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How a Fun Game About Off-Road Trucking Became the Center of a Legal Slugfest

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Image: Saber Interactive

Spintires. Mudrunner. Snowrunner. Whether you’re a seasoned sim racer, off-road enthusiast or merely enjoy getting into helpless, precarious situations with your friends that may require the use of a winch, these three titles are simple, pure fun. Unfortunately, their development has been pretty much the complete opposite of that, as an illuminating investigative piece from IGN’s Rebekah Valentine published on Wednesday has uncovered.

If you’re a casual fan of this series, you may already be familiar with the conflict on some level. In 2019, Spintires was renamed Spintires: The Original Game by its publisher, Oovee Games. Sequels Mudrunner and Snowrunner — published by Saber Interactive — were built atop Spintires’ technology, which had been created by a Russian programmer named Pavel Zagrebelnyy who worked for Saber at the time he made Spintires.

Both companies lay claim to the intellectual property at play here — though, before we go any further, know that Zagrebelnyy says he was never paid what he was owed by Oovee for his work, when he was contractually entitled to half of the revenue from the game. That’s always how it tends to go, isn’t it?

Now Zagrebelnyy has seemingly disappeared; as has Oovee, whose CEO was reportedly immersed in debt, having purchased some capable off-road vehicles of his own. Oovee long maintained it was David fending off attacks from the Goliath that is Saber — a company under the umbrella of Sweden’s Embracer Group, the gaming powerhouse that purchased Square Enix Europe’s studios earlier this year. Oovee held that Saber owed it royalties it never received, while Oovee had apparently refused to pay the game’s original creator from the jump.

The upshot is a mess of finger pointing that’s left the original Spintires inaccessible for purchase, and fans in the dark. The full story sheds some light on the drama behind one of gaming’s finest driving sims — go check it out at IGN.

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