NCsoft trying to block Tera launch, alleging theft of trade secrets

A May launch was announced for MMORPG Tera earlier this month, but NCsoft is hoping to stop that outright. The publisher alleges that NCsoft employees who went on to found developer Bluehole Studio built the game upon "looted" ideas, and, having fought a similar battle in South Korea, wants to block its release in North America. Bluehole's founders had been working on a third entry in NCsoft's grindathon MMO series Lineage. The publisher alleges in the lawsuit (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun) that, when they left, they made off with "copious amounts of proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware and artwork related to Lineage 3." Ideas NCsoft claims Tera lifts from Lineage 3 including the world layout ("four continents surrounding a central island"), similar designs for the player races (especially its raccoon men), an "action combat" system (both the name and ideas), the politics system, and "propietary" Unreal Engine 3 customisations "which NCsoft invested substantial resources to develop." This isn't the first time NCsoft has accused Bluehole of ripping off Lineage 3. The publisher prosecuted its former employees in South Korea, and in 2009 they were convicted for stealing trade secrets, NCsoft says. While its claims for damages were reversed (which NCsoft is still protesting in court), an injunction forbidding Bluehole from using the ideas in future held.

An item of NCsoft's evidence, comparing L3 and Tera's races

Back to the present, NCsoft says, "Bluehole, continuing its competitive war against its rival, has now threatened to open a new and potentially enormous front, namely, the United States." Having scrutinized Tera's Korean version and had a good gander at the US edition, NCsoft says it's "evident" that the stolen ideas are still being used. NCsoft would suffer "immediate and irreparable harm" were Tera to launch in North America, the publisher insists. "The marketing materials already released by the Defendants for the US market reveal that they are aiming directly at NCsoft customer base - and are doing so by emphasizing the very game features they stole from NCsoft. Once lost, that customer base would be extraordinarily difficult to replace." As well as blocking the North American launch, Tera wants damages and legal fees in cash money from Bluehole and its self-publishing arm En Masse Entertainment. The response from En Masse senior community manager Evan Berman is simple: "It's our policy not to comment on legal matters." To court we go!