The five year long battle between Silicon Knights and Epic Games finally ended today after a North Carolina judge ruled for Epic on all counts, Eurogamer says, and Silicon Knights will have to pay Epic $4.45 million for breaching their license agreement, misappropriating trade secrets, and infringing Epic’s copyrights in their code. Those were probably all done back when Silicon Knights said they were basically rewriting the Unreal 3 engine as their own and telling everyone high and low that Epic was totally using their profits to fund their own games in lieu of developing their engine. Scandalous, right?
The whole fiasco started in the beginning of 2007 when Silicon Knights claimed that Epic Games used the license fees from their engine to fund Gears of War while sabotaging other projects like Too Human and that Epic missed its deadline of delivering a working deadline six months after the final developer kit was released. They also claimed that Epic didn’t provide proper support to its licensees, to the point where they gave out the Gears of War code to all its licensees as damage control.
The case hit a bit of a fun development two weeks ago when Judge James Dever III made the monetary worth of the case $1 after Silicon Knights failed to provide a breakdown of costs in a reasonable amount of time. And now Epic Games human megaphone Mark Rein revealed that the court has ruled in favor of Epic Games but, unfortunately, details aren’t available as of yet.
One discrepancy with the case that has never been entirely clear is why, of all the companies that used the Unreal 3 engine, Silicon Knights was the only one with a major issue that required a court battle to settle. One of the claims they make is that Epic kept the latest version of its engine instead of releasing a finalized version in March 2006 so that Gears of War was the best looking game at that year’s E3, two months later, while Too Human was blasted for looking amateur. The problem with this is that there were other games at that same E3 which looked amazing despite being in the same situation as Too Human. One such title was none other than freakin’ Mass Effect:
How different did that look from the final game? Not very. Another title that ran on the same engine and looked good in 2006? Lost Odyssey.
Now, compare those with what Too Human had to show in 2006:
You’ll notice that there’s barely any AI and the main character seems to be the only one with any animation. Mass Effect and Lost Odyssey somehow made the enemies seem fairly decent and unlike statues so why couldn’t Silicon Knights in Too Human? To be fair, Gears of War blew all of these out the water and barely looked different from the final game but Silicon Knights alleged that Epic Games did this on purpose to drum up press for their game at the cost of their licensees’ games. That’s quite a thing to claim, especially since Silicon Knights would have to actually prove it. And considering the success of Mass Effect and Lost Odyssey, they would be quite hard pressed to do so.
So, really, what was Silicon Knights’ reason for this whole fiasco? Why didn’t anyone else join in on this? Was it just chest-pounding on their part so that they wouldn’t have to admit their faults or are they the only ones with the chutzpah to take on the big kids?