Bethesda has been accused of actively working to kill the launch of Ragnarok Games’ Rune II in order to prevent the game from posing a threat to their Elder Scrolls: Skyrim franchise.
Last December, Ragnarok Games filed a lawsuit against Rune 2 developer Humam Head Studios after the studio became “uncommunicative and unavailable” in the weeks leading up to the game’s release and announced three-days prior to launch that they would be closing, only to reveal that they had been acquired and “reborn as Bethesda’s Roundhouse studios within days after the launch of Rune 2.”
“Roundhouse Studios and Human Head have the same exact business address: 1741 Commercial Ave, Madison, Wisconsin,” read the initial lawsuit. “The same Human Head team of employees and principals in the same physical location were reborn as Bethesda’s Roundhouse Studios within days after the launch of Rune 2.”
Ragnarok Games further claimed that the former Human Head employees “not only continued to change the code, but even uploaded and attempted to launch an altered, unapproved Rune 2 build to the Epic Games Store Staging,” even after their acquisition by Bethesda, and are currently refusing to return the Rune 2 assets to Ragnarok Games in an attempt to “coerce Ragnarok to make payments for Human Head’s incomplete deliverables.”
However, on October 20th, the complaint was amended to include both Bethesda and parent-company Zenimax, alleging that “Human Head began conspiring with Defendants Bethesda Softworks (“Bethesda”) and Zenimax Media Inc. (“Zenimax”) in the late summer of 2019.”
According to Ragnarok Games, “Two weeks prior to launch of Rune II, Zenimax secretly formed a new subsidiary, Roundhouse Studios LLC (“Roundhouse”), and used that company to purchase all of Human Head’s equipment and take over its leases,” which “contained Plaintiff’s trade secrets, the source code and materials for Rune II and [the unreleased] Oblivion Song,” before “Zenimax arranged to have all employees dismissed from Human Head and hired by Zenimax.”
The amended complaint claims that Bethesda and Zenimax sought to torpedo Rune II due to “the threat that Rune II posed to their hit franchise, Skyrim/Elder Scrolls,” noting that a review called game “Skyrim on steroids,” and claims that “this review signaled to Bethesda and Zenimax that one of their biggest cash cows was under threat.”
“Zenimax and Bethesda knowingly and intentionally caused Human Head to breach its obligations with respect to Oblivion Song and Rune II,” accused Ragnarok Games. “And at the active instructions of Zenimax, Human Head timed the unveiling of its plan to cause maximum damage.”
In her coverage of the lawsuit, Dark Titan Enterprises founder Vara Dark noted that while the situation “doesn’t look good” for Bethesda, audiences have not yet heard the full story, as they “haven’t heard anything from Bethesda directly, or Zenimax, or Microsoft, or even any of the employees on this project.”
Conversely, she also concluded that while “Human Head looks really bad, Ragnarok Studios seems kind of suspicious in my opinion. I mean they seem to really be reaching.”
For relief, the lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages of “no less than $100 million,” “restitution of all monies paid by Ragnarok Game, LLC to Defendants,” and the return of “the property described.”
Despite Bethesda’s alleged plans, Ragnarok Games’ newly-formed developed Studio 369 has completed Rune II development of a more complete and updated version, Rune II: Decapitation Edition, which will see the addition of “new gameplay features including a skill tree system, improved combat mechanics, and a revamped quest system” when it releases for the PC on November 13th.