May 27, 2022

Take-Two Shut Down Red Dead Enhancement Project


All good things must come to an end. In some cases, the death knell tolls before they’re out of the stalls. Such is the case for the much anticipated Red Dead Redemption Enhancement Project, in which Johnathan Wyckoff hoped to bring the much loved classic to PC. Wyckoff, aka “DemandDev” announced his ambitious plans for the fan-made remaster last August, the “Dammed Enhancement Project”. Sadly, Take-Two were having none of it.

The glorious flora teased in the now cancelled mod

Fate, it seems, took a rather eponymous view on the proposed title. Wyckoff’s aim was to modify both Xbox 360 and PS4 versions. He wanted to bring them up to speed graphically, and add a host of new features. The plan was doomed from the get-go. Following a fair few rounds of back and forth, the ambitious developer has agreed to down tools. This following the court upheld copyright infringement case brought about by the Rockstar parent company, Take-Two.

But how did we get here? Read on for a brief re-cap on this modern day David vs. Goliath tale. But unlike that battle of biblical proportion, in this instance it seems that we, the gamers are the real losers.

Cease and Desist, Partner

A month after DemandDev announced the existence of the project, Wycoff declared the mod dead. Wyckoff followed this by claiming allegations of bullying by a “corporation”. Fast forward to December 26th 2019 and Take-Two officially reveals itself as the antagonist in this tale. It officially filed suit at a New York court against Wyckoff. This broadly claimed intellectual property and user licencing infringements. It claimed to bring the action to “maintain control of its world-famous video game”. Take-Two continued, stating that the development would “dramatically change the content of [its] video games”. Sort of the idea behind modding, no?

Red Dead: RTX On. Oh what might have been

Take-Two claimed to have repeatedly asked Wyckoff to cease and desist. But on ignoring these “polite” requests, there was no option but to pursue legal remedy. This amounted to demanding injunctive relief and damages as a result of direct and contributory copyright infringement and breaches of Take-Two’s licencing agreements. On receiving a legal writ from arguably the most successful studio in the world, I’m sure Wyckoff was grateful he wore his brown trousers on Boxing Day. Happy fucking Christmas.

I’ve Got a Plan, Dammit

In the months following the action, it seems Wyckoff had a change of heart. Despite a previous announcement that the project was dead, the solo-dev rallied his inner John Marston and reversed his position. He would fight the good fight after all. He would wear brown trousers no more.

In early March 2020 Wyckoff informed the New York court that he believed he was acting in accordance with Take-Two’s own policy. Namely, that the company would not take action against any third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial and respect intellectual property rights.

Some scenery of the mod could easily be mistaken for RDR2

Sadly, Wyckoff timed his rally poorly, coming just two weeks after a preliminary injunction had been granted, preventing him from “directly or in-directly infringing Take-Two’s games” such as Grand Theft Auto, or either of the Red Dead games. It seems this is the legal equivalent of coming up with the ultimate comeback in the shower, days after the initial slight imparted.

A valiant effort, doomed to fail

But Wyckoff did point something out to the courts that kept the matter alive and kicking, at least temporarily. The user agreement, under which Take-Two claimed infringement, contained a clause that in the event of a divergence of opinion, both parties could elect arbitration to seek agreement.

It seems the courts acquiesced, and so the process of mediated discussion began. Inevitably, perhaps following the upheld injunction, this seems to have been lip-service at most, at best recompense to damaged ego. The negotiations broke down in March with neither parties able to see eye to, eh hem, dead-eye.

Just like John Marston, Johnathan Wyckoff was always fated to fail

Deader than Dead-Eye

And so we come to the all but inevitable conclusion. Following the failed negotiations, Take-Two and Wyckoff both informed the court last week that the permanent injunction would be an acceptable conclusion to the case. The result is that the developer will be permanently restrained from various actions, including creating “derivative works based on any of Take-Twos software. In short, the Dammed Enhancement Project was declared dead in the water. I wouldn’t expect any GTA mods coming from DemandDev anytime soon, either.

So, what’s new here exactly? Not a lot, sadly. Lone but ambitious dev takes on development mega corp and loses. It’s a story as old as David and Goliath, yet sadly the outcome is somewhat less satisfying. Perhaps Wyckoff should consider himself lucky, Take-Two forgoing their original claim for any monetary reparations. What Take-Two would have done with any poultry gains in that regard is beyond imaginable, owning on of the most profitable game ever made.

What’s Mine is Mine, and What’s Yours is Mine, Too

But you have to ask yourself, why bother? What on earth is all the fuss about? Typically, mods for older games are made purely for the enjoyment of the player base. They emanate from a place of devout love and appreciation for a game, often prolonging a franchise long after any sensible player would be interested. Imagine, if you will, a world without Skyrim mods? Unthinkable.

At the least this could have opened up renewed interest in Red Dead to a wider audience, bringing ray-tracing and RTX options to a more graphically pre-dispositioned generation. Perhaps the key is in the original user agreement that Take-Two leant on so heavily. That no action would usually be taken on mods concerning games that are ‘non-commercial’. In this age of heady re-masters, could this spell an official re-vamp of the original Red Dead?

The controversial “Hot Coffee” mod for GTA San Andreus certainly made some waves

Whatever Take-Two’s intention for Red Dead, this set’s a very nasty president. It’s just another step away from the contributory nature of game development of yesteryear. A time of Quake mods wearing Christmas hats, of Portal’s Prelude and, lest we forget, “Hot Coffee” of Rockstar’s very own GTA: San Andreus (a mod they famously parodied in GTA4, intentionally garnering marketing hype). In my opinion, this is poor form from Take-Two, and I doubt their intentions go much further than a toy stealing toddler too possessive to let the other kids have their own fun.

Source: TorrentFreak

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