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Old 04-18-2013, 10:20 AM   #1
Spiral Game Studio
Join Date: May 2012
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Spiral speaks up - coming to Kotaku and Eurogamer soon

I want to address this to all my loved ones, people that remotely like me, and to my haters before it makes the news.

With the release of our new game we've had the return of some users who want nothing more than to smear it again with those (75% false - I did fire 6 people. For very serious things, such as attempted theft of hardware) two year old allegations.

Some websites have (finally) asked me for our side for the first time and I wanted to share it with you all as well. Most of you who know me don't need this, some of you may not know me well enough and hopefully this paints a better picture as to who I am. And some of you hate me, so enjoy the next week or so as it should be rather interesting:


I was recently contacted by some outlets (Kotaku, EuroGamer). Some of you already are aware of the stories that have been written about me, but if not I've included the recent email that covers most of what people claim:

"Hi David,
We've been hearing some reports about Dino Horde from readers, among them:
- that this is essentially a re-release (with enhancements, of course) of Dino Beatdown, re-submitted to services and marketplaces to avoid the first game's poor ratings.

And then, in association with that, they're pointing towards older allegations, including:
- that assets for the game have been lifted from other titles, such as Natural Selection 2
- that last year, having just received $20,000 in community funding, several staff members, including members of the art and sound teams, were let go without being paid.

We're putting a story together on this, but would obviously like to hear from you as well.
I'm ccing my colleague Jason Schreier in on this; I'm in Australia, and with our timezones not always playing nice, you can talk to him if I'm asleep.

Luke Plunkett
Associate Editor | Kotaku

My response is below:

"Hey Luke (and Jason),

Thanks for taking the time to reach out and get our perspective. In past cases we haven't really had that much of a luxury and I appreciate and respect you guys for it.

Regarding 'ORION: Dino Horde':
It is a very unique situation. Unique in the sense that the first game (Dino Beatdown) had a horrible launch that we were not only ashamed of but determined to "right" for the fans that wanted the game they knew could be there and more importantly deserved.

In short, it is both a sequel AND an update (to existing owners of Dino Beatdown) who receive a upgrade to the new game for free (as a digital thank you letter) for their support and understanding during Dino Beatdown's embarrassing launch. But it is most certainly a sequel and it's quite a huge game, especially when compared to Dino Beatdown. Dino Horde launched with 9 dinosaurs (compared to 3), 5 game modes (compared to 1), 100 achievements (compared to 52), 50+ Weapons and Gear (compared to 30+), 7 levels (compared to 2) and plenty of other drastic and huge additions and comparisons.

Not only that but we spent the better part of the last year completely re-writing the entire game including the following systems:
  • New Netcode & Connectivity
  • New Artificial Intelligence
  • New New Lighting & Particle System
  • New Graphics Engine
  • New SteamWorks Features
  • New Animations
  • New Sound System
  • New Game Mechanics
  • New Weapon & Player Mechanics
  • New Dedicated Server Tools

With 'ORION: Dino Horde' we have a few key focuses in place that we hope to remedy / achieve:

1 - Restore the company
With 'ORION: Dino Horde' we will be showing the gaming community who we really are and what we are here to do and that is to deliver great games for a great price and incorporate community feedback and suggestions as much as possible on a regular basis. Free DLC is also a major priority which will be showcased starting next week when Spiral Update 1 comes out with 2 map variants.

2 - Restore the game
The game brand was definitely tarnished a bit with the release of Dino Beatdown. We are here to deliver on promises we made and to show the great game that we and fans knew it could be. That is also why it is free to all existing owners of the original.

3 - Give the players what they want
We tripled the games content and listened to what they wanted ranging from team colors all the way to dinosaur suggestions. We've spent the last 8 months working every single day to make this happen.

4 - Give them people to play with
We had considered simply fulfilling our promises towards Dino Beatdown and its owners and doing the three promised Title Updates (of which 1 was released) but after discussing we had determined that there was simply too much to "bandage" and that no matter how much we fixed or added at that point it would fall on deaf ears, resulting in a lower player crowd for the people that DID stick around / check out the updates.

This is when we decided not to only fulfill the original promises (Title Update 002 and Title Update 003) but to do it in a way that would genuinely deserve to be checked out again and a way that would reward the existing owners that had the troubled experience. We not only incorporated all of that content but we added so much more that was never even originally intended or planned. This is how Dino Horde began to form.


Regarding the other allegations:
  • (No) Natural Selection 2
  • (No) Primal Carnage
  • (No) $20,000 KickStarter
  • (Yes) The firings
Only the first two have any sort of actual "credence". Both are genuine mistakes or misinterpretations, however:

Natural Selection 2:
This stemmed up from a Pre-Alpha tech demo of our other game, 'ORION: Prelude'. There was most certainly a Natural Selection 2 armory mesh acting in place of our Supply Station but the model was not ripped or stolen in any way. It was created by a Spiral freelancer, Daniel Doerksen. While it was most certainly not created FOR our game, it was created as a personal portfolio piece as he was always very inspired by their concept art. We are a VERY small developer and so we (like most) use what we have available to act as visual representations for ideas to come or systems in place of very early game builds. It was a mistake that it was captured in a trailer at all, but a genuine one and nothing ill-intended in any way.

Primal Carnage:
Back in the day me and Ashton, who is the head of Lukewarm who makes Primal, would talk on Skype and share what each were working on. I have always been impressed by what they accomplish and would save some of the dinosaur stuff into a shared "Moodart / Inspirational" dropbox folder for the Spiral team to look get inspired by. A mistake occurred where a newer illustrator wasn't aware of all of this and ended up using one as a base layer to do a drawover. I wasn't aware of this at the time and when it was brought to our attention (by Ashton) I immediately apologized and had the image replaced.

KickStarter / $20,000
There is nothing true at all about this. To be honest I don't even know how this is a "thing". Not only do we self-develop the games but we also self-publish. We would definitely not be able to have made 'ORION: Dino Beatdown' nor 'ORION: Dino Horde' had I stolen all the money and ran away. We've been here the entire time working every single day on a game to give away for FREE because we felt so bad to how the original launched and played out.

The Firings
There were 6 people fired. They were all fired for very serious reasons ranging anywhere from attempted blackmail all the way to attempted theft of hardware.

They were not employed during a paid period (modding / start-up). They were not given paid tasks. Their work was not used. They were not paid."
Additionally, Eurogamer wanted additional information relating to metacritic scores:

My response:

"No problem at all. The thanks is on our behalf and we appreciate you greatly for taking the time to get our side as that doesn't always happen.

The short answer is yes. We absolutely believe the game deserves it's own time with reviewers. The game is vastly different AND larger in scale and content and we consider it BOTH a full-fledged sequel and a much-needed ailment to those affected by the original Dino Beatdown. Every main component has been re-made or revisited ranging from AI, Net code, Graphics, Weapon Mechanics, Player Movement - everything.

The only difference with this sequel (compared to other sequels) is that most of the time those other ones don't launch as horribly as our first game did. We were embarrassed and we worked exceptionally hard for the last 10 months to create this new game and not only deliver on promises but to exceed them and show the community and fans of who we really are. You'll see this all summer. Free content comes as soon as next week to 'ORION: Dino Horde'.

Had 'ORION: Dino Beatdown' originally gone as planned, 'ORION: Dino Horde' wouldn't even likely exist. We made the game specifically for all the fans / owners of the original who were let down or didn't have the experience we wanted them to. We knew we could do better and we wanted to do better. That is how the game came to fruition and that is why they all get it for free.

With everything we added that was never intended or planned (all the modes, some weapons, some dinosaurs, some levels, the Steamworks features, the complete rebuild of key systems) we also are certain that it's worth the increased $5 (USD) for new buyers as it's not only going to work great for them but it's also a great game that we are very proud of.

All that being said, there are things I am guilty of, however:

1 - I have closed threads and banned users
This most recent launch had the return of some users who were keen on continuing not only spreading false information, but information from nearly two years ago. Typically we at Spiral don't ban or even manage threads and we leave that to Steam moderators. However, this time I did parttake and probablly too aggressively. I have stopped doing any sort of involvement on those forums since yesterday morning minus official updates or helping users with issues.

2 - I shouldn't be handling PR
I am way too passionate about ORION. Anyone that knows me knows that I love this IP, probably to a disgusting and unhealthy degree. It's been with me for over 15 years and it's weirdly like a child to me. Not only am I protective of the game itself but I also love all my developers and appreciate how hard they work, especially with their performance on 'ORION: Dino Horde'.

So when I see these blatant attacks, or even in some cases, flat-out lies, it affects me way more than it would some PR company (or likely more than it should, period) but money is tight as an indie and so of course we simply have to always try our best and make do WHICH is most of the time. You can find insane amounts of examples of me interacting with fans on the forums, Facebook, posting my public email for anyone to contact or if they have issues, playing and hosting as many games as possible to interact and get feedback from them. It's obsessive, almost.

Thanks again for taking the time to write us personally. Let me know if you have any other questions."
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:21 AM   #2
Spiral Game Studio
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I also would like to post this excerpt from the last time this poked it's head out roughly a year ago. This is from a former Spiral Freelancer named Brandon Toomey.

Brandon has worked on Forza 4 among other major titles. He was on contract work with us for nearly (or slightly over) a year and worked on Dino Beatdown with us.

This is the source to the quote. His user name is GarageBay9:

"My name is Brandon, and I've been with Spiral for going on six months now. I'm a 3D artist. You know that blurb in our PR about the team including someone from Forza Motorsport? Yup, that's me.

When I first responded to a Spiral job posting over on a very well-known 3D artist forum, I got a private message warning me not to take the job, and that "Praz is an untrustworthy ♥♥♥♥♥♥bag".

In the entire time I've known him, nothing could be further from the truth.

I've done a lot of freelance and worked on a lot of small projects in between shipping major titles. Getting paid at all? Man, that's worth celebrating. Getting paid what you were promised, or on time, much less both? Count your lucky stars.

David has always - ALWAYS - paid what he promised on time, and he has been a fantastic boss to work with. He is focused, organized, committed, and he takes care of his team - us. Occasionally it may be rough-and-tumble love, but he has ALWAYS done right by me.

Good example: I ended up in an extremely tight spot a few months back where we were in the middle of a hard crunch for the GDC build, and on top of that both my AND my wife's Jeeps broke. We were dead in the water - she couldn't get to work and I couldn't cannibalize my Jeep to fix hers. I was looking at about $250 in parts that I'd need to put in myself, which meant an entire day on my back in the garage, carved out of my already razor-thin schedule. And I didn't have $250 lying around. Starving artist is redundant.

I had to Skype David, who was already sweating bullets trying to make everything else happen, and explain what was going on and that it might completely screw up having some critical art assets in the build by deadline.

I've worked for art directors that were good folks but put the company's bottom line first. I've worked under art directors that were... well, Captain Bligh comes to mind. I would not have blamed David for a second if he had yanked those models and given them to somebody who could get them done in time.

Here's what David "The Second Coming Of Ghengis Khan According To The Internet" Prassel actually replied with:

"Don't sweat it. Need me to front you some cash to get up and running again?"

And that told me all I needed to know about the man.

He's been completely up front with us about the inner functions of the team, our finances and plans (something not all teams are remotely transparent about), and past episodes of drama. That "Employee Beatdown" article does a magnificent job of flinging a lot of BS without actually citing any credible sources. "Somebody blacked out" and "somebody had to buy their own airline ticket" sounds like National Enquirer reporting - dramatic until you scrape down past the surface.

You want to hear something else dramatic? Here, this has a source, me: I worked 14 hour days with pneumonia earlier this year to get art done for this game. Why?

Well, David didn't have to threaten me. I did it because I care about the game, about the team, about the commitment I made to them - including David, about our fans and customers, and making sure I did everything I could to get them what they deserved. And David paid me well for that effort. That money bought my 8-year-old son a new pair of sneakers. But the cash is nothing compared to the satisfaction of knowing I gave the people playing ODB everything I could muster and kept that commitment to them.

And here's something nobody seems to have stopped and considered in their leaps to conclusions from vague and unproven rumors on the internet: Spiral is not just David Prassel. Spiral is a whole team of people and all of us have invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this game. For some of us, this isn't beer money or just a stepping stone; this team is how we feed our families and keep our children sleeping under a roof.

When people start blindly jamming the lever to rage mode and jumping on the bandwagon of an internet jihad against the entire project, just because of rumors about one person here, it hurts all of us at Spiral. I can't speak for anybody but myself, but that doesn't quite seem right or necessary to me, not in the slightest.

As for the model built from the NS2 concept art showing up in the old preview footage, yeah, it was in that build. It was a placeholder; David already explained exactly what happened. There was never any intention of trying to ship that model in the final build and claim it as our own. We wouldn't insult the intelligence of our fans with some dumb stunt like that, we wouldn't disrespect Charlie Cleveland (Flayra) and the NS2 team like that (mad props, Charlie, Lerk power!), and we sure as heck wouldn't risk our butts and all our hard work legally doing something that stupid. If you'll notice, the inventory stations in the game now are new models, concepted and built from scratch, that fit our art direction and the shape language of the Carrier technology - my models.

(It's also easier for placeholders to get lost in the shuffle than you'd think... FSX: Acceleration almost shipped with a model of a B-58 Hustler that belonged to a well-known 3rd party development group. It got caught the day before we went content complete. )

Bottom line is, I read and heard and saw and was told a slew of nasty things about David before I decided to give him a chance and signed on the dotted line and joined Spiral. And in the time I've known him personally (a quite awesome time, I'll add), every single one of those nasty things has proven to be a lie.

I'll back that statement up with my real name and my resume and my reputation. I dare anybody behind those smear articles or the nasty forum posts or the screeching on Reddit to stand up and do the same.

So there you go. David Prassel, Internet-Black-Marked as Jerk Incarnate, is one of the best bosses, best team leaders, and coolest guys I've had the privilege to work with.

Can't say much more than that."

Last edited by DPrassel: 04-19-2013 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:32 AM   #3
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I've only read the first part, will do the rest later but I wanna say this.

Understand their are just people who don't like your game. For some reason, at least it looks like it, you just can't handle that. People don't like some ideas of you, so what? Don't respond like this http://forums.steampowered.com/forum...7&postcount=15 But at least respond. And don't only respond to people who are fan also speak to the people who don't like the game on a normal way.
But know I'm going to read the whole post.

Last edited by RobinR: 04-18-2013 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:41 AM   #4
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thanks David, it was frank, interesting and honest of you to share this with us. It would have made the interwebs anyway, but thanks for the prompt.

I think you've done yourself proud in your response and honesty of your answers. I would question the journalistic integrity of something like Kotaku, however, as its just a blog, popular though it is and often sensationalist and rarely check their facts.

But yeah, good on you for doing this. I hope this puts to rest the bs that flies around with some of the users. I also hope the interwebs give you a fair chance and shake at repairing the damage done by Beatdown, and show that you guys are worth having around and can make fun interesting games.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:44 AM   #5
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Your mail is pretty much PR. Just the same as you talk on the forums, as a PR guy. I don't see you as a person, more as a PR bot. You should try to be more a human.

About Brandon Toomey. Yea, what can I say about a person who works for you? Of course he says you're a nice person because he does freelance work for you.

You should UNBAN PEOPLE on the orion steam hub
Why? You said yourself you were to 'too aggressively', so they deserve to get a fair change. If they truly, misbehave then a ban will be justifiable.

""Spiral is a whole team of people and all of us have invested.""
What team? We don't know who you guys are, we don't know how your office looks like. The only thing we know is that David is the CEO. So that's why Spiral Studios = David Prassel.

Last edited by RobinR: 04-18-2013 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:02 PM   #6
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Well hopefully the articles and the less aggressive banning will lead to less jarateed off people
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:16 PM   #7
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This was much needed, there are too many ignorant people.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:36 PM   #8
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Thank you for sharing this with us, David. Seriously.

Now what you need is to be transparent about what you do. Be honest. It is the way to clean your name, company and your game.
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:36 PM   #9
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Just call it what it is already :P a rerelease. The only way i could really consider it a sequel is if the original game were sticking around, but as has been made clear you are just replacing the base game with this updated version, expansion, or whatever you want to call it :P.

Can't wait to read the articles though will be interesting.

Your Friendly River Troll,

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Old 04-18-2013, 04:06 PM   #10
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Yeah, I'll be honest, I heard about the controversy a long time ago, and yes, I was cautious about this as well. As for why I never mentioned anything; I didn't feel like making a fool out of myself. And truth be told, I heard of other games that had worse situations.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by RobinR View Post
Your mail is pretty much PR. Just the same as you talk on the forums, as a PR guy. I don't see you as a person, more as a PR bot. You should try to be more a human.

About Brandon Toomey. Yea, what can I say about a person who works for you? Of course he says you're a nice person because he does freelance work for you.
I haven't worked for David since Spring(ish) of 2012 and I STILL stand by those words.

He is a hard charger and will be the first one to admit he's zealously attached to this game because it's his baby. Not everybody is going to get along with him, but I do and I like the guy and he has always done right by me. If I've got a hole in my schedule and he skypes me up and says "dude, Brandon, I need a hand", he's got it, no questions asked.

That good enough for ya?
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:42 AM   #12
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I don't get any of this. He's being honest and not even trying to pretty up most of what he says. You see him as a PR guy and not a person? what the hell, this is a pretty damn human guy.
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