You say Halo and I say goodbye: Microsoft has a word with unauthorised mod devs
Microsoft: You got people playing Halo on PC again. Yay! Now please stop
Microsoft has come down hard on ElDewrito, a community-made mod for the cancelled Halo Online, lobbing DMCA takedown notices and sending its legal team to have a "brief conversation" with the modders.
Halo Online was originally a free-to-play multiplayer PC game tested in Russia. With Microsoft doubtless preferring gamers waggle the joysticks of its shiny Xbox hardware, the development was canned in 2016 and the project abandoned.
The code for the project leaked in 2015 and modders saw an opportunity to resurrect it and sate the thirst of PC gamers for a wider multiplayer Halo experience.
After two years of development, the team released version 0.6 of the free mod.
The surge of interest in the project woke up Microsoft, which opened a bleary eye, glared at the upstart developers and unleashed the legal dogs.
With Halo Online, there's a common misconception that once it was canceled, the assets were either turned over as "open source" or left for the community's whims as "abandonware" – neither of which is actually true.
The problem lies in the requirement for and distribution of Microsoft's code, which Redmond's team doesn’t like one little bit.
Having downed tools for the time being, the ElDewrito team points out in a blog post that the mod itself does not actually contain any of Microsoft's code and is open source.
However, you do need stuff owned by Microsoft to actually play the game, and it will be those assets on the receiving end of DMCA takedowns.
Current caretakers of the Halo franchise 343 Industries, emitted a statement praising the community of modders before noting that the ElDewrito project is built on Microsoft's assets. "Microsoft, like any company, has a responsibility to protect its IP, code and trademarks," it said. "It's not optional in other words."
The company went on to spell out that the code and assets were never things that could be picked up and redistributed at will.
"With Halo Online, there's a common misconception that once it was canceled, the assets were either turned over as 'open source' or left for the community's whims as 'abandonware' – neither of which is actually true."
Where the community goes from here is unclear. With over 200,000 games played since the new version was released, there is clearly a demand from gamers.
Halo fans have reacted predictably to the news:
Sad. The developers of the ElDewrito mod for Halo Online are forced to cease their work and development on the mod or otherwise run into legal issues because Microsoft gonna Microsoft— Vetoed (@Vetoed) April 25, 2018
Just can't have fun manhttps://t.co/yxuOwcuzBC
With Microsoft taking the best part of 16 years to release the source code of its venerable File Manager application, the Halo code should hit some time around 2031.
So don't hold your breath. ®