For smaller developers, contracting outside work is pretty standard stuff. Orion dev David Prassel wasn’t doing anything unusual when he brought on an artist to work on his game.
His artist, however, did something that I’m hoping is considered non-standard. He stole assets from another game. He also chose one of the most popular game series on earth to steal from, Call of Duty. As a result, people spotted the theft pretty quickly, as evidenced by the above image, created by NeoGAF user Low-G.
Call of Duty publisher Activision sent Valve a DMCA takedown notice, causing the game to disappear from Steam. Prassel asked people to protest it until Activision showed him what they found. He updated his initial Steam forum posting:
Last night I received evidence directly from Activision regarding assets not even mentioned in public yet. Upon receiving this, it became immediately apparent that blatant rips were made. While the artist offered to remake any assets at no cost, he has now been fired immediately upon learning this. This will slightly affect production, and I will get into that later.
Prassel’s post is pretty extensive, and he notes a couple other instances of similar activity with this very game. An earlier build of the game used what was essentially a designer’s fan artwork for Natural Selection 2. It wasn’t an official asset, nor was it intended to be used in the final product of Orion, but it was spotted pretty quickly all the same. Another instance involved an artist using art from Primal Carnage as base art to create off of, which was taken down upon notice. Prassel writes that he “also personally apologized [to the developer] in person at a conference. They did not accept it.”
It’s possible this is reflective of Prassel, but it also seems like the artists might be amateur artists who don’t know the difference between “taking inspiration” and “ripping off.” The game is back on Steam, sans stolen works, just in case you feel like shooting dinosaurs with lasers.