Divergence Online abandons Steam sales over ongoing review harassment

    
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Yesterday, an eagle-eyed reader noticed that Divergence Online had seemingly been pulled from Steam and was no longer available for purchase.

Last night, we reached out to Divergence’s chief developer, Ethan Casner, who reassured us that the game itself is not in jeopardy but that he effectively pulled the game’s store page down from Valve’s platform himself because of sustained harassment from Steam users and Valve’s alleged failure to adequately address it.

Casner told us that in approximately a third of the “reviews” issued for his game since its early access alpha launch on Steam earlier this month, he and his partner were subjected to hate speech, sexist slurs, and even doxxing, much of it coming from a lone “reviewer” and would-be collaborator. Over the course of the last three weeks, Casner says, he repeatedly reported the harassment and other review violations to Valve, but nothing was done until yesterday, when Valve apparently first banned the offending party and then mystifyingly reversed its decision, demanding Casner address the harasser’s claims about his supposed rights to some of the game’s assets (which do not appear to actually exist or even comport with the game’s theme).

So Casner registered his intention to take down the game’s store page, and Valve complied.

“Since I was a kid, I’d always dreamed of having my own game on Steam, but it breaks my heart to see it from the inside like this and be powerless to do anything about it,” he told us. “We just want to make our game and not have to spend a portion of every day fighting the most disgusting aspects of humanity you can imagine, which we were led to believe giving Steam a (substantial) portion of our income would afford us. To put it bluntly, we just don’t make enough money on Steam to warrant the abuse right now until we see a genuine act of good faith on their part to uphold their end of the bargain and enforce their own rules.”

Casner further rebuffed accusations made on another MMO website, which he says quoted his partner’s tweets out of context in order to assert that Valve had removed Divergence from Steam by force. (Screenshot of original article.)

“I told [Valve], ‘Please enforce your rules or we don’t want to have a store page anymore,’ and their response was to disable the store page – not remove it from Steam itself – as if responding to a support request to do so, hand A having no knowledge at all that hand B just ruled on the issue,” he explains. “Nobody ‘kicked anyone off of Steam.’ We asked them to make some changes regarding the enforcement of their own rules (so that we don’t have to spend development time doing it), and we’re waiting on them to say, ‘OK.'” His partner, he explains, meant in her tweets not that Valve had literally taken the game down but that Valve was responsible for the circumstances leading to Casner’s decision.

Indeed, the game itself is still up; it’s only the store page that’s offline. Casner says he and his partner are busy “pushing insane-amounts of patches and new content […] at the rate of 3-7 patches per day.” The alpha will remain playable through Steam for those who have already purchased it unless Valve decides otherwise, but for now, the game’s store page is hidden from newcomers.

Divergence Online has made headlines in recent months for its overt Star Wars Galaxies influences, its hardcore sandbox vibe, and its community-inspired goal to implement a consensual PvP server. Stained Glass Llama has repeatedly downplayed concerns over the game’s seeming use of SWG placeholder assets, telling us he’s “miles away from any legitimate infraction.” He’s also known for his rant against “gaming yelp reviewer bullshit,” which under the circumstances seems to have been impressively prescient.

With thanks to Lorenzo for the original tip.

Update: January 30th, 11 a.m. EST: The individual accusing Casner of stealing assets has surfaced and named himself in our comments, spelling out some of his claims. He has produced a document privately to Massively OP appearing to confirm that he issued a DMCA takedown of Casner’s game material around the same time as Casner’s “ultimatum” to Valve. As we cautioned in the comments, a DMCA takedown cannot be construed as wrongdoing (by any party), and the likelihood that a DMCA takedown was issued does not necessarily contradict the earlier claims by the developers (and in fact appears to confirm some of the deleted tweets). We have reached out to Casner for clarification on his earlier statements and will update when we have more. The comments below also have additional statements from Bonner. Please remember that our community commenting rules remain in effect; harassment of our staff and commenters will not be tolerated. We have already had to delete dozens of harassing messages, which suggest Casner is not wrong about that part at the least.
Update: February 1st: We have continued our reporting on this story here.
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jonny_sage
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jonny_sage

Lord Zorvan Crowdfunding is good. Selling early access is bad.

jonny_sage
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jonny_sage

Valhalla Awaits exactly

jonny_sage
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jonny_sage

EthanC if youre going to run a business, youll need to be more professional. Hire a media person to do your talking for you (even if its just a college student). Thats just how the world works.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

We have continued our reporting on this story here:

The Divergence Steam drama timeline: What we know

Skyewauker
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Skyewauker

Wow, this thread blew up.  I have several issues which are well documented.
– Ethan has blatantly ripped off SOE / Daybreak assets.  B-L-A-T-A-N-T.  Art, sounds, and honestly, probably code from the leaked SWG source code.  Come to think of it , this game popped up right around that time.
– The way Ethan acts.  He is about as unprofessional as you can get.  Now his GF has jumped into the fray?  wot?
– The way Ethan argues / talks trash to reviewers or anyone that has anything negative to say about his project.

He isn’t the only one doing wrong though, Robert Bonner is in the wrong too.
– He acts every bit as immature / unprofessional as Ethan
– His kickstarters have been laughable at best and scams at worst.
– He hasn’t provided any sort of proof that his work was used.

Everyone has lost here.  I honestly cannot fathom anyone who is aware of how Ethan acts can give him a cent for this ripoff of a game.  Its a pretty big pile of ripped off poodoo.  I got it on steam, got in for 15 minutes and that was enough for me.  I am sorry, but playing on nostalgia with the UI and sounds does not a good game make.  Period.

Robert,  brooooooooooooooo, you had access to the game.  The game has no NDA.  Get an image of your asset in game and put it side by side on the original concept.  Provide timestamps.  I have no doubt that he stole from you.  Hell, he stole from a big time gaming studio.  Why wouldn’t he steal from the little guy. You still need to provide proof though.

Wakkander
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Wakkander

Reading through this leaves me feeling that regardless of who is right or wrong, everyone in this has lost.

Ineedabetterusername
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Ineedabetterusername

GAM_Ent “So, ok, he can’t hire Americans, which is Discrimination Based on Ethnic Origin, but ok, cool… I guess? Whatever, dude wanted me to make some weapons for the game so I lowered my price. ”
And the screenshot you posted about that shows nothing of the sort. It’s quite obviously the developer telling you that americans are too expensive for him to hire, which.. if you are really a contractor you would already have known that. There’s no way a US based contractor could work at the same rate than someone from a country with a much cheaper cost of living can offer. There’s nothing racial about that, it’s just real world economics.. but then again.. you don’t seem to live in it?

Ineedabetterusername
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Ineedabetterusername

breetoplay GAM_Ent just read up a bit on how he behaves via his twitter and his steam community . Now that’s some drama for you.

Ineedabetterusername
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Ineedabetterusername

GAM_Ent did anybody ever read the transcript of the conversation that happened between the Divergence guys and yourself? There was nothing in that conversation that implied that you had a contract with them. And frankly, seeing the bottom of that transcript where it’s said that the metalness and other details maps were all black, it also appears that you have no idea how to create game ready assets.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/826892372/self-sustaining-electrical-turbine-generator?ref=users, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/826892372/bacon-portraits?ref=users, this is the kind of stuff that @gam_ent does. How can anyone even take him seriously?

There’s NO proof that Divergence ever used any of his assets, no screenshots of it just reports of “users” saying they were being used. 
Has anybody looked into this ABD game? He’s being labelled as a scam artist by more than 2/3 of his community on Steam, and the way he behaves himself on there…

Ineedabetterusername
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Ineedabetterusername

GAM_Ent that’s pretty stupid to say something like that Mr Robert Bonner. To ensure that a model works correctly, all you need really is the engine (apparently Unity they’re using, im not familiar with Divergence at all.) and their lighting setup, and usually contractors hired to work on a project are given access to source if need be in order for them to plug them in a sample scene to make sure that the shader itself works fine. There’s a big difference between a player build and a developer build, and it really doesn’t appear as if you understand there is a difference.