Circuitously Fortuitous: Interplay Nabs Freespace IP

By Nathan Grayson on June 7th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

Remember the days before Volition exclusively made (admittedly marvelous) games about superpowered crimelords/US Presidents dubstep gunning virtual reality aliens? Those were very different times. For one, we didn’t have smartphones or Facebook or music players we have to actively worry about ingesting or anything like that, but mainly that era saw the Saints Row’s developer craft some of the finest space combat sims in all the ‘verse. Unfortunately, Freespace and Freespace 2 couldn’t out-dogfight the then-mighty retail mothership, and the Interplay-published series crashed and burned. But here’s the fun part: Via Volition, Freespace ended up at THQ, who’s now sold it back to… Interplay.

Yes, Interplay, the company who’s only slightly more existent than THQ at this point. The publisher sealed the deal with a cool-as-an-airless-vacuum sum of $7500, which is a disturbingly small amount of my total yearly rent. If I moved someplace else, could own Freespace. Right now. I will carry this regret to my deathbed.

In recent years, Interplay’s kept itself busy by battling with Bethesda over the rights to a Fallout MMO and attempting to crowdfund a resurrected Black Isle… with hardly any of its original talent or franchises. They’ve been pin-drop silent since the end of last year.

So, is Freespace in good hands? Who knows. Perhaps Interplay’s assembled some kind of old-school game development uber-team, though a near-comical plague of financial issues says it’s not likely. Maybe we’ll find out, er, someday? Here’s hoping, but I’m not holding my breath.

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67 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge FriendlyFire says:

    I’ll be the first to say, fuck you Interplay. The only places the IP should’ve gone to are Volition or the Hard Light people.

    • Captain Hijinx says:

      Yeh, not happy about this at all. Really wish Volition could make another and finish the story they started.

      • mikmanner says:

        So I wonder why Volition didn’t buy it for such a small price?

        • FakeAssName says:

          This news, in the context that most places are reporting it as, is misleading; Interplay owned the IP & Publishing rights but Volition owned the development rights.

          when THQ bought Volition they only got the part that Volition owned, however THQ had a policy of not letting their developers work on someone else’s product …. at the same time THQ didn’t put in an effort to buy the rights from Interplay (probably because they were trying to wait out Interplay’s collapse so they could get it on the cheap).

          no one else bought the development rights because without the IP & Publishing rights no one could do shit with it; this is probably just THQ flat out giving it to Interplay because it was worthless to everyone else, & that $7.5k was probably just the lawyer fees for doing the paperwork.

          • SuicideKing says:

            Thanks for clearing this up a bit, i was confused as fuck, because as far as i knew Interplay already owned the rights.

          • Yglorba says:

            I suppose in one respect that makes this good news, in that while those rights were held by different people, nobody had any chance of making a sequel. Of course, it doesn’t seem like Interplay is likely to, either, but maybe someone decent will buy the rights when Interplay inevitably folds.

    • FakeAssName says:

      you do know that there is virtually no one at Volition anymore who worked on Freespace; even the founder / CEO of Volition retired years ago.

      hard light is nice, and probably could do great things with it, but hard light is a fan site dedicated to modding instead of an actual company, so who would actually get the rights and how would anything produced by them NOT turn into a total cluster fuck as a billion freelance modders would come out of the wood work looking for compensation.

      besides, I predict that Interplay has allready been talking with them about putting together a real development studio to work on it …

      • Premium User Badge FriendlyFire says:

        You’re saying this like Interplay can do it better. It’s very obvious, considering the state of the company, that they can’t.

        Just like how Relic shares very few people with the Homeworld days yet still produces great RTS games, I’m fairly sure Volition would manage to make a great new space sim if given the chance.

      • SuicideKing says:

        That’s incorrect, i’ve checked, the original staff that worked on it is mostly there, including the project lead and all.

        So Interplay can’t do shit with this unless they have Volition on board, because honestly, i don’t believe anyone else should be allowed to continue the story.

        Even Hard Light won’t accept any FreeSpace as canon without Volition being behind it.

  2. hemmingjay says:

    An even moderately competent group could garner $2Million in Kickstarter which would be enough to get the development off the ground and persuade real investors to drop the other 10million needed. However, I’m not convinced that Interplay can round up said group of competent folks.

  3. Premium User Badge Aerothorn says:

    Yeah, what the hell? For that price Hard Light could have easily raised the money.

    • SuicideKing says:

      i swear. I’d throw money at Hard Light in an instant, really.

  4. FCA says:

    Caen, Caen never changes….

    Well, forget about a game ever being made in that universe for a long, long time. Too bad, but there’s still Star Citizen I guess.

  5. Bhazor says:

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FUCK.

    How are they still alive? These fuckers are harder to kill than roaches.

  6. GiantPotato says:

    Is this the Interplay owned by Herve Caen? Because if so, I’m starting to regret Derek Smart passing on it.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Really? I mean, sure, under Derek Smart they would at least probably make games, but they would all be terrible. And then Derek would be happy to tell you what a dumbass you are for not seeing how brilliant they actually are.

  7. Laurentius says:

    Although two types of games that ‘made me” are turn based startegies and space sims (and Water sims: SubWAr, Archimidean Dynasty), I compleltly don’t care about Freespace series. Really, space ships shooting colorful candies and tiny text appearing in upper or lower part of a screen serving as mission briefing and story is not my thing.

    • mlaskus says:

      You are so wrong it hurts… Freespace has one of the best storylines in gaming.

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        I have to agree, I found the story to be pretty compelling. Unsure what the complaint is about how the story was told; the mechanics seem pretty standard to me.

    • SuicideKing says:

      *points ship at you, presses Y*

      *C->3->1*

    • MasterDex says:

      Hey guys! I’m Captain Shitonit! I’m here to tell you why that thing you like is shitty. Granted, it’s only my opinion but I’m Captain Shitonit! You want to listen to me. -_-

  8. Sidewinder says:

    Well, this probably isn’t good news. But let’s be honest here: how many of us thought we were going to get another Freespace, anyway?

    • Werthead says:

      Good point, but you could also ask how many us thought we were going to get another X-COM turn-based strategy game a few years ago, or another isometric Infinity Engine-style RPG, or a successor to PLANESCAPE: TORMENT?

      I think it’s safe to say that another FREESPACE is ‘unlikely’, but you never know, especially in these days of Kickstarter.

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      I’d quite like to find out what the Shivans’ deal was, mind.

      • Premium User Badge Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        They were sadly misunderstood telemarketers.

        SHIVAN TELESALES OPERATOR: “Hello sir, I see you’re flying a fine space ship, can I interest you in our…”
        *BOOOM!*
        STO: “There goes another one. Maybe we should turn down the power on our massive black-hole powered communications beam cannons? And do our mailshots have to be delivered by aspect-lock delivery torpedo?”
        SHIVAN SUPERVISOR: “No, increase the power! Bring in the Lucifer-class mobile demonstrations suite! The message must get through!”

      • Werthead says:

        I kind of like the idea we never do. They’re just out there blowing stuff up (people, spaceships, entire star systems) for no apparent reason. They can’t be communicated with or reasoned with, they’re more like a force of nature.

        Though a bit more info on what that rogue admiral was up to in FS2 would be nice.

  9. Git says:

    I am anticipating that they will make Freespace into yet another kickstarter funded multiplayer only F2P game a la Heavy Gear Universe.

    • Siannah says:

      Let’s settle for “try” – “will make” and Interplay doesn’t coexist since years….

  10. Blackseraph says:

    Well if nothing else, interplay can propably sell freespace ip easily enough for someone else.

    I mean really even if no one is going to do anything with it ever again, it is likely that the ip is worth more than 7,5k.

  11. Premium User Badge LTK says:

    A commenter on Eurogamer (The_E_HLP) pointed out that the rights that have been bought are the rights to the freespace IP (essentially the source code), not the development and commercial distribution rights… but Interplay already had those anyway. So I’m not sure what good, if any, this means for the Freespace games.

    • FakeAssName says:

      I always wondered why Interplay never made any more Freespace games since the development costs on them would be dirt cheap and hard, even for herve, to fuck up; I guess this answers that question.

      it means that there was a block on developing further games since the product was co-owned by two companies that never intended to part ways. Interplay owned the IP while Volition owned the development rights.

      it is the same kind of shit that locked System Shock into legal limbo.

    • SuicideKing says:

      I just hope this means Deep Silver/ Volition can buy these rights back more easily now.

  12. Optimaximal says:

    I’m less anticipating a new FreeSpace and more worrying that ‘Interplay’ are going to C&D the FS2 Source Code Project into submission so that the license will lie dormant and gather interest.

    • wodin says:

      Yeah I’m concerned too..a terrible shame if they get a cease and desist..

      • MasterDex says:

        I think it’s been out there too long with no challenge. If Interplay were to challenge it now, those in charge of the OSP could make a strong argument as to why they shouldn’t have to cease and desist.

    • Premium User Badge Chuckaluphagus says:

      Well, they can’t, really – The FS2 Open project is competely legal and above-board. Volition owned the source code and opened it back in 2002, and that’s what the Freespace 2 Source Code Project has always been based on. They make no claim (in fact they explicitly disclaim) any ownership of the Freespace 2 intellectual property.

      Basically, Interplay could get a completely unscrupulous lawyer to lie in a cease & desist letter and claim infringement, but 1) it isn’t like there’s money to be gotten by suing the project, and 2) if it ever did make it to court a judge would smack Interplay down so hard they’d bounce.

  13. Iskariot says:

    I have played the hell out of the Freespace games, but as far as new big, deep, AAA spaceshooters(traders) are concerned I place my bets on Space Citizen and Elite D.

  14. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    So this happenstance is significantly less fortuitous than previsioned?

  15. buzzmong says:

    This is good news.

    I can’t imagine Interplay, being in the state they’re in, are just buying the IP because they want to sit on it.

    On the offchance they are going to sit on it and bought it because it was cheap and “one of their games”, it’s still better off in the hands of a half alive company than a dead one.

    • Kentauroi says:

      “it’s still better off in the hands of a half alive company than a dead one.”

      I’d disagree with that, if the company has been ‘half-alive’ for years they probably don’t have many talented devs left. I’d rather the game remain untarnished by a shitty reboot/sequel and have the game live on through it’s fan community.

      I highly doubt that Interplay is able to get a team together to make a quality sequel to Freespace, and if they try I fear it’ll turn out like the Star Wars prequels.

      • MasterDex says:

        That’s all fine and dandy until the copyright, etc all gets picked up by someone that cares as much about making a Freespace game as it does about whether you took a dump this morning. You could have someone pick it up and use nothing more than the Freespace name to sell a rubbish digital distribution service or similarly rubbish outcomes.

        If it’s in the hands of a publisher/developer already familiar with the series, I think it’s a far cry better than leaving it to the wolves.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s -exactly- what Interplay is going to do with it, whether or not that was the plan. Seeing as they have no money, and no real staff to speak of, only IPs.

  16. Premium User Badge phuzz says:

    I read that as Introversion, not Interplay.
    That would have been epic.

  17. AlexHeartnet says:

    Meanwhile Hard Light is essentially making Freespace 3 themselves in the form of Blue Planet…

    I’ll have to agree with the general sentiment that the IP should of been sold to Hard Light. It would result in not only the vanilla games but a ton of user-made campaigns being made entirely free and stand-alone.

  18. MeestaNob says:

    Are Interplay, what is left at least, publicly traded? What are the legalities of conducting a Kickstarter just to buy them out and shut them down for good?

    I dont believe for a second that Interplay have the resources to do anything with this IP other than sit on it while meagre earnings filter in from GoG etc.

    Joke of a company.

    Volition could have bought this with the proceeds of a car boot sale, I suspect the only reason they haven’t is because they didn’t know the IPs status/current owner.

    Someone fix this.

  19. Premium User Badge ffordesoon says:

    Interplay reminds me of Lord Voldemort. Not Ralph-Fiennes-walking-around-and-killing-people Voldemort, but the Voldemort from Sorcerer’s Stone (or, if you’re British, Philosopher’s Stone). The one who’s literally living in that dude’s hat? And he’s always talking about how awesome he is and he’ll be back on top soon and even now his forces are gathering and blah, and you’re like, “You live in a hat, man.”

    Interplay is like Voldemort if he had never been anything more than a dude who couchsurfed in different people’s hats. Sort of a cross between the Voldemort in the books and Withnail. Withnail’s actually a better comparison. “We are millionaires,” yeah?

  20. Dave L. says:

    The biggest concern about this is that FreeSpace 2′s source code was not open sourced under any actual open source license. It was just ‘All source code herein is the property of Volition, Inc. You may not sell or otherwise commercially exploit the source or things you created based on the source.’ (There’s a clause about modifications and additions made by the community are released under whatever terms the authors choose, but as far as I know nobody’s been using sticking GNU licenses in their source additions).

    If what Interplay bought was development rights that included the source code, they could potentially close the source again (from a legal standpoint, anyway. It’s been open for over ten years, there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle), or even take the modified source and release a quickie ‘Freespace 2 HD’ and rake in all the profit off of it, leaving the modders without so much as a thank you.

  21. drewski says:

    The good news is that everyone will know where to go to buy the IP when Interplay fold in a couple of years.

  22. SuicideKing says:

    This is fucked up! I really hope Volition/Deep Silver plan to buy the rights back together, because i do know they’ve been interested in it.

    Honestly, i doubt the community will get behind a non-Volition FreeSpace 3.

    I think the actual reason for doing this was to sell the game on Steam:
    http://steamdb.info/app/41620/

    This likely the GOG version.

    Though i’m not sure it makes sense, because GOG sold under permission from Interplay.

  23. SuicideKing says:

    I got 3 beams from that mission in medium difficulty…most i’ve been able to do. Sathanas still managed to hit the Colossus a bit, though.

    This is probably my all time favourite game. Fuck, it is my all time fav. Will hate to see it disgraced any further.