Nintendo continues to pursue punitive efforts against anyone using their assets without permission, as they have now issued a Cease and Desist order against the creator of ROM Hack Pokémon Prism, Twitter user @Koolboyman. The fan-turned-creator had announced just days ago through his twitter account that his version of the game was less than a week away from release. The order affects not only Pokémon Prism but also the creator’s other two Pokémon-based ROM Hacks, Pokémon Brown and Pokémon Rijon Adventures. Among other clauses, the order demands that work cease immediately on the game, a downloadable file not be provided, and to immediately disable public access to servers hosting any of the named games.
I’m sorry everyone, but Pokemon Prism is cancelled. Thank you for your support. https://t.co/rD5LSr1bQA
— Adam (@Koolboyman) December 21, 2016
This is not the first time Nintendo have taken such action against fan-created content, they have targeted everything from fan-made games that were wrongfully profiting from their I.P.’s – in their recent DMCA against Games Jolt – to issuing takedown notices against the more innocent YouTube content creators and speed runners who failed to sign up to the company’s internal content creator program. Other fan made projects that have recently received the same treatment include the popular Another Metroid 2 Remake and Pokémon Uranium – both fan made games were issued cease and desist orders the week they were made available online, though not before many fans had been able to download them. Both games were also removed from The Game Awards ‘best fan creation’ category at Nintendo’s request – as spotted by users on NeoGAF.
The delayed notices had led some to suggest that Nintendo may have been intentionally allowing these games to release before issuing C&D’s but the pre-emptive move against Pokémon Prism seems to refute this. This does, however, appear to be the first time a C&D notice has been issued over a ROM Hack which has been traditionally viewed as a ‘safe’ method of fan-driven creation similar to modding. The author himself admits on his Twitter feed that while he knew that action like this was ‘a possibility’ he felt that the ‘chances were really low.’
The creator who only further identifies himself by saying he worked for Mechanical Butterfly Studios on their Steam Game Jump Tanks, states the recent upsurge in interest in Pokémon Prism may have played a part in Nintendo’s decision. The rom hack’s trailer gained 1.4 Million YouTube views when he began collaboration with Twitch Plays Pokemon back in October: The trailer has now been made private but is still available on the user’s channel here.
Pokémon Prism was @Koolboyman’s take on the Game Boy Color game Pokémon Crystal, adding in a new region which he dubbed Naljo, new elemental types, new quests and a Pokédex of 252 Pokémon. The creator had also planned new mini games and even a new plot section where players took control of a Pokémon directly. The highly ambitious fan project was the culmination of eight years of development work and the notice came just days before the final version was due to release. Since the takedown of the creator’s official site, the game’s wiki page has been updated, claiming that a build of the game from as recently as the 19th of December, v0.91, has been leaked by an anonymous 4chan user.
For those not familiar with the practice, a ‘ROM Hack’ involves editing a ROM file – adding your own dialogue or maps for example – of the kind commonly used when reproducing classic games from systems like the Game Boy Advance on modern emulators. Unlike fan made games which use their own custom engines, ROM Hacks use the original game’s files as a base to add in their own content. A large part of the surprise is that unlike other fan-works Rom Hacks require that the base game is owned by the user and modifies the content on them by essentially re-arranging it in the way the patch details. The fact that they do not distribute any assets has typically made this a safe way to create fangames but as noted above, the first changes began when things like rom hacked Mario runs were hit on Youtube last year.
‘Koolboyman’ seems stoic in spite of the recent action, he states on his twitter feed that this eight-year project has not been wasted time as it has improved his skills as a developer and that he is currently working on a new and, thankfully, un-Pokémon related project. The news obviously comes as a huge disappointment to the creator, who invested huge amounts of time in the project. A recent Tweet suggests that he will speak more about his decision to make the ROM Hack when ‘feeling better.’ The full notice from Nintendo, in which they acknowledge the creators intent to tribute their creation without seeking profit, can be read via the link from @Koolboyman’s tweet or directly as a PDF here.