We already had a lawsuit between Ragnarok Game LLC (the publisher) and Human Head Studios (the previous name of the dev team), but now, Bethesda has also been included.
So Human Head Studios (Rune, Prey 2006, Brink… and The Quiet Man) worked on Rune II for Ragnarok, and it was released in 2019, and not long after the game’s launch, Zenimax acquired the studio, which was then promptly renamed into Roundhouse Studios. In Ragnarok’s legal complaint, aside from Human Head’s founders, Zenimax and Bethesda were also named as co-defendants.
„In the months leading up to the launch of Rune II and in the weeks after the launch of Rune II, Human Head acted in concert with Zenimax to sabotage the release of Rune II. The November 4, 2019 transaction, in which Zenimax formed Roundhouse to purchase Human Head’s assets and in which Zenimax then hired all of Human Head’s personnel, leaving Human Head as an empty shell corporation with no assets and only liabilities, was a de facto merger. Through this de facto merger, Zenimax acquired control of all of Human Head’s assets and personnel.
For the period from November 4, 2019, until November 13, 2019, which comprised the week preceding the launch of Rune II through the day after launch, the principals of Human Head were simultaneously employees of Zenimax. As agents of Zenimax, the actions undertaken by Human Head’s principals were performed with full knowledge, license, and at the instruction of, Zenimax. Through its instructions to its employees, Zenimax worked in concert with Human Head to sabotage Rune II. Human Head, Zenimax, and Bethesda thus worked in concert to harm Plaintiffs. Through their refusal to turn over the Game Assets, Human Head’s principals, acting in their dual capacity as Zenimax employees, making it impossible for Plaintiffs to rescue the sabotaged launch of Rune II,” the document reads.
Rune II’s E3 appearance wasn’t the best („poor E3 performance and lack of influencer engagement”), which led to the community manager of the game getting replaced. The document says that Ragnarok „was compelled to engage a marketing firm and use creative techniques due to Human Head’s development delays and Rune II not being ready to show publically.” However, before the completion of the development’s 23rd milestone, Matt Candler from Ragnarok was still somewhat optimistic: „I know what this game could become- it’s in gathering a group of your friends and jumping on a boat and going on a raid and getting loot. Ideally, the World supports this process over and over via asymmetrical PVP elements. One team builds up its base, another Team raids it – is repelled or succeeds and the base is protected or raided. If Human Head Studios [HH] wants to keep working on Rune II and go on this journey, well HH has the first crack at showing me a plan for what I know this game could become.”
A WCCFTech commenter added that Ragnarok tested the game with Steam users before they jumped ship to the Epic Games Store. The situation isn’t entirely clear yet, so everyone could be to blame. Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax makes the situation even more complicated, as now Roundhouse Studios is under them, too. But asking for a hundred million dollars is a bit too much.
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