DoomRL becomes DRL and goes open source after legal warning from ZeniMax

The creator of hell-inspired roguelike DoomRL [official site] has changed the game’s name to DRL and shared its source code with the world after receiving a legal warning from ZeniMax, the owners of the Doom trademark, late last week. The letter had demanded the removal of “all ZeniMax trademarks from meta tags, keywords, media, and other visible or concealed text that are connected to [the] website”. And that’s why the website now looks like this.

The co-creator, Kornel Kisielewicz, also put the code for the roguelike on Github. He had already wanted to make the game open source, he said, and meant to do this after finishing fundraising for his current project (a fancier-looking spiritual successor to DoomRL called Jupiter Hell) but ZeniMax’s legal finger-wagging compelled him to do it sooner.

“I planned to release the source code of DoomRL as a ‘thank you’ after a successful Jupiter Hell Kichatarter [sic], but ZeniMax forced my hand.”

Meanwhile, the follow-up, which is carefully avoiding using a certain name while also being obviously inspired by a certain name, has six days left to reach its £60,000 goal. It has raised over £44,000 at the time I wrote this delicious sentence. On the Kickstarter page, the word “Doom” has been starred out to read “D**m”.

Doom itself has a clear history of being shareware and free to any sucker that picked up its guns, which gives the decision to open sourceify DoomRL – excuse me, DRL – a nice sense of poetic justice. ZeniMax’s letter, while unsurprising for a corporate juggernaut, is still demoralising when you consider that history. Although, as Adam pointed out, it was not the most demanding of cease and desist messages. There was no demand to remove the game itself and Jupiter Hell has been left alone.

From this site

25 Comments

  1. vorador says:

    That’s Zenimax for you.

    • Simbosan says:

      Yeah, allowing them to continue. Enforcing the absolute minimum respect of trademark. Bastards.

      Props to them for being generous and not being heavy handed.

      • klops says:

        Yeeah… I think. By this article I don’t see fault with how the owner of a trademark works in this case.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        Fuck that. Anyone who interacts with obviously well-meaning fans through the medium of mechanical legal threats deserves no respect. This is “Yes, he hits me, but not very hard, and only when I deserve it” logic.

        I’m not sure whether I agree with their position, but Jack Daniels wrote a supposed infringer a polite letter like an actual human rather than immediately trotting out the “demand you cease and desist” bullshit. That should be the minimum standard.

        And I’m pretty skeptical of just how much fan works actually threaten copyright holders. There’s a million zillion Star Wars fan films because Lucas (and later Disney) explicitly acknowledged and permitted them. Has anyone challenged their copyright in the years since? Do you think either one of those would have accepted any serious risk of losing the Star Wars cash cow? Of course the corporate lawyers say “Oh, we had to skullfuck our fans, we had no choice.” But we already know they’ll lie about anything.

        • Silva says:

          I understand the feeling but from the perspective of content creators, it’s not the fans works themselves that are threats but the fact that they create a precedent that more malicious or nefarious actors (such as a shady company with much more resources and connections than any fan/group of fans) can exploit in a future legal case.

          When a trademark/copyright is not vigorously defended, unfortunately with current legal systems, this gives shady actors room to say “Look at Fan Project Alpha! Game Corp did NOTHING to stop them even though they were clearly infringing on copyright” and use that if it ever comes up in a legal battle between Game Corp and Shady Corp.

          Obviously the issue is with precedents and a legal system that allows people to get away with such sneaky interpretations of IP law. But there are thousands upon thousands of stories of what basically amounts to “Protect your IP. Otherwise, don’t go crying when someone makes a serious effort to steal it.”

          All this being said, I agree that C&D notices could definitely be accompanied by a cover letter that is more human and appreciative/acknowledging of a fan work while also fulfilling the legal requirements of protecting IP.

        • drboot says:

          obviously you don’t understand how trademarks work…if they Zenimax doesn’t try to defend it or use it they will literally lose the rights to it.

          not sure where all this victim-hood came from…millenials i suppose

      • Neutrino says:

        I was under the impression that owning a trademark means that no one else is allowed to attempt to pass off their product as a trademarked product. It doesn’t mean that no one else in the world is allowed to mention the name of a trademarked product under any circumstances without your express permission. So if DRL want to describe their product as a Doom-like on their website then I don’t think there is anothing in trademark law that prevents them from doing so.

        Zenimax does not appear to be seeking to prevent the possibility of DRL being mistaken with their own trademarked product (since no confusion of that nature exists in the first place), instead they appear to be asking for any mention of Doom whatsoever to be removed from the DRL website. Consequently that is not “enforcing the absolute minimum respect of trademark”, so I suspect your comment may be misguided.

        • sneetch says:

          Referring to it as a Doom-like or saying it’s inspired by Doom isn’t the problem (the website still says it’s inspired by ID’s Doom). The problem is when you actually call your game Doom.

  2. Sin Vega says:

    Add ghosts and aggro skinheads, call it Gloom, bask in glorious Amiga reverie.

    • Vedharta says:

      Oh lord, Gloom was so terrible. Impressive technical achievement but so terrible.

      • frakswe says:

        Well,beggars can’t be choosers.It was a good attemp and we didn’t get real DOOM so i was grateful for something close to it at the time.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Gloom was fun! Unlike most of the amiga Doom clones, despite the name it didn’t actually try to be Doom, it was its own splattery blasty raptor-y thing. It even had split screen co-op and was a good laugh if you approached it on its own terms.

        Now, Fears, on the other hand… that was a really impressive technical achievement, but an astonishingly poor game.

  3. dystome says:

    I expect you want to write an article about D44m’s new Infernal Run mode don’t you? Hmmm? ANSWER ME!

  4. Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

    D**M?! For fuck’s sake, Kisielewicz, stop giving them ideas for stupid reboot names! Their marketing department was probably already considering the idea of D##M to sound more hip, you had to pitch in too?

    • BTAxis says:

      Should have gone with those lovely Japanese circular censorship characters so it reads D〇〇M.

    • Janichsan says:

      There are a couple of options: D00M (these are zeroes). DÖÖM (the Metal variant). DØØM. D∞M. DΩΩM.

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      particlese says:

      Dಠ_ಠM

    • kyynis says:

      D O O M


    • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

      DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

  5. Turkey says:

    These modders are going to pay for messing up our meta tags.

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      teije says:

      I feel for the ordinary tags. Ignored in the whole to-do, while the “meta” ones got all the attention. Showoffs.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I don’t know about any of you, but I’m calling this game Daryl from now on.

  7. cuchlann says:

    Anyone else getting odd errors when trying to visit the site? Can you assure me it’s not going to unleash a demon on my PC if I visit?