UK art studio accuses Kickstarted MMORPG Oath of incompetence and failure to pay for work

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Last spring, we covered an incredibly ambitious new MMO called Oath. Developer Ready-Up Studios rolled out a $35,000-ask Kickstarter to build a free-to-play, action-combat sandbox MMO using Unreal Engine 4 and SpatialOS, with PvP modes, PvE dungeons, raids, and group-centric content on tap. Even at the time, writers and readers pointed out that the indie Ready-Up Studios wasn’t doing media outreach or expounding on the qualifications and history of its team, but that didn’t stop the Kickstarter, which funded at $67,000, with its first alpha expected “early Q4 2019” for high-end backers (apparently that’s now drifted to December).

In any case, if you didn’t see any red flags before, you can’t miss them waving now. YouTuber Cryy put out a massive video and document outlining alleged misconduct on the part of Ready-Up Studios toward Ocean Spark Studios, the team Ready-Up was apparently outsourcing art work to. Not only does the UK-based Ocean Spark claim that Ready-Up had failed to pay nearly $5000 US for those services, putting Ocean Spark in serious financial jeopardy, but the art studio alleges that the Oath studio is simply “incapable of creating the game” pitched on Kickstarter and promised to backers.

“Below is the evidence we would like to put forward publicly for the reasons we believe the team at Ready-Up studios (who are currently creating OATH) are, in our opinion, incapable of creating the game they are promising to backers, unprofessional in the way they conduct themselves and their business, wasteful with kickstarter backers money and ultimately, we believe, lying to their community and refusing to pay the hard working developers that have been trying to create this game (this doesn’t include just us). They are also censoring messages that discord users and project backers are writing in the OATH discord, calling it ‘drama’ when these people are simply wanting to ask questions to the team at Ready-Up that they should have answers for, given that they are using these people’s money. As it stands, Ready-Up studios owe us £4000 GBP for the work carried out during the month of September, we have asked professionally and repeatedly to be paid, and as you will see below, we have been met with a variety of several different excuses. The purpose of us releasing this information is to allow Kickstarter backers to form their own opinions about the team behind OATH and the game itself, as we know that there are a lot of people worried about how this game is progressing and the quality of the product that OATH are going to deliver, it is also, hopefully, a source of information/ a story that other small, hard-working developers such as ourselves may be able to learn from so that they may never have to face a situation such as this one.”

Ocean Spark developers interviewed by Cryy can be heard on the video expressing absolute shock that Ready-Up’s foggy instructions to the art team demonstrated Ready-Up had no idea how to build the MMORPG it had Kickstarted; Ocean Spark devs even cast doubt on the legitimacy of the project and wonder at one point whether they were dealing with a teenager.

Ready-Up hasn’t issued a formal statement, but from Discord conversations in Ocean Spark’s document, it seems that after not paying the studio for its work in September, Ready-Up accused Ocean Spark of breaching its contract in October – essentially over the fact that Ocean Spark had mistakenly included a blade of grass from an asset pack in a commit.

Oath’s Discord seems to be locked down as we type this, while the Kickstarter has seen a only peppering of “scam” complaints. Redditors have noted that Ready-Up seems to be a subsidiary of Extrinsic Studios, which is known for is work on private rogue servers.

We’ve included Cryy’s whole video below, and yes, it’s super long, but it’s worth it as he speaks to multiple members of the Ocean Spark Studios team as they explain the whole story.

Source: Doc, YouTube via Reddit. Cheers, remesq and Steven.
Update 3:15 PM EDT
Our tipster Steven points out to us that Ready-Up Studios has now denied the accusations. “All of the information in this video is completely fabricated,” a representative for Ready-Up Studios reportedly told Cryy on YouTube in a now-deleted post. “Ocean Spark got paid over $10,000 before we realized what had happened. Anyways we will be filing suit for defamation.” Cryy made a statement of his own too, offering to report on whatever evidence Ready-Up has: “As far as being sued, if this is the road he wants to take, i’ll have no choice but to follow through with whatever happens. i reported on something i felt needed to be brought to light in hopes that some good can come out of this situation for the victims.”
Update 3:45 PM EDT
Apparently, “Stephen,” the representative of Oath in the Discord, has also told participants there that the studio is “already taking legal action” – that “it’s going to be a little more tricky with Ocean Spark because of where they are, but we’re already suing Cryy.” Ocean Spark, as we noted, is in the UK. MassivelyOP cannot directly confirm this statement as the Discord is still on lockdown for new members, but we’ll be watching this one closely, as it’s always a good show when a developer threatens to sue a journalist. (Thanks again, Steven!)
Update 10/19/2019

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Mikka Hansen

I wonder if Richard Garriott and Starr Long gave this Ocean guys business advice

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William Tweed

I love Cryy, I hope he makes it out of this okay <3

Mewmew
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Mewmew

People shouldn’t jump on these stories trying to make something out of them as fast as possible without talking to the other side. Sometimes the people you defame take it personally.

He basically took the side of the scammers who were trying to pawn off assets from the marketplace as original.

I don’t know Cryy, so I am neutral and don’t care what happens to him either way. Though it’s fairly annoying when these YouTube posters try to get out a story too quickly or without enough investigating of both sides and end up with messes like this.

rotrap
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rotrap

Firstly I agree with those that find the amount of the kickstarter to be very low and doubt they can fund the game with that.

However something is very wrong when a contractor is complaining about not being paid for work in September a little after two week into October. If they invoiced for the work the first of the month they should allow a month before they start worrying. Others have posted this has caused financial stress on them? Was it September of 2018?

Mewmew
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Mewmew

And it was only 2k (GBP). The company was going under anyway, they used this as an excuse. How would a slightly delayed 2k payment bankrupt a company? And yeah, it was only a few weeks after they delivered the asset.

It looks as if Ocean Spark was trying to get paid before Ready-Up Studios realized Ocean Spark was selling marketplace assets as their own original assets. They were going under and wanted to use this as their excuse to disappear.

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Robert

I watched a good portion of the video and looked through the document that Cryy linked. One thing I’ve known throughout my career as an attorney: the truth doesn’t require an hour long video and a 40+ page document. This leaves me skeptical. I am not one to defend Kickstarter games in general, but on the off-chance this is slanderous/libelous (I’m being generous, I personally think it is slanderous/libelous) it seems unfair to burn an indie company at the proverbial stake. Part of this made me think: “The world cannot take down Blizzard and is looking for something easier to tear down.”

One red flag to me: the art studio used the “we have staff to pay, families to feed, houses to pay for…” 6,000 Pounds (the amount claimed to be owed) cannot possibly maintain that – so why make that argument? The only reason is to rile up the internet.

The other red flag was the discussion about the asset allegedly used from the Unreal Marketplace. Am I the only one that thinks that the fact that the file structure is the same from the Marketplace and what they were given is more than a coincidence? The excuse was that code was used from that asset, not the “asset” itself. That makes no sense, unless you can say the asset itself is separate from the code – which is most invariably is not.

I’m a bit disheartened by the reporting here, since at the very least MOP could have linked the developers response at https://oath.readyupstudios.com/oceanspark-response.

One final thing: Why not pursue a legal remedy to get paid? Why bring this all out in the open with the claim that you are letting people know this is a supposed “scam” other than to burn the Oath developers? These are rhetorical questions as I know most people would rather hide behind the internet rather than confront something that, if wrong, you should have no problem confronting.

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Tom De Laet

Hi I’m gonna quickly post some of the doubts you have and tell you what you would’ve know if you had read the Whole document and seen the entire video.

1) They said that they were working at discounted price. The reason they did this because they believed in the project. Also if they were allowed to make much more of the art it’s a big pay check and a long time stability for their company.
2)Maybe a well documented file like the one they presented is a good basis to show to an attorney. (You know if you have money for it, but they don’t because they aren’t getting paid. )So what if it’s long it’s also very detailed. Also if you really want to sue why sue Cryy who only fault in this is showing people their side of the story. Why not Ocean Spark then? Cryy has offered to have a talk with Ready-Up and to publish their evidence as well.
3) Don’t know about the asset thing but my understanding is that it’s just code and then you stick the original artwork on top of it.
4) Also why make a big deal out this when they themselves use a lot art from the epic store for their promotional video’s. (Also some of the unpaid assets are used in New marketing material)

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Robert

1) This has nothing to do with the complaint about not getting paid, then trashing Oath on the internet through a third-party (Cryy). They have no one to blame but themselves – if you see a problem in a business arrangement that is detrimental to you, you only have yourself to blame if you continue that arrangement.
2) The document itself is nothing more than a one-sided display of unprofessionalism. As an attorney, I’d tell my client to keep the document and instead give me the entire transcripts from Discord – because, you know, little clips of things said cut/pasted around a document doesn’t tell the whole story. And I never said I’d sue Cryy himself, although I can see that I wasn’t clear – I am talking about suing the artists for defamation (libel/slander) IF they are not being truthful. Truth is a defense. But it seems the way this was put together that there is a side to the story we are not being told.
3) Ahh, you don’t know about the asset thing. This isn’t a physical painting on a canvas. But let’s use that analogy. You would agree, wouldn’t you, that you cannot separate the art on a canvas from the canvas itself, no? This is what the assets are – the “painting”; the code is the canvas. They cannot be separated. Now, I could be wrong. Maybe the Unreal Marketplace specifically states that the code behind the art is NOT what is a protected work. In which case, we can all, using your logic, use all of the code in the Unreal Marketplace without actually using the art. This doesn’t make sense. But maybe I am wrong and you are right.
4) “What about”-ism is not really an argument. What you leave out, conveniently, in this point is whether or not Oath paid for those assets in the promotional video – as in they “licensed” it. Which begs the question, IF the artists “licensed” the asset from the Unreal Marketplace, then passed it off as their own work to Oath, did Oath also “license” it if they did not pay for it? And if they didn’t pay for it did they violate any of the Unreal Marketplace rules by not licensing the work? I think we know the answers to these questions – and yes, they are just questions, but it seems pertinent to explore the WHOLE story, not just something that was contrived and well put together through a third-party who was fed this information. Please, lets just overlook that.

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Bruno Brito

I want a real attorney to reply to this, because this discussion will be quite good.

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Tom De Laet

Thank you for clarifying the Asset thing. I do also agree that it was a nog ‘gamble’ to give a discounted price of you live sort of paycheck to paycheck as a Company. I do see what you Mean when saying they left a lot of info out of the document. I.e. just snippets of what confirms their story. But after reading ready-ups Statement that deels kind of bare to me as well…

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Loyal Patron
sizer99

Asking $35K for taking a five person MMO to closed beta? Woooooow, anyone who backed this was a complete noodnick. That tells you right there they have no idea whatsoever what they’re doing.

kajidourden
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kajidourden

Lolololol “journalist”

Okay

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Deadly Habit

Are there any Kickstarted MMOs that have gone well and found a modicum of success, lacking major controversy, and self sustainability outside of Albion at this point?

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goobie-goo M

Elite Dangerous and adventure quest 3d possibly

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Deadly Habit

I always find heavily instanced zone games to be tenuous to be classified as MMOs, but as someone who backed Elite Dangerous and enjoys it still I’ll admit it slipped my mind.

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PanagiotisLial1

The biggest red flag to me is when MOP reported it and some apparently “hired” people posted here about backing it or having it backed and that was their only appearance we ever saw again in this site here. That and 35k which sounded little enough to sure fund it(aka reach its goal so they can cash in) and not high enough to do anything meaningfull for a 2019 mmorpg

laelgon
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laelgon

The biggest red flag is a $35k Kickstarter. That’s the salary for maybe 4 or 5 devs for a month if you’re paying them below industry standard.

If it wasn’t for them actually paying some amount of money to Ocean Spark, I’d assume it was just a couple people running a scam. That they actually paid would seem to indicate they thought that they could actually make the game.

Cupcake_Confetti
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Cupcake_Confetti

Yeah I have to agree. I also find it odd that Discord was used as a platform for sensitive information.. Design, negotiations… It all just reads very amateur. Atleast a secured email for that type of discussion..

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PanagiotisLial1

Notice also people who posted on funding it and that the company was doing great progress in so little time and would release the game fast posted ONCE there on MOP and never appeared again. Now its possible not all were on purprose one-time visitor with ties to oath developers but I am sure most were

Cupcake_Confetti
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Cupcake_Confetti

Whats most upsetting to me, is that this indie “Ready-Up” has now put an even smaller studio, “Ocean Spark ” in a very precarious position. As I understand it, Ocean Spark is a smaller team of 3. One of which is now taking another job, and the other two (Helen and the other man you hear speaking via Cryy’s video) are left in the wind.. They are selling off assets and are possible going to lose their business.

Its all very sad.

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Tom De Laet

As I understand they were a studio of 5 but already had to let 2 people go because of money drying up with this debacle. They saved literally almost 3 years being able to afford a programmer and a Level Designer. This so they could broaden their approach to art and what they can offer as a studio. Those 2 have already left.