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Microsoft shuts down modders' efforts to break into Russia-only Halo Online (Update)

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Modders bent on opening access to Halo Online, the Russia-only, free-to-play shooter currently in beta, say they won't back down after a week in which Microsoft ordered a mod hosting site to remove Halo Online tools, citing copyright claims.

Halo Online is supposed to be available only in Russia though 343 Industries admitted that users outside of the region could "theoretically" access it after making "region-specific changes to address player expectations." It seems modders were able to make those, and more, after obtaining a copy of Halo Online.

A tool "enabling exploration of the game" then went up on Github, reports TorrentFreak, but it was removed after Microsoft issued a takedown demand. The mod team vows it has enough copies of the game and their tool to keep going anyway. They accuse Halo Online of being a game that could switch from a freemium model to a pay-to-win scenario, justifying the intrusion.

"As someone involved in game development, I'm sympathetic with some developers when it comes to copyright issues," one modder told TorrentFreak. "This is different though, in my opinion."

"We're working to improve people's experience, bring it to those who wouldn't have been able to play it anyway," says another. "I'd see that as a noble cause."

The modders say that their work "aims to deliver exactly what everyone wants. The closest thing to a Halo 3 experience as possible, but on PC."

Update 4/7: Microsoft has commented on the situation through a company representative:

"While we're thrilled there's so much interest outside of Russia, the beta of Halo Online is a PC experience tailored specifically for the tastes, tech and infrastructure of the Russian market and furthermore, is still in an early state. As such, we want to ensure a quality experience for our beta participants within Russia which could be impacted through unauthorized use."

For more on Halo Online, see the video below.