Game developer 3D Realms last week shut down an unauthorised update of their 1996 hit title Duke Nukem 3D.
Duke It Out In Quake was an add-on project for Id Software's Quake III Arena. It used copies of levels and graphics from the original Nukem game, and from an expansion pack created by Sunstorm Interactive.
Although the project's Web site stated that converted maps could not be distributed commercially, it appears to have been a clear case of copyright infringement.
A message posted on the site on Thursday said: "Since we were violating some copyright stuff, we were asked by 3D Realms to stop giving away their copyrighted works. All maps were removed. We're still not sure if this is the end of the project, or we still have a chance to start it all over again."
On Friday this was followed with: "We have some news from 3D Realms, and actually they state that we can't continue our work. Anyway we still have some ideas how to keep project alive."
3D Realms co-owner George Broussard said: "I commend the guys on their being fans, but they really can't do this. People really should know better and it really pains to have to write emails to hard working teams that picked the wrong idea.
"But the level designs and the textures are all copyrighted works and you really can't go around re-creating them - even for fun or even for free.
"It's the same reason you don't see Doom 1 redone in Quake 3. As much as we'd all like to see it - it's just not allowed."
Ironically, Duke Nukem 3D included conversion software that allowed the game to play levels from Id Software's DOOM.
Nukem's documentation included this piece of advice from 3D Realms, who were known as Apogee at the time: "Remember that if you wanted the game to run with doom's artwork, you may as well play the real doom! (And Apogee wouldn't want that to happen!)"
Duke Nukem 3D is a valuable property for 3D Realms. The game still has an online following and there are many other titles based on the Nukem character. 3D Realms is expected to release the follow-up, Duke Nukem Forever, later this year.
The popularity of games that allow amateurs to create add-on packs with new artwork, levels and monsters, has lead to a new word entering the language: Foxing.
This is a term of some disrespect that refers to copyright holders forcing unauthorised tribute projects to close. It comes from the first major case of its kind, when 20th Century Fox shut down a Quake add-on based on the Alien movies.
There have been several other controversial 'Foxings', most involving Id Software games as these are most popular with amateur development teams.
In May 1997, a Quake add-on based on Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time was shut down by publishers Tor Books. The project was rebranded, and lived on under the name Fantasy Quake: Rise of the Phoenix.
In June 1999, Id Software called time on Generations, a Quake II add-on that used levels and graphics from several of Id's previous titles. The project team leader said he had understood Id to have given approval, although in the ensuing backlash against the company he said he had become "one of their biggest supporters".
Expansion packs based on the Predator and Star Wars films, and the Mario and Mortal Kombat games, have also reportedly been Foxed to varying extents, ranging from total shut down to mere renaming.
Incidents of so-called Foxing often lead to outrage from the online gaming community as they are seen as heavy-handed legal interference in a world where anything goes. They seem to be effective, though, as nowadays most amateur teams steer clear of brand names and make do with creating original material or updating successful add-ons from earlier games. ®