Rune 2 publisher sues Human Head Studios for abandoning the game

(Image credit: Ragnarok)

The launch of the Viking action-RPG Rune 2 was an odd affair, to say the least. On November 12, the game went live on the Epic Games Store; on November 13, literally the next day, developer Human Head Studios closed its doors; and then also on November 13, literally the same day, it re-opened its doors as Bethesda-owned Roundhouse Studios.

The day after all of that, Rune 2 publisher Ragnarok Game reassured everyone that despite the loss of the developer, the game would continue to be actively supported, including with planned post-launch content. It also made clear that it had no idea that any of this was coming, saying in a statement that "we found out about this news when you did."

Ragnarok made further allegations about Human Head in a message posted today in the Rune 2 forum, saying that the studio has refused to provide it with the finalized source code and game assets, despite repeated requests to do so. Because of that, it has now filed legal action against the studio.

The lawsuit alleges that the development process did not go smoothly. The initial schedule set 11 "milestones," for instance, but "because of Human Head delays, errors, and mismanagement," that was ultimately stretched to 23 milestones, all of which Ragnarok says it paid for. It further claims that the studio suddenly became "uncommunicative and unavailable" a couple of weeks prior to Rune 2's launch, and that on November 7, three business days before release, Human Head's then-COO Ben Gokey told Ragnarok that the studio was closing—but made no mention of the Bethesda acquisition.

"Roundhouse Studios and Human Head have the same exact business address:1741 Commercial Ave, Madison, Wisconsin. The same Human Head team of employees and principals in the same physical location were reborn as Bethesda's Roundhouse Studios within days after the launch of Rune 2," the lawsuit states.

"Ragnarok was completely unaware of any of these developments and only learned about them from the press, along with the rest of the gaming community. In fact, when Ragnarok had asked Human Head on the November 8 call if Ragnarok could reach out to former Human Head employees, Gokey said that 'would be a problem.' The problem Gokey knew (but didn't mention) was that those employees were or would soon be Bethesda employees."

Ragnarok believes that Human Head is now refusing to turn over the Rune 2 assets in order to "coerce Ragnarok to make payments for Human Head's incomplete deliverables." The suit also alleges that despite now being owned by Bethesda, and against Ragnarok's instructions, Human Head "not only continued to change the code, but even uploaded and attempted to launch an altered, unapproved Rune 2 build to the Epic Games Store Staging."

Ragnarok's lawsuit demands the return of the game property, restitution of financing for the development, and at least $100 million in compensation. A Bethesda rep declined to comment on the matter.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.