12.05.2016

Bethesda Shutting Down Fan Project?

Parent company Zenimax sends mixed signals


Bethesda’s parent company Zenimax has demanded the take down of DoomRL, a free Doom Roguelike created by Kornel Kisielewicz. The game’s creator shared the news on Twitter, along with the letter they sent him. 


Zenimax is demanding that Kisielewicz remove all references to the Doom trademark or face legal action. Twitter followers suggested rebranding like DMCA’s Sky, but removing all references and changing monster names and sprites won’t be easy. Kisielewicz later wrote: "Short version: we're f***ed,".

This particular case is troubling for a number of reasons. Up to now, Zenimax’s child company Bethesda has been very encouraging of fan projects, and is well-known for a faceoff with Sony over PS4 owners’ ability to mod games. Skyrim in particular has a very dedicated modding community, which has replaced dragons with trains, autotuned all the bears, let players ride giant chickens, and other crazy things. Bethesda can remove mods violating their mod kit EULA, but usually lets modders run wild.

“Bethesda can remove mods violating their mod kit EULA, but usually lets modders run wild.”

Another important fact in this case is that DoomRL didn’t come out recently. DoomRL was first released back in 2002. Waiting fourteen years into a project’s lifecycle to shut it down is pretty strange. The 9 year development of Pokemon Uranium ended immediately after release,, but unlike Uranium, DoomRL has been in active development for 14 years.

Some fans think that the timing is due to the creator’s new kickstarter for Juniper Hell. The spiritual successor to DoomRL (and another potential infringement) has already raised more than $51,000 of its roughly $76,000 goal. It might be that Zenimax is trying to prevent Jupiter Hell from being funded, but Zenimax may actually increase funding with the extra media attention. Further complicating things, Zenimax just congratulated fan projects Brutal Doom 64 and Enderal: The Shards of Order for nominations in this year’s video game awards

The final interesting bit in this case is that Zenimax has requested that DoomRL’s site remove the “doom” tag from its metadata, which would keep it from showing up in search results for Doom. Something like this has rarely been heard of, and effectively removes a site from the internet. (Except for those with the URL, but let’s face it, search engines rule the Web.)


“At time of writing, DoomRL can still be downloaded from its parent site, but no one knows for how long.” 

Some believe that this potential lawsuit may be the result of an automated bot, but it seems a bit doubtful since the request has been so specific. At time of writing, DoomRL can still be downloaded from its parent site, but no one knows for how long.