Orion developer says it was forced off Steam by Activision DMCA claim [Updated]

Update:  Orion remains off of Steam for now, but Trek Industries CEO David Prassel said in a lengthy new message that the matter has been resolved. He maintains that the game was forced offline without warning or specific examples of infringing assets, but said that follow-up information he received from Activision demonstrated that the problem was actually greater than he'd initially assumed. 

“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,” he wrote. “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.” 

Prassel also addressed fan complaints and criticism, including previous instances of unauthorized use of assets from other games, pledged to remove all content requested by Activision as well as all “DevHelmets,” and vowed to get off of social media. “I don't find the results from when it's positive large enough, and when it gets bad it's just horrible,” he wrote. “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 [sic] YouTube which will remain operational.” 

Prassel said the update addressing Actision's complaints is expected to go live later today, and that Orion should be back on sale by tomorrow.

Original story:

The developer of the dinosaur-shooter Orion says his game was forced off of Steam by a DMCA takedown request filed by Activision. The problem, he explained in the announcement posted on the Orion: Prelude Steam page, appeared to relate to a pair of weapons in the game that are quite similar to firearms from Black Ops 3, both of which he immediately offered to remove—an offer which Activision rejected. 

Trek Industries CEO David Prassel said Orion was pulled from Steam without any notice from either Valve or 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,” he explained. “We assumed which pieces of content [are problematic] based on what they self-labeled of their own as well as community-provided assets.” 

Prassel denied any wrongdoing, but said the weapons will be redesigned anyway—not because the studio is at fault, but simply to get the game back on sale as quickly as possible. He also said that the DMCA filing is inappropriate for this type of claim, because Activision is saying only that the weapons are “too visually” or “artistically similar,” and not that they're a straight rip.   

Correction: The post originally stated that Orion: Prelude was removed from Steam. In fact, it was Orion that was removed, while the updates regarding its removal were posted to the Orion: Prelude Steam page.

“That is *NOT* what the DMCA covers. That is a form of copyright and IP infringement dispute. Their lawyers know this, but filed this anyways. We will be seeking resolution for all damages wrongly inflicted by us FROM Activision via this malicious and overly aggressive tactic,” he wrote. “Our desire to remove said content is purely for our own benefit. We are a small indie team, any minute the game is not for sale during the biggest event is a stake to the heart. Us willing to remove any offensive content and to get it back for sale is to protect our selves, our company and our IP.” 

In a follow-up message, however, Prassel said he would not be taking legal action against Activision, but “will be ensuring that Activision covers for the damages they've inflicted.” The takedown notice adds up to “slander and defamation,” he claimed, and worse, caused significant damage by forcing the game off of Steam in the midst of the Summer Sale. “As of yesterday, Activision cut out 70 percent of our profit. My calculations put it at 90 percent today,” he wrote. “What they did is devastating.”

But images circulating on Reddit offer a slightly different and more damning perspective, and a large number of Steam forum commenters are firmly on the side of Activision—encouraged, perhaps, by Prassel' own harsh invective against them. He also threatened websites "reporting false claims with no verifiable proof or facts,” saying that the studio “we will be seeking resolution [against sites spreading unproven allegations] once we're done addressing what we're going to do with Activision.”


“I can't believe that there are gamers who are defending the money-abusing, ♥♥♥-wiping turds that is Activision who walks all over gamers with annual $60 releases, season passes, $15 map packs, doesn't involve or listen to them in any way,” he wrote. “This is by far the most disappointing aspect and the largest core to the new idea I am developing, scheduled to debut later today. It is now up to the gamers as to whether or not they want Orion, or what we do and what we stand for.” 

Prassel himself was briefly banned from Steam following the removal of the game, but now appears to have been reinstated. It's unclear when or why it was returned, but I've reached out to Prassel and Activision for more information and will update if and when I receive a reply.      

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.