Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project, an attempt by a group called DamnedDev to remaster Red Dead Redemption for PC, has been shuttered by Take-Two Interactive. Take-Two published 2010’s Red Dead Redemption as well as its massively popular sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2. The original is available only on PS3 and Xbox 360, and it seems unlikely that it would ever receive an official port to any other platform.
This is far from the first time that a publisher has stepped in to stop fan projects based on its games. The entire practice of modding and fan development exists in a sort of gray area, where developers and publishers generally have authority to enforce their copyright in any way they see fit, but may find it not worth the effort or even damaging to their reputation to shut down every fan development project that comes along. Their rights tend to be exercised more broadly when emulation, enabling a game to be played on a platform it’s not officially available for, is involved. Still, enforcement around these projects is unpredictable. Large-scale mods to bring the entirety of Morrowind into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and relocate Fallout 4 to New York have been underway for years with no signs of legal trouble. Even the famously litigious Nintendo hasn’t stepped in to shut down an emulated version of Breath of the Wild that also includes wild enhancements like the ability to play as Bowsette.
Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project announced that it had received the shutdown order a little under a month after the project was first posted on GTAForums.com. A follow-up post by the developer simply says that the project has been halted, with a video explaining the details to come. In an email to PC Gamer, DamnedDev confirmed that a lawyer from Take-Two demanded that the project be shut down. However, DamnedDev is attempting to convince Take-Two that the project should be allowed to continue, claiming that it doesn’t actually violate any laws, and further alleging that Take-Two had been “harassing” the developer’s family members.
DamnedDev maintains that the project is a mod, which have a long history of both grudging acceptance and open approval from some developers on PC. According to its initial forum post, the mod would “remaster and optimize the game to run and look better,” with a suite of visual updates. Red Dead Redemption isn’t available on PC, though, meaning that players would have to rip the game’s files from its PS3 or Xbox 360 version to play the mod. While the Damned Enhancement Project isn’t providing players with any of the game’s files, insisting that they rip them from a copy they legally own, Take-Two could view the existence of a supposedly improved version of the game as an incitement to piracy.
Legally, it’s highly likely that Take-Two has the authority to shut down the Damned Enhancement Project, or any other project that uses its intellectual property. The issue is more complicated than simply what Take-Two has the right to do, though. While Red Dead Redemption is a fairly recent game, still playable on a console that many people have access to, there are games that, due to hardware limitations, lost source code, or other issues, are impossible to play nowadays. Overuse of copyright claims now could stifle attempts to preserve games in a playable form for the future.