Fan made mods for games have always been a big part of the PC gaming market. The vast majority of these are made by players just like us, who spend days, weeks, and even months programming a mod that either enhances, or adds on to the current storyline. We see these mostly in Single Player RPGs like Oblivion or Fallout, but also in First Person Shooters like Counterstrike and Real-Time Strategy games like Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2. In fact, there are a plethora of forums and websites devoted to the modding community. Oftentimes, these mods can end up being almost as popular as the game that they are attached to.
One of the most popular mods of all time is Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod that laid the groundwork for a little game known as League of Legends. If DotA hadn’t been made, LoL wouldn’t exist, nor would the upcoming DotA2. What strikes me odd about DotA, is that the team behind it has Blizzard’s full support and access on Battle.net to continually run a game modded with the DotA map and ruleset. Now, I shouldn’t find it weird at all, but I have to because of something that happened today.
Earlier this afternoon there was a video that went viral on the internet about an in-development mod to Starcraft 2 called “World of Starcraft.” This video — which I don’t want to post here since I’d likely be slapped with some sort of legal injunction — portrays an alpha version of a mod for Starcraft 2 that makes the game look and play like World of Warcraft, but with Starcraft races and classes. The video is nothing short of stunning, and gives a glimmer of hope to what a World or Universe of Starcraft game may actually play like. The best part of it all? Ryan Winzen, the creator, used ONLY the modding and map making tools that Blizzard included WITH (aka in the box) Starcraft 2. Nothing more, and nothing less. There was no reverse engineering or any sort of crooked dealings going on.
Blizzard didn’t seem to care. Within a couple of hours their Lawyers were delivering Cease and Desist letters to Ryan, telling him to stop all development on the mod, and to remove his videos and website. Why? They wouldn’t say. Just a “Stop now or else!” with no explaination whatsoever, and the threat of legal ramifications if the project continues.
Really Blizzard? Really?! YOU handed out the tools to get this done, and a fan of yours, who bought your game at full market value, used tools that YOU provided to make a mod for YOUR game that will help sell more copies, and make YOU more money. Ryan has not made a dime in all of his years of modding YOUR products and helping to bring YOU more customers and INCOME. Stories like these make me angry and less willing to ever spend money on a Blizzard (or Activision for that matter) product again. This wasn’t some hack job, or a third party cheating program. It was a mod made within the confines of the tools obtained legally with a copy of Starcraft 2. Ryan didn’t put them there, YOU DID, and gave the go ahead to the community to start modding. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Blizzard, or the hand is likely to pull away and never come back. What a way to stick a knife into the backs of your biggest fans.
I needed to get that off my chest.
The problem is almost no is willing to stand up to Blizzard’s menagerie of lawyers, as those that have in the past have lost big time. It shouldn’t be that way in cases like this. A mod maker who is doing what the company tells them is OK, should not have to worry about legal prosecution. It’s bad form, and even worse business.
As much as I could go on and on about this, I will leave this post with the letter that Ryan Winzen himself wrote to Blizzard and posted on his forums. Even the comments left show a level of class in the player base that is much higher than that of the 800+ pound gorilla. Shame on Blizzard.
Thankyou for coming all this way in your nice suit to my crummy forum. I’m guessing you’re a little upset with me right now, or maybe you’re happy. I don’t know.
You created a tool that allowed us to do anything with your assets. You encouraged us to use your assets and were eager to see what we might come up with. You had to have seen this coming?
I know it’s hard to trust someone you’ve never met to piggyback on your own legacy. The brilliance of Starcraft combined with the multiplayer focus of World of Warcraft. You might be a little worried about your lore being butchered… or even more-so worried about a guy with no supervision tainting the name of your company with poor product.
Let me assure you that I am in no way shape or form going to deliver anything less than complete perfection. I’ve been following your work since Warcraft. I’ve worked with every editor you’ve put out since I was 13 years old.
I’m 25 now and I’ve never made a single penny from any of my artwork. I exist only to entertain people and make this world we live in a more colorful and exciting place. I’m not even a programmer. I hate programming. I’m a charcoal artist.
But ever since I was very young it has always been my dream in life to create an epic game for people to enjoy. I’m just trying to finally get my name out there and show people what I can do.
This market is so oversaturated right now and you guys get thousands of applicants every month. Most guys who do get a job working in video games right now are driven like slaves working with little creative control. But you know what… I’m a virgin in the industry. Because my talent has never tasted a penny, I remember the core of gaming. I remember the heart of gaming, and I know what people love.
AND I’M HERE TO DELIVER
If you have a problem with what I am doing… or would like to talk about it. I’m all ears. But please don’t send me some messenger with a cease and desist letter. I’m aware of the similiarities between this situation and FreeCraft.
This game holds possibilities for both of us. The custom maps sector is dying out, and less and less people are logging into SC2 NA. I truly believe this is a step in the right direction.
Furthermore, if you like this idea and would be willing to grant me a seal of approval to continue… that would be wonderful. I won’t let you down.
~Cordially, Ryan Winzen
Stay classy Ryan, and good luck!