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Silicon Knights vs. Epic Games goes to federal jury

The legal dispute between Silicon Knights and Epic Games has been fairly quiet since subpoenas were issued in 2008. Now we may see it rumbling...

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The legal dispute between Silicon Knights and Epic Games has been fairly quiet since subpoenas were issued in 2008. Now things have started rumbling again, thanks to recent court action that allows the Too Human developer to present its case before a federal jury.

Kotaku reports that a federal court has granted Silicon Knights the ability to present many of its allegations against Epic Games to a federal jury. Those include fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of warranty. The court did dismiss some claims, including intentional interference and unjust enrichment.

Essentially, Silicon Knights claims that Epic failed to support the Unreal Engine during development of Too Human, causing "considerable losses." The suit claims that Epic withheld a better version of the engine, and used licensing fees to fund the development of Gears of War, rather than improve the Unreal Engine.

On top of that, the court found a "possible motive" for Epic to have deceived Silicon Knights to cover its own game development costs, and points out that Epic's own counter-claim admits that it developed Unreal Engine 3 alongside Gears of War, rather than separately as Silicon Knights had been led to believe.

Epic also allegedly promised a dedicated support staff for the Unreal engine. Silicon Knights claims that Epic promised they would split the teams into two groups: developers of Epic's own games, and an Unreal support staff. Instead, various internal e-mails from Epic seem to imply that the development staff pulled double-duty as licensee support staff.

Silicon Knights also cited a letter from Buena Vista Games, expressing similar concerns in 2006.

"Silicon Knights has always wanted to have our focus be on making great games, not litigation," said president Denis Dyack, in a statement. "This ruling will allow us to have our day in court, before a jury, and to shine the light publicly on Epic's conduct. We are very confident the jury will see the truth behind Epic's actions."

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 31, 2011 4:15 PM

    Comment on Silicon Knights vs. Epic Games goes to federal jury, by Steve Watts.

    • reply
      March 31, 2011 4:36 PM

      Too Human 2, give it to me!

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        March 31, 2011 5:06 PM

        i second that.

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        April 1, 2011 8:22 AM

        Yeah, that game got a lot of shit but I enjoyed the heck out of it. I put about 60 hours or so into it.

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        April 1, 2011 8:29 AM

        Yes please.

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        April 1, 2011 8:30 AM

        This, I have been waiting.

        Suppose to be a three chapter game, where is 2 and 3 :(

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        April 1, 2011 8:33 AM

        Me too. On my face please.

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        April 1, 2011 8:35 AM

        Only if it takes 10 years to come out.

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      March 31, 2011 5:15 PM

      If Epic does lose this, MS will just pick up the tab for their bottom bitch.

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        March 31, 2011 11:26 PM

        If Epic loses this, Epic's going to be in a world of hurt from other developers who also had their game delayed by this deception. If in fact they promised to have their own division of labor so that one team was working on UE and one team was working on their games. If that promise was made and was in the contract or is provable and if the money can be proved to go toward Gears of War instead of UE and IF there was an agreement that the two things should have been kept separate...

        You'll have every developer/publisher who had a game that was delayed (some of them massively) because of this breach of contract getting in line for their own golden ticket with the promise of cash inside the Chocolate Factory.

        Lemme shake mah Magic 8-ball. Shake, shake. It says, "Gonna settle out of court." That'll protect Epic from having a precedent set that would open the door to floods of others demanding the same.

        Rather than pay for the tab, I imagine MS would just buy Epic out if push came to shove. Then again, if I were EA or Activision, I'd be eyeing Epic in a scenario where they were about to get reamed by dozens of lawsuits. They have a few good franchises, though most are rather dusty, and having access to future Gears of War games would be a great boon for a multiplatform third party. Toss in Chair and People Can Fly, could be a great deal at clearance prices...

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      March 31, 2011 5:23 PM

      Worth a repost: Midway didn't do itself any favors by heavily using Unreal Engine 3 in the years leading up to its demise:

      http://weblogs.variety.com/the_cut_scene/2008/11/midway-what-wen.html
      http://www.shacknews.com/article/55983/unreal-engine-3-fingered-in

      "The mistake we made was, instead of just taking the base Unreal 3 engine that 'Gears of War' was made on and building games off of that, we let our tech and product development guys try to really modify the engine to add all these diff things," one ex-employee told me. "It was a ton of new technology which they just weren’t capable of doing. It put all the games way behind schedule."

      Even though Midway invested millions in building a common tech base for all its studios, apparently they all had to adapt UE3 for each project, which meant they couldn't share resources in a timely manner, so none of the promised benefits materialized. Making the code work for PS3 was particularly hard, sources said, and so games just weren't coming out. Look at the first half of 2007, when all Midway shipped was "Lord of the Rings Online" for Turbine, or the first half of this year, when all it shipped was "Unreal Tournament III" for Epic.

      Combine that with Midway's relatively weak cash position, as former Chief Marketing Officer Steve Allison explained, and it was a recipe for disaster.

      "The delays of next-gen titles pushed them into a window where money became very tight for the company," said Allison, who's now CMO for TNA Wrestling, for which Midway makes licensed games. "When that happens decision-making can become focused around not always what is best for each title, but how to fix cash flow issues. This is a spiral of doom in videogame publishing because you can't ship compromised titles against the exceptional quality level of competition that is on the shelves."


      Sumner Redstone later sold off his stake in Midway for $100K ( http://www.shacknews.com/article/56160/midway-sold-for-100000 ), and they went bankrupt in February 2009 ( http://www.shacknews.com/article/57213/midway-files-for-bankruptcy ).

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      March 31, 2011 7:13 PM

      I like both series of games (if TH2 ever makes it) and hope that the truth gets told. I must say though, it's looking worse for Epic at the moment than for Silicon Knights.

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      March 31, 2011 7:16 PM

      money. screws everything up.

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        March 31, 2011 10:25 PM

        That's what it all boils down to...

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        April 1, 2011 5:42 AM

        And makes everything all better. Go figure!

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      March 31, 2011 7:25 PM

      Did you guys play Too Human. It wasn't that good. How could anyone want a sequel? Though I will root for them in this.

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        March 31, 2011 10:53 PM

        A sequel? I just want the second half of the fucking game.

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        April 1, 2011 1:10 AM

        I had fun with it so I would not complain about a sequel that did things better.

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        April 1, 2011 5:17 AM

        Fix the death scenes that seemingly last forever. At least allow the overly dramatic scene to be skipped. Aside from that, it was "fine". Having big long death scenes really kills its replayability - especially when the game is meant to be played over and over again. This is a game design flaw that has nothing to do with the game engine.

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          April 1, 2011 8:34 AM

          Yeah, that stupid death scene drove me crazy after a while. I don't understand why it was not skippable.. my only guess was that it must have been covering up loading going on in the background or something?

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        April 1, 2011 5:54 AM

        I had fun with it, especially once the combat clicked.

        There are definitely ways it could be improved, but there are enough good things that I'd like to see a sequel.

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      March 31, 2011 7:40 PM

      I also wonder if this situation is part of why Id is only allowing Bethesda-published developers to license Id Tech 5. Not just a case of having to have a dedicated engine support team, but also with having a licensee who gets in over their head with a young engine, and then decides to pull a Silicon Knights.

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        March 31, 2011 11:20 PM

        The reason id isn't licensing idtech 5 is the same reason people didn't license idtech 4 in droves: because no one wanted it.

        So id pulled a Cartman and threw their hands up and exclaimed, "Screw you guys. I'm going hoooome!"

        Nothing more, nothing less. If there was money to be made from flocks of developers wanting to get in on that idtech 5 action, then it would have happened. Few wanted in because they're already entrenched in the Unreal Engine process. Moving from UE to UE is a lot easier than moving from UE to idtech. Id made bad choices in their engine at a very key period of transition from last generation to this generation and by the time Carmack had megatexture streaming whatsit in place, most developers had moved over to UE.

        Given that UE is more or less keeping pace with id, what reason is there to possibly transition while we remain in this current gen? No reason at all.

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          April 1, 2011 5:52 AM

          That's because Carmack was building rockets.

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      March 31, 2011 9:16 PM

      Thats not Id's choice to do so its Bethesda, they are the owners of all of the tech now.