The Dark Side Is Strong With This Copyright Claim
Fan remakes are like Luke Skywalker in that they keep hope alive, which is ironic considering this news story. Lucasfilm has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Poem Studios, the indie programmers behind the Unreal Engine 4 remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, so-called Apeiron. After spending years on the nostalgic project, the creators had no choice but to comply.
“It’s with a great sadness that I’m posting today,” project leader Taylor Trotter wrote on Twitter. “I recently received a letter from Lucasfilm instructing Poem to end production on Apeiron. After a few days, I’ve exhausted my options to keep it afloat; we knew this day was a possibility. I’m sorry and may the Force be with you.”
It’s with a great sadness that I’m posting today; I recently received a letter from Lucasfilm instructing Poem to end production on Apeiron. After a few days, I’ve exhausted my options to keep it afloat; we knew this day was a possibility. I’m sorry and may the force be with you pic.twitter.com/OCRmMIjwGT
— Poem Studios (@PoemStudios) October 11, 2018
Not only did Trotter and crew have to remove all traces of the game from the internet, but they’ve also been told to “destroy all code and materials related to the project.” That’s years of dedication down the drain, which is a pretty crushing (yet common) circumstance for fanmade projects. The letter from Lucasfilm stipulates that no Star Wars project independent of Lucasfilm or Disney may exist in any medium. Poem Studios was just a product of copyright, the same kind that toppled the Star Wars expanded universe. Years later, we’re still feeling the effects.
“Lucasfilm is the exclusive owner of all intellectual property rights in and to the Star Wars major motion pictures, games and any other Star Wars content,” Lucasfilm wrote. “As such, Poem Studios’ continued use of Lucasfilm’s intellectual property and references to the KOTOR game is misleading to the public and is likely to create confusion as to whether it is affiliated with Lucasfilm.”
While Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic Apeiron sought to recreate everything we saw in the original experience, it also meant to upgrade the mechanics. In other words, combat fluidity, possibly different animations, and Trotter even mentioned customizable lightsabers. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy anyone? New mechanics would have extended to force powers.
“A simple example is the iconic Force choke,” Trotter told Eurogamer. “With the physics we have in place now, imagine gaining the powers of the Dark Side and Force-choking your opponent, then hurling them towards you as you ignite your red-hued Lightsaber into their stomach and they fall lifeless to the floor – the other swoop-gang members running away in fear.”
— Poem Studios (@PoemStudios) August 6, 2018
Apeiron didn’t have a release date, and we don’t know whether the team had one by the time Lucasfilm found the unlicensed project. Since Poem Studios was comprised of volunteers, they couldn’t provide consistent updates. They provided updates, nonetheless, broadcasting new features that slowly painted legal crosshairs on their heads. When asked if he feared shutdown, Trotter said, “[Fan-made content is] an obvious long-standing tradition in the Star Wars community … and we hope to follow in those footsteps,” he said. “We don’t see this game as stepping on anyone’s toes.”
The rest is history. Star Wars fanmade projects are likely to pop up now and again, as are the legal troubles. So long as EA is the only license holder, the market is likely to remain barren of Star Wars games. Amy Hennig’s project with Visceral Studios was burned to a crisp earlier this year, which means we have nothing new to look forward to until developer Respawn reveals what they’ve been cooking up.