[UPDATE] Project Director of ORION: Prelude, David Prassel, Leaving His Employees High and Dry?

[UPDATE] Project Director of ORION: Prelude, David Prassel, Leaving His Employees High and Dry?

If you’ve been following the craziness here on DualShockers, earlier today I reported to you fine folks about some allegations that were thrown at David Prassel, project lead for Spiral Game Studios’ upcoming sci-fi dino-shooter ORION: Prelude. The situation has actually escalated a bit since then, with another designer with the username “Ezekiel” lamenting his displeasure with David in a particularly long, detailed post in the reddit thread, and another presumably disgruntled employee posting download links to the GDC build of ORION in our own comments section.

Now Spiral Game Studios has released a statement on their website explaining their side of the story, with this key bit of information:

There are currently claims going around stating that I am a fraud and that I raised $20,000 on KickStarter to simply run away with it and fire the entire team.

I can assure you I didn’t take $20,000 and fire the entire company. We actually only raised just shy of $16,000 after the fees. We are paying 9 developers over $4,000 USD for the GDC game build.  Another $10,000 is budgeted for content over the course of the summer as we build up the Multiplayer Beta. The other funds were attributed towards things like GDC preparation (documents, materials, flyers, hand outs), GDC attendance (tickets, hotel, etc) as well as ordering and shipping the actual KickStarter gifts.

Quite frankly, the rest of that statement doesn’t really have much in the way of concrete evidence; it all seems to read like defensive PR fluff. Fortunately, I’ve been in contact with both Daniel Doerksen, the artist originally responsible for the accusations, and Michael Prassel, brother of David and VP of Spiral Game Studios. Read on for the details.

Both were extremely gracious to tell their stories, so I asked them to clarify on a couple points regarding the situations. Right off the bat, Daniel wanted to mention that it wasn’t about money at all, but more about the ethics in question. “The amount of compensation we are talking about here is so minimal that its not really worth considering,” he replied, adding, “getting paid 2 dollars a hour wont exactly pay the bills.”

He explained the situation quite clearly to me, as well as his justifications behind that thread on Polycount:

“I talked to David right after I was removed from the team and we exchanged a few emails, it was quite bothersome to hear the lack of explanation for why he removed me. Not much was resolved and I was going to walk away from it all to be honest. As the game industry is merely a door I want to keep open, if a opportunity arises. However a couple weeks later I was informed a concept artist and the entire sound team was removed. At that point it was too much, I felt like I needed to take a stand for all this. So at that point I created the thread on PC to gauge people’s reactions and to possibly correct myself if I was in the wrong.”

And what of the other numerous claims of alleged unprofessionalism by “team members” in the reddit thread? “Ezekels post on reddit is accurate and I can vouch for him,” Daniel states. “I can confirm atleast 4 posts from memory that I know are real, and additional ones that have contacted me via Skype or Facebook.”

So what did Michael Prassel, VP of Spiral Game Studios, have to say regarding the situation? Unfortunately, regarding Daniel’s situation, he remained tight-lipped, saying, “I can’t discuss anything regarding Daniel right now as we are talking with him privately and trying to come to a solution to make both sides happy.” Fair enough, so I inquired about the sound designers, Curtis and Marcus, that were recently let go as well. “We parted ways with Curtis because we had different visions for where the game should go. Marcus was let go for making some decisions at GDC that David and I thought were questionable and we decided we no longer wanted to do business with him. He is a fantastic composer though and we wish him the best of luck.” Additionally Prassel wanted to make it clear that “both Marcus and Curtis’s contributions are being removed from [Spiral Game Studios].”

I also was curious to know how the Kickstarter funds were allocated accordingly. From what I had read, Spiral Game Studios was a team of about twenty developers, designers, artists, etc, and yet according to the statement, only nine of those twenty developers were compensated. “The Kickstarter fundraiser was for people who helped us make the 1 month push for our GDC build,” Michael replied. “Some developers were not used or did not contribute work for the build. We have already started to make payments to our developers who did do work and we have budgeted more money to try and finish our Multiplayer Beta.”

That makes sense, but why wasn’t Daniel compensated? “My work has been used in every media release since source,” he responded, adding, “I have full evidence. Mind you the releases that have 3D models not just 2D artwork.” Also, take it with a grain of salt, but even though Michael Prassel has stated that they’re starting to make payments, Daniel claims that “its still speculation that he is paying; no one has received anything yet.”

Ultimately, it’s still far too soon to tell who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong, and if there’s even a clear case of one party being right and the other being wrong. However, while it may just be a case of a bunch of disgruntled employees acting out, there does seem to be some things from Daniel’s story that ring true, and his willingness to provide full transparency and proof on the matter seems to further solidify his stance that he was indeed wronged.

Whatever the case may be, I do certainly hope that things get resolved in a civilized matter, as both parties seem to be willing to cooperate. If any other news surrounding this comes up, we’ll be sure to update you all as soon as we can.

Join the Discussion

  • I was a team member of the Orion project for 6 months, and am well acquainted with the entire team. I have stayed out of the allegations thus far due to the fact that I quit significantly before this event occurred. Despite this, I have to address the incorrect allegations towards the Audio composer, Marcus Zuhr. The reason Marcus’ name is mentioned so often is due to the professionalism and dedication he showed throughout an incredibly difficult project. Anyone who worked with this company will know that we were pushed to some pretty extreme points, I myself blacked out from lack of sleep twice getting a PAX trailer deadline finished. Not only did Marcus extend himself beyond normal bounds in setting up meeting with publishers, purchasing his own plane tickets to support David, and biting his tongue in some very nearly abusive work environments, he also made ALL HIS DEADLINES.

    David, I don’t know what happened between you and Marcus (from what I heard you were barely talking to him at the end) but if you want to start firing people for being “unprofessional”, I would like to mention the time you called my boyfriend at 5 in the morning and then harassed him all day at his job with Zipper Int. because the ground plane in UDK was “a little too purple for your liking”.

    • Skylar

      Well said annie.

      • Nawrot

        It looks, that i made right decission and quit Orion before he turned to be really proffesional with his demands and unprofessional with his salary (or with what he offers in return). Demanding corporate crap without corporate payment (or payment at all) is just one big WTF?

  • I was on the team for a few months, Marcus is an incredibly skilled and patient man.

  • glaucoma82

    I worked on Orion for nearly 8 months back in 2010 and I can confirm that all of the allegations against David Prassel are true. He is nothing but an egotistical, pretentious asshole who uses other people to get work done and then fires them without warning or compensation. He has been hiring and firing teams for nearly a decade because his poor leadership never yields any good results, but he only blames others rather than himself. I never even expected any money personally, nor did my NDA state I would receive any, but I watched guys like Daniel Doerksen and Marcus Zuhr and Kyle Hadley work their asses off to meet horrible deadlines and then they were fired from the team without compensation. That is incredibly unethical and arrogant of Praz and it shows his true character. This is evidence of karma, what goes around comes around Praz, you’ve ruined your own reputation and career.

    • Skylar

      if I could say amen to that..

  • Sylenazeur

    @Allen Park: On your comment “However, while it may just be a case of a bunch of disgruntled employees acting out, there does seem to be some things from Daniel’s story that ring true, and his willingness to provide full transparency and proof on the matter seems to further solidify his stance that he was indeed wronged.”

    I’m kind of disappointed in your statement that he’s fully transparent. I actually fail to see how he’s provided solid evidence/proof of him being wronged.

    Let me explain, there’s a lot of sayings on the internet about how it’s a bunch of “disgruntled employees”, but why has there been no one who has worked with David, or been on the team that has stood up for Spiral Game Studios? Nowhere have I found a person voicing how they 1) Got paid reasonably well 2) Enjoyed and loved working with Spiral/David and lastly 3) Is speaking up in David’s defense, outside of himself and his brother.

    Also, transparency is only valid when it pertains to the issue. Stating how Kickstarter funds were allocated is a very sneaky, side-stepping method of “providing evidence” without actually giving away anything. We are talking about the fact that David, as a Project Leader, is a horrible & lying Developer. He skirts the truth, changes facts, and manipulates the media….

    Plus, what happened to Daniel? Have you interviewed him yet about his “talks” with Spiral? If any? What about all the other Developers who have stepped forward? What have you done to interview their side of the story? I’ve been reading some of their comments, like Annie’s down below, and they make sense as much as “David’s side of the story”.

    I’m curious, this is something that pertains to all of us Game Developers, professional or Indie. We’re sick and tired of abusive and conniving Studios who take advantage of the passion and dedication we put into creating games. I want to know, and as Gamers, we should all be supporting good, hard-working Developers who want to make great games, not take advantage of the people who put their heart into projects. Or else you’re going to just keep getting half-assed CoD/Halo clones like Orion forever, made by guys who don’t deserve our money.

    • Uh, maybe instead of going off on me you should learn to not mistake the names “David” and “Daniel”. I want to be impartial in this, but after that statement from Spiral that was all PR fluff, I can’t help but side with Daniel in this one. He’s offered to give me proof and evidence regarding the fact that his assets and work was used in all the media releases so far, whereas I’ve gotten none of that transparency from the other side.

      According to Daniel, he’s in private talks with Michael, and hopes everything will be resolved by Friday. As for the other members, I’ve been searching for ways to contact them, and Daniel’s the only one I’ve had success contacting. f any of you want to come forward and give me your side of the story, by all means e-mail me at allen@dualshockers.com and I’ll ask you a few questions.

      • Sylenazeur

        You’re absolutely correct Allen, and I sincerely apologize , I did mistake the names, and no matter the situation, I should not have been inflamed in my writing to an impartial witness.

  • Somethingbumble

    “The Truth About Spiral (or at least David)
    I’d like to share my experiences with David.

    As many of you know, I work for Spiral- at least, I did until a few hours ago, when David fired me over a disagreement (which I’ll explain below). I’ll provide some background information first, however.

    I accepted the position (composer, which later became co-composer as my friend joined the project) a few months ago. I was offered an extremely low salary with the agreement that rates would increase after the release of the first game. I’d planned to make a bit of extra profit through the soundtrack album; we’d agreed to split all profits from album sales. I was told that the album would be released alongside the game on Steam- and David promised me that he’d “push the album as hard as he pushed the game”, so I thought it’d get plenty of sales. 

    I’m not going to comment on any of the allegations that David has fired employees without paying them, as that subject has been discussed to death. What I will say is that all the rumors about him being a nightmare to deal with are 100% true. He’s always great to the new hires, and he’s friendly and such as long as people do what he says. I myself was mislead by this attitude for the months leading up to the release, as I suspect were most others. Whenever someone dares to disagree with him, however, he reveals his true colors- he’s arrogant, stubborn, and rude in general. I noticed this pattern quite a few times during my time with the company. 

    David told us, a few days before release, that some mysterious Valve employee said we couldn’t release the album on Steam for some mysterious reason. This did-and still does- seem rather odd to me, given that many indie games have soundtracks on Steam, but for me the telling part was what he did afterwards. Despite his previous assertion that he’d “push the album as hard as he pushed the game”, he didn’t market the album in any other channels or even question Valve’s alleged decision to not make the album available on Steam. In fact, when I asked him to ask Valve why they’d decided not to sell the soundtrack on Steam, I was met with something along the lines of ‘You don’t need it to be on Steam, market it yourself.’

    Earlier today, I asked him once again to talk with Valve about the album. I mean, let’s face it- at least 80-90% of an OST’s sales come from the same channel as the game, not from iTunes, Bandcamp, etc. I was met with the same ‘do it yourself’ response, and when I pushed further, he really became quite a bit more abrasive. He told me “he not only had more important things to do, but more rewarding things to do” and “if I wanted more, I’d have to do more”. 

    When I told him that marketing on other venues would not help much, he came back with (word for word) “i can find people to do more for less, so tryng to order me around or talk back to me probably wont bode to wel for you”. 

    And when I tried to bring up his previous statement that he’d push the album has hard as the game itself, I was met with- you guessed it- “sorry but you’re gone”

    I encourage anyone who is dissatisfied with the game to ask for a refund from Valve, though I’m not sure if that’s possible anymore. I highly doubt the game is going to get much better with such a leader at the helm. Above all, don’t take David at his word if he promises something- he clearly is perfectly content with violating his word.

    I’m sure many of you have seen my earlier posts defending David. I was quite sincere at the time- I was not forced or coerced by Spiral into defending them- but recent events have drastically changed my perspective.

    One last thing. The team themselves are great people. Don’t give them flak, because they really are trying their hardest. Save it for David.

    Last edited by Aakaash R: 07-09-2012 at 08:35 PM.”


  • Somethingbumble

    Thomas Moreau, an independent modeler from France posted his story about working for Prassel and not being paid in full as contracted.  His post was deleted from the Steam forum.