Descendent Studios Scores a Big Win Against Little Orbit in Descent Lawsuit

Little Orbit Descent Lawsuit Descendent Studios July 2021 cover

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Descendent Studios Scores a Big Win Against Little Orbit in Descent Lawsuit

July 28, 2021

By: Robert N. Adams

 
 

A judge has issued an order in favor of Descendent Studios as part of the Descent lawsuit brought against the game developer by its publisher Little Orbit.

To explain this situation, we have to rewind back to 2019. Descendent Studios began work on a new version of Descent, a first-person shooter that had players flying a high-tech ship through treacherous underground tunnels. Unfortunately, the game never ended up being released due to a publisher dispute.

Roughly eight months later, the game's publisher Little Orbit filed a lawsuit against developer Descendent Studios, alleging that the developer breached its contract (among other issues). A lot has happened since then — including an apparent settlement agreement.

The judge's order (via Derek Smart on Twitter) opens with some basic background on the Descent lawsuit, noting that Magistrate John D. Early worked with both Descendent Studios and Little Orbit to reach a settlement agreement.

 
 

The settlement agreement would allow Little Orbit to take over the development of the game with a license from Descendent Studios; meanwhile, Descendent Studios would have to turn over certain information and files as outlined in the agreement. Additionally, Little Orbit would have to pay Descendent Studios an undisclosed amount.

Unfortunately, this settlement agreement led to more conflict. Descendent Studios says that the settlement agreement obligated it to turn over "pre-order data, Kickstarter data, and early backer data," all of which was provided to Little Orbit. Descendent Studios asserted that it was under no obligation to provide any of the actual game assets, but it gave Little Orbit everything it had anyway as the dispute continued.

And now we get to the actual dispute addressed by this order: Descendent Studios argued that the settlement agreement was signed in November 2020 and that Little Orbit had made "virtually no effort to develop the game;" it wanted Little Orbit to pay the promised amount of funds per that agreement. Little Orbit contended, however, that the late delivery of game assets should be reason enough for a deadline extension on these payments.

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Little Orbit Ordered to Pay Descendent Studios in Descent Lawsuit

Ultimately, the judge made a ruling on this step of the Descent lawsuit — according to the order, Descendent Studios more than met its obligations and now Little Orbit has to pay Descendent Studios what it's owed. Neither side has been awarded lawyer's fees.

The judge also pointed out that Little Orbit took several months to demand the game assets from Descendente Studios, a move that highlighted its apparent unwillingness to actually develop the game.

 

Finally, Descendent Studios raised a concern that Little Orbit lacked the necessary funds to actually pay them. The judge agreed with this assessment, ordering Little Orbit to "provide [Descendent Studios[ with proof of funds, bank and financial statements, and adequate assurance of due performance." That is to say, Little Orbit has to demonstrate whether or not it has the capability to pay the fees it's obligated to pay, and then it has to actually follow through with payment.

So, what happens now? Unfortunately, this order in the Descent lawsuit does not explain what the state of the game is outside of noting that the "project history" no longer exists but the game's source code does. It's now up to Little Orbit to finish what Descendent Studios started per the settlement agreement. Whether or not Little Orbit can actually launch Descent in a finished state and pay Descendent Studios what it's owed is up in the air — we'll have to wait and see how things play out in the coming weeks and months.

Are you disappointed that the 2019 version of Descent was never fully released? Do you think we'll actually get to play the game at this rate? Let us know in the comments below!

A photograph of Robert N Adams
Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!

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