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dsmart
Keymaster

SEE THAT GUY ON THE LEFT? HE’S COMING FOR YOUR JPEGS

CRYTEK SUES CIG AND PARENT RSI

After several months of going back and forth, in what was said to be an attempt to hash out an amicable solution, Crytek, the developers CryEngine, says it was left with no option but take legal action against the developers of Star Citizen. The lawsuit was filed on Tue, Dec 12th; and they accepted process of service on Wed, Dec 13th. You can read the full contents at this link. CIG/RSI have 21 days (excluding weekends & holidays) to respond. So we can expect a response on or before Jan 12th, 2018.

Considering the string of shell companies around world, and which are involved in this project, it’s a surprise that they actually found and served on the correct entity.

On a more serious note, Crytek hired one of the top law firms in the US, Skadden. A law firm with so many accolades, that my guess is that Ortwin’s heart probably skipped a beat when he found out who was suing them. Forbes once called them “Wall Street’s Most Powerful Law Firm“. These are the same guys who won a $500M judgement in the Zenimax v Oculus case. They neither take on small cases, nor do they take cases that didn’t have any merits or a chance of them winning.

Anyway, ignoring all the fluff and padding in the complaint, there are two pretty serious allegations in the lawsuit. Those being “IP infringement” and “Breach Of Contract”. Naturally, this being a bunch of incompetent nincompoops, right out of the gate, CIG/RSI gave Crytek what I believe to be Crytek’s first win in the form of their public statement in response to the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the Crytek complaint having been filed in the US District Court. CIG hasn’t used the CryEngine for quite some time since we switched to Amazon’s Lumberyard. This is a meritless lawsuit that we will defend vigorously against, including recovering from Crytek any costs incurred in this matter.”

About two days later, Crytek issued their own statement.

“Crytek is a technology company and intellectual property is its greatest asset. It is unfortunate that this lawsuit had to be brought, but Crytek has been left with no option but to protect its intellectual property in court.”

CHRIS ROBERTS CLAIMS THEY BOUGHT OUT THEIR LICENSE

WE’VE ALL GONE TO THE RAPTURE

As these things go, on Twitter, I wrote my own opinions (1, 2, 3, 4) on why this was a very big problem for CIG/RSI. From my point of view as someone who has negotiated contracts, and also having been involved in cases of both IP infringement and breach of contract, I can specifically point out two things about this, as it relates to the Game License Agreement (GLA):

1) If it prevents CIG/RSI from switching engines – under any circumstance – that’s a material breach.

We as developers switch engines and tools all the time. However, in cases were partnerships, co-operation, co-branding and similar deals are made, it is not unheard of for certain concessions to be made in order to get a deal done. A quid pro quo if you will. e.g. if Nike signs a basketball player to a multi-million Dollar contract, my guess is they’re not going to allow that player to be wearing Reebok apparel in an official capacity. This is why even with the branding you see on race cars, most of those are ads, just like you would find online, while the branding/sponsor of the car or driver, is more prominent.

This would be the circumstance under which CIG/RSI would have been required to use only the CryEngine for the game, while prominently displaying the branding as required. Game engines such as Unity and UnrealEngine, all have similar branding requirements. And for them to get out of that aspect of the contract, they would have had to either executed a mutual termination (one side can rarely terminate such a contract without penalties), or re-negotiated the terms which would then allow them to switch and/or do other things which would otherwise be a violation of the GLA.

2) If it locks them to making only one game, and they decided to make two – that’s a material breach.

No argument can currently be made that Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are a single game. In fact, according to both the Oct 2012 Kickstarter campaign, and the CIG/RSI stretch goals which ended in Nov 2014, for all intent and purposes, SQ42 was a single-player game mode, while the standard multiplayer Star Citizen game later morphed to become an MMO. That was until Feb 2016 when they decided to split them into two separate products; a decision that quickly became public and raised eyebrows.

Currently, the Star Citizen suite includes various modules : Hangar, ArcCorp social, Arena Commander, Star Marine, Persistent Universe. These are all purchased, downloaded and installed at the same time – as a single product – and accessible from a single launcher.

Splitting Squadron 42 into a separate package, is no different from doing the same to Star Marine or Arena Commander for that matter. To further complicate this, for a limited time, you could buy the single Star Citizen starter package for $45, and for an extra $15, get Squadron 42. With that period having ended, you can now only buy SQ42 as a standalone game for $45.

@27:25 CIG EXPLAINS THE STAR CITIZEN – SQUADRON 42 SPLIT

THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE

In my mind, the only solid defense against these two serious allegations, would be if the GLA allowed CIG/RSI to switch engines. If it did, the entire case falls apart, and probably won’t even survive a Motion To Dismiss. If in their response, they don’t file such a motion, then it is safe to assume that the GLA did not explicitly prevent them from switching engines, but that they believe they have an argument (or perhaps a counter-claim) for having done so. It won’t matter. Having a reason for breaching a contract, doesn’t reduce the validity of the contract. To the extent that because Crytek was having their own financial issues a few years ago, some people are saying that it probably prevented them from providing support to CIG/RSI under the contract (which these people btw, haven’t even seen. But whatever), causing them to switch. As hilarious and ludicrous as that sounds, even if it were true, without a mutual termination, such an issue still wouldn’t change the terms of the contract. Furthermore, software licensing contracts do not have any guarantees of performance, nor do they offer any guarantee that they’re going to work for your project.

If the argument becomes an issue of them not actually switching because technically Lumberyard is itself a derivative fork of CryEngine3, that one fails right off the bat because 1) Amazon bought a specific perpetual CryEngine3 license (which obviously allows them to do things like re-brand it, sub-license to third-parties etc) for millions of Dollars back in 2015-16; and their re-branded Lumberyard engine has its own licensing agreement which is completely separate from Crytek’s; thus making it a separate engine from Crytek’s own version 3) CIG/RSI have already claimed publicly that they did in fact “switch engines”; and the Lumberyard branding first appeared in the 2.6 build released in Dec 2016. I wrote a blog about this switch.

I have to mention also that the two most important conditions of using Lumberyard, are that you have to display the Lumberyard logo on the application, as well as not use competing cloud platforms. This is why CIG/RSI replaced the CryEngine logo with Lumberyard, and switched from Google Compute to AWS for their cloud services which run the game. What do you think would happen if CIG/RSI decided to breach the license by violating either of those conditions – while using Lumberyard?

All things considered, when you think about how these conditions are there in the first place, it’s easy to see how certain conditions in the GLA would have imposed the alleged requirements and restrictions on CIG/RSI.

SQUADRON 42 LAUNCH TRAILER (2012)

OF MICE, MEN, AND MONEY

This all boils down to money.

Crytek alleges that they created all the early promo builds (which Chris Roberts was promoting as in-game) of the game, which were then used to promote and propel the game to stardom, while creating and cultivating a cult in the process. What is being glossed over are the implications that this claim has. In essence, Crytek gave up something (they say a cheap license), in exchange for marketing and promotion of their engine. Then CIG/RSI went off and changed the deal. This is no different from downloading free apps, in exchange for watching ads. The ads generate the revenue which then pays for your copy of the app. That’s how that works.

Given all the shenanigans associated with this project, I would like to see them settle the matter out of court, so that CIG/RSI can go on to either fail on their own without the Crytek law suit shadow, or somehow finish and ship something of a “game” that backers dumb enough to still have money in this train wreck, can receive in the end. As I said in a recent live discussion broadcast with GameTalkLive, it’s better to have something, than nothing.

The bigger point here is that if this doesn’t get settled, and it goes through the discovery process, CIG/RSI runs the risk of some serious exposure of not only their business practices, but also how much money they have actually raised (seeing as the general consensus is that the funding chart is bullshit), how it was spent etc. Having changed the Terms Of Service in June 2016, preventing new backers from having financial accountability for the project, this despite the fact that even backers before that change who were entitled to it, still didn’t get it, I don’t see how they can afford to screw around until this gets into discovery. And if it does go that far, the depositions are going to be a lolapocalypse of epic proportions.

SQUADRON 42 TEASER TRAILER (2012)

Settlements come in all forms, how they fashion one is going to be key. Nobody knows for sure if CIG/RSI has cash on hand to settle what, for all intent and purposes is a very huge liability if in fact just one, let alone two, of the Crytek allegations is true. If this was going to be settled for a few hundred thousand Dollars, let alone a few million, my guess is that this wouldn’t have landed in a court room, let alone cause Crytek go out and hire a law firm like Skadden.

While there are many opinions on the merits and the implications of this case, how it could go etc, Robert Marks, a legal researcher with Bien Law, has written his thoughts on the matter.

Until we see the CIG/RSI response to the lawsuit, all we can do now is wait. In the meantime, if this goes far enough, and they don’t settle it, I fully intend on filing an amicus brief with the court, hoping the judge allows it and makes it a part of the record. And I’m going to bury The July Blog in it. In case you were wondering why, read how I got involved in this fiasco.

SQUADRON 42 HAS BEEN PUSHED TO 2019

A few weeks ago, CIG/RSI issued a bulletin that they would also be showing the game during their holiday broadcast (watch on Twitch today @ 3PM ET. UPDATE: This was postponed to tomorrow).

Yesterday, in order to capitalize on The Last Jedi movie currently in theaters, they released a teaser featuring Mark Hamill, exclusively through IGN.

Ignoring the always awesome Mark Hamill, I mean LOOK at this trailer. That’s what $174 million Dollars created. And it uses the same engine and most of the assets from the larger Star Citizen game.

THE SAVIOR OF PC GAMING IS COMING IN 2019

As I wrote on Twitter, not unlike the awful The Morrow Tour (2015) which was the last promotion we saw of the game, this too just looks…well, LOOK at it. Not only is it yet another in-engine cinematic (most game engines used in games such as Call Of Duty, Battlefield etc support this) cutscene sequence that they’re famous for passing off as game play, sources say it is actually a cutscene in the game. It was edited to add cinematic angle perspectives, as well as the awful player’s thought text – neither of which are in the actual game. It’s all fake.

Having spent an entire year screwing around with a badly broken Star Citizen 3.0 build, I have also heard that today’s announcement of the SQ42 schedule – which promises to be as accurate as all the Star Citizen ones before it – says that it is due out by holiday 2018. Which obviously means sometime in 2019  – if ever.

I am getting a few conflicting reports about what they are in fact going to show today in the live stream for SQ42. I am hearing that it’s either another game play trailer cinematic showing a basic combat mission (which hooks into the IGN teaser), or an interactive play through in a test map in which they talk and interact with other NPC units. The latter being The Morrow Tour 2017.

In other words, unlike what you would come to expect from other devs actually playing their WIP games live, these clowns are still pissing around with cinematics which may or may not end up in the game, let alone looking anything like it.

As I’ve heard, in the game, the IGN sequence reportedly taken from chapter 5 called “First Time Out” (yeah, now they’re going to change it. So much for open development), is part of a tutorial (Hamill and the player go to a damaged Starfarer ship in EVA mode) that takes place in first person player pov which shows the player’s visor HUD. This could all be bullshit of course, so take it with a huge helping of sea salt.

SQUADRON 42 TEASER (2015)

I have to mention that earlier this year, I wrote that SQ42 was likely going to be just another game mode like Star Marine, Arena Commander etc. It would make perfect sense, seeing as it uses the Star Citizen game engine and assets like those other modules. While this is not news, apparently it’s how they are going to release it now. Which is why the new SQ42 promo site unveiled yesterday, now shows that it includes Star Marine and Arena Commander – neither of which anyone is actually playing – for the same $45.

So there is it. From the coming soon in 2015, if they survive 2018, by all accounts, SQ42 has now been pushed into 2019. And they haven’t shown a live play through of a SINGLE mission, out of the 60 promised in the campaign.

ps: They’re now selling TANKS. This despite the fact that nowhere in the original 2012 Kickstarter campaign, nor the final 2014 stretch goals, did ground vehicles, let alone tanks, appear. Desperate cash grab doesn’t even begin to explain it.

UPDATE 12/22/17

SQUADRON 42 (2017) – 6 YRS + $174M BROUGHT YOU THIS DERIVATIVE CRAP

So they finally did the stream after the 24hr delay which was rumored to be due to technical difficulties with the game build which prevented certain parts from being played, and thus recorded. As previously leaked, what we saw was just a pre-recorded play through of what they called a vertical slice, and which contained the previously leaked elements I wrote about above.

The whole presentation was such a footnote in this disaster of a project, that I’m not even going to bother writing a new article about it. Instead, you can read my 42 post commentary in this Twitter thread (unrolled, standard).

And aside from Chris Roberts saying that in the new year they are going to start reporting monthly updates for the project, they didn’t release the dev schedule as previously promised. So there’s that.

And so ends YEAR 5 (or 6 if you want) of this project, with neither game anywhere near release, after having raised over $174M to date.

 

YEAH, I’M NOT SO SURE ABOUT THAT CRYTEK GUY