Perhaps inevitably, Microsoft is working to eradicate the eye-catching fan-made Halo Online mod Eurogamer reported on last week.
ElDewrito is (was?) a community-made mod for Halo Online, the cancelled free PC game based on Halo 3 Microsoft built for the Russian market.
ElDewrito lets you play multiplayer games in player-hosted servers, with multiple server browsers, player and emblem customisation, stat tracking and even ranked and social servers.
The mod attracted a fair bit of attention from both the games press and fans who fancied giving a Halo 3-like multiplayer experience a shot on PC. Only Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 launched on PC, with the subsequent Halo games so far remaining Xbox exclusive.
Now, Halo custodian 343 Industries has signalled Microsoft has lawyered up. In a post on Halo Waypoint, 343 said Microsoft had "initiated actions to protect its Halo intellectual property", which sounds a bit like Skynet sent the Terminator after the modders.
Explaining the decision, 343 said ElDewrito did not fit within Microsoft's content usage guidelines because the Halo Online code the mod is based upon was never officially released.
"Back in 2014, Microsoft, 343 and Sabre Interactive partnered to develop Halo Online - a title that was being developed exclusively for the Russian market. The game was subsequently put on indefinite hold but Halo Online ended up in the wild beyond its intended audience and official scope, resulting in DMCA takedown notices being issued by Microsoft.
"As time went by, Halo Online faded and fell off the radar until the recent exposure of the .6 update shined a new light on the current ElDewrito project.
"While we are humbled and inspired to see the amount of passion poured into this project, the fact remains that it's built upon Microsoft-owned assets that were never lawfully released or authorised for this purpose.
"As this project reverberated across the community, our team took a step back to assess the materials and explore possible avenues, while Microsoft, like any company, has a responsibility to protect its IP, code and trademarks. It's not optional in other words."
343 addressed a "common misconception" that Halo Online's assets were turned over as open source or left for the community to use after the game's cancellation.
"Not only did Microsoft issue takedown notices at the time of the original leaks, but many elements of that underlying code and content are still actively being used today and will continue to be in the future," 343 said.
343 said it talked with the ElDewrito team to discuss "the admittedly difficult situation we all find ourselves in".
"The ElDewrito team is understandably upset at this outcome given the time they've each invested in this project, but they understand the legal implications and the need to press pause on this work."
What happens next? Writing on its blog, the ElDewrito team said the mod itself will not be taken down, but any assets required to play the game, which includes the full 0.6 game zips, will be taken down by Microsoft. What's clear is development has been temporarily halted "until more information is available". "We must honour this request," the ElDewrito team added. "During this time, please do not make threats or harass 343 Industries."
Meanwhile, the 0.6 build of ElDewrito remains playable. It had over 8000 concurrent players at the time the team wrote its blog post, which is pretty impressive for a fan-made mod. Clearly, there's a big demand for a Halo 3-type experience on PC. With that in mind, 343 suggested some sort of official classic Halo experience could make its way to PC.
"While we have nothing to announce today, please know that the PC community is very important to us and top of mind as we work towards the future," 343 said.
So there you have it. 343's statement suggests the developer feels stuck between a rock and a hard place, wanting to show support for the Halo modding scene but keenly aware of the long arm of Microsoft's legal team. This time, ElDewrito is the victim, but perhaps the people behind it can help to - eventually - make a new official Halo experience on PC a reality.