PUBG dev argues Fortnite spat is about Epic and Unreal Engine’s conflicts, not about owning the battle royal genre

Last week, following Epic’s announcement that PvE-centric Fortnite would be getting a PvP-centric battle royal mode its paying PvE players apparently didn’t want (but that’s OK because it’s free?), we all rolled our eyes at the transparent attempt to capitalize on the runaway success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Developer Bluehole, however, did more than that: In a press release, it all but accused Epic of ripping off the mode and suggested it’d be contemplating some sort of action against the company, causing a market run on virtual popcorn as everyone watched two massive video game companies prepare for a possible legal war over what seemed to many gamers to be a pretty old game trope.

But in a new PC Gamer interview, Bluehole has since clarified its position: It’s not about the games’ shared ideas but about Epic specifically.

“This is not about the battle royale game mode itself,” VP/EP Changhan Kim told PC Gamer. “There were other BR gamemodes earlier this year that were released, like last man standing or GTA 5’s battle royale game mode, and we never raised an issue. […] Battle royale is just about last man standing, it’s a simple game mode, and we’re not claiming any kind of ownership over the game mode or genre itself. It’s not for us to even comment.”

His implication is that Epic’s stewardship of Unreal Engine has created a unique problem, as PUBG licenses that engine and needs to work directly with Epic, now a direct competitor in the LMS space, to seek improvements to the engine specifically for PUBG, which could be “leaked, or other things could happen.”

“There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that’s the concern, that it was Epic Games. We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games. […] We just want to emphasize this only a problem because Epic Games is the company that makes the engine we use and we pay a large amount of royalties to them. And we had this business relationship and we had trust that we would be getting continued support, and we were looking forward to working more closely with them to get technical support, maybe develop new features. But our name was used to officially promote their game without our knowledge. There was no discussion. It was just a bit surprising and disappointing to see our business partner using our name officially to promote the game mode that is pretty similar to us and there was misunderstanding in the community that we’re officially involved in the project.”

Source: PC Gamer
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68 Comments on "PUBG dev argues Fortnite spat is about Epic and Unreal Engine’s conflicts, not about owning the battle royal genre"

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rafterman

This whole controversy is such a joke. How do you think the people at Daybreak felt when Player Unknown went out and made a competing product after working on H1Z1? How do you think the people at Lineage felt when the guys over a Bluehole stole their assets and made a game based off of them?

They’re just pissed Epic beat them to the console market, end of story. Also, all this paranoia about how Epic will withhold information, updates, support, etc. is just stupid. They’ve been licensing their engine for decades, many times to people who are making competing products
to their own, and it’s never happened.

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primal

Yeah it is stupid, epic get 5% of every sale so it’s in there interest to keep giving support. Say pubg got 330mill so far epics share is 16.5million. There not going to withhold support after getting that much money

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Witches

Is everyone really misunderstanding this?

They are not accusing Epic of anything, they are just unhappy Epic (that works with them on PUBG) used PUBG to promote an Epic game, without asking.

Even though they are working together, Epic treated them as if they were just another competing company, it’s easy to see why they would find this worrisome.

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John Kiser

Epic makes games that compete with companies they work with in the same genre and has done nothing. Also the bit about using it to promote is a bit silly. They said “we love battle royale games like PUBG” more and that is literally the only mention of it anywhere at all and is perfectly legal civil/trademark/copyright wise for them to do. And no they are kind of flat out accusing epic of potential stuff that epic could do not things that they have done or will definitely do and there is nothing in epic’s long history suggesting they’d actually you know do those things.

I mean they so much as flat out spell it out there “There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that’s the concern, that it was Epic Games”

“We just want to emphasize this only a problem because Epic Games is the company that makes the engine we use and we pay a large amount of royalties to them. And we had this business relationship and we had trust that we would be getting continued support, and we were looking forward to working more closely with them to get technical support, maybe develop new features. ”

It is quite clear they think that because epic works with them on making their game that epic should be unable to use that type of game mode or make a competing product of their own and that somehow it is going to cause epic to not give them support or the like. Epic also didn’t use PUBG to “promote” Fortnite by simply making a statement that they love battle royale games such as PUBG. His implications are unfounded given epic’s history regardless though.

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Witches

Once a thief? Really?

Epic shouldn’t have mentioned a game they are working with in a promotion of an in house game, it’s unethical and borderline illegal.

I bet from now on anyone that works with them will put a clause in the contract to avoid them pulling another stunt like this.

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John Kiser

Did you bother to look up the so called “promotion of an in house game”. It was an article announcing battle royale mode and simply said we love battle royale games like PUBG. It is not illegal even kind of borderline nor is it unethical in the least. Guarantee you bluehole has made similar statements about games before. Trion did it with Rift and WoW (the whole you’re not in azeroth anymore thing they did for awhile)

No one is going to put in their contract to do anything. Epic did nothing wrong here. They simply said they liked a game and gave a company they are working with a shout out. They have been doing games and licensing their engine for 20+ years now. I think they know what the hell they are doing and they didn’t become a behemoth in the middlware engine space because they are unethical in their treatment of other companies. This is quite literally bluehole attempting to shut down competition with scare tactics/paranoia by threatening to “take actions” even though they have no legal leg to stand on at all.

Epic wasn’t pasting PUBG all over the place, using it in promo materials etc. They quite literally had a little tag line on an article announcing the game mode and that was it. They are also clearly in a tizzy because they think that epic shouldn’t be able to make competing products to their own simply because epic licenses the engine to other people and has a working relationship with those developers which again is basically saying that epic shouldn’t be making games at all at this point based on that logic because based on that logic they simply couldn’t because every single type of game under the sun is made using unreal engine.

And yes once a theif/liar tends to be how things kind of work out. It brings up a past of questionable ethics from the accuser and shows that maybe they have questionable ethics and are trying to play hardball to get what they want which is less competition from a big studio.

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Vunak

I still find it funny that a company that was convicted in a Korean court for stealing assets/code is now throwing around the same accusations they faced a few years back with NCSoft and TERA.

Technically TERA shouldn’t even exist, an injunction was put in place to stop the development of the game because of the stolen assets. It was back in 2009 and they were convicted in a Korean Criminal Court.

Even here in a US Court, 3 En Masse Entertainment ( subsidiary of BHS- and publisher of TERA in NA) employees were found guilty of the same

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Byórðæįr

they need to go a wee bit further back to the ea game battlefield heroes. If fornite battle field royale is built to look like anything people should play a match of battle field heroes. It is not the same game and it is last man standing but it is friggin zombie game people. I don’t like some of the choices they made like not being able to get rid of any of the defenders you don’t like but every time I think I can respect a game company they try to say some one stole their design that was based on something I had seen in a game five or ten years before. I know some of the producers and designers are trust fund babies who are to young to remember when might and magic was only an rpg with ships as Easter eggs, but seriously one is high resolution game with mechanics like modern warfare and battlefield and the other is silly zombie game.

Then again being part of the list serve as a developer I can point out there are hundreds of studios submitting code from there mmo’s and other video games to master trunk of the unreal engine. Even a few most people would not expect. That info is not hidden away it is part of open source development. Likely they are file charges to get the cost of the royales lowered, and until a jury actually makes a decision you can only guess what might happen, and it comes down to the closing statements proving the evidence that the attorney remember to submit that decides those. But they really sound like opportunist not developers when they point to the code as what they are paying for. Epic job running the open source engine is primary two things one support. When you pay for a support contract that is based in code you call up when the code breaks and say why is it not working? The second is figuring out what of all the code they get solves the problem the code is written to solve then figure out the best way to integrate all the code to run as fast and as streamline as possible. I have feeling most of epic’s games were all built originally to test pieces of code they came up with instead of tossing them in a client’s game code they put the code in a game they would get blame for if it was buggy. Likely why most seem to have either morbid humor or silly humor.

People need to remember not to waste the court time with things that can be solved peaceful most court decisions do not actually fix the problem they are just the best option when people can not agree. It is better to find a solution that lasts outside the court system than expect the court system will give you money.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

I look at Fortnite and I look at PUBG and you might as well tell me that Looney Tunes is in direct competition with The Sopranos due to both having violence and drama. The crossover of PUBG players that would play the battle royale mode in Fortnite simply because it is a battle royale has to be extremely small.

Whether Epic has done anything underhanded is another question, but I think that’s unlikely considering everything the company would stand to lose.

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agemyth 😩

My statement on the previous article is still pretty much what I think.
comment image

This is one of the reasons game devs don’t like talking about game development in “public”. People who don’t know anything about game development or legal matters get riled up, in this case, about what is so far zero action taken by either party.

If Bluehole legitimately thinks Epic is doing them wrong then they will take legal action.

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Sorenthaz

It’s a heavy conflict of interest and treads on the ethical border quite a bit in regards to the license relationship. Epic can basically hold PUBG hostage when it comes to optimizing the engine and limiting what Bluehole can do with said engine. Then they can go ahead and do those things for Fortnite’s BR mode to effectively choke Bluehole.

Given how Epic has been behaving and have been prioritizing money grabbing tactics for their Tencent overlords, it’s hard not to see how Bluehole is justified in their thinking.

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John Kiser

Making epic out to be massively bad just be cause of the business model of fortnite is just asinine. Epic has done nothing in it’s history (tencent has owned a 40% stake now for 4 years btw) to suggest that they are going to do shit against licensees even if those licensees compete with their own games and they never have. Accusing them of shit they might do because you disagree with a game’s business model again like I said is truly just asinine and just unfounded even with tencent’s partial ownership (can we stop acting like tencent has that much sway really? They own 40% of the company, but they do not have control of them by any stretch).

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Sorenthaz

Well you’re the designated blind Epic defender of this thread so.. how you don’t see Bluehole’s concerns being even remotely valid is just as asinine.

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John Kiser

Not blind defending them at all. They have a long history in the game development community as a game maker and licensing their engine while helping people make competing games to their own .

If there was a valid cause for concern sure, however this is straight up paranoia based around quite literally what epic could do and has literally never done in 20+ years. I am defending epic because blueholes claims are baseless and unproven.

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Greaterdivinity

Not really, otherwise they’d likely be in breach of licensing agreements with BH. Not to mention, BH can likely (as with most developers) do what they want with the code on their end as well, at most this is them being scared Epic will make changes to a version that only Epic uses based off of the work BH is doing in PUB.

Which is a pretty tinfoil hatty fear, and I’m struggling to think if it’s ever happened from a major engine creator/licensor in gaming ever.

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Mikka Hansen

No major engine creator/licensor in gaming has ever been owned by Tencent. The fear is justified, methinks

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Tom316

Well Epic won’t have access to BH’s PUBG code unless they send it to Epic. And then at that point the license agreement is crystal clear in that ANY code, Ect. you send to Epic you give them full rights to use as they see fit for any purpose. Also sending copyrighted material to Epic is ageanst the agreement. The license also allows Epic to at ANYTIME change and event revoke the agreement with a third party that can range from no longer allowing access to the engine to forbidding future updates / upgrades to the engine.

Not that I think Epic would do any of the above but PUBG is walking on a very thin line given that alot of the code / blueprint end of PUBG is marketplace purchased assets, heck I think I have even seen several of the models from the marketplace used with slight changes here and there. (Not that, that is a bad thing but marketplace assets are not single use exclusive and Epic has rights and access to use anything submitted to the marketplace in any game they choose.)(Ever wander why there are some similar elements between PUBG and FORTNITE Battle Royal? Yep marketplace assets, Things like the compass straight off the forums and marketplace, minimap, ect.)

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John Kiser

It really does boggle my mind here. Bluehole basically used a lot of assets from marketplace etc like you said. I still don’t get why they think Epic is going to turn around and treat them unfavorably just because their games compete. Nothing in epic’s history suggests they would and the person bringing up hero engine is just flat out silly as it is a completely diff scenario.

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Tom316

The only thing I can honestly think of is that they are scared? I mean it is the only thing that really explains them even bringing it up unless they are just wanting to start a fight or something.

Legally there is nothing they can do to Epic. There whole thing seems to be that they are using the unreal engine and so Epic should not be able to make any game that someone else who is using the unreal engine is making. It’s fairly silly if you ask me. A massive portion of the PC Gaming market is dominated by the Unreal Engine. So if that was / is the case then I guess Epic Games can not really make any game.

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John Kiser

It is dominate by the unreal engine quite heavily (mind you it is largely because most other middleware is just so unfriendly comparatively from a development standpoint too, though hoping amazon fixes that a bit with lumberyard as getting cryengine to be user friendly and more modern in how it works would be good).

I think it is fear/paranoia that is baseless yes. Epic has quite literally been doing this longer than bluehole was even a thought in someone’s head. I think they are afraid of a larger studio coming into the LMS/Battle Royale genre..

They claim it isn’t about control of the battle royale/lms genre, but then basically word it in a way that is using logic that basically states that epic should not be able to make a game that competes with anyone they work with at all. Which as you stated would basically screw them out of being able to make games at all.

It has never been an issue either which is why i find it puzzling. It is mind boggling to me why it is suddenly coming up for one single company.

miol
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miol

I’m struggling to think if it’s ever happened from a major engine creator/licensor in gaming ever.

;P

The Repopulation rejects blame for Hero Engine’s financial struggles

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Greaterdivinity

Hero Engine, despite being used in SWTOR, was never really a “major” engine, almost all the other games built on it have either sunk or are still in development hell years later, IIRC.

But either way, that was almost purely finance related, no? I don’t see anything there that mirrors what’s happening year at all >.>

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Arktouros

I generally agree with Bluehole here. This is a pretty messy situation. For example if Bluehole wanted to discuss changing the engine to support a new game mode or feature they’re in many ways leaking that kind of feature/mode in advance to what is, essentially, the competition now. Even without paranoid theories about Epic delaying the engine features to implement those ideas in their game first the whole idea of having to share future needs and innovation with a competitor is just a messy situation. Sprinkle on name dropping them without permission and it’s easy to understand why Bluehole would be frustrated here.

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Greaterdivinity

It’s paranoid nonsense, though. By that logic, every arena/class based shooter on UE4 is in direct competition with Unreal, every survival sandbox game is in competition with Fortnite, every MOBA is in competition with Paragon etc., and all those games of those genres using UE3/4 should be threatening lawsuits like Bluehole is doing because of the chance that maybe Epic decides to sabotage the companies licensing their engine. As if such behavior wouldn’t completely kill their licensing business which has largely been what drives their revenue for years.

This is nothing more than ignorance, paranoia, and stupidity. If Bluehole can’t trust Epic to act as a professional partner in good faith, why did they enter into a licensing agreement with them in the first place?

And I still patently refuse to believe that they had/have no direct lines of communication to Epic and that going out with a public release like this was their “only” option. That’s complete bullshit.

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John Kiser

Epic hjas been licensing their engine and making games without this happening for so long I find it laughable that any company would even bring it up. They aren’t new to doing this and have never done anything sketchy like at all in all that time in regards to accusations lobbed at them by bluehole etc.

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Dane Ford

Agreed. People are making it sound like he’s some wonk, or extremely paranoid. He isn’t; it’s clearly a conflict of interest. This wouldn’t fly in almost any other professional setting.

Why should he believe that Epic will treat them fairly when they’re incentivised not too? Why would he want to give a direct competitor insight into what they’re thinking or planning?

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Greaterdivinity

Because if Epic doesn’t, that destroys their entire licensing business because nobody will want to work with a company like that?

Epic may be engaged in some questionable monetization decisions right now, but they’re not going to sabotage their core business that’s kept them around for so many years – licensing their engine.

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Dane Ford

Take this thumbs up, that’s the first thing someone’s said in Epic’s defense that makes sense to me.

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Connor

Let’s just ignore that Epic has been making directly competing products with its licensees in terms of shooters for nearly twenty years since the original Unreal engine debuted, no suddenly now it’s going to be an issue.

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Dane Ford

Let’s not pretend this is a fair comparison. Unreal Engine was created specifically for the game Unreal. A first-person shooter. People who licensed the engine to use it for a first-person shooter knew exactly what they were getting into.

It’s not like Epic took Unreal Tournament 2, and hamfisted in a “Patriot Mode” after it licensed the engine to America’s Army.

I have no dog in this fight, I don’t play shooters, I’ve never played PUBG or Fortnight, but I can see how shady this is from miles away.

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Ket Viliano

UE4 is very well written, cleanly coded and documented in line. If anyone wanted to create custom game code, and recompile, they could, no problem. You don’t need Epics knowledge or permission to alter the engine code and use it for your game. While you just can’t resell the Epic code, you can resell your original code, either as a plug in or otherwise.

If a dev wants to keep their secret sauce secret, they can.

This whole thing should have been handled privately.

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Vunak

You obviously don’t have much experience with BHS. They need ALL the help that they can get with coding and development.

Just look at the train wreck TERA was and still is for optimization after how many years?

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Ket Viliano

Oh, ok, good point, issue conceded.

miol
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miol

But with your tech staff cooperating with Epic’s tech staff, you save tons of $, since you don’t need even more extra tech staff on your payroll!

It’s called synergy effect ! ;P

But apparently it was not hashed out in the contract, who owns what in this type of cooperation! :/

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Schmidt.Capela

If they are getting Epic to foot the development bill, in full or in part, I would bet the improvements will be at most “timed exclusives” and will be available for every other licensee of the engine, either immediately (if they got Epic to develop those improvements on their own dime) or down the line (if the development costs were shared).

If Bluehole wants exclusivity, they need to foot the whole bill for the extra development, at which point there is no reason to even show the code to Epic.

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Kawaii Five-O

Or rather there was, hence Bluehole releasing a statement instead of already having taken legal action.

“Considering” taking legal action is code word for their legal team desperately looking for any minute detail or loophole they can find to latch onto and make a legitimate case for.

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Dane Ford

Sure, but you would still expect and often times need support from the people who created it. That’s part of what you’re paying for. Will that support be as forthcoming? Probably. Can you be certain? Absolutely not, and that’s a problem.

Edit: Can that support giveaway, or give insight into your “secret sauce” absolutely.

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Anthony Dixon

So when Epic decides this guy is implying that Epic could ruin games running it’s engine on a whim, and they lawyer up and end the licencing agreement with Bluehole for slander, will it be the most hilarious thing ever? It might just be…

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Wolfyseyes

It would be an almost compelling concern if it weren’t so paranoid-sounding. I think Mr. Kim watches too much Empire or similar dramas.

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Ket Viliano

Fortnight is doomed no matter what Epic does; Bluehole is paranoid, no matter what reassurances are given.

I think the other thing is that this sort of matter should be raised and resolved privately, to avoid drama and the attendant popcorn.

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Schmidt.Capela

This new argument is even more absurd. If Bluehole’s argument about Epic being in a privileged position due to owning the engine could float, Epic would have to sink each and every internal project that shared a genre with any game that licensed the Unreal engine.

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Greaterdivinity

Do you want to see a trainwreck of an interview that pours gasoline on a small fire? Because this is a trainwreck of an interview pouring gasoline on a small fire.

Right now they’re being the most stereotypical Korean developer possible in all the wrong ways. Their poor, poor PR team : (

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