Back in the way back time of 2007 or three Call of Duty’s ago, Silicon Knights (developers of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness, Metal Gear Solid remake and Too Human) filed a suit against Epic Games (Gears of War, Unreal Tournament). Silicon Knights’ original complaint states that it was Epic’s withholding of the full version of their popular Unreal Engine 3 that directly lead to the poor performance, rating and sales of the release of Too Human.
After several years of back and forth, a federal court has decided that this will be going before a jury.
Denis Dyack, president of Silicon Knights issued the following statement to Kotaku:
"Silicon Knights has always wanted to have our focus be on making great games, not litigation. This ruling will allow us to have our day in court, before a jury, and to shine the light publicly on Epic’s conduct."
Frankly, I’ll believe that. There are so few groups out there that WANT this kind of thing to go to a trial and be drawn out even if their wishes are completely granted. This is an on-going process that just ends up creating hate and animosity. Being a large fan of the NFL, I see a similar thing with the owners and players currently wrapped up in a similar mess and the only people who really win in these scenarios are the lawyers.
What helps SK’s lawsuit is the fact that Disney voiced similar claims in 2006:
"demonstrated that other [Unreal Engine] licensees expressed many of the very same frustrations that [Silicon Knights] did about representations made by Epic that were unfulfilled and perceived to be misleading."
Even further evidence was found that "Epic had a possible motive to deceive SK into entering into the License Agreement in order to fund the development costs of its own games and delay the work of SK and other competing licensees on their video games."
Silicon Knights’ case gets even stronger as several witnesses have come forward stating that when SK signed the license agreement, Epic had no dedicated staff supporting the licenses. This "licensee support" was a sub-task assigned to programmers. Programmers were apparently told that "Gears [of War] comes first, so if you have any Gears tasks, drop work in the main branch and finish Gears tasks."
While it looks rather bleak for Epic, they released a statement to Joystiq today to clarify a lot of the issues and rumors that have been floating around:
“On March 24, 2011, the federal court in the lawsuit between Silicon Knights and Epic Games completed its ruling on the parties’ summary judgment motions to dismiss each other’s claims without a trial.
The court entered judgment in favor of Epic on several claims, rejecting Silicon Knights’ claims that it could cancel its license agreement, that Epic interfered with its contractual relationships with publishers, and that Epic has acted unjustly under the license.
The court did not rule on the merits of Silicon Knights’ remaining claims. The court was not permitted to judge the credibility of witnesses or evidence, or otherwise take into account Epic’s opposing evidence, and therefore merely acknowledged that, under the rules of civil procedure, it had to allow a jury to consider both sides’ evidence on the remaining claims.
Allowing those claims to move forward to a jury is not a ruling on their merits. The court simply concluded that the disputed evidence should be heard and resolved by the jury.
In addition, the court had previously rejected Silicon Knights’ motion to summarily dismiss Epic’s claims against it and upheld Epic’s right to present all of its claims to a jury, including claims that Silicon Knights breached its license agreement, stole Epic’s technology and infringed Epic’s copyrights."
While Epic remains confident that it will be fully vindicated at trial, it seems unlikely at this point in time that they will walk away scott-free and even get something out of Silicon Knights. The truth is that this story is FAR from over and one court room battle will only lead to another.