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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Gaming & Collecting:
Warner Bros. shut down free Skyrim Lord of the Rings mod

News from Bree

Oct 5 2012, 10:01am

Post #1 of 7 (599 views)
Warner Bros. shut down free Skyrim Lord of the Rings mod Can't Post

The Warner Bros. legal team has shut down the development of a free Lord of the Rings mod for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The all-volunteer, unpaid team of game enthusiasts behind the mod say they repeatedly attempted to negotiate a compromise that would allow them to proceed in some form, but Warner Bros. rebuffed all of their proposals. Warner Bros. first requested that the 40-person-strong development team cease all work on the project, called MERP, in July.

Mod developer Alasdair Hurst believes the main problem could be that people need to buy Skyrim first.

"But the mod itself will be available to all the fans for free."

In a brief statement to PC Gamer, Warner Bros. VP of Public Relations Remi Sklar said: "While we appreciate our fans' enthusiasm, we also need to protect our IP rights."

Despite requests from TheOneRing.net, Warner Bros. declined to to answer any questions for this article regarding the C&D against MERP, or about Lord of the Rings game-modding.

Created solely out of love for Tolkien

"Everyone on the team is doing this because they love it," Mr Hurst told TheOneRing.net. "A lot of the team have kids of their own and businesses of their own, and some are still in school, college and university. Everyone works on this in their spare time."

MERP's developers are currently consulting their own lawyer from the Organisation for Transformative Works (OTW). They hope to argue that MERP is "fair use" because it is what is called a "transformative work".

They are also gathering signatures from fans petitioning Warner Bros. to reconsider its position. The petition has already gained more than 16,000 signatures.

"...will detract from the value proposition bargained and paid for by legitimate licensees"

Warner Bros. lawyers first contacted MERP developers in July. In the initial letter, Warner Bros claimed:

"The release of MERP into the marketplace will likely result in customer confusion and cannibalization with respect to such legitimately licensed LOTR/Hobbit games and will detract from the value proposition bargained and paid for by legitimate licensees of the LOTR/Hobbit properties.

Furthermore, projects and games like MERP will diminish and erode Warner Bros.’ ability to manage and protect the brand, reputation and quality of the LOTR/Hobbit properties that it has invested significant resources to cultivate over the years."

Initially, Warner Bros. lawyers also requested an outline of the MERP mod developers' plans, indicating they wished to "explore ... ways to modify MERP to address our concerns from the intellectual property rights-holder’s perspective while, to the extent possible, allowing you to achieve at least some of what you wanted to accomplish with MERP."

Mr Hurst says that MERP replied, asking what was infringing, and what could be changed.

"They dismissed our attempts at negotiation," he said. "We sent them another letter asking if we could continue privately without any release, and they also denied that."

MERP would base Skyrim players in the world of Middle-earth near the end of the Third Age, not long before the War of the Ring. Players would be able to become involved in a number of adventures related to the Ringquest, or just indulge in free-roam play.

An ambitious, world-spanning project aiming to be faithful to Tolkien

Mr Hurst said that the group was inspired to develop the Skyrim MERP mod because the current holders of Middle-earth IP -- including Warner Bros -- had failed to develop "any decent games which allow the player to traverse the whole of Middle-earth. We thought that we should make it ourself![sic]."

He said the team had generated 90 per cent of the Rohan landscape, and were working on detailing it and creating each of the villages and cities.

He said that existing games often departed extensively from book lore, pointing to examples such as "elves at Helm's Deep and orcs casting magic fireballs."

On the other hand, MERP aimed to be as close to Tolkien legendarium as possible with the design of buildings, locations and characters.

"It is a large project, but the final outcome is something which everyone wants to see," Mr Hurst said.

Existing versions of MERP -- initially developed and released for Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and then Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- have been freely available since 2008.

One of the most popular game mods

Mr Hurst MERP was a very popular game mod.

"There is a mod site for lots of mods for multiple games ([hosting] around 17,000 mods), [on] which we consistently place between first and tenth place," he said.

"If you take a look at Skyrim Nexus, you can see the vast amounts of mods that are available for the game. The same goes to its predecessor; Oblivion."

Mr Hurst said intellectual property is a significant problem and ongoing for not-for-profit fan-modders.

"Mods such as large total conversions to Lord of the Rings, Pokemon and other previously made games seem to face these problems a lot of the time," he said.

"The intellectual property holders always seem to send the cease and desist notices far into the development so that the fans waste as much time as possible on something they love."



Oct 5 2012, 4:14pm

Post #2 of 7 (341 views)
Sad face . . . [In reply to] Can't Post

Ever since WB "merged" with New Line, things haven't been going so well for us fans imo . . . profit driven minds don't work so well for art and creativity.

This seems like something Saruman would do . . .

What we need is a eucatastrophe Wink

Don't be hasty.

Tol Eressea

Oct 5 2012, 4:27pm

Post #3 of 7 (318 views)
WB is at it again! [In reply to] Can't Post

I really don't think they care about anything else than money.

At least not their fans, that's for sure.

(This post was edited by Carne on Oct 5 2012, 4:30pm)


Oct 5 2012, 5:29pm

Post #4 of 7 (377 views)
That's an interesting comment considering this old TORn news article I just happened upon [In reply to] Can't Post


Webmasters UNITE!
January 24th, 2001 by xoanon

The NZ Listener chimes in again with a report on the WB and the strong arm tactics the film production company is using against Harry Potter online fans. Two 15 year old webmasters have been sent legally threatening letters from Warners (yes, 15 year old). We can all be thankful that New Line runs a fan friendly production house.

A scan of the original article can be seen here:

LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
TORn History Mathom-house ~ Torn Image Posting Guide


Oct 5 2012, 7:58pm

Post #5 of 7 (334 views)
I sincerely hope WB don't succeed. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've been following MERP for a time now...
Such a pig-headed move this is. The team has been working on MERP for almost a decade, now -- far longer than any of the LotR-related games WB have worked on, and already of substantially higher quality (than any WB LotR games) in its unfinished state -- and it looks amazing. Doing this will put off thousands of fans and lose Warner millions of dollars... They seem to be very aggressive in protecting their rights, and they're WAY out of line here.
I'm pretty sure it has to do that they're not exactly friendly with Bethesda. :/
Here's hoping the dev team pull through this with their project relatively unscathed, even if it means a name-change etc.

Also keep in mind that they're only now just starting to work on Rohan, and at the same time LotRO's got the Rohan expansion pack releasing.

Grey Havens

Oct 5 2012, 10:06pm

Post #6 of 7 (368 views)
Silly and greedy... [In reply to] Can't Post

What do they gain from this? And what would they lose if this mod was finished and used by fans?

I already own the game for Xbox 360, but I was actually considering buying the PC version too just for this mod alone if it turned out to be good. But I guess that would hurt Warner Bros.... somehow. *scratches head*

On a more positive note, Warner Bros. is much better at handling fan made youtube videos. All of my Lord of the Rings videos just get ads placed on them, when a few years ago they probably would have just been deleted altogether.

I guess since they can't make any money on this FAN MADE creation, they don't want anyone to be able to enjoy it.Unsure

(This post was edited by Mooseboy018 on Oct 5 2012, 10:10pm)

hobbit N.Z
Registered User

Oct 12 2012, 6:42am

Post #7 of 7 (393 views)
Well that's a shame. [In reply to] Can't Post

What we really need now is an eagle like Gwaihir to threaten 'em and then we can make make the mod!
that's a shame though.Mad

This is Hobbit from N.ZWink


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