UPDATE: Regarding the "World of Darkness Has a Harasser for a Writer" story. An article came out on the developer's blog regarding the accusations about Zak Smith. In the blog post, the developer states that he's aware of the accusations surrounding Zak Smith however, he's stated there's no proof linking Zak Smith to the said actions he's done and that the developer has full faith in Zak Smith.
Regarding the recent accusations made against our freelancers: White Wolf was aware of and investigated the previous accusations against Zak before contracting him to write and illustrate the game script. Fortunately, these accusations all pertained to alleged online behavior: each accusation is connected to an online discussion, and the digital records of these discussions can be located and reviewed. White Wolf’s investigation concluded that the accusations are false, and that Zak did not engage in the alleged behavior. We have full faith in Zak and Sarah and are excited to see their great work with the World of Darkness spread!
Before we get on with this week's GreenWatch, I just want to say I was going to be covering the Fur Fun controversy; however, that's already been covered on TechRaptor earlier this week, so I highly recommend you go read the article by Alex Santa Maria if you want to know what I'm talking about.
Romine V Stanton: The Dismissal
For those unaware, back in March 2016, indie video game developer James Romine, founder of the indie video game development studio Digital Homicide Studios LLC, filed a lawsuit against James Stanton, better known by his pen name Jim Sterling, for assault, libel & slander and from this, James Romine was seeking $10 million for damages that Sterling had allegedly caused. Digital Homicide Studios is an infamous name among the Steam community after they developed games such as The Slaughtering Grounds, Forsaken Uprising, and Temper Tantrum just to name a few, all of which received almost universally negative reviews. Digital Homicide also made headlines back around September last year when founder James Romine filed another lawsuit against 100 anonymous Steam users for the grounds of personal injury, which resulted in that case being dismissed the same month it was filed, and it also had Valve removing all of Digital Homicide's games from the Steam store and cutting off business ties with the studio.
Earlier this week on February 21st, the case against Sterling was officially dismissed with prejudice after a settlement was reached between James Romine and Sterling's lawyer Bradley Hartman. The court documentations filed alongside the dismissal showcase agreements between them including James Romine not using any further DMCA takedown notices in the future without considering if the content is under fair use and an agreement stating that James Romine should refrain from directly or indirectly refiling against Sterling. In response to the dismissal of the case, Digital Homicide and it's founder James Romine have remained silent. However, Jim Sterling, shortly after the dismissal was made, came out with a blog post on his website the Jimquisition, mostly staying brief on the situations that led up to the dismissal and just giving a brief overview as he's going to be releasing further information on his web series "The Jimquisition" on the 27th. In the blog post, Jim states that he was pleased to have the case finally dismissed, but stated it was atrocious that the case went on for as long as it did:
First of all, I’m obviously pleased with the result. We filed for dismissal, because this whole thing was an instant waste of time and money that could never be recuperated. Even if this went to court and we counterclaimed, what would we get out of it? A dismissal with prejudice is even better than the simple dismissal I’d originally aimed for – this effectively means these ludicrous charges aren’t coming back.That it got as far as it did, went on for as long as it did, is atrocious – especially when this is a case that amounts to a game developer wanting to silence a game critic.
I personally viewed, and still view, the lawsuit as an attempted attack on my freedom to do my legally protected job. I personally perceive it as an attack launched by a man who is unable to deal with criticism in a reasonable fashion and has sought to blame me, continuously, for his failures.
Neon Spaceboard Sketchiness
There's currently a game up on Steam Greenlight called "Neon Spaceboard" that's garnered quite a bit of attention in the past few days. It has a great number of people working on the game; as of the time of writing this, there are a total of 13 different users working on the game. One of the listed developers is a user called "Hellcow [ON]." Hellcow is the owner of a group called "Gaming Until End," which is a group that specializes in Greenlight promotion and giveaways. Hellcow made a post on the group about Neon Spaceboard; however, at no point in the post does Hellcow disclose he is one of the developers of Neon Spaceboard, which resulted in one of the earlier backlashes that the game had, yet it continued to escalate from there.
It was discovered that before the game started to get a lot of attention, there were actually more developers involved than there currently are; when the game was first posted, it had 15 developers. Users Finn and Embryo-sama were dropped from the developers list early on with no comment given from them, though a post came out from one of the developers, Dedprotectr, which did hint towards the reasoning behind the removals. However, currently the post has been edited by a different developer known as Browtih hiding most of the information Dedprotectr originally gave. Thankfully, the original post was archived here. Deadprotectr primarily focuses on and addresses the number of creators that are attached to the game, the accusations the game had of vote boosting and the behavior of Browith (one of the developers of the project) due to him arguing frequently with some Steam users in the comments:
I notice there is a lot of attention brought to two main points. The first of which being the number of "Creators" attributed to the game. Although I'm listed as such, I agree that it should definitely be cut down. I can definitely say that a large majority of the people listed have had no creative development or input on any factor of Neon Spaceboard. I will try to urge the removal of those.
The second thing I've noticed was the use of vote-boosting. I also think that vote-boosting was an extremely dishonest, lazy action to let pass by. However I cannot blame the lead developer entirely for it. Just before this spike in votes had occurred, the lead developer had recruited a person who is known for localising and re-selling games on Russian forum pages and unauthorized shops, who joined mysteriously less then 3 days ago. I never had a good feeling about him, but it was insisted he would "Help the game". Initially I was delighted, but I just recently discovered what was meant by "help".I want to speak on behalf of the team that is behind Neon Spaceboard, but however I may be only speaking for myself. I am truely sorry that these actions took place, and I'll see to it that these issues are understood and dealt with properly.
Like I stated earlier, the announcement was edited by Browith and now reads like this:
Thanks for your interest in our green-light.We had a complicated day with events that are both complex and need to be spoken about. Our team consists on many specialists that go from writing to promoting the game in many ways. We did invite a user that said he would "help us" and we are not happy with his style of "help".Decided with the team we would not use this kind of "promotion" in any way. Ded didn't post with all the information but was trying to help.
As you can see by the recent edit to the announcement, a lot of information has been cut; however, Browith has commented on the use of vote boosting of the game and has denied that vote boosting has been used, despite DedProtecter stating otherwise and a lot of users pointing towards Hellcow's posts as evidence towards that.
World Of Darkness Has a Harasser for a Writer?
World of Darkness Preludes: Vampire and Mage launched on Steam last week and has currently received a mixed reception. However, something that came as a shock to a lot of people is that on the Steam store page, it states that one of the writers is a man named Zak Smith. It didn't get too much attention until Twitter user @a_man_in_black posted a tweet giving details of the aforementioned Zak Smith. He pointed towards two different posts. The first was a tumblr post which documents the time Zak Smith ran a dedicated harassment blog. Unfortunately, the second post has supposedly been deleted. It was a Reddit post that alleged Zak Smith was impersonating an RPGNet forum administrator to promote the game.
This story still has some holes in it, primarily because of the Reddit posts being deleted and not archived. If any further updates to this come out, the necessary changes will be made.
Journey to the Center of the Earth False Metacritic
On Steam, there is an indie game called Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was launched back in September 2015. However, one thing some users have started to point out about the game is that on the store page, the game has a Metacritic score of 65. Investigating further into the Metacritic page, the Metacritic link on the store page takes you to a Metacritic page for Journey to the Center of the Earth, but not the same Journey to the Center of the Earth that this Metacritic page is linked on. The actual Metacritic page is of an old adventure game called Journey to the Center of the Earth, launched in 2003, as showcased by the Amazon link provided with the Metacritic page.
Valve Drops More Developers
This week, two more developers have been dropped by Valve. These 2 developers are Obidak Software, development studio behind games such as North Side, Cube Master, and To The Home, and the second is Power Industries, development studio behind games such as Hello from Indiana, It's Your Last Chance in New School, and Galaxy in Eclipse. No official statement came out from Valve about why these developers were removed. However, their games have been taken down from the Steam store front and if you go to the community market and go to related items linked to the games made by these developers, it states:
This item can no longer be bought or sold on the Community Market because Valve no longer has a business relationship with the developer.
Power Industries has voiced confusion of his game's removal, as he stated in his game's discussion forums. However, Power Industries appear to not be respecting Valve's business cuts and according to user Karl Pilkington, Power Industries is trying to resubmit his games onto Greenlight through a different account. Due to Pilkington's claims, further investigation into this partook on Reddit and has uncovered more evidence towards this.
Greenlight Game Removed Due to DMCA Takedown
There was originally a game on Greenlight earlier this week called "Princess Cat Nom-Nom," which ended up being taken down just a few days after it was posted due to a DMCA filing being placed on the game. The said DMCA notice was filed by indie video game developer Armel Gibson as he had actually released a game that was almost the exact same as the game posted to Steam onto itch.io called "Princess Nom Nom."
Some tweets also followed from another developer of Princess Nom Nom Matthieu Richez stating:
@EvolutGamesGmbH that's not really cool to have ripped off a game we made during a jam with @Gib @_LeNain @dzifyr
As of this date, the game has been removed and has yet to return to Greenlight.
Lacroix Greenlighting Process?
Steam Greenlight publisher Lacroix has been under some heavy fire recently as a Steam user known as R3ap4r made some connections as to how Lacroix keeps getting games greenlit. R3ap4r posted onto imgur comparing two different accounts, one being Lacroix, showing patterns between the removal dates of games and the uploads between Lacroix and another account. It also shows despite the games being pushed under the same two accounts, each one showcases a different publisher each time and just seem to be switching between the same accounts/developers/publishers each time a game fails under one of the accounts to reset the votes. More information is showcased in the imgur posts, so I highly recommend for people to go and give it a read.
Sylvain Seccia Update
This is an update to a story that we covered on the last GreenWatch centered around the developer Sylvain Seccia being removed from Steam along with his game Désiré. Well, for some unknown reason, despite Valve stating openly that they no longer have a business relationship with Sylvain Seccia, Sylvain still has another game up on Steam and purchasable called Vive Le Roi. Some have been stating that it's because he's gotten the game onto Steam through a publisher, which is plausible, but it's not confirmed.