[Column] Bluehole Studio Doesn’t Have A Moral (or Legal) Leg To Stand On

Bluehole Studios this week decided to release a press release stating that it is considering “further action” against Epic Games over the Battle Royale mode recently added to Fortnite. According to the release, Bluehole is concerned over similarities between the two games, and how Epic uses Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds in conversations with the community and press in comparison to Fortnite.

“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG’s development as they are the creators of UE4, the engine we licensed for the game. After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.”

As someone who has been following actual cases for years, I’ll give this as simply as I know how: Bluehole Studio doesn’t have a leg to stand on, either legally in court or morally in the court of public opinion. And since PUBG is running on Epic’s Unreal Engine, any action taken by the former against the latter would accomplish little more than a self-inflicted gunshot to the leg, just ask Silicon Knights how that worked out.

So let’s take this piece by piece.

1. (Legal) Bluehole Studios Doesn’t Own The Mechanic

You can’t copyright game mechanics, it is not within the purview of United States and UK law, and the EU has not weighed in on the matter yet. It is, however, possible to protect your game mechanics through trademark, however the process is extremely time and resource intensive, and I can say by simply pulling up a list of patents owned by Bluehole (a list of one) that they do not own the patent for a Battle Royale game mechanic. In short, Bluehole Studios has no legal standing because they don’t own the concept. Neither does Brendan Greene.

For legal precedent, we can look at exactly the kind of company devious enough to patent a game mechanic, and of course I am talking about Namco Ltd. Back in the 90’s, Namco patented the concept of having a mini-game that can be played during a game’s loading screen. The patent didn’t actually have the chance to be legitimized in court, as Namco never used it to sue another developer, and it expired in 2015. There are heavy doubts as to whether or not Namco would have won such a lawsuit, but the threat was enough to keep some developers from taking the risk.

Namco’s patent very likely would have failed because patent law stipulates that your patented item can’t have existed, and there are verifiable records of games with mini-game loading screens existing before Namco patented the idea in Ridge Racer. Likewise, the existence of numerous Battle Royale style games ensures that, even if Bluehole decided to head over to the patent office and absorb that cost, that they would ultimately fail in their attempt at ownership.

2. (Moral) That Time Bluehole Tried to Steal Lineage III

Out of the two parties involved in this dispute, incidentally Bluehole is the one most acquainted with criminal theft, a matter that MMO Fallout covered heavily back in its infancy. Back in 2009, civil and criminal charges were brought against multiple Bluehole Studios employees alleging that they had stolen trade secrets and assets while employed at NCSoft and used those assets in creating the action MMO Tera. Six employees were found guilty, with jail sentences being handed out as part of the criminal proceedings, however Bluehole as a corporate entity was found to not be guilty. Those employees, as you might expect, haven’t been working at Bluehole since then.

But still, there is a certain level of hypocrisy for a company with an established record of employees going to jail for stealing from another developer, to start pointing figures and making threats, over a mechanic that it doesn’t own, against other developers. Bluehole didn’t start the genre, even if it does have the most popular game in it as of present, and it doesn’t own the genre. If Bluehole does take the threat further, they open themselves up to a world of hurt from Epic’s legal team. Let’s not forget what happened to the last developer that tried to take Epic down in a frivolous lawsuit.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter.

In Plain English: Epic Sues Paragon Cheat Maker


Epic Games has launched a lawsuit against German gamer Robin Kreibich under allegations that the defendant violated copyright by selling cheat software for their upcoming MOBA game, Paragon. The program, known as SystemCheats, claims to be the most powerful hack for Paragon and sells as a monthly subscription for approximately $10/month.

The hack promises to give players perfect aiming with “smooth aim” to make their movement seem more natural and presumably less likely for manual detection. According to the creator, the hack is “fully undetected” and can be used with no risk for being banned. Evidently that immunity hasn’t protected Kreibich from court, but the more intrepid viewers might be wondering why a German citizen is being sued in a US district court in California by a game developer based in Maryland. The answer involves some legal wrangling.

Epic Games issued a takedown of Kreibich’s Youtube videos demonstrating how the hack works. When a person files a counter-notice to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown, by Youtube’s own terms of service they consent that any legal matters will be taken care of in Youtube’s judicial district.

It also helps Epic Games that the lawsuit be held in California’s northern district court. Back in 2013, Blizzard won its lawsuit against Ceiling Fan Software simply under the breach of contract charge. The courts agreed that the cheat software was sold with the knowledge that it would breach the contract between World of Warcraft and its users, and the court awarded $7 million in damages and an injunction against Ceiling Fan Software from selling, developing, licensing, or allowing others to use their bot software.

Epic Games is demanding a trial by jury, as well as unspecified damages including reimbursement of their own legal fees.

More coverage to come.

(Source: Scribd)

Less Than Massive: The Cost of Theft


Silicon Knights is something of a hated company here at MMO Fallout. Those of you who have followed the developer likely know that Silicon Knights licensed the Unreal Engine to develop their games, and back in 2007 launched a lawsuit against Epic alleging that the latter was unable to provide them with a finished development kit in a timely manner, instead choosing to funnel its money into the development of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament. In the lawsuit, Silicon Knights noted that they were forced to develop their own engine to prevent even further delays of Too Human.

Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that Silicon Knights had stolen chunks of the Unreal engine to create their own system, a wholesale copy and paste that even included developer comments and typographical errors present in Unreal. According to one report, 20% of the Unreal Engine was found in the Silicon Knights engine. Epic Games countersued, during which Silicon Knights actively attempted to cover up their actions, and the courts awarded them $9.2 million in damages. Silicon Knights appealed the ruling, however a judge has struck down that appeal. Denis Dyack, former President of Silicon Knights, went on to Precursor Games, the latter of which disbanded last September after a failed Kickstarter campaign for its game Shadow of the Eternals.

On the other hand, if you do have a copy of any of Silicon Knights’ games, hold on to them. Unsold copies of the games that used portions of stolen Unreal code, including Too Human, were destroyed as part of the lawsuit, meaning any remaining copies are sure to be worth something, especially if you find them still wrapped.

(Source: Eurogamer)

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