Bethesda Softworks has filed a new motion for an injunction against Fallout Online, claiming that Interplay is trying to undermine the canon established in Fallout 3 and beyond with non-canon work set in a different era.
With Interplay's most recent 10-K filing sounding pretty bleak, you might think that it would be ready to give up its legal fight with Bethesda over the Fallout Online MMO. You would, however, be wrong. Likewise, Bethesda, though its last attempt at an injunction against the game was denied, is still hammering away, trying to bring things to a quick finish. Its previous argument claimed that the Trademark License Agreement with Interplay allowed Interplay to use only the Fallout name in the game but no other Fallout-related assets; now Bethesda has added the twist that Interplay will "undermine" Bethesda's work because its plan for Fallout Online aren't consistent enough with the current state of the franchise.
"The original Fallout game takes place circa 2161, on the west coast of the United States, in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed eighty-five years earlier by nuclear war," Bethesda claimed in a "heavily redacted" filing. "Fallout 2 also is set on the west coast of the United States and takes place approximately 80 years after Fallout (c. 2241). When Bethesda created Fallout 3, Bethesda continued the post-apocalyptic tradition of Fallout and Fallout 2. However, Bethesda set the game on the east coast of the United States approximately 35 years after Fallout 2 and 200 years after the nuclear war (c. 2277). Documents recently produced by Interplay reveal that Interplay intends to [redacted] . This places the Fallout MMOG story line [redacted]. Interplay's documents show that, in its Fallout MMOG, Interplay intends to [redacted]."
"In other words, Interplay intends to use the copyrighted Fallout artwork and backstory, which is undisputedly owned by Bethesda, to undermine the plot-line of Bethesda's award-winning Fallout 3 game," the filing continues. "Obviously, this is intended to harm Bethesda's reputation and that of the Fallout 3 game. Game players who follow the Fallout history will be confused and confounded by the sequence of events created by Interplay in its MMOG."
Bethesda also brought the court's attention to Interplay's Fallout Online website, which wasn't live when the first preliminary injunction request was filed. "The Flash animation and content of this website include infringing copies of Bethesda's copyrighted works, including copyrighted character art such as 'Vault Boy' and weapons art such as 'Brother of Steel Power Armor'," it said. "The animation's opening sequence with the 'Please Stand By' test pattern is copied from the opening scene of Bethesda's Fallout 3 game. The carvings on the desk of 'The Master Lives' and '♥ Harold' depicted in the animation are plain and clear references to 'The Master' and 'Harold,' characters from the backstory of the previous Fallout games."
I won't even pretend to have a worthwhile opinion about the relative merits of the legal arguments in play, or even about which side is acting like a bigger dick, which is what these conversations usually boil down to. [For the record, however, I don't think Bethesda is necessarily the Big Meanie here.] But as a gamer and a Fallout fan, I find my attention drawn to the fact that Interplay is apparently planning to take the MMO in a completely different direction than that laid down by Bethesda. It's impossible to say when or where Interplay intends to set the game but it seems clear that whatever its plan, it doesn't fit very smoothly with the established Bethesda continuity.
It's also awesome and hilarious to see the Fallout timeline detailed in a legal document as if it was a series of real historical events.
In a separate filing, Interplay revealed that it has secured funding for Fallout Online with the Interactive Game Group. In other words, this fight could drag out for a long while yet, and Interplay, if it prevails, might actually be able to make this game happen. We'll keep you posted!