Cryptic Studios, Inc. is a relatively young game developer company based in Los Gatos, Northern California. Formed in June 2000, it has so far produced two titles: City of Heroes, and its 'expanshalone' City of Villains, both are MMOGs based in a comic-book world of superheroes and supervillains. Both games were published by NCSoft, well known in the MMO business. It is continuing to produce content for both of these titles, with major updates coming several times a year. No future titles have so far been announced, but it's likely they will continue to produce expanshalones for CoH semi-regularly (one possible title that's been thrown around is 'City of Spies').
The Marvel Lawsuit
One non-game related event worthy of note is the lawsuit Marvel filed over copyright issues in City of Heroes. On November 10th, 2004, Marvel claimed that the incredibly varied character generator was little more than a means of cloning Marvel characters. This drew widespread criticism for two main reasons. First, the character creator led to the cloning of Marvel characters no more than a box of crayons and a piece of paper, it is up to the user to create something original or derivative. Second, several of Marvel's claims were false:
- That Cryptic had no characters of their own, so cloning must be the intent (There is an actual CoH comic book, and hundreds of other characters are present in the game).
- That Cryptics characters were themselves clones of Marvel characters (seemingly contradicting the above point). For example, a claim that the main character Statesman wore Magneto's helmet and Captain America's shield. In fact, Statesman wears a faceplate, not a helmet, and does not carry a shield at all. (reference)
- Several of the infringing characters Marvel submitted as evidence for the case were, in fact, created by Marvel itself to use in the case.(reference)
- Cryptic was already enforcing copyrights within the game themselves, by deleting or changing the names of infringing characters.
On March 9th, 2005, a U.S. district court judge dismissed several of the claims, and on December 14th, the case was settled. While the exact settlement was not disclosed, it was generally considered to be a win for Cryptic and NCSoft as none of Marvel's possible goals (such as dismantling of the character creator or suspension of service) appeared to have taken place. It is also worth noting that no other comic companies, such as DC, have made any moves toward legal action.