ARK: Survival Evolved developer Studio Wildcard is hit with a lawsuit from Trendy Entertainment that could halt the game’s development and pull it from Steam.

The popular early access title ARK: Survival Evolved could be in major legal trouble. As it turns out, Trendy Entertainment, the studio behind Dungeon Defenders, filed a lawsuit against ARK: Survival Evolved developer Studio Wildcard in December, alleging that Trendy’s former creative director Jeremy Stieglitz has violated the no-compete clause in his contract by secretly working on ARK in a major capacity.

Stieglitz was one of the founders of Trendy, but wanted to depart from the studio after a scandal made headlines in June 2013. Employees from Trendy complained of a poor work environment, citing excessive overtime and sexism. Shortly after this news broke, Stieglitz was removed from the development of Dungeon Defenders 2.

Stieglitz, unhappy with where he stood with Trendy, asked that he be released from his contract or that the company fire several individuals that made him uncomfortable. Eventually, an arrangement was made that saw Stieglitz’s three-year no compete clause reduced to one, and Stieglitz departed from Trendy.

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However, according to Trendy’s lawsuit, Stieglitz actively attempted to recruit talent from Trendy to work at the new Studio Wildcard to work on online multiplayer dinosaur survival game ARK: Survival Evolved. Trendy’s lawsuit also accuses Stieglitz of working on ARK in a major creative capacity in secret, therefore violating the no-compete clause in his contract.

Studio Wildcard has not filed briefs in its own defense just yet, but the company’s lawyers have moved that the case be dismissed on the following grounds:

“Trendy’s Complaint reads more like a salacious tabloid story than a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts allegedly showing Trendy’s entitlement to relief, as required by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Many of the allegations are disparaging and included simply to be provocative. They are irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. As such, these allegations should be stricken.”

Having said that, if the case isn’t dismissed by April 27th, ARK: Survival Evolved could be in serious trouble. It is on that day that the court will hear arguments regarding Trendy’s injunction to have development on ARK temporarily halted and the game pulled from Steam until the conflict is resolved. It is unknown at this point if the more popular Xbox One version of ARK will also be pulled from sale.

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The lawsuit also doesn’t seem to specify whether or not those that already have the game would be able to continue playing it. However, one has to imagine that the servers would be taken down as well while the lawsuit continues, and especially if Trendy’s lawyers are able to prove that Stieglitz has indeed been working secretly on ARK. How this will impact player progress and ARK‘s PvP spinoff game remains to be seen.

ARK: Survival Evolved has proven to be one of the most popular early access titles to date, with ARK selling over 1 million copies on Steam alone. To have the game’s progress stalled at this stage in development would be devastating for Studio Wildcard, and would make it very unlikely that ARK: Survival Evolved would meet its planned full release date this June.

In the meantime, fans of ARK: Survival Evolved should keep their fingers crossed that the lawsuit isn’t dragged out. The longer it takes for it to be resolved, the longer that the game could potentially be pulled from sale. Unless the case is dismissed by next month, expect Trendy’s suggested injunction to be decided on April 27th.

ARK: Survival Evolved is expected to have its full release this June for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Source: Kotaku