Star Citizen devs ask court to dismiss Crytek’s lawsuit

The makers of Star Citizen have declared that the lawsuit against them by CryEngine makers Crytek “sacrifices legal sufficiency for loud publicity”, and asked the court to dismiss it. Crytek have claimed that Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) broke the contract under which they licensed CryEngine to build their space sim upon. CIG say these claims are tosh, mostly disproved by a simple look at the agreement – a text they claim Crytek had concealed from the court, and so have shared themselves. I prefer my legal drama to have jokes, songs, and closing arguments to the jury which are actually a metaphor for their failed marriage with the opposing lawyer who–oh god!–they’ve only just realised they never stopped loving, but let’s get stuck in.

In December 2017, Crytek went after Cloud Imperium Games, claiming they had breached their contract in several ways and seeking damages (money, obvs). Last week, as documents dug up by Reddit user ‘Liudeius’ show, Cloud Imperium’s lawyers responded with a motion to dismiss the suit. They say nope, it’s nonsense, though of course they would. Let’s go over some claims and responses.

Crytek claim that CIG agreed “to use the CryEngine game development platform exclusively and to promote that platform within the video game”, using no other game engine and slathering those CryEngine logos and trademark notices all over. They say that they gave CryEngine to CIG at “a below-market license rate” because Star Citizen would be promoting it in this way. But CIG have since switched to the Amazon Lumberyard engine (which is built upon, but separate from, CryEngine) and simultaneously stopped using those CryEngine logos. Crytek say that’s bang out, that CIG were required to exclusively use CryEngine and never any other engine, so they’ve been wronged.

In response, CIG claim that the agreement gave them “an exclusive right, not a duty” to use CryEngine. They say Crytek are trying to bend “exclusively” in an unusual direction, away from the usual licensing meaning of only them getting to use it. CIG shared the agreement, which says Crytek give CIG a license “to exclusively embed CryEngine in the Game and develop the Game which right shall be sub-licensable [to subcontracted devs if Crytek approve]”. Taking that to mean a duty to use CryEngine and only CryEngine would seem a stretch. As for stopping using logos and whatnot, they say, well, they weren’t using CryEngine anymore so…

Crytek also say that their agreement only covered Star Citizen itself, not the story campaign spin-off Squadron 42. The two were once halves of a whole, see, but now the plan is to sell Squadron 42 as standalone too. Crytek object.

In response, CIG point out that the agreement states it covers “the game currently entitled ‘Space Citizen’ and its related space fighter game ‘Squadron 42′”. Ah.

CIG don’t fully respond to all of Crytek’s claims, mind. They say that the agreement itself dismisses most claims and the others are null because they’re not using CryEngine anymore, but a few points perhaps still stand.

Crytek said that CIG agreed “to take a number of steps to ensure that Crytek’s intellectual property was protected” then revealed snippets of confidential CryEngine information during their ‘Bugsmashers’ video series, which has shown devs tinkering in the code. Crytek also claim that CIG “did not make a good faith effort” to follow through on the agreement’s requirement to share any optimisations and bug fixes they might make to CryEngine source code, though the scale of this isn’t clear.

Not that any of us get to decide who wins. All of this is bound in enough legalese to keep two lawyers arguing long enough to share lingering glances across the court room, remember how much they used to admire their opponent’s fire, bump into each other at the coffee machine and remember the warm touch of their hand, then–case be damned!–elope to Las Vegas to remarry. The case is in front of a Californian court, and Crytek are pushing for a jury trial.

Star Citizen is still in development, recently releasing Alpha 3.0.0. It’s raised $176,338,769 in crowdfunding so far, offering pre-orders, early access, and in-game items including spaceships, money, and plots of land.

76 Comments

  1. DrJ3RK says:

    I don’t remember where I read this, so please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. However, I believe CIG actually somehow “bought” their version of CryEngine outright or something along those line, so they could use it how they saw fit. If I remember correctly, and what I read was true, it wasn’t a standard licensing deal. Then they of course dumped it later, but I don’t think Crytek would have any recourse in that case. (I’m also not a legal expert…) :D Now I have to see if I can find where I read that.

    • Sakkura says:

      The license agreement is included in this response from CIG.

      CIG were to pay 1.85 million Euros for a license of the CryEngine for Star Citizen (actually called Space Citizen in the agreement) and Squadron 42. The licensing terms otherwise look completely normal (ie. not obligating CIG to use the CryEngine).

      Another problem is that Crytek are going after CIG for copyright infringement for using CryEngine, while also going after CIG for breach of contract for NOT using CryEngine.

      Also, the license agreement has a disclaimer of ALL damages, which would in itself sink the case.

      • Faceman says:

        Crytek has fallen on hard times. Epic and Amazon are giving away their game engines. They haven’t had a hit game in a while and rested all their eggs in selling the engine. Now that isn’t panning out, they resort to what most companies do in bankruptcy-bound situations, they sue everyone they can think of.

        • waltC says:

          Crytek sees the money SC raises with products based on its engine–and so naturally wants in…;) A pity, though, that Crytech has yet to realize it isn’t necessarily about the engine used at all–it’s what you *do* with it that actually counts.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      That was a fake rumor spread by some of the Star Citizen fanbase.

      CIG did not outright buy the engine. They licensed it as per normal (though with some addition rights in regards to modifying code and giving it to their subcontractors.)

      • DrJ3RK says:

        Hence my heavily disclaimer-laden post. :) I just remembered seeing that somewhere, but wasn’t sure of the details. It made me wonder though if it was true. Still doesn’t sound like Crytek has a case. I don’t wish ill will on either party, but I do think it was silly for them to try to litigate their way out of the hole they’ve dug themselves. (financially)

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Crytek DOES have a case. It really depends on how the lawyers spin it.

          What we’ve got here is both a badly written GLA AND a company that’s trying to weasel out of obligations.

  2. roguewombat says:

    I sincerely hope this story ends in an ICO.

  3. Werthead says:

    “Star Citizen is still in development, recently releasing Alpha 3.0.0. It’s raised $176,338,769 in crowdfunding so far, offering pre-orders, early access, and in-game items including spaceships, money, and plots of land.”

    And tanks. Tanks are a thing now.

    • modzero says:

      But can you have multiple crew in the tank? Are there dogs? I have a fantasy to play out.

    • BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

      And those tanks are quite lame for 128$ !!! No rail gun, no missiles, lasers … it have only dual cannons.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Okay, that all sounds great, but what about cup holders?

        • SBLux says:

          No but there is a cigarette lighter next to the cassette player.

  4. bovine3dom says:

    The licence agreement does mention Squadron 42 (page 24 of link to drive.google.com), but it has it down as a feature of the game, and it says on the same page that “the Game does not include any content being sold separately”.

    Crytek should probably sue, but not before somebody sues RSI for the lack of sensible antialiasing options in Star Citizen. That’s the real crime here.

    • Sakkura says:

      You need to look at page 7 of your linked document. It explicitly defines “the Game” as referring to both “Space Citizen” and Squadron 42 together.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        The document isn’t very consistent on that point.

        But the simple fact they are selling it as a separate product on the official website kind of goes against the document anyways.

        • Sakkura says:

          It is consistent, because every time it says “the game” they have defined it to mean Space Citizen [sic] and Squadron 42. So when Crytek grants a license to use the engine in “the game” in 2.1.2, that means in Squadron 42 as well. When Exhibit 2 (appended to the actual agreement) says “the game” does not include any content sold separately, that still includes Squadron 42 because it’s defined as part of “the game” in the agreement itself.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            You complete ignore my second point (what a surprise)

            It doesn’t matter what the agreement says if CIG is outright selling and marketing them as two separate, stand alone titles. That is a breach.

          • Sakkura says:

            The agreement establishes no duty to sell Star Citizen (or Space Citizen) and Squadron 42 together, it merely defines them both as part of “the game” which the agreement concerns.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            No, the agreement establishes the sale of a single game, composed of two elements (Star Citizen and Squadron 42.)

            One of the main Crytek complaints is that CIG are selling what is effectively two games (whether this is true is up to the court to decide) while only agreeing and paying the fees to make one.

        • Werthead says:

          It’d be interesting to see if there was a formal legal establishment of what “a game” was. Presumably it must include DLC (otherwise engine creators would sue a developer every time they shipped a game with 15 bits of add-on DLC released later) but Squadron 42 is a separate game to Star Citizen: you can buy one without the other, for all they use the same launcher (and that means nothing, the Total War games have the same launcher but with five completely different games loading through it).

    • Unclepauly says:

      Jimmies rustled

  5. Faceman says:

    Cue all the CIG and Star Citizen haters. Of course, they’re going to get slammed with a lawsuit. They’ve made a crap ton of money and continue to make money. They’re making a genre-creating game that stands alone in scope and size. A game that will likely be played for decades to come. When you’re top dog, everyone tries to take you down. Now the haters will say things like “Fanboy” and “Sycophant” or something. I don’t care. I’ve played the game (all his games dating back to Wing Commander) and it is awesome. I’m happy to wait as long as they need to make it even better.

    • N'Al says:

      No one here has hated on CIG or Star Citizen. It is quite clear you are talking out of your rear end.

    • milligna says:

      Pre-emptive cue the Chris Roberts Reputation Management Defense Force!

    • spamdangled says:

      Genre creating? It’s not doing anything brand new to the medium.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        There is NOTHING original or ground breaking about Star Citizen except some of the scale (and the scale is actually working to its detriment in a lot of ways with unnecessarily wasted time in a lot of game tasks.)

        • Mokinokaro says:

          That being said, I have nothing against the actual game or its fans. I just think they might be being taken for a ride given CIG feels like a company obsessed with marketing and squeezing every last dollar from its fanbase rather than making good progress on the game.

          Kind of like Therano.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      …will say things like “Fanboy” and “Sycophant”…..
      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

    • Werthead says:

      I think Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are both interesting and have some promise, but they also clearly massively over-engineered and packed with unnecessary feature and fillers that nobody asked for: that new S42 video a couple of weeks back was interesting but seemed to suggest that actual space combat was no longer the focus of this space combat game, with much more emphasis on spending time hanging out with Uncanny Valley Davos and running around your ship looking for the hanger deck. That “CLICK TO START MISSION” button in Wing Commander, X-Wing and Freespace 2 is looking mighty preferable (and much cheaper!) right about now.

      I’ve played all of Chris Roberts’ games back to Stryker’s Run on the BBC Micro in 1985. Does this give my opinion greater credence than yours? Just want to know what the rules are.

      • SBLux says:

        Holy moley I did not know Chris Roberts made Strykers Run! Thanks for that little factoid.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        That’s a beautiful way to put it.

        The game is overengineered and full of such feature creep that it starts to break under the pressure. So many planned and implemented ideas while “realistic” do not make for actually fun and engaging gameplay and therefore become wastes of development time and more places for bugs to creep in.

        As I’ve said in a previous topic, there’s an interesting contrast between Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen.

        Elite Dangerous, while being pretty shallow, knows exactly what it wants to be and is very solid technically.

        Star Citizen promises to be much deeper, but is choking under all of the extraneous features and lack of proper development planning.

        One is a skeleton without much meat. The other is a skeleton where most of the vertebrae have been replaced by paper mache.

    • Rindan says:

      10/10

    • Maxheadroom says:

      I think my feelings can be summed up as Cautiously Pessimistic. I think they’ve bitten off more than they can chew but im still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      You might want to dial back the ‘brainwashed cultist’ rhetoric though.
      “Will be playing it for decades to come”. Really?

      • mitrovarr says:

        I’m completely pessimistic about the MMO. With selling ships, land, and tanks, they’ve established a strategy of being completely pay-to-win. At this point, it doesn’t matter how the revolutionary the rest of it is. Pay-to-win poisons the whole experience and means it should be avoided.

        The single player might be ok, I suppose.

  6. k47 says:

    The impromptu lawyer remarriage bit made me scroll up thinking “Is this an Alice article? Yup, it’s an Alice article.”

    I’m not complaining.

    • khamul says:

      Yeah, me too.

      When I think “how easy is it, to take stuff as dry and depressing as this and make it fun, joyful, and still get the facts in correctly?”, I think ‘really really not easy at all’.

      The characteristic of a master is that what they do looks so simple… until you try it yourself.
      Alice is ace.

  7. AIAndy says:

    While you could argue about the meaning of “exclusively” in 2.1.2 of the license treaty, there is also 2.4, which forbids CIG from maintaining and licensing a competing game engine during the term of the license plus two years. The term of the license treaty is defined in 8.1 as the commercial life of the game. And none of the clauses in 8.2 that would allow termination by CIG apply as far as I can see.

    On the other hand, 2.4 might be more of a non-competition than an exclusivity clause but nonetheless that would prevent them from applying any changes to other game engines and I think that would restrict them a lot.

    Finally, even if the engine is not used, the agreement is still in effect and the provisions in 2.8 about the copyright text and the logos in splash screen and marketing material apply.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Prove it

      • Blackcompany says:

        Does RSI pay you by the word, or the post?

        The statement STARTED OUT WITH open speculation. He wasn’t trying to say anything conclusively…just stating possibility.

        What is it about SC that makes people take any criticism of Roberts or the games (deceitful, dishonest, error prone, mistake riddled, largely incompetent) development so personally?

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Because the game’s fans are a cult of personality focused on “Chris Roberts can do no wrong.”

          (They will of course completely ignore the mess of Freelancer’s development and the horrible Wing Commander movie.)

        • Werthead says:

          Massive amounts of monetary investment and the fear that it would 1) not appear at all (unlikely at this stage, I feel, the game looks about 40-60% actually done) or 2) when it comes out, will not be quite as great as was advertised.

        • TheOneFlow says:

          The bias is called “effort justification” and imho it explains like half of all behaviour in gaming debates.
          “I spent money on this, it must be worth it.”

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I rather thought that was the purpose of the suit, not the task of the RPS comentariat. We just enjoy speculating.

    • Chalky says:

      While you are correct, there is no denying that the contract is ambiguously worded and it also contains a clause that prevents any damages outside of intentional violation or omission. That appears to set the bar very low for CIG where they simply have to argue that they misinterpreted the clauses in good faith, which appears very easy no matter what Crytek meant when writing the contract.

      What I find most interesting is that this ambiguity seems extremely obvious and Crytek have hired a very experienced law firm for this suit. It seems unbelievable that they would have missed this. There is also the inherent contradiction in their lawsuit, on the one hand claiming that CIG have stopped using their engine while at the same time suing for copyright violation for using their engine without attribution.

      Looking at these things together makes me think that there’s more to this lawsuit than meets the eye.

      Say Crytek strongly suspect that CIG has not changed engine but have simply claimed to in order to avoid their contractual obligations. How do you prove this? It’s extremely difficult without access to the source code and other proprietary information.

      One very easy way to get access to the information they need is through the court discovery process, but without any direct evidence of copyright violation, they couldn’t bring that case to court.

      If they tack on a contractual violation to the complaint, both sides have a case to argue over an ambiguous contract, so the case makes it to court. During discovery, Crytek can request anything relevant to the complaint, which includes copyright violations, thus giving them access to everything they need.

      Pure speculation, but I just don’t buy that a law firm this experienced would pin the entire suit on an ambiguously worded clause in a contract like this.

      • AIAndy says:

        I agree, that may well be what they are doing. It will be interesting to see where this will go.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        Actually CIG might have put proof of them not changing engines online.

        All of their bugsmashing streams to the current day are showing Crytek’s engine tools (along with Cryengine source code, which CryTek claims is against the GLA.)

        The tools themselves might not actually be proof (since if they’re using an old version of Lumberyard they might not have the updated ones) but if Crytek can prove any of the shown code is exclusive to their engine…

    • Mtom says:

      Umm nope the 2.4 is saying they cannot develop and sell/or license their own engine to others. It’s not about CIG licensing another engine from someone.

      That’s why the end of the sentence is “sell/license” not “buy/license”

      This is to protect Crytek from someone licensing their engine and building his own competing product using the knowledge gained.

      • AIAndy says:

        I agree, hence the alternative interpretation in paragraph 2 as a non competition clause. Nonetheless it severely restricts you as you may not change the other engine you licensed (after all you might apply info you gained from access to CryEngine) nor do anything that might be interpreted as promoting it.
        One question is also if you do not violate that clause when you sell your game and therefore sub-license that other engine to your customers in a way.

  8. Hedgeclipper says:

    Pushing for a jury trial is interesting – might suggest they’re worried the experts might see things differently.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      CryTek has hired one of the best tech-related law firms in the world. They wouldn’t do that if this lawsuit was frivolous.

      CIG’s legal team, provided their “counter arguments are real” on the other hand appear to be a bunch of clowns.

      They even tried to pull the “different company” defence given the number of shell companies CIG operates under.

      • Sakkura says:

        Crytek sued RSI for breach of a contract that RSI plainly was not a party to. If anyone is a bunch of clowns here, it’s Crytek. They also already had to file an amended complaint with some… pretty embarrassing alterations.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Ah, so you’re pulling the “different company” nonsense as well.

          The alterations were mostly claiming the breaches were intentional because, as I mentioned above, the GLA itself is pretty poorly written.

          The irony of the whole thing is CIG’s easiest way to get out is to actually prove they weren’t competent enough to follow the agreement to the letter.

          • Sakkura says:

            It’s not nonsense. CIG and RSI are not the same entity. You can’t just sue RSI for breach of a contract their name does not appear on.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            No, that is not how this works.

            One is a subsidiary of the other. They are interchangeable as far as the law’s concerned.

            If Bioware breaches a contract with an outside company, it is perfectly legal to sue EA, for instance. One is a PROPERTY of the other.

          • Sakkura says:

            Subsidiaries and their parent companies are not interchangeable. That’s why they exist as separate legal entities.

          • Chalky says:

            Mokinokaro is correct, RSI are a subsidiary that CIG has to handle all of the money from pledges and subscriptions. If Crytek was only able to sue CIG then even if they won it would be impossible to recover any damages since CIG has no money, RSI has it all.

            If this was possible to do, every single company would simply set up a subsidiary and give it all of their money. Then they would be insulated against lawsuits forever.

            Obviously, this isn’t a legitimate tactic.

          • aepervius says:

            Actually it is a tactic used often to separate liabilities and assets, and it is completely legal as long as set up so from the start. I can remember another game company which had its copyrighted assets in a company, its licensing and financial sales in another, just using a sub licensing agreement. Some form of shell game are illegal, but not all. And yes you cannot ask an affiliate to be responsible for the contract a parent company signed, if they are not covered by the contract (e.g. they are not using the license). What CAN happen, is that the affiliate company is on the hook for the parent company damage , depending on how the shell are set up.

      • Mtom says:

        Lol Crytek hired the biggest law firm…i seen this argument a lot in the last 2 days…this feared law firm couldn’t even enter the claim against the right entity. They listed RSI when Crytek is in contract with CIG.
        Also Crytek’s claim looks like it was made by a 7 year old compared to CIG’s answer.

        I get it you don’t like CIG but you are going too far with some of your comments.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Ah yes, the “wrong company” defence.

          You realize that doesn’t hold up in court at all.

  9. mitrovarr says:

    Woe, if the stuff in that reddit page isn’t being completely misrepresented, CryTek has a pretty weak case. I can’t imagine them getting anything except maybe some small damages, and I’m not even sure that is likely.
    I’m not a fan of CIG so I was originally expecting some merit to the claims, but perhaps there is not.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      A lot of it has been GROSSLY misrepresented. The GLA in no way allows both games to be made as separate games, for one.

      That thread is in the SC subreddit which is basically a cult of Star Citizen true believers who will twist every single criticism of CIG into a positive somehow.

      It’s not a place you can ever get the truth. It’s like going to /r/The_Donald for facts about the US Presidency

      • mitrovarr says:

        Normally I would be more suspicious (as I am deeply suspicious of that page, as you say), but the explanations given in the reddit thread make more logical sense than the CryTek claims.

        Well, fortunately, nothing is riding on my interpretation of the case. I’ll be interested to see where it goes in actual court. Even given the most generous possible reading of CryTek’s claims, I can’t imagine them getting much more than some light damages.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          The issue that it’s actually an unusually strict GLA.

          The counter arguments in that thread would be logical IF the license agreement was more typical, but CIG allegedly agreed to a lot of stuff not usually included in these things.

  10. Artist says:

    Wow, Im impressed how many lawyers this article suddenly spawned! Now I wonder why it was considered “demanding” to become one….

  11. RunPower says:

    I found that Leonard French provides an excellent analysis of legal cases in the Tech world. Great channel, so check out his comments.

    [youtube link to youtube.com

    • Pop says:

      Thanks, that’s been really interesting to have on in the background

    • Mokinokaro says:

      French’s videos are a really good source. He doesn’t deal with the drama or take sides.

      He also presents this case as the convoluted “he said, she said” it really is. The paperwork is so messy (which is both CIG and Crytek’s fault) that it’s far more open to jury interpretation than it should be.

      • RunPower says:

        Did you watch the same video? The paperwork is not messy. Like CIG said, the GLA exclusivity clause was placed in the “Grant” section not in the “Restrictions”. Meaning that CIG (and no other company) was granted exclusive rights to use and develop the engine for both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 but the use of that engine was never mandatory per the agreement.

        French’s overall views are in favor of CIG’s response.

  12. Pop says:

    Objection!

    *Sigh* how did this article get written without a simple Ace Attorney reference? *Head in hands*: It’s time to hit the bar