Crytek Sues Star Citizen Devs For Copyright Infringement, Breach Of Contract

Star Citizen

The developers behind Star Citizen, the much hyped and still unreleased space trading and combat video game, are facing a lawsuit filed by Crytek over the use of its CryEngine game engine. Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and Roberts Space Industries (RIS), both of which were co-founded by Chris Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander series, are each listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

Crytek's claim is that it licensed its game engine to CIG at a below market rate in return for prominently displaying its trademark in Star Citizen and related marketing materials. Since then, CIG and RSI announced a switch from CryEngine 3 to Amazon's Lumberyard software. However, that's not Crytek's beef, or at least that is not what the company says in its lawsuit. Instead, the company claims that lines of code seem to indicate that at least part of Star Citizen is still running on CryEngine 3.

"Defendants knew Crytek's right to display its trademarks and copyright notices in the Star Citizen video game and related marketing materials was a critical component of the GLA [Game License Agreement]. Yet, by at least September 24, 2016, Defendants' co-founder Chris Roberts publicly sought to minimize Crytek's contribution to Star Citizen, stating that 'we don't call [the video game engine] CryEngine anymore, we call it Star Engine'. Shortly thereafter, Defendants removed Crytek trademarks and copyright notices from the Star Citizen video game and related marketing materials in breach of the GLA," the complaint alleges.

Part of what complicates the case is that Star Citizen is an effort to produce two unique game experiences. One of those is an online multiplayer game in a persistent universe, and the other is a single-player experience called Squadron 45. Crytek alleges that since both use the same code, it's the same as using the engine twice and therefore is a breach of contract.

"On December 16, 2015, Defendants announced that 'Squadron 42', a single-player video game involving space combat, would be sold separately from Star Citizen.  On January 29, 2016, Defendants made a further public announcement about Squadron 42, stating that it would be made available for purchase as a stand-alone video game. On February 5, 2016, Crytek notified Defendants that their plan to distribute Squadron 42 as a standalone game was not covered by the GLA's license, because the GLA did not grant Defendants a license to embed CryEngine in any game other than Star Citizen," the lawsuit states.

It is also notable that Amazon's Lumberyard is a fork of the CryEngine that Amazon purchased in 2015. In short, this is not an easy case to parse, though depending on how it turns out, it could have a big impact on the future of Star Citizen and Squadron 45. That is unfortunate for fans who have been waiting several years for this crowdfunded project to finally become a reality.