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Square Enix Shuts Down Fan-Made Chrono Trigger Sequel 455

Posted by Soulskill
from the suspicious-timing dept.
KIllagouge writes "Just days before the release of Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, SquareEnix sent a Cease & Desist letter to Chrono Compendium to stop everything to do with Crimson Echoes. People might remember when they did this with Chrono Resurrection. Seems to be the growing trend; instead of listening to their fans, which would net them even more money, game developers continue to lock down old gaming IP. A copy of the C&D letter is available online." The fan project had been in development since 2004 and was 98% complete.
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Square Enix Shuts Down Fan-Made Chrono Trigger Sequel

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  • by mark_hill97 (897586) <masterofshadowsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:49AM (#27919699)
    If you can't make money off a product so popular that people want to invest 5 years of thier lives to make sequels and give it away then you are doing something seriously wrong. The production of the sequels indicates large demand, yet no supply.
  • by Shikaku (1129753) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:51AM (#27919709)

    Replace X characters with new Y characters.

    Is it still infringement?

  • So well-timed. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:03AM (#27919781)

    It always seems the "IP"-holder sends a cease and desist letter when the project is nearly done, almost like they want to cause as much pain as possible to the people trying to remake something.

    What frustrates me most is that these projects then aren't worked on to completion and then simply distributed by anonymous torrents, working for several years on something and then getting cut off at the last minute is simply a dick move.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:34AM (#27919957)

    By the by, S-E, how's that mumorpurger of yours going?

    Seven years now and it's still rocking...

    Vana'dielian Population Tops Two Million! (22/04/2009)

    It is our distinct pleasure to announce that during the third week of April, the total number of active characters across all worlds in FINAL FANTASY XI has exceeded the two million mark for the first time!
    Since the commencement of service on May 16th, 2002, Vana'diel has gone on to become a vibrant gathering place for adventurers hailing from all corners of the globe. Boasting four expansions and one add-on scenario with two more in the pipes, FINAL FANTASY XI continues to evolve into an ever richer realm of magic and adventure.

    Not bad from the development team responsible for making Chrono Cross really.

  • by loufoque (1400831) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:45AM (#27920029)

    They request that all work and copies be deleted.

    As far as I know, copyright law doesn't prevent me from doing what I want with the copies I own as far as I don't redistribute it.

    Also, they could just say their computers were hacked by some anonymous person that put the file on peer-to-peer websites, hence it can be distributed illegally without them officially doing so.

    All that remains is the DMCA that forced them to shut down their website because they explained how to "circumvent" copyright.
    They just have to choose a web hosting in a country that doesn't have that kind of stupid law and problem solved.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:46AM (#27920033)

    Or maybe they really did just find out about it. I'm an avid gamer and identify as a 'core gamer' and 'RPG fanatic', yet I'd never heard of this project or group. Is it really that hard to believe they hadn't heard about it either?

    Don't forget that the longer a project has existed, and the closer it gets to completion, the more noise is made about it. Fans start talking more, devs start showing it off, etc, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:04AM (#27920121)
    Why not? It's not the physical thing that counts it's the license, right?
  • It does make sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by psnyder (1326089) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:10AM (#27920163)
    I began to write a rather angry email to Square Enix after reading the articles. However, halfway through, I realized where they might be coming from.

    They have a DS version of Chrono Trigger that was first released at the end of 2008, and is still fairly "new" around the world. If people download the original ROM in order to hack it, or through CT:Crimson Echoes find out that they can easily play CT for free, the DS version might lose those potential sales.

    Personally, I think the value of free advertisement and brand recognition that CT:CE would have given Square Enix would outweigh this. I also believe those people who buy the DS version do so for other reasons, such as portability. But I do see where Square Enix is coming from, and why they chose to stop the project now.
  • by N1AK (864906) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:19AM (#27920237) Homepage

    So basically, his question makes a lot of sense.

    No it doesn't. Practically no company tries to be everything to everyone and for good reason. When a company is looking to expand its customer base it will focus its effort on a couple customer demographics that it believes make sense (safe bet is people who haven't even heard of S-E, but are willing to boycott them over this isn't one of them).

  • Re:Sadism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jsnipy (913480) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:32AM (#27920351) Journal
    You see this in patent lawsuits also. The supposed owner of a technology will not sue until the supposed infringemer has proven that there is a market or has revenues which can be seized through litigation.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:45AM (#27920491) Homepage
    Last time I checked, Final Fantasy was turn based. Although I haven't played anything since FF VII. Although I've seen VIII. What stopped me from playing was the 2 minute cut scenes for every single attack. But that's another conversation. Also Chrono Trigger, at least as I played it, wasn't strictly turned based. There was actually 2 modes. One which was turn based, and one that was more interactive, in that you couldn't just sit there for 2 minutes thinking of your next move, or the bad guys would attack you a bunch of times.
  • by sam_handelman (519767) <.skh2003. .at. .columbia.edu.> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:46AM (#27920505) Homepage Journal
    Develop the game anonymously using an svn server in the Philippines or something, and then distribute it by BT. Avoid using real names and addresses for all concerned.

      Then, let the bastards stew. They can send C&D letters to the entire population of Western Europe, what does it get them?

      I can't believe that they spent all that effort developing this game and didn't do so in a way that would let them, at the least, try to stay undetectable.
  • Much easier solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JSBiff (87824) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:40AM (#27921043) Journal

    You know, if the game is 98% done, and S-E doesn't want their 'precious' IP violated, the game developers have a very easy solution - change the name of the game, the name of the character, modify the dialog slightly so it doesn't use the copyrighted character names, and if there are any art assets which are very obviously the same as artwork in any of the Chrono Trigger games, modify the artwork enough that it's 'original', then release. I mean, really, Square-Enix can't stop them from releasing a game - they can only stop them from releasing a game which incorporates Square Enix's copyrights.

    Really, just release the game without using any of the Chrono Trigger names, characters, or artwork. Yes, that will delay the release of the game and add more work - but not *that much* additional work. It should be easy enough to make the game original.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Heian-794 (834234) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:13AM (#27921497) Homepage

    The timing of this does indeed make Square Enix look just about as callous as they could possibly look.

    This is only a personal anecdote -- get enough of them and maybe you can call them data -- but back when they were still Squaresoft, they weren't like this. As an intermediate-level student of Japanese in college, I translated a large amount of dialogue and other material for games of theirs that never got any release outside Japan, and put the stuff on my web site. When Square found out about it, they invited me to interview with them, paying what was to me an insane amount of money to get me to their offices and meet the staff.

    I didn't get chosen to be a translator -- and there's no shame at all in losing out to the genius that is Alexander O. Smith -- but it was a great thrill for an ordinary undergraduate like myself, and at no time did they ever issue any stern warnings about putting my translations into ROMs, or selling anything I'd created; they were interested in what my abilities could do for them, not in stamping out the creative force of their fans.

    I'm surprised -- well, maybe not anymore -- that these modders didn't get better treatment from the game maker that they so admire, and that the significant abilities they demonstrated in making this hack were, it seems, totally ignored. Instead, the Big Corporation sat on its hands for five years watching these fans work their magic, then dropped the hammer, giving them five days to unconditionally surrender to their demands. And without even the courtesy of putting an individual person in position to answer possible questions and arguments from the Compendium! No, SE just left a generic phone number, and no name, at the bottom of a legally-binding letter. They couldn't have been more insulting if they'd tried.

    I'm still a little unclear about how the North American branch of SE is involved in this -- the game was made by Squaresoft in Japan, and the only thing added to it by the North American team is the translation, none of which, obviously, is being used in a fan-made game with a totally new script. The copyrighted material that's being "borrowed" was made in Japan, where doujin material is a standard part of game/manga fandom. I know things are looking bleak for the Compendium, but I wonder if an appeal to Square Enix KK (Japan) might save the project. The way things are now, it certainly couldn't hurt.

  • by ildon (413912) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:38AM (#27921891)

    It creates anticipation for the next title. Just look at Starcraft 2/Diablo 3/almost anything Blizzard has ever done.

  • by DrYak (748999) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:58AM (#27922227) Homepage

    Square Enix has quite a legitimate case here and I understand it much better than if they shut down a project making a game from scratch (eg, a typical PC game).

    I don't know well this peculiar ROM hack. But from the length of development time for the project and from the description (Same cast going into completely new adventures), I'm under the impression that they have almost completely redone a new game, creating new characters, writing new dialogues, etc...

    Their only problem seems that they slapped all these new assets on the original engine as found in the ROM - the code and the sprites of the original cast are maybe the only thing left.

    Given all the work already poured into the project, they could try to keep only the newly created assets.

    Perhaps, if the ROM hack is as big as the delay and the information on the website let us think, it won't be that much complicated to remove the latest bit that tie the game to Square Enyx franchise :
    - change the trademarked names
    - create new sprites for the main cast
    - use another engine. Preferably an open source one which is provably free of any S.E. content and can be audited. There are lots of open-source turn-based RPG engine. Given the popularity of Chrono Trigger, probably a couple of them can be configured to be close to that game's mechanics.

    This will probably add another 2 years of development. But if this time S.E.'s lawyers clearly state what exactly caused the C&D letter and to what extent modification need to be made to make the project IP-law compliant, then the past 4-5 years that went into developing this will still give a result that the fan community will be able to enjoy.

  • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:13AM (#27922483) Homepage

    Seems to be the growing trend; instead of listening to their fans, which would net them even more money, game developers continue to lock down old gaming IP

    There is no proof that listening to their fans would net them more money, especially since those fans are creating their own games and not necessarily buying the real product.

    It's almost the same argument as the filesharing canard that says that companies need to either give away their music for free or face going out of business.

    Actually, in this case, there's plenty of proof that you can stick the word "Chrono" on just about anything and it will sell like hotcakes.

    Take a look on eBay... Original copies of Chrono Trigger sell for absurd amounts.

    The game sold tons of copies on its first run... Tons more when it was ported to the Playstation... Tons more when it was ported to the DS...

    People even bought Chrono Cross, which was a horrible game, just because it was vaguely related to Chrono Trigger.

    Fans are literally begging for an official sequel. If one was available it would be purchased without hesitation. Folks would be all over it. There is, in this case, no "real product" to buy - Square-Enix won't produce it. So the fans are creating their own.

  • Hoax? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samtheman15 (1061296) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:34AM (#27922763)
    It seems that the cease and desist letter may have been a hoax.
    http://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php/topic,8582.msg134196.html#msg134196 [romhacking.net]
  • Re:Patch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lena_10326 (1100441) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:37AM (#27922811) Homepage

    And square would argue distributing a patch counts as distributing a derived work.

    How would that work when the patch differences are original creations? A derived work must contain some element from the original, and these patch files would not contain such. The patch files alone in a vaccuum, would be copyrighted by their respective authors, which in this case are the mod developers.

    Patch modifications are legally sold everywhere for all sorts of products. If I wrote a set of instructions for how to turn your NES console into an x86 PC, I'm not violating your copyright because my instructions constitute an original piece of work. http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Nintendo-NES-PC/ [instructables.com]

    I think the real issue here is how these mod developers went about announcing their work. They were loud and proud. Big mistake. Going by their page, they made it very confusing as to what they were distributing and who owns what and what's official and what's not. The liberal use of Square Enix trademarks was also a bad idea. Posting trailer videos on Youtube with title lines blurring ownership was an even worse idea. A boring link to a boring file share to a boring ASCII patch file named "CE.2009.patch" on a boring fan message board would have been the way to go.

    These guys got slapped with a C&D because they were conducting business like kids jumping in a puddle splattering mud all over the place. Square Enix was forced to assert their non-association with these guys as well as continue to assert their ownership. The way I see it, they had no choice.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:05PM (#27923187)

    No, I'm arguing that just because something was popular and still has some fans doesn't automaticly mean that it'll make money today.

    And P.S. chief, my younger siblings cut their teeth on Combat catridges [atariage.com], so save the "oh you just aren't old enough to appreciate it" crap. I've been around long enough to see this story more than once, especially in the video game arena.

    Can you make money on a revival product for a old favorite? Hell yes. Is it a sure thing? Fuck no. And stop pretending it is simply because you want it to be.

    Fans != sure money.

    Jumping into a project "just because they fans demand it" is stupid thing to do. Start a project when you have something to put into it, not just to milk it for the last dregs of money you can. And a fan mod isn't "something to put into it".

  • by Koiu Lpoi (632570) <koiulpoi.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:36PM (#27925485)
    So, question, if anyone knows the answer: I own a working cart of Chrono Trigger for the Super Famicom. Am I therefore "allowed" to download an image of the same game from the internet and use these rom patches to theoretically play this? Or is obtaining a copy from somebody else of what I already own illegal?

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