The video gamer community is full of people who create fan games that tribute their favorite video games. These fan games are a labor of love, and while not all of them are good (most suck if I’m being honest) quite a few gain the attention of the general gaming public and AAA game developers. However, some companies love to send cease-and-desist letters to the people who make these fan games (coughNintendocough), while others are more open-minded. It does my heart good when a large AAA development studio gives its blessing to the tiny team behind an ambitious fan game.
Enter Installation 01. No, it’s not the building where the U.S. government stores the Arc of the Covenant, it’s the name of a Halo fan game. Installation 01 recreates the multiplayer components of Halo 2 and 3 with the Unity engine and, when released, will be free for PC gamers. Installation 01 nails the look and feel of classic Halo, but that’s where the game runs into legal problems. Does Installation 01’s mere existence violate any copyrights? Is the game even allowed to exist? According to the dev team’s latest blog post, the answers are a resounding no and yes respectively. Sorta.
According to the announcement, the team behind Installation 01 has been in touch with current Halo developer 343 Industries for the past several months. The Installation 01 team shared a lot of information with 343, including development plans, planned content, and the release schedule. The Installation 01 project manager and lead, referred to as Church (a reference to the character of the same name from the web series Red vs. Blue), participated in a phone meeting with 343 and was pleased with the result:
“We are happy to announce that the outcome of the call was both incredibly information and very positive! Through these interactions we have ensured that Installation 01 is not under any imminent legal threat, provided we remain non-commercial in nature and scope, and continue to follow Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules to the letter. We are now able to say with certainty that Installation 01 will never be accepting donations. We also will not be selling i01 or Halo related merchandise. This is to keep a respectful distance between us and Microsoft’s intellectual property. It is also important to note that these rules and assurances from 343 are specific to Installation 01 as a project, and should not be interpreted to apply elsewhere. Through ongoing communication with 343 Industries we hope that we, as a fan project, can continue to be a positive driving force within the Halo community.”
In other words, as long as Installation 01 remains free to play and the developers never receive any money for the project, even if it’s a thank you gift of $1 from a random fan, 343 and Microsoft will not take any legal action. This decision does not mean 343 or Microsoft actively support the development of the game, just that the companies have adopted a laissez-faire attitude. From what I have seen, Installation 01 looks very promising and will definitely scratch the itch PC gamers feel for a proper Halo game on the PC, especially since Halo Online (a free Halo multiplayer game for PC designed for Russian audiences) was axed back in 2016. I personally look forward to the official release of Installation 01.