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Indie developer admits game used ‘Call of Duty’ artwork

Update: Developer Trek Industries’ David James announced Wednesday that Trek Industries has found some of the gun design from its game, Orion, were lifted from Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Advanced Warfare in a blog post on Steam.

“Last night I received evidence directly from Activision regarding assets not even mentioned in public yet,” James said. “Upon receiving this it became immediately apparent that blatant rips were made.”

Orion, a first-person shooter in Steam Early Access, was delisted from the online storefront Monday, thanks to a copyright complaint submitted by Activision. At first, this appeared to be a classic case of a large developer using its size to strong-arm a small-fry — but it soon emerged that the situation wasn’t quite as it seemed.

Activision claimed that Orion lifted weapon designs from two Call of Duty games; Black Ops 3 and Advanced Warfare. However, given that many of the weapons used in the franchise are based on real-life firearms, there was some confusion as to whether this complaint was valid. The game’s developer, Trek Industries, soon chimed in with a post on the title’s Steam Community page, decrying the DMCA request as an “erroneous claim” with no basis in fact. A pair of comparison pictures accompanying the post appeared to legitimize the argument.

Related: Microsoft’s PC releases will come to Steam, but the company isn’t saying which

However, there’s no shortage of fact-checkers on the internet, and the evidence soon found its way to video game forum NeoGAF. A thread discussing the situation soon gravitated to the fact that the images released by Trek Industries compared the weapons from two very different angles. A more direct comparison of certain guns from Call of Duty and Orion appeared to be very similar.

Trek received a formal list of the assets Activision claimed were copied from their games Tuesday. According to the post on Wednesday, James said all of the offending art has been removed from the game, and that the artist responsible for the copied assets has been fired. He specified, however, that the assets Activision targeted had not been the guns cited on NeoGAF.

Trek Industries has previously been implicated in content theft, according to a report from Game Informer. Back when the studio was known as Spiral Games, it was found to be using unlicenced photos for in-game achievement icons, and was separately accused of using assets from games like Tribes Ascend and Natural Selection 2.

As of July 1st, Orion has gone back on sale on Steam.

Updated by Michael Epstein on 7-1-2016: Added coverage of Trek Industries follow-up post.