Last week Microsoft announced the existence of Halo Online. The all-new game will provide a free-to-play online multiplayer experience on PC.
“Halo Online is powered by a highly modified version of the Halo 3 engine and optimized for smooth performance on lower-end PCs,” the company said.
While the announcement was welcomed by PC gamers everywhere, not all had reason to celebrate. Due to launch later in the spring, Halo Online is destined to be restricted to players in Russia only, at least for the foreseeable future.
“Right now our focus is on learning as much as we can from the closed beta period in Russia. Theoretically, any expansion outside of Russia would have to go through region-specific changes to address player expectations,” the company said.
Of course, ‘player expectations’ can take many forms but predictably not having to wait patiently in line while geo-restrictions are lifted is one of them. The first signs of cracks appearing came when a YouTuber called ‘Noble‘ uploaded footage after modders Gamecheat13 and Lord Zedd reportedly obtained a build of the title.
Since then other modders have been dissecting Halo Online to unlock features, with one team creating a game launcher titled ‘ElDorito’ (a play on the ‘Eldorado’ main executable for Halo:Online) to ease the process.
“We’re really working on building a framework for the game to be playable, as well as a custom console with a plethora of features we believe are necessary to the game,” team member Pyong told Se7ensins.
With the launcher undergoing development via Github, things were progressing smoothly. Until yesterday that is, when Microsoft rolled out the big guns and stopped the project in its tracks.
“We have received information that the domain listed above, which appears to be on servers under your control, is offering unlicensed copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to, copyrighted works published by Microsoft,” the company wrote in a DMCA notice to Github.
While that statement is almost certainly accurate, the notice from Microsoft is somewhat confusing in that it refers to ElDorito being the company’s property.
“The above copyright work(s) [ElDorito] is being made available for copying, through downloading, at the above location without authorization from the copyright owner or exclusive licensee,” the company adds.
But whatever the ins-and-outs, Microsoft still feels it has a valid complaint and has ordered Github to disable access to ElDorito to “prevent the illegal reproduction and distribution of this copyrighted work(s) via your company’s services.”
As can be seen from the image below, Github has already complied.
While Microsoft were quick to hit the ElDorito project on Github, strangely there appears to have been less effort to take down the actual game files. The project’s wiki doesn’t host the leaked content, but it does offer a valuable pointer.
“Since we can’t actually post the link to the Halo Online download, you’ll have to look for it elsewhere,” the wiki explains.
The word ‘elsewhere’ helpfully links to a Pastebin page which in turn displays a link to Mega.co.nz where someone has uploaded the 2.1GB zip file. It probably won’t be there for long.
But for those hoping that the ElDorito project will continue, that seems unlikely, at least in the short-term. The team is reportedly a bit spooked by Microsoft’s intervention and are waiting for things to cool down before making any decisions.