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Video Gamers Fight Over $46 Million ‘Rust’

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A man who says he created the $46 million video game "Rust" can sue an English developer on claims it failed to give him credit and used his code for another game, a federal judge ruled.

Patrick Glynn and his Minnesota-based company Bubble Pony sued Facepunch Studios and its majority owner Garry Newman in March this year. He claims that Newman hired him five years ago to rebuild old features and add new ones, fix bugs, and make tools "for 8 hours a day without getting bored," to make games for Facepunch.

"Once that game makes what we've paid you so far back, you'd get something like a 60 percent cut of all the profits (probably more, that's kind of TBD [to be decided])," Newman wrote, according to U.S. District Judge David Doty's summary of the case.

The men settled on an independent contractor fee of $1,900 a month, which would eventually increase to $3,000, but never discussed via email the fee for game creation.

Glynn acknowledges that Newman paid him $700,000 in bonuses, but says that's not enough, given his key role in developing the game, and its enormous success.

In 2012 Glynn began programming the popular survival video gamer "Rust," which has racked up least $46 million in sales since June 2013, he says. Glynn claims he wrote more than 75 percent of the source code for the game, and at least a dozen art files, but Facepunch never gave him credit as a creator. It did pay him "bonuses," including $19,912.80 in October 2013, and $405,138.24 in March 2014, he says.

Glynn claims that after he drafted a document explaining the game's code, Facepunch paid him a final bonus of $277,151.22 in May 2014. Facepunch then discontinued Rust and developed a new "experimental game" based on it, reaping a heap of online public complaints, according to Glynn.

Newman was nasty about it, Glynn says. He claims Newsman wrote in an email: "It's a common thing for the next programmer to mock the previous guy's code - but the previous guy had serious problems, Asperger-type problems."

Glynn sought damages for 23 causes of action, including breach of contract, bad faith, negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation, defamation, and unjust enrichment.

Doty refused to dismiss Glynn's claims for tortious interference and unjust enrichment, but dismissed several others in the Dec. 7 order.

"Glynn argues that the contract also entitles him to 60 percent of 'Rust''s profits," Doty wrote. "The parties never agreed to that term, however." He found that Newman's "vague and indefinite" words do not constitute a contract.

"At most, the emails reflect an intention to explore such an agreement at a later time. Because the parties never reached such an agreement, there is no contract covering Glynn's work on 'Rust' and his contract claim fails as a matter of law."

He rejected Glynn's defamation claim as well.

"Newman did not mention Glynn by name," Doty wrote. "Nor did he provide other information that would reasonably lead the reader to identify Glynn as the programmer."

But Doty did not dismiss upheld Glynn's claims for declaratory judgment and unjust enrichment.

Glynn "alleges that: (1) he performed substantial work as an independent contractor and joint author of 'Rust,' which has generated $46 million in sales, (2) defendants knew of Glynn's proprietary interest in 'Rust,' (3) defendants intentionally interfered with that advantage by discontinuing 'Rust' and developing a sub-standard replacement game using Glynn's work, (4) Glynn should have been paid consistent with his joint ownership of 'Rust,' and (5) he has been substantially undercompensated. Glynn's allegations are therefore sufficient to set forth a claim for tortious interference with economic advantage."

Attorneys did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

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