Making a videogame based on someone else's property—or just tinkering around too much with one that already exists—is a good way to find yourself in hot water with the people who own it. But the creators of Installation 01, a free, multiplayer “artistic tribute” to Halo, say they don't have to worry about any backlash from Microsoft, because they're doing everything entirely by the book.
“Our work is completely legal. We are carefully following the rules set forth in Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules. No content in our game has been 'ripped,' it’s all handmade by our team,” the description in the “Journey to CE3 2016" video states. That statement is accompanied by a link to those rules, which covers “machinima, videos, and other cool things,” that are “strictly for personal and non-commercial use.”
“We’re fairly sure that we’re covered by them [the rules] as we’re sticking well within them… we’re creating all of our own assets and not making a single penny off the game,” netcode lead Aiden Leeming told Rock, Paper, Shotgun. “However we’re currently trying to get some sort of contact with Microsoft to talk about how we can make sure we don’t get shut down.”
That's probably wise, because the rules also include the provision, “We can revoke this limited use license at any time and for any reason,” and a caution that, when in doubt, it's best to get hold of Microsoft to work out some kind of commercial license. There's also a fairly clear implication that the rules in question are aimed at video makers, rather than game devs: Not only does the opening paragraph refer specifically to videos and machinima, but the contact email address listed on the page is “email@example.com.”
The gameplay in the video is quite clearly Halo, but the developers appear to be putting real effort into making it their own thing, too. “There can often be a tension or a question of Bungie versus 343, old versus new, and so on,” 3D artist Seth H. says in the video. “To get around this, I try to find a balanced approach that can sort of present a unified view of the Halo universe, which I think is what's most appropriate for our project.”
The developers say Installation 01 will provide more of a “classic experience,” with maps designed around a base walking speed with no sprint or thrusters, and no smart scope. But those options can be restored in custom games, and map-making tools will be provided as well. “We don't want to alienate fans of older titles, nor do we want to alienate fans of the newer ones,” programmer Reece G. explains.
The idea that Microsoft will be willing to let this slide seems optimistic, but stranger things have probably happened, somewhere. Assuming it does, the team aims to have a playable alpha ready sometime before the end of the year. More information about Installation 01, including a few older teaser videos, are up at installation01.org.