Home Gaming Stardock and Star Control creators settle their legal differences by talking about bees

Stardock and Star Control creators settle their legal differences by talking about bees

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New Star Control games have been caught up in a legal battle that’s gone on for too long. Original Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III (as Frungy Games) are trying to make a direct sequel to Star Control II – The Ur-Quan Masters, but they’ve been butting legal heads with Stardock, the company that bought up the assets and some of the IP for the game from Atari. Stardock’s released its own game, Star Control: Origins.

The legal spat saw existing Star Control games yanked from sale, and the future of further games in jeopardy. The dispute has now been amicably settled – and all it took was a bit of conversation. About bees.

Stardock’s Brad Wardell, Ford and Reiche III have come to an agreement that’ll see both parties benefit, and they did so by putting the lawyers aside and speaking to each other directly.

In a statement on their own site Reiche and Ford explained that “the distinction between the most likely winning and losing scenarios was probably going to be relatively small.” And even if they won, the lost money, time, and sanity would be significant.

“We’d tried court-managed settlement with no progress and private mediation was also proving to be as elusive as the Questing Beast. So we decided to throw a bit of a Hail Mary pass and just call Brad Wardell directly—something he’d actually suggested more than a year earlier—but first, we needed to find some kind of common ground which turned out to be… bees.”

After discussing things apiary, they discussed the legal stuff causing the issues.

“Our perspective was this: we don’t like fighting, but we love creating, so can we step waaay outside the box and settle our dispute through positive, creative actions rather than continuing to beat each other up? Brad listened and agreed, and this became the basis for settlement. Our lawyers are all smart, professionals with their client’s best interest in mind, but it’s worth considering that it was only when we communicated directly with each other that we made progress.”

In his own statement on Stardock.com, Wardell explained how things were amicable.

“We figured out what we wanted in just a couple hours of talking. The rest of the time was the lawyers smithing out exact, agonizingly precise, verbiage. That took much longer. Usually these things claim to be amicable but it’s just both sides trying to spin things. In this case, it really was amicable,” he said.

“We added a section in which I’ll be working with Paul on beekeeping. He’s going to send me some meade, I’m going to send him some honey. I don’t think the lawyers were particularly enthusiastic about us incorporating some of this into the agreement. I did a tutorial video on beekeeping I was going to send over but got stung in the video, so thought better than to actually send it.”

The precise nature of the agreement is indeed public – and doesn’t include any money changing hands. Previous Star Control games are back on sale, while both parties have dropped their trademark oppositions. Stardock will create new games in the Star Control franchise, while Paul & Fred will create new games in the Ur-Quan Masters franchise. They’ll both be helping each other out though. Stardock will help with technology, while Paul and Fred will creature new aliens for Stardock’s games.

  • The terms are not confidential.  We won’t be publishing the text of the agreement, but we are free to describe all of its contents.
  • This is honestly and truly an amicable settlement.  Not only are we settling the lawsuit, but we’ve decided to support each other’s development so that the fan community gets two great games.
  • There is no ‘loser’.  All sides win, because we are no longer burning money, creative energy and the goodwill of our fans. 
  • No money changed hands.  We’re not only halting the lawsuit, but we’re committed to supporting each other’s projects and working together to rebuild the cracks in the fan community. 
  • There is a weird paragraph in the agreement that involves bees.  Seriously — no kidding.  Brad Wardell is giving Fred and Paul honey from his hives and Paul is giving Brad some bottles of his homemade mead.  Brad will also be giving Paul advice in how not to be stung.  The lawyers thought this was pretty dang crazy. This goes to show you can find common ground in the strangest (and most delicious) of places.
  • Stardock will create new games in the Star Control franchise.  Paul & Fred will create new games in the Ur-Quan Masters franchise. 
  • To help differentiate the two franchises Paul volunteered to create a few new alien races for Origins. 
  • Brad offered to help Fred and Paul with technology.
  • Stardock dropped all its alien name and character trademarks and all parties have dropped their oppositions to each other’s trademarks.
  • Both sides recognize each other’s copyrights and will not challenge them in the future.
  • We were able to come to a very specific understanding on the alien characters and races — how they look and act.  Stardock is dropping all trademark registration of the alien names and won’t use the described aliens without permission from Paul & Fred.
  • Star Control, Star Control II, and Star Control III will be coming back for sale by Stardock so that fans of all ages can enjoy the classic games in their original form.  Paul and Fred will split royalties equally with Stardock.
  • Stardock, and Brad in particular, is supportive of Paul and Fred owning the Ur-Quan Masters trademark.  All of us are committed to support the current UQM team and project, including their having a free, perpetual right to use the Ur-Quan Masters trademark for their amazing fan-powered recreation of the original game.
  • Stardock accepts that Paul & Fred are the creators of Star Control and Star Control II.  Both parties agree that many other skilled people also contributed their talent and creativity to help make the games so great.
  • Paul and Fred will be changing the name “Ghosts of the Precursors” to something a little less generic — (come on, you know we can do better!).  The precise ‘when’ is unclear, but it is still several years off.
  • The settlement resolved all issues with all the parties, including Valve and GOG.
  • Paul enjoyed Origins enough to spend over 50 intense hours playing the game.  He thought the jokes in the alien dialog were genuinely very funny and he was blown away by how beautifully interplanetary travel was rendered.  Paul was especially delighted that he could remap the control keys to his beloved SpaceWar! configuration.
  • We are honestly very, very happy with the way everything has settled.  No Dnyarri mental compulsion was needed.

Last Updated: June 12, 2019

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