Yesterday a Post appeared on Steam from the developer of ORION stating that the game had been removed from the Steam store due to a DMCA from Activision claiming they stole weapon assets from Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
The post states that they don’t know which specific assets were offending but contains two images that were their best guess.
At first glance, this may appear to be an egregious abuse of the DMCA, but we don’t know for sure if these are the two offending models and furthermore when you look at the first-person view models things become much more murky.
I reached out to the developer of ORION and he had the following to say about the above image “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 ripping off a real world property, the only thing that could actually hold up and is the only one without a dog in this fight. If anything you can argue the gun on the left is different enough, no gap on the rail, no racking bolt, missing bolts on the upper, the markings, even the actual body of the gun is quite different, the rails and front sights look very similar to the M14.”
Here are the M1 Garand’s Sights:
And here’s the M14:
However, these weren’t the only images that may shed a little light on Activision’s actions. I found these on the PC Master Race subreddit
Another claim made in the ORION post is that: “This is extremely serious that a DCMA request has removed our entire game from sale, during the biggest sale event of the year. Apparently, no cross-checking was done by our Partner, who we’ve been with for over 5 years and I have seen better and would expect better from them. At a minimum, to contact us regarding our assets/defense before taking any action.”
So I asked him how he was notified of the DMCA: “I received the DCMA request after its 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-labeled of their own as well as community-provided assets. We also asked Steam if we were able to remove ANY asset in question (until the posted date) (none of which were specified) in order to get the game back on market ASAP, as its the largest event of the year and we work very hard on updating our games regularly (anyone will attest to this) and they stated that no this was not possible.”
He also sent me the DMCA takedown notice he received.
Under DMCA law if Activision doesn’t send Valve DMCA papers or take formal legal action within 10 days than the DMCA will be dropped and the game will be reinstated on the Steam store.
Another claim that the ORION post makes is that he cannot verify the representative from Activision. A quick google search on my end turned up Youri de Joode’s Linkedin profile which seems to indicate that he works as a compliance officer at Irdeto and most likely served the DMCA to Steam, acting as a middleman between Activision’s lawyers and Valve.
This is not the first time Trek Industries has been accused of asset plagiarism. It was previously alleged that they had stolen the armory asset from Natural Selection II. They responded to this allegation as well in a Steam post pointed out to me by Nick Monroe this morning stating “This related to a development-only, pre-alpha game build. We were flying to conferences like Gamescom (Germany) and Eurogamer (London) to show to publishers and press. At the time, like any developer, you use whatever content and assets you have access to in order to mock up the experience. We had a freelancer at the time, Daniel Doerksen who was simply a fan of Unknown Worlds/Natural Selection – never officially worked for them and simply made himself personal portfolio piece based on their art. At this time we needed a unit exactly the same (a dispenser that grants ammo) and used what he had legally available to do so. It was caught in a few frames in a trailer and people (somehow) assumed it was straight from the Natural Selection 2 game, a title that wasn’t even released to the public at that time. The model was subbed out for the official release, as always intended.”
And even stealing images for achievement icons among other accusations. Some of those that Trek Industries have been accused of in the past include changing the name of their game without changing anything about the game, seemingly to get a new Metacritic page or trick customers into buying the game again.
We reached out to Activision and Valve for comment, but at the time of writing this article they have not responded. It will be updated if needed.
So a whole lot more happened with this story yesterday, most of it involving the PC Master Race thread. First these images were posted of Helmets in the game.
Trek Industries responded to the comments on their Facebook stating:
“There seems to be some confusion on our helmets. I understand those helmet arguments are from gamers’ perspective without much details or never having played the game, which is why they could be confused. Any helmet like Boba Fett or Kylo Ren or Gengi, are Dev-ONLY helmets. I pay for these to be made by our team and gift them to developers to use as their very own helmet. They are not for sale, we do not profit off of them. If anything we give them away for FREE to ALL users of the game, such as my 2014 DevHelmet, Fettuccine. I am a massive boba fett/kylo ren fan and Kylo Ren is my personal new DevHelmet, also not for sale. That is the definition of fan service. Other helmets area 100% unique and then others are fan service based on requests by the community. While these are homages, they are not nearly 1:1 and are intended for PAY or PLAY.”
This is a common misconception about copyright law that many people have. Whether you’re making money off of the copyright infringement is irrelevant. In a court of law, it’s still copyright infringement. Then in an even stranger move Trek Industries went and formed an indigogo campaign for the game, which they then promptly donated the full 500 dollars to themselves. He then posted the notice he received from Activision’s legal team on Facebook.
And this is where the Reddit drama comes in. David Prassel the head of Trek Industries then threatened to sue the user who had created the PC Gaming Master Race thread.
He then threatened to sue everyone posting in the thread.
Then came another reply where he claimed that activision was photoshopping fakes to keep Orion off the store.
It was at this point that I reached out to David again to try and figure out what the hell was going on.
So I took a look at facebook. This was what was posted there.
So this confirms that DPrassel was at some point at least, Davids account. Many have expressed skepticism that he was actually hacked for a few reasons. The first can be found in the timestamp here that shows he grabbed a screen of this as soon as the email came in.
Then this image came into play.
First problem is that this Russian hacker has the same Verizon Wireless network provider, and the second is that that is a local IP number. It’s much more likely that this was just David logging in from a proxy that ran through Russia.
David then banned himself from the game’s Steam forum.
Which pretty much brings us up to this morning. In a Facebook post this morning David gave some new information.
“Last night I received evidence directly from Activision regarding assets not even mentioned in public yet. Upon receiving this it became immediately apparent that blatant rips were made. While the artist offered to remake any assets at no cost, he has now been fired immediately upon learning this. This will slightly affect production and I will get into that later.” Now this is an excuse that David has used multiple times. He goes into a little more detail later stating ” What most users don’t understand is that we are a remote developer, we don’t work side-by-side. Hiring and full-time development happens online in different time zones and different hours of the day. This can result in situations like this and we do are best to avoid them. What most users also don’t understand is that I personally don’t build these weapons. I am not a 3D artist, at all. I am responsible for anything from the business, to making the maps/worlds, and making sure the product comes together. What I am responsible for is hiring the individual responsible. And this is what concerns me the most: I cannot guarantee this will be prevented in the future. I don’t get to play other games, I am working on this full-time. I would never have the chance at cross-checking content across every game nor could I be expected to. This is why we are open to fan submissions or even developer ones like this. If there is valid proof, we will remove it immediately. There weren’t and usually aren’t any tell-signs, especially with situations like this where he had a great, valid portfolio (establishment proof). He completed a variety of valid, great assets (physical work proof) and responded appropriately when presented with the information and offering to remedy it at no cost (personality). It would get through the hiring process any time and the ONLY way I can see preventing it is setting up a physical studio. But even that is not true as it’s fully possible to do this in a studio all-the-same. The problem is I can’t stomach that simply to be able to have security on people and ensuring they are working when the majority of everyone here DOES incredible work and we are more than capable of being able to be remotely, in our home countries near our friends and families – or doing things like we want on my end which is travel the world and really take in the areas we are building.”
This image was released onto Facebook by Trek industries.
Now I’m not a Reddit person but this doesn’t really look like any new or conclusive evidence to me. Perhaps someone who uses Reddit can point out what’s going on here to me.
Now I reached out to David again at this point to see if I could get any more documentation of what was going on. He provided me with these screenshots of a Skype conversation between him and the freelance artist who created the model.
So after that I had a few more questions for David.
Q: Why did you donate such a large amount of your own money to the IndieGoGo?
I find it important to believe in yourself and others around you, especially in difficult times. It’s not as if I tried to hide it considering I used my name. In addition, as found here we talked about why it was even launched in the first place.
Q: In these chat logs it appears that you were already aware that the problem was with the auto-shotgun. So why say that you weren’t sure what models were offensive to Activision in the Steam post?
My feelings regarding our Auto Shotgun have remained the same throughout this entire ordeal, mentioning both the similarities in the sights/bolts both in the chat logs when first presented as well as in every single public update. The Auto Shotgun is not what convinced me, it is private evidence pertaining to OTHER weapons created by the same artist. I stated that I wasn’t sure what models they found offensive was because they never submitted them in the original take-down, they never supplied that information upon multiple requests in the first few days – all of which left me unable to act externally or internally. Until any information was provided, I protected my team. It’s important to note I am not here for a popularity contest. People seem to have issue with me causing noise over this in the public. They must not understand that my single objective is to ensure I protect both the game and the team behind it. We are either not covered by the press, or completely abused when we are. Causing volume not only made all of that snowball and become very loud – but to use that volume to do one of two things:
a.) To get the game back on Steam, from what I originally believed to be a wrong use of DMCA.
b.) To make enough volume to actually get Activision to respond specifically to what they found offensive so I could resolve the issue.
So again – to re-state it,it was private proof submitted by Activision that convinced me. It wasn’t the auto shotgun that the public is aware of.
Q: Can you provide any more evidence of the Reddit hack? because right now I’m not seeing anything conclusive.
I’ve never lied. I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve always learned from them. I’ve had others act as obstacles, but we’ve gotten through it. But I’ve never lied. You can’t find me saying something and something else having happened or becoming reality. Whatever I say, we will and have done. So I’ve provided emails showing my Reddit account somehow had its email change as well as the password, now linked to that new email. So if I say my account was hacked, as well as providing time stamps of when those requests came through on my end there is no way anyone can take anything seriously from that account following those time stamps. My account was lost and no longer accessible by me as of
|Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 9:58 AM|
The only correction David had to issue was to defend himself against the allegations of name-changing to avoid review scores. He stated “They are not sequels, nor “new games”. They are simply pieces of a massive (and singular) puzzle that is now complete. Long story short ORION: Prelude (Competitive PvP) was the original game announced in 2010, a spiritual successor to the ORION: Source Beta. It was not able to release due to a series of events and we had to focus on a smaller scaled experience. This was called Dino Beatdown (Open World Co-Op). It was a disaster and so we continued to work on improving it using the revenue made and the next massive chunk was ORION: Dino Horde (Arena PvP, Duel). With the success of Dino Horde we were finally were able to deliver the experience originally promised (Prelude) back in 2010. And then some – considering the original Prelude was to be strictly PvP and only have three game modes (CTF, Vital, Deathmatch) compared to it’s modern day predecessor (15 game modes and a variety of play styles). Comparison:
Original Prelude / Modern Prelude
3 Modes / 15 Modes
5 Dinosaurs / 10 Dinosaurs (All Playable)
30 Weapons&Gear / 50 Weapons&Gear
5 Multiplayer Maps / 20+ Multiplayer Maps & SDK
It is now called ORION: Prelude because it *finally* is ORION: Prelude.”
ORION is also back on Steam as of now
This story is still developing, so we’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you think about the events of the last few days? Give us your opinion and any details we may have missed in the comments below!