Developer Claims Activision Nuked Their Game From Steam Over Call Of Duty Guns

Developer Claims Activision Nuked Their Game From Steam Over Call Of Duty Guns

Yesterday, Steam dinosaur game The Orion Project got yanked from Steam. Trek Industries' David Prassel posted an update to Steam claiming that his game was the victim of a DMCA claim from Activision. And then the real fun began.

It should be noted that we reached out to Activision and Valve for comment, but they have yet to reply. Thus, all we've got to go on is Prassel's word that Activision was behind the DMCA takedown, as well as an official-looking email Prassel tells us he was sent by Valve, which explains that the DMCA came from someone "acting on behalf of Activision." Prassel explained in an email:

"I received the DCMA request after [Orion's] removal from Steam with no warning/contact from either Valve/Steam or any developer associated with Call of Duty nor anyone from Activision."

"I never was provided specific examples of assets, or screenshots of what offended them - nor given the chance to rectify or remove any offensive content prior to having our game removed from sale."

"We assumed which pieces of content based on what they self-labelled of their own as well as community-provided assets.offered to remove ANY offensive content (as it wasn't specified) and this was not accepted."

It's not entirely unbelievable that Activision would do this, given what intrepid Steam sleuths have uncovered since Prassel first drew attention to Orion's removal from Steam. Per a Reddit thread chronicling this whole mess, here's a comparison between guns featured in Orion, which came out in 2016, and a couple from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which released the year before.

Developer Claims Activision Nuked Their Game From Steam Over Call Of Duty Guns

Those sights aren't just visually similar; they are damn near indistinguishable. People are also claiming that near-exact assets from multiple Black Ops 3 guns show up in one Orion gun. You can see why Activision might be peeved.

Shortly after all of this started yesterday, however, Orion's Prassel posted an update to the Steam page of a previous Orion game, Orion: Prelude, with what he believed (allegedly) Activision (allegedly) issued the DMCA over:

Developer Claims Activision Nuked Their Game From Steam Over Call Of Duty Guns
Developer Claims Activision Nuked Their Game From Steam Over Call Of Duty Guns

Those pictures of gun models hardly look similar at all, and many people quickly took Prassel's word for it. Some even started a petition aimed in Activision's direction. Prassel then went on to claim in another Steam post that Activison clearly meant the DMCA as a direct and purposeful attack on his obscure dinosaur game that was selling for $US0.50 ($1) at the time. For some reason. In a different Steam update, Prassel wrote:

"What Activision is claiming isn't a valid or legal use of DMCA. If they were alleging that we had actually RIPPED the Black Ops 3 weapons FROM their game and used them exactly - their shipped meshes, their shipped textures - that is a DMCA case. And the fact that they made an artist feel this way when it's ALL they do is absolute crap."

"We will be seeking resolution for all damages wrongly inflicted towards us FROM Activision via this malicious and overly aggressive tactic."

But again, the examples Steam users discovered after the initial announcement look almost exactly the same as Black Ops 3 weapons. In response to that, Prassel conceded, "The sight is the only similarity we can see. Even if it was a 1:1, that's not enough for a design infraction, even by legal standards and by a significant amount. And the sight is just a futuristic M1 Garand, so either way both are homaging a real world property, the only thing that could actually hold up and is the only one without a dog in this fight."

Prassel has also said that the artist responsible for one of the guns, the Automatic Shotgun, will remake the weapon with a different design. However he added that the weapon will be changed not because Trek Industries thinks Activision is in the right, but because Trek is a small company that can't afford a legal entanglement with an industry giant.

It should be noted that this is not the first time an Orion game has been hit with accusations of asset theft, though in both cases, Prassel claimed that the assets had come from inexperienced freelancers who made mistakes. The assets, he said, were ultimately removed from the game.

Today, Prassel issued yet another Steam update claiming this whole thing has cost them big, especially since it occurred in the middle of the Steam Summer Sale. "As of yesterday, Activision cut out 70% of our profit [from the sale]," he wrote. "My calculations put it at 90% today. What they did is devastating."

Here's where it gets especially bizarre: Today Prassel launched an Indiegogo campaign with a flexible funding goal of $US500 ($679). The first donation came from -- wait for it -- Orion developer Trek Industries. It was for $US500 ($679), guaranteeing that any further money will definitely go to Trek. The campaign has since broken $US1000 ($1,358), buoyed by rhetoric about fighting against "the money-abusing, ♥♥♥-wiping turds that is Activision who walks all over gamers with annual $US60 ($82) releases, season passes, $US15 ($20) map packs, doesn't involve or listen to them in any way."

If you couldn't tell by now, it all feels a little bit... off. Some people think Prassel is throwing up a smoke screen in the wake of valid accusations and potentially profiting from it. Others think he's got a point, or at least that what's in Orion isn't deserving of the full DMCA treatment.

Speaking personally, the whole thing does strike me as a bit opportunistic, especially given that this is the same company that released a buggy-as-hell game (Orion: Dino Beatdown) in 2012 and generated multiple controversies, only to turn around and use all of that as a selling point three years later. That said, they have managed to polish a turd into a series quite a few people seem to like pretty well, and they did it with years of dedicated support.

The situation is messy, is what I'm saying. To top it off, there's one thing Prassel's definitely not wrong about here: DMCAs can hurt game developers badly on Steam. When companies like Valve receive DMCA notices, they tend to err on the side of caution and immediately take down the offending thing. Otherwise, they could face copyright infringement charges. DMCAs aren't very difficult to file, but they hit creators hard. In the past, we've reported on multiple instances where copyright trolls managed to do things like get videos pulled for using the word "pixels" and and, most pertinently, yank a game from Steam despite not being an actual copyright holder.

In Orion's case, Prassel claims the game will be off Steam for at least ten days -- and that's apparently sans full legal paperwork from Activision. That's the full duration of the Steam Summer Sale and then some. Unless Valve's seriously tightened up their process since last year's aforementioned incident, there's always a chance that any DMCA could be an elaborate troll job. Regardless, it stands to hurt Trek very badly during one of the biggest Steam events of the year. I wouldn't be surprised if their sudden need for money is all too real, even if their campaign seems kinda dodgy.

So yeah, nothing about this is cut-and-dry. Thanks bunches, the Internet.

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Comments

    So yeah, nothing about this is cut-and-dry.

    I don't know, man. The guy's been involved in four other stolen asset controversies before this one, always with an excuse. All four previous examples were confirmed stolen assets, so it puts a fair bit of weight behind this one being the case too. The weapon comparison images he posted are deliberately misleading because the weapons that are supposed to be compared are switched (the sights of the first one in the first image, the second one in the second image).

    This has effectively become a modus operandi for Trek, where they use stolen assets until they're detected and then blame it on a contract artist, shrug and move on. To date, through all of the prior issues, they seem to have done nothing to introduce a vetting process. I get that being a small independent developer means doing that kind of thing is costly or time consuming, but it's a basic essential if you're going to sell a video game.

      It's hard to see how a gun sight would be sufficiently creative in its own right to justify a DMCA takedown. There are only so many ways you can draw a circle with a dot in the middle. Other than the gun sights, the gun models appear to me to be more than different enough.

      Using models very similar to competitors isn't exactly uncommon in the industry either. It's basically Zynga's entire business model, for example. ( http://mashable.com/2012/07/02/zynga-games-similar-to-others/ )

      Regardless, just being 'inspired by' isn't enough to justify a copyright claim.

        There is another version of that haymaker comparison that very clearly shows the back half of the gun was straight ripped from Cod and just had some extra pieces added to it. Its pretty clear between this and his past endeavors with stealing assets from dino carnage and NS2 that he has whats coming to him.

          Aren't the guns in CoD yknow..real world guns? If they're real world guns that really exist, wtf is all of this about? activision don't own the gun manufacturers.

            Not the ones involved, they are from titles that occur in the future, thus while they are loosely inspired by real world guns, this ass hole stripped the models straight out of some one elses game and then had the nerve to claim that he would make a better game than Star Citizen (say what you want about SC, but their assets are pretty amazing).

              Oh! I'm not that into Call of Duty, wasn't aware Advanced Warfare was a futurey shooter then i saw the black ops bit and i was like you what now

                Yeah man, this guy has a history of stealing assets from other developers. Dino Carnage and Natural Selection 2 are two that instantly spring to mind.

      This.

      The lead dev is super sus and runs his mouth at customers at the drop of a hat. The DMCA is well deserved (even as someone that owns the game).

    The Indiegogo campaign is flexible funding, so they would have received the money even without the initial $500 they chipped in.

    One of the updates on the campaign also says "CD-Keys given out in the crowdfunding campaign WILL work via Steam, you can authorize it, download it AND play it", so is it just a different way to sell the game while it is blocked via Activision's DMCA notice?

      It was a stupid move to donate to their own campaign regardless, because the fees take out around 8%. They lost around $40 for no reason, didn't benefit them in any way.

        Maybe they thought people would be more likely to contribute to a crowd funding campaign that had already reached its goal so quickly, and generate more income than they'd lose from those fees?

        None of their actions so far seem that rational, so who knows.

    The Know did a pretty good video outlining as well how shady these guys are.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjhkeLg0uQI

    The models are obviously derived from ripped assets. There is a myth that often goes around where people think that if you take an asset and modify it by X% then you can call it your own. Which is complete rubbish. Using assets from other games no matter how much you change them is an admission that those assets have value to you. If those assets have value to you then why shouldn't the original owner be compensated for their time and investment in creating those assets in the first place.

    I am 100% sure the second one was ripped from Black Ops. Look at the grip section. The curve the shape the tiny part location are completely identical, even the trigger is completely identical.

    I wish they put the weapons side by side in identical position instead of one facing front and one facing back. Then it will be clear if it looks identical.

    But I have no doubt Orion took the design from Haymaker 12.

    I love that his defence is basically 'These design elements might look completely identical but you can't prove we lifted them directly from another game, so it's all G.'

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