Spintires Pulled From Sale, Developer Denies Allegations

The Spintires saga rumbles on. Yesterday, we reported on the apparent ‘timebombs’ in the game’s code, which were causing crashes. Reverse-engineering of the code led to the belief that these crashes had been implemented intentionally and may have been the result of a well-documented breakdown in the relationship between developer and publisher. Now, the game’s creator Pavel Zagrebelny has denied any responsibility for the issues. Meanwhile, the game is no longer for sale on Steam as publishers Oovee work to fix “a major bug”. Full comments below.

Pavel spoke to Gamasutra, denying that he would do anything to compromise players’ experience with the game.

…I would never do something that would affect the gamers! In fact I do my best to make sure the game only brings joy to whoever plays it.

He then explained the issue that may be causing the crashes:

“I dont understand who and why started the rumours of sabotaging – apparently they are based on reverse engineering Spintires code? But there is in fact a time-related bug (a self-check uses time functions to see if game wasn’t cracked by pirates) which was not fixed in time (because we have little to no communicating with Oovee.)”

The fix for that bug has already been passed to Oovee, he says:

The bug was fixed a day ago and should be uploaded to Steam – I dont know what actually prevents Oovee from going with it now.

In addition, Pavel repeated claims made to Eurogamer recently that Oovee have not fulfilled the terms of his contract:

“…it’s true, they violated our contract from day 1 basically and still owe me lots of money. What makes it worse is that they dont ever comment on that if I ask if they plan to resolve the issue anyhow. I was compensated but not in full.”

For their part, Oovee have released a statement expressing their “displeasure” about reports of “sabotage”:

“We are aware of recent press speculation relating to sabotage of the Spintires game by the lead developer Pavel. We wish to express our displeasure at this speculation and totally refute these and other recent allegations. It is a shame that some press are reporting this without talking to us, and even saying in some articles they are yet to talk to us.

“The situation on the bug is that we became aware of a major bug last week that caused the game to stop for some users. We have been working on this with Pavel since it came up.

“Progress on the next planned update has been suspended while we sort the bug issue.

“We believe we have now identified the problem and are now testing at this very moment a hot fix provided by Pavel, who is also ready to help further if needed. We’re fully focused now on making the game work properly again, so please allow us to get this sorted first and we’ll then be able to explain what has caused this and then carry on with future updates we have planned.”

It is a shame that Oovee didn’t reply when I contacted them for comment yesterday. If we piece together the two statements, Pavel’s claim that he doesn’t know why Oovee haven’t gone ahead with the fix he provided is actually answered in the publisher’s statement. They’re testing the fix. What isn’t clear is how the two parties have been managing to work on fixing the bug “since it came up” if there really is “little to no [communication]”, or what the status of the contractual disagreements are.

I’ve contacted Oovee to ask for comment on those points.

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  1. Alfius says:

    I do hope this fiasco doesn’t put anyone off having a go at this fantastic title once the problems have been fixed. Best played co-op, preferably at a LAN, with everyone tuned into the same Russian trance mix on you tube.

  2. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    Denying he made any of that might helping him, legally speaking, but if he’s really innocent he’s still indirectly admitting incompetence since at the end of the day the game is borked.

    • davethejuggler says:

      Rubbish. Every piece of software ever shipped has bugs in it. That’s not a sign of incompetence it’s just how things are. If you don’t release software until there are zero bugs then you’ll never release it.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      Yeah because bugs never happen in video games. This guy needs to be strung up and rogered until his ring hurts.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It is win win. If they admit they asked for it, it is “working as intended” as it was DRM.
      If they are not, then they just run with the “it’s a bug” line. :P

    • Premium User Badge

      Topperfalkon says:

      He didn’t deny responsiblility for the code, just that the issue causing problems for the users wasn’t fixed in time because of a breakdown in communication with the publisher.

      Clearly the publisher decided to go live with a feature that wasn’t working as intended, and hadn’t confirmed the development work was satisfactorily finished before publishing.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Christ, what an asshole.

  3. Holysheep says:

    Fucking liar. He already said more than needed. You don’t damage control that.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      What exactly did he say? There are no conclusive comments from his side of the ring. All he has actually said is that Oovee owed him money, which was previous to any of this spintiresgate nonsense which has emerged in the last 24hrs.

      Honestly I’m a little disappointed in the community on this one – it takes a lot of work to create a good reputation, but only one sly word to damage it irreparably. It’s very disrespectful of someone’s character to run with a story in this manner and allow the Internet hate machine to stir itself up the way that it has.

    • mike2R says:

      I *really* hope you can justify that statement, and I suggest doing so immediately.

      From the information I have, this is a far far more likely explanation than the accusations that have been floating around.

  4. LionsPhil says:

    “It’s not sabotage, it’s DRM.”

    Implying there’s a difference, etc.

    That said:

    It is a shame that Oovee didn’t reply when I contacted them for comment yesterday.

    It’s a shame you went with the “sabotage” angle and helped whip up the frenzied Internet hordes before there was conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.

    • MiniMatt says:

      That’s a fair point, and one Nathan “best RPS hair” Grayson, formerly of this parish made on kotaku this morning.

      Though it’s something we all perhaps should be more aware of, not just sites – and I certainly count myself among that crowd that jumped in on a juicy narrative yesterday in the comments. Trashing someone’s reputation is not something one should do lightly.

      • Jac says:

        Agreed. I fell foul but hold RPS in the highest of regards so was happy to base any comments on the article without looking into it further.

      • froz says:

        Thanks for that link. That’s exactly what a real journalist should do – check facts. Not mindlessly repeat gossip from reddit and some forum posts by anonimous authors. I’m really disappointed, RPS, that’s not the quality I see here usually.

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          DrollRemark says:

          But here’s the thing: Adam did try to verify the facts. He didn’t get a reply.

          It’s all very well to use hindsight and say “ner ner, you were wrong,” but at the time the article was originally written, that was all the information he had to go with.

          Remember when RPS reported the news about the new SimCity not really requiring an online connection to play? That came from a third-party developer documenting his findings, and I expect John (who I think reported it) had to take a certain amount of the technical findings on good faith.

          I’m not sure how you can have one of these stories without the other.

          • TillEulenspiegel says:

            John (who I think reported it) had to take a certain amount of the technical findings on good faith.

            You can always consult independent experts about whether something at least smells right. There are always a vastly enormously bigly huge number of reasons for crashes that have absolutely nothing to do with deliberate sabotage.

          • Premium User Badge

            Topperfalkon says:

            Well, given that it has been reported that the code was reverse-engineered, looked at, and patched by the community, suggests they had reason to believe it could have been sabotage.

          • LionsPhil says:

            There’s a difference in risk between misreporting “a publisher is lying to mask a business decision as a technical limiation” and “an individual developer is sabotaging his codebase out of spite”. The latter is a career-ender. It’s a more serious allegation, and it’s against a specific individual.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            RPS wasn’t completely right about the SimCity thing though. The game broke down offline after a short bit since it couldn’t do any of the intercity trade stuff it was built around.

    • pfm says:

      It’s a shame you went with the “sabotage” angle and helped whip up the frenzied Internet hordes before there was conclusive evidence of wrongdoing.

      Couldn’t agree more with this comment. The RPS post about the supposed sabotage was way too “eager”.

      Not the kind of games writing I come to this site for at all…

    • Synesthesia says:

      Agreed. This time, it might *actually* be about ethics

      in gaming


      Really though.

    • enamelizer says:

      Totally agree. The initial assumption of malice based on some random redditors claims was simply poor journalism. Then followed by this article today, and the update on the original article that continues to imply malice is just doubling down.

      Kotaku got it completely right.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Alfy says:

    Please, RPS, make this a daily thing. This is gamers’ Santa Barbara, and I think I’m addicted…

  6. Jac says:

    Curious as to how and why sabotage came up, but hopefully the developer is speaking the truth when he says he didn’t.

    The guy should just run a kickstarter if he isn’t getting paid given there is demand for his work or just get another job like any normal person would do if they weren’t being paid.

    • AbyssUK says:

      How about a kickstarter to buy Spintires rights back from Oovee and also his missing payments.. then everybody is happy. Then the dev is free from the publisher and has some cash to survive while creating updates for his users.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        That relies entirely on Oovee setting a reasonable price or even being willing to sell in the first place.

        They do not seem like reasonable people. They seem exploitative.

    • Shadow says:

      Does Kickstarter work like that? “Pay me because the people who should’ve didn’t”? He’d have to put forward a new project or something. And we aren’t even sure his story is entirely true.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      The fact that he is denying it suggests he didn’t, to me at least. If this was meant as a protests denying fault kind of makes that pointless.

      GoFundMe would be a better site for him to do something like that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ingix says:

      As to why the sabotage angle came up: If you are able to put the game into a debugger and see what happens, and you see that there are several instances of statements that check the current date, compare it to the date when the problems started and then do “strange things”, what would you conclude?

      It probably isn’t a simple mistake, as the whole “do something only after a given date” is a concept that rarely applies in video games, but is well known to have happened in cases of disgruntled IT employees that left a company. Combine that with the fact that the relationship between game creator and publisher was already known to be problematic, and the conclusion of sabotage is not that far fetched.

      Of course, that fact that DRM-measures detecting a problem lead to a deliberate weakening/unplayability of the game is unfortunately nothing new. The news, here and elsewhere, seemed to much focused on the original sabotage claim, instead of considering other explanations.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        What are “strange things”, exactly? Bear in mind that optimized assembly code can look very different than the original C/C++/etc, especially if there’s a bug.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Delayed-action degradation has been done before “legitimately” as part of a DRM system: Codemasters’ FADE (IIRC) boasted it as a feature.

        It’s not impossible there was some naive attempt at using a logic bomb as a way to make torrented copies of the game stop working, while meanwhile Steam users get an update every so often that moves the deadline forward. When the publisher stopped new releases getting out to Steam, he couldn’t do that any more.

        It’s not impossible he really is a spiteful jerk, either, but I’d rather we were less eager to rip someone’s professional reputation apart without a higher bar of evidence of wrongdoing.

        • solidsquid says:

          Arguably though, wouldn’t that actually *be* a form of sabotage if it requires constant patching to prevent it failing? What happens if someone is using offline mode and doesn’t get the patch, do they no longer get to play the game they paid for legitimately until they get a stable enough internet connection again? And what happens if the publisher or developer goes out of business, does the game just stop working?

          Plus, RPS did contact both the developer and the publisher for comment before publishing the rumours, and neither seems to have denied the initial allegations until after the story blew up

    • jonahcutter says:

      That’s a great question.

      Whatever press outlets were running with the “sabotage” angle might want to answer where they got that from. If it’s just some Steam or Reddit forum speculation based on someone poking around in the code, it’s pretty irresponsible to push such an inflammatory rumor without checking into it first in depth. And simply firing off an email to Oovee asking for a response doesn’t really qualify.

      It’s the difference between tabloid and actual journalism.

  7. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    So basically what you are trying to tell us is that it’s a mirage.

  8. LennyLeonardo says:

    Adam, it might be nice of you to explicity retract the the misleading information in your previous article. I mean, just to be polite.

  9. Freud says:

    Hell hath not fury like a game developer scorned.

  10. Jokerme says:

    All publisher like that should die. The End.

  11. Punning Pundit says:

    I actually spent about an hour last night reading about this- I was trying to understand why someone kept spelling it “Rroma”. :)

    The etymology gets _really_ weird when it comes the the various Rroma-related words etc. I think the word “G*psy” arose from the mistaken belief that they were from Egypt- maybe a lost tribe of Jews or something.

    The extra “r” that apparently (I learned last night) gets sometimes added is to distinguish the “Rroma” people from the “Romanian” people. And also the “Roman” people. Europe, yo!

    The term “G*p” may well have sprung up independently from a word for the Rroma. That would be a _fascinating_ bit of etymological history to read about and know. Languages are weird and cool.

    I do know that in 2016, when Rroma people hear that word or derivatives of it, they expect a beating to follow on the heals of it. So I try to avoid using it.