Crytek sues Star Citizen studio over breach of contract and copyright infringement

Crytek has filed a lawsuit against Cloud Imperium Games over the use of its Cryengine technology in Star Citizen, alleging that Crytek licensed the engine to CIG at a below-market rate in exchange for a prominent display of its trademarks in Star Citizen. That's no longer happening because the game is now running on Amazon's Lumberyard engine, but the problems actually started well before that. 

"Defendants knew Crytek's right to display its trademarks and copyright notices in the Star Citizen video game and related marketing materials was a critical component of the GLA [Game License Agreement]. Yet, by at least September 24, 2016, Defendants' co-founder Chris Roberts publicly sought to minimize Crytek's contribution to Star Citizen, stating that 'we don't call [the video game engine] CryEngine anymore, we call it Star Engine'," the suit states. 

"Shortly thereafter, Defendants removed Crytek trademarks and copyright notices from the Star Citizen video game and related marketing materials in breach of the GLA." 

The switch to Lumberyard itself is part of the complaint, however, as "the GLA states that Defendants have a license only to exclusively embed CryEngine in the Game," according to the filing. CIG also failed to provide Crytek with promised "bug fixes and optimizations" to the engine that emerged from its use in Star Citizen. Complicating things further is the fact that Lumberyard, though heavily modified and built upon, is based on Cryengine.

Also at issue is the use of Cryengine in the development of Squadron 42, the single-player component of Star Citizen. CIG announced in early 2016 that Squadron 42 will be available for purchase separately from Star Citizen, which in Crytek's opinion denotes it as a separate game. But the GLA only granted the developers the right to use the engine in Star Citizen, and by splitting them up, CIG is "intentionally and willfully using Cryengine without a license and in violation of copyright laws." 

Crytek's lawsuit alleges breach of contract and copyright infringement, and seeks direct damages that it believes "substantially" exceed $75,000, along with the usual blend of punitive damages, disgorgements, and injunctions. But it also opens the door to some interesting and potentially awkward questions. For one, Cloud Imperium co-founder and general counsel Ortwin Freyermuth, who negotiated the GLA on behalf of CIG, had previously represented Crytek in similar agreements. 

"Notwithstanding that he had confidential information about Crytek's licensing practices that would unfairly advantage Defendants, Freyermuth never recused himself from those negotiations and never resolved that conflict of interest with Crytek," the suit states. 

Why Crytek wouldn't request his recusal isn't clear, but that's not the only implication it makes about getting hosed in the agreement: Its side of the negotiations were handled by Carl Jones—who later left Crytek to join Cloud Imperium.  

"We are aware of the Crytek complaint having been filed in the US District Court," Cloud Imperium Games said in a statement. "CIG hasn’t used the CryEngine for quite some time since we switched to Amazon’s Lumberyard. This is a meritless lawsuit that we will defend vigorously against, including recovering from Crytek any costs incurred in this matter."

The court documents are available in full on Scribd, uploaded by qwints. They first appeared on PacerMonitor, a site which tracks Federal District court cases.

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.