Orion: Dino Horde dev hits back at allegations of Metacritic manipulation

UPDATE: Horde replaces Beatdown on Metacritic - but reviews carry over.

UPDATE 2: Orion: Dino Beatdown has been replaced by Orion: Dino Horde on Metacritic - but its Metascore has carried over.

Yesterday Eurogamer brought you the news that gamers had complained about Orion: Dino Horde's separate listing on the review aggregation website amid claims it was nothing more than a “re-skin” of the critically mauled Beatdown and thus not deserving of a second chance.

Developer Spiral Game Studio has rejected these claims, insisting Horde is both an update and a sequel to Beatdown.

The new listing for Horde on Metacritic has a 36 out of 100 Metascore based on five reviews of Beatdown from last year.

“As with any game that has been patched or improved over the weeks and months following its initial release and critical reception, those initial reviews follow the game,” Metacritic boss Marc Doyle told Eurogamer.

Horde launched this week on Steam, replacing Beatdown's product page on Valve's digital platform. As it stands Beatdown is unavailable to purchase.

As with any game that has been patched or improved over the weeks and months following its initial release and critical reception, those initial reviews follow the game.

Metacritic boss Marc Doyle

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UPDATE 1: Spiral Game Studios boss David Prassel has admitted to locking threads and banning users who speak out about Orion: Dino Horde on Steam.

"There are things I am guilty of," he told Eurogamer.

"This most recent launch had the return of some users who were keen on continuing not only spreading false information, but information from nearly two years ago," he said.

"Typically we at Spiral don't ban or even manage threads and we leave that to Steam moderators. However, this time I did partake and probably too aggressively.

"I have stopped doing any sort of involvement on those forums since yesterday morning minus official updates or helping users with issues."

Prassel said he shouldn't be handling PR because "I am way too passionate about Orion".

"Anyone that knows me knows that I love this IP, probably to a disgusting and unhealthy degree. It's been with me for over 15 years and it's weirdly like a child to me. Not only am I protective of the game itself but I also love all my developers and appreciate how hard they work, especially with their performance on Orion: Dino Horde.

"So when I see these blatant attacks, or even in some cases, flat-out lies, it affects me way more than it would some PR company (or likely more than it should, period) but money is tight as an indie and so of course we simply have to always try our best and make do WHICH is most of the time."

He continued: "You can find insane amounts of examples of me interacting with fans on the forums, Facebook, posting my public email for anyone to contact or if they have issues, playing and hosting as many games as possible to interact and get feedback from them. It's obsessive, almost."

Amid complaints that Horde is nothing more than a less-buggy Beatdown and thus not deserving of its own place on the hugely influential Metacritic, Prassel insisted it "deserves its own time with reviewers".

Typically we at Spiral don't ban or even manage threads and we leave that to Steam moderators. However, this time I did partake and probably too aggressively.

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ORIGINAL STORY: The developer of team-based first-person shooter Orion: Dino Beatdown, a game panned by critics, has responded to allegations of Metacritic manipulation with the release of its new game, Orion: Dino Horde.

Steam users have accused Orion: Dino Horde, which has replaced Orion: Dino Beatdown on Valve's digital platform, of being little more than a "re-brand".

Orion: Dino Beatdown launched in May 2012 and settled on a Metascore of 35. Earlier this week a new game, called Orion: Dino Horde, replaced Dino Beatdown on Steam and was submitted to Metacritic. There, it is yet to receive a Metascore, but it has a user score of 3.5 based on 82 ratings.

"Gamer_217" submitted a user score of 0, saying: "Re-branding an old and critically panned game to avoid being associated with bad word of math [sic] and review scores is disgusting. It's the same game as Orion: Dino Beatdown."

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Spiral Game Studios boss David Prassel denied this, telling Eurogamer Orion: Dino Horde's situation was "unique". He insisted it was "both a sequel and an update" to Beatdown.

"Unique in the sense that the first game (Dino Beatdown) had a horrible launch that we were not only ashamed of but determined to 'right' for the fans that wanted the game they knew could be there and more importantly deserved.

"In short, it is both a sequel AND an update (to existing owners of Dino Beatdown) who receive a upgrade to the new game for free (as a digital thank you letter) for their support and understanding during Dino Beatdown's embarrassing launch.

"But it is most certainly a sequel and it's quite a huge game, especially when compared to Dino Beatdown."

According to Prassel, Dino Horde has six more dinosaurs, four more game modes, nearly 50 more achievements and over 20 more weapons and gear than Beatdown had. There are five more levels and "plenty of other drastic and huge additions and comparisons", he said.

Prassel pointed to the addition of a new graphics engine, new animations and new netcode, among other things. He hoped Horde's release would "restore the company", "restore the game brand", which he admits was "tarnished", and "give the players what they want".

Some gamers remain unconvinced, however, insisting Horde is less buggy than Beatdown but largely the same game. And as the debate rages on, Prassel stands accused of deleting threads that contain negative comments on Steam and banning users. This image collects recent events.

Prassel, once again stressing the changes outlined above, has said those who accuse Horde of being a "re-skin" are "trolling", "dishonest" and "an insult to all of the developers that worked their asses off to bring you this hugely improved game for free".

Controversy is nothing new to Spiral Game Studios and Prassel. In recent years a number of former employees have spoken out about their experience of working there on a number of websites, including Reddit. One article, on Gather Your Party, alleged poor working conditions, exploitation and mistreatment.

Spiral has also been dogged by accusations of asset stealing, specifically from Natural Selection 2 and Primal Carnage. Speaking to Eurogamer, Prassel blamed this on "genuine mistakes or misinterpretations".

He admitted Orion: Prelude, a pre-alpha tech demo, used a Natural Selection 2 armoury mesh in place of a Supply Station, "but the model was not ripped or stolen in any way".

It was created by a Spiral freelancer, Prassel said. "While it was most certainly not created FOR our game, it was created as a personal portfolio piece as he was always very inspired by their concept art.

"We are a VERY small developer and so we (like most) use what we have available to act as visual representations for ideas to come or systems in place of very early game builds. It was a mistake that it was captured in a trailer at all, but a genuine one and nothing ill-intended in any way."

We are a VERY small developer and so we (like most) use what we have available to act as visual representations for ideas to come or systems in place of very early game builds.

David Prassel, Spiral Game Studios CEO and founder

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Orion: Dino Horde, released this week on Steam.

Prassel also admitted to using assets from Primal Carnage. "Back in the day me and Ashton [Andersen, founder of Primal developer Lukewarm Media], would talk on Skype and share what each were working on.

"I have always been impressed by what they accomplish and would save some of the dinosaur stuff into a shared 'Moodart / Inspirational' Dropbox folder for the Spiral team to get inspired by. A mistake occurred where a newer illustrator wasn't aware of all of this and ended up using one as a base layer to do a drawover. I wasn't aware of this at the time and when it was brought to our attention by Ashton I immediately apologised and had the image replaced."

In addition to accusations of asset stealing, Prassel's successful $17,686 Kickstarter for Orion: Prelude has been labelled a "scam" by some.

"There is nothing true at all about this," Prassel insisted. "To be honest I don't even know how this is a 'thing'. Not only do we self-develop the games but we also self-publish. We would definitely not be able to have made Orion: Dino Beatdown nor Orion: Dino Horde had I stolen all the money and ran away.

"We've been here the entire time working every single day on a game to give away for FREE because we felt so bad to how the original launched and played out."

Meanwhile, Prassel addressed controversy over a round of layoffs at the studio ahead of the release of Orion: Dino Beatdown, which some have said was an attempt to dodge paying staff for work done on the game.

Prassel confirmed six people were fired. "They were all fired for very serious reasons ranging anywhere from attempted blackmail all the way to attempted theft of hardware.

"They were not employed during a paid period (modding/start-up). They were not given paid tasks. Their work was not used. They were not paid."

Prassel pointed us to a post on the Steam forum, dated May 2012, by former developer Brandon Toomey who painted a different picture of life at Spiral.

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