Square Enix Gets Heavy-Handed With Its Homebrew Fans

Pirating games is one thing and those who engage in the practice assume all of the risks involved, legal and otherwise.

But The Guardian’s Keith Stuart reports that, earlier this month, Square Enix sicced its lawyers on a small band of rabid Chrono Trigger fans, serving them with a menacing cease and desist order.

It seems that a group of homebrew types spent four years (!) modding a sequel which they dubbed Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Talk about a labor of love. As Stuart reports, the group use a ROM hack to mod the original source code:

If Square Enix had allowed the game to be released, the commercial impact would have been infinitesimal. It’s being released as an IPS patch, not a complete Rom image; and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, that’s the point – getting these things to run is for the homebrew community only.

As Stuart points out, some fan projects (Counter-Strike, for example) have turned into actual commercial games. And the video game industry is increasingly touting the idea of user-generated content to market certain games. But the message inherent in Square Enix’s slap at its adoring, hardcore fans is of an entirely different nature. Stuart writes:

Think of the marketing benefits of embracing this passion, of inviting the creators to port the project over to the DS or on to WiiWare. It would be a radical departure from standard tactics but it would surely be more useful and forward-thinking than kicking the lawyers into action. How about a new mantra: embrace and assist?

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  1. JustChris says:

    Why does S-E target only fan work that is related directly to the games? Why does the line get drawn between making a fan game and fan art, or fan music? They seem to be totally cool with OverCclocked Remix hosting countless derivative works of Chrono Trigger music. (to my knowledge OCR has not been threatened with legal action from any game company regarding their content).

  2. Sukasa says:

    Perhaps Square-Enix should consider making true sequels to some of its more popular games if it doesn’t want homebrew gamers making it themselves?  Some of the better Final Fantasy games, it would be nice to see a story or at least same world sequel to them.

  3. Stoli says:

    You sure about that? What about fan fiction? Is that illegal? It’s kind of the same thing.

    Also, what about doujinshi? Are you saying that all that is illegal? Same concept.

    Regardless of *any* of that, this is lost money for SE. They could’ve made a downloadable game for Wii/PS3/Xbox 360 and made this an alternate timeline (for a small fee, of course).

    Chrono Trigger is still a very strong brand. If I had any stake in SE, I’d be furious for SE not to milk it a bit more. Some companie run frachises into the ground; I’d dare to say that SE doesn’t do it enough (for some of them, at least).

  4. Tammej says:

    As a "chaotic good" person, I wish the hackers on the team would try to find enough people willing to finish this thing, under the conditions that it has to take them at least a full year, and that all game text be changed, and all scripts be heavily edited so that nothing about this hack is recognisable to the videos – and therefore Square Enix, anymore.

    Change the plot where necessary. Just slightly. Turn this into a whole new hack just based on yours. But sever all ties to it, and be sure that all the people who work on it remain anonymous until they release the game into the wild through setting up a freesite using freenet encyption tech.

    Square Enix really made sure not only to break this game, they broke spirits. And this is something I will not forgive this company for. I’ve been a fan all this time. Well, I’m a fan of the old Squaresoft now. Square-Enix … goodbye.

  5. Ouroboros says:

    SE was certainly well within their rights to demand they immediately cease and desist what they mod team were doing, and the mod team certainly had no right to adapt or modify SE work. However, it was a dead game from a dead franchise on a dead platform. Therefore, there were no monetary losses for SE to endure with this mod. Then there is the negative PR that they just got themselves into. Looking like a bully or a jackass has never nor will ever help a company in the short or the long run; especially in the North American market. Just as a quick example, I will now no longer purchase any more SE products. I have felt that SE’s quality has been taking a massive nosedive over the past several years; however this was the straw that broke the camels back. Furthermore, I have no investment with this mod, I just found out about it here on GP. My decision alone to no longer purchases SE products has already negatively impacted the company more than the mod did; and I know for a fact that I am not alone in that decision.

    In short, it was SE right to demand that the mod project be shut down; but it was a rather stupid and impractical decision.

  6. Wormdundee says:

     I’d say you’re completely right here. I would never even come close to starting one of these projects until I had absolutel permission from the IP owner, preferably in writing.

    All the backlash on this is going to be of an emotional sort because of the time spent, labour of love, yadda yadda. But the fact that his happened is their own fault. They KNEW that Sqeenix smacked down that 3d remake and they still attempted this.

    I’m fairly sure they were probably trying to sneak it out before Squeenix found out about them. After all, once it’s released it would be impossible for Squeenix to stop the spread of it, even if they removed the download from the compendium.

    Now, taking all that into account, it’s still not a good PR move for Squeenix. I don’t really know what else they could’ve done here though. They have every right to protect their property, but fans will always get angry about this sort of thing. Sort of a no win situation for them. 

  7. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I would have to agree with the majority of what you have said here.

    But I will say something about this:

    First off, it’s a ROM hack with a IPS patch, meaning you’d have to have the original ROM to play it. Since when are SNES ROM’s public domain material? Even if you own the original SNES game, I don’t think you’re allowed to make a copy (ROM image) of it to play on a different medium. Wouldn’t that make the IPS patch illegal as well?

    Technically under fair use, we are allowed to make a backup copy of our media for our own personal use as long as we keep the original. While that may be against the letter of the DMCA, it is well within the spirit of fair use. As long as you own the original and any copies you make are for your own use and you do not share it, it is fine.

    I don’t know why that is so hard for some people to understand. So the media industry can’t nickel and dime us to death by forcing us to buy the same content 5 times for each device we want to use it on. So what. We bout it once and they got that money. We bought a right to use it in how we see fit for our own personal use.

    AS long as the person owns the Cartridge, they are allowed to create a ROM of the game and play it on an emulator for their PC, DS, PSP, GTX, XBox, etc. AS long as they don’t share that ROM or get rid of the original while retaining the ROM.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  8. MrBounce says:

    So the people working on this project used someone else’s code and proceeded to spend 4 years of their lives working on it without ever once asking the original owners whether it was ok…? Then when the owners got wind of it and told them to scrap it, they complain and try to make a big deal out of it…? How exactly is that the original owner (SE’s) fault?

    First off, it’s a ROM hack with a IPS patch, meaning you’d have to have the original ROM to play it. Since when are SNES ROM’s public domain material? Even if you own the original SNES game, I don’t think you’re allowed to make a copy (ROM image) of it to play on a different medium. Wouldn’t that make the IPS patch illegal as well?

    Second, why did the people working on the ROM hack not write their own code, tweak the names so they’re not similar, change hair colors, etc and release it as a homage to the original Chrono Trigger? Why did they instead go off and use code that was obviously written / developed by others and paid for by others? How is that not stealing…? It doesn’t matter they were going to release it as a free IPS patch, isn’t using someone else’s work illegal (in most countries)?

    Third, SE owns the intellectual rights to the Chrono Trigger name and the characters within. But that’s ok, it was just a fan thing right? So what, we now let people make ROM hacks for FFVII and let them distribute it out to the public because SE hasn’t gotten around to making a sequel? Where does it end? Why doesn’t SE just say here, here’s all our code and characters, make more games for us, and we’ll just go bankrupt and disappear. After the 10th fan made sequel to FFVII, I’m sure we’ll all be happy about the situation.

    Fourth, Japanese entertainment companies are chock full of "fans" who made their passion into their livelihood. People who do the designs for shows like Kamen Rider were actual fans growing up as kids who legitemately worked their way into the industry and are now part of the designing process. Game developers who work in the industry grew up with the first generation of games and are now part of the industry. If the people working on this ROM hack had 4 years to waste, they could have gone off and worked on a full degree and gotten into the industry the correct way.

    So no, SE isn’t in the wrong here. It’s a company, they’re protecting their rights, and the people who decided it was ok to waste 4 years of their lives making a sequel to a game they never had the right to work on in the first place are completely in the wrong.

  9. SimonBob says:

    What really bothers me isn’t SE’s reaction to the project — they have a right to protect their intellectual property, even if their effort seems a little heavy-handed.  The key word there is seems.  If I were in charge of this hack, I would’ve tried to open communications with SE and pursued certain avenues of legal advice, but I certainly wouldn’t have acquiesced to their demands immediately as the proprieters of CC appeared to do.  It strikes me as a little suspicious that, after four years, they’re willing to drop everything at the first sign of a C&D.

    The Mammon Philosophy

  10. Saladin says:

    You know, I hadn’t HEARD of this project before… but that SE would be so F’ing petty over this… ridiculous! This is the very DEFINITION of petty! How could you do it SE? How could alienate your own fan base by being so heavy handed over something that won’t affect you in any way, shape or form!? In WHAT way in this neccessary? WHY couldn’t you bother to tell these guys 4 YEARS ago when they started instead of flushing their hard work down the crapper!? WHY was it so important!?

    Pardon my language.


  11. eston says:

    Way to go, Square. How dare these individuals keep interest alive in one of the better games your company has ever released!

  12. SilverMelee says:

    While I personally don’t care for Chrono Trigger or… well, jRPGs in general, it’s a damn shame to see the jRPG behemoth do this to their fans.

    All that hard work. All for nothing.

    Way to go, Square.

    — I do more than just play games. I draw, too: http://www.silvermelee.deviantart.com

  13. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I had at one time wanted to make a remake of Final Fantasy IV (II on the SNES) in which Cecil never becomes the Paladin and stayed the Dark Knight. It would have followed the main story direction of the original game, but Cecil would get darker and more cruel and eventually join with the end boss.

    But I decided against it just to avoid this kind of crap.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  14. lizardinmycoffee says:

    Square-Enix has been slowly losing my support over the years because of crap like this. Example: I went to the first Video Games Live concert in Hollywood in 2005 and they were allowed to show gameplay footage from Square-Enix games. Cut to the concert in LA in 2007, where Jack Wall had to announce that there would be no gameplay footage because SE said no. So, during the Kingdom Hearts segment, they had to show Disney cartoon clips…

    It was so stupid!

  15. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    "It was posted that everything was destroyed on their end, but they could not be 100% sure that the beta testers had really deleted it."

    -Snorlax, a member of the forums.

    EDIT: Forgot that he changed his username.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  16. Alex says:

    You might want to do that because I’m confused. Did they actually completely delete everything they had or did they just officially close the project and take it off the net? If they deleted everything, why are they pursuing dialogue with Square-Enix after they’ve already destroyed the files?

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  17. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    No, they dumped it all. Do we need a quote? I have the site up right now, and I can get it if we need it.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  18. chadachada321 says:

    I highly doubt they’ve gotten rid of it, simply moved it elsewhere. My dad found my stash of downloaded roms (he freaks out about downloading stuff online) and deleted it, but not before I had a full backup of it on my flashdrive, surely these guys would’ve backed the hell outta in in like 10 seperate computers, if they spent 4 years on it.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  19. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    They’re trying. Try visiting the site and take a look at the news. The director of CE sent them an e-mail.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  20. Austin_Lewis says:

    Are all the backups gone?  Can’t some other entity complete it, and then the Compendium can say they had no hand in it?

    Oh wait, no, they initiated the project.  Fuck.

    Seriously, the Compendium needs to sit down and try to discuss it with Square-Enix.  4 years is far too long to work for something to be canceled.

  21. InJM says:

    I was just about to say the same thing.  I don’t think there’s been a time when SE hasn’t been heavy handed.

  22. hellfire7885 says:

    I can partly understand this, as the people puttign out the C&D order likely never worked on the game.

    Those who handle the business end of things are happy to do this, while the actual artists who make these games might be happy to see their work expanded upon.

  23. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    They got rid of everything, Austin. All of it’s gone. The Compendium couldn’t afford the lawsuit, so they chose to comply.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  24. Girricane says:

    The closest thing to an epilogue you’ll get is Chrono Cross, and we all know how that was.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I would have played the hell out of this thing when it would have been released, but I’m not entirely sure the game needed an epilogue.  The baddies were dead, time restored, Chrono gets the girl (more or less).  It’s like the sequel to Clerks: unnecessary but still delicious.

    Four years of work though…that would kill me.  But I’m also afraid of any company with more money than everyone I know combined (which is only $50 worth, but still).  If they even gave this out to friends I wouldn’t be surprised if it winded up in my lap in a few weeks.  It’s to risky to do anything but invite people over to their houses and play it.

    Bad call for Square-Enix though, I really wished these guys pleade their case to them more than simply turning over.  They might have been able to make some headway if they just talked to them like human beings.

  25. Austin_Lewis says:

    I hope that the guys involved finish the mod and release it anyway.  Fuck Square-Enix on this one.  I love their games (for the most part), but this is silly.  How many people even KNEW about this before these articles?  This isn’t going to stop people from buying Chrono Trigger on DS, and let’s face it, its very unlikely they’ll be doing an ACTUAL epilogue to Chrono Trigger.

  26. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Yep. Square is a real greedy bunch, if they won’t even allow fan projects to be made.

    Speaking of which, one of the projects they did that the Compendium abandoned long before even I joined back in November 2008 had an edited C&D letter (the original was given to Resurrection Studios when Square C&D’d Chrono Resurrection) posted to mark that the project was abandoned.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  27. KayleL says:

    I guess the team has to make there own version of the SE codes if they ever want to release it.

  28. TBoneTony says:

    It is sad, the tactics by some companies like this is not needed when the fans have worked long and hard on this single project to honour a game like Chrono Trigger.

    It is hard enough to get into the industry, but it is even more harder to make a game without being paid.



  29. hellfire7885 says:

    Mother 3 is a perfect example. The west obviously wants it badly enough, but Nintendo refuses to let it coem out here, so fans translated it.

  30. Arell says:

    Japanese console developers have always thrown a hissy over emulators and fan-made projects.  Even for games that have been off the market for years and they have no viable plans to re-release them.  (I once was big on SNES roms back in 98-99, when the SNES was essentially dead)  I remember companies throwing tantrums for fan translations of games that were deemed unfit for US shores.  What do they care?  They aren’t losing any money.

    It’s also a good point about how fan-based projects in the West sometimes leading to something more substantial.  If Square Enix was smart, they’d watch to see how the project goes, then if it’s of good quality, swoop in and buy it cheap.  Then spruce it up and release it in the DS or something.  They’d make millions with little effort.

  31. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Square demanded they take down EVERYTHING that had to do with hacking the games and Temporal Flux, or so I heard.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  32. hellfire7885 says:

    I’d love to hear the justification behind it.

    I wonder if part of the order was to delete all four years of work, making it all essentially for nothing. And wasn’t it close to being done and released for free?


    All that work ,going to waste, where no one can see it, it’s the ultimate bitchslap for an artist of any medium.

  33. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    I used to be part of the community that was working on Crimson Echoes. Sadly, the Chrono Compendium gave me the BanHammer back in February simply because in their opinions I was posting too much. Nowadays I hang out in their IRC.

    I was real disappointed that Square-Enix C&D’d their work. I was actually considering taking a look at Crimson Echoes when it came out, and I supplied suggestions for Techs in their Schala Project. They also had a thing going called Prophet’s Guile that told about Magus’ time in Zeal after he fought the party in the original game. Shout-outs to Prophet’s Guile and the Schala Project are planned in my written work, Chrono Flux Redux.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  34. Zerodash says:

    I think you can partially chalk this up to a cultural difference.  Japanese companies don’t seem as keen on this sort of thing as western developers. 

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