As someone who takes a lot of screenshots of video games, and runs a YouTube channel that showcases beautiful environment design, Frans Bouma is a hero. He's the internet's most prolific creator of camera mods, which for games that don't come with a built-in photo mode is the only way to create this kind of content. Glance at his GitHub and you can see how many games he's made tools for, a venture he funds through Patreon.
However, despite this great work, Crysis developer Crytek recently threatened Bouma with legal action. "We noticed you have created tool mods for both Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered," an email from Crytek PR manager Adam Grinsell read. "I'm afraid that we do not allow for mods of these games under the terms of the EULA." As he explains in a public Patreon post, Bouma relented and took the mods down.
Bouma's mods contain no Crytek assets and all the code is his own, which makes this request baffling. Apparently the fact the mod was behind a Patreon 'paywall' was the main reason Crytek wanted it taken down, which is ridiculous. Crytek is a massively successful video game developer; Bouma is one man with just over 750 patrons. It's not like he's selling pirate copies of the game and raking in millions at Crytek's expense.
It's extra frustrating, because Bouma's mods can only benefit the game. It's in Crytek's best interests to have people taking beautiful screenshots of its games and posting them online. Particularly Crysis games, whose visuals are, let's be honest, their main selling point. That's why pretty much every big triple-A game has a photo mode now: it's free advertising. The fact Crytek would object to this is astonishingly self-defeating.
It didn't even have the courtesy to ask Bouma nicely. "We would ask that you [remove the mods] within the next seven days," Grinsell's email read, almost certainly under the direction of some out-of-touch executive at the company. "After this time, I will hand the matter to the legal department." Really? Threatening fans of your games with legal action is not a good look. Especially over something as innocuous as a camera mod.
Apparently Crytek wanted the mods removed to "protect its copyright", but how exactly does a player taking control of the camera in a game, to make it look good, infringe on copyright? It reads like a bullshit excuse disguising some other motivation, but I cannot fathom what that is. Even if there were legitimate legal concerns, this kind of bullying just reflects poorly on the company. It's certainly soured my opinion of Crytek.
Some have suggested that Bouma make the mods free, which would let him repost them without any more legal threats from the developer. But he's right to object to giving his tools away. "It's 100% my code," he commented under his Patreon post. "They have no right to tell me what to do with what I wrote from scratch. Besides, giving away my hard work so they benefit and I don't? No way. I worked a full week on these tools."
A Crytek community manager posted on Reddit saying the studio had apologised to Bouma for a 'misunderstanding' caused by the original email, but added that it had to "balance this with protecting our copyright." So there's a chance someone working for Crytek didn't fully understand what kind of mods Bouma was creating, and were just taking a legal shotgun to anything they found online. Even so, why go after modders?
Mods are the lifeblood of PC gaming, and it's ludicrous that Crytek has such an issue with their existence. Modders keep games alive—and sell games too. Old games frequently crop up in the Steam charts when high-profile mods are released. They should be encouraged at every level, especially by a studio that made its name developing games for PC.
Also, the idea that people shouldn't be able to monetise tools they've made is just mean spirited—doubly so when they contain no copyrighted code or assets from the game. Even though Crytek admits (through a community manager) that it "should have approached the situation differently", a studio that's been around for this long should know better.
No, you come up with a cleverer headline