A resolution has finally been reached. Everything remains true, including:
01. I received the DMCA 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.
02. 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. This took 72 hours, of which I was both unable to externally resolve the situation for fans/product, nor investigate internally.
03. We assumed which pieces of content based on what they self-labeled from their Call of Duty games as well as community-provided assets:
04. I was informed by Steam that according to their policy, Activision had 10 business days (until mid-July) to act or do anything. If Steam didn't receive a copy of a legal complaint within 10 business days, then our game would be re-instated. We immediately offered to remove ANY offensive content (it wasn't specified) and this was NOT accepted.
( THE LARGER PICTURE )
Not providing any specific information, both in the DMCA that brought the game down as well as in multiple instances of correspondence between both parties - is prevented any of us from finding a solution or to learn more about what was going on. This costed massive damages. All that being said, that is simply a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things given what I learned yesterday directly from Activision.
I am now in complete compliance with their complaint and I am equally as mad. While I don't agree simply based on the evidence that you are all going on about, relating to our Auto Shotgun - I do see similarities in the sights/bolts, etc. I don't believe it was important enough to remedy immediately, affecting production on all ends to simply replace that one weapon when we could just do it later on. We acted under the pretense this was the only infraction/issue. This was not the case. Regardless, I understand that was a unique perspective and that many in the community and even on the team agreed for it to go. In the end, it WAS removed from the game and will be made public in the upcoming Version 1.5.5.
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.
( WE ARE REMOTE )
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.
( FAN SERVICE )
I also understand that outside users with no relationship to the game or having played it could be confused by our level of fan service. This IS different as I do instruct artists to not only create unique things like custom sets of armors, but to also do their own takes on other properties either they, we, or you guys love. They are vastly different than the source material, but you are intended to know what it's paying tribute to. In addition to this, I personally pay for custom helmets to be produced by artists FOR the developers to use as their own personal developer helmet, never to be sold. It's a gift/thanks of sorts and allows us to have a fun unique experience. This includes helmets like Fettuccine (my 2014 helmet), Kilo Reno (my current helmet), Ganga (Programmers helmet), and Star King (Animator's helmet).
I understand that simply seeing that in image form, from the outside, would be confusing. It never came from a malicious place, and I only was attempting to do something cool for the people I work with as well as cater to what you all loved prior to and after Orion. This won't be happening anymore as it's just added risk for what is ultimately no reward. All content from this point going forward will be unique - as unique as you can get when doing hundreds to thousands of sci fi armor/helmet pieces.
( BLAST FROM THE PAST )
With this unfortunate event, a lot of the insane stuff of the past started to appear again and it's not fair to those users involved as those events were not malicious as this one was, nor were the freelancers behind it. I've seen comments about Natural Selection, Primal Carnage, Counter-Strike and Achievement Images, all of which have been commented on in the past and only one I am directly responsible for.
@NATURAL SELECTION 2 ARMOR
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.
@PRIMAL CARNAGE ARTWORK
Another incident involved a freelancing concept artist. Back in the day we had an additional folder on our shared Dropbox called "Mood Art". This would contain anything that was either very "Orionish" or something I wanted to get added to the game and consisted of Orion-related fan art, things we'd find online. Said artist utilized a piece of artwork from that folder and used it as a base layer, proportionally, to do a full new drawing on top of. When submitted to me, I didn't know this at the time. However Ashton, the former head of Primal contacted me right after we made the news post and we took it down immediately and apologized right then and I also personally apologized in person at a conference. They did not accept it. Fun fact, years later the two Dinosaur 3D Artists, Tim M and Eugen T, would join and create the Dinosaurs for both Prelude and most of Guardians of Orion.
Either stock or mod counter-strike audio was used in the game on accident and immediately removed. Can't even remember what sound it was, I think the mp5.
This is the one I am guilty of. We are a small team. We don't have a dedicated Graphic Designer, Sound Designer or User Interface Artist. We want those spots filled, just haven't found anyone proper to fill them. So when it comes time to do things like UI it's just me and the Programmer and whatever we can hack/mock up. This is my shitty image design, of which I used google images for things we were referencing, such as Turok. I understand looking back this was wrong and once it was brought up to us it was immediately removed. It actually worked out as the people who ended up doing the Achievement art found out about us from that situation. They make Race The Sun on Steam. They helped in a time of need, they are great workers and it's a great game and you should support them.
( WE FIRED PEOPLE )
This is the name of the game. We work remotely and independently, so sometimes talent doesn't work out. However it wasn't purely related to strangers and anyone that steals or tries to steal hardware, money or do other shady things doesn't have a place at Trek. More on that here:
( OUR APPROACH )
So where does this leave us? Well the team is extremely upset, I feel like an idiot with what was presented to me. That's just how you go about it though, you treat your devs like children and have their back until proven otherwise. He is from all the way around the world in Vietnam and so communication was delayed and then ultimately not receiving any at all from his end. In the end, he let everyone here down and we simply just need to get to work and focus on the game.
So what can I do to assume what is ultimately my responsibility?
1. We are removing ANY content that Activision finds offensive, immediately.
2. I am removing ALL DevHelmets from the game. This includes Fettuccine which we gave away to all users for free.
3. Other artists within the team have volunteered to remedy any assets required to restore the game to its quickest state as fast as possible.
4. We are shutting down social media. I don't find the results from when it's positive large enough, and when it gets bad it's just horrible. We really need to bunker down to catch up on what was removed and we just want to focus on the game and will continue to do so and post updates/interactions to orion-project.net
OR are YouTube which will remain operational:
As always if you want to connect or if you have anything to suggest/report you can always contact us directly:
Thank you for all who supported us during this time, and ultimately thank you to all of those who reported this. In the end it helped reveal something which would have only affected the game more negatively over time. This situation is embarrassing and sucks very much but it's for the best.
( IN SHORT )
It will be over today/tomorrow.
Version 1.5.5 addresssing said issues is expected to release in 1-2 hours as of this post.
Should be back on sale today/tomorrow.
It will take a lot of time and work, but we've done it before.
I am stressed but it will be fine.