Saturday, 20 June 2015

Stolen Valour in Video Games! Troll Submits Game to Steam Greenlight Without Developer's Consent

The trolls are at it again! This time valve's famous crowdfunding platform, 'Steam Greenlight' was in crosshairs of the scammers with a troll breaching past valve's defences and submitting two games onto Steam Greeenlight without the consent of the original developers way before their go-live date making it the first ever case of "stolen valour" in the indie videogame industry.

Courtesy: Flickr, Eirik Solheim

Now while indie developers are usually considered to be the swaggy-anarchipsters of the videogame industry it isn't exactly unicorns and rainbows when comes to videogame development without a publisher. Videogame development is the ultimate test of endurance, self-sacrifice and not to forget endless marketing. Right from visualising the idea, to documentation, asset development to prototype development, Testing and finally delivering a full fledged game requires at the very least, years of dedicated hardwork, financial investment, perseverance, team work and endless publicity and promotions. Now imagine yourself having to go through all that arduous journey only to have some random stranger from the internet steal it from you and upload it on a platform stealing all your credit of development. Frustrating right?

Well, this is exactly what happened with the developers of the game "Red Alliance" and "Cartoon Fighters" where allegedly their respective games were uploaded onto steam greenlight without any consent or prior notification by a steam user by the name of 'sundry foot' who as his profile states is from Turin, Piemonte, Italy and is 13 years old. "This is not very nice what this person did. He has uploaded this on steam greenlight without asking me, without notifying me.." mentions Roman Agapov lead developer of Red Alliance in a video he uploaded on his channel explaining what the whole mayhem was all about to his rather confused fans. Demoralized Roman further goes on to express his disappointment and frustration in the video citing "..this is pretty bad because I was meant to do this, I was going to upload to steam i don't know if i can do that any more"

Red Alliance is an Indie horror FPS game that has been in development for over three years by a team of four developers. In conversation with the developer of Red Alliance, Roman Agapov who has since then reported the incident to Valve asking for an immediate page takedown and filed a DMCA takedown notice for the fake greenlight page "I received a comment on my video saying that somebody posted RA on Greenlight. I checked it out and it turned out to be RA indeed. There weren't a lot of hate comments on that page back then, but then I commented on it saying why did he do that and asking to take it down and that i am the owner of the project. I added the guy on steam and messaged him but received no reply, i told about this incident to most of my dev friends, and the next day I made a post about this on my Facebook page, a lot of people responded at that moment and reported the guy's page. Same day i submitted DMCA report asking to take page down, and now waiting for reply" replied Roman on being asked about how he came to know about the illegal upload. Further when asked about the troll, 'sundry foot' Roman adds "I hope at one point this kid will actually realise how bad it is what he is doing right now".

Furthermore, Red Alliance wasn't the only game targeted by sundry. Cartoon Fighters, a MUGEN game was found illegally uploaded onto steam greenlight as well on 16th of June 2015. For those who don't know, MUGEN is a freeware open-source 2D fighting game engine designed by Elecbyte. The MUGEN community spanning thousands of members create the content like characters and sprite animations by themselves for their street-fighter-styled fighting games through active collaboration and since the fighters are mosty derived from popular fiction, they are already copyrighted however since MUGEN games are meant to be mere fan-games, no one gets sued. That being said, now that Cartoon Fighters has made its way through steam greenlight courtesy of our troll, you can almost taste the copyright infringement claim in the air. 

Consequently the same page has now become an philosophers ground on copyright-infringement-for-dummies with several steam users criticizing, threatening and repeatedly suggesting the developer to take it down asap. For instance this disgruntled steam user, Proud Pepperoni  "Take this Off if you don't want to get Sued. If you don't have the Permission/License you will get sued, since this is copyright infrinment also don't try to sell Mugen with some Custom Characters". But little do the people know that alleged "developer" is a 13 year old troll who doesn't give two f*cks if this gets escalated while the original developers are unknowingly going to get dragged into the line of fire. 

This incident is reminiscent of the infamous fake crowdfunding scam of Dimension Drive's kickstarter where in 2Awesome Studio was trying to raise €30,000 for its game Dimension Drive, the campaign had almost failed if it weren't for the  €7,000 pledge during the final day of the campaign. The team cried in joy as they celebrated the success of their campaign however their celebration was shortlived as kickstarter caught on to the fact that the €7,000 pledge was fraudulent. Kickstarter's automated system dismissed the pledge at the very last moment and the team was back to square one. They had been heartbreakingly trolled. Now although disappointed and demoralized, the whole incident turned out to have a silver lining afterall as the news began doing rounds on the internet and did the much needed publicity and marketing for their game as a result of which their second kickstarter turned out to be smashing success.

Comments on the Red Alliance Fake Greenlight Page

Talking of silver linings, as the greenlight trolling issue gained traction, the game fans and indie community came together to help a fellow indie in distress and since then the fake greenlight page has garnered a lot of comments criticizing the troll. Someone was able track down and get hold of the what is believed to be the troll's youtube account as well as you can see below. You too can help by heading over to Red Alliance and Cartoon Fighter's steam page and reporting the game and the troll, 'sundry foot'. 

- Kaushal