legal

Arbitrator Partially Restores Composer O'Donnell's Bungie Shares

Award cites 'long-term, invaluable and unique contributions'

Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi has written what is probably the best article to date on the resolution of the dispute between former Bungie composer and Audio Director Marty O'Donnell and the developer that fired him last year before the release of their latest game, Destiny. It goes into the background of how the dispute arose and resulted in O'Donnell being fired from his position as Audio Director, and how Bungie also took action to attempt to strip O'Donnell of his then-unvested shares in the developer, even going so far as to reissue shares at a secret board meeting.

What the article mostly leaves out, though, are the grounds on which the arbitrator made the award-- those details are available in the full award document, available at Scribd.

There is a tendency to view the result as a complete victory and vindication for O'Donnell, and there is no doubt that the sequence of events reflects poorly on Bungie management, especially studio president Harold Ryan. However, it is worth looking at the award itself to see what O'Donnell asked for, what he actually got, and why.

What has also gone largely uncommented-upon since O'Donnell's firing is that it presumably also means the end of the creative partnership between O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, who remains at Bungie and is working on Destiny, while O'Donnell is moving on to found his own game company, Highwire Games, with other ex-Bungie employees. That partnership spanned multiple decades and predated both composers involvement with Bungie, with began with Myth in the mid-90s.

O'Donnell submitted several claims to arbitration, and Bungie submitted its own counter-claims. Most of these either failed, or succeeded without significant consequence.

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Salvatori To Continue Composing For Bungie

Fans of previous Bungie franchises like Halo and Myth were surprised earlier this year by the termination of the employment of composer Martin O'Donnell as the studio's Audio Department director, and the subsequent lawsuit he brought against the studio's president, Harold Ryan, for unpaid vacation and penalties. That lawsuit was recently settled.

What remained unresolved was the musical future of Bungie's newest franchise, Destiny, the soundtrack for which was the product of O'Donnell and longtime collaborator Michael Salvatori. The two worked together at Bungie on the soundtrack for five Halo games, and before joining Bungie also did the soundtrack for Bungie's RTS series, Myth, as Total Audio.

No official statement came either from Bungie or from O'Donnell regarding Salvatori. Fans wondered whether he would remain at Bungie and continue working on Destiny, or would he also depart, perhaps to join O'Donnell on some new project.

Contacted through his official website, his representative Lisa Ramirez responded to our inquiry about Salvatori's plans:

Destiny Perhaps Not Coming In 2013

Destiny Bungie

Most Bungiefen have been eagerly awaiting official news for the company's next game, referred to internally as Tiger and externally as Destiny, have so far been treated only to long-winded legal contracts and some leaked treatments and concept art. Bungie has started up their Community Theatre series of short videos on YouTube featuring Deej and Raspy (a stuffed tiger, get it?) and promising a reveal of the company's new game within a few weeks.

Now, however, Eurogamer is reporting that the transcript of Activision's yearly "money meeting" posted at investment site Seeking Alpha casts doubt on what the leaked contract revealed-- which was a target for the franchise's first release in Fall 2013.

"It will also be a year of significant continued investment in several new properties with long-term potential that are not factored into our 2013 financial outlook, including Activision Publishing's new Bungie universe, Call of Duty Online for China and the new Blizzard MMO."

--Activision's chief financial officer Dennis Durkin

Eurogamer speculates that had Destiny still been on the release slate for 2013, it would certainly have been mentioned.

This is what Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg did have to say about Destiny:

"Development also continues on our new ground-breaking project with Bungie. Bungie defined the action-shooter category with Halo, and we feel this project will once again deliver genre-defining innovation.

"While we don't have a launch date to announce today, we expect to deliver incredible games with unprecedented marketing support for new IP. We look forward to sharing more information on this title in the near future."

So there it is. Activision is not talking publicly about making money on Bungie this year-- only spending it.

Some more specifics:

And also, as I mentioned, our outlook does not include the release of the Bungie game or Call of Duty Online in China, although, we still incur costs throughout the year on these projects. In total, we expect the year-over-year impact of all these items will be more than $0.10.

Of course it's always better to beat estimates than meet them; so what Activision is saying here is that they aren't expecting to make money on Destiny this year, but they will be spending it. It's worth noting here that they are excepting the launch of the CoD franchise in China from the revenue projections as well, even though Kotaku reported last month that CoD was in Alpha testing in China and I really think it doesn't take a whole year to alpha test a version of a game you've already made for a new market.

Of course, those optimistic for a release this year-- some even hoping for an announcement this month, ahead of next months' GDC-- may wish to interpret this as a respect for Bungie's silence, not wishing to steal the company's thunder, confident that a few weeks lag between their money meeting and a release schedule won't harm them with investors too much, especially where earning less money than expected is punished even when you've made a lot, and making more than is expected is punished never.

Perhaps even the knowledge that this transcript was going to be made widely available kept Activision from talking too much about Bungie. Call of Duty is referred to in the transcript 27 times; Bungie 10 times, World of Warcraft 8 times, and StarCraft 6 times. The word "Destiny" appears... nowhere. Perhaps Activision just felt that nothing not already made public should be revealed.

Or maybe Bungie's Destiny doesn't come until next year. Don't call it a delay, though-- you can't delay something you've never announced, even if everyone knows what it is, what it's called, and what platforms you're making it for.

Bungie - Activision Contract Leaks

Court proceedings involving Activision reveal what appears to be a legitimate copy of the contract between Activision and Bungie for their new intellectual property, Destiny, which is intended to have a series of cross-platform releases with DLC over the next decade.

Bungie To Produce Sci-Fantasy Shooter, Maybe More Marathon

Destiny Bungie

A Joystiq story today appears to reveal rather more information about Bungie's upcoming projects than fans are used to hearing during a quiet period. Aside from a few seconds of music and video, the term "Destiny" was about all we knew. Now, a document purporting to be the a publishing and development agreement between Bungie and Activision has leaked onto the internet, specifying not just one or two or three but four "sci-fantasy action shooter" games referred to by the term "Destiny" but also allows for Bungie do dedicate a small portion of its resources for the development of a game called... Marathon.

A post at Bungie.net, while short on details, would seem to confirm that the agreement is legitimate.

It appears as if Bungie retains the ownership of the new IP, although Activision will get ownership if Bungie fails to ship the first game, and if Activision terminates the agreement after the first game ships, it will retain an exclusive, royalty-bearing non-transferable license to the property.

More on this later.

UPDATE: According to Gamasutra, the agreement's disclosure was not actually a leak, but rather a result of the ongoing litigation between Activision and the originators of the Call of Duty franchise.

UPDATE: Other stories on this at Edge and The Escapist.

UPDATE: Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat has written an analysis piece that suggests that the contract will be tough for Bungie to fulfill.

UPDATE: Develop has a detailed article that lists most of the important points in the agreement, and breaks them down in terms of what they mean for Bungie and Destiny.

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event start: 
05/23/2012

Bungie - Activision Contract Leaks

Court proceedings involving Activision reveal what appears to be a legitimate copy of the contract between Activision and Bungie for their new intellectual property, Destiny, which is intended to have a series of cross-platform releases with DLC over the next decade.

Bungie To Produce Sci-Fantasy Shooter, Maybe More Marathon

Destiny Bungie

A Joystiq story today appears to reveal rather more information about Bungie's upcoming projects than fans are used to hearing during a quiet period. Aside from a few seconds of music and video, the term "Destiny" was about all we knew. Now, a document purporting to be the a publishing and development agreement between Bungie and Activision has leaked onto the internet, specifying not just one or two or three but four "sci-fantasy action shooter" games referred to by the term "Destiny" but also allows for Bungie do dedicate a small portion of its resources for the development of a game called... Marathon.

A post at Bungie.net, while short on details, would seem to confirm that the agreement is legitimate.

It appears as if Bungie retains the ownership of the new IP, although Activision will get ownership if Bungie fails to ship the first game, and if Activision terminates the agreement after the first game ships, it will retain an exclusive, royalty-bearing non-transferable license to the property.

More on this later.

UPDATE: According to Gamasutra, the agreement's disclosure was not actually a leak, but rather a result of the ongoing litigation between Activision and the originators of the Call of Duty franchise.

UPDATE: Other stories on this at Edge and The Escapist.

UPDATE: Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat has written an analysis piece that suggests that the contract will be tough for Bungie to fulfill.

UPDATE: Develop has a detailed article that lists most of the important points in the agreement, and breaks them down in terms of what they mean for Bungie and Destiny.

Login or register to download the attached file.

event start: 
05/21/2012

Bungie To Produce Sci-Fantasy Shooter, Maybe More Marathon

Destiny Bungie

A Joystiq story today appears to reveal rather more information about Bungie's upcoming projects than fans are used to hearing during a quiet period. Aside from a few seconds of music and video, the term "Destiny" was about all we knew. Now, a document purporting to be the a publishing and development agreement between Bungie and Activision has leaked onto the internet, specifying not just one or two or three but four "sci-fantasy action shooter" games referred to by the term "Destiny" but also allows for Bungie do dedicate a small portion of its resources for the development of a game called... Marathon.

A post at Bungie.net, while short on details, would seem to confirm that the agreement is legitimate.

It appears as if Bungie retains the ownership of the new IP, although Activision will get ownership if Bungie fails to ship the first game, and if Activision terminates the agreement after the first game ships, it will retain an exclusive, royalty-bearing non-transferable license to the property.

More on this later.

UPDATE: According to Gamasutra, the agreement's disclosure was not actually a leak, but rather a result of the ongoing litigation between Activision and the originators of the Call of Duty franchise.

UPDATE: Other stories on this at Edge and The Escapist.

UPDATE: Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat has written an analysis piece that suggests that the contract will be tough for Bungie to fulfill.

UPDATE: Develop has a detailed article that lists most of the important points in the agreement, and breaks them down in terms of what they mean for Bungie and Destiny.

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Microsoft Settles Halo Technology Lawsuit

According to Edge, Microsoft has settled with PalTalk holdings, the company that alleged that Halo infringed on patents they held that covered interactive gaming.

Microsoft Sued Over Technology In Halo?

Bloomberg News is reporting that PalTalk Holdings Inc. of New York has paid about $200K for patents belonging to Mpath, which reportedly had discussions with Microsoft once upon a time about technology for "ways to control interactive applications over multiple computers". PalTalk is now suing Microsoft for violating those patents; they say MS had discussions with them and found the technology "very valuable".

Microsoft says "the technology is for an older dial-up method of communicating between computers" and therefore doesn't cover Halo, and even if it did, it's worth far less than the $90M PalTalk is seeking.

I can't help wonder at how far away from technology these kinds of patents really are. Let's say they were developed in the time of dialup. So what? Since the days of SLIP and PPP, computers using dial-up were still speaking TCP/IP to each other. Early Bungie games that used TCP/IP for multiplayer could be played over dialup (with some tweaking) so unless the Mpath patents are for a system that has nothing to do with TCP/IP (what was it, IPX?) then that fact by itself doesn't mean this has nothing to do with Halo.

However, beyond that, Bungie had its own networking libraries, and Halo was already in development before Microsoft bought them. What are the odds that Halo multiplayer ever required technology that Microsoft discussed with Mpath and then didn't decide to use?

This Just In: Judge Calls Halo "Delusional Environment"

Halo 3 Logo

Normally I avoid even commenting on the intersections between violent real-world crime and fantasy videogame violence. There's really little point. There's not much more than can be said on the matter than what is already out there.

However, the remarks of Judge James Burge following his conviction of Daniel Petric are simply so ridiculous that I can't let them pass. From story coverage at, of all places, a PS3 website:

The boy was finally convicted of the crime earlier today, but Judge James Burge wasn't happy with the sentencing. He told the press that he blamed the video game developers more than Daniel for the crime committed. Burge accused Halo 3 developer Bungie of creating a "delusional environment" where the normal rules of reality didn't apply. "[In Halo 3] you can shoot these aliens, and they're there again the next day. You have to shoot them again, and I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea, at the time he hatched this plot, that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever," Burge explained.

It's really hard to take that seriously. It's also really hard to swallow the idea that this is a person who is a judge-- who is in a position of education and authority. That's frightening. What is surprising is that despite blaming the videogame more than the perpetrator, he still found the latter guilty, which I suppose is also encouraging.

However, let's play reductio ad absurdum a bit with this. It won't be hard; there's not to much reducting to do before things get pretty damn absurdum.

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Skull-Seekers Rising

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Bungie Declares Independence

In a deal naming almost no specifics, Bungie Studios, a wholly owned unit of Microsoft's Microsoft Games Division, becomes the privately held Bungie LLC, with minority Microsoft shareholding and a long-term Halo publishing deal.

http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=news&cid=12835

Bungie spent slightly more than seven years and fifteen weeks owned wholly by Microsoft, releasing four games during that period: Oni, Halo 1, Halo 2, and Halo 3. Halo 1 and Oni underwent significant development before the purchase.

event start: 
10/01/2007

Bungie Declares Independence

In a deal naming almost no specifics, Bungie Studios, a wholly owned unit of Microsoft's Microsoft Games Division, becomes the privately held Bungie LLC, with minority Microsoft shareholding and a long-term Halo publishing deal.

http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=news&cid=12835

Bungie spent slightly more than seven years and fifteen weeks owned wholly by Microsoft, releasing four games during that period: Oni, Halo 1, Halo 2, and Halo 3. Halo 1 and Oni underwent significant development before the purchase.

event start: 
10/01/2007

Microsoft Denies Bungie Separation Rumor

This is the most definitive link I can find for what is so far a non-story story about Microsoft somehow letting Bungie become independent again.

The official Microsoft response to reports in Jacob Metcalf's blog that allege Bungie is leaving Microsoft was:

There's been no such announcement.

That's the kind of non-denial denial you'd expect from a company that is the subject of so many non-story stories.

Todd Bishop, on his Seattle Intelligencer blog, gets Robbie Bach at Microsoft to comment on that non-denial denial, and ends up getting an explanation of why the non-denial denial exists:

"The problem is, I can't comment one way or another on any of these rumors. Because then, every time you ask me a question about a rumor, I have to comment definitively, and there's times when I don't want to, and times when I do want to. I just don't. You should interpret it that way. You should interpret it as a neutral 'don't.' "

All in all, it seems very likely that people in Bungie might want to, you know, work on a game that isn't Halo, or isn't a shooter, or, God forbid, isn't a Halo shooter. Farming out Halo Wars to Ensemble and Halo Chronicles to Wingnut seemed to me like Microsoft setting up the Halo franchise to continue while Bungie moved on to other things; but perhaps it was just a move to try and maximize the revenue from the Halo property by developing ancillary products with a series of Halo shooters at the center, developed by Bungie.

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