Game Developer Accuses Real-Life Weapons Manufacturer of Stealing Its Gun Design… Twice – IGN
The developers at indie studio Ward B really like designing fictional guns. The small team has been posting highly detailed weapon designs for its in-development game, Oceanic, since 2019. Crucial to the teams work and the small following around Oceanics development is that while the weapons in question are meant to reflect tech created 200 years in the future, they must look like they could feasibly work in reality.
We’re looking to have them very, very scientifically explainable, CEO Marcellino Sauceda tells me. There’s actually a few weapons we ended up scrapping and not putting in the game because there were design flaws that we weren’t too happy with in the end.
In fact, Ward Bs commitment to believability was so strong that, in early 2020, Maxim Kuzin arrived in Saucedas inbox. A contractor for Russias largest weapons manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, Kuzin asked for permission to turn one of Ward Bs fictional weapons into a real-life shotgun. For Sauceda, it wouldnt just be recognition of his teams hard work, it would be a genuine milestone for the industry to his knowledge, it would mark the first time a video game gun had been turned into a physical, mass-market model.
It’s huge. There’s no game studio today that collaborated with a weapon manufacturer to make a fully operational firearm. And we would have been the OGs of that. Sauceda stops for a second. But they’ve completely ripped that opportunity from us.
Sauceda never gave his formal permission for the gun to be adapted for real life and yet Kalashnikov Concern subsequently announced a weapon kit that bears what Sauceda sees as a striking resemblance to one of Ward Bs own creations. The company now alleges that Kalashnikov Concern not only stole its weapon design but, in a bizarre twist, subsequently granted an entirely separate video game the rights to use it.
Meet the Mastodon
Oceanic is a science fiction first-person hero shooter, and the debut game for Ward B a 40-person team working mostly part-time, but with experience developing the likes of Call of Duty, Halo, Overwatch, and Destiny. We don’t have anything under our belt yet, we’re completely indie, explains Sauceda. Most of us come from AAA backgrounds. We are not particularly, like, funded quite yet.
The goal, then, is to build a game that can attract the necessary investment, before going full-time on development and that has meant Ward Bs done whatever it can to get the word out about Oceanic. In its early stages, the studio saw its best success when showing off weapons.
Since the projects earliest days, Ward B has shown off Oceanics arsenal, filling a devblog with immensely complex renders and in-universe explainer text. On February 18, 2020, the team revealed its take on a futuristic shotgun, named the EPM28 Mastodon. Just like all the others, this post included multiple images of the new gun rendered in different colours, with individual components shown off, as well as in-game stats and an in-engine screenshot. To say it caused a splash on social media would be an overstatement, but it was enough to pique the interest of an unexpected party.
Just over a month after the post, in an email seen by IGN, an individual billing himself as a producer of industrial projects for multiple companies including Kalashnikov Concern introduced himself to Sauceda with a pitch. Maxim Kuzin had seen the Mastodons early renders via the portfolio of a concept artist Ward B had worked with, and wanted to pitch Kalashnikov on using the fictional design as a gun kit for its real-life MP-155 shotgun. Essentially, it would see the Mastodons futuristic looks wrapped around an existing weapon, and would potentially be followed by airsoft and toy versions of the weapon. In return Ward B would replace Oceanics in-game branding with that of Kalashnikov. In a response to IGN, Kuzin confirmed the above, but said his conversations with Ward B were « preliminary ».
Sauceda was excited by the idea, and organised a call with Kuzin to finalise it. He stated in there that [we would] be credited for this collaboration: Kalashnikov Concern will be showcasing your name, you’ll have a brand on the gun, and all that stuff, Sauceda says. And he said that we would receive three units of the finished product. They would ship it out [to the US] without internals of course, because they have sanctions but he laid out the whole groundwork of what’s going to happen. Kuzin didn’t respond to a request for comment about what was said in the Skype call.
Sauceda and his team loved the idea, and said theyd be happy to sign contracts to formalise the deal. But the contracts never arrived, and neither Kuzin nor Kalashnikov Concern got in touch.
Ward B assumed that Kuzin’s pitch to Kalashnikov hadnt gone well, and that the deal had simply fallen through. Disheartened but not defeated, the team kept working on Oceanic as usual until someone on the team spotted a Kalashnikov announcement for a weapon that looked very familiar.
Ultima Goes Online
The day they first announced it and they showed it off, the concept artist came to me and they were like, Hey, they finally made our shotgun!
Kalashnikov announced the MP-155 Ultima on August 21, 2020. While the internal components in the gun are identical to the original MP-155, its external chassis is very different. Equipped with an angular design, multiple colour schemes, reflex sight, and even an in-built computer that includes camera support, ammunition readouts, and a digital compass, its a design that Kalashnikov openly says is inspired by video games.
Sauceda contends that it was inspired by one video game.
The more the Ward B team looked at the design, the more convinced they became that the MP-155 Ultima was based on Oceanics Mastodon. Aside from the general sci-fi aesthetic, color choices, and overall shape of the weapon, Sauceda points to multiple smaller similarities between the two designs, many of which are decisions that were taken for aesthetic reasons in Oceanic, but have no practical purpose in real life (see gallery, below, for Ward B’s specific comparisons). Elements of the handguard, receiver, and more appear to Sauceda to have been replicated on the Ultima, despite him seeing no utilitarian reason for their addition.
Mastodon & MP-155 Ultima Comparisons