Star Control lawsuit settled, both sides will cooperate on current and future games

Well over a year after it began, Star Control Origins studio Stardock and original Star Control creators Paul Reiche and Fred Ford have announced that they have reached an amicable settlement in the legal dispute between them. The settlement arose from a direct phone call from Reiche to Wardell, in which they spoke at length about bees and related matters before moving on to talk about the case. 

In a statement released on their Dogar and Kazon website, Reiche and Ford explained that when all was considered, "the distinction between the most likely winning and losing scenarios was probably going to be relatively small." And even if they won, the lost money, time, and sanity would be significant. 

"We'd tried court-managed settlement with no progress and private mediation was also proving to be as elusive as the Questing Beast. So we decided to throw a bit of a Hail Mary pass and just call Brad Wardell directly—something he'd actually suggested more than a year earlier—but first, we needed to find some kind of common ground which turned out to be... bees," they wrote.

After making a connection over bees, honey, mead, and bee stings, they got down to the matter at hand. "Our perspective was this: we don't like fighting, but we love creating, so can we step waaay outside the box and settle our dispute through positive, creative actions rather than continuing to beat each other up?" they wrote. "Brad listened and agreed, and this became the basis for settlement.  Our lawyers are all smart, professionals with their client's best interest in mind, but it's worth considering that it was only when we communicated directly with each other that we made progress." 

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said basically the same thing in a statement at "We figured out what we wanted in just a couple hours of talking. The rest of the time was the lawyers smithing out exact, agonizingly precise, verbiage. That took much longer. Usually these things claim to be amicable but it's just both sides trying to spin things. In this case, it really was amicable," he wrote. 

"We added a section in which I'll be working with Paul on beekeeping. He's going to send me some meade, I'm going to send him some honey. I don't think the lawyers were particularly enthusiastic about us incorporating some of this into the agreement. I did a tutorial video on beekeeping I was going to send over but got stung in the video, so thought better than to actually send it." 

The settlement agreement is confidential, but both sides wanted its terms made public. The full rundown is posted at Dogar and Kazon, but highlights include: 

  • Stardock will have the right to make new Star Control games in the future, while Reiche and Ford will make new Ur-Quan Masters games
  • Stardock has dropped all alien name and character trademarks, and both sides have dropped their opposition to the other's trademarks
  • Each side agrees not to challenge the other's trademarks in the future
  • Ghosts of the Precursors will be renamed to something "a little less generic"
  • No money changed hands

"In addition, the trademark and copyright questions were put to rest with the agreement spelling out the copyrighted IP that Reiche and Ford care about along with the trademarks that Stardock cares about, with each party agreeing to respect these boundaries in their use in the future," Stardock said.

Interestingly, the two sides have also agreed to cooperate on their projects going forward: Reiche is going to create some new alien races for Star Control: Origins, Stardock has offered to help Reiche and Ford with technology, and Reiche is going to begin working with Stardock on a new Star Control game later this fall. All original Star Control games will be returned to sale on all platforms, with royalties split between the two sides equally. 

And there is also some requisite ego-stroking: Stardock acknowledged that Reiche and Ford are in fact the creators of Star Control (Stardock's lawsuit made the rather bizarre claim that this was not actually the case) and Reiche acknowledged that he's a big fan of Star Control: Origins and thinks that it's very funny.

"We are honestly very, very happy with the way everything has settled," Reiche and Ford wrote. 

Stardock said that more information will be released in the near future but for now, with the matter settled, Reiche, Ford, and Wardell are apparently going to spend the rest of E3 hanging out together. That seems a little weird to me, but I do enjoy a happy ending.

Update: In case you needed proof:

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.