Twitter has consequences. And so do death threats - even ones casually muttered as hyperbole. This is the harsh lesson Paranautical Activity developer Mike Maulbeck learned today when after a Steam snafu erroneously advertised his game as an Early Access title he crossed a line and tweeted a death threat to Gabe Newell. Following this outrage, the game was pulled from Valve's distribution service.
So here's how it went down: Valve promoted Paranautical Activity as a selection of Halloween-themed games on Steam. The problem was it marked the procedurally-generated shooter as an Early Access game when it actually had its full release a couple of weeks back.
"Valve marked our game as 'now on Early Access' as we released the final version (no longer in Early Access). I knew this would greatly cripple sales and confuse customers," Maulbeck explained to Eurogamer in an e-mail correspondence.
"I in fact had already begun getting tweets and e-mails from people claiming I marked it as Early Access myself to try and avoid criticism of the final version."
Dismayed at this harmful error, Maulbeck took to Twitter to blow off some steam about, well, Steam.
"ARE YOU F****** KIDDING ME STEAM? WE JUST RELEASED OUT OF EARLY ACCESS AND THIS IS OUR FRONT PAGE BANNER?" the developer railed in his first Tweet on the issue.
This was followed up by such messages as "First they force me to delay the game because I can't release on weekends, now this. Steam is the most incompetent piece of f****** s***," and "I am so F****** DONE DEALING WITH F****** INCOMPETENT S***s."
And then eventually, in the now-deleted Tweet (captured by Player Attack), "I am going to kill Gabe Newell. He is going to die."
Naturally, this did not go over well at Valve. Paranautical Activity was pulled.
Maulbeck forwarded Eurogamer the following e-mail he received from Valve on the matter:
"On your Twitter account today there were a series of messages where you expressed your frustration with Steam. We are generally comfortable with partners expressing this type of frustration or any other viewpoint directly with us or publicly through social media and the press. But one of your tweets this morning was a threat to kill one of our colleagues. Death threats cross a line. We have therefore decided to end our business relationship with you and Code Avarice."
"We've closed down your Steam admin accounts and we're removing the game from purchase on Steam. We will leave make Community Hub available so that existing customers will continue to have a place to discuss the game. Our understanding is that you're done developing the game, but if you need to ship an update to Steam customers, get in touch with us and we can help ship the update out for you."
Maulbeck reacted to the news with the following tweet: "Welp. PA no longer on Steam. I'm done making videogames now. It sucked while it lasted."
"It's just not possible to make a living in this industry without Steam, so I'm just out," he added, followed by, "Mike blows up at Valve on Twitter. Valve wins because Valve", and "I'm jumping back and forth between killing myself and getting a job at Radio Shack."
He then stated, "People telling me it's f****** stupid to say I wanna kill Gabe. Can I set up a 'no s***' autoresponse on Twitter?"
When pressed for comment on the matter, Maulbeck explained to Eurogamer, "This being a project I spent years of my life on, I was very frustrated by this mistake Valve made, so I tweeted a series of tweets calling them incompetent that eventually ended in me saying 'I swear I'm gonna f****** kill Gabe' or something. A statement I obviously didn't mean, but nonetheless was totally unacceptable and driven entirely by the heat of frustration I was feeling at the time."
"I have since obviously replied to them saying that I didn't mean what I said and pleaded that they consider the monopoly they have on the PC market before totally writing us off, but let's be real. If they took the game off the store, they're f****** sure about their decision," he lamented. "There's probably nothing to be done."
"My tendency to get heated and overly passionate has burned me many times in the past. Guess it was only a matter of time before it burned me to death."
For the record, Maulbeck told us that he did try to contact Valve about the error amicably before ranting on Twitter. "I of course brought the issue to Valve's attention as soon as I saw it," he explained. "The game still sat claiming to be in Early Access for a few hours waiting to be updated. I intelligently spent this time brooding until I eventually tweeted about it."
This is not Maulbeck's first row with Valve as he previously criticised Steam Greenlight when he was once told that he couldn't get Paranautical Activity on Steam directly through publisher Adult Swim since he'd already made a Greenlight page for it. Eventually the game was successfully greenlit anyway, but not through Adult Swim as that deal fell through when the publisher couldn't guarantee a Steam release.
Paranautical Activity may not be available on Steam anymore, but you can still purchase it through the Humble Store, Desura or the developer's website.
We've reached out to Valve to see if it's considering re-instating Paranautical Activity on Steam following Maulbeck's apology. We'll update should we find out more.
In related news, the UK is in the midst of making legal changes to really crack down on online trolling. Do you reckon Maulbeck's punishment in this case was too harsh or not harsh enough?
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