Late last week came the news that, seven years after its early access release, original developers Motion Twin and DLC developers Evil Empire will be ending work on Dead Cells. Evil Empire was set up as a satellite studio to support the game and had been working on it for over five years, creating four DLCs and 18 updates including the recent (and excellent) Castlevania crossover, but now says it’s moving on to “secret projects”.
The news didn’t seem like an enormous surprise: Dead Cells has been wildly successful, and has had great post-launch support, but it’s now an absolutely huge game and seven years of updates seems pretty healthy. But the game’s designer and a co-founder of Motion Twin, Sébastien Benard, has a very different take: this guy is absolutely furious about it, and seems to think Evil Empire is being thrown under the bus.
Bernard was asked about the announcement on the official Dead Cells Discord server (first spotted by rogueliker), and his answer is stark:
“Since you’re asking me, I’d just say [Motion Twin] did the worst imaginable asshole move against Dead Cells and [Evil Empire],” writes Bernard. “Having seen first hand the actual situation behind the scenes, I can honestly say I’m glad to not be part of this anymore. The official statement is total marketing bullshit, the way this situation happened is on a whole different level.
“I never imagined my former co-op studio would turn out to be such greedy people. I wish the absolute best to EE for their next things, and hope people working there will survive this sudden economic cut.”
Bernard elaborated on those comments in a blog post which criticizes Motion Twin for “a one-way strategy that leaves people behind” and praises Evil Empire for having “a true love for the franchise.”
The accusations of greed and some of the language here are certainly eyebrow-raising, though it’s worth remembering that Motion Twin was established as a worker collective and Bernard undoubtedly has firm ideas about how it should operate.
Benard spent 19 years at Motion Twin before leaving in the wake of Dead Cells’ success, and apparently not on the best of terms. At the time he wrote that, following Dead Cells’ launch and success, he’d moved onto prototyping future games but his “relations with the team became more and more complicated”—so complicated that he was “asked to leave in December 2019.”
His words on Motion Twin are pretty scathing stuff nevertheless, and an unexpected reaction to a relatively low-key announcement.