Last week, we reported on the dubious Kickstarter of studio Laniatus’ MMO Magic to Master, an old MMO being brought back from the dead for a crowdfunding run. The Kickstarter, of course, was immediately noteworthy to us as it included fake “testimonial reviews” from various websites – including ours. The company did take down the fake review after we publicized it and reported it to Kickstarter, and indeed, the studio apologized to us publicly and privately, saying it had accidentally published the fake reviews with our logo attached (it blamed a “Nigerian Fiverr freelancer who prepared the Kickstarter campaign,” using placeholder reviews that were supposed to be removed).
However, the studio also told Discord followers that it was “MOP’s mistake to damage the brand image by reporting” the story and leaving our updated story online. As we noted, there were multiple other irregularities with the Kickstarter; for example, the original Kickstarter made mention of an “NFT pet system,” which the developers later insisted isn’t “NFT” as you know it but rather stands for “necessary features tree.” The Kickstarter also claimed Laniatus was “directly linked to Idea Fabrik,” but as the flowery apologies rolled in, the studio told us that actually it’s the “official publisher” of Hero Engine, in spite of the fact that Idea Fabrik and its website seemingly went defunct earlier this year when contractor TGS Tech quit, resulting in a mess for The Repopulation, as that Kickstarted MMO was abandoned.
Well, this story that began with M2M’s bizarre Kickstarter just gets weirder and loops back to TGS and The Repopulation over and over. But now it’s even less clear exactly what’s going on and who owns what and who’s potentially doing internet crimes as the accusations mount.
A month ago, Laniatus’ Tayfun Cicek aka root aka hero.root told gamers in the Hero Engine Discord that he’d taken over Hero Engine from Idea Fabrik and was working on “a very serious restructuring and renewal process” led by his company. “We are working beyond your imagination to make Idea Fabrik work again,” he said in early May. “It’s not about distributing or fixing the source code. It is the scalability of the budget spent. We are talking about a budget of more than 10 million euros.”
But just a few days ago, TGS Tech’s Sarrene Grant surfaced in the Discord (which she apparently still owns in spite of claiming to have given it back) to set the record straight on the chronology; she says while she was contracted by Idea Fabrik for years, TGS’ contract ended in 2022. She also casts doubt on Tayfun Cicek’s claims about his involvement with Hero Engine as far back as 2016.
“Neither Root nor anyone from his company ever worked on HeroEngine, let alone released any version of HeroEngine. This work was done entirely by in-house staff. Development was never outsourced to any third party outside of the United States. Development servers have only been in two locations within the US since its initial inception in 2002. No outside guest or contract access or 3rd party access has ever been granted to these servers for any reason at any time. […] The following is TGS’s only connection to Root/Laniatus. I met Root/Laniatus when he approached me and TGS asking for our help to get his game back from a binary license that was negotiated prior to my involvement. Because his game was not hosted by us, but on his own private servers, we were unable to assist him. Root also took to HeroEngine public channels asking for the same assistance. During this time, we began negotiations for a new licensing agreement. Because TGS and Laniatus Games were unable to reach an agreement, we ended up setting him up a regular cloud world on our servers so he could work on his game.”
IF’s Alex Shalash (or someone using that name?) then entered the chat to call Grant’s legal disclaimers “fantasy and wishful thinking,” claim that he’d been forcibly removed from the Discord, and insist that “Root [Cicek] is a member of Idea Fabrik family.” He then set off on his own story about how Idea Fabrik acquired Hero Engine in 2010 and hired back all the Simutronics engineers. “Since that acquisition there was no change in ownership of HeroEngine and HeroCloud,” he says, before going on to accuse Grant and TGS of tampering with the engine, login information, and the company’s other assets.
“Idea Fabrik is the owner of HeroEngine and HeroCloud. […] TGS cancelled the development agreement with Idea Fabrik, switched off the access to HeroCloud, provided partial login information to the servers and we still struggling to recover. […] Even ideafabrik.com email – they refused to give back the admin rights to the account, it took me 2 months to restore it through Google. I had no access to my messages, could not even file tax statements in the UK, because all the registration and login info was going to the official company email.”
Cicek then returns to dump accusations on TGS, accusing the contractors of defamation, fraud, and misconduct (and here he says that Shalash, not he, actually controls Idea Fabrik). In fact, Cicek claims he’s been “secretly monitoring Sarrene [Grant]” and warns players about supposed “fraudulent activities” regarding TGS.
Why are all of these accusations being lobbed in a decrepit Discord for a passel of dead games and a hunk of decaying engine – instead of in a court of law? That is an extremely excellent question! “This is the closest we’ll get to a video game business episode of Jerry Springer,” MMO Fallout’s Connor wrote. At this point, we’re just sad for the loss of The Repopulation under the weight of all this petty nonsense.