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    #1

    Star Control Origins: Why you shouldn't buy this highly unethical (if decent) ripoff

    Some of you may be interested in Star Control: Origins. You may be fans of the highly-rated original, Star Control 2 (nowadays available as the excellent remaster, The Ur-Quan Masters.

    Unfortunately, SC:O is not made by or with the blessings or involvement of the original creators, Paul & Fred. It is made by Stardock, who acquired a portion of the licensing rights when Accolade (the original publisher) went bust. The people behind SC:O at Stardock, being fans of the original, seemed happy for the original creators P&F to still maintain ownership over the 'Star Control' title and the possibility of making a real sequel.

    However, things changed.

    To cut a long story short, Stardock are now on the warpath and claiming they own everything related to Star Control, past present and future, they are claiming damages from the original creators for daring to announce a proper sequel (to a game they never gave up the rights to!) and are trying to shut it down, and additionally Stardock are now moving on the aforementioned fan-managed The Ur-Quan Masters site, trying to force them to handover everything. This page here has a very good write-up of the horribly immoral way Stardock is acting in this whole situation

    To cut a long story short, Star Control Origins is not a proper spiritual sequel - it's a third party game which looks, smells, and feels like Star Control, but has none of the involvement of the original creators. At this point, it is a decent game but a highly immoral ripoff. I urge you not to buy the game, and instead if you're a fan, I instead suggest you donate to the legal defense fund for the original creators so that they can get out of this mess and hopefully make a true sequel. You can donate here

    And yes, the fans amongst you may notice my username and avatar are very much taken from Star Control 2

  2. Post
    #2
    I understand the frustration, I really do. But from what I can see the legality of ownership by Stardock seems reasonable. I cannot comment on their conduct, but a company needs to be aggressive when they are attempting to secure or defend ip ownership rights.
    From my very limited research (and please correct me if I am wrong), but the original individual creators do not own and have never owned the rights to the Star Control ip.

    In some ways it mirrors the Bethesda vs Interplay debacle back with the Fallout property.
    Should Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4 also be boycotted?

    I agree that it sucks for the original creators, and maybe you can make an ethical argument (maybe), but legally Stardock are not only doing what is allowed for their business they are doing what they need to.

    Again, if I have misinterpreted or misread anything please correct me, or link me the information.

  3. Post
    #3
    ChrisB wrote:
    I understand the frustration, I really do. But from what I can see the legality of ownership by Stardock seems reasonable. I cannot comment on their conduct, but a company needs to be aggressive when they are attempting to secure or defend ip ownership rights.
    From my very limited research (and please correct me if I am wrong), but the original individual creators do not own and have never owned the rights to the Star Control ip.

    In some ways it mirrors the Bethesda vs Interplay debacle back with the Fallout property.
    Should Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4 also be boycotted?

    I agree that it sucks for the original creators, and maybe you can make an ethical argument (maybe), but legally Stardock are not only doing what is allowed for their business they are doing what they need to.

    Again, if I have misinterpreted or misread anything please correct me, or link me the information.
    That's the thing - they don't have the IP rights, even publicly acknowledging those still lie with P&F - and their claim to the trademark of 'Star Control' is looking flimsier and flimsier. It's all explained in the link I gave here:

    In 2013, Accolade went bankrupt, and Stardock purchased the trademark to the “Star Control” franchise.

    Things looked even better when, in October 2017, the original developers of the franchise, Paul Reiche & Fred Ford, announced that they would be using their own rights and IP from the franchise to produce “Ghosts of the Precursors”. This new game would finally continue the story they started in Star Control 1+2. Stardock itself initially promoted and endorsed the announcement for Ghosts Of The Precursors.

    Unfortunately for Stardock, the sequel rights might not even be theirs. Paul & Fred own most of the intellectual property to Star Control 1 + 2. Stardock asserts that it acquired a prior license to publish derivative works, but the license agreement has clauses that would cause it to expire when royalties stopped being paid in 2001, and expire again with the bankruptcy of Accolade. The agreement also requires the developers to approve any reassignment of the license to a third party – such as Stardock.

    As mentioned earlier, Paul & Fred own most of the intellectual property to Star Control 1+2. This is the so called “Reiche IP”, and according to the license agreements, it includes the “characters, names, likenesses, characteristics, and other intellectual property rights pertaining to Star Control I and Star Control II”.

    At first, Stardock seemed to have no issues with this arrangement. Back in September 2015, Wardell emailed Reiche and Ford and reiterated that “the new Star Control won’t be making use of the lore or aliens from your universe. We’ve made sure to post this publicly repeatedly so that there is a written public record that Stardock has zero rights to the classic Star Control 2 lore (aliens, ships, story, etc.). The new game will be a reboot with its own continuity.”

    In December 2017, Stardock changed their tune. The Arilou and Melnorme were announced as last-minute additions to the game. Stardock went so far as to file questionable trademarks, claiming that the names were covered by the “Star Control” trademark, and not the Reiche IP as previously believed.

    There’s just one small snag: Accolade acknowledged that Star Control 3 was created only with Paul & Fred’s permission. Why would Accolade pay royalties to license the IP, if the trademark already gave them all the rights they needed?

    Indeed, in 1997, Accolade offered to buy the Reiche IP from Paul & Fred. The IP was valued at $250,000 in 1997, or almost $400,000 in 2018 dollars. Paul & Fred declined, feeling that the material was worth significantly more, and wanting to keep the chance to do something with it themselves. Conversely, the trademark itself went for only $305,000.
    tl;dr: They own - on flimsy grounds - the trademark, but not the IP to the content (e.g. the aliens, the lore, etc). That was acknowledged by them as resting with P&F, because it does. Originally, SC:O was heralded as being a sequel in name only without any of the original aliens/story, because that is all they have the rights to - the name/trademark 'Star Control'. Then at some point, they decided to try to claim everything, not only totally ignoring P&F's rights to the IP (which they specifically aren't supposed to use), but suing them, and now going after the fan community sites like Ur-Quan Masters.

    It's a total shit-show and I vehemently disagree with supporting their bogus ripoff.

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    #4

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    #5
    In your first post Orz, you refer to Fred and Paul as the creators.

    Stardock refers to them as designers of "some" of the IP in the game. Which IP they actually created as "designers" is yet to be seen (according to that Q&A).

  6. Post
    #6
    Sorry Orz, I am not seeing it. The facts don'r seem to reflect ownership of the ip at all for Paul Reiche or Fred Ford.

    I am at work so dont really have the time to give it any attention, but will have a look hopefully tonight to avoid me commenting on something I don't fully understand.

    Calling it a bogus rip-off is objectively incorrect and is an emotional response to the situation. I get it, but the facts need to lead the argument here.

  7. Post
    #7
    Understandably, Stardock is presenting their own (somewhat muddy and disparaging) version of events on that page. They even note it themselves though, they own the trademark, but not the actual IP. It's quite muddy, but now they are going into full rampage mode to try and obtain everything, even the fan-maintained open source Ur-Quan Masters site/game.

    In terms of IP content, P&F own everything, as the original core designers. The races, the story, the lore. It's merely the trademark that they lost when Accolade went bust.

    Despite not owning the IP, they are trying to position themselves as owning everything - in fact, they are selling DLC for original races from the first game (Chenjesu and Arilou) for SC:O here https://www.stardock.com/games/starc...store#chenjesu and here https://www.stardock.com/games/starcontrol/store#arilou

  8. Post
    #8
    ChrisB wrote:
    Sorry Orz, I am not seeing it. The facts don'r seem to reflect ownership of the ip at all for Paul Reiche or Fred Ford.

    I am at work so dont really have the time to give it any attention, but will have a look hopefully tonight to avoid me commenting on something I don't fully understand.

    Calling it a bogus rip-off is objectively incorrect and is an emotional response to the situation. I get it, but the facts need to lead the argument here.


    I'm not sure how you're not seeing that. Even Stardock publicly acknowledge that P&F are the owners of the IP. Yes, you really should read the article I linked in-depth.

    Also I think it's reasonably fair to call it a ripoff. They are making a game that looks, smells, and feels like Star Control, but is supposed to exist 'in it's own universe', and yet, are willing to use the Star Control name.

    Even if you ignore that, how is it not highly repugnant for them to be doing what they're doing? You should see some of the comments that Brad Wardell, the Stardock guy, is making in forums. It's incredibly sad that they are doing this for their own benefit. The fans certainly don't benefit from it.

  9. Post
    #9
    As I said I will later. I am 100% prepared to be wrong.

    But you need to stop labelling SD's games a bogus rip-off. It is neither bogus, nor a rip-off. Calling it such just sounds like rabid fanboy ranting.

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    #10
    They don't seem to be disputing that P&F own it, more that they (stardock) have a licence to it and the derivative works because of the payment of the minimum royalties (which P&F say they didnt...)

    This email here Name:  a67e50ba-6740-4dfd-b92a-69b37ee4933f.png
Views: 209
Size:  254.5 KB seems to layout that position and then it all turns to custard not long after

  11. Post
    #11
    Yeah, the point is exactly that, the whole thing is a very unfortunate mess. Stardock presents their side of the story, but the picture is quite muddy in reality. The ideal situation would be to bring P&F on board, or to allow them to work on their game alongside (as they originally said they were happy to do). At a certain point though, they went into full nuclear mode and it's been a sad tale ever since.

    Whether or not it's a ripoff depends on your point of view I guess. It may be a harsh term for it, but what I said before surely still stands: They are making a game that looks, smells, and feels like Star Control, but is supposed to exist 'in it's own universe', and yet, are willing to use the Star Control name. It would have been better with a fresh title, let alone without stomping all over the community and previous games. And they are silent still on how they believe the Arilou and Chenjesu can be sold - they do not own the IP for that, and the upcoming court case hasn't even been resolved yet. By logic, if they owned that, they would own the entire IP too, and they should just go full retard and make an actual sequel. Some are speculating that the selling of those two races is a form of pre-emptive legal posturing.

    SC:O is a pretty good game from what I hear, and some fans do really like it - but only insofar as it captures/recreates the magic of SC2. It isn't actually Star Control though, except in legal name. And I (and many others, just check out reddit or other fan communities) are quite disgusted by how events have turned out - especially that all this motion from Stardock is destroying P&F's ability to make their own. It's a 180 from their original position when they first announced it.

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    #12
    Just to update people (mostly ChrisB in case he hadn't done his homework and changed his mind), here's some more context about what I mentioned earlier about the Stardock CEO attacking the Star Control community, and here's at least one other well-written write-up explaining better than I can why it is, essentially, a rip-off.

    Really it's just a question of 'at what point does a homage become a ripoff', particularly when you take into account the legal action going on behind the scenes here.

  13. Post
    #13
    the real question will be 'is this a good game or not' - i don't think many other people care about IP issues (unless they are also diehard fans of the series).

    it is nice that you're sticking up for the original devs though

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    #14
    Aren't the Star Control guys Activision employees? Would they even be legally allowed to run a studio for Activision (remaking Spyro trilogy ATM) and make an indie game at the same time?

  15. Post
    #15
    Seeing people in the community complain about how they're "being treated" by SD is so cringe-inducing it is almost beyond words. This toxic, name-calling, bunch of "fans" spews a shit-ton of vitriol, half-truths, and misinformation at such a volume I dont know anyone of them can claim mistreatment with a straight face.
    I am not defending statements made by anyone at SD (even though a lot of that being quoted is literally legal requirements any company needs to take regarding copyright issues), but the inability for anyone on the other side to look at the facts and remove the emotional shit from it is infuriating.

    Anyone using the term rip-off should be ignored outright. Its not true, its disingenuous, and at best woefully ignorant. The game is by definition a Star Control game, so anyone claiming rip-off is actively ignoring that fact that the game not only should be using content and game play from earlier entries is needs to have them. These clowns would be the first to call it a sell-out in name only cash grab if it was released with almost entirely new content and game-play. That reddit link serves as all the evidence I need to prove that fact. A gross, emotionally charged shit-post from an angry fan.

    I understand the passion from the old-school fan base. I mean this is me we're talking about. But I still see nothing blatantly wrong here. Some bad behaviour sure, but until the whole thing is resolved its just pissing in the wind.

    The Bethesda v Interplay debacle shares a lot in common with this. In that instance I was on the Interplay side as I didn't think Bethesda should have those rights, and the action taken against Interplay in the latter stages including forcing the removal of the OG games from sale felt like really dick move. However after looking at it rationally (and a few years later) everything that Beth did was not only legal but required. The fact is looked like bullying and dick behaviour on the other side of the fence doesn't change that. I expect the same will be true here. The one thing that is not helpful is "fans" shit-posting and forcing a narrative dictated by emotion and bias.

    I get the anger, I completely understand it but I am not convinced it's earned.

    @Orz I've not changed my mind at all. There is not enough reliable or accurate information out there. Frankly I don't care enough to spend more time trying to find out what the facts are. When/if the full legal documents are released I don't see the point. I think SD looks like a douche to fans, and I can understand why, I also don't think that indicates they've done anything illegal, and in fact are just doing what is required of them from a legal stand point. In the end if you're using fan-sourced information to base an argument on, you're introducing bias from the outset. Don't do that. If you were to ask 2 different people from opposites sides of a conflict what the facts were, you would get completely different information, and likely neither would be accurate.
    Last edited by ChrisB; 22nd October 2018 at 8:40 pm.