Last week, Automaniax released a first video trailer of their Porsche Online game, creating major controversy in the virtual racing community as Slightly Mad Studios instantly voiced protest about the company using their assets without permissions and legal contracts in place.
A lot has happened regarding this issue since then as Automaniax held an on-site event at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim over the weekend. While the video trailer showed assets created by SMS, the software used to run their event was rFactor with a Porsche Cup Car and Hockenheim as visible on several photos.
While Automaniax didn’t address any of the issues over the weekend, the company did release a statement today that briefly touched on the whole issue:
We also got a lot of request about the dev team behind our racing simulation. At this stage we can say it is not Slightly Mad Studios from UK. As we are a community project we are also using the power of our community to develop our simulation, but the strength of our own studio as well.
We are using super talented race developers from the modding community to create a racing simulation which is as close to the expectations of our community as possible.
Also we can state at this point that the rFactor1 engine is not the basis for our future development – this is just for our tech guys out there.
This is the first time that the idea of Automaniax being a community-developed title is voiced, the statement also fails to explain the usage of SMS’s content in the trailer as the video clearly shows a product the users of Automaniax won’t be getting as an entirely different and noticeably older engine is used for their simulation right now.
VirtualR managed to grab a hold of Slightly Mad Studios’ Ian Bell who shed some more light on the dealings between the two parties, explaining the situation in detail:
“We delivered a full working build of our work to Automaniax. It contained Porsches and the Hockenheim track. They didn’t pay us as agreed and then they cancelled our contract. The fact that they then went ahead and used our work for marketing and promotion after doing so came as a shock to us to put it mildly,” Bell explained.
“We also created much of the video they used. The intention of this was to ‘further impress the Porsche marketing heads’ who were insisting to us that this deal was ours going forward.”
Bell also explains how Automaniax got a hold of the studio’s assets without payment and legal contracts in place, a question often asked during the last few days.
“We had a short form legal contract in place to deliver a Porsche sanctioned game at the end of this year. This contract was later cancelled by Automaniax. It’s true that we delivered work before the contracted payments arrived but when the Head of Marketing at Porsche who was the main driver of this project is at every meeting we had with Automaniax, and is clearly a friend of Uwe Isack, the Head of Automaniax, then I think it’s fair to say our confidence was justified.”
“We have emails from Porsche’s head of marketing clearly stating to their CAD people that they are developing a game in cooperation with us.We fully expected a company with the reputation of Porsche to operate professionally,” the SMS Head of Studio continued. “This was a fully playable build installed on a simulator (that we also specced and partly paid for). It’s very clear that our property has been exploited and abused and we’ll be approaching both Automaniax and Porsche in no uncertain terms.”
(This video shows the simulators and Slightly Mad Studios’ Automaniax build in action)
Slightly Mad Studios is currently taking legal advice given that the whole issue has caused financial damages in the six figure range as Ian Bell also expresses his personal frustrations about a respected company such as Porsche being involved in the whole issue.
“We’re taking legal advice ongoing. In short were owed a substantial amount of money, into the high six figures and we clearly feel we’ve been led down the garden path by a company we had the utmost respect for. I have two Porsches myself for goodness sake.”
Furthermore, Bell also calls Autoamaniax further dealings with their other partners in question, given his personal business experience with the company.
“Reading the latest news article from Automaniax is interesting. I wonder how much ISI was paid for Automaniax’s use of the rfactor engine. I’d give 10 to 1 odds ISI hasn’t even been approached with a permission request, let alone a contract for fair payment. My personal opinion? We don’t need crap like this in our community.”
VirtualR will keep up with the whole issue as it progresses. It remains to be seen where the whole project is heading, especially as Automaniax seems to be looking for help from the modding community to get their product of the ground and a lot of community members will most likely be extra careful when dealing with them.