Digital Homicide Studios
"Hello this is Jim Sterling and I am a fucking idiot. Don't believe me? Well just watch this piece of shit review i've made."— An actual quote from their "Review the Reviewer" video.
Digital Homicide Studios L.L.C. was an independent game development studio run by brothers James and Robert Romine. They were notorious for using sockpuppetry (such as establishing fake companies and websites), abusing every known loophole on Steam system, making countless shovelware titles such as The Slaughtering Grounds, Temper Tantrum, Forsaken Uprising, Deadly Profits, Medieval Mercs, Galactic Hitman, lots of reskinned clones, and for attacking anyone who said anything negative about them, such as Jim Sterling, to the point of suing them. It later tried to sue 100 Steam users.
Digital Homicide's hostility to Valve's customers has resulted in Valve banning them from Steam and purging all of their games from the store, which caused the studio to go bankrupt and to dismiss the lawsuit against those Steam users because they couldn't afford it. The studio officially closed down in October 2016, and the lawsuit against Jim Sterling was fully dismissed on February 2017.
In January 2020, one of the Romine brothers broke radio silence by making some Blog posts about Digital Homicide's demise, however it was quickly pointed out by people that said blog posts were largely misleading and consisted of mostly false information and excuses for Digital Homicide's behavior in the past.
Why They and Their Games Were Digitally Homicidal
- They used pretty much every single trick to get around Steam Greenlight. Bribing with Steam keys for other games, vote buying, fake accounts, giving away keys for unreleased games, using bots to get votes, etc. Whenever their games failed to get into Steam they simply put them back there again with a different name. Once they released a game, they never bothered to improve it no matter how many bugs it had. Also, their website was completely non-functional and all links on the site did nothing but reload the page and refresh the ads so they could make more quick money via ad revenue.
- They're the poster boys for people who can't tolerate even the slightest bit of criticism. They believed that reviews should only ever be positive and that critics should be their personal bug testers and were only allowed to report flaws in private rather than telling the public. They also believed that talking about their games negatively made critics "leeches saying defamation lies to harass them", constantly deleted criticisms, and used legal threats to attack critics. They also claimed that you have every right to say “Hey your games suck” but their lawsuits say otherwise. In other words, they are responsible for heavily popularizing the inability to handle negative criticism in video gaming!
- As mentioned above, the first time a well known game reviewer, Jim Sterling, criticized of one of their games, Digital Homicide's immediate response was harassing Jim in a re-uploaded video of Jim's The Slaughtering Grounds review with full of bitter text, profanity, outright insults, and constantly blaming Jim for not reviewing the game properly despite the fact that Jim's video was NOT a review, but a first impression. They then filed a fraudulent DMCA takedown on Jim's original Slaughtering Grounds video to damage Jim's channel claiming that Jim violated copyright law because the video was "unfair" and said they would bring Sterling to court over it. Even after the video was restored and Digital Homicide's claims were disproven over and over, they still believed they were right.
- Eventually James Romine did file a lawsuit against James Stanton (Jim Sterling's real name) for a total of $15 million. After the lawsuit started Stanton became unable to talk about Digital Homicide so they began spamming an enormous amount of shovelware to Greenlight. Romine then also sued 100 anonymous Steam users for leaving negative reviews claiming that they were harassment campaigns and competitors that want to ruin their business. All of the lawsuits had a combined demand of $33 million. It was suspected that the real goal of the lawsuit was to get a subpoena and use it to attack the users that criticized them then scare other critics into not touching them again. Looking at the lawsuit shows that most of the "evidence of harassment" is just negative reviews and comments.
- In the “Review the Review” video, Digital Homicide claimed that Jim Sterling’s reviews were impacting indie game sales. Spamming massive amounts of shovelware also impacts indie game sales.
- Hypocrisy. Robert Romine had a podcast with Jim Sterling claiming he wanted to solve their differences. Instead, all he did was slander Jim, attempt to dox them, use fake evidence to try to put a scandal on Jim, try to trick them into saying anything incriminating, refuse to answer Jim's questions, constantly change the topic whenever Jim asked questions, and threaten to sue him. Sometime after the interview he threatened Jim with a lawsuit during a phone call. Digital Homicide repeatedly claimed Jim was harassing them, when in fact they were the ones harassing Jim in the first place with the "Review the Review" videos and in even worse in the podcast. The podcast and those videos have more than enough evidence that Digital Homicide were the ones slandering and harassing Jim, not the other way around. The lawsuit against Jim Sterling itself had evidence that Romine was the one defaming Jim Sterling, and they could've counter-sued for that.
- Somehow they actually believed they were innocent, their products were good and their shady practices were a good thing, none of their problems was their fault, they've never done anything bad, and that all their negative reputation was unwarranted. Even after closing down they still said their lawsuits were rightful and that all the "harassment" against them was done by unknown competitors that wanted them out of business. James Romine also continued fighting the lawsuit against Jim Sterling despite the studio being, in his own words, "destroyed".
- They frequently reskinned their games to essentially post the same game to Greenlight over and over. In one case, Wyatt Derp, they didn't even bother to reskin the game and all they did was rotate the camera and call it a "sequel". At one point they posted over 30 reskinned clones of a Space-Invaders knock off to Greenlight at once. All of them were the exact same game with zero gameplay changes, just very minimal aesthetic changes.
- Whatever assets aren't pre-made they plagiarized them from other websites and companies, including DeviantArt pictures and pictures found with Google Search.
- At one point the Romines said that they considered Steam Greenlight an obstacle, proving that they didn't want any form of quality control to exist. Greenlight was literally the ONLY reason why any of their games were ever put for sale on Steam in the first place.
- Sockpuppetry. They used fake accounts to try to put more games on Steam unnoticed. They also frequently used fake YouTube accounts to give themselves positive comments and defend themselves in YouTube comment sections. Whenever they were caught using a fake account they deleted it and any evidence of it.
- One of their fake accounts to post games accidentally used the name of a real company, "ECC games". When the real company found out and threatened legal action, they immediately changed the fake account's name to try to hide it and claimed Jim Sterling asked the real company to attack them as part of an orchestrated attack campaign.
- Most of their games are built almost 100% out of pre-made assets bought from the Unity Store with little to no original work. This is known as "Asset flipping". They tried to defend this practice by claiming they were "supporting the indie game community".
- They started a GoFundme fundraiser to hire a lawyer. They wanted $75,000 yet only got $425. Then they added a complaint in their lawsuit that stated Jim had to pay for them to not afford a lawyer.
- Their actions went so far that Valve eventually banned them from Steam. Then they responded by trying to sue Valve. After Steam banned the studio and removed all of their games, a dispute rose over games being removed from the platform itself!
- In 2020, they published a blog post recollecting the story of their demise, however, people were quick to point out that said "recollection" was nothing but a series of excuses for their bad behavior, complete with another attack on Jim Sterling.
- A perfect example of "Quantity over Quality". Near the end of their "career", they had 21 games fully released and more than 100 games on Steam Greenlight. None of their games take more than an hour to complete and the greatest challenge Comes from trying to reach the end without dealing with bugs and glitches (see below).
- Extremely buggy and glitchy games to the point of occasionally crashing. Most of their games were obviously unfinished.
- Poor controls that can sometimes even be unresponsive.
- Most of their games have no ending, and instead they send you back to the beginning after a certain point. However, there is also no punishment for dying, so you can't lose nor win. The Slaughtering Grounds and Temper Tantrum are the most notorious examples.
- Terrible graphics and ear-bleedingly bad sound design with annoying looping music.
- They didn't know how to make pausing the game pause the game. Trying to pause their games opens a menu but the game keeps running.
- The only reason their games were bought was because they included trade cards. Buyers could sell those and make a profit while Digital Homicide got a cut of the profit. Many speculated that this was the real reason they put so many games at once, to make quick money through trading cards by spamming tons of games for cheap for milking trading cards en masse. Valve confirmed that this was indeed true.
- Once any of their games was released, it was never given any support no matter how many glitches it had.
The Only Redeeming Quality
- Contrary to popular belief, Digital Homicide actually had at least one decent game: a more elaborate game called Dungeons of Kragmor.
- However, despite the better reception, later they claimed that this game "took too much time and resources to develop", leaving it clear that they would not continue on this improvement. This is, of course, a sign of laziness.
- The Phrase, "I'm Jim Fucking Sterling son", became a meme among Sterling's fanbase after Digital Homicide used it in their "Review the Reviewer" of Jim Sterling's first impressions.
- The font used on their logo is a condensed version of Batman Forever (yes, that's the font's name).