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

By Allen Park

March 14, 2011

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.”

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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.

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Allen Park

Allen is an utter whore of a gamer; he's completely open-minded to all games, be they AAA blockbusters or $5 casual children's games. His focus is on indie games specifically, valuing gameplay and ingenuity over sparkly visuals and ridiculous gimmicks. When he's not geeking out over the newest art game, he's out toning his sexy, sculpted shoulders while surfing epic 1.5ft waves, or having a good time with local, high-gravity microbrews.

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