Ark: Survival Evolved Lawsuit Could Force Dev to Remove the Game

The developer behind the popular dinosaur game says the lawsuit "reads more like a salacious tabloid story."

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Ark: Survival Evolved has been one of the biggest surprise hits of the past year. When it was announced in June 2015, many wondered who developer Studio Wildcard was, given it didn't exist before. That question--as well as who should be credited with the creation of Survival Evolved--has now bubbled over into legal action. The Bellevue, Washington-based startup is facing a lawsuit from another developer that, if successful, could see the popular dinosaur game removed from sale, temporarily at least.

Studio Wildcard was sued by Dungeon Defenders developer Trendy Entertainment in December 2015. The studio claims one of their former employees, designer Jeremy Stieglitz--who has since resigned--breached his contract with Trendy and has been working in secret on Survival Evolved.

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According to court documents acquired by Kotaku, Trendy's legal team is arguing that Stieglitz did not adhere to his contractual obligation to not compete with the studio after leaving. Documents showed that his non-compete clause spanned three years, though this was later reduced to one year, ending in August 2015.

Trendy goes on to claim that Stieglitz, in summer 2015 after he left, contacted Trendy employees in an attempt get them to join him on a new project. This was presumed to be a violation of his agreement not to interfere with Trendy. The developer claims Steiglitz got in touch with Trendy to say he would stop contacting its employees, but he reportedly did not keep that promise, instead poaching developers to launch what would become Studio Wildcard.

Trendy further claims that Steiglitz took technology and trade secrets established at Trendy and used them to help launch Ark: Survival Evolved. Overall, Trendy claims that Stieglitz's acts "have had a devastating impact on Trendy's business."

The argument is that Survival Evolved is a direct competitor to Dungeon Defenders, not only for players, but also studio talent. Survival Evolved is a dinosaur-themed survival game, while Dungeon Defenders is an action-RPG/tower defense game.

For its part, Wildcard argued that Stieglitz was not a key player in Survival Evolved's development. However, Trendy doesn't see it that way and is now looking for "injunctive relief and damages" in Florida court. Trendy is based in Gainesville, Florida.

Barring a settlement offer, the case will go to court on April 27. If Trendy is successful in its request for an injunction until the case is settled, it could mean that Studio Wildcard would need to stop work on Survival Evolved and possibly remove the game from sale across PC and Xbox One.

Studio Wildcard said Trendy's claims are "irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous," going on to say the company's complaint "reads more like a salacious tabloid story than a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts."

Co-founder Jesse Rapczak, who formerly worked at Microsoft on the HoloLens team, told Kotaku that Stieglitz "consulted" on Survival Evolved, though the extent of that is unclear. It's also reported that Stieglitz's wife Susan Stieglitz is a co-founder of Studio Wildcard.

Kotaku's story is filled with many more interesting details regarding the case, including how it got to this point, the players involved, and the history between Trendy and Wildcard. Go read it here.

Reached for comment, representatives for both Studio Wildcard and Trendy declined to comment.

In other news about Ark, a free-to-play version of the game, separate from the standard edition, was recently released on Steam. The regular game remains in Early Access on PC and in the Early Access-like Game Preview program for Xbox One. The game is scheduled to see a full release across PC and Xbox One, as well as PlayStation 4, sometime this summer.

For more on Survival Evolved, you can read GameSpot's interview with Rapczak.

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