Studio Wildcard, known to gamers for the hit survival game ARK: Survival Evolved, was a key component of the surprising resolution of the Myth of Empires legal dispute. The sandbox multiplayer game was removed from Steam following a copyright infringement claim.
Studio Wildcard, a subsidiary of Snail Games, alleged that source code from ARK: Survival Evolved had been used in Myth of Empires. A source code comparison analysis conducted by none other than Robert Zeidman at the behest of a US court showed that Angela (the developer of Myth of Empires) had indeed copied substantial portions of Studio Wildcard’s copyrighted source code.
So far, it’s not that uncommon of an occurrence in game development or software development. The novelty mainly resides in the resolution: Snail Games, through Studio Wildcard, is now partnering with Angela to re-release the game early next year on PC stores such as Steam and on consoles, too.
I spoke with Studio Wildcard Co-Founder and CEO Doug Kennedy to discuss what happened behind the scenes, how they’re going to help with the Myth of Empires re-launch, whether this impacted the upcoming ARK projects (Survival Ascended is due later this month, while ARK 2 is scheduled for late 2024), and the possibility of SWC acting as publishing partner for other games.
Let’s go back to the beginning when the game first launched on Steam early access. Then, it was delisted from Steam about a month later. I guess this is where you saw a copyright infringement in your case, right? So you weren’t aware of Myth of Empires before it was published on Steam.
Yeah, we weren’t aware of Myth of Empires. It was a situation where a number of people from our community brought the game to our attention, and after a little bit of investigation from our team at Studio Wildcard, we noticed these things that were pretty similar to what we were building inside of ARK: Survival Evolved, and that’s where we took action with our legal team.
I see. How did that happen in terms of them having access to the source code? Was Angela Game working on ARK: Survival Evolved in some capacity?
Yeah, there was some crossover with some of the employees, but I’m not gonna get into the details about how that all went down.
But, you know, the bottom line is we did discover some things that led us to take some legal action, and we were able to come to a resolution with them, which we just announced.
How did that come to fruition? From the outside, it looks like a rather unique type of settlement. Usually, these disputes are resolved with one-time fees or something like that.
Yeah. Well, I think anybody who’s worked with me in the industry understands that I like to structure very unique deals and this is clearly one of those types of deals.
When you take a step back and remove the emotion from what transpired, I think that everybody took a deep breath, understood that there were some damages that were incurred by the actions of the folks at Angela Game, and I took a look at the best possible way to get a settlement that would, you know, repay our company, Snail Games and Studio Wildcard, for those damages and also give the fans what they want. It would have been sad for the fans if we had just taken action against the game and shut the game down and said that’s the end of it.
But clearly, with the fan base being very ravenous about Myth of Empires and very excited about it, we wanted to find a way that we felt it was fair to us that we could make the point about the fact that we knew that this was built on our source code and come to a resolution that would work for all parties. And I think that you’ll find that Imperia and Angela feel that way, and so do we at Studio Wildcard and Snail Games.
Just to be clear, you will now act as the game’s publisher, right?
We’re going to act as the game’s co-publisher with them. I think that one of the things that came out during discovery was, obviously we knew what we had in terms of a game, but we felt in looking at how the game was being taken to market, there were things that we really had a big advantage of. So, as we had these settlement discussions, we got into a situation where we felt that if we were going to assist and be part of the publishing process to bring Myth of Empires back to the marketplace there were things from the Studio Wildcard side that we could handle and really give assistance to launch the game on a global basis.
That’s kind of how we came to the settlement agreement. That’s why we’re going to be involved in everything from distribution to public relations, marketing, and social media, working on Myth of Empires on a global basis for all players.
I don’t know if you can answer this. However, from the outside, it looked like development was stagnating during the litigation phase. As far as I understand from the press release, the goal is now to develop DLCs and expansion packs.
I don’t know if development actually slowed down for Myth of Empires. I think as we started to move into a discussion about how we were going to go about settling the case and then we worked on what the specifics were about, I think that development continued.
That’s my take on it. I don’t know that to be factual, but I know as we got close to settlement, they were working on the game. We put some requests into the settlement that talked about expansion packs, DLCs, and various platforms that we thought the game should come to.
We did that once again thinking about the consumer thinking about that, if we’re going to take this game to market, what’s the best possible way to go out rather than just be a PC title that gets distributed on one platform. Let’s look at consoles, let’s look at other areas that we think we can be successful at.
To be clear, Studio Wildcard is working on their projects, and the team from Angela is working on this project. I’ll be involved with both projects, not from a development standpoint, but from the public-facing stuff. This situation didn’t impact us from a Studio Wildcard standpoint in terms of what our path is going to be in terms of releasing new products and working on future projects.
Myth of Empires is also launching on consoles as part of the new deal, correct?
Yes, that’s correct. And that’s one thing that we are bringing our expertise on not from a development standpoint, but finding a studio that’s gonna assist us in terms of co-development. It will not be Studio Wildcard or Snail Games doing the co-development with Angela, but we’re working with a couple of different studios that will be assisting us in going to Xbox and going to PlayStation so we can take the product back to market as close to a simultaneous release as possible.
Do you know or can speak to whether there will be crossplay between the PC and console versions of Myth of Empires?
I’ll answer the question like this. Everything is on the table right now and we’re taking a look at all those aspects, but we don’t have a final decision on crossplay between PC and consoles.
Fair enough. Is there anything else you’d like to add about this situation?
If I can make one last point, I’d like to make a point about this. It goes back to the team at Studio Wildcard. I think that we’ve done an excellent job over the past 10 years of really managing our community and managing the launch of ARK: Survival Evolved.
If there are titles out there that are looking for this level of support… We’re very picky about who we work with. We obviously knew the code of the type of game that Myth of Empires would be for obvious reasons. That’s why I think we stepped up and wanted to distribute the title.
So, we are looking for partners to be doing stuff like this. We don’t necessarily need someone to borrow our source code in order for us to distribute their game. I’ll leave it like that.
I guess you’re saying that you might be interested in publishing other games as well, correct?
With the right type of game. Absolutely. We’re looking at all those things. We have a really good public relations and marketing team and just a really good social team that really manages the market. With the right type of game, we think that we’re pretty good at taking games to the market.
Thank you for your time.