Three years ago - not long after I started at Kotaku, actually - a modder who took a three month break from his job to work full-time on Fallout: Project Brazil, an ambitious total conversion of Fallout: New Vegas. The mod has been in development for aeons, and after countless delays, bug fixes and a rebranding to Fallout: New California, an open beta was launched earlier this year.
But then a spanner got thrown into the works: Fantasy Flight Games announced Fallout: New California, an expansion for the post-apocalyptic RPG's tabletop spin-off.
A post on the official Fallout: New California Facebook page a few days ago was disconsolate, to say the least. "They have every legal right to C&D us without hesitation. It would be effortless on their part to wipe us out with a single email, erasing 7 years of work," the official account said.
At the time of writing, their issue wasn't with Bethesda. It was with Fantasy Flight Games, the tabletop conglomerate responsible for the Fallout board game spin-off (and many licensed games, including the Star Wars: Rebellion, X-Wing, and so on).
"I doubt anything other than a functionary that approved the license ever even heard of it at BGS or Zenimax," the modding team's account said. "They probably has a deal worked out a long time ago and Fantasy Flight just named their new expansion without so much as consulting BGS. Or googling the new name."
A quick scramble began to investigate possible options. Renaming all relevant assets back to Project Brazil was one option - that was the game's original name - but it was time consuming, and hugely inconvenient: the mod was set in new California, geographically and spiritually.
The modding team scrambled to ramp up their release plans, preparing for a cease and desist from FFG, Bethesda, Zenimax, or some combination of the three. But the opposite ended up happening.
"Problem solved. Thanks to Michael from Vice and Pete Hines," the modding team wrote. They posted a link to the New California expansion, asked people kindly pre-order, while adding "From Thain — with love" in the buyer's notes.
Fallout: New California - the mod, not the board game - is still due to launch on October 23. People will probably be occupied with Fallout 76 or replaying the Fallout games in lieu of 76's release. New California could still get delayed again, of course, but at least the team can work on it safe in the knowledge that the Zenimax legal hammer isn't looming over their head. And it's nice to know that the tireless love and effort of dedicated volunteers will still see the light of day, hopefully soon.