Is ARK: Survival Evolved, about to go extinct?
It's getting hard to be a developer of late.
Jim Sterling is having a tussle with Digital Homicide, Zenimax and Oculus are having a throw down, and now Studio Wildcard - the developers of ARK Surivial Evolved- and Trendy Entertainment, the creators of Dungoen Defenders, are exchanging DPS over a clause.
What's the scoop?
Essentially Trendy is accusing their former employee, Jeremy Stieglitz, of breaking a non-compete clause in a contract he signed with them in 2014.
The whole debacle started after a few Trendy employees complained about the terrible working conditions they had to endure under Stieglitz leadership. In response, Trendy Entertainment immediately removed him from the team.
Stieglitz in turn, told Trendy Entertainment his own working conditions were just as bad, and demanded either certain employees be fired, or they make it easier for him to quit. The two came to an agreement and Trendy reduced the non-compete clause in Stieglitz's contract from three years to one. This clause was prevented Stieglitz from entering the same profession, or start a similar company for one whole year.
These sort of clauses are currently on the rise in many companies. They shackle employees to the company, and can even prevent them from getting better jobs elsewhere. Over-all, it's better for employees to avoid the thing altogether, but for companies that handle sensitive information and technologies - like program codes - it can be a godsend.
A few days after Stieglitz left, Trendy sent him this email:
He didn't exactly waste any time, did he? But he did respond to the email, apologizing for his breach of contract, and promised his former employers that he would stop working on ARK. Trendy accepted the apology, and the case should have been closed.
But Stieglitz then went ahead and actually co-founded Studio Wildcard, and even - allegedly- stole six employees from Trendy to work at the new studio. He also reportedly shared company secrets and development techniques he learned and perfected at Trendy.
It gets juicer
Throughout 2015 Trendy continued to send cease-and-desist emails to Stieglitz, warning him that if he did not stop working with Wildcard, they would take legal action. Trendy even noted his use of 'stealth mode' by having his wife register Studio Wildcard under her maiden name. For some reason Stieglitz didn't take any of this seriously, until finally Trendy filed a lawsuit in December.
If Trendy wins the case, it could mean a critical hit for Wildcard, but the small company hasn't taken any of this lying down.
Their lawyers have called for the accusations to be dismissed, saying:
"Many of the allegations are disparaging and included simply to be provocative. They are irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. As such, these allegations should be stricken."
As things stand, it does appear as if Stieglitz is in the wrong. However, a judge will have to decide that.
What does this mean for ARK?
If the lawsuit is not dismissed by 27th of April, the studio might need to remove the game from Steam, halt development, and even shutdown the servers until it's all been resolved.
It would a shame if the game is taken down, it's a jolly fun title, and Studio Wildcard certainly has a lot riding on it. However it stands, let's hope this gets sorted before June 2nd, when ARK will - or should at least - officially be released.