As virtual reality begs to break down the door in people's homes to become the next big thing in gaming, two companies are going head-to-head in an effort to settle disputes that could very well put the future of VR's darling device at risk. It started with ZeniMax Media, a parent company to id Software, claiming at least part of the intellectual property rights to the Rift, the VR headset that Oculus has been working on for quite some time. It's escalated since then, with Oculus issuing an official statement in an email to media outlets.
Things heated up when John Carmack, the father of games such as Doom and co-founder of id Software, left the company to join Oculus late last year. Since then, ZeniMax has made it abundantly clear that the VR headset, Rift, could not exist without Carmack's assistance. According to ZeniMax, that assistance came in the form of intellectual property originally developed and owned by ZeniMax.
Oculus hasn't been quiet about the tension, though.
"It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims. We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent," an Oculus spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal in response to an email received from Zenimax.
Carmack, too, was quick to tweet that there are "zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax."
On May 5, 2014, Oculus issued an official statement through an email released to media outlets. In that statement, the company outlined in clear detail why they believe ZeniMax's claims are unfounded.
There is not a line of Zenimax code or any of its technology in any Oculus products. John Carmack did not take any intellectual property from Zenimax. Zenimax has misstated the purposes and language of the Zenimax non-disclosure agreement that Palmer Luckey signed. A key reason that John permanently left Zenimax in August of 2013 was that Zenimax prevented John from working on VR, and stopped investing in VR games across the company. Zenimax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused Zenimax's demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus. Zenimax did not pursue claims against Oculus for IP or technology, Zenimax has never contributed any IP or technology to Oculus, and only after the Facebook deal was announced has Zenimax now made these claims through its lawyers. Despite the fact that the full source code for the Oculus SDK is available online (developer.oculusvr.com), Zenimax has never identified any 'stolen' code or technology."
For gamers, though, perhaps the most interesting detail in the statement from Oculus, is that ZeniMax canceled VR support for Doom 3 BFG when Oculus refused ZeniMax's demands for a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus.
Carmack has indeed shown support for Oculus in the past, before he left ZeniMax, and Oculus has not been shy about acknowledging his support, either. At the same time, Oculus is fervent in their belief that ZeniMax did not play any role in bringing the Oculus Rift to life, and go as far as to say ZeniMax has impeded the development of VR.