The classic FPS spy series No One Lives Forever was seemingly on its way to a grand revival through GOG.com and Steam thanks to Night Dive, the studio who was able to resurrect System Shock 2. The team received a lot of praise for its update and modern transition of Irrational’s pre-BioShock lost classic, so how could this new re-release possibly go wrong?
Well, how about a trademark jumble-fest?
In an interview with Kotaku, Night Dive founder Stephen Kick and director of business development Larry Kuperman described their intentions to bring back the two lost classics. The team started working out the legal logistics, filing for the trademark themselves for No One Lives Forever and its sequel A Spy In H.A.R.M.’s Way shortly after System Shock 2 went live, and they had a fool proof plan of modernizing its code.
“We had managed to get a hold of the source code for the first game and the second game. We had already created a laundry list of updates and enhancements and bug-fixes that we wanted to do to the original titles. So, essentially what we would’ve ended up with was a definitive version of both of those games.”
Instead of the assumed enthusiasm from all parties involved, all Night Dive was met with was a blockade of issues. Activision somewhat owned the rights to the game, but maybe not the content. 20th Century Fox was involved with the trademark at some point, but eventually the rights to the content somehow found themselves in the hands of Warner Bros. after producer Monolith Production had been bought out. Eventually, it was good ol’ WB who denied Night Dive’s attempts at a revival.
“They come back with a response that said they’re not looking to either publish the game themselves at this time, or to partner with us. Those options, they’re not going to accept either one of them. So basically, we’re back to square one.”
Night Dive was left with the trademark but not the actual content of the game to work with. In other words, there’s nothing the company can do at this point besides let the trademark expire. Kuberman pointed out that it wasn’t hostility which derailed the project, just simply too much bureaucracy from within the halls of each separate body. Everyone was nice about it, but just was too busy with their own projects.
In the meantime, we can expect No One Lives Forever to be revived as the next Dishonored/Thief/Tomb Raider/Shadows of Mordor inspired insipid AAA shooter within a year or two now that Warner Bros. can see the overwhelming reaction to Kotaku’s story. Just be comfortable knowing that if you should ever want to replay these classic games, you only have one of the world’s largest entertainment bodies sitting in your way.
It can’t even be troubled to write up a simple contract. Frustration to no end!
I can sympathize with No One Lives Forever‘s frustrated fans. I’ve been waiting for Capcom to clear up the legal mumbo jumbo behind Mega Man Legends and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, and that’s going nowhere just as equally fast.
As far as I’m concerned, games that are impossible to support because their trademarks are being sat on like Smaug’s treasure and do nothing but hurt consumers are abandonware until someone gets off the pot.