Digital Homicide Studios — Down the Rabbit Hole

recently there was a bundle sale on Steam called the digital homicide bundle selling five games for a dollar it seems like a good deal at first but all of these games have abysmal user ratings some dipping below 30% approval one would assume that 30% of people approving the game means that it still has some value and that's true but not in the way that one would assume a cursory glance of the player reviews reveals that people are giving a thumbs up not because the games are quality but because these games gives steam trading cards which can be sold on the marketplace for credit towards other games this means that if bought in the bundle they technically get a return on investment even if it's only a couple of cents if you don't count the electricity cost of running the computer there are a few common problems with each game the gameplay is rudimentary there is no artistic unity and even the menus are uniquely painful to use assets are recycled ad nauseam including a cyclops a rat a bare-chested harpy an actual bear sundry zombies skeletons and numerous others the enemy AI is also basic in none of these games do they perform any other action than run directly at the player in an attempt to fuse their model with the target any semblance of balance in these games is also absent meaning they are almost universally easy even when some gameplay elements are breaking at first it's easy to think that the name of the pack digital homicide is a catchy way to bundle multiple games together but it actually refers to the single developer of all of these games digital homicide studios in fact the number of games produced by the studio is far greater than five according to the official digital homicide group page on Steam there are 18 associated games their website tastefully given the URL Digital homicide dot ninja offers literally dozens more games under the tab greenlight games referring to Steam greenlight which allows users to vote on games they wish to see on steams storefront their website is a strange amalgamation of generic assets including a deformed looking fuzzy creature and oddly enough a female model in a footballer's outfit holding a football over her groin the blog seems mostly abandoned with only six posts all within the month of February of 2016 the first three are game development advice for aspiring indie developers while the last three are advertisements for games being released under the digital homicide brand not long ago the website looked different with an advertisement for their game as holes across the front of the page of on entering and the words games made with love just to the left digital homicide has a strange relationship with Steam greenlight when one of their games inevitably fails they simply put it back onto greenlight hoping to garner enough votes the second or third or seventh time around sometimes using dummy publishers to get around quality control so who is digital homicide the company is comprised of two people a pair of brothers named James and Robert Ramin very little is known about them and only the latter has divulged any information about himself this raises many questions but there's one that stands out how are two brothers managing to create dozens of games in the span of only a few years to understand this one must be familiar with the concept of asset flipping all digital homicide games are created on the same engine unity there are plenty of good and even great games made on the Unity engine such as Kerbal space program Ori and the blind forest superhot and hearthstone however it is notoriously easy to create rudimentary games with it many burgeoning game designers have begun using unity to try their hand at game development while others use it to create strange and absurdist experiences and release them for free I hear story of friend this friend is shamrock he reverses ground magnets with touch just as often however it's abused by independent developers to quickly make a terrible game slap a price tag on it and push it out the door to turn a profit to increase the odds of someone buying the game at face value these developers often will rely on buying pre-made game assets for cheap something expedited by the prolific ax C of assets made specifically for unity this practice has grounds in legitimate game development where indie developers purchase assets such as 3d models to save both time and money so that other aspect of the game can receive attention the intention is to build upon these assets and use them as a framework but sometimes a lazy or cheap developer will buy a myriad of assets and plunk those on to basic coding then call it complete a process known as asset flipping buying game assets works similarly to buying a font rather than purchasing a physical object the buyer gains unlimited rights to utilize that particular asset meaning that this process is 100% legal however shady it may be by asset flipping digital homicide studios can churn out games at an unprecedented rate games that may seem competent on the surface but proved to be vapid and Hollow despite how egregious this practices James and Robert roaming would have remained an obscure element of steams underbelly were not for if you bewildering and vitriolic actions against one of the Internet's more controversial figures Jim sterling the online persona of a game critic named James Stanton there's a significant subset of content creators on YouTube who enjoy making videos about terrible games and Jim sterling is one of them among the many topics he covers in gaming he has a series called squirty plays a gag based on the popular let's play videos in these he chooses games that to him seem obviously squirted on to seem to make some quick cash on gamers who don't know any better and plays them without researching them beforehand as a first impression on November 1st of 2014 sterling chose to feature the slaughtering grounds which digital homicide had released on destines a night prior under the guise of another studio imminent uprising predictably the game was low-quality but sterling seemed more confused than disgusted during the 10 and a half minute long video as he scrambled about through the pre-purchased assets in an attempt to find ammunition for his poorly stocked weapons levels this oh we need a new gum I thought nothing enraged by the negative reception James and Robert Ramin took to youtube themselves in an attempt to strike back at this slight they uploaded Jim Sterling's video onto their own channel as part of what they claimed was a new series entitled reviewing the reviewer this video had text overlaid on top of it criticizing Jim sterling and the video the first slide of text reads and I quote hello this is Jim sterling and I am a fucking idiot don't believe me we'll just watch this piece of shit review I've made the text continues to lambast Jim sterling throughout the rest of the video liberally insulting his intelligence and the quality of his content calling it useless shit and other vulgar pejoratives they also blame sterling for not providing an adequate review Jim sterling possibly recognizing an opportunity to draw a new viewers as well as to archive the video re uploaded the Ramin brothers as reupload but instead replaced the original audio with unscripted reactions to the text here he retorts that the squirty plays series isn't a review series but rather about first impressions though he dismisses most other points as the actions of a crazy developer i'm jim fuckin sterling and i deliver accurate reviews not a review I told you I would tell you the buggered landmines work you can depend on me providing you with more useless shit repeating in a fit of recursion that would make Christopher Nolan blush the Ramin brothers uploaded Spahn Stu Sterling's response though this time there was no video instead they only use the audio from Sterling's response and overlaid white text on a black background again riddled with poor grammar in this slideshow of text they claimed that by purchasing premade assets they are assisting with a production of further games and thus the cycle of game development this misunderstanding of economics is forgivable but their other claim is much bolder in a strange confusion of fair use law they asked how is it okay to commit 60 frames of copyright infringement a second for 40 minutes and then get paid for it referring to the use of game footage they then accused Jim sterling of contributing to the practice of quote unfair reviews and thus affecting the livelihood of many people with no risk or cost to yourself this video was followed with something all YouTube content creators dread a takedown notice on the original squirty plays video by the Ramin brothers takedown requests on YouTube are almost unanimously respected by the administration and anybody can issue a takedown request on any video for any reason when it takedown goes into effect the video is removed from viewing by the general audience for four weeks with the onus on the requester to prove that some element of the video is indeed illegal often certain companies with a vested interest in keeping a certain video offline will issue a takedown request that they can't follow up to reduce viewership of it and to punish the content creator by cutting into their revenue digital homicide however backed up its takedown requests to the media albeit with more poor grammar stating that quote there are countless negative review videos posted including multiple sterling videos and only one in particular with a DMCA filed on it the reason is we have a legitimate claim we can prove a violation of our copyright fair use is not blanket immunity and damages they went on to say that we believe the unbiased perspective of a court will agree there has been a violation of our copyright and for this reason we will be pursuing an attorney and proceeding with our complaint despite these confident claims it seems that no further action was taken and the video returned to Sterling's Channel four weeks later this scenario may sound familiar to some gamers this is because something extremely similar happened almost exactly a year ago to another content creator who goes by totalbiscuit when he created a review for the now infamous indie game day one Garry's incident Jim sterling however was in a slightly different position rather than receiving advertising revenue on any of his videos he receives all of his money from a site named patreon where people may donate money to content creators on a monthly basis to support them this means beyond the need to continue supplying content to viewers there is no direct financial need to keep his videos online and in fact it's likely that the controversy was generating further income for him so rather than fighting the takedown of his video he began making further videos not only on the general topic of media silencing from indie developers but about the specific business practices of the Ramin brothers themselves all while the original squirty plays video chat of the takedown message plastered on it he quickly outed them as not imminent uprising but instead the digital homicide development studio accused them of asset flipping rather than true game development then used that as a springboard to talk about the practice in general in a surprising move robert Ramin decided that the actions taken by digital homicide studios was not enough and he challenged Jim sterling to what he called a free-form debate to set the record straight once and for all in early July of 2015 this meeting indeed did occur over Skype and was recorded the perplexing discussion lasted almost an hour and 40 minutes with no mediator it was in this recording that the audience to this eight-month argument got to hear the voice of Robert Ramin for the first time here he claims to be a 35 year old man with three children and the digital homicide has proven to be a successful business venture I was expecting to not hear the voice an adult so this may feel a little bit better about this oh yeah and I have I have three kids I'm 35 I'm definitely an adult the discussion in its entirety is a surreal experience it begins somewhat cordially where both parties acknowledge that they are participating in a one-sided conversation and are reluctantly thankful that they can now speak to one another at about two and a half minutes however things start to take a strange turn and Robert remains true intentions begin to manifest he begins talking over Jim sterling disallowing him from responding to the accusations leveled at him remains voice also begins to crack in what sounds like restrained anger specifically about your nonsense just go ahead and start all the way back at the beginning and go ahead and ramble up all your all years of accusations and stuff he tells sterling to point out problems with digital homicide and Ramin will pick them apart one by one but continues to cut him off Ramin quickly turns the conversation in an attempt to attack Sterling's professional credentials and deflects Sterling's arguments into further attacks throughout the conversation unleashes why is your job the site is your job you telling me that when you were playing that game you couldn't see the ammo counter two inches below the crosshair I mean you're gonna be going right back to what we were saying about you saying I'm in a confident development as a as a game reviewer you should be a very quality game player Ramin seems to become more in bold and as the conversation continues passively aggressively and sometimes ad hominem attacking sterling more and more shi-jiiy okay the walls you'll menus that's what just goes to show why you're a bad person man you yes you're terrible you are terrible what becomes abundantly clear midway through the conversation is Robert Grameen's stance on reviewers he seems to believe that reviewers have a personal responsibility to the developers and that negative issues should be taken to forums rather than reviews you have no financial investment in what you do yet you affect tons of developers lives financially affect them that is why one day you're gonna have enough subscribers you're gonna make enough money on your patreon thing and somebody's gonna get tired of your shit and they're gonna suit its I'm not saying we are I'm saying somebody's gonna have the money to do it and they're gonna win how is that we've devolved into this this last point is a sore subject for many gamers around Jim Sterling's age due to the game market crash of 1983 sidenote the game market crash of 1983 brought the industry from 3.2 billion dollars to only 100 million in two years which is only 3.1 percent of where it once was it is largely blamed on the over saturation of the market with games and a lack of reliable reviews for gamers to determine the quality of products only the market success of the Nintendo Entertainment System was able to bring the industry back it's also clear from the interview that Sterling's coverage did not positively impact sales and Ramin makes a point to mention it throughout the video Ramin also claims that sterling was leveling his community directly at digital homicide studios as a harassment weapon Jim sterling maintained the composed attitude through the review and even allowed himself a laugh at some of Ramin statements after this outburst digital homicide went silent and for eight months they continued to release asset flipped games on Steam greenlight through dummy publishers occasionally getting a spotlight on YouTube channels as examples of terrible games as of today digital homicide has claimed credit for each of them but after these eight months something happened that is difficult to believe and has made the Ramin brothers synonymous with delusion to odd onlookers on March 16th 2016 digital homicide studios formally sued Jim sterling through the Arizona District Court for over ten million dollars accusing him of assault libel and slander without a hint of irony they claimed in a now-deleted post that quote we find the usage of the terms worst game of 2014 contender and absolute failure to describe the entirety of our product while not actually evaluating it in its entirety unfair and unreasonable use of our copyright material among the libel accusations they defend their use of dummy publishers on Steam greenlight by likening them to pseudonyms referencing Jim sterling as a specific example they also oddly cite Sterling's usage of the phrase the Ramin Brothers as an attack they make the bewildering claim that sterling is attempting to liken them to mafiosos in an attempt to diminish their brand on top of the 10 million dollars they're also demanding that apology segments be inserted into each of Jim's videos and on the front of his YouTube page for the next five years both sides began preparing for legal conflict sterling became much quieter about digital homicide studios while their Amin brothers attempted to drum up support for their cause by speaking with publications a somewhat questionable legal tactic soon after Sterling moved for the case to be dismissed and the court granted it though today it seems that the Romijn brothers have an opportunity to still take this case to court it's uncertain that they have the funds to do so they've set up a GoFundMe page a place where people can donate to a particular cause or person but have only managed to raise four hundred and twenty five dollars of what is presumably other people's money for legal costs as it stands it seems that the dust is beginning to settle as for the future of digital homicide studios it's difficult to say now that they have so many assets bought it would be easy to continue churning out cheap games but with their name tarnished by this out-of-control Streisand effect it may not even be worth the effort for now they seem to be in limbo and there are many people who hope that that is where they will stay you

45 thoughts on “Digital Homicide Studios — Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. This is some classic misunderstanding of the role reviewers play in a market. If the reviewers give a shit about the profitability of firms and are hand in glove with creators/producers then they will fail to tell consumers what is good and what's not. Reviewers are allies of consumers, not producers. If they fail to be that the whole system collapses into bullshit.

  2. oh dear god when random braindead youtuber (with no real skills or he wouldnt be a youtuber) talking about game design. Dear fuckwit.. unless youre EA you buy fucking assets. And unity and UE are probably the game engine behind 99% of the non AAA games youve ever heard of

  3. I like how the guy says he's an adult, and then proceeds to prove he is incapable of conducting a civil discussion, and basically immediately resorts to ad hominem and building a Straw Man. Cudos on attaining "Adulthood" I have zero doubt your children are dirt bags as well.

  4. I love how Ramine says that Sterling has a "responsibility to game devs" but he really doesn't. Ramine has a responsibility to create games worth playing but he doesn't even attempt and prefers to con people.

  5. you and sterling are just haters. these guys are avant garde developers and you're all too stupid to understand their sophisticated designs.

  6. Making shovelware to feed your family I can understand. That's one thing. But why on earth would you then get angry at people for calling it what it is – shovelware?

  7. to be fair… sterling is kind of a dick. wouldn’t have even thought of recommending they suing him though.

  8. 5 years of Sterling saying "im sorry, digital homicide" in addition to devoting the front page to an apology… all of that ONTOP of 10 MILLION DOLLARS?

    How did they ever expect this to work? How could 2 people be so out of touch with things NOT to do?

  9. Wait, so people buy shitty looking games for 2$ and then are suprised the games are shitty? Oh the humanity

  10. Romine actually had a point that "you should be a quality game player" translation: "you should be compitent at playing games as a reviewer" unfortunately he said it.

  11. Hey guys did you know reviewers are basically just advertisers who you don't have to pay and have no responsibility to be honest about negative criticism? I mean, that appears to be this developer's stance, and he's right about everything, even though he doesn't back anything up with evidence, so it must be true!

  12. To be fair, Sterling IS a worthless leech piece of shit that just makes contrarian videos to drum up controversy for clicks and views.

  13. Personal attacks are not ad hominem. Ad hominem is when you say that a person's claim is wrong by virtue of who they are. Examples:

    "You're an asshole." Not ad hominem. Just rude.
    "Like I'm supposed to believe an asshole who says I messed up." Ad hominem in which they are countering the claim from the attacked (they messed up) by implying that they cannot be correct by virtue of who they are or the content of their character (you can't be right, you're an asshole).

    Otherwise, another fantastic video. I really enjoy this series, sincerely. Keep up the great work!

  14. If the government is actually stupid enough to pass stricter copyright laws, I'm afraid that the crap DH pulled will be the norm for every video game publisher, movie studio, record label or any other major company- and as crazy as they come off as, every company will gladly do the same to anyone who they see is harming their profit margins in any way, especially negative product reviews. Trump's already taken steps in that direction with his music copyright law- which got little media coverage BTW.

  15. After watching this I'm going to go ahead and subscribe to Jim Sterling just for putting up with those shitheads.

  16. I looked this up at one point: under Arizona state law, an LLC has to have a clerk to handle any legal paperwork. James and Robert Romine definitely did not have a clerk, as evidenced by James' pitiful attempt to sue the Jimquisition as a private citizen, for alleged torts against a corporation that, as I have just established, never legally existed in the first place!

  17. The game market crash was an American thing, It didn't happen in Japan, and it didn't happen in Europe either. Keep that in mind.

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