Popular Steam driving game Spintires has had a rough week so far. The game completely shattered this week, breaking down to the point where it was unplayable, and the media were quick to their conspiracy theories. Granted, with such a tumultuous history, the tense relationship between developer Pavel Zagrebelnyy and publisher Oovee was a treasure trove of contention. However, the conclusions that mainstream media outlets jumped to were conflated, circumstantial and potentially downright harmful. And so begins our saga of What Happened to Spintires…
Communication and Pay Disputes
The crux of the situation is the fact that Pavel Zagrebelnyy is apparently, as he delicately puts it, owed “a shitload of money” from his publisher. These pay disputes have been going for nearly two years now, and almost shut the project down late 2014. Though both parties have appeared civil in public, claims of lack of communication and downright contract infringement have been cropping up throughout the project. Herein lie the seeds for the raucous tree of rumour and circumstantial conclusions.
The lack of communication both between the developer and publisher, and the publisher and gaming community, combined with past conflict, led to the theory of sabotage. Everyday players, Reddit users, and the media began to connect the crashing of the game with such conflict, bringing them to the neat conclusion that Zagrebelnyy had planted his own ‘time bomb’ codes into the game to get back at his publishers. Media outlets across the internet ran with the theory, with even big names like VG 24/7 and PC Gamer erring on the side of the fanatical.
Statements released today from both Zagrebelnyy and Oovee confirm that the team were aware of the issues last week and are working together to get the game fixed. These statements are probably to be taken in the loosest sense of the words ‘working [together]’ as it’s probably not all sunshine and rainbows over there between the two of them. Zagrebelnyy also informed Gamasutra of the specifics of the issue when Oovee seemed unable to provide paying gamers with any information.
“There is in fact a time-related bug (a self-check uses time functions to see if game wasn’t cracked by pirates) which was not fixed in time (because we have little to no communicating with Oovee”
“I would never do something that would affect the gamers!”
Though the breakdown is due in part to the traumatic relationship between publisher and developer here, it is unreasonable to suggest that it was an active move by one party to disestablish the other. Why would Zagrebelnyy sabotage his own game to send a message to his publishers? In the state of the gaming industry today, every title a developer puts out into the world needs to be the height of their ability at that time to even get noticed. It is completely counter-intuitive for Zagrebelnyy to lose paying players on purpose over a pay dispute. Why would he want his name on a defective product?
Another issue at work here is the media’s reliance on public forums. Reddit is an invaluable tool across 21st century journalism, and represents a cutting edge global conversation that creates, innovates, and reinvents discourse. However, when it’s used in mainstream media it needs to be fact checked. What seems to have happened here is a dangerous coupling of fast-spreading rumour and slow-talking publishers.