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Silicon Knights ordered to destroy code, games related to Epic trial
Silicon Knights ordered to destroy code, games related to Epic trial
November 9, 2012 | By Mike Rose




In the wake of Epic Games' court case victory against Silicon Knights, the latter has now been instructed to recall and destroy unsold copies of its games, destroy existing code for in-development projects, and pay Epic a fine of over $9 million.

This legal dispute began in 2007 when the Canadian studio accused North Carolina-based Epic Games (Gears of War) of "sabotaging efforts by Silicon Knights and others to develop their own video games" with the company's Unreal Engine 3. Epic was awarded the victory in May of this year, and told it could receive $4.45 million in damages.

In new court documents [PDF], North Carolina District Judge James Dever has now stated that Silicon Knights "repeatedly and deliberately copied significant portions of Epic Games's code containing trade secrets... and used it to create a competing product, Silicon Knights's own game engine."

With this in mind, the judge has ordered Silicon Knights to remove all of Epic Games's technology from its own game engine, and destroy the code for all prior versions of the Silicon Knights's game engine in its possession.

The company must also allow Epic to "independently verify that Silicon Knights's game engine no longer contains and of Epic Games's Licenced Technology," handing over all computers, servers, databases and everything else for Epic to access and check for itself.

Alongside this order, the judge also stated that Silicon Knights must recall and destroy all unsold copies of its Too Human and X-Men: Destiny titles, and must destroy any code done on the unreleased (and until now, unannounced) titles The Box/Ritualyst, The Sandman, and Siren in the Maelstrom.

Production and distribution on all of these titles must also be halted. The judge also warned that any other product containing Epic Games's code must be brought to light, and the same consequences carried out in this case as well.

The developer -- which is rumored to employ five or fewer employees at present -- must also pay a total of $9.2 million to Epic: $4.5 million in damages, and Epic's $4.7 million legal costs.

Silicon Knights has until December 21, 2012 to comply with this order.


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Comments


Merc Hoffner
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WHOA. This is like unraveling a legacy or something. What will happen to the value of copies of Too Human on the open market? Can they even be traded? Did they just reveal their secret games in production via court documents? Does the judge know they only have 5 employees. Does this mean Dyack can't go around to publishers saying 'look at these games we made - give me money' because it would actually be against a judge's ruling?

John McMahon
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I can see them becoming hot commodities years later. Though they were never critically acclaimed.

Merc Hoffner
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Well, they were 10 years ago, and then they weren't 5 years ago. It certainly reads like a legend from rock'n'roll.

Imagine this; the lost work of a band that didn't yet make their triumphant 3rd album - squandered potential of what coulda' been one of the greats, but died when they drunkedly crashed their plane during a fight over the second crap followup album they made when they were arrogant and high (led there inexorably from the heady successes of the first under a great producer they'd later shun). The notoriety of their deaths alone would make the second album sought after, enhanced by the poor original sales of a production run limited by a soured producer leading the distributor to bury unsold copies in the desert. One day Rolling Stone would track down the last surviving member (the mouthy litigious one - who got on his OWN plane) for an expose on the work for the third album, but he's turned into a reclusive crank, bumming for change from his old studio exec buddies, reminding them of his hits from the old glory days, and too proud to admit anything to the press or move on. Would make a great movie about the 70's

Christian Nutt
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Let's see.

Too Human stinks, and there are tens or hundreds of thousands of used copies in the wild which don't have to be destroyed. I'm thinking this won't be a problem, though it might drive up the price of sealed copies, which are now, as we speak, being bought from Amazon and eBay.

Michael Rooney
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@Christian: Too Human didn't stink. It's core gameplay was pretty solid for a third person action game. It had plenty of issues, but it certainly didn't stink.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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@Christian

I agree with Michael, I think you're casually dismissing a game that had a lot of merit, and was just executed poorly.


aka pretty much every game they've ever made.


(I say this as an obsessive devotee of BO:LoK)

Mike Murray
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Wow, those are some harsh penalties. I wonder how much longer Silicon Knights can stay afloat.

august clark
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Last I read, they were down to something like 3 or 4 employees and the company only really existed on paper. I would be surprised if the remnants of SK even had the resources left to comply with this order.

Nick Harris
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Given that the judge allowed Epic to independently verify that Silicon Knights' game engine no longer contains Epic's technology this woulc actually mean that Silicon Knights was in the unusual position of employing a (net) NEGATIVE number of employees.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Sadly, SK has been circling the drain since Too Human flopped-Microsoft had initially said they were going to support the franchise (there were plans for 3! more), but became decidedly mum once first month sales were so bad.

Then they made that crappy X-men game (half-assedly, even according to them), and that pretty much cinched it-what publisher would trust them at this point?

A W
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I wonder if they think in retrospect if it was wise of them to sever ties with Nintendo over their ideals of the future direction of gaming.

Kevin Cardoza
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I think they are more likely wondering if they should have filed that lawsuit against Epic to begin with.

A W
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@Kevin that too.

Daniel Boy
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btw: SK now has to pay 9 million.

edit: Hmh. Now the number is clearly in the first paragraph. Don't comment when too tired.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, you really want to bring management expertise that leads to this into your organization.

warren blyth
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@ChristianNutt - I think Dan was also criticizing the management at SK, and suggesting just the IP and ex-employees should be rescued.

+ [edit: clearly you don't loathe Dyak. sorry. I've made a bad assumption that when you knocked SK's "management expertise" you were talking about him personally. I was a little twisted by reading hundreds of comments that basically consider him and SK management to be the same.
Really I hoped you might have some inside dirt. I've been dying to understand whether any of the endless haters actually knows him personally]

For the past 5 years, whenever people bring up SK I see hundreds of brief comments across various websites claiming dyak is bad because of TooHuman, or because of his PR gaffes.

But I really enjoyed TooHuman, and thought Dyak was (mostly) saying interesting things about video game culture - so I've always dismissed the Dyak hate as uninformed.

Can anyone point me to the mind changer here?

+ I read through Kotaku's anonymous "we hate our boss" expose, and it mostly sounded like small companies I've worked for (the boss takes jobs he doesn't want, but he tries to divide resources so the company can still push forward on things they want to make). The point of that expose seems to be that it's disgusting Dyak was struggling to make Eternal Darkness 2 with his Xmen money. but. everyone wants Eternal Darkness 2 right? That article doesn't convince me Dyak deserves the hate.
(example: anecdotes about dyak wanting the color changed on a background van, when the level doesn't work, sounds : taken out of context.)

basically I'm just surprised nobody gives him the benefit of the doubt. for about 6 years now.
And if there IS a definitive example of why he should be so hated, i'd like to hear it. So I can stop defending somebody I don't even know.

Christian Nutt
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That's a rather strange assumption -- that I loathe Denis Dyack? I didn't even name him. I certainly don't have any animosity towards him personally.

If this verdict is accurate, and the SK engine was built using Unreal technology, that was a severe and obvious error on the part of stakeholder(s). Building from that, if this is true and the company's management decided to sue Epic, knowing this, then that's just insane.

Ian Uniacke
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I don't know. I get the feeling the court doesn't understand the case (given the state of software patents I would say the likelihood being almost 100%). Obviously we don't have details but if SK made a separate engine there is only so many ways you would do that. PLUS UDK is free for pre production so lots of companies would have used it and then mimicked what it contains therein. This is NOT the same as stealing technology.

It's possible that SK just blanket copied code into their own engine but I find that highly unlikely because if it were the case why would you start a law suit against the company you stole from? That would be like sueing a bank you robbed because you stubbed your toe. Sure there are examples of petty thieves doing similar things but it's almost completely unlikely that a big company would do that.

It all sounds completely fishy to me.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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@Ian

Didn't the UDK only become free recently? I thought this was filed back in 2008/they won't grandfather that into their ruling.

Ian Uniacke
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Maybe I'm not sure about that. But my general point about confusing general programming techniques with trade secrets still stands. Really though it's all guess work on my part.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Yup, I agree. I'd also assume that Epic has the resources for a great legal department. SK doesn't.


That said, I'd love to get specifics on this-I felt like it was never going to go well for SK.

Jeremy Alessi
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This is a painful case to watch.

warren blyth
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Hope someone somewhere will eventually explain how exactly the penalty doubled (and explore the zany ups and downs of the whole trial). Hope this isn't just swept under the rug as "some confusing legal stuff. whatevs."

-First reaction is: it sounds like Epic wanted to make an example of SK, so no other licensee would try something like this. But I have no context for understanding whether this extra smackdown is standard procedure in cases like this, or particularly vicious. (anyone?)

- Reading through the filing just reveals a lot of motions have been filed back and forth during July and August (and the court is granting and denying all of them? in parts? wee! max confusion!)
http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/north-caroli
na/ncedce/5:2007cv00275/89570/862/


+ Looks like SK filed for a stay of execution, and the court replied by saying the deadline for post-trial motions had passed. (is this a sign SK's lawyers just don't know how to do their job? again?).
+ Looks they granted Epic's motion to seal its response to SK's motion for "judgement as a matter of law" (and 2 exhibits attached to that response). That means SK tried to say there was insufficient evidence for something, and Epic's response won't be released (but it worked, and included 2 exhibits).

I'm dying to understand whether SK is getting severely crushed by Goliath, or whether snarky commenters are right in spewing their bile on SK (Dyak having a big ego, or your personal opinions on the quality of Too Human, seem irrelevant to me).

Nicholas Gatewood
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I have a friend working at Activision who says the issue led to one of their product managers being fired and ties with Marvel and Activision souring a little over the mess. Dyack was a parasite leeching off Activision, I'm fine with a healthy ego but he's a straight-up parasite. The reason Eternal Darkness was a hit on the Gamecube was because of Nintendo's involvement, they have some of the best quality control in the industry and they most likely spent a lot of time making sure the project was going well. Activision put blind faith in Silicon Knights to get the job done, but Dyack just tricked them out of a bunch of money to try to get his own projects developed. I can confirm a good portion of the stuff in Kotaku's article about the mess, but obviously there's only so much a certain Activision employee *would* know about the matter since he wasn't in the trenches himself.

One... kinda-silver lining of all this is that Dyack was punished for his awful ways and most of his now-ex-employees left the studio before it went bust purely out of honor. It made me proud of the game industry at large that so many employees would leave their jobs because of some of the worst management in the industry, instead of just staying behind and enabling him. If only everyone had morals like that, none of this would've happened.

warren blyth
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alright, i'm coming around to (finally?) giving up on SK/Dyak. (it hurts).

- but activision kinda fucked him, by forcing the game to release despite intense concerns that it wasn't any good. The Project Manager ultimately delivered a shitty game that didn't review or sell well.

- devoting 60% of the company to the Activsion project isn't the same as "just tricking Activision out of money to develop your own project."

- By the time SK took Activision up on Xmen:Destiny, they'd been a little crushed by neogaf PR blunder, and TooHuman's unfair reviews. I believe they were in the midst of launching this lawsuit (which read a bit like a cash grab to keep the company going. They were initially seeking a big part of the Gears money).

You say parasite, but when I read that Kotaku story I see someone trying to keep his company afloat. It seems pretty reasonable to take a job you don't want and put most of your people on it, but also start a side project you can shop around that will get you away from publisher dependency. I'm surprised to find people think this uncommon. (it is uncommon to actively sabotage your project and have no intention of delivering it, but I'd question that part of the story).

What confuses me about that story is how on one hand: XMD's development was confused and didn't have their best people on it. but on the other hand tons of people were quitting, and most of their top talent was the first to leave. Uh, wouldn't that exodus make the development confused and remove their best people from the project?

A source in the article also compares their approach to Activision with their approach to Microsoft and Sega. except we know their project for Microsoft was TooHuman? Which wasn't just some job they hated working on, delayed for no good reason, and never intended to finish. It was something they wanted to release in 2006, couldn't deliver in time due to Unreal3, and then were forced to demo at E3 by microsoft (with disasterous results).

huh.

+ it's ironic SK was essentially attacking Epic for taking their licensing money, and using to it to develop a different project (gears), but then processed to take Activision money (and leverage the Xmen license?) and use it to partially develop a different project.

in the end, despite my fascination with dyak, this all adds up to a huge compromise of his proposed love of reciprocity and honor. I think it's just such a staggering lie that I've had trouble believing it.

Justin Meiners
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I like how the canadian government gave them a stimulus package. See why we don't do that crap in America? Oh wait...

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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A 500,000$ provincial (or "state" for you yankees) grant and a 4M loan from the federal. Can't get outtraged over this, given that they've been in business for 20 years.

Zirani Jean-Sylvestre
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You're quick to forget 38Studios my friend.

Although, there were conditions for SK so I am not sure they received money from the government http://goo.gl/1yVnH

But don't make of SK a rule, not every studio the canadian government has invested/promised investment in went so kuku-banana

Adam Bishop
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The QC government gives lots of money to companies like EA and Ubisoft too, and both of those companies are doing fine. That's not meant as a defence of the tax breaks QC offers (I don't like them), but to use one minor example like Silicon Knights as though it's indicative of the quality of the idea in general strikes me as unfair.

Nicholas Gatewood
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Eidos Montreal did a spectacular job on Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and I'm pretty sure they got a grant from the Canadian government over it. They made one of the best games of 2011, their very first project was a massive critical hit and sold pretty well. I'm proud of the Canadian government for giving Eidos Montreal a grant, that's such a good example of things going swell that it more than makes up for Silicon Knights.

Jed Hubic
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Well sometimes you misjudge and make a mistake, even though SK were proven industry vets, there's no such thing as a sure bet, in any industry really.

At the very least it's not like they gave over 10x the amount of money to some unproven baseball player that thought making video games would be fun...

George Blott
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All the stimulus packages from the provincial and federal govt certainly haven't made Montreal a major international hub for game dev. Oh wait...

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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You might want to do some research before you make snippy statements-A bunch of recent Canadian indie hits (They Bleed Pixels, Sword&Swocery, and I think the MegaRun and Jump games, as well as a ton more) all relied on funding to get off the ground.

Jane Castle
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I am sure they will be working through the weekend backing up all their servers to separate drives... muahahahah!

Laura Stewart
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The possession or knowledge of others circumventing the court's judgement would make each individual legally culpable to Epic. Sure, brilliant. SK and all its code are radioactive at this point.

Nicholas Gatewood
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Well it's not like Dyack knows how to play by the rules, Laura Stewart, he seems to blatantly disregard them constantly. It doesn't seem entirely implausible that he would do something like that after everything else he's done.

Jane Castle
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@Laura you obviously don't know this company very well...... or for that matter their controversial founder.

Laura Stewart
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@ Jane & Nick: We aren't talking about a stolen Cezanne here. It's not like they can tack it up on a wall and admire it over a bottle of wine.

William Johnson
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I'm going to be honest, the amount of ... "compassion" (for the lack of a better term) that SK is getting in the comments is...odd.

There are some signs that Dyack isn't exactly the best at management. I can't imagine Nintendo would ever really just let great talent just walk. There might not have been talent at SK, or that that talent was being held back by management.

But what's a bit more telling is Dyack's extremely odd behavior at NeoGAF. Where he attacked people for attacking his game before it came out. And then Too Human came out and it was a lemon. And then he backpeddled and said he was trolling them as some kind of psychological experiment. Then he later backpeddled more by saying he was trying to save them from themselves. It was very surreal to say the least.

And then there was the Epic lawsuit. Which didn't make sense to me. I didn't see Ubisoft having any problems with Rainbow Six, Bioware with Mass Effect, or EA with Army of Two. If the problems were as bad as SK said it was, you'd think this would have been a class action lawsuit. But it wasn't. It was just SK vs Epic. The entire suit seems really petty, and I'm sure Dyack is eating his hat for it now.

Then there was that rather recent sensational story on Kotaku.
http://kotaku.com/5955223/what-went-wrong-with-silicon-knights-x+
men-destiny
It really doesn't sound so unbelievable. Dyack sounds like one of those guys that can't see the trees for the forest. He can see the big picture on what he wants, but he doesn't understand how to navigate his way to get there.

Dyack seems like the kind of guy that'd burn every bridge he comes across. Nintendo is too controlling, burn it. Unreal Engine is too junky, burn it. Gaming community is too jaded, burn it. Publishers want us to make a licensed game, burn it.

Call me crazy, but I don't think Dyack is the kind of guy that should just be given the benefit of a doubt. At least not anymore.

warren blyth
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Rainbow Six was very buggy when released. And it was the only other UE3 game besides Gears (and that small robot demo) which was released in 2006.

I always think of Blacksite:Area51 when anyone snarkily claims "nobody else had a problem with UE3". because I remember the xbox360 demo being the buggiest I'd ever played, but also having weird echoes of gears. And then the lead dev spoke out candidly about the development process being fucked, and was immediately fired by Midway. I keep waiting to hear what the problem was exactly (and I snarkily assume UE3 played a part).

+ there are a bunch of other developers corroborating SK's complaints about the early states of UE3 here : http://www.shacknews.com/article/48086/developers-on-unreal-engin
e-3
(the ones with resources just threw more programmers at the problems, and made heavy modifications. I think most would agree that Epic eventually made good, by sharing Gears code and offering more support. The core of SK's complaint is that the sorry state of the engine in those first few years severly damaged TooHuman's E32006 showing, and damaged the company's credibility in the eyes of ... everyone who currently spits on SK.)

Robert Baxter
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@William Johnson

You're not crazy.

wes bogdan
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With the setelement the judge might've put them out of business...kill unrealeased games,destroy code,hack up your engine and oh yeah anything out there not sold RECALL then DESTROY?!!

overkill is what i'd call it. Sad fate for the one hit wonder studio.

Doug Poston
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If the allegations are true, then killing the business doesn't feel like overkill to me.

Stealing Epic's code, using it to compete against them, then defaming their reputation by suing them for "sabotage". You can't get much lower than that (IMHO).

wes bogdan
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That's true i just hoped that wasn't true and for some reason gollaith was smashing david...bigger companys have bigger pockets and if they had stolen from epic they should've stopped robbed and ran not robbed stopped and suied so i had hoped they were simply singled out and prefered to believe the truth was somewhere between what both companys said which wouldn't have been outright theft as almost anyone uses part of ue 3 if epic demanded more royalitys than sk originaly thought they agreed to as when nvidia screwed ms on xb 1 demanding more and more over what was agreed...one thing's for sure we'll likely never know the truth as it's sealed along with sk's fate.

wes bogdan
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Crappy game or not i grabbed xmen for ps3 on amazon and $19.99 wasn't bad when target was selling it @ $59.99!!

Jonathan Murphy
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Am I the only one thinking about the needless pollution that will ensue from this? We already have plenty of games buried in the desert. Let's not destroy our land with -wink- Silicon any more than needed.

Eli Blyth
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I would like to start by saying that I disagree with the judges ruling in its entirety (plus forgive my spelling, Im both using an xbox chat pad and rely on spell checks for everything I write bar code). Firstly, SKs origional lawsuit should have gone through, I loved epics Unreal engine, but they definately should have supported SK, especially after SK payed for that support. If you pay for a service, then dont recieve it, you damn well kick up a stink, then if that doesnt work, you SUE. Epic sold a service to SK, SK didnt recieve support, Epic should pay for damages. Secondly, because SK couldnt use the Unreal engine, due to lack of support, being terribly Alpha in its finish (from unpleasant experience) etc., they had to make their own engine. The fact that it was similar in theoretical approach to epics unreal was well.... because it was a game engine... I have used several over the years, and you know what? They are all very similar... Can Crytek sue epic? How about the frostbite engine? Its practically identical in features to Unreal.... (I really shouldnt give epic ideas here). No. The fact that epic claim that their code was used is quite amusing, Bethesda used Gamebryo for years... but ever so slightly tweaked it... to you know... work, you didnt see the creators of gamebryo complaining. This case makes me ever so very angry. I have feel dirty knowing I have given epic money, I feel disgusted to be associated with such a twisted and vile company, I want to sue epic for damages to my sence of right from wrong. The final thing I want to point out, why does every one say that Too Human was a lemon? Or bad? Having lost most of my free time to games (and indeed most of my not so free time), I have played the hell out of all the games in my collection, and there are a few I ALWAYS come back to, no matter how buggy they are: Morrowind (admitedly using over 12gig of mods) simply because its easily one of the best games ever made... but broken; Unreal Tournament (2004) simply because I cant get enough sexy female voices saying "wicked sick" (same goes for my wife); Borderlands, because its well... borderlands... and finally.... Too Human. The main problem me, and indeed all of my friends, acquaintances, family members, and random people I talk to, is the really "epic"ally bad camera. The story was gripping (if alittle sparse), the game play was intense, the graphics still blow most games out of the water, and the sound effects were car crashingly good. Plus EVERY one I meet online has played it for about a month at least... thats more than I can say about Gears, which was in my humble opinion, boring, repetative, and an insult to the Unreal Tournaments name... strange how few people talk about how the main characters from both games looked rather similar (Gears Marcus Vs UT3s... Marcus... only real difference was a face tatoo).

Eli Blyth
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Either way, no-one I know, and certainly not me, shall ever buy another Epic game again. I shall also never develop with UE again either. Boycott the beast, free the Knights.

Eli Blyth
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Please let some other company buy the rights to Too Human and make the trillogy... maybe bathesda.... or epic (only joking, I dont think I could stand looking at Marcus as Baldur, marcus as Thor, and maybe even marcus as Freya)

warren blyth
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" The fact that it was similar in theoretical approach to epics unreal was well."

this is not a fact.
The judge's statement explains that a lot of code from unreal was clearly used within SK's engine, which SK claimed was written from scratch. I've read that variable names were search replaced and headers were deleted, but the evidence was overwhelming that portions were built from Epic's code, not from scratch.

(in other news: I'm stunned that we have the same last name! Do you perhaps have family from the Bay Area or Oklahoma?)

Johan Tornlund
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Warren, just wanted to pop in and let you know that I'm really enjoying reading through your posts, they feel like a breath of fresh air amongst all the ruckus surrounding the story. I personally find these turn of events truly tragic but immensely fascinating, we need to get to the bottom of what really went down with this whole debacle.

Eli Blyth
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@warren I didnt realise they had done this, the version of the report I saw (in the UK, and can no longer find said article) basically said they had written their own code. Even if that were the case (monuental f#*k up by them), the fact that they had spent so long trying to use the unreal engine, basically meant they would have to build around it. I still feel that the judge may have had a few back handers, epic were definately guilty of NOT living up to their contract.

On a side Note, I may well have relatives in the US, my great grandfather was in the merchant navy... so probably :) No, Im from Northern Ireland, and I had noticed the same last names :) Even more stuning is our choice of profession.... Not many Blyths in gaming unfortunately.


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