The legal battle between former Fallout property owner Interplay and current caretaker Bethesda is continuing its descent into arguing silly points. The latest development revolves around Bethesda's claim that it only licensed the "Fallout" name itself to Interplay for its Fallout MMO.
Bethesda made this unusual claim in December 2010, saying Interplay had no right to use any of Fallout's setting, characters, or story in Fallout Online, only the name. In a new filing this month, dug up by Gamasutra, Interplay insists Bethesda well aware that Fallout Online was based upon the post-apocalyptic RPG and never objected before.
"For at least four years, Bethesda has known that Interplay interpreted its right to create the Fallout-branded MMOG to include copyrighted content from the Fallout universe in order to make the MMOG a recognizable Fallout game," says the June 23 court filing. "Bethesda never objected and did not seek an injunction because it knew Interplay was doing exactly what the parties intended under their agreements."
Bethesda's claim that Fallout Online would "confuse and confound" players of Fallout 3 due to plot conflicts is turned back around on Bethesda. "This is ironic because Bethesda contends Interplay should have created an entire game of incompatible story, characters, and art and labeled it Fallout only in name," Interplay says.
It certainly is difficult to believe that Bethesda thought the Fallout MMO would be Fallout in name alone. However, ultimately it'll come down to the exact wording of the contracts, which both parties doubtless interpret differently.
Interplay had retained the right to make a Fallout MMO when it licensed, then later sold, the Fallout IP to Bethesda. The MMO agreement required Interplay to enter "full-scale" development with a minimum of $30 million in funding by April 4, 2009. There were also a number of clauses that'd allow Bethesda to vet the game's quality. Bethesda claims that the conditions were not met and so Interplay's license was automatically cancelled, which Interplay naturally contests.
Fallout Online is being developed internally at Interplay in conjunction with Earthrise dev Masthead Studios. Interplay has said that it'll enter public beta testing in 2012, then launch in the second half of 2012. Assuming it survives this legal battle, of course.