Paranautical Activity, a voxelated, roguelike first-person shooter developed by Code Avarice, was pulled from the Steam store after its creator, Mike Maulbeck, posted threatening tweets about Valve founder Gabe Newell.
When the game was released on October 20, its Steam page still listed it as Early Access, which Maulbeck believed would greatly cripple sales. He let loose a vicious stream of angry tweets about Steam and Valve, calling the company “incompetent” and its digital distribution service an “awful f–king monopoly.” The torrent of vitriol climaxed in a cold threat: “I am going to kill gabe newell. He is going to die,” which was since deleted (but captured and posted on the Facepunch forums).
Speaking to Eurogamer, Maulbeck said that he had reached out to Valve a few hours before the Twitter rampage, but did not feel adequately responded to and supported. “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,” he explained.
Valve responded to the Twitter outburst by pulling the game from the online store and canceling Maulbeck’s admin account on Steam, citing his threats as the reason. “Yes, we have removed the game’s sales page and ceased relations with the developer after he threatened to kill one of our employees,” explained Valve’s Doug Lombardi in a statement to Polygon.
Maulbeck has since left Code Avarice over the incident. In a statement published on the studio’s website, Maulbeck expressed remorse that his hot temper damaged the livelihoods of his fellow developers, and announced his departure from the company in the hopes that Valve would reinstate Paranautical Activity, or at least allow the studio to sell future games on Steam. He made clear that he would see no personal gain from the game if Valve does choose to reinstate it: “I’ve sold my half of Code Avarice to Travis. Given up all my rights to CA as a company, and all it’s intellectual properties. I won’t receive any money from the sale of Paranautical Activity or any future games CA develops, I won’t be consulted on business decisions, and I won’t have any hand in development.”
It is an unfortunate turn of events for everyone involved, and underlines some of the problems that can arise in the blurring of public and private life online. Maulbeck, for his part, is aware that managing a public persona has never been his strength: “My temper and tendency to use twitter to vent has been a consistent problem since I entered the games industry, and I just can’t do it. I don’t have the willpower necessary to be the ‘face’ of a company. If I do continue to work in games it’ll be as an anonymous 1 of 1000 at some shitty corporation, not the most public figure of a single digit sized team.”
Paranautical Activity is still available for download on other platforms, such as the Humble Store.