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NCsoft says Bluehole Studio stole assets for TERA

Mon 30 Jan 2012 11:40am GMT / 6:40am EST / 3:40am PST
OnlineLegal

Update: En Masse vice president of publishing Chris Lee responds, "outright rejects" claims

NCsoft

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Update

En Masse vice president of publishing Chris Lee has responded to the NCsoft accusations on the company's official forum.

"We are disappointed that NCsoft is attempting to mar the launch of Tera," he said. "Unfortunately we can't discuss much publicly due to the sensitivity of legal actions, but we do outright reject the NCsoft claims, and we are going to do everything in our power to defend and protect ourselves."

Original story

NCsoft has filed a trade secrets and unfair competition lawsuit against rival MMO developer Bluehole Studios over a US version of its game TERA, alleging it was developed using stolen assets.

Bluehole was founded by former NCsoft employees. Its US subsidiary, En Masse Entertainment, planned to launch an English language version of TERA in May, but NCsoft has argued the game is based on stolen property.

"These individuals did not leave NCsoft empty-handed or with benign intent," the complaint from NCsoft alleged of the former employees, according to MMOCulture.

"To the contrary, they made off with copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware and artwork relating to Lineage 3."

"Their business plan was simple and audacious: create a competing product using the very work they had done while at NCsoft, launch it themselves to great fanfare and acclaim, and, in the process, deal a crippling blow to their former employer."

NCsoft seeks damages, and to stop the release of the US version of the game. En Masse Entertainment has so far only responded through its official forum, and then only to say it would not comment on legal matters.

TERA actually launched in Korea last year, even though NCsoft won a similar legal battle there, which saw the former employees convicted of stealing trade secrets. A civil case in which NCsoft was awarded damages from Bluehole was later overturned.

6 Comments

Scott Pellico
CCO

2 0 0.0
I wonder if it has anything to do with resources being outsourced to the same private company. Assuming that they use outsourcing for asset development - which I'm sure NCsoft must. Either way, this feels like a MMO trend that is occurring in East Asian studios recently.

Posted:2 years ago

#1
From what I understand, its a tale of betrayal, company espionage and a very very big axe to grind.

What is not clear is about who did what: Whilst the article above implicates Bluehole in its entirety, I heard that it was former NcSoft staff - but only a few individuals (programming) that were involved in the duplicitous nature of ripping off Lineage 3 code?

And thus - a very looong long axe to grind (probably as long as NcSoft or Bluehole are alive)

As such, NcSoft will most likely pursue (to the letter of the law) any TERA release in various worldwide regions, all the whilst awaiting its Guild Wars 2 beta perfection before release, whilst TERA takes a early leapfrog in terms of release and establishment (the two are not related, but looking at the long view this factor could be inferred)

This is corporate warfare that has been ongoing in Korea for quite a few years now.

Posted:2 years ago

#2
Bluehole was sued in Korea and the company was found not guilty, but 5 of the individuals involved were apparently.

What Chee says is just spot on - there is a strong feud between the two companies and NCsoft will make its best to make their life miserable.

Not sure that they have much of a case here as the Korean court found out that none of the code from L3 was used in Tera, IIRC. I doubt a US court would rule differently. But again the aim here seems to be to mess with the launch more than anything else.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Sam Maxted
Journalist / Community / Support

155 65 0.4
In addition to messing with the launch, I wouldn't be surprised if NCsoft was after a settlement of some kind - either a one-off payment or, more likely, some kind of royalty. If that option is on the cards, it'd be in NCsoft's best interests to see the game released, as they could end up profiting from it if a settlement is reached.

NCsoft's surely got to be hurting for cash at the moment, after a few lacklustre years (in Western markets, at least) and the successful lawsuit from Richard Garriott.

Posted:2 years ago

#4
I think NcSoft expanded fast, grew well and experimented alot. However, stringent project management, hiring of too many heads and the unlucky result of various titles was the end result with NcWest (a logical, harsh but needed streamlining). So legal fun aside, I hope their Guild Wars 2 does well, and hopefully this long running dispute with Bluehole is laid to rest once and for all - whatever the outcome (sure the MMO market is really tight, however with the right interactive experience, which does not necessarily need all the bells and whistles, MMOs could be fun and enticing once again)

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Dan Griliopoulos
Journalism

43 0 0.0
I'm no lawyer but, IIRC, the rules determining ownership of code in South Korea are more oriented to the programmer than in the US - it's likely that NC were waiting for Tera (which is essentially Lineage III) to launch in the US because they have a much greater chance of winning there. As I understand it, a large chunk of code was taken, but that it was legal in Korea to do so - which it certainly wouldn't be in the US.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

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