Bethesda sabotaged the launch of ‘Rune II’, Ragnarok Game claims

The publisher is seeking damages of at least US$100million

Rune II publisher Ragnarok Game has accused Bethesda Softworks and ZeniMax Media of sabotaging the launch of the game, developed by the now-defunct Human Head Studios.

Ragnarok Game has added both companies, as well as Roundhouse Studios, to its ongoing lawsuit against Human Head Studios and three of its co-founders. The publisher originally filed the lawsuit in December 2019, accusing Human Head of fraud and breach of contract after the developer shuttered a day after the launch of Rune II (on November 12, 2019) and reformed as Roundhouse just days later under Bethesda.

The expanded lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday (October 20), claimed Human Head had conspired with Bethesda and ZeniMax to “sabotage” Rune II, as well as a second game based on comic book series Oblivion Song. The publisher also accusd the two companies of “conspiring” with Human Head in order to “[snuff] out potential competition” of its Elder Scrolls series.

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“The highly-anticipated release of Rune II was maliciously torpedoed in a conspiracy between the game’s developer, desperate for cash, and a large video game conglomerate intent on destroying threats to its own video-game franchises,” Ragnarok Game said.

“Human Head secretly provided Bethesda and Zenimax with ‘keys’ that permitted it to play a confidential, pre-release version of Rune II. This enabled Bethesda and Zenimax to see for themselves the threat that Rune II posed to their hit franchise, Skyrim/Elder Scrolls.”

Rune II
Rune II. Credit: Human Head Studios / Ragnarok Game

Ragnarok Game claimed ZeniMax had formed Roundhouse “two weeks prior” to the launch of Rune II, and that the company used the subsidiary to purchase the Human Head’s equipment. According to the publisher, this gave ZeniMax access to “trade secrets, source code and materials for Rune II and Oblivion Song”.

The lawsuit went on to allege that the defendants had been “maliciously holding the [assets for Rune II and Oblivion Song] hostage”, which prevented Ragnarok Game from working on the game further. The publisher acknowledged that it received the assets earlier this year, but that they were “incomplete and unusable”.

“Indeed, it appears as if Defendants with malicious intent deliberately organised the assets in such a way as to ensure they were as indecipherable and unusable as possible,” Ragnarok Game added.

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Ragnarok Game is currently seeking compensatory damages of “no less than $100million”, in addition to restitution of costs for development, punitive damages attorney fees and more. According to PC Gamer, Bethesda declined to comment on the matter.

Rune II is currently undergoing development at Studio 369, which was formed by Ragnarok Game earlier this year. A Decapitation Edition of the game is set to launch on November 13 on Steam, featuring a revamped combat system and a slew of new content. The original version of Rune II is currently available via the Epic Games Store.

Last month, Microsoft announced that it had acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks and other studios, for US$7.5billion.

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