Earlier this week, Crytek, the publisher of the Crysis series and free-to-play shooter Warface, filed suit against the team behind Star Citizen in a California court. Crytek also develops the CryEngine game engine, and in its complaint, Crytek said that Cloud Imperium Games and Roberts Space Industries broke the terms of their licensing agreement. In a statement provided to Polygon, CIG and RSI strongly deny that that’s the case.
“This is a meritless lawsuit,” a representative from CIG and RSI told Polygon, “that we will defend vigorously against, including recovering from Crytek any costs incurred in this matter.”
Crytek isn’t simply saying that CIG and RSI broke the terms of the agreement. They’re also implying that the lawyers who helped to negotiate the agreement in the first place may not have been playing by the rules.
The complaint reads like a story.
Both CIG and RSI were co-founded by two men, it says. The first was Chris Roberts, the creator of the Wing Commander series and the lead designer of the Star Citizen projects. The second was Ortwyn Freyermuth, who, in addition to his work on Star Citizen, is a successful entertainment lawyer.
Crytek points out that, prior to co-founding CIG and RSI, Freyermuth helped to negotiate licensing agreements on behalf of Crytek, including agreements to use the CryEngine software.
Here’s the relevant bit:
The [game license agreement] was extensively negotiated, and negotiations on behalf of the Defendants were led by one of the Defendants' cofounders, Freyermuth. In prior years, Freyermuth also represented Crytek in negotiations of similar license agreements with third parties. 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 negotiations on behalf of Crytek were led by Carl Jones, then an employee of Crytek. Jones later left Crytek and became an employee of Defendants.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jones was the director of global business development on CryEngine from 2008 to 2012, before becoming the overall director of global business development for all of Crytek until September 2014. He started working for Cloud Imperium in January 2015.
A little over a year later, the Star Citizen team said it switched from CryEngine to Amazon’s Lumberyard. Crytek insists that the game is still running, at least in part, on CryEngine. It’s a claim that CIG and RSI deny.
Like any other, the games industry can appear to be insular. The fact of the matter is that working with someone, even when they’re sitting across the table from you on the other side of a negotiation, breeds familiarity. Familiarity can highlight a person’s expertise, and having the right expertise leads to job opportunities in the future.
This is all to say that Jones moving from one company to another is a perfectly normal thing. But part of a lawyer’s job in a civil case is to highlight connections and point out inconsistencies. Crytek has requested a jury trial in this case, and if it comes to that, it will be very interesting to see this part of the story argued before a live audience.