We've been eagerly anticipating updates on Skyrim Together, which is a mod project to bring multiplayer to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, however the projected has unfortunately now found itself marred in contronversy, following accusations that the developers of the mod have been stealing code.
It recently went into beta for Patreon backers, but now there are accusations from those who've seen and played the mod that it's stolen code from the popular Skyrim Script Extender, a mod that enables additional functionality for modders to hook into the game in ways they otherwise couldn't before.
The alarm was raised by SKE's lead modder, Ian Patterson, on the Skyrim Mods subreddit, stating that the mod had used code from SKE without permission or disclosure. In a further statement made to Eurogamer, he said that the theft of the code was "blatant".
You can just open their .dll in notepad, then search for 'skse' to find tons of hits. After the post went up, I was able to examine the loader source code and found it was exactly as my analysis showed. It was code copied directly from SKSE with some very minor modifications ... I think it's setting a terrible standard that is bad for the mod community...
There's been some significant community backlash as a result of the accusation, with many people lashing out at the Skyrim Together mod team on reddit, prompting the lead programmer of the mod, Yamashi, to respond, denying the accusations. Also speaking to Eurogamer, Yamashi said;
We did not steal anything. We used SKSE to prototype our mod back in 2012 which is the standard way of extending Skyrim, then the SKSE guys decided we weren't allowed to use SKSE for reasons that remain unclear to me and so we rewrote the parts that were using files from the SKSE project so we do not rely on it anymore. We just have an automated build system that included some SKSE files but they are not used in the actual mod
However, the Skyrim Together team decided to backtrack on this statement somewhat in a later statement made in a document released on Google Docs, where they offered a full apology to the SKSE team and that the mod may indeed have been using SKSE code without permission after all.
We have confirmed the use of protected code and as such have removed any and all dependencies, 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. There is no excuse as to why this code has remained in the codebase for this long and was distributed without credit or acknowledgement. Going forward we will do our utmost best to respect the SKSE team and their work and ensure the licence request is maintained in the long run.
There is to be considered here an element of bad blood between the two parties that has been long standing before this controversy began, which apparently lead to Patterson banning Yamashi from using any SKSE code. It seems that in 2012, Tamashi was working on a similar Skyrim Online project, and copied and distributed the SKSE code without permission, which lead to the falling out.
To complicate the matters, the controversy has lead to Skyrim Together's Patreon to now come under fire, with accusations of it being a glorified "paid beta", and others feeling betrayed that they have donated to developers that have stolen code from other mod authors. Yamashi insisted to Eurogamer that the money raised via Patreon was only spent on the production of the mod and nothing else.
The other concern raised by Patterson is that, should the controversy attract the attention of Bethesda, SKSE could get caught up in the legal crossfire, which would be a devastating blow given how many mods rely on SKSE to function.
Interestingly, the planned release for Skyrim Together has now been pushed back to a "when it's ready" status, which implies the team have some work to do to re-work and remove all traces of SKSE, casting doubt on the idea that the files were only included and not used. Yamashi has stated, however, he intends to continue development and that he's simply now working through the many bug fixes from the beta.
Could this be the end for Skyrim Together? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, it's an unfortunate situation for all involved.
Stay tuned to GameFront for more on this as we get it.