Anger and threats following Spilt Milk fallout
Contractor and studio dispute IP ownership and payments for iOS game Hard Lines
Former collaborators Spilt Milk Studio and contractor Nicoll Hunt are engaged in a legal and verbal battle over iOS game Hard Lines, highlighting the sour disputes that rage following success in the booming indie games sector.
Hunt is accusing Spilt Milk founder Andrew Smith of withholding profits from the sale of Hard Lines and using his IP without permission, an accusation that Smith denies.
Amongst a war of words, Smith terminated Hunt's contract after the developer said he was no longer interested in taking the game to different platforms or developing it further on iOS, but Hunt claims he's owed money for the releases and has since sent cease and desist letters to Apple and Spilt Milk because he owns the intellectual property.
Although both parties had originally told GamesIndustry.biz they had "proof" that the other was in the wrong and were willing to provide it, each backed away from their original statements when asked for clarification.
Hunt has told media he was the "sole coder and main developer" for Hard Lines and that he "conceived the initial idea", although in previous interviews the duo are agreed it was a joint effort to create a game inspired by the iconic bike racing segments in the movie Tron.
Hunt, who has previously work at Codemasters and Realtime Worlds, claims his share of sales is being withheld, but Smith has suggested he is being paid his dues for the iOS and Android versions of the game. Indeed, Hunt admits that he has received some payments for both versions of the game.
"The last monthly payment I received relating to the iOS version was on November 10 2011. I received a payment on January 16 2012 which has been attributed to revenue from the Android build of the game. I'm led to believe that was paid when the company responsible for the Android port explicitly asked Spilt Milk Studios if my share had been passed on to me," he told GamesIndustry.biz.
The cease and desist letters sent to Spilt Milk and Apple have so far been ineffective. Both parties have privately expressed disappointment at a situation where legal threats have been made amongst a team that was originally working closely in the growing mobile gaming space.
But now Hunt wants the game taken down from app stores and for alleged outstanding payments to be honoured.
"In theory court action could be the next step but I really don't think that anyone wants it to go that far," he added. "The amount of money generated from Hard Lines isn't that substantial and the time and effort involved in court proceedings would not be representative of the assets involved.
"Similarly Split Milk Studios should pay me what I am owed. If those things happen I'm happy for that to be the end of the matter - though maybe at that point we could then have a balanced discussion about what happens next with Hard Lines. Until then I don't see why Spilt Milk Studios should be entitled to use my IP for their own benefit and without paying me my agreed share."
Spilt Milk Studios has declined to comment further on the situation.