Crytek has filed a suit against Cloud Imperium Games and Roberts Space Industries, accusing the Star Citizen devs of copyright infringement and breach of contract.
Star Citizen was originally being developed using Crytek's CryEngine, before development shifted to Amazon's Lumberyard engine which is based on an older iteration of CryEngine, but has more of a focus on online connectivity and integration. Development shifted platform in December 2016.
This engine swap is where the legal problems started, according to the suit filed by Crytek. The game license agreement signed between Crytek and the Star Citizen developers allegedly required the exclusive use of CryEngine for the game's development, and also for the developers to prominently display Crytek's trademarks and copyright notices in Star Citizen and marketing material created around the game.
Additional clauses meant that the Star Citizen devs had to provide bug fixes and optimisations for CryEngine on an annual basis, although they weren't allowed to use CryEngine for a standalone, non-Star Citizen project.
Crytek say that all of these clauses were breached by the Star Citizen developers, and so they are seeking both direct damages, which they estimate somewhere in excess and also indirect, consequential and special damages. In addition, they are looking to get an injunction against both developers that would prevent them from using, possessing or infringing on copyrights belonging to Crytek.
If Crytek were to win, there's no telling how much of a sum that could net them, but it could deal quite a financial blow to Star Citizen.
Star Citizen has been around since its 2012 Kickstarter, when it made a record $2.1m. Since then, it's raised over $173 million in funding, most recently selling land futures in their game. The game set in space. There's currently no usable land in the game, and it's not entirely sure yet what effect land will have. You can buy the right to claim it when it appears though, so that's something.
Gamasutra received a statement from Cloud Imperium games saying, in its entirety: "We are aware of the Crytek complaint having been filed in the US District Court. CIG hasn’t used the CryEngine for quite some time since we switched to Amazon’s Lumberyard. This is a meritless lawsuit that we will defend vigorously against, including recovering from Crytek any costs incurred in this matter."
It's worth pointing out that Crytek has recently been going through dire financial times, and rumours of layoffs, unpaid wages and asset sales are floating around the company. If they lose and have to pay out a substantial settlement to CIG, they could be facing a real crisis.