Connect with us

AUTO MOBILE

Stuck in the Mud: How a Tiny, Beloved Driving Game Sparked a Bizarre, Decade-Long Feud

Published

on

[ad_1]

Back in June, fans of 2014 physics-based driving game Spintires encountered a frustrating problem when the game was suddenly and mysteriously removed from Steam. It was reinstated not long after and then, just a few days later, removed again. It hasn’t returned since, and fans have been left in the dark as to whether they’ll ever be able to download, update, or share their beloved driving games with others ever again.

The reason for Spintires’ disappearance appears, on the surface, to be a series of DMCA takedowns filed by Saber Interactive (formerly S3D), the publisher of Spintires sequels MudRunner and SnowRunner. Articles from June detail a long, exhausting battle between the two companies, with Saber issuing repeated legal challenges in what Oovee claims is an effort to frustrate and financially ruin the small UK publisher.

But the truth is far, far more convoluted than a simple David and Goliath match-up. Over several months of investigation into the two companies’ histories, legal documents, employees, and claims, I’ve uncovered a messy, complex feud over a decade old that involves years of stolen assets, allegations of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties on both sides, expensive cars, game development time bombs, possible shell companies, vanishing game developers, and a number of still-unanswered questions about the history, ownership, and fate of the little off-road driving game.

At the heart of it all is a tiny game largely made by an individual who loved watching big trucks drive through harsh, muddy terrain and wanted to share that love with the world. And while that love may have spawned a successful, beloved franchise of games, the future of all three may now hinge on a tense and mysterious legal battle culminating at the end of this year. Unfortunately, none of the people fighting in it appear to be telling the full story.

Wheeltracks

On a call to explain his company’s plight this past June, Oovee COO Devin Milsom comes off convincingly as a worn-down but determined young executive. He’s 24 years old, and for all intents and purposes is the sole public face of Oovee, where he’s worked since he was 18 alongside his sister’s partner, CEO and founder Zane Saxton. He joins me for a chat over Zoom alongside a representative for UK political consultancy and PR agency Portland Communications to walk me through his – or rather, Oovee’s – side of the dispute with Saber. At the time of our call, it had just hit yet another boiling point following Spintires’ removal from Steam.

“We’ve had numerous lawsuits, frivolous lawsuits, being filed against us,” he says. “… Countless sleepless nights, and we’ve had to put our own money into this. Zane has had to sell his car, his house. And I’ve had to put my investments into just funding our studio, because we’ve lost millions in sales. We’ve had to fund all these legal fees that they’ve brought, and it’s just, it’s very difficult for us.”

Alongside my conversation with Milsom, Portland Communications sent along a three-page media release entitled “Indie Gaming Developers Increasingly at Risk of Losing IP to Ruthless Industry Giants.” The document chronicled Oovee’s account of its conflicts with Saber, referring to Saber as “aggressive,” “deceptive,” “unethical,” and a “bully.” Oovee, meanwhile, is characterized as a hero standing up to said bully, not only in defense of itself but also to “protect the openness of the gaming industry to ensure it remains enriched by innovators and independent entrepreneurs like Oovee.”

We’ve had to fund all these legal fees that they’ve brought, and it’s just, it’s very difficult for us.


Oovee is a tiny operation with only one full-length game, Spintires, to its name since 2008. Sympathetic as their plea seemed, I departed my meeting with Milsom extremely curious about one major detail that hadn’t really been covered: why did Saber feel it was owed the rights to Spintires in the first place?

Milsom’s story comes loaded with over a decade of history. It all begins with a Russian programmer named Pavel Zagrebelnyy who, in 2009, was working for Saber Interactive on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, among other projects.

According to a biography on an archived version of Oovee’s website, Zagrebelnyy is “inspired by games such as Dungeon Keeper, Baldurs Gates II [sic] and Fallout 2,” which ultimately led him to computer programming. He likes “DirectX9, beach sports and beautiful women” and dislikes “lazyness, external varibles [sic] and functions in C++ code.” A PC Gamer interview with Zagrebelnyy from later in his career details some of his more relevant passions from an early age: Playing with toy trucks at home and watching real-life trucks and excavators working in hostile terrain.

That truck fascination stuck with Zagrebelnyy, and while holding down a day job at Saber, Zagrebelnyy began tooling with a physics-based off-road driving sim tech demo in his spare time. It was the seed of what would eventually become Spintires. Early versions of Spintires are fairly simple, but what was most notable about the demo was its terrain deformation physics system, which would go on to become a key part of Spintires and its subsequent sequels.

Zagrebelnyy entered Spintires into Intel’s 2009 Level Up game development competition, winning first prize for Best Threaded Game (for how well it performed on multiple processor cores) and second prize for Best Game Optimized for Intel Graphics. It was this that caught the attention of a small UK web and software development firm called Oovee. For its first few years of business since it opened in 2008, Oovee had been focused on releasing add-ons and DLC for train simulator game series Train Simulator. But Saxton and his colleagues were so intrigued by Zagrebelnyy’s demo that they reached out to see if he’d be interested in hosting it on Oovee’s website.

Zagrebelnyy accepted the offer, and his demo was soon available on Oovee’s site. As Milsom told me, the reception to the Oovee-hosted Spintires was positive enough that around 2011, Saxton suggested Zagrebelnyy work with Oovee to release a full version. As a result, Zagrebelnyy ended up in a consultancy agreement with Oovee to develop Spintires, while also working full-time at Saber.

The arrangement between Zagrebelnyy and Oovee continued for several years, until Oovee took Spintires to Kickstarter and successfully raised £60,935 in 2013. Around that time, Zagrebelnyy parted ways with Saber to focus full-time on Spintires, and a full version published by Oovee was released in 2014. It briefly became the best-selling game on Steam, and remained in the top 10 for weeks after, selling 100,000 copies in just 18 days. Milsom told me in our call that it even outperformed Grand Theft Auto for a few days.

Unfortunately, it is with that unexpected success that Spintires’ past, present, and future began to get very, very murky.

Through the Mud

Spintires was a clear hit for Oovee. In the year prior to its release, Oovee’s total shareholder funds were a meager $14,437. In the year following the launch, those funds had skyrocketed to $1.393 million. The year after was even better. Over the two years, Saxton pocketed an advance of more than $700k, and was able to purchase a $165k Mercedes in 2015 (that, two weeks later, was vandalized with paint stripper). Between the end of 2014 and mid-2016, he also opened a number of separate business ventures in freight hauling, amusements, and other enterprises.

But despite that success, just a few months after launch Zagrebelnyy took to social media to accuse Oovee of shorting him what he was owed for his work on Spintires.

“Sad news… just seemed like the development process started, I almost finished my map and tools to develop mods (free upgrade)… as our Englishmen from oovee together with the loot disappeared,” he wrote in a post to Russian social media platform VK as preserved by a PC Gamer report. “I don’t have permissions to upload the update to Steam. So now I’ll complete and release map editor, in the version it is now, and this will be end of Spintires.”

IGN has tracked down a copy of Zagrebelnyy’s contract with Oovee for work on Spintires, which confirms Zagrebelnyy was entitled to half of everything Oovee received in sales of Spintires, minus taxes and expenses. However, there is no readily available evidence either of the total amount Spintires made, nor of how much Zagrebelnyy was paid in total. The most anyone has said publicly on the matter was a claim from Saxton in 2019 that Zagrebelnyy was paid “multi-millions,” a claim that Milsom reiterated in his interview with me. Oovee – both then and now – has denied Zagrebelnyy’s allegations, saying at the time that he was paid in full per his contract with them and chalking the whole thing up to “communication issues.”

I’ll complete and release map editor, in the version it is now, and this will be end of Spintires.


To the public eye at the time, most of this battle was invisible. But it was apparent that Spintires was suffering as the conflict continued. Updates on the game slowed to a halt in the year following Spintires’ launch, and various bugs and missing features sparked numerous questions and complaints within the popular game’s community. The two parties sometimes seemed ready to come to an agreement, and at others they escalated. In an early 2016 Eurogamer report, Zagrebelnyy said Oovee still owed him “a s***load of money”. However, public filings from the time seemed to show Oovee’s own coffers dwindling as multiple apparent holding companies were spun up by its founders.

While all this was going on, a 2016 Game Developer (then Gamasutra) report addressed yet another related problem: Not only was Spintires not being updated to its audience’s satisfaction, but it wasn’t even functioning at a basic level.

Complaints from players across Reddit and the official Spintires forums alleged that so-called “time bombs” – code set to activate after a certain period of time – were rendering the game unplayable. At the time, rumors abounded that Zagrebelnyy had placed the time bombs himself in an act of direct sabotage, which both Zagrebelnyy and Oovee vehemently denied, saying they were merely anti-piracy measures gone awry and not an act of revenge.

These bugs were eventually fixed, but Oovee has since revised its story. The company now does claim Zagrebelnyy intentionally placed the time bombs in “an opportunity to sabotage Oovee and inflict damage on Spintires.” It attests that while the bombs may very well have been intended as anti-piracy measures initially, Zagrebelnyy then refused to remove them, an act which “severely undermined the operation of the game.” Oovee further claims that when Zagrebelnyy did finally remove the timebombs, he also “removed key features” from Spintires such as dynamic mud chunks, water waves, subparticles of mud and water, wheel tracks, and more defining features that made it stand out.

And so, in the wake of massive financial success, Spintires appeared to be both financially and technically on the verge of implosion, with its community caught in the crossfire of contradictory and incomplete statements.

And all of this came before Oovee met its greatest adversary: Saber Interactive.

Whose Spintires?

In 2015, as money troubles loomed and time bombs went off, Saber officially entered the picture with a truly bombshell accusation: the publisher claimed that it, not Oovee, was the rightful owner of Spintires.

Where did Saber get that idea? Through review of the numerous legal documents associated with the multiple proceedings between the two over the years (especially those from a now-dismissed 2021 trademark dispute over the name Spintires) we can piece together what Saber seems to believe had occurred. Effectively, Saber says Spintires was conceived and created by Zagrebelnyy while he was still a Saber employee, and had allegedly agreed that all work “relating to game materials” would be owned by Saber while he worked there. Saber claims it didn’t know at the time that Zagrebelnyy was working on Spintires for Oovee, and what’s more, it claims that Spintires was built on Saber’s own proprietary technology, and thus contains its own code, used without permission.

Discussions went on behind the scenes for some time, but at some point Zagrebelnyy – his commitment to Oovee either completed or demolished – surprisingly returned to work at Saber Interactive. In August of 2016, the two companies, with Zagrebelnyy seemingly absent from the discussion, finally came to a tenuous agreement. Per the contract, which IGN has viewed in full, Saber agreed to waive its right to sue Oovee over the assets and property it claimed Oovee had stolen, and Oovee would retain ownership over the original version of Spintires, keep the money it had made off it thus far, and retain any future profits. In return, Saber received a license both to publish console ports and “enhancements” to the original Spintires game and make money off them, so long as it paid Oovee a portion of royalties on those new versions.

All of this served to lessen tensions for a time, which is how we got MudRunner – or as it was initially known, Spintires: MudRunner. This was the “enhancement” Saber had promised, and it may have come as a surprise to most of the audience who, at the time, would have been unaware of the conflict between Saber and Oovee. Still, it was a clear solution to the numerous time bomb and technical issues the community had been dealing with, and was largely welcomed by Spintires fans. Spintires: MudRunner was released in October of 2017 to mixed reviews (the PC version was generally better-received), but sold over one million copies in its first year, prompting Saber to announce a sequel (2020’s SnowRunner) in August of 2018.

That success reignited conflict between Oovee and Saber, and eventually grew into the blaze of a legal battle the two are in today. Oovee claims that by the end of 2018, it had yet to see a penny of the royalties owed it, adding that it reached out to ask for a royalty report, and Saber actively refused to provide one.

Without royalties, Oovee says it considered its contract with Saber effectively breached, and in 2019 announced that it would once again be updating the original version of Spintires – which has since included both updates and DLC content. It became a situation as muddy as the games themselves – Saber was still in charge of MudRunner and the upcoming Snowrunner, but was directly competing with Spintires, a game that was theoretically a part of the same series, but owned by another company. This instigated the recent repeated removal and reinstatement of Spintires from Steam as the community looked on in confusion.

While I investigated this story, I made efforts to reach out to all parties named in the various media articles and lawsuits: Zane Saxton, Pavel Zagrebelnyy, IT manager and occasional company spokesperson Tony Fellas, and Oovee director Vincent Milsom. Fellas declined to comment; none of the others responded to multiple inquiries. Zagrebelnyy in particular seems to have gone dark altogether, and I wasn’t able to verify whether he even still remains employed by Saber.

But one person did respond, and told me a story that sheds light on much (though not all) of the uncomfortable murkiness surrounding Spintires’ history: Ex-Oovee employee and original Spintires producer, Reece Bolton. Bolton’s tale is somehow more bizarre than the one we already knew.

The Other Side of Oovee

Reece Bolton first became involved with Oovee around the time of its founding. For a number of years, he mostly did smaller projects for the company, and later took on a voluntary PR role. In January 2014, just months before Spintires was released, he was named studio manager with the intention of creating an in-house development team, as well as taking on the role of producer on Spintires.

Bolton worked closely with Zagrebelnyy on the design and overall development cycle, he says, and confirms Zagrebelnyy’s story about not being paid what he was owed – at least by the time Bolton left the company in April of 2017. He recalls that this failure to pay, as well as Zagrebelnyy’s own powerlessness in response, is a likely enough explanation for the time bomb incident. He suggests that “time bombs” isn’t an appropriate term, but believes Zagrebelnyy may have leveraged bugs in the game’s anti-piracy measures he assumed only he could fix to demand payment.

In addition, Bolton also gave an explanation for the subsequent financial downfall Oovee suffered following Spintires’ initial success. It all allegedly relates back to Saxton’s spending spree in the immediate wake of the game’s release.

He had no interest [in reinvesting] to make more games.


“Simply put, Zane was hemorrhaging money through his frivolous spending,” Bolton claims. “He bought a house, two yachts, over 10 cars including multiple AMGs, Land Rovers and Dodge SRTs. He also bought a fairground ride and a haulage firm. He had no interest [in reinvesting] to make more games. He had plenty of debt to pay, including to Pavel, but he stopped paying that as well. He even directed all future payments of Spintires from Steam to go to the account of an unrelated business so that there would be no record of it.”

And then there’s the dispute with Saber. According to Bolton, when Zagrebelnyy was brought in to work on Spintires, he was given leeway to put together a team of other contractors to help him create assets and assist with coding – almost all of whom, Bolton says, worked for Saber. “Oovee had no programmers, artists, or any game development staff at all,” he says.

It’s not surprising to hear that Bolton also affirms Saber’s accusations that its proprietary assets and code were used in Spintires – after all, it was allegedly being made by Saber staff in their spare time. Milsom told me that when Saber discovered this, the rival publisher failed to provide any evidence for stolen assets, tech, or code. But Bolton says differently.

“Saber was not interested in shutting us down, rather it just wanted to find some resolution,” Bolton says. “As part of its efforts to prove that [its] code was used, Saber shared code with us from its own engine that we compared with the code in Spintires, and they were identical.

“Saber suggested that in an effort to settle the dispute, it would be willing to create a port to Spintires for console and to also put any changes and improvements back on the PC. Since Oovee had no money and no interest in doing that work, this was an easy decision for Zane. He was able to eliminate his liability to Saber for stealing code and assets… This was a major win for Zane. He essentially lost nothing and was able to keep all the money from Spintires – the money that he owed to Pavel, the money that he owed to Saber for stealing their code and assets. I thought he was the luckiest guy on earth.”

Saber shared code with us from its own engine that we compared with the code in Spintires, and they were identical.


Bolton even has a possible explanation for why Saber didn’t pay royalties – it may have believed Oovee had broken its new contract before it even began.

According to Bolton, Saber began receiving cease-and-desist letters from European publisher IMGN.pro after it announced MudRunner for consoles, stating that IMGN.pro had been granted the console rights to the franchise long before Saber had signed its deal. Bolton claims that he didn’t find out Saxton had granted these rights to IMGN until the deal with Saber was signed, and admits that from the outside, it probably looked a lot like Saxton had committed fraud in his settlement with Saber. Bolton’s claim lines up with accusations made in Saber Interactive’s recent lawsuits, including statements that it considered the contract broken as a result in late 2018, months before Oovee declared the same. It was at that time that the Spintires prefix was removed from MudRunner, and would explain why Saber insists to this day it doesn’t owe Oovee anything.

By this time, Bolton had already left the company, claiming that he too was a victim of Oovee’s alleged financial double-dealings:

“While employed by Oovee, I received bonuses and was eventually told by Oovee’s accountants that I needed to complete a tax return to account for them,” Bolton says. “It turns out that they classified my bonuses as contract work for research and development for Spintires. R&D in the UK on video games entitles the company to massive tax savings in the form of credits. I later learned that Oovee also falsified invoices from Pavel (for work done in Russia) and claimed significant tax credits that they were not entitled to.

“So in the end, not only did Oovee steal from Pavel and Saber, but it also stole from the UK tax authorities and put me in a situation where ultimately I had additional tax liability that Zane promised to cover and didn’t.”

The Case of the Vanishing Developers

The tire tracks almost entirely ended here, and all that remained to follow were a series of bizarre lawsuits, countersuits, and exhibits that created more questions than answers. While I had been able to piece together a rough timeline of who said what in the ongoing Oovee/Saber conflict, multiple bizarre threads remained unsolved. Why did Zagrebelnyy return to Saber, and why did Saber absolve him? Why did Saber fail to pay any royalties to Oovee? What actually was Oovee – a game development company in crisis, or a get-rich-quick scheme that got lucky on a hunch?

One main piece missing from all this was Saber Interactive’s side of the story, but Saber declined to answer any of my specific questions about what went on between it and Oovee. A spokesperson did send over the following statement following Oovee’s June press release:

“While it is our position to refrain from commenting on details of ongoing matters subject to dispute, we will say the press release by Oovee is nothing more than an attempt to use public opinion to force a settlement. Nearly every line in Oovee’s press statement contains a falsehood or a misrepresentation. Neither [Saber parent company] Embracer nor Saber Interactive owe any royalties to Oovee. The allegations are false, made up and released to the press to influence ongoing litigation and we’re pursuing appropriate remedies against all parties involved in propagating these falsehoods.’”

In a later follow-up closer to this piece’s publication, the company currently known as Saber Interactive noted that the subject of Oovee’s ire is not Saber, but S3D, the apparent legal ghost of the former Saber Interactive after it was acquired by Embracer Group in 2020. Saber pointed out that neither Embracer nor the current Saber Interactive is the subject of litigation at this time. That said, not only are the same folks involved either way, but it’s still the Embracer-owned Saber Interactive that’s filing its own lawsuits against Oovee over tractors and theme songs, though Saber insists these are “taken solely to protect Saber’s rights against IP theft” and are “not in response to any arbitration against an unrelated party (S3D).”

The following statement was supplied to me on behalf of S3D:

“Any arbitration proceedings are strictly confidential, and while Oovee, their lawyers Pinsent Masons and their litigation bankroll firm Augusta may find it appropriate to violate confidentiality provisions, we are committed to adhering to such rules.”

After S3D and Saber, I next pursued Zagrebelnyy, but hit even more dead ends. Saber/S3D PR informed me that Zagrebelnyy was not available for comment, I could not reach him via social accounts, which have largely gone silent (at least publicly) since 2018, nor could I find any public contact information. Any attempts to track down his work email kicked back errors. An email to a Gmail account I confirmed belonged to him back in 2016 didn’t bounce back, but I didn’t get a response.

Next up was Zane Saxton. Another elusive figure at the heart of this story, Saxton appears to have largely gone quiet since around August of 2018, when Milsom joined the company as an investment director. Milsom has since taken on all public-facing communications, a role he’s balanced alongside running a YouTube channel with advice on investing in gold and silver and writing a book on investment in cryptocurrency.

In early August I reached back out to Oovee’s PR firm, Portland Communications, to try and reach Oovee again for follow ups. But a representative told me that it no longer worked with Oovee and, after multiple attempts to reach various legal representatives, I was finally told by Oovee’s US lawyers at Savitt Bruce & Willey LLP that it would not be “appropriate” for anyone to respond to this report.

Not only have Oovee’s key spokespeople quickly retreated from their previous exuberant discussion of this case, but Oovee itself appears to be disappearing. Its website has been publicly unavailable since before I began my investigation, and the Internet Archive indicates it hasn’t functioned at least since 2021. All attempts to email Oovee employees at their official, listed emails bounced back, and according to statements made by Saber in one of its multiple legal battles with the company, its own attempts to call or send mail to Oovee’s listed corporate address have failed.

Oovee’s most recent financials show its shareholder funds well over a million pounds in the red, and Spintires remains its only active project as a games publisher. Milsom and Saxton appear to have incorporated yet another new holding company together just over a year ago, but most of Saxton’s other businesses have been dissolved or are in the process of liquidation (though one holding company appears to still be bringing in a small amount of money). Meanwhile the majority of Oovee’s publicly-visible employees have departed over the years, and apart from Saxton and Devin Milsom, the only other apparent employee is Saxton’s father-in-law, non-executive director Vince Milsom.

Spinning Wheels

One way or another, the years of fighting over Spintires may be nearing an end – at least in a legal sense. One of Saber’s cases against Oovee, regarding an allegedly licensed tractor, appears to be on the verge of being settled in Oovee’s favor. Another case regarding the Spintires theme song, meanwhile, is currently in limbo because Saber can’t get hold of Oovee to serve papers, despite all of its lawyers engaging actively in the tractor case.

But the real endgame appears to be unfolding in UK courts, where Saber Interactive has sued Oovee for libel and slander for its press releases against it and, in a separate and more critical suit, the aforementioned entity S3D and Zagrebelnyy himself are finally after Oovee for that money Zagrebelnyy still claims he is owed.

“With regards to money owed by Oovee to Pavel, S3D and Pavel are joint plaintiffs in a public lawsuit against Oovee for failure to pay Pavel significant royalties for Spintires,” S3D said in its statement. “While it is true that Pavel used S3D’s code and assets to create Spintires, this was discovered long after Oovee decided to simply steal Pavel’s share of the proceeds. Oovee’s position that it can steal from S3D and from Pavel and then play the victim with the press is simply untenable.”

Publicly, Oovee is being battered from all sides. But quietly, it’s putting up one last fight via the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). While details of the suit remain confidential and the outcome has not yet been determined, one exceedingly strange potential clue arrived in my inbox mid-investigation.

In July, an anonymous Protonmail account simply dubbed “Spinfan” sent me a document apparently from the LCIA case, stating only that “I hope this help [sic] your article for Oovee’s defence.”

The email seemingly contained an expert report from former Absolute Entertainment co-founder and game developer Garry Kitchen, who styles himself on his own website as a “sought-after Expert Witness in legal matters concerning video game and mobile app design and development.”

When reached for comment, Kitchen confirmed he was serving as “an independent expert”, but declined to comment further on the case. While the document had all the trappings and formattings of a legitimate court filing, including a case number I was able to verify as applicable to the Spintires dispute, I was unable to verify that the document I received was legitimate.

The most bizarre takeaway from the supposed testimony I was sent was its focus on not Spintires or MudRunner, but SnowRunner. It appears to be an argument from Kitchen that, having apparently examined and played Spintires, MudRunner Mobile, and SnowRunner, he testifies that the two latter games do in fact count as “enhancements” of Spintires due to code and gameplay similarities. It’s not exactly a damning testimony, given that’s what Saber was contracted to make in the first place – so why send it to me?

Presumably someone on the side of Oovee was interested in me seeing it in hopes it would make the company look good, but if so, why this document specifically, especially given its unremarkable conclusion? Or is it possible that someone on the Saber side fired it over, hoping to get someone from Oovee in trouble for sharing confidential documents? I have suspicions; but it may not even be real, and I may never find out the truth.

There is no benefit for any of them in sustaining costly and lengthy litigation.


Given how confounding this entire investigation has been, I spoke with video game lawyer and Berkman Klein Center Harvard Affiliate Micaela Mantegna to get her perspective on this entire chaotic saga. When I asked Mantegna what possible resolution might be available to both parties given everything that’s happened, she questioned the legal process entirely:

“My question would be how good the market for Spintires is [such that it’s] valuable enough to justify such expensive litigation. The best [thing] for everyone would be a private settlement that allows them the exploitation of commercial rights to the work. There is no benefit for any of them in sustaining costly and lengthy litigation.”

With this in mind, the UK court rulings may prove the final nail in the coffin regardless of the outcome. Despite Milsom’s confidence in the LCIA suit when we spoke this past summer, Oovee is seemingly bleeding money, does not appear to have anyone working for it interested in making games, and keeps making damaging blunders like sending out a defaming media statement that Saber added to its evidence pile (and possibly leaking confidential court documents! Who can say?). It’s hard to imagine an Oovee that can sustain a fight much longer, which means that Spintires itself may well be gone for good.

Really, there are only a handful of things that are plain. One is that, easy as it is to cheer for the little David fighting a big Goliath, matters in actual game development aren’t always that simple. Certainly there are countless stories of money and power being wielded harmfully, and the story of Saber and Oovee is no different. But it’s always worth questioning and examining the motivations of everyone involved in disputes of money, ownership, work, and art.

But another even more unfortunate truth of this battle is that regardless of who is in the right, there are always innocent – or at least more innocent – people caught in the crossfire. Zagrebelnyy, who I never managed to track down, initially just wanted to make a game about the muddy trucks he loved. It’s likely we’ll never know whether his strange movement through this story was malicious or blundering, but whichever it is, his onetime passion project was taken out of his hands and tossed into a messy war beyond his power to fight. Both Zagrebelnyy and Bolton claim they lost significant amounts of money through no fault of their own, and while Zagrebelnyy stands to potentially get that money back, it doesn’t look like Bolton ever will.

And then there’s the Spintires community that has stuck around for years, having been repeatedly misdirected as to what was going on in the game they loved. Now, they may never get a chance to share Spintires with friends, and unless it’s miraculously reinstated by one of the two battling companies, will eventually lose the ability to play it altogether, as hardware slowly fails or is replaced.

Though some seem perfectly happy with MudRunner and SnowRunner, every few months or so, someone pops into the subreddit to ask why they can’t find, download, or update Spintires, only to be met with a hopeless response from a community that still doesn’t fully understand why its game of choice has been in limbo for over a decade.

Perhaps they never will. The fault for that seems to fall at the feet of, well, everybody else involved.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.



[ad_2]

Trending