Tuesday March 05, 2019

Skyrim Multiplayer Mod Accused of Stealing Code

Skyrim's extensive modding community has added almost everything you can imagine, and more, to Bethesda's single-player RPG, but there's one particular feature they've always struggled with: multiplayer. Neither Elder Scrolls Online nor Fallout 76 quite scratches that "I want to mess around in Skyrim with my buddy" itch, hence demand for a Skyrim multiplayer mod has always been sky high, but previous multiplayer modding efforts like Skyrim Online or Tamriel Online have either stalled or crashed and burned. From the outside, the community's latest effort, Skyrim Together, looked pretty good, but the project stirred up quite a bit of controversy (and bad press) in the past few days. The developers behind SKSE, an extension of Skyrim's scripting engine that's an essential part of thousands of other mods, accused the Skyrim Together team of stealing SKSE's code. More specifically, parts of SKSE's code base were explicitly closed source, and unmistakable references to them were found in Skyrim Together's code.

In a recently published response, the Skyrim Together team claims that a few "novice" coders weren't aware of the bad blood between the SKSE team and Skyrim Together, and that they're working on replacing the offending code, but that isn't the end of the program's trouble. The developers have always claimed Skyrim Together will be free when it's ready for the public, but recently, access to the latest mod release wa gated behind a $1 Patreon "donation," and access to higher tickrate servers required an even larger contribution. On top of that, I still don't see any public plans for a private, downloadable server, suggesting Skyrim Together must be played through the developers' dedicated servers for the foreseeable future. The March response partially addresses the former issue, but, coupled with the server issue, I believe this puts Skyrim Together in a legally troublesome spot.

"On behalf of the Skyrim Together team, we wish to direct and apology to Ian and his team behind SKSE. We have confirmed the use of protected code and as such have removed all dependances, associated content, or related code per their request. We will be reconstructing anything that was made possible by the use of SKSE code or considered in violation."

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