Dino survival game ARK: Survival Evolved [official site] has been a huge success for developers Studio Wildcard but clouds are gathering and those clouds look an awful lot like lawyers. Issues surrounding the game's origins and the soliciting of staff from Dungeon Defenders creators Trendy Entertainment will be heard in court next month, report Kotaku. If the outcome of that hearing grants the injunction sought by Trendy, development of ARK could be suspended and there's even a possibility that the game could eventually be removed from sale. Trendy's former creative director Jeremy Stieglitz is at the heart of the complaints.
Stieglitz left Trendy in August 2014 following a breakdown in relations. That story is covered in Kotaku's article. Today's news relates to Stieglitz's activities after leaving Trendy.
His former studio alleges that Stieglitz approached Trendy employees in an attempt to poach them for his next venture. This went against the conduct agreed in an apparent non-interference agreement that he had signed. Furthermore, Trendy allege that Stieglitz had agreed not to engage in "competitive activities" for a period of time after leaving the company, which has led to claims that through the development and sale of ARK, he has interfered with both their staff and their potential audience.
None of this would matter if Sieglitz hadn't been instrumental in the design and production of ARK and that's what Studio Wildcard claim. Although he will apparently be joining the company in the near future, Sieglitz's role to date has been as a consultant rather than an official employee or designer, according to Wildcard.
The actual employee files of Wildcard muddy the waters somewhat. Sieglitz's wife is a co-founder of the ARK studio and Trendy's lawsuit filing lists six people now working at Wildcard who left Trendy within the last two years. Kotaku claim there are more than six former Trendy employees at Wildcard, but the others are not included in the filing.
Wildcard are yet to respond but their lawyers have released a statement:
Trendy’s Complaint reads more like a salacious tabloid story than a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts allegedly showing Trendy’s entitlement to relief, as required by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Many of the allegations are disparaging and included simply to be provocative. They are irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. As such, these allegations should be stricken.
We'll keep an eye on the story as it develops.