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A fan-made Halo PC patch meets Microsoft’s legal muscle—and apparently survives

Enlarge / Want to play the canceled Halo Online project on your PC? Go through the right hoops, and you can still do so, even in spite of Microsoft’s legal action this week.
Microsoft / El Dewrito

On Tuesday, Microsoft’s Halo development studio 343 Industries posted about a fan-made modification to a PC version of the series—and the studio said that Microsoft would “protect its Halo intellectual property.” This, for all intents and purposes, sounded like yet another story of a fan-made game-tribute project facing a swift, legal smackdown.

But the story of the ElDewrito patch, designed for 2015’s Russia-only game Halo Online, appears to be a little more nuanced, if not complicated. The ElDewrito version of Halo Online is still online and functioning, with thousands of players matchmaking in its wholly free online multiplayer lobbies as of press time. Its Github repository is still online, which means the open source patch can still be downloaded. And the patch builders’ official blog says the team did not receive a formal cease-and-desist order from either Microsoft or 343 Industries.

The result is fascinating: a solid, Windows-compatible version of classic Halo 3 combat is in the wild. Now Microsoft’s required legal action is being announced alongside an apparent intent to do what the modders were already doing—to finally get more classic Halo games working for PC gamers.

In Russia, Dewrito eats you

When it comes to fan-made versions of existing video games, the stories usually don’t end well. Lawyers inevitably show up to protect their IP in spite of these games often being run by devoted, not-for-profit community groups. Everyone typically leaves with a sour cease-and-desist taste in their mouths.

This fate actually befell one Halo-related project in 2015 called ElDewrito, which aimed to fix up the weirdest Halo game ever made: Halo Online, a Russia-only, free-to-play hybrid of Halo 3 and Halo 4 for Windows PCs. The closed beta files for that Russian game leaked to the wider world, and soon after, devoted Halo fans and modders grouped together under the ElDewrito moniker (a play on its “ElDorado” filename) to collaborate on getting the game to work for players outside of Russia.