Darksiders II

When I went to bed last night, I have no doubt that champagne corks littered the floor at THQ and Vigil Games Headquarters. Darksiders II is a significant success, and one desperately needed by the publisher who has been battling out of a difficult financial period. That’s why, when I woke up to the accusations leveled by Xander Davis, a former employee of the studio who claims responsibility for rebuilding all of the Darksiders II user interface, it was absolutely jarring. Davis is now CEO/COO of Astrogun, a studio working on a game for the Ouya console.

Here’s where things started:

This immediately caught the attention of his followers (now numbering 8,800), who sharpened pitchforks and lit torches. The mob was coming for THQ and Vigil, led by Davis who continued to share a series of details about the incident. You can read them in their entirety on his Twitter account at @XanderDavisLive.

We just received this response from THQ and Vigil Games:

After ending yesterday with the successful launch of Darksiders II, we at Vigil Games woke up to get word of a former employee’s statements regarding how his contributions were not being accounted for in the credits of the game.  What was most disheartening about the statements was how misleading they were, and how they fly in the face of how Vigil, culturally, feels about and treats our teams.

While employment and privacy laws preclude us from discussing the circumstances surrounding the departure of any individual no longer with the company, we can confirm that the employee in question worked for us a total of 90 days, whereas Darksiders II was more than 2 ½ years in development.  

When we were forced to reduce staff due to the cancellation of a project, we worked hard to ensure every single person effected by the layoff received their credit in the game.  We did not include individuals whose employment terminated for any other reason, for example, being let go for documented poor performance.

We believe we treat both current and former positive contributors to our studio like family, and any statements otherwise are highly inaccurate and can be verified as same.  We would ask any press who wish to report on this former employee’s statements to check the accuracy of these erroneous claims, before printing them as factual. 

To reiterate, Vigil’s primary concern while doing Darksiders II credits was that we credited team members that were affected by the recent downsizing.   We were not focused on the issue of employees that voluntarily left or were fired from the company.  We find it alarming that a former employee would personally attack and lie about other team members while falsely inflating his contribution to the game.

We thank, once again, all those who positively contributed to Darksiders II.

-David Adams

General Manager, Vigil Games

Reading between the lines, Davis was not caught in the unfortunate downsizing at the studio that resulted from the transition of Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium (Online). Rather, his three-month stint at the developer was cut short for “other reasons,” which may (or may not) have been “poor performance.” It also seems clear that THQ and Vigil are comfortable flat out refuting the level of contribution that Davis claims to have made. Given that this carefully-worded statement likely passed through the hands of at least one member of the legal team, it’s a fair bet that the publisher would be willing to defend its statements in court.

It bears mentioning that this isn’t the first time that Davis has made allegations about THQ, Vigil Games and Darksiders II. On or about June 21, he sent this (subsequently deleted) tweet.

As a former employee, with possible connections to people still working at Vigil, his statements could have been interpreted as more concrete than an outsider speculating. It’s impossible to ascribe specific, malicious motive to this one statement, but it is fair to say that it could have offended his former employers. At the heart of the matter though, beneath all the he said/she said, this is a matter of crediting work. According to Davis, substantial efforts from his brief tenure were featured in the final product. The response from THQ and Vigil (again, having passed through the hands of at least one attorney), seems to deny that assertion.

It is also important to note that, prior to discovering his absence from the credits, Davis was a cheerleader for the project.

While we may never know the extent of the work he did during his stint with Vigil, there is a lesson to be learned. Crediting someone’s work, regardless of the way they departed a project, costs nothing. However, choosing not to do so could turn a celebration into an abomination, and those can prove costly.