Paranautical Activity dev resigns over Gabe Newell death threat

Paranautical Activity

The Paranautical Activity developer who threatened to kill Gabe Newell after the game wasn't properly updated from an Early Access title to a full Steam release has left the company. In a statement posted on the Code Avarice website, co-founder Mike Maulbeck said he's sold his half of the company to his partner and won't earn any money from the sale of the game.

Maulbeck's trouble started yesterday, when Paranautical Activity launched on Steam. For some reason, the front page banner announcing its full release indicated the game was an Early Access title, from which it had actually just emerged; the mixup led Maulbeck to explode on Twitter, accusing Steam of incompetence and eventually threatening to kill Valve boss Gabe Newell.

That was received exactly as well as you'd expect: Paranautical Activity was almost immediately removed from Steam, and it's a fair bet that the studio's odds of getting any future games on the platform have been diminished pretty dramatically. Maulbeck apologized but Valve didn't budge, and so today he fell on his sword.

"As a result of my actions, Paranautical Activity, a game made by 4 or 5 people depending on who you count as team members, was removed from Steam. I feel is it my responsibility to step down from Code Avarice completely so that Steam has no reason to harbor any more ill will towards the company, and maybe even if we can’t see Paranautical Activity restored, at least future Code Avarice games may be allowed onto the platform," Maulbeck wrote in his resignation announcement.

"I’m really, deeply sorry that my short sighted, hot tempered actions resulted in not only my own dreams and aspirations being destroyed, but those of the entire team I worked with. I’m sorry that my statements made Valve and/or Gabe uncomfortable and upset (rightfully so)," he continued. "My temper and tendency to use twitter to vent has been a consistent problem since I entered the games industry, and I just can’t do it. I don’t have the willpower necessary to be the 'face' of a company. If I do continue to work in games it’ll be as an anonymous 1 of 1000 at some shitty corporation, not the most public figure of a single digit sized team."

Maulbeck's now-former partner, Travis Pfenning, called the situation "ludicrous" and said on his own Twitter account that he didn't agree with the decision. But Maulbeck was unequivocal. "[I've] given up all my rights to CA as a company, and all its intellectual properties," he concluded. "I won't receive any money from the sale of Paranautical Activity or any future games CA develops, I won't be consulted on business decisions, and I won't have any hand in development. I'm out."

Whether this will do anything to get the game back on Steam remains to be seen, but at this point the studio has had no further contact with Valve. "I am currently waiting on a reply from Gabe. Not that he will," a studio rep wrote in an email. "I will reach out to them when i can find the time to hunt down a place to actually send a mail that will mean something. On the back end, I am dealing with console releases as I see this the only way to save this game from failure."

Paranautical Activity is still available on other platforms, like IndieGameStand and Desura, but as Maulbeck himself noted shortly after his outburst, without the exposure that comes with being on Steam it will be extremely difficult for it to find any kind of audience.

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.