has also issued abusive DMCA claims against an excess of one hundred YouTube videos that, even if Mauer had any legal grounds for their claims, would be still protected by fair use.


Back to Jonathan Holmes’ article on the front page of Destructoid, while it is mentioned that Alex is responsible for issuing the DMCA claims that resulted in RCRU being removed from the Steam storefront, the article fails to mention any indication of the YouTubers Alex has persecuted and extorted, the death threats that Alex issued to Don Thacker of Imagos Softworks and Leonard French, who is representing Imagos in their pending lawsuit versus Mauer, and countless other content creators, and even goes so far as to vilify the latter while painting Alex the victim:

“Unfortunately, not everyone has been so empathetic [towards Mauer]. Since word got out that Ms. Mauer had issued the DMCA orders against the two games, a sadistic feeding frenzy has formed in certain pockets of the internet, leading to Ms. Mauer receiving multiple online death threats, and ambulance chasing, opportunistic video game pundits demonizing her in long winded, fruitless Youtube rants.

While the article itself is lousy with academic errors, poorly-researched and lacking of anything in the way of information outside of direct quotes from Alex – which, of course, fully support their victim narrative – this paragraph is particularly offensive and is clearly directed at the likes of SidAlpha and TotalBiscuit, both of whom have covered Alex’s harmful action to varying degrees, and both of whom have actually been involved in helping those affected by Alex’s unwarranted assaults.

Whether or not Holmes simply has no journalistic standards when it comes to research, or if some sort of exchange of money was involved, or if perhaps there was some sort of political motivation in their actions, the internet would regardless immediately catch on to the scent of the bullshit Holmes was peddling on the front page of Destructoid, and the comments section of the article flickered ablaze like the dumpster fire that is much of games journalism today.


As the evidence against Holmes and his pathetic attempt to portray YouTubers as nefarious characters in this scenario leaned further and further out of his favor, the comments section of the article was eventually suspended to prevent further dissemination of dissenting opinions, another move we see all too often in games journalism today, as well as on platforms such as Steam, where corrupt developers regularly scrub boards to hide complaints of shady behaviors such as asset-flipping. This isn’t necessarily the fault of gaming journalists, but when they set such a fine example on their own platforms, it isn’t hard to see where these developers might be learning this deceptive behavior of squelching free discussion from.

In an update issued to the article regarding the “ambulance chasing YouTube pundits” line, Holmes apologized to SidAlpha and to Musical Anti Hero, indicating he wasn’t referring to them directly. Holmes would fail to further specify which YouTubers he was writing with regards to, and in my opinion this is an obvious case of someone apologizing because they were caught, and not because they actually believe what they did was wrong or have any remorse for having done it. The update did at least acknowledge the threats Mauer made to Leonard French, albeit in the most minimalist way possible.

A note from the editor was also added with a further amendment, explaining:

“Destructoid is a multi-author blog. This story in particular was an opinion piece that should not have appeared on our home page, but instead on Mr. Holmes’s personal blog. We stand by Holmes in that he should always write from his gut, but that doesn’t mean Destructoid endorses any part of this editorial. There’s two sides to every story, and that’s become very apparent here as more sources come forward. This is a story that is still developing and requires more investigation.”

“…Holmes reviewed a game or gave it positive coverage without disclosing that he had financial interests or endorsements in the games – to be specific, over a dozen cases…”

How does this happen? Why did this occur the front page of Destructoid, a very-well-known video gaming news website with a history spanning over more than ten years?

From the Hacks that Brought You #GamerGate

Thankfully, the good folks over at DeepFreeze have been keeping an eye on Holmes and his zany journalist antics for quite a while now. Holmes is perhaps best-known for an article he wrote during the GamerGate controversy:

“Maybe I should give up immedietely [sic] and get back to the purported point of this ding dang post — the importance of the term “gamer”. I know a lot of people who don’t want to use it anymore. They don’t want to be associated with it anymore in any way. It’s because a lot of people who take pride in being “gamers”, be they game developers, jouranlists [sic], or players, use the term as a way to elevate themselves above others.  Gamer used to mean “a former nerd who is now proud of their love of games”, but now a lot of people take it to mean “I’m cooler than you other try-hards, because videogames.””

This article was written shortly after a flurry of other similar fluff pieces claiming the term “gamer” to be dead, and while it’s mostly composed of mental diarrhea, it does show that Holmes is happy to latch onto whatever the rest of the industry is doing and go with the flow, rather than construct any original thoughts or opinions. It’s also worth pointing out that Holmes is one of the journalists that gave positive coverage to Zoe Quinn, the queen of Five Guys Burgers and Fries herself, without disclosing his relationship with her. Among these offenses are a countless myriad of other cases in which Holmes reviewed a game or gave it positive coverage without disclosing that he had financial interests or endorsements in the games – to be specific, over a dozen cases according to DeepFreeze.

Destructoid: Fake News?


“…Destructoid continues to promote, empower, and enable Holmes to deceive and attack gamers – the very people that are their core audience.”

While Destructoid as a whole certainly are not responsible for what Holmes may write in any individual article, the question still begs to be asked: why, despite his countless egregious and anti-consumer behaviors, is Jonathan Holmes still to this day not held accountable in any meaningful way by his employers? Destructoid may not have written the article, but Destructoid continues to promote, empower, and enable Holmes to deceive and attack gamers – the very people that are their core audience. Destructoid is free to disrespect their readership in whatever manner they please, but they will never be free from criticisms of this behavior.


Leonard French later disclosed that he was directly told that Destructoid would not report the threats that Alex Mauer had been sending to him and others. [I think that answers the titular question.] If you invest just a little bit of time into researching French, you’ll learn he is a very rational and pragmatic person who wants the best outcome for everyone and stands to yield no benefit from dishonesty, not to mention that an unwarranted public lie would be extraordinarily out-of-character for the transparent attorney. In the face of this evidence, I can only further condemn Destructoid for this awful reporting, for this awful omission, and for the awful fact that Holmes’ piece has still not been taken down despite the obvious bias in favor of Mauer and their attempts to squelch the public discussion in the comments.


Holmes stated publicly on Twitter that he wanted to clarify and rectify all mistakes in the article literally fifteen minutes before announcing a week-long hiatus from the social media platform, and I suspect that if even one hundredth of what was wrong with his article made it through to him per his request, it will take far longer than a week for him to process his utter failure.


Despite this hiatus it was quickly learned that Holmes was still attacking YouTubers on Twitter, claiming the YouTube pundits did not care about RCRU being taken down, but only other YouTubers, and saying that showed “their obvious bias”. This is, however, patently false – as many YouTubers (including smaller ones such as myself) covered the RCRU takedown in and of its own merit as one of the many atrocities which Alex has committed, and the very same atrocities which Holmes has clearly demonstrated he is unaware of and unwilling to investigate.

“…I think we’re confronted with the following as more a fact than just a mere opinion: Jonathan Holmes and Destructoid are promoting and disseminating fake news…”

Holmes Adopts Mauer’s Tactics

Following two strongly-worded critical tweets that I tagged Holmes in, he would accuse me of stalking and immediately block me. This is a common tactic for those who cannot handle dissenting opinions, as their narratives are too malnourished and incorrect to hold any water against even intentionally passive-aggressive criticisms. The “stalker” accusation allows Holmes to paint me as an assailant and themselves as a victim, and while it’s baseless, it is telling of just how close Holmes’ house of bullshit cards is to collapsing around him, and has allowed him to disengage from my criticisms in a very ungraceful manner.


I find it especially hilarious that Holmes did this to me, shortly after moaning about Mauer having done the same to him.


In an age where “fake news” has become a term used to describe journalists manipulating context to their narrative, I think we’re confronted with the following as more a fact than just a mere opinion: Jonathan Holmes and Destructoid are promoting and disseminating fake news. I do not have any proof that this behavior services a particular agenda, but I think it goes without saying that there is some sort of agenda, possibly political or monetary, influencing their journalism. And it isn’t ethical.

UPDATE: When reached out to for comment, Holmes had the following to say. Note that he calls my article factually inaccurate despite clearly not having read it nor my message to him. I genuinely wasn’t going to publish these until he accused me of not saying that was my intent in the first place. At a later date I’ll dissect this bullshit more carefully.


To Catch an Editor: Jonathan Holmes, Destructoid, & Fake News in Games Journalism

DMCA Abuse: The Alextravaganza Continues


Following releasing many of the false DMCA’s they issued with the intent of extorting YouTubers into expressing grievances with developer Imagos Softworks in order to settle a questionable contract dispute, former industry composer Alex Mauer returned to issuing the malicious and spurious DMCA claims in what is a clear cry for attention and an attempt to feel in control of a spiraling situation they clearly cannot navigate in any manner other than recklessly.


Shortly after my last report on Mauer went out, attorney and YouTuber Leonard French, representing Imagos versus Alex, released an update video. Included in it was the First Amended Complaint in the Imagos vs. Mauer case which pretty clearly spells out how and why Mauer is legally in the wrong, in addition to disclosing information such as the direct death threats that Mauer has made to the plaintiffs and their families as well as spelling out their attempt at extortion.


Leonard goes on to explain that, due to the threats of violence, he is also filing for a Temporary Restraining Order in an effort to expedite the process, therefore allowing a legal presence to step in and assert control over the havoc that Alex is reaping.


At this point in time, Leonard French and Imagos have also resumed fundraising on GoFundMe in order to deal with the increased expected costs to deal with the raised security concerns and to combat whatever defense Mauer’s lawyer may conjure up – but we’ll get more into that shortly.

If you are affected by the lawsuit, Leonard French is open to you contacting him for more information on how you could be represented by him or how to involve your own attorney.


Shortly after the First Amended Complaint video was uploaded, news began to spread that Alex’s unwarranted DMCA abuse was now being targeted at River City Ransom: Underground, another Kickstarter-funded game, this time by developer Conatus Creative, a small indie team of veteran developers and designers. While it is fortunate that the game wasn’t taken down prior to the end of the Steam Summer Sale, I regret to say that shortly before I started working on this update, River City Ransom: Underground had in fact been removed from the Steam storefront.


I’m going to stop here for a moment, to talk about the Steam Summer Sale. Although it is a surge of funds for developers, it is still a surge of funds that they to some extent anticipate within their budgets and rely on to keep the engine of their operation running, i.e. paying their development team and staff members. Starr Mazer: DSP was removed from the Steam Store Front during the Steam Summer Sale and as a result, Imagos missed a projected several thousand units of sales. These are gamers like you and me, many of which have families to feed and who work long, hard hours for their salaries; when someone acts as ignorant, irresponsible, and despicable as Alex has these past few weeks, it appalls me to no end that someone’s ego can be so inflated, that someone can be so conceited, that someone can hurt so many others with such reckless abandon – and play the victim card turn after turn, begging for it to carry some modicum of weight, if only one time. Imagos has at this point decided to litigate Alex fully, which I think is not only appropriate but at this point is mandatory; we cannot allow entitled brats to dictate which developers get to participate in one of the largest gaming sales of the year, or allow them to put their former colleagues’ livelihoods at risk. There’s also the matter of the dozens of YouTubers they have displayed the same grotesque lack of consideration towards, but I feel as if the point has been made.

“These are gamers like you and me, many of which have families to feed and who work long, hard hours for their salaries; when someone acts as ignorant, irresponsible, and despicable as Alex has these past few weeks, it appalls me to no end…”

Following the news of River City Ransom: Underground being Alex’s latest target, the Alextravaganza would state that they didn’t see how the case would ever make it to court, before following that up with indication that they were in fact seeking a lawyer and also publicly disclosing that they had a pending DMCA strike against SidAlpha.


Shortly following those events, Alex would announce they were successful in taking down the Starr Mazer: DSP YouTube channel. This once again clearly demonstrates that they are fully aware of the extreme consequences of their ruthlessness upon others and the extent to which they are damaging these brands, and their sharing a screenshot of the terminated channel even seems to imply a sense of pride or achievement. Alex Mauer celebrates harm.

Lawyering Up


Mauer would release an email dated March 6th from a supposed lawyer named “Cory Shackelford,” which seems like a meme but is an actual lawyer. However, I want to point out that Shackelford practices law in California and cannot represent Alex in this particular case (without some complicated maneuvering) for that reason, and the gist of the services Shackelford provides seems to primarily be sending intimidating letters with a legal letterhead in an effort to encourage compliance with whatever profound demands their quote-unquote clients may have.


While Alex published old, largely irrelevant paperwork, Leonard French would file a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order against Alex, which is available on his website alongside the First Amended Complaint if you’d like to review either document. Pursuant to the motion, an appearance before the judge was set for Thursday, 13 July at 11am.

Leonard French would go on to update the Legal Support GoFundMe, indicating that Alex had in fact finally retained an attorney that could represent them in Pennsylvania. Further investigation revealed not only that this attorney was most likely hired by Alex’s father, but that the lawyer hired, Frank Mazzeo, is quite accomplished and competent in the field of copyright law.

Following the news of Mauer’s attorney, the Alextravaganza seemed to settle for a dozen or so hours, and all was quiet ‘til the morning of 13 July, when the following texts were leaked by Mauer following the TRO hearing, during which the Temporary Restraining Order against Mauer was granted, asserting that any further DMCA takedown requests filed by Alex would result in a violation of the TRO, in addition to a number of other conditions designed to mitigate any further potential damage Alex may intend to cause.



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The text string shows what we can assume to be Mazzeo attempting to follow up with Mauer following the granting of the TRO, only for them to return fire with an indication that they consider Mazzeo to be fired at this point.

Despite a reasonable response indicating Alex’s best interests were in Mazzeo’s mind, Mauer simply cannot resist any opportunity to swiftly play the victim card, insinuating that Mazzeo’s text messages are some sort of intended attempt at harassment. The sheer audacity and ignorance is just unfathomable.

A former 12-year close friend of Mauer’s who’s also been victimized by them reported that the TRO hearing was over and done in only nine minutes, with others seemingly fluent in legal proceedings indicating that the bail amount indicated for the TRO was absurdly low, amounting to only $100, indicating that the judge is most likely in favor of plaintiffs Imagos Softworks’ and Leonard French’s side of the case.


Thinly Veiled Threats

The Alextravaganza went on to publish an intimidating photo of a package addressed to the judge that presided over their TRO hearing along with the home addresses of both themselves and the judge. Shortly thereafter, orders of pizza began arriving at Alex’s home, as tends to happen when someone under intense public scrutiny doxxes themselves. My opinion is that it is Alex’s desire that someone physically transgress against them, that they might finally have some weight behind their relentless pleas that they are a victim and not the major offending transgressor in this entire matter.


As of the writing of this report, due to the continued DMCA’s against River City Ransom: Underground, it appears that Alex has violated the terms of their Temporary Restraining Order. [Edit: see first update below regarding this statement.] The TRO specifically states Alex is not to issue any further DMCA’s, including to non-parties, without prior written permission from the court, per page 2 section c. Alex is also on probation for what I understand to be a separate, unrelated incident. Typically violating a TRO in Pennsylvania carries a maximum sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or a thousand-dollar fine, but given the extreme malice Alex has exhibited in conjunction with their prior legal complications, I doubt any leniency will be shown to them, and rightly so.


I’d say things can’t get any more ridiculous than they already have, but I think we all know I’d be quite naive in that declaration. I want Alex to get the mental help they so obviously need, but I am simultaneously all for making an example out of what has been the most disgusting and childish abuse of the DMCA system that I know of. I’m sure the courts will deliver just rewards to those who bargain for them. Speaking of which, it seems Alex has finally gone silent on Twitter. This may indicate that they were arrested, or have finally made one reasonable move – or it could soon prove to be yet another farce.

“I want Alex to get the mental help they so obviously need, but I am simultaneously all for making an example out of what has been the most disgusting and childish abuse of the DMCA system that I know of.”

I’ll be continuing to give updates on Twitter as they arise, and may follow this story up sooner rather than later should the Alextravaganza continue, but I would be none too surprised if incarceration were exercised given where things stand presently.


Update: Upon review of the TRO, while it looks like Alex can easily be in breach of the granted terms, it seems that the RCRU/non-party DMCA’s in particular do not constitute a breach. Thanks to YouTuber Charles Miller for pointing this out to me!

Update 2: Alex has become active on Twitter again, and has also filed a motion to withdraw their attorney.


DMCA Abuse: The Alextravaganza Continues

DMCA Abuse: The Transgressions of Alex Mauer

In the past, I’ve talked about some problems that I have experienced with DMCA abuse. I have since had those problems resolved and removed the video arguing my case against the claimant as I was somewhat crude because the case was so clearly a result of a lack of oversight and poor investigation by the claimant and as they worked with me to resolve the issue fairly quickly once they recognized it, I decided some of my comments were too harsh for me to stand by.

I’ve also watched several of my favorite content creators fight battles over DMCA abuse – some won and celebrated as a victory, such as in the cases of TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling, and some still ongoing and harming the defendants monetarily to this day, such as in the case of h3h3Productions vs Matt Hoss. Alongside the ContentID system, the DMCA system on YouTube exists to protect copyright holders from having their intellectual properties stolen and/or reproduced by others in order to profit from and/or cause harm to the original brand. As the system has been implemented by YouTube, the claimant is pretty much the judge, jury, and executioner for a two-week period during which the content creator can file a counterclaim, such as if the cited works are used under the doctrine of fair use, which protects several derivative forms of work including transformative, critique, and commentary productions featuring an original work.

However, the law as it pertains to fair use is a grey area – how many seconds of an original clip can one use uninterrupted by commentary? What percentage of an original work is fair to use in a transformative work? These lines have yet to be set in any clear way, and until a case plays out in the courts that establishes some sort of precedent along some sort of quantifiable line, every creator who uses so much as a frame of someone else’s content is potentially subject to a DMCA dispute.

The burden of proof immediately falls on the content creator, and by filing a counterclaim, they are exposing themselves to litigation by the claimants and as such these counter-claims should only be filed when a content creator has absolute confidence in their case and is prepared to hire legal counsel should the claimant choose to pursue the DMCA strike in court.

Additionally, receiving a total of three DMCA strikes on your channel automatically renders you unable to continue being a channel on YouTube, effectively giving abusers a fast outlet to immediately seize a content creators livelihood and potentially throw their life into chaos.


When an individual entity files multiple strikes against a channel at once, my understanding is that these are regarded in totality as one strike, but I don’t doubt for a second that many DMCA abusers have malicious intents and have no regard for the creators they’re affecting. In the late 2010’s era there is no confusion that being a YouTuber can be a full-time job and career for many, and a leisure hobby that becomes a commercial enterprise for many more.


The lack of oversight on YouTube’s end of the DMCA process is somewhat necessary as it’s impractical to expect them to review every single video against every single intellectual property, but at the same time their DMCA system is inherently designed to excuse them from any liability whatsoever when they clearly play some part as the manager of ContentID, the manager of the YouTube DMCA process, and the host of all of YouTube’s channels. Of course, in exchange for these services, YouTube receives enormous advertising opportunities with pretty much the most diverse array of audiences an advertiser could hope to choose from, and therefore the opportunities for large profits are abundant.

The Starr Mazer DSP Example


Enter Starr Mazer, a franchise of space shooter games featuring a dynamic storytelling system created by Imagos Softworks and funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign. On their Kickstarter page, they list an enormous list of what sound like absolutely incredible features, not the least of which is that the soundtrack will be composed by “chiptune legend Alex Mauer” – and that’s a direct quote, in addition to “a dream team of other influential indie and chiptune artists”. The Starr Mazer franchise clearly has a flourishing community who are in love with the franchise and have been incredible in standing by the developers through all that has transpired, and among that flourishing community are dozens of YouTubers who have been covering Starr Mazer on their channels.


On June 23rd, 2017 YouTuber SidAlpha released the video “A wave of DMCA strikes hits YouTubers” and brought it to the attention of the masses that the game was removed from Steam as Alex Mauer had been issuing DMCA Takedown Strikes to any and all videos on YouTube featuring music that they had composed or sound effects they had designed, as in the case of Starr Mazer, despite this being a clear breach of their contract which indicated Imagos Softworks as the owner of all results and proceeds of Alex’s rendered services.


We’ve discussed the gravity behind these strikes already, and many of Alex’s victims were smaller channels, often which do not have the resources or technical knowledge to deal with all of the legalese and potential for error when dealing with the DMCA system.

It’s important to note that if Alex has not been paid or has any other contractual dispute with the developer, it does not excuse their actions or make them any more appropriate. The DMCA system, as I’ve previously mentioned, is a tool designed to protect copyright holders – it is not a personal snowflake button to be used at will by malicious parties in order to extort YouTubers into expressing grievances towards a developer in order to settle an unrelated contractual dispute, such as is the case here; we have lawyers, attorneys, and courts who serve to resolve these disputes in the most objective manner possible, and for that reason alone Alex should be viewed as someone who is primarily interested in causing harm and garnering sympathy and attention, rather than a mature business person who should be afforded any modicum of respect, until they learn to afford it for others themselves.

TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling (get well soon, Jim!) both picked the story up and offered their aide to smaller YouTubers affected by Alex’s actions, something I commend and wish we saw more of. In a subsequent video titled “An update on the Alex Mauer DMCA Wave” by SidAlpha it was indicated that Mauer had moved on to DMCA’ing videos of two additional games while also distributing a cease and desist letter to Turner Broadcasting, owner of Adult Swim Games, apparently over some work they had composed on behalf of Duck Game. Alex’s eagerness to CC SidAlpha and keep him up to date on the latest with every egregious action they were taking transparently highlights their desperate plea for attention, producing a double-edged sword for those covering the events, as to ignore the damage Alex has caused would be a betrayal and injustice to Alex’s many victims.

SidAlpha would go on to report that Alex Mauer distributed several emails, one including a list of all current and pending DMCA strikes, to several YouTubers which they had issued DMCA strikes to. At that point the list contained as many as 70 DMCA strikes, including multiple channels which had received three or more.


The list of videos to receive strikes exceeds one hundred as of the writing of this article.

Continuing the drama that never ends, Mauer would go on to have Twitch user Hyper RPG banned for a 24-hour period, precisely during E3, creating a great burden of opportunity cost for the streamer. This is especially offensive to me as one of the first things we went over was the potential for harm to content creators’ livelihood. At this point Alex has not only crossed a very real monetary line with a content creator, but they have expanded their DMCA abuse to become a multi-platform effort, showing just how much damage one upset and obviously in-the-wrong party can inflict.


Mauer would continue to commit blatant abuse of the DMCA takedown system, issuing a copyright strike against Musical Anti Hero for a vlog they produced in which they briefly showed a photograph of Alex Mauer prior to their transition. Alex Mauer would go on to complain to SidAlpha that channels they had issued three strikes to hadn’t been taken down, as if that somehow validated their behavior, while simultaneously showing that they fully understood the gravity that all of their actions have carried thus far.

“…Alex has not only crossed a very real monetary line with a content creator, but they have expanded their DMCA abuse to become a multi-platform effort…”

In the video “Alex Mauer DMCA Update: Imagos gets litigious” SidAlpha also reports that Imagos has become represented by attorney Leonard French, an attorney many of us are familiar with for covering several high-profile cases involving YouTubers, particularly the H3H3 vs Matt Hoss case. In a message to SidAlpha, Don Thacker, who is head of Imagos Films, confirmed that they have retained Leonard’s services and intend to litigate, but that they are not seeking any damages, only a court-established precedent of their rights and the rights of affected YouTubers. This, in my opinion, is a very mature and kind-hearted stance for Imagos to take, as it was no doubt damaging that they had to take their product off of the storefront, replace several audio files, and re-release it so that players could enjoy the title without fear of abuse from Alex Mauer. A successful GoFundMe was established and funds were raised in a show of support to help Imagos and the affected content creators to fight this legal battle.

The Alex Mauer Saga Continues

Without making light of the rest of the story, it largely doesn’t change from where we are now. Alex Mauer at some point made death threats to certain people, SidAlpha among them, before being admitted for psychological help, supposedly at the bequest of their family. Shortly thereafter, they returned to their DMCA onslaught campaign before being served on behalf of Imagos’ lawsuit. At that point, it seemed as if they had finally come to their senses, reversing many of the abusive DMCA’s – only to be back at it as recently as the writing of this article.

Whatever may come of Alex’s abuse, I argue those who say stop giving this mentally ill individual attention; it’s what they want, yes, but it’s also the only way reform will ever be brought to the easily- and often-abused DMCA system. Alex Mauer may be the hero we’ve all been waiting for after all, falling on their sword of hyperbole and lies so that copyright might one day be fairly evaluated on a case-by-case basis on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

“…it seemed as if they had finally come to their senses, reversing many of the abusive DMCA’s – only to be back at it as recently as the writing of this article.”

It’s much more likely Alex falls into obscurity and nothing good comes of their actions at all, but one can hope. I don’t plan on updating this story so long as it remains in this back-and-forth state of limbo, but if you want to know more, the information is out there and isn’t hard to find.

UPDATE! Leonard French has released a new video discussing the lawsuit he is filing on Imagos’ behalf.

Starr Mazer DSP footage in video from source “Mr-Fox”.

DMCA Abuse: The Transgressions of Alex Mauer