"Can you love a game so much you must take its sequel?" asks Ars Technica, posting an excerpt from the new book "Death By Video Game
: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline."
At 6am on May 7, 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schonau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers bearing automatic weapons... "You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation's network, stealing the video game Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the Internet, and causing damages in excess of $250 million... Get dressed..." The corridors were lined by police, squeezed into his father's house...
Gembe had tried creating homegrown keystroke-recorders specifically targeted at Valve, according to the book, but then poking around their servers he'd discovered one which wasn't firewalled from the internal network. Gembe spent several weeks discovering notes and design documents, until eventually he stumbled onto the latest version of the unreleased game's source code. He'd never meant for the code to be leaked onto the internet -- but he did share it with another person who did. ("I didn't think it through. The person I shared the source with assured me he would keep it to himself. He didn't...")
Eventually Gembe contacted Valve, apologized, and asked them for a job -- which led to a fake 40-minute job interview designed to gather enough evidence to arrest him. But ultimately a judge sentenced him to two years probation -- and Half-Life 2 went on to sell 8.6 million copies.