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Take Two Investigated by New York Grand Jury 65

Posted by Zonk
from the they-switched-to-tea dept.
cjm182 writes "Over a year after the infamous sex minigame (aka Hot Coffee) was found in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the New York District Attorney's office has subpoenaed Take Two Interactive and its subsidiary, Rockstar Games. Reuters reports that a grand jury requested documents relating to 'company officers' and directors' knowledge about the creation and inclusion of the 'Hot Coffee' minigame. This marks the first time Take Two has been asked to provide documents directly relating to the incident. Last week, GamePolitics.com ran an editorial calling for the U.S. Congress to subpoena Take Two directly, rather than criticize the FTC and the ESRB over the incident."
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Take Two Investigated by New York Grand Jury

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  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <.info. .at. .devinmoore.com.> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @01:19PM (#15628903) Homepage Journal
    Here's another shocker: They probably wanted it to be discovered for the publicity... but they probably figured it would stay an underground thing. They apparently forgot that it's 2006 and people now spend way too much time "thinking of the children". Back in the day, games would have full on hidden swear words, etc. hidden in there, and it never made the news or whatever. Heck, who hasn't been to an arcade and seen some creatively NC-17 vulgarities on the high score boards?
    • Who could have thought anyone would object to clothes-on softcore adult material in a game rated M ("for Mature")?

      A few days ago I watched a South Park episode called "Fun With Weapons" where the kids accidentally hurt someone with their real weapons, but get in trouble because one of the appears naked in public.

      But hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
      • Ok.

        Let's say you buy a car. A domestic car.

        It's a good car, does what it's advertised, etc. You don't have any complaints.

        But then you get on the intarweb, and you find out that inside the door is a bunch of pornography. And that you need a special screwdriver to open the door to find out that the inside of the door is a bunch of low-resolution pornography. You can't get to it, unless you take apart the door with a special tool that's not commonly available, but is easily created/duplicated once discovered
    • accident maybe? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alphaseven (540122) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @02:02PM (#15629383)
      It's entirely possible it was left in accidently, people with hex editors find stuff left over from earlier builds all the time in games. For example, Bioware got criticism for Kotor II when people found dialogue from a more elaborate ending left in the game (suggesting the game was rushed) and a Japanese preview demo for the game Xenosaga III accidently included all the dialogue for the game. Those weren't Easter Eggs, that was stuff that the companies wished they hadn't released.

      On a related note, I read an interview with the people behind Indigo Prophecy were they said they had to take extra care to make sure none of the code for the uncensored European release was in the American version. Normally you would could REM out some code but because of the Hot Coffee incident they had to make a more thorough audit of the code.

      Even though I think this got blown way out of proportion, I'm very curious to what really happened.
    • The last time I spent money in a coin-op arcade, they were still using initials on the high score boards. It's pretty hard to fit an NC-17 vulgarity into 3 letters. Of course, that was back in the day. I don't remember any hidden swear words either. Maybe my memory is just going bad in my old age.

      Of course all of that is beside the point. What it boils down to is that parents like ratings. It lets them quickly identify products that they do not consider suitable for their children. Even more than parents li
      • The parents that don't want their kids exposed to nudity have every reason to be upset.

        You're absolutely correct. They can get *upset*. The problem is that they also get *litigious*. What happened to good old fashioned "getting mad and dealing with it?" Why must other people suffer everytime some idiot gets upset these days? There is no constitutional guarantee that nothing will offend or upset you!

      • You make an important point, and certainly one that gets little respect in the Libertarian-heavy /. crowd. However, the real issue is that the whole issue of parenting has become political in a sense that your comment is fairly naive about. The problem in the public eye is not the sensible one that you pointed out (that parents should know, when buying a game for their children, whether there are pixellated boobies in it), it is rather that the big, bad porngraphers...ahem I mean game designers are corrupt

      • Oh please - I use the initials "ASS" every chance I get.

      • What nudity? Hot Coffee does not contain any. What are you talking about?
  • by freshman_a (136603) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @01:24PM (#15628943) Homepage Journal
    1up.com [1up.com] had a little more detail on the "other issues" -

    New York's District Attorney is looking for information covering a number of issues, including knowledge of company officers and directors regarding the Hot Coffee's development and subsequent failure to remove from the shipped game; the game's submission to the ESRB and any admissions to Hot Coffee (or lack thereof, really); disclosures and presentations of acquisitions, partnering arrangements and earnings results; invoices from, payments to, and termination of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and retention of Ernst & Young LLP; acquisitions in 2005; certain compensation and human resources documents; and documents concerning the board of directors and committees.

    If I'm reading that right, I think the Hot Coffee mod should be the least of their worries. The mod may not be a good thing, but the other stuff looks like it has the potential for worse legal repercussions.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      TakeTwo was already delisted once (temporarily) for financial irregularities (misreporting of quarterly financials over a two-year period). The Hot Coffee part of the subpoena is likely just to bring attention to the rest of the grand jury stuff -- the NY DA plays the media like a violin sometimes -- Spitzer for Governor, anyone? There's a reason RB resigned as President & from the Board of Directors of Take-two, to stay on in an advisory role.

      Any conviction, or near-conviction, opens up the possibli
    • earnings results

      There's
      the real reason this is happening, right there. Because of Hot Coffee, the shareholders made less money in dividends that quarter than they thought they would from such a guaranteed mega-hit. In any other environment it would be a case of "you gambled, you lost. Boo fucking hoo." But because Wall Street is involved, Reginald Ffat-Cat and his corporate friends get to call in the lawyers to compensate them for their 'loss' - ie, not making as much profit as they were expecting.
  • Look Deeper (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheRequiem13 (978749) <therequiemNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @01:31PM (#15629019)
    The documents Take Two hands over will have pictures of supreme court judges fornicating on every page, drawn in invisible ink on top of the boring Memos.
    • where one of the judges recently got tagged and is under trial for meddling with a penis pump during trial of actual cases at the bench.

      he may not know pornography, but he'll know what he likes.
    • First I'm sure they will know what is right and that doesn't include using swear words.
      Uncertainty is the last thing their case needs. IANAL but any Lawyer can tell you that.
      Childishness will be the last thing on their mind. Remember this is Puritan America 2006.
      Kind of what would you do if you were in their shoes?
      You sure wouldn't try to hide any silly messages, would you? I sure as hell wouldn't!
      Our courts are not known for their humour (but for being laughed at).
      Understanding that will keep you out of tr
  • Who Knows ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by brufar (926802)
    I highly doubt the Directors or Officers of Take Two said "Gee lets insert some Sex Scenes in the game !!"

    Then again with how hard the programmers are usually pushed for deadlines, when would they have time on their own to insert a "side quest" ?

    • They probably did say "let's add a sex minigame" but then they considered how much that freaks those Americans out so they decided to remove it again.
    • From my experience in the dev world, easter eggs are usually created near the end of the development cycle. This is when you've had an entire team coding like mad for months, then tell all but five (or two) of them to stop as (nearly) all the features are in and a few critical bugs need to be taken care of. The managers are still to busy with the current release to give a new project to the programmers waiting in the wings, and with their boredom they start coding... easter eggs.
  • Timing is everything (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 (953645)
    I'm also sure that this coming within meer months of an election is purely coincidental...nothing like a good porn in otherwise respectable video games story to bring out the best in people.

    Remember, not only do we "Think of the Children"(TM), we remind you early and often!

    (Sure, district attorneys are appointed, but someone's going to pull this out in a commercial plug...)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I spoke with developers of one of the earlier Barbie games and they talked about what incredible drunken fun it was to have access to 3D models of Barbie and her Horse - and indicated that hidden in one of the games in an intresting "scene" (in the bondage sense of the word) that they expect noone will ever find.


    Should they get in trouble too?

    • yes (Score:1, Troll)

      by swschrad (312009)
      the alleged content is totally age-inappropriate and should not be in the consumer package. they can put all the hacksmut they want on the development server hidden deep in the bowels of the office, but if any of it gets out on releases, it should be declared.

      the way to settle this for ever is the ratings outfits to actually review the stuff they shuffle papers over, and employ a few of the 1337 to search for easter eggs... or in this case, perhaps, easter pornos... and if any are found, the product will r
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2006 @02:11PM (#15629508)
    The stupid thing is that the ESRB's M rating is supposed to be equivalent to the MPAA's R rating. The AO rating is supposed to be equivalent to an NC-17 (or worse) rating.

    The Hot Coffee scenes are not NC-17 material, they're R material. There's no wang, there's low quality pixelated boobs, etc. If you've seen any good sex/violence R movies, you've seen worse than Hot Coffee. So either the rating system needs to be addressed or there's a double standard between video games and movies.

    I'm all for Take Two getting in trouble for not removing unused questionable content, however crucifying them for what should be a rerating from M to M is getting out of hand. Of course, the ESRB went with the flow and rerated the game to AO.
    • The problem is that computer games are still seen as an activity for children, despite what the ESA has said [theesa.com] based on their research. Therefore, any violations are judged much more harshly and it's easier for accusations of obscenity find a willing audience. After all, it's all impressionable 13-year olds watching Hot Coffee, not 33 year olds able to handle content that's less racy than what you find on premium cable channels.

      Unfortunately, there's not much to be done to change opinions. We'll have to wa
  • The game had the appropriate rating of "Mature" from the very beginning. The hot coffee mod should not have changed that. Yes, they may have witheld hidden game content from the ESRB, but it was not content that was a) accessible through normal play b) content that would make it an AO game. I'm not a lawyer, but I think rationally. I wish these people would too.
    • I don't see the problem ...

      The real problem here is that Take Two is a publicly traded company.

      http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=TTWO&t=2y&l=on&z= m &q=l&c= [yahoo.com]

      The rules are very different when you have the public finance your business. You are legally obligated to inform investors of risks. With this in mind it is entirely reasonable to investigate whether the scene was an accident or a marketing gimmick.

    • I cannot comprehend how the 'Hot Coffee' mod is even an issue.

      The game allows you to pick up hookers, and then kill them. For this there is no problem, but 'showing' the guy having sex is a problem.
      Of which there is nothing to see anyway.

      I can kind of understand the ERSB having an issue as it is very embarrassing for them and does reflect badly on their processes and procedures. I realize the code shouldn't have been executable, but it still made them look bad.

      It looks to me like someone wants to make sure
  • Is it just me or do other people find it ridiculous that with all the problems going on in the world, that a video game company is being taken to court over a hidden/unfinished and unaccessible (unless hacked) portion of the game that depicts sexual activity between two polygonal objects?

    Not to mention that there was no lawsuit when the rest of the game involves shooting, beating, and killing other people using numerous methods. Rewarding illegal activity and portraying violence with utmost graphical exu

  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:44AM (#15635456)
    Having not seen the cheat in action, I cannot be certain.

    I would guess that the sex game was a full feature for quite a while that was essentially cut do to legal liability. It is very possible that it was cut very late in development. Plenty of games ship with assets on the install disks that are not used by the final product.

    This in turn would mean that the feature probably shows up as a feature in a design document somewhere. Take 2, being the publisher, probably has internal documentation debating keeping or cutting the feature, and quite possible a document that ultimately telling the developers to cut it.

    Being late in development, the hooks to trigger the missions were probably just removed at a script level. And that would result in the possibility of someone restoring a few lines of game script to re-enable the code.

    In any event, I dont see the big deal about this.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • As a former Lead artist (hacking all the way back to 1988), one of our favourite tricks was to write defamatory messages (usually about a producer), using an RGB color value of 001 on a 000 (black) background. No-one ever noticed.

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