Brad Wardell of Stardock is making legal trouble for the original creators of Star Control (settled)

Herr Starr

Member
Oct 26, 2017
313
Norway
I'm 100% on Fred and Paul's side but hasn't the idea of gameplay elements like that already been shown to be something you can't copyright, going back to the IK+ lawsuit in the 80s?
Don't focus on "elements." This is about a whole bunch of things coming together to form a copyright breach, including graphical style and the existence and role of specific alien races and terminology. If you focus on the individual elements, you won't see the forest for all the trees. That's exactly the point F&P are making with their post. The entire post is dedicated to answering your question.
 

Jackie Chan

Member
Oct 27, 2017
886
TBH the main people that really lose in this scenario is us, because I doubt Fred and Paul are going to be able to make their game after all is said and done unfortunately. I will admit I only started getting into SC after Origin's announcement, but having now played both SC2 and Origins I think Origins is a good spiritual successor to the game.

I really wish they could work it out and both make the games they want, because honestly I think there's room for both to coexist on the market. For the record I definitely blame Stardock for starting all this shit, as I doubt Fred and Paul would have acted if Stardock weren't the aggressors.
 

Frump

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,925
Don't focus on "elements." This is about a whole bunch of things coming together to form a copyright breach, including graphical style and the existence and role of specific alien races and terminology. If you focus on the individual elements, you won't see the forest for all the trees. That's exactly the point F&P are making with their post. The entire post is dedicated to answering your question.
I understand what they're saying practically but legally, isn't it already established caselaw that this stuff isn't something you can copyright? I guess I'm wondering how games that clearly copied the viewpoint and layout and gameplay from Doom back in the 90s weren't violating copyright stuff then? Or am I misunderstanding something and the fact that it's tied to the name Star Control change the law around it?
 

Herr Starr

Member
Oct 26, 2017
313
Norway
I understand what they're saying practically but legally, isn't it already established caselaw that this stuff isn't something you can copyright? I guess I'm wondering how games that clearly copied the viewpoint and layout and gameplay from Doom back in the 90s weren't violating copyright stuff then? Or am I misunderstanding something and the fact that it's tied to the name Star Control change the law around it?
I'm not familiar with the exact case you're referring to, but I doubt anyone was copying anything other than the basic gameplay loop of Doom. It would likely have turned out very differently if an FPS at the time was about an demon invasion of a space outpost and featured big, red balls of teeth and eyes that shot glowing plasma at the player. That's the point here, and again, I urge you to read F&P's post, where they explain this in detail. The gameplay mechanics are a mere part of the larger picture here. The vast majority of the points in the chart they made are about presentation and lore, not merely about gameplay mechanics.
 

Frump

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,925
I'm not familiar with the exact case you're referring to, but I doubt anyone was copying anything other than the basic gameplay loop of Doom. It would likely have turned out very differently if an FPS at the time was about an demon invasion of a space outpost and featured big, red balls of teeth and eyes that shot glowing plasma at the player. That's the point here, and again, I urge you to read F&P's post, where they explain this in detail. The gameplay mechanics are a mere part of the larger picture here. The vast majority of the points in the chart they made are about presentation and lore, not merely about gameplay mechanics.
Re-reading it, it does seem a little clearer with what their argument is, especially with specifics like TrueSpace and the Vindicator.
 

Jackie Chan

Member
Oct 27, 2017
886
Based on... what, exactly? Have you seen any indication that they are less interested in working on their sequel, or are you just making things up?
Based on the fact that this is going to be an extended legal battle, and Toys for Bob is not exactly the biggest studio. Maybe if Activision was fully backing their legal fight I'd believe it might actually see the light of day, but the studio isn't in the position to do something risky like starting serious dev work on a game that they might not be able to release in the foreseeable future without giving ammunition to their legal opposition. Just like how Stardock can get hamstrung by a DMCA request based on SC:O conflicting with SC2, Stardock also has some legal entitlements here that could seriously hamper Fred and Paul from releasing their game.

Also this is me just assuming that TFB will handle development. If this is a new studio Fred and Paul were planning on starting up it's even less likely.
 

GibdoInferno

Member
May 24, 2018
748
Look at Tetris Holding, LLC v. Xio Interactive, Inc. That was a case where The Tetris Company successfully sued the makers of a Tetris clone over the "look and feel" of Tetris. Xio's defense was that they didn't copy elements of Tetris that they considered protected by copyright: no music, graphics, etc. The court ruled that the mechanical and presentation elements that they did copy were in fact protected creative expression: things like the shape of the pieces, the dimensions of the play field, displaying upcoming pieces and "ghost" pieces that show where a piece will land, and pieces changing color when they land. The way IP law is today in the US, it's absolutely possible for Fred and Paul to win a "look and feel" suit with arguments like that hyperspace comparison.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
From Paul and Fred's latest update:
So, why do we contend that Star Control: Origins is substantially similar to and/or derivative of our copyrighted game, Star Control II? Besides the evidence of infringement identified in our most recent filings with the court, let’s compare the expression in a very limited part of the gameplay — interstellar travel. One would presume that Stardock would either make entirely new gameplay for Origins or base it upon the original parts of SC3. Let’s check that out…


Also, holy shit this quote from Reddit:
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
Funny thing is, SC3 is the only SC game I've finished (I know, I haven't finished SC2/UQM, but I'm rectifying that currently... on my Vita!) and I literally don't remember any of those points. Mind you, that was when it was released.

I think I still have the box somewhere... maybe.
 

Adree

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,557
Funny thing is, SC3 is the only SC game I've finished (I know, I haven't finished SC2/UQM, but I'm rectifying that currently... on my Vita!) and I literally don't remember any of those points. Mind you, that was when it was released.

I think I still have the box somewhere... maybe.
Even as a 16 year old after loving the 3DO version of Star Control 2 so much I saw what they were doing with 3 and that Paul & Ford weren't working on it and never even looked for it discounted.
 

The Orz

Member
Dec 5, 2017
220
Even as a 16 year old after loving the 3DO version of Star Control 2 so much I saw what they were doing with 3 and that Paul & Ford weren't working on it and never even looked for it discounted.
Aw, it's not that bad. I mean, the MIDI soundtrack is an obvious downgrade, the ship combat is weird, and the story does terrible things with Orz and Arilou...and the Ur-Quan. And the story kind of goes off the rails towards the end. And then there's the whole Precursors de-evolving into giant cows. And the puppets. Oh man, the Syreen...

Huh, I forgot where I was going with this.
 

zer0das

Member
Nov 20, 2017
1,993
TBH the main people that really lose in this scenario is us, because I doubt Fred and Paul are going to be able to make their game after all is said and done unfortunately. I will admit I only started getting into SC after Origin's announcement, but having now played both SC2 and Origins I think Origins is a good spiritual successor to the game.
They updated Star Control 2 and released it for free as the Ur-Quan Masters in 2002 and updated it as recently as 2011. The original game was published in 1992. I don't really think you have the right to judge their timeline or what qualifies as a good spiritual successor when your entry point wasn't their game. Most people would have never experienced Star Control 2 if they didn't release it for free nearly a decade later. I would rather have an absolutely amazing game come from them in 2030 than have someone else rip their ideas off and try to cash in on their work. Particularly when Wardell tried to bully them into paying him 225k, tried to force them to not work on games in the genre for 5 years, and surrender all their rights to the games. I remember being shocked when news of that settlement offer came out. It was ludicrous, Star Control: Origins in its present form should have never been made.
 

Jackie Chan

Member
Oct 27, 2017
886
They updated Star Control 2 and released it for free as the Ur-Quan Masters in 2002 and updated it as recently as 2011. The original game was published in 1992. I don't really think you have the right to judge their timeline or what qualifies as a good spiritual successor when your entry point wasn't their game. Most people would have never experienced Star Control 2 if they didn't release it for free nearly a decade later. I would rather have an absolutely amazing game come from them in 2030 than have someone else rip their ideas off and try to cash in on their work. Particularly when Wardell tried to bully them into paying him 225k, tried to force them to not work on games in the genre for 5 years, and surrender all their rights to the games. I remember being shocked when news of that settlement offer came out. It was ludicrous, Star Control: Origins in its present form should have never been made.
I played Ur Quan Masters first right after the E3 trailer for Origins and loved it, so it was my first experience. I also have no doubt they would have made a kick-ass sequel down the road had all this legal mess not gotten in the way. But I also think Origins is a lot more than a cheap cash in on the series name. TBH even with the rerelease SC2 was a very niche game to cash in on, and Wardwell aside Origins felt like it had a lot of heart behind it in the writing.

I side with Fred and Paul and think they're genuinely awesome. Stardock has been far more antagonistic all along, and in no world are they not the bad guys. But I also think continuing escalation just increases the likelihood that neither series will continue. My win-win is the same as Fred and Paul's was, and I wish both games could exist as I think there's plenty of room for both series. In the end I just like space games, and it really sucks that there really looks like there's no amicable way to end this anymore.
 
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Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
Even as a 16 year old after loving the 3DO version of Star Control 2 so much I saw what they were doing with 3 and that Paul & Ford weren't working on it and never even looked for it discounted.
Yeah, at that point I never had a way of buying SC2 and my only experience of it was the music (my friends and I were heavily into swapping .mod files in high school).

I also didn't know anything at all about the story of SC2, I'd only played SC1 so didn't realise how bad 3 was :/
 

HyGogg

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
2,495
Reading through some of the paperwork on this suit, and it might be the single most boneheaded attempt at legal maneuvering I have ever seen. Wardell fuck himself over at every single opportunity and basically forces a situation where SCO has to be taken down.

So first, Brad spends years attempting to purchase a license for copyrighted material from SC1 and 2, and repeatedly acknowledges that copyright publicly and privately.

After growing frustrated with Fred and Paul's refusal to offer said license, he then decides he already owns it based on a contract that expired in 2001, 12 years before he owned the rights to anything. This does not appear to be based on anything other than the fact that Wardell wishes it to be so.

He then files a lawsuit against Fred and Paul asserting this copyright that he clearly does not have. Fred and Paul offer a settlement that would allow Stardock to make their game as long as they steer clear of classic SC IP. Brad rejects the settlement and declares his intent to incorporate said IP onto SCO, essentially putting his product in the crosshairs as a copyright violation pending the outcome of the suit, for no fucking reason.

This essentially forces Fred and Paul to issue DMCA takedowns to defend their rights, as defending one's IP when contested is an important part of IP law. Brad files for a motion to prevent this during litigation but is denied for all of the aforementioned reasons of his own damn making.

After this he throws a pit party for himself claiming that SCO is just a spiritual successor and doesn't contain any classic SC IP, completely ignoring that hei the one who insisted it did in a goddamn court of law, and that he is the Plaintiff in this lawsuit not the defnedant.

The whole thing is just delusional and psychotic. I've never seen anything like it.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
Kind of apologies for the bump, but I just noticed this tweet in response to P&F's latest blog update:



I wonder if we could see a potential TJ&E cameo/easter egg in GotP? I think they'd fit into that universe cameo-wise fairly easily.

Moreso than a Tesla, at least :/
 

rawhide

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,904
Greg tried to crowdfund a new Starflight (and I think it failed, but I honestly don't remember), that'd probably be a more natural crossover candidate.
 

tuxfool

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,747
Well, shit. What are Valve thinking? Bowing down to the pressure of that little tyrant isn't a good look at all...
He was the one that withdrew the game in the first place. He can put it back. AFAIK only the DLC was subject to a takedown. The base game was only taken off as part of his tantrum.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
He was the one that withdrew the game in the first place. He can put it back. AFAIK only the DLC was subject to a takedown. The base game was only taken off as part of his tantrum.
What? No. Steam took it down as part of the DMCA from Paul and Fred.

Edit: I don't know what that restored notice means, but I can't see it on the storefront.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
He's tweeting that it's back up
Hmm. Weird that I couldn't see it on Steam. At least on the mobile app.

Fake edit: It's up when I check my PC. Weird.

Now let's watch those sales climb back up! lols

Actual edit: I wonder if F&P are somehow allowing this in return for Wardell just backing the fuck away from GotP and never mentioning F&P again.

Edit #2:

For what it's worth, the "#freestarcontrol" hashtag has been used less than 20 times on Twitter. And that's including Wardell's use of it (which accounts for about half).
 
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Adree

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,557
Hmm. Weird that I couldn't see it on Steam. At least on the mobile app.

Fake edit: It's up when I check my PC. Weird.

Now let's watch those sales climb back up! lols

Actual edit: I wonder if F&P are somehow allowing this in return for Wardell just backing the fuck away from GotP and never mentioning F&P again.

Edit #2:

For what it's worth, the "#freestarcontrol" hashtag has been used less than 20 times on Twitter. And that's including Wardell's use of it (which accounts for about half).
But did you check Gab?
 

HyGogg

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
2,495
Kind of apologies for the bump, but I just noticed this tweet in response to P&F's latest blog update:



I wonder if we could see a potential TJ&E cameo/easter egg in GotP? I think they'd fit into that universe cameo-wise fairly easily.

Moreso than a Tesla, at least :/
I'd guess this has more to do with Starflight, or perhaps even Humannature collabing on Ghosts.

Starflight's crowdfunding was unsuccessful (though it did get a good bit of interest), and there's a close history between SF and SC.
 

HyGogg

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
2,495
Well, shit. What are Valve thinking? Bowing down to the pressure of that little tyrant isn't a good look at all...
Did they patch out anything? Honestly if they took out references to races and lore, any music that is reused, etc, they'd have a reasonably decent case that they're in bounds. It started off as a "spiritual successor" and then had more explicitly infringing stuff tacked on when Wardell decided he magically held the SC 1&2 copyrights. Removing that stuff shouldn't be that hard.
 

zer0das

Member
Nov 20, 2017
1,993
Going to laugh when Wardell ends up getting a harsher judgement because he's trying to get around an injunction. There's no way he tried to clear this legally.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
SC:O is back on both Steam and GOG:

Important to note:

More discussion of this latest update on /r/starcontrol

PS. Also note the quality of the picture they used for the hyperspace comparison:


Compared to one I found when googling "star control 2 hyperspace" and opening the third image result:
 

The Orz

Member
Dec 5, 2017
220
SC:O is back on both Steam and GOG:

Important to note:

More discussion of this latest update on /r/starcontrol

PS. Also note the quality of the picture they used for the hyperspace comparison:


Compared to one I found when googling "star control 2 hyperspace" and opening the third image result:
The only thing that would make Wardell's whiny little tweet better is if he screamed WITCH HUNT at the end of it.

And the heavily compressed JPEG screenshot is petty but we should really be more considerate of Wardell's feelings. I mean, we're talking about a victim of DMCA abuse here. That sort of trauma lasts, pfft, years. ;_;
 

The Orz

Member
Dec 5, 2017
220
Polygon's take on the return of Origins. Interesting stuff, especially if you're a fan of barely researched articles with very little background and bizarre comparisons.

Really, there's not much to it. Just irks me to see Wardell painted as a victim.
 

xylo

Member
Oct 27, 2017
70
That polygon article was pretty bad. Looks like the author did zero research as to the timeline of events, any investigation into the claims of DMCA being rejected by Valve/GoG, or if Valve/GoG are the one that actually took it down for safe harbor (especially when Brad himself said he was going to take it down.)

Pretty much bad a article all around.
 

Thores

Member
Oct 25, 2017
373
Polygon's take on the return of Origins. Interesting stuff, especially if you're a fan of barely researched articles with very little background and bizarre comparisons.

Really, there's not much to it. Just irks me to see Wardell painted as a victim.
Yeah, this kind of gives me a "Brad submitted this story to Polygon himself" vibe. Not as in he's the one who wrote it, but he's the one who brought the "injustice" to the site's attention.

Has anyone tried contacting Polygon directly? To say that sincerely defending Brad Wardell is out of character for them would be putting it quite mildly ; I don't think they'd have published this if they had the whole story.
 
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spman2099

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,908
What is Polygon thinking? This seems like a really bad take from them. Moreover, it seems really incongruous with the majority of what they produce. Bad look, Polygon.
 

Shaneus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,382
The problem with articles on a case like this is that the party that is open to sharing information will always get more coverage, even when legally it's best for them to keep quiet. But such is the hubris and ego of Wardell, there'll rarely be level coverage if the reporter isn't intimately familiar with the subject and backstory. Purely because there's more (mis)information available from one side than the other.

Really don't think being this public will play they way he thinks. At least, judging by the comments left on that article... and it hasn't even been mentioned on the subreddit.