Videogame developer, Digital Homicide, might become the latest lightning rod in the ongoing debates concerning online abuse and devs breaking promises.

The developer, Digital Homicide, is pursuing a law suit, against some of its customers who left negative comments about its games on Valve’s Steam platform.

Documents uploaded by YouTuber, SidAlpha show that Digital Homicide developer, James Romine is suing 100 Steam users for over 20 000 postings that criticise both himself and the studio. The dev is looking for $17.9 million in damages.

Now, we say ‘criticise’ but some of the comments posted go way beyond just telling a developer that its game is terrible and giving it 0/10. In fact the problem seems to be linked at targeted attacks and threats against the developer, not just its games.

A blog post from Digital Homicide titled “Seeking legal representation” alleges that a Steam user by the name of brandino wrote, “I want to murder every single person responsible for this”, in reference to the game Starship: Nova Strike.

This is one of the tamer missives aimed at the developer, as Digital Homicide claims that comments directed towards it include cyber bullying, harassment, false accusations of theft, and repeated belittling of Digital Homicide to its customers and business partners among others.

However, what is bizarre is that none of the references in the aforementioned blog post were included in the original court filings. Whether these comments were captured at a later date or were simply excluded given the bulk of the filing (it spans 123 pages) is unclear.

Bring us your names, Valve

As part of this legal action, judge Eileen Willett made it possible for Romine to demand information from Valve that would allow the developer to identify the persons harassing him, and thats where Valve stepped in.

Late on Friday evening, Digital Homicide’s catalogue of games including; Temper Tantrum and The Slaughtering Grounds, were no longer available through Steam. The reason for this was explained by Valve in an email to Motherboard.

“Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers,” wrote Valve vice president of marketing, Doug Lombardi.

Now, that isn’t exactly clear whether Digital Homicide is being hostile because of the lawsuit or if its for another reason but it’s clear that Valve isn’t going to play this game. At time of writing its unclear whether Valve will appeal the ruling from judge Willett but given its cutting of ties with the developer its more than likely it will.

A bad vessel illustrating a real problem

A number of players may be familiar with Digital Homicide, especially if those who have followed the developer’s dealings with videogame critic and avid boglin lover, Jim Sterling.

After giving his first impression of The Slaughtering Grounds and calling it “another absolute failure”, Digital Homicide tried to sue Sterling for $10m, accusing the critic of assault, libel and slander.

It appeared as if the developer was trying to silence its critics, something it seems to be doing again, only this time, and I never thought I’d say this, Digital Homicide actually has a bit of a point here.

It’s easy for a group of folks to gang-up and post negative reviews about a game. Granted, Valve has addressed this issue by only allowing reviews for people who have actually bought the game but what about harassment?

Romine points out that there is no way for him to challenge those users who constantly berate him.

“When someone bothers you on say a platform like Facebook and you find the need to ban them, the Facebook response after you ban is “Sorry you had this experience” and then that person is removed from being able to post on your page,” writes Romine.

“By removing us they [Valve] have taken the stance that users have the right to harass me, tell me I should kill myself, and insult my family . If I try to defend myself against said actions then I lose my family’s income,” the developer said.

It’s hard to argue with Romine’s point here. Sure if a game is terrible it’s natural to expect some ire from the folks who forked over their hard-earned dough for it. But it’s hard to back anyone who think that firing off a death threat to a developer or their family.

It will be interesting to see how this debacle pans out and whether it’ll have an impact on the future of game reviews on Steam. Most importantly it’ll be very revealing to see whether the suit will have any affect on how Valve will deals with harassers on its platform.

[Via – Motherboard] [Image – Digital Homicide]