Spilt Milk in dispute over Hard Lines rights

The coder of iOS strategy game Hard Lines is locked in dispute with publisher Spilt Milk Studios over the rights to the game.

Nicoll Hunt accuses Spilt Milk MD Andrew Smith of withholding his share of sales revenue unless he agrees to give up his rights to the game. Speaking to IndieGames, both parties give their perspective on the dispute.

"I was the sole coder and main developer for Hard Lines, and conceived the initial idea for the game," Hunt claims. "Spilt Milk Studios contributed some of the design and art, and handled the PR and marketing, while a third party composed the soundtrack. In simple terms, I was the developer and Spilt Milk Studios was the publisher.

"When I refused to sign away my rights to the game Spilt Milk terminated the contract between us, stopped paying me my share of the revenue, and claimed full ownership of all my work and intellectual property."

Hunt goes on to explain that he sent Smith a cease and desist letter after seeking legal advice and, after that went ignored, sent another to Apple.

"It's now only a matter of time before Hard Lines is removed from sale altogether," he continues. "I can't stand by while my work is passed off as someone else's. It's wrong, goes against everything indie development should be, and most importantly, I don't want it to happen to anyone else."

In response, Smith writes: "The whole thing has [been] blown out of proportion, and I'm very disappointed it's come to this sort of attention-grabbing situation. I did cancel the contract between us (under the terms of said contract) – the dispute only arose because Nicoll said he didn't want to work on Hard Lines anymore, but still wanted 50 per cent of revenue on all future platforms – not just the ones he coded.

"This made it commercially impossible to develop, say, a Steam version, a Windows Phone version or whatever. I had no intention of stopping sending him his fair share – all I intended to do was wipe the slate clean and start talking about a fair contract to move forward with."

Smith claims to have unsuccessfully sought further dialogue with Hunt's legal team, and confirms Apple has been in touch, but only to ask that the pair resolve their dispute themselves. "I've never claimed ownership," he insists, "only co-creation and co-development. It's a really uncomfortable position to be in."