The Universal Unreal Unlocker (opens in new tab) is a mod created by Frans "Otis_Inf" Bouma that brings a powerful photo mode to a long list of Unreal Engine 4 games. It's a genuinely impressive piece of software that enables videogame photographers to capture images far beyond conventional screenshots. Last year he also created similar, separate mods for Crysis Remastered 2 and 3, which he offered (along with the latest version of UUU) through his Patreon (opens in new tab). But those Crysis mods are no longer available: Crytek has asked Bouma to take them down.
The takedown request (opens in new tab) came from Crytek PR manager Adam Grinsell, who told Bouma that the EULAs for both games do not allow for mods. Because of that, Grinsell asked that Bouma "remove the mods from your Patreon page, and anywhere else they appear for availability." He also warned that if they weren't taken down within seven days, the matter would be referred to Crytek's legal department.
Bouma pushed back, pointing out that the mod is built entirely on his own code and makes no use of Crytek-owned assets of any kind. And this is where things got confusing: Grinsell replied to say that "the main issue with the software is that it is monetizes, therefore we request that you remove the paywall," a reference to the fact that the Crysis Remastered photo mode mods are only available to Patreon subscribers, at prices ranging from $6.50 to $63.50 per month.
The dispute eventually came to the attention of Reddit (opens in new tab), leading Crytek to apologize for its mishandling of the situation. "The initial message led to a misunderstanding, and we have apologised to the modder for this," Crytek PR manager Utku Çakır wrote. "We truly appreciate all the support we receive from the community, but we also have to balance this with protecting our copyright. It can be a tricky balance to strike, and in hindsight we should have approached the situation differently."
Despite the apology, Crytek's base position remained unchanged: It insisted Bouma either give the Crysis Remastered photo mode mods away to everyone, or take them down entirely. Given no choice, Bouma has opted for the latter.
"As I don't have the time nor the energy to fight them over this, plus having the tools up would only benefit them as people would post shots of their game on social media and other sites, I've decided to pull the tools and not make them public again," he wrote on Patreon. "I know it hurts for the people who would like to use the tools in Crysis 2 and Crysis 3 remastered. To them, I'm sorry. I worked more than a week on these tools and I'd love to keep them up but it's only benefiting Crytek if I do, and therefore they're gone."
Unsurprisingly, Bouma also said he won't be working on photo mode mods for any other Crytek games in the future.
But Crytek being Crytek, they can't help themselves and have to shoot themselves in their own feet. If I have to pull my Crytek 2/3 remastered photomode mods, which just add a photomode to these games, I will but I'll never create a custom photomode for any crytek game ever againJanuary 13, 2022
It's a shame the mod is gone, but the dispute also highlights potentially larger questions for other Patreon-supported mod makers. Very generally, game companies tend not to sweat mods too much as long as nobody's making money on them, and will sometimes even grant them an official blessing: Installation 01 (opens in new tab), for instance, is a fan-made Halo game that was given a non-commercial license, contingent on the developers never accepting any kind of money for the work—not even donations. Bouma's monetization of his work was overt, and even though his point about it being entirely his code may be valid, it doesn't mean much if he's not willing to contest the point in court—and understandably, that's something most individual mod makers can't or won't do.
"I don't think it's useful to waste money and energy on fighting Crytek in court over this, even though I am convinced I'm 100% in my right to sell my own code as it's not their right to tell me what to do with code that's not theirs," Bouma told PC Gamer in an email.
"In the end, let's say I go to court and win that lawsuit, what's the net result? That the mods stay up. But that's actually benefiting them, as then people take screenshots with the tools and create free advertising for their games. So the worst thing for them is that there are no mods for their games so people won't be exposed to screenshots of their games on social media and Flickr and won't be interested in the games. It sucks, as I worked hard on them."
I've reached out to Crytek for comment and will update if I receive a reply.