Trek Industries, the developers behind Orion, an independent science fiction dinosaur shooting game on Steam, has written a post on the Steam forums saying that Valve has removed its game from Steam due to a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Searching for Orion on Google currently yields a link that returns to the front page of the Steam store.
It's a confusing takedown, happening at what may be the worst time for the Orion developers: during Steam's summer sale.
According to the DMCA complaint, the request was made by a representative of Activision, publisher of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
The complaint accuses the Orion developers of copying the models of 3 Black Ops 3 guns: the M8A7 rifle, the Haymaker rifle, and the Bal-27 rifle.
David James, Orion's lead developer, tells Gamasutra that Valve never gave him any advance warning or any screenshots or other information to help explain why the guns would be in violation. "In theory we could do the same thing back to [Activision] for the same reasons," James says. "Its very broken."
After reviewing his game's guns some more, James thinks there might be a visual similarity between his game's auto-shotgun and Black Ops 3's M8A7, but alleges both guns take inspiration from the modern-day M1 Garand, and says that wouldn't be defendable under copyright.
He offered Gamasutra no explanation as to why the designs of other two Black Ops 3 guns mentioned in the complaint might be seen to be infringed upon by Orion.
James is also frustrated because the DMCA request means Orion won't be on Steam during the summer sale, and the 10 business-day period Orion will be offline will dramatically affect their revenue (which James says will effectively be 11 business days with the July 4th holiday.)
We've reached out to representatives from Valve and Activision for comment, and will update this story with any notable replies.
Update: Some sleuthing by Reddit users gathered up evidence to support the legitimacy of Activision's DMCA claim.
Update: James has posted an update on the Steam forums with an Activision's DMCA request. In short, he puts the blame of the misused assets on one of his game's artists, and credits Activision with supplying more information on which assets it said had been lifted from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
James also states that several other in-game assets (which take liberal inspiration from other intellectual properties) will be removed from the game, and that Orion will return to the Steam Marketplace in short order.