YouTube's takedown of a video showing "World of Starcraft" sent tremors through the mod community that Starcraft's publisher was out to shut down the fan-made MMO. Activision Blizzard has yet to comment officially, leaving the project in an uncomfortable limbo.
Stirring the pot further is the fact that the MMO was developed with Starcraft II's own mod tools, which are powerful enough to build games well outside the real-time strategy genre. Those who weren't speculating that the takedown signals Blizzard's current development of, or intent to develop, a Starcraft MMO were upset that the publisher smacked down someone apparently using the tools as intended.
On the game's forums, the game's lead modder, named Ryan, posted the removal notice that YouTube had sent him and a link to Blizzard's policy on video and copyrights. "I'm in no violation of any part of this," he wrote.
"You created a tool that allowed us to do anything with your assets," wrote Ryan. "You encouraged us to use your assets and were eager to see what we might come up with. You had to have seen this coming?"
It could be seen that Blizzard's issue isn't with the project itself but the name it takes. Ryan offered blanket assurances of his respect for Starcraft and his intent not to deliver "anything less than perfection", but acknowledged the project's unaccountability to the Starcraft trademark owner.
"I know it's hard to trust someone you've never met to piggyback on your own legacy," he wrote. "The brilliance of StarCraft combined with the multiplayer focus of World of Warcraft. You might be a little worried about your lore being butchered or, even more so, worried about a guy with no supervision tainting the name of your company with poor product."
Ultimately, as the MMO depends upon Battle.Net, the online service through which Starcraft is played, Blizzard's power to keep "World of Starcraft" from seeing the light of day is absolute.
Kotaku contacted a Blizzard spokesman earlier today asking for its position. Blizzard had yet to reply as of publication time. The action taken - removing a YouTube video - is not the same as a cease-and-desist letter that some modders have received for unapproved work in the past.
A search of the US Patent and Trademark Office database turns up no specific "World of Starcraft" trademark, but the trademark covering Starcraft as a computer game would seem to be broad enough to include any MMO.
"If they want the name changed then I'll change it," Ryan wrote.
Previous fan-made modifications have run afoul of a company's intellectual property policies, most notably The Silver Lining, a fan-made sequel to the old King's Quest series of graphical adventures. Ultimately that game negotiated a noncommercial license with the trademark's owner - also Activision - that allowed its release after 10 years in development.
Blizzard Squishes ‘World of StarCraft' Mod [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]