Indie developer accuses gun maker Kalashnikov of stealing weapon design

An indie developer is accusing Russia’s biggest arms maker of stealing a shotgun design from its upcoming game and then licensing that design to another game developer.

An IGN investigation reveals that Ward B – a studio made up of former Call of Duty, Halo and Overwatch developers – was approached by Kalashnikov Concern (better known as Kalashnikov) contractor Maxim Kuzin. regarding the design of the EPM28 Mastodon shotgun from its upcoming first-person shooter Oceanic.

Ward B shared images of his weapon designs, including individual components, via social media to generate interest in the game and attract potential investors.

In early 2020, Kuzin reached out to studio CEO Marcellino Sauceda, asking for permission to turn the Mastodon into an actual shotgun—or, more specifically, a weapons kit that would change the look of his MP shotgun— 155.

The design would potentially be licensed for both airsoft and toy versions of the weapon, and Ward B would give the in-game weapon the Kalashnikov brand.

Kuzin confirmed the offer to IGN, but said talks with Ward B were “preliminary.” Sauceda claims the team was happy with the idea and asked for contracts to formalize the deal, but the contracts never arrived.

In August 2020, Kalashnikov announced the MP-155 Ultima, a new version of the shotgun with a different external chassis which, according to the description on the weapons firm’s Facebook post, is inspired by gun designs from games. video.

Sauceda claims it is based directly on the Mastodon. While the overall look of the guns is somewhat different, Ward B’s team points out various specific design elements around the handguard, receiver, and other parts of the Ultima that are very similar. These items have no functional purpose but were aesthetic choices when creating the look of Oceanic’s weapons.

The CEO claims to have contacted Kuzin but received no response.

Kuzin tells IGN that his own investigation of Ward B “revealed that the company does not have enough equity to complete development, there are no investors, [and] release date is unknown.”

He suggests that it was too risky for Kalashnikov to work with the company, which is why talks never went further, and that the Ultima was designed “from scratch” by “another Russian designer “.

Kuzin also claimed that Ward B failed to pay the concept artist who designed the Mastodon, meaning there was no clear ownership of the design, which would have complicated licensing negotiations.

Ward B reports that the artist was on a deferred payment plan from the start and has since been fully paid. The studio also adds that the renders of the weapon were all branded Oceanic, and IGN even saw messages between Kuzin and the artist, in which the former attempted to purchase the Mastodon design.

Ward B reportedly issued a cease and desist to Kalashnikov around September 2020, but told IGN it received no response. He then issued DMCA takedowns against online posts for the MP-155 Ultima. Kalashnikov’s intellectual property department demanded that these be removed and asked for proof that the design had been used illegally.

Ward B said it withdrew the takedown requests and sent its evidence, but again received no response.

Kalashnikov is currently taking pre-orders for the Ultima and also appears to have licensed the weapon’s design to Battlestate Games for use in its popular multiplayer game Escape From Tarkov.

Neither Ward B nor IGN received a response from Battlestate Games when asked about this.

Ward B has since backed away from the idea of ​​legal action, and Sauceda told IGN, “We’ve come to the point of realizing that because Kalashnikov Concern was out of the country, bringing a formal legal action would require us to have a presence in Russia, which unfortunately our funding would not cover.”

He added: “We have abandoned the goal of legally recovering our property.”

The studio has since stopped sharing weapon designs and other development updates while work continues on Oceanic.

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