Project Genom vanishes from Steam as developers fight

Project Genom [official site], an early access sci-fi MMO, has been removed from the Steam store by Valve following a bitter disagreement between the Russian development studio and an out-of-country programmer. It’s a bit of a mess but basically the argument involves copyright, payments, workloads and all the expected grievances between employer and employee that can lead to disastrous things like this. As usual, it looks like money is to blame.

At the beginning of Project Genom’s life, the developers, NeuronHaze, employed a programmer living in Belgium, Artem Stekhnovskii, to work on the code. All was going fine for the next year and a half, until it hit Steam Early access in October this year. After that, Stekhnovskii was fired. The company claim this is because work from the previous month was left undone, with their employee doing “virtually nothing” they had agreed upon.

But the programmer says he was sacked because otherwise the company would have had to pay him a previously-agreed 10% share of the monthly profits. The game was now making hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales thanks to early access, claims Stekhnovskii, which “exceeds by far everything we have received before through preorders”.

After trying and failing to come to some agreement, the programmer filed a DMCA order to Steam. Normally, a development company would own the rights to the work he has done, but NeuronHaze didn’t sign any formal agreement with Stekhnovskii to this effect. As a result, Valve considered his takedown request to be legitimate (he says he owns 90% of the work) and have removed the game from Steam. The developers will have to make a counter-claim with proof of their ownership to get it back up, which they say they will be doing.

As you can see, it’s a bit of a maelstrom. There are other complexities and accusations underlining the whole thing. But the short version is: man gets job, game is half finished, man gets fired, man says he hasn’t been paid, company disagree, explosion of nastiness. The end result is that you can’t buy it anymore, if you were ever interested, although current owners are still able to play.

My advice, however, is to be extra wary of this game, even if it comes back onto the store. Legal troubles are bad enough (both parties are lining up to go to court over the issue) but with development problems thrown into the mix it does not bode well for its future. On an anecdotal level, I’ve previously tried to run the game a few times, for our Premature Evaluation column, and every time it has suffered a crash or server problems. All in all, Project Genom is a bit of a mess.

From this site

14 Comments

  1. geldonyetich says:

    Speaking as a consumer of games, this debacle casts significant doubt on whether or not the game will ever be finished. But such is the risk of Early Access.

  2. Jertornas says:

    How would a game refund work in this situation?

  3. Baines says:

    Sadly, it seems NeuronHaze’s only “mistake” was in not locking down ownership. Otherwise what they did seems all too normal.

    • mrbright01 says:

      Well, that and discarding the workhorse, assuming the allegations hold true. Win or lose, things look bad for this game, because ousting a major player right after early access hits is often an indication of future problems.

  4. Faults says:

    That’s a real shame :( I played a tenner for it on early access, and while I can’t say I’m going to regret wasting a tenner on it, the game showed a lot of promise.
    Sure, the build was super early and there was still a lot of work to be done to it, but it was already pretty fun, and there was some really cool visual design.

    It’s a real freaking gutpunch when stuff like this always falls apart due to disputes over money :/

  5. sapien82 says:

    I bought this on early access and have been playing it every night for the last week or so , its buggy but I like the art style and the size of the game , there is something really nice about it , and I hope the issues can be resolved because Id like to play this game more.

  6. Jekhar says:

    The wonderful Mud’em Up Spintires endured similar drama, iirc. Was that eventually resolved? I thought they came to an agreement somehow, but i don’t remember any patches for the game on steam since then.

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