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Silicon Knights Vs. Epic Unreal Engine Trial Heading To Court
Silicon Knights Vs. Epic Unreal Engine Trial Heading To Court
March 31, 2011 | By Kris Graft

March 31, 2011 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

A federal court said on March 24 that Silicon Knights and Epic Games will be able to bring their claims and counterclaims before a jury.

Too Human developer Silicon Knights called the ruling a "victory," according to a report on Kotaku.

The Canadian developer, which licensed Epic's Unreal Engine 3 for the 2008 action-RPG Too Human, filed suit against Epic in 2007, claiming that the company had not provided a functional version of the engine as allegedly agreed upon.

Epic later filed a countersuit saying the contract did not promise a "fully-operational version" of the engine within six months of the Xbox 360's original launch, as Silicon Knights claimed.

Silicon Knights had also alleged that Epic placed its own internal projects such as the UE3-powered Gears of War ahead of the needs of its engine licensees, in effect "sabotaging" competitors.

The court said in the latest filing, "...Epic had a possible motive to deceive SK into entering into the License Agreement in order to fund the development costs of its own games and delay the work of SK and other competing licensees on their video games."

Silicon Knights said that in mid-development of Too Human, it switched from using UE3 to creating its own game engine. But Epic's countersuit claimed Silicon Knights was trying to use UE3 and not pay engine licensing fees.

Silicon Knights also said that other UE3 licensees had serious issues with the engine. Since the engine's debut, it has powered many external games including Mirror's Edge, BioShock, Batman: Arkham Asylum and others.

Epic Games told Gamasutra in a statement that while a judge said the case will go to trial, the court also sided with Epic on certain aspects of the case.

"The court entered judgment in favor of Epic on several claims, rejecting Silicon Knights' claims that it could cancel its license agreement, that Epic interfered with its contractual relationships with publishers, and that Epic has acted unjustly under the license," the statement said.

Epic also downplayed what Silicon Knights categorized as a "victory," adding, "The court did not rule on the merits of Silicon Knights' remaining claims."

"The court was not permitted to judge the credibility of witnesses or evidence, or otherwise take into account Epic's opposing evidence, and therefore merely acknowledged that, under the rules of civil procedure, it had to allow a jury to consider both sidesí evidence on the remaining claims."

Epic claimed that the court's decision to put the case before a jury is not a sign that the judge finds merit in Silicon Knights' claims, rather the "court simply concluded that the disputed evidence should be heard and resolved by the jury."

Epic pointed out that the court had previously rejected Silicon Knight's request to dismiss Epic's counterclaims, which will also be placed before the jury. The Gears of War house alleges Silicon Knights "breached its license agreement, stole Epicís technology and infringed Epicís copyrights."

"Epic remains confident that it will be fully vindicated at trial," the statement added.

But Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack is equally confident. "When Epic first went public about our case to the press, they said that our claims were without merit," he said in a statement. "Two separate federal court judges have now disagreed with Epic, and have ruled that the case does have merit."

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Kamruz Moslemi
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Looking at the body of projects that have been based on that engine and how they have fared I see a very compelling argument for cooking up inhouse technology instead.

Andrew Dobbs
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You mean like Mirror's Edge, BioShock, and Batman: Arkham Asylum? You look at the body of work of most tools and you will find a plethora of crap.

Eric Cartman
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Since most of the developers that license UE don't have problems, I don't know how legitimate SK's claims are.

Normally when you see hundreds of satisfied customers and one whining one, the problem is with them, not the business.

Then again, maybe UE was bad when SK was using it, and they are the just ones in this. Like Cody said, seeing the contract would show whether or not that is true. I'm just speaking about what is normally the case.

Evan Combs
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Many titles at the time that used UE3 had many problems, and/or received delays. Once example is Mass Effect and the loading of textures.

Rob Wright
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Quite a few developers were unhappy with the state of UE3 when it first arrived, and it's one of the worst kept secrets in the industry. A number of games released in 2007 'appear' to have been adversely affected by the engine (I say appear, because there's no definitive proof that I've seen to show it was all UE3's fault). In addition to Mass Effect's texture popping, there were also problems on Medal of Honor: Airborne and BlackSite: Area 51, plus very well-publicized complaints about the engine in PS3 games. Yet Gears of War and UT3 had no such issues and look/play much better than your average UE3 game. Is that just a result of the talent level and familiarity with the engine at Epic? Perhaps.

Whatever the case, SK is the only developer to actually take legal action, and you could argue that for every glitchy game in 2006/07 or even later using UE3, there was an equal number of high quality games tha were virtually issue-free like BioShock and Rainbow Six: Vegas.

That said, I'll go out on a limb and say I really liked Too Human, flawed as it may be. Hope SKgoes through with the proposed trilogy.