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Square Enix Shuts Down Fan-Made Chrono Trigger Sequel 455

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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:41AM (#27919669)

    So I looked at the fan-made sequel... it's a ROM hack. Not that I really have anything against such modifications, they do encourage people to pirate the game (search Google for a ROM, get the game illegally!), especially since hardware to legitimately dump the ROM images are expensive and rare enough that it's unlikely even the mod authors have them.

    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).

    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 )
      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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's illegal to download it no matter what. The only legal way to have a ROM image is if you own a SNES cartridge copying device.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:46AM (#27919687)

    Step 1: Find Copyrighted work
    Step 2: Create derivative work without appropriate agreements/contracts
    Step 3: Get sent cease and deist letter

    Come on guys, wake up. This is someone else's work, you obviously misjudged the company you are dealing with. Why not start something from scratch, so that you don't end up in a situation like this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shikaku ( 1129753 )

      Replace X characters with new Y characters.

      Is it still infringement?

      • It's a ROM hack (Score:5, Informative)

        by tepples ( 727027 ) <.tepples. .at.> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:31AM (#27919931) Homepage Journal

        Replace X characters with new Y characters.

        Is it still infringement?

        Yes. It's a ROM hack, meaning that it uses most of the same computer program as the original game. Putting new characters in a non-free program doesn't make it not a non-free program.

        • I really, really wish they had a way of moving their operations offshore and sending S-E a letter that was nothing more that a large picture of them giving the camera the finger.

          Alas, I doubt they have the funds for such a thing.
        • It's been reverse-engineered. Isn't that supposed to be legal?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tepples ( 727027 )

            It's been reverse-engineered. Isn't that supposed to be legal?

            When reverse engineering a cartridge format was ruled legal (Sega v. Accolade), the end result didn't contain more than a tiny amount of the original work: an init routine of (IIRC) 32 bytes or less. In this case, the copied game program is several orders of magnitude bigger than that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jahava ( 946858 )

      Step 1: Find Copyrighted work Step 2: Create derivative work without appropriate agreements/contracts Step 3: Get sent cease and deist letter

      Come on guys, wake up. This is someone else's work, you obviously misjudged the company you are dealing with. Why not start something from scratch, so that you don't end up in a situation like this.

      This isn't some company stealing IP and creating a franchise. This isn't even a group of people attempting to destroy or dilute Square's market. CT:CE was simply an attempt by fans to continue the (arguably) deceased storyline that they loved.

      Fan bases creating not-for-profit derivative works have created, sustained, and/or resurrected numerous corporate franchises, enough so that there's plenty of precedent of intelligent companies taking note of such behavior, supporting and encouraging it (World of Warcr

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ildon ( 413912 )

        Uh, no one creates original derivative works for WoW (a.k.a. emulated servers) without getting a cease and desist letter. Not only that, but Blizzard recently started taking advantage of what is actually a pretty strict licensing agreement for working on UI mods, such as not allowing them to be sold or allowing them to ask for donations anywhere in-game.

        Further, there's a long detailed history [] of mods for Quake, Unreal, Half-life, etc. that took content, characters, or even just concepts from other works th

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zwei2stein ( 782480 )

      Fishined product would be too obvious show of no "cease and desist" happening, regardless of how anonymous torrent would be.

      As far as last-minute letters go, I think that publishers do not want to cause pointless damage (most such projects never take off so it is pointless to scout for them and send letters asap - that leaves big that of pissed people who now have target to point at "look, our project was great and we had skill and determination to pull it off, but these evil guys stopped us.", same people

    • 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.

    • Re:So well-timed. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:02AM (#27920111)
      What projects should they be going after? The 99% that never actually go anywhere, or the 1% that look like they're going to be finished?
    • Re:So well-timed. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:59AM (#27920607) Homepage Journal

      Conversely, why should a project wait until the last minute to get all the rights and permissions in order to produce a product, free or not, that derives from a company's trademarks and copyrights?

  • Odd decision (Score:2, Insightful)

    I can see that they'd want to make sure they are still driving the storyline in whatever direction they want it to go...on the other hand, given the costs of developing RPGs (in particular), with an obviously interested fanbase who'd buy something like this, it seems like they're missing an opportunity to get together with the people developing this and put it out on the DS or whatever. IIRC, there was a fan-based mod of Half Life which went on to be sold as a standalone game in its own right (can't rememb
  • But of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:18AM (#27919857) Homepage

    ... they only had it shut down because they are developing their own sequel, right?


    No? Yeah, that's what I thought too.

    • Oh, if people are wondering what I mean by that comment, I'm referring to Microsoft's Cease and Desist order [] to the makers of Halogen, an RTS mod that used many of Halo's assets. Halo Wars was announced shortly thereafter, so one can see why the request was made. You have to wonder, however, if Halo Wars was never created, would MS still have ordered it shut down..?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Burkin ( 1534829 )
        Yes, because you aren't allowed to use someone else's non-free assets without their permission.
    • It's not even been a year since they last released a version of Chrono Trigger (which had new content)...

      It's hardly abandonware.

      They're also required to actively protect their trademarks or they risk losing them.

  • 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 hav

    • Unless he personally ripped the rom of chrono trigger he owned. Yes they can. You only have a right to backup copies of stuff you personally own, even if it's identical to something someone else owns. SNES carts also contain protection measures that would be covered by the DMCA (region locking is one universal example)

      You would never get away with the "but hackers..." defence. The onus would be on you to show you were hacked as the fact a file only you owned has appeared on the net already tips the scales w

      • Or they find a willing party in a country that does not care about these laws and give them the files. Then they post on their blog or page that they have deleted all the work, from their computers in accordance to Squares request.

        Fast forward about 6 months, the new party announces that because of project X closing they have started project Y to recreate it by themselves. Fast forward another 6 months they release the same finished IP.

  • A lot of great PC games were even more successful than they otherwise might have been because they opened themselves up to the mod community. It's sad and wrong that a fan-produced work that was to be released for free is seen as a threat to the commercial interests of the original IP creator. It's especially bad that Square/Enix decided to wait until the game was nearly completed before the C&D.

    I'm afraid that ROM hacking of older systems is going to see this sort of C&D treatment with more frequ

    • It's especially bad that Square/Enix decided to wait until the game was nearly completed before the C&D.

      Who says they waited? Perhaps they just (shock horro) weren't aware of it until now. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean they knew about it.

      And maybe it's not all about creative interests and more about the author maintaining control of his creations. I once was an aspiring author (until I realised my prose stinks), and given that every character I write is a reflection of some aspect o

  • It should have been obvious this would happen. A few years back Square shut down a 3D Chrono Trigger remake project.

    Assuming they did not rip off too much, they should just rename the game, characters, locations, redraw the character sprites so they bare no resemblance and then release like that. If they are still not happy and are feeling daring, they can later "leak" a patch which changes everything back to as it was originally intended.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gerglion ( 1264634 )

      Assuming they did not rip off too much, they should just rename the game, characters, locations, redraw the character sprites so they bare no resemblance and then release like that. If they are still not happy and are feeling daring, they can later "leak" a patch which changes everything back to as it was originally intended.

      It was a Chrono Trigger rom hack. Removing all Square-Enix IP would be starting from scratch, thus not really a viable option.

  • 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.
    • Imagine this mod really sucks. People would likely have to play it for a few hours before they'd confirm it (given the nature of RPGs). That would seriously dampen their enthusiam for a new official game.

      Even if it was passable, there'd still be the prospect of over-saturation, where you've played so much CT that you lose interest.

  • by Keyper7 ( 1160079 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:11AM (#27920169)

    ...after all, they did release their own 3D remake of Chrono Trigger after they shut down Chrono Ressurection.... right?

    Oh, yeah, they didn't.

    And we probably won't see a Chrono sequel either. Ever since they simply gave up on the "Chrono Break" trademark, I'm pretty much convinced that the franchise does not interest them anymore. Not enough to work on it beyond releasing ports.

    • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:36AM (#27920393)

      Truth be told Chrono cross sales probaly disappointed, Chrono Cross (spiritual successor to chrono trigger) was not a real sequel and did not feature anyone from the original cast really. Truth be told Chrono Trigger is a classic game how anyone could fuck up a sequel is anyone's guess but square managed to make it too different in many ways, even though it was an alright game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mystra_x64 ( 1108487 )

        Chrono Cross (spiritual successor to chrono trigger)

        It sucks as "spiritual successor" though.

    • Good thing they didn't release a new version of Chrono trigger on the DS with added extras... Right?

      Oh, yeah, they did.

      I think it's almost certain there will be more Chrono in the future. If you don't believe this, you're completely blind to the way the company treats all of its major franchises. They're even doing a full on remake of Final Fantasy Legend 2! They're not a studio with infinite resources and people can only play so many games at once, they have to carefully manage what games they create when.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      When's the last time S-E released a decent game that wasn't a remake or port?

      There current business model seems to be "keep milking old games that sold well once upon a time."

  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Godman ( 767682 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:26AM (#27920305) Homepage Journal

    Where's the torrent?

  • Keeping it secret? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sirroc ( 1157745 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:39AM (#27920435)

    I understand the need for people to show off their hard work. In this case however; they could have easily kept it internal/quiet, until the mod was released.

    Once out in the open C&D letters aren't even worth the time for a lawyer to write them up.

    Will this(among many others) start a trend of keeping these mods/hacks secret to avoid C&D letters?

    Of course in a perfect world SE could have offered them a big fat check for all the new material.

  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> 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 )

      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 - t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JSBiff ( 87824 )

        Ok, I missed something before - I didn't realize this was a modification of the original ROM for Chrono Trigger. All I can say is these game devs are sort of idiots. They should have just built their game from the ground up 'clean' (well, they could have probably used an open source game engine as the basis for it). That way, if Square-Enix decided to stomp on them, they *could* have done what I originally suggested - change a few names, dialog, and maybe a little bit of artwork, and have an essentially ori

  • I have to wonder if silently allowing them to dedicate so much time to the project and then at the very last minute crying foul could have raised estoppel? It probably should.

    Another question on copyright is the idea of a diff. If I distribute a diff to a game, the original game is required to create the derived work by applying the diff. I fail to see where the creator of the original work is deprived in that situation. The mod occurs post-licensing. While it is true that the techniques involved in applyin

  • We love the old franchises we grew up with and we want to see more of the same, but this has been proven again and again to be a legal dead end. Instead of going underground, forcing the people who worked on this into anonymity, and risking litigation, why not just create a new franchise along the same lines as the old one and distribute that? The gaming industry has done it. How many action RPGs are really just Rogue clones? I'm sure fan productions could do the same.
  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:18AM (#27921561) Homepage

    Why doesn't Square Enix hire the developers and license it? If it is 98% complete, and it is decent, then it seems like everybody wins.

  • 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.,8582.msg134196.html#msg134196 []
  • Pride (Score:4, Funny)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:55PM (#27926909)
    My son was partially involved in this (I saw a pdf of the C&D right after they got it).

    The kid is making his old man proud. You're not a true programmer unless you get some letter from some lawyer before you turn 21.

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