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8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision 265

Posted by Soulskill
from the of-doors-and-ways-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Activision, after acquiring Vivendi, became the new copyright holder of the classic King's Quest series of adventure game. They have now issued a cease and desist order to a team which has worked for eight years on a fan-made project initially dubbed a sequel to the last official installment, King's Quest 8. This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission. After the acquisition, key team members had indicated on the game's forums (now stripped of their original content by order of Activision) that Activision had given the indication that it intended to keep its current fan-game licenses, but was not interested in issuing new ones."
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8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision

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  • Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:14AM (#31312400)

    It's good to know who are friends of gamers. Activision clearly isn't among them.

    • Re:Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:45AM (#31312560) Journal

      It's good to know who are friends of gamers. Activision clearly isn't among them.

      With Ubisoft pushing its always-online DRM and Activision doing this and releasing just something along the lines of Guitar Hero 28 and new WoW expansions, it's really surprising EA has become the good and innovative guy. They've dropped DRM in many games too and are developing innovative and new IP games like Mirrors Edge, Mass Effect, Dragon Age..

      • Re:Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eonlabs (921625) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:54AM (#31312600) Journal

        They got the slap on the wrist good and early. They're turning it around. Wonder how much noise it will take to get Activision back into shape.

        Last games by Activision I really enjoyed were Earthworm Jim, Civilization II, and Tony Hawk II (stopped playing the series after that).
        Heck, gotten more use out of a free bottle opener from them than any of these games combined.

        Wonder if they'd be up to push trademarks on this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal_(interactive_novel) [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:Boo (Score:4, Insightful)

          by LBt1st (709520) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:03AM (#31312680)

          I think MechWarrior 2 was the last thing Activision ever did that I cared about. I certainly won't be buying anything from them anytime soon.
          And they'll be crying when this fan made game leaks out accidentally onto the internet and is enjoyed by all and they get absolutely nothing.

          • I thought MW2:Mercenaries was more fun than MW2, although MW2 had the Glide patch so it took advantage of the VooDoo card. In multiplayer both had the problem that each round was 15 minutes of customising your mech, followed by 5-10 minutes of gameplay.

            MW3 was a lot of fun too. I remember creating a light mech with just an ER Large Laser, not heatsinks, no armour, and a massively over-spec'd reactor (with jump jets). It could cover the entire map in about 10 seconds and a head shot from it could take

            • Ah, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. That was a great game. Sadly I never was able to play online because of my connection, but I have lots of happy memories of that game.
        • Re:Boo (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:41AM (#31312902)
          Activision will never shape up, mainly because Bobby Kotick [wikipedia.org] is a ruthless, cut-throat bastard who couldn't care less about the gaming community. His disdain for gamers, the very people who provide his meal ticket, has been exhaustively documented. These guys are the worst of the worst, and have long since lost my patronage.
        • Re:Boo (Score:4, Interesting)

          by telso (924323) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:42AM (#31313202)
          Civ II was MicroProse [wikipedia.org] (ahh, that list takes me back); Activision did Call to Power [wikipedia.org].

          What I remember Activision for was the original MechWarrior game [wikipedia.org]. I had to underclock my 486DX2-66 (still in my (mom's) basement (no, I don't live down there...yet)) to 10 MHz so the "robots" moved at a reasonable speed [abandonia.com]. Of course, when starting at opposite ends of the battlefield, it was much quicker to hit the turbo button and jump back up to 66 MHz till they started firing on you and then slow down again. One run in which the button didn't uncatch, leading to many frantic pushes, resulted in having to sell two Battlemechs just to cover repair costs.

          Gosh, /., couldn't you have run this story during the day, when I didn't need to go to sleep? Ah, well, off to DOSBox.
    • Re:Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:44AM (#31313214) Homepage Journal

      If you think that you have "friends" in the corporate world, you are quite naive. The only friends that corporate executives have, go by names like "Dollar", "Yen", and "Euro".

      The previous owners thought that their "generous" licensing to fan groups might net some money in the long run, the current owners feel that locking things up will make more money. There's the story in a single sentence.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MacGyver2210 (1053110)
      Activision has always been concerned primarily about money from the beginning, and creativity and quality products second.
      It's pretty apparent they could give less of a shit about any of their customers.
      In fact, Activision is only CALLED Activision because they wanted to supercede ATARI on all of the alphabetical listings to drive up sales.
  • by JPLemme (106723) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:16AM (#31312408)
    ...unless you're willing to use it.

    I'm not really familiar with this project, but couldn't they just call Princess Rosella like "Princess Rosetta" and so on? It's not like Activision can lay claim to the entire swords and sorcery genre.
    • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:20AM (#31312426)
      They're not building on it, they had a license. Activision reneged. This is terrible news, AGD is sure to be next on the chopping block, with their fully licensed remake of Quest for Glory 2.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270)

        Sounds like open-and-shut breach of contract, and Activision will get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer.

        • by superbus1929 (1069292) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:11AM (#31312726) Homepage
          But was there an actual contract?

          That's not a rhetorical question. I'm actually wondering if there was, and what it was. This might be rendered null and void due to ownership transferral (as in, Activision owns Vivendi, and now has full, autonomous say over their IPs)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by u38cg (607297)
            If they had a contract, it doesn't just magically vanish because they were bought over. The contract still stands. However, if this licence was awarded with no payment (consideration, for the legal types), it almost certainly isn't a valid contract in law and hence it can be altered or withdrawn at will.
          • by hedwards (940851)
            There may not be, however depending upon the jurisdiction Activision may still be responsible for following through on Vivendi's promises. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know how likely that is, but just because it's not in a contract doesn't necessarily mean that it can't/won't be enforced.

            Note, I'm not sure how things were set up in this case.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Mathinker (909784)

          > Activision will get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer.

          You meant: "Activision may get their asses handed to them if this fan site can find a good lawyer who will agree to work for a contingency fee."

        • They will? From the summary:

          "This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission."

          Sounds me like Activision is simply exercising their right under the license to not approve.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by jonathonjones (844293)
          It's not a breach of contract. The agreement that Activision had with the developers specifically allows either party to back out of it at any time.
      • Which would be amusing, since Quest for Glory had to be renamed (it was originally Hero Quest, in keeping with the other *Quest series) due to trademark infringement against Milton Bradley's Hero Quest boardgame. At least it'll be a thorough re-creation.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The central problem is that under the negotiated terms Activision has an unconditional termination right. There's a lesson here: don't put serious amounts of time and effort in something when a third party can simply nix it at will, no matter how friendly that third party appears today.
        Either get your paperwork sorted out in advance, so that you have a contract that clearly states the terms of publication and doesn't contain termination clauses like this, or don't make a fan game, but come up with something

  • Was it in writing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zalas (682627) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:18AM (#31312414) Homepage

    This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission.

    So, did they actually get this in writing, with a contract signed by both sides? Would such a contract survive an acquisition?

    • by mysidia (191772) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:38AM (#31312516)

      That last bit about "Subject to approval" is a loophole... all Activision has to do is reject the final product, always find something wrong with it to deny approval.

      Sort of like gets done with iPhn Appstor

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373)

        "it's better than anything we can produce"

      • by tomtomtom (580791)
        It's not uncommon to including wording along the lines of "(which consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed)" into such agreements. But even if they have that kind of wording, it's not an easy legal challenge and it will still depend on having the ability and resources to go to court over it.
  • by Tokerat (150341) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:19AM (#31312424) Journal

    ...they should lose it. Are they still actively marketing this game? Do they still sell it? Is there a new version in the works? IP really needs to have a "use-it-or-lose-it" clause.

    • by msclrhd (1211086) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:43AM (#31312546)

      Set a limit of 10 years or similar, after which if there are no new games (and even films) then the universe/characters enter into the public domain like is done for copyright.

      This gives enough time for a company to continue a series, and allows fans of franchises that have not seen activity by a company free reign.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sopssa (1498795) *

        That's kind of a good idea, but 10 years is too short time, especially now that we've starting to see a lot more re-releases and ports to current generation PC's and consoles of old games. Copyrights last a lot longer too. Losing control over IP is even more serious than over copyright of a single product. Losing the whole IP to the public domain means some idiots can seriously ruin the image of it.

        Also, the idea of limiting control over IP goes directly against the reason why we actually have copyright law

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sopssa (1498795) *

          To give an example for ruining the image and name - Do you really want 100 crappy games with Civilization or Baldur's Gate name slapped on it which have nothing to do with the original games or authors? Everyone would just try to cash in with the past good name and flood the market with shit games and decrease the general image of whole series, original games too.

        • by BenoitRen (998927) on Monday March 01, 2010 @05:29AM (#31313458)

          That's kind of a good idea, but 10 years is too short time, especially now that we've starting to see a lot more re-releases and ports to current generation PC's and consoles of old games.

          10 years is actually a long time in gaming. That's two generations.

          Yes, we're seeing lots of re-releases and ports. Do you really want to pay for the same game over and over? I still own the cartridges to many older video games. It doesn't make sense to me to have to buy them again to be able to play them legally on, say, my Wii.

    • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:58AM (#31312634)
      You know what, I actually agree... There should be a limit. This was why the original copyright was for only a few years in the USA. While that original limit might be a little short, for some things I believe that there should be additional limits, especially for things like video games. Unless you are actively selling or have documented intentions (with writers, designers, and coders) actively working on the game, it should be opened up to allow the public to continue. I would say 10 years without being able to purchase or use the game on active consoles/hardware would be sufficient. Just look back on video game history and you would see that is probably a very legitimate timeframe which gives plenty of opportunity for the owners of the IP to keep their IP. The wording might have to be worked on and rules ironed out, because we would not want, say ID releasing "DOOM! Sudoku" to count for the FPS DOOM! franchise. Games that still have a large followings would definitely stay active. You would also see more old games get updated ports to new consoles and systems if/when it makes economic sense. There would be lots more Retro Remixes like "Bionic Commando Rearmed". We would see game franchises like Tie Fighter, Wingcommander, and even Mechwarrior continue (well, in the case of Mechwarrior, looks like its 7 year exile (and more of bastardization) under the hands of Microsoft is near its end).
    • by SharpFang (651121)

      Wait... Isn't there a clause of "loss due to lack of use" on trademarks?
      Same as "loss due to lack of protection", I'm pretty sure a trademark can be lost due to lack of release of any actual product covered under it.
      (of course if Activision still sells original Kings' Quest, as some collector's edition or such, this is no-case, but if the product line is shut down for more than a few years, I'm pretty sure the trademark is lost... there is no such thing as "domain-squatting" for trademarks. I'm just not sur

    • Further reason why I think companies should have to pay property tax on their IP. When someone tries to buy the IP, companies should either be forced to sell, or increase the value, and 10% of that value should be going to the USPTO every year on tax day. I think this would work if IP was not allowed to decline in value, and if the upkeep was not paid, then the IP becomes unregulated by the US government.

    • by mxs (42717)

      King's Quest got released on gog.com recently, so it is still being sold (or rather, again being sold).

      http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/king [gog.com]'s_quest_4_5_6

      IMHO this is good news, even though it kills the "if they don't use it" argument dead. I have left quite a bit of money at gog.com (no DRM on any of their games, compatibility fixes, decent support, etc.) and was quite surprised that Activision would open their back catalogue to them at all.

  • by werdnapk (706357) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:21AM (#31312438)
    Wouldn't some of these fan made games get people interested in some of the originals again? You get enough people into a forgotten series who start asking for more and in turn the rights holder makes a new game of their own in the end with a healthy profit hopefully. Yes, I know... big business doesn't understand this type of thing.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:35AM (#31312504)

      Activision may be worried about cannibalizing their anticipated back catalog sales with the recently announced GOG.com deal. The Kings Quest games are in the process of being re-released on GOG.com. Kings Quest 4+5+6 went up for sale less than a week ago. http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/king’s_quest_4_5_6

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Well shit, just buy the fan made sequel for pennies and roll it into the "ultimate Kings Quest Pack -- now with free, updated content!". Good will towards the community, plus a lot more (good) press in general for the pack.

  • I remember a time when Activision made their own games, a personal favorite: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was one of them. Is it really inevitable that developers that turn into publishers become malicious to the gamers and to other developers? Hopefully such publishers (and larger developers) will go way of EA, that they deserve, I just hope that all the developers I have come to love don't go down these dark roads. Right now is really bad time for the gaming industry. Almost a dark age if you will.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I remember a time when Activision made their own games, a personal favorite: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 was one of them.

      Huh? I was playing Kaboom, Pitfall! and Laser Blast just yesterday and was going to check out Chopper Command tomorrow ... where did that game suddenly pop up from?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by CompassIIDX (1522813)
      The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were always developed by Neversoft. Neversoft was acquired by Activision in 1999.
    • by sopssa (1498795) *

      Actually now is really good time for gaming industry. There has been a lot more innovation and new kind of games and polishing than ever before. Portal, Internet co-op games like Left4Dead and Borderlands, the rise of roleplaying games again like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Fallout 3.. The upcoming Civilization V game will also change to hexes the first time in the series. Multiplayer shooter games like MW2 and Bad Company 2 have roleplaying, levels and class building elements in them. The popularity of Intern

  • by the_bard17 (626642) <theluckyone17@gmail.com> on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:39AM (#31312518)

    One more gaming company to avoid. EA sucks because of the way they treat their programmers, not to mention milking every last drop out of each year's sports games. Ubisoft just announced draconian DRM. Now Activision is acting like a spoiled kid. They keep this up, and they can cry all they want to about pirates, lost sales, and stolen IP.

    They still won't be getting any of my money.

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:09AM (#31312716) Homepage

      Ya, no shit. There are plenty of other hobbies to pursue in life. I've already dropped music collecting/purchasing and now perhaps gaming too if this keeps up. I refuse to reward bad behavior.

      • by jjohnson (62583)

        Your comment is funny since your homepage link goes to Microsoft's homepage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        I've already dropped music collecting/purchasing

        The RIAA has got you to stop buying ALL music? Then they won, because they're not concerned with your copying their work, their concern is keeping music they don't control out of your ears.

        I buy a lot of music, just not from the major labels.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      Add Atari (if they still exist) to the list, they have done some scummy things too.

      • Do you mean actual Atari? Or Infogrames after they bought up the trademark?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jonwil (467024)

          I mean the current owner of the Atari name.

          The #1 reason I HATE Atari right now is the crap they pulled when they took the new Ghostbusters game and sold the rights for Europe/Australia to Sony and the game became limited-time-PlayStation-exclusive. Its that reason I refuse to buy any product that says Atari on it. I also refuse to buy any games or gaming hardware that says Sony on it for this and other reasons.

  • Incorrect Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by BinaryOpty (736955) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:43AM (#31312542)
    Vivendi acquired Activision [nytimes.com], not the other way around.
  • Easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Spit (23158) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:52AM (#31312582)

    Just call it "DERP QUEST" and change the names.

  • This is going to generate a lot of bad press for Activision. More than just gamers deciding not to buy their games, Game developers aren't going to want to do business with a company that pulls the rug out from under people. It's a small world out there.

  • by JAlexoi (1085785) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:52AM (#31312586) Homepage
    A) Fix the summary. Because it's Vivendi that acquired Activision, not the other way around.The first sentence should say: "Activision, after being acquired Vivendi,..."(or something similar)
    B) With KQ in mind, what the summary should say, is "Activision, having become a parent company of Sierra,..."
    C) Since Vivendi is still the owner of Activision (Vivendi owns ActivisionBizzard and ActivisionBlizzard owns Activision) there should not be any talks about changes of ownership. They may shuffle around their IP, but it's still owned by Vivendi.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmauro (32523)

      Even if Activision was bought by Vivendi it's which leadership is in charge after the merger. In this case Vivendi games leadership was replaced by Activisions so even though it was "bought", Activision effectively "took over" Vivendi's gaming division. It happens quite often really when the parent conglomerate likes how the bought company does business more than the already aquired company does business.

  • this is serious bullshit. ive been a modder for years now and i know about fair use. the companies that hold the rights of the games i work on LOVE modding as it increases sales and replay value. Activision you are showing your corporate decay.

    • This isn't a mod, though. By changing an existing product, modders typically don't distribute material that infringes upon existing intellectual property (theoretically, at least: I know this isn't always true in practice).

      TSL was an entirely new project, built using a new engine, and prominently featuring Sierra IP. In order to release it, the team would have had to release offending IP by definition, and so it's a different kettle of fish. However, given that the team already had a non-commercial license

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:04AM (#31312686)

    They could have simply paid the team a bit of money to get it finished, and then offer them to do the distribution. Something like that.
    Which would basically resulted in free money from the work of others (for the service of distribution).

    But nooo...
    Idiots.

  • by Shandalar (1152907) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:23AM (#31312798)
    Activision did not acquire Vivendi. The merged company retained the ATVI stock listing, and Bobby Kotick is running the company, true; but VU got more board seats than Activision. If anything, VU bought Activision.
    • IANAL, but as I understand it there's not much difference between a merger and an acquisition. Properly speaking, a merger happens when when company acquires another. There's a commonly accepted practical difference that has to do with what the company looks like after the acquisition, but that's all.

      When a publisher purchases a studio and keeps it more or less intact and removed, that's considered an acquisition. Similarly so when a company is purchased and essentially broken down for spare parts/intellect

  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Meneth (872868) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:33AM (#31313134)
    They worked at it for 8 years, and now they just lay down and quit? Have these people NO self-respect?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:47AM (#31313232)

    "Set a limit of 10 years or similar, after which if there are no new games (and even films) then the universe/characters enter into the public domain like is done for copyright.

    This gives enough time for a company to continue a series, and allows fans of franchises that have not seen activity by a company free reign."

    Come on, somebody make a Duke Nukem joke.

  • by elblanco (132993) on Monday March 01, 2010 @07:27AM (#31313966)

    Would that really be that much work? Call it's "Royal Adventure" or some such....change the character names, and be done with it. There's nothing that prevents them from making a Sierra "like" adventure game. I've always been mystified when some fan group works for years to build a game and gives up over a C&D because they are obviously violating the IP of the holder. Don't drop the project! Just change the particulars!

  • A quick search for a torrent (http://www.google.com/search?q=King's+Quest+Silver+Lining+filetype:torrent [google.com]) yields nothing! All of the official KQ games are out there, but not this one. How can I independently evaluate the quality of the game, and thus the depth of Activision's transgression, if I can't find a torrent?

  • Vaporware (Score:3, Insightful)

    by samsmithnz (702471) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:00AM (#31314584) Homepage
    8 Years without a final product?? Sounds like Vaporware to me.
  • I recall mid 90's when Fox was trying to shut down every X-Files fan page, and Lucas wanted to shut down every Star Wars fan page. They felt they were copyright infringement. What they didn't realize is that fan hype is free marketing. It only increases the value of your intellectual property.

    An IP owner needs to protect their trademark, but they can issue a fan license to cover that.

    This isn't just mean, it is bad business sense.

    And while we're talking about old game properties that should be resurrected with a fan game, Commander Keen anyone?

  • I'll never forgive them for what they did to the Interstate '76 franchise.

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