Project Genom has been pulled from Steam, but the why of it is still a bit hazy.
Russian Developer NeuronHaze has laid the blame at the feet of Artem “CodeSpartan” Stekhnovskii, the game’s lead programmer. The studio claims that Stekhnovskii drew a salary, submitted inferior work, refused to sign a contract, and is now blackmailing the studio for more money (10% of sales) with a claim that the game is his sole intellectual property.
“The essence of blackmail is to ensure that the code is his intellectual property, even though he was paid money for it, and at the moment this code was replaced by the code of other programmers,” NeuronHaze alleged in its press release this morning.
The Belgium-based Stekhnovskii, however, told us via email that it was true he hadn’t signed a contract, accusing the studio of stupidity on that front. But he says the 10% revenue share was agreed upon from the start, and that indeed he’d even been paid 10% of a grant from Epic Games.
“October 12 this year, we release Project Genom on Early Access. In the first 3 days, we make over $230,000, which exceeds by far everything we have received before through preorders,” he told us last night. “The next day I get informed I’ll receive nothing for my efforts. The reason: simple, I didn’t work enough in September, so I’m ‘fired’. The 10% I’m owed will go towards the next programmer, I’m informed.”
Stekhnovskii says that after he pointed out that by law the code belonged to him, NeuronHaze agreed to put him under a formal English contract, but when that didn’t materialize (and the date of Valve’s very large remittance to the studio, of which he was owed 10%, drew near), he proceeded with his Steam DMCA claim, and threats from the studio ensued. Now it’s down to Valve’s timeline:
“I sent it all over to Steam and they took the game down after reviewing the claim. At this point, NeuronHaze has 14 days to file a counter-claim. If their counter-claim is solid (e.g. he photoshops some contracts which don’t exist), then Steam will leave me 1-2 weeks to go to court with this company. If I do, they’ll keep the game ‘frozen’ on steam. And I intend to do it, although going to court in Russia while living in Belgium might prove a bit of a problem.”
So where does that leave the game? While Stekhnovskii insists the studio isn’t working on the project and that he fears the group will just “cast it all out and walk away,” NeuronHaze claims that it’s already hired three replacement programmers to create the game’s codebase from scratch and is suing Stekhnovskii under the DMCA, as well as on grounds of extortion.
“We will do everything we possibly can to bring back the game in Steam in the nearest future; You do not need to worry about the fate of the project,” says the team. “All copyrights belong to NeuronHaze. We will continue to work on the project, and prepare the new version.”