Friday, July 20, 2007

Lawsuit Ahoy!

The Console Post of the Week will be Monday. I have a ton of data points to work in, so I'm going to spend more time writing it than usual.

And in a non-gaming note, I swam today for the first time after surgery two weeks ago. I was only allowed to do 400 yards, but I still really enjoyed getting back in the pool, even though it hurt a bit.

Attention seeker Denis Dyack, founder of Silicon Knights, is now involved in a lawsuit against Epic, creator of the Unreal 3 engine. Here's an excerpt from the complaint (thanks Gamasutra):
The suit initially alleges that: "Rather than provide support to Silicon Knights and Epic’s other many licensees of the Engine, Epic intentionally and wrongfully has used the fees from those licenses to launch its own game to widespread commercial success while simultaneously sabotaging efforts by Silicon Knights and others to develop their own video games."

"Sabotage" is an ugly, ugly word.

In essence, what they're alleging is that Epic used an advanced version of the Unreal 3 engine to develop Gears of War, but purposely withheld this version for months from engine licensees.

Here's another excerpt:
A key point of contention is the E3 demo of Too Human, which was not well received - the suit alleges: "The final development kit for the Xbox 360 was released by Microsoft in early September, 2005, meaning that Epic was obligated to deliver a fully operable version of the Engine to Silicon Knights by no later than March, 2006."

"That delivery date is significant, since compliance by Epic would have given Silicon Knights time to prepare an appropriate demonstration version of its Microsoft Xbox 360 game, Too Human, for the very important industry trade show, E3, two months later in May, 2006."

It continues: "Epic apparently was able to achieve a very useable version of the Engine for the Xbox 360 – the version that it kept to itself, for use only on its Gears of War game (as discussed below), to the detriment of Silicon Knights and Epic’s other licensees, as set forth in more detail below. Epic’s plan to avoid its obligations and hoard all of the necessary functionalities not only harmed Silicon Knights and all of Epic’s other licensees in the industry, but also gave Epic a clearly unfair advantage in the industry."

This guy's starting to sound like Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, demanding the key to the strawberries.

This is the same Denis Dyack, mind you, who already bitterly complained about the E3 evaluation process, claiming that it was unfair to his game, which was greeted with a giant sucking sound.

It is unknown whether Mr. Dyack would have bitterly complained about the evaluation process if his game had been awarded Best In Show.

Here's Dyack's problem right now, though: in the interview where he bitched about E3, he was blaming someone else for something that already gone badly. By suing Epic before his game ships, he's making us all assume that Too Human is about to go badly.

That seems to be a very poor marketing strategy.

Oh, and if you were looking for Too Human this month, don't bother. EB Games now has it listed as a 1/1/2008 release, which is only a placeholder date. That just means the game isn't shipping this fall and no new ship date has been announced.

That's not a bad move, because with the games it was going up against, it was going to get absolutely crushed. Then I guess we'd get a scathing interview with Dyack in which he bitterly complained that the release schedule was unfair.

Having said all that, I'm not saying the lawsuit is without merit--I'm not in position to even comment on that. But Dyack is getting a reputation as a whiner the old-fashioned way--by earning it.

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