For gamers, DreamCatcher's announcement today that Universal Combat has shipped was twofold good news. One, the large-spaceship-combat simulation is finally out after two years of development. Two, the game formerly known as Battlecruiser Generations is being sold for only $19.99, half its originally announced price.
However, today's announcement was bad news for Universal Combat's developer, 3000AD, and its founder, Derek Smart. The legendarily outspoken Smart has been quite vocal about his bumpy relationship with DreamCatcher, who had pressured him to release Universal Combat in time for the 2003 holidays. Smart, also a legendary perfectionist, refused, a decision that reportedly cost DreamCatcher a substantial amount of retail orders at the game's original $39.99 price point.
After the game finally shipped to production on January 26, the Toronto-based publisher reduced Universal Combat's price without consulting Smart. The understandably furious developer fired back, filing for a shipping injunction in an Ontario court. According to a cease and desist letter from Smart's lawyer, the surreptitious price reduction was "clearly calculated to inflict economic harm on 3000AD." However, the presiding judge disagreed, and allowed DreamCatcher to ship the game.
"Yesterday was the longest day of my life," said Smart in a typically encyclopedic post on the 3000AD forums, which contains scans of many legal documents. Smart also made clear that he was planning on suing DreamCatcher for damages should he lose money on the now-budget-priced game. "[A] small bump," he said, "but I've only just begun."