Bethesda Sues Makers Of Westworld Game, Saying It Uses Fallout Shelter's Code

Bethesda is suing Warner Bros. and Behaviour Interactive over the new Westworld video game which it claims copies parts of 2015's Fallout Shelter, according to court documents filed with the US District Court for Maryland.

An image from the trailer for the new Westworld mobile game Bethesda has accused of stealing from Fallout Shelter. Screenshot: Warner Bros. (Westworld)

The lawsuit was filed yesterday and seeks to have money for damages awarded and for Warner Bros. to stop selling the game.

"The Westworld game is a blatant rip-off of Fallout Shelter," Bethesda charges in their lawsuit, arguing that Behaviour is inappropriately using code developed while assisting the development of Bethesda's game.

In the suit, Bethesda asserts that in 2014 it paid Behaviour to develop parts of Fallout Shelter and that studio used some of the designs, artwork and code commissioned for that game to help create Warner Bros.' newly released Westworld mobile game.

Exhibit L of the lawsuit in which Bethesda cites an article by Kotaku to argue that the two games look very similar. Photo: Bethesda (Bethesda Softworks LLC v. Behaviour Interactive, Inc. et al)

The Westworld game resembles Fallout Shelter, a management sim released three years ago for smartphones and later on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and most recently the Nintendo Switch. Kotaku ran an article saying as much, which Bethesda even cites as Exhibit L in the suit, despite still having the site blacklisted and never responding to our emails.

The new lawsuit filed yesterday, however, alleges Behaviour actually used some of the same underlying code for both games, which would put it in breach of its contract with Bethesda.

"Under the agreement, all Behaviour work product of any kind, including code, designs, artwork, layouts, and other assets and materials for Fallout Shelter were authored and owned by Bethesda ab initio as works made for hire," Bethesda claims in the suit.

The video game publisher also alleges that Behaviour "utilised its restricted access to Bethesda's intellectual property, including Bethesda's copyrighted code, trade secrets, and other rights" in order to bring get the Westworld game out as soon as possible, and calls it a "blatant rip-off of Fallout Shelter".

Part of Bethesda's lawsuit attempting to show that the character models in both games look the same. Screenshot: Bethesda (Bethesda Softworks LLC v. Behaviour Interactive, Inc. et al)

The company goes on:

"Working with the same copyrighted computer code used by Fallout Shelter, Westworld has the same or highly similar game design, art style, animations, features and other gameplay elements as Fallout Shelter, all of which are owned by Bethesda."

A section of Bethesda's lawsuit arguing that Westworld duplicates the visual layout of Fallout Shelter. Screenshot: Bethesda (Bethesda Softworks LLC v. Behaviour Interactive, Inc. et al)

Beyond the surface similarities between how the two games look and play, Bethesda claims that there are programming bugs and defects that are present in both games. It cites as one example an apparent bug in the "demonstration" mode of the Westworld game.

"Specifically, the view is out-of-focus and the scene that appears is far to the right and below the targeted landscape image," the company writes.

"It is as if a camera capturing the scene had been inadvertently pointed to the lower right foreground and then slowly refocuses on the central image. The identical problem appeared in initial versions of Fallout Shelter but was addressed before Fallout Shelter was released to the public."

The rest of the suit goes on to argue what a success the Fallout brand has been, how that success in turn helped Fallout Shelter to be a popular game, and how Westworld's allegedly ripping off the game "seeks to attract players by its misappropriation of intellectual property of Bethesda".

As a result, the publisher is seeking to recover an unspecified amount of money to compensate for damages and also get the game in its present form pulled.

Neither Warner Bros., Behaviour Interactive nor Bethesda immediately responded to a request by Kotaku for comment.

Bethesda has been involved in a number of high-profile suits against other game-makers in recent years. Last year, its parent company Zenimax won a lawsuit against Oculus Rift over violations of a non-disclosure agreement and copyright infringement.

In 2012, the company settled a suit against Minecraft-maker Mojang over a trademark dispute regarding a game called Scrolls.


Comments

    Kotaku ran an article saying as much, which Bethesda even cites as Exhibit L in the suit, despite still having the site blacklisted and never responding to our emails. lol

      What did Kotaku do to piss off Bethesda?

        I believe it started mainly when they revealed details about Fallout 4 before Bethesda announced anything themselves... Go figure developers/publishers might be unhappy with details of their projects being out and about before they announce anything themselves.

        But just remember Kotaku's "We are but a pure and innocent victim!" mantra and you're all set anytime they talk about basically anything related to Bethesda.

          Kotaku is a journalistic gaming news site, not a PR department. unless they are obliged to not say anything because of an NDA, they say what they want.

            This exactly.

            But to answer the Bethesda thing more precisely (@drumrbaxj), although we've talked about it before: in 2013, Kotaku US published a story saying Arkane was working on Prey 2. At the time, Jason had heard that Arkane were focusing on a game revolved around a spaceship called The Sphere, the controller of which would become the main antagonist of the game.

            Bethesda and Arkane responded by publicly saying that they weren't working on Prey 2, it was all bullshit, and Pete Hines said Arkane was working on something else entirely. Other major gaming outlets ran with that line, saying what Jason had reported was false.

            So Jason went and published two internal emails showcasing that Arkane's Austin studio had gotten a pitch greenlit from Zenimax that was "the spiritual successor to System Shock 3" and another email, four days later, saying that "now that the news is out, we'll be contacted left and right by press sneak fucks who will want to know more". (This was after Jason's original report.)

            The blacklist went in not long after that, and has remained in effect since. That wasn't the only contributing factor - as someone mentioned before, I imagine the news about Fallout 4 breaking wasn't received well - but that's generally what played out, at least as I understand it. There might be other things that happened behind the scenes, but it all took place before I started here.

            Right there is the problem with freedom of speech-esque defenses, people think it shields them from the consequences of what they say/do. It doesn't.

            Bethesda isn't obligated to give them anything, and never was.

            And Kotaku absolutely doesn't scream professional games journalism anytime it makes a clear point to talk about how this company or that blacklisted them, years after the fact. It comes off as petty, passive-aggressive rubbish.

            Kotaku can say what they want, it doesn't make them exempt from the consequences of it... They absolutely dug their own grave here, but they want someone else to lie in it.

    Hmm I'm glad it's more than just "their game is similar to ours!" because that would set a bad precedent.

      That seems to be what they are pushing pretty heavily 'blatant rip off'. Which applies to pretty much every platformer in the 90's, every war FPS etc. They are all rip 'offs'.

      Using the actual code is a no no though. Not sure how you prove that.

    ah I was wondering how they can claim the code was copy righted when BI is listed as the developer

      Depends on what the terms of their contact.
      My guess, with Bethesda being pretty thorough and based on their claim, all work (code etc) done on FO: Shelter on their behalf, is their property.

      Most likely when Bethesda contracted BI there would have been stipulations in the contract that anything created for bethesda would be bethesdas intellectual property. This is the standard in the industry for stuff like that.

      It appears that BI is using code they made for Bethesda in this game for a different company, Which is illegal.

    Yeah Behaviour Interactive are dodgy. I'll never forgive them for butchering Eternal Crusade.

    "...highly similar game design, art style, animations, features and other gameplay elements as Fallout Shelter, all of which are owned by Bethesda."

    Oh that's a dangerous precedent...

    I get the logic, but it's terribly Bethesda to say "you've got the same bugs as us!"

      Don't worry... I'm sure at this point Bethesda refer to bugs as "undocumented features" internally.

      Have you done any programming? It is difficult to get the same bugs in games if the code and structure of the game are different. So the scripts were in fact copied. Programming systems is different cause it's a-b.

      You write a poem. It gets handed over and translated to a different language, there are bound to be translation errors, but the errors are different. You misspell one word in the poem and someone copies that poem. It's gonna have duplicate errors.

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