Blizzard says no to World of Starcraft mod


2nd UPDATE: Looks like there is a happy compromise – Ryan has been contacted by Blizzard and it seems he can continue work on the mod provided he changes the name.  Good stuff.

A gamer who created a ‘World of Starcraft’ mod for Starcraft 2 has been frowned on by Blizzard.  Unsurprisingly.

Modder “Ryan” used Starcraft 2’s Galaxy Editor, which enables modders to create anything from custom maps to total converstion mods for Starcraft 2 (quick digression: my favourite is Footmen Frenzy), to create a prototype Starcraft type MMO.  Rather unwisely, he went on to call it World of Starcraft.  And Blizzard didn’t like it, obviously.  Apparently it manifested this dislike by sending a takedown request to YouTube in respect of a World of Starcraft promo video. UPDATE: a helpful reader has noted that apparently the takedown request was due to Ryan allegedly violating Blizzard’s policy on videos, but as yet there has been no takedown/cease and desist request made against Ryan himself.  So, the rest of this post proceeds on the hypothetical basis that Blizzard does try to take World of Starcraft down, because that’s when things would get more interesting.

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to think a bit about Blizzard’s likely thought process when this came up on their radar:
  • I couldn’t find the EULA which governs use of the Galaxy Editor [if anyone can find it, let me know please!], but broadly it will involve Blizzard giving modders a limited licence to use Starcraft 2 IP, e.g. in-game characters and probably the name ‘Starcraft’, in order to create mods for Starcraft 2 using the Galaxy Editor.
  • Broadly, the main constraints on that kind of licence are: (1) that the mod is not made for profit; and (2) Blizzard has no other objections to it.
  • Clearly, it’s the second exception which is interesting here: does Blizzard have the right to complain if a modder takes a whole bunch of Starcraft 2 IP and turns it into a fusion of World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2, in circumstances where Blizzard gave the modder rights over that IP in the first place?
  • This will boil down mainly to what the EULA says.  Unfortunately I can’t see the EULA, so I can’t answer that question definitely – yet.
  • Anyway, leaving the legal specifics aside, it does seem to me that Blizzard is on slightly tricky ground here.  Regardless of exactly what a EULA says, if you give the modder community the ability and the blessing to go make fun stuff with your game, potentially you’re playing with fire if you then bring the hammer down because you don’t like what they’ve done, surely?  Especially when all the modder here has done is try to imitate that other wildly popular Blizzard game, WoW.
Still, the morale of the story is this: be clear with your fans what they can and cannot do with your game, especially if you release an editor.  The legal small print is important, but don’t rely on just small print alone.

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[Image credit: who the hell knows?  I’m going to go with Blizzard/’Ryan’/ to be safe]