Update: Torchlight Studio: iPhone MMO Stole Assets "Wholesale"

Update: Torchlight Studio: iPhone MMO Stole Assets "Wholesale"

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Runic Games claims that nearly identical character models and sound files constitutes more than just "inspiration."

From Angry Birds to Pocket Planes, mobile devices like the iPhone are home to plenty of popular and intriguing new games, but they also house an all-too-common type of game: the clone. The blatant rip-off. The game that doesn't just resemble its more popular counterpart - it practically traces over it. And while most clones avoid litigation thanks to being legally original - mechanics and concepts by themselves aren't covered under copyright law - some take it a bit too far. Many, like the ill-fated Triple Town clone Yeti Town, somehow manage to plunder the actual code from the original game and lay a new skin on top of it. Lifting art and sound assets is rarer, but according to Torchlight developer Runic Games, that's exactly what is going on in the new mobile MMO Armed Heroes Online.

The game, made by Beijing developer EGLS and released on the Canada app store early July, seems to be original enough in terms of gameplay. It's the actual art and sounds in the game that prompted Runic Games' Co-founder Travis Baldree to call out the company on Twitter last weekend. He took several snapshots from the new game and posted them side-by-side with Torchlight models, claiming that the games' similarities go beyond stylistic choice.

EGLS predictably fired back in, of all places, an online forum at TouchArcade. Serena Zhang wholly denied Baldree's accusations, claiming that similarities come from the team members taking "inspirations from other games and movies" and insisting that, regardless of how inspired they are by a single game, it does not constitute theft. Zhang also compared the protagonists of the two games, pointing out that the models do not match exactly. For example, the Wizard protagonist in Armed Heroes Online is female, while Torchlight's Alchemist is male.

The final defense Zhang put forth is that Torchlight and Armed Heroes Online both draw inspiration from Blizzard and its seminal games World of Warcraft and Diablo. Zhang emphasized that Torchlight itself borrowed heavily from other games, including Fate and Diablo II, and concluded that "there is never such a game which has no similarity at all with games of its same type, including Torchlight."

Baldree responded to the post, claiming that the sound files packaged with Armed Heroes Online share filenames - including typos and unique monster names - with Torchlight. He dismissed the rationalization that the similarities were just inspiration, stating, "I have no problem with inspiration. We are obviously inspired by Diablo, and make no bones about it. But we don't include any Diablo artwork or sounds in our game." To prove his point further, he posted two more comparison shots using the models Zhang used in the original post, again showing eerie similarities with Torchlight.

Regardless of whether Apple takes Armed Heroes Online off the app store - a move Baldree said he would be requesting of the company - the debacle once again raises a slew of age-old questions about the place of inspiration and borrowing in game development. How much inspiration is too much? Is so-called 'evolutionary' development the best way to innovate? And when are developers going to stop cloning Doom?

Update: Apple has removed Armed Heroes Online from the Canada app store. EGLS released a response statement, saying it will attempt to get its game back online by modifying the disputed assets and sending documents to Apple to prove the game's originality.

Source: Kotaku, Pocket Gamer

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Runic handled the situation as best they could. Its unfortunate that they have to deal with a company based in Beijing however. The Chinese don't give a flying fuck about intellectual property laws.

Sounds like the people in Torchlight did the same thing I did back when I worked designing auto-cad prints. I used to put my initials in impossible to see places, and thus making secret imperfections. After a year of having quit, I got called back to teach some new people who had replaced me just to find their drawings were suspiciously similar to mine. When I pointed that the similarities to the head of the division, who wouldn't believe it, all I had to do was make the imperfection visible. VIOLA! sure enough they had no idea what they were doing and just copying and pasting my previous works.

However, this isn't the same company copying and pasting other employee's work. This is a company blatantly stealing from another and trying to bullshit their way out.

Holy hell, I just watched a video for that iPhone game and I don't think I saw a single thing that wasn't from another game. Mage characters looks EXACTLY like an undead warlock wearing tier 10 (I think) gear from WoW. Not to mention several weapons ripped straight from wow. Then the comparison pictures from Runic. I thought Gameloft was bad.

Given the number of rip offs you see with mobile gaming, you swear that's all they do.

Wow...
So these chinese try to reply with: Hey look! Torchlight stole the pet idea from another game called Fate! But fail to take notice that Fate was developed by Travis Baldree himself...
Not only do they try to ignore the claims by posting "completely different" features of the game, but they also admit "we do use some bone construction and mapping skills from WOW for references to polish and optimize our designs to have better displays on mobile devices".
1. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to extract and use WoW models for reference, as that would probably violate several of Blizzards EULAs and licenses.
2. What does WoW have to do at all with "optimizing for better displays on mobile devices"?
3. If they extract and import WoW character models for "reference", would they stop at doing so for Torchlight? Probably not.

So now the Chinese are outsourcing character design to Canada?

NLS:
Wow...
So these chinese try to reply with: Hey look! Torchlight stole the pet idea from another game called Fate! But fail to take notice that Fate was developed by Travis Baldree himself...

I thought the "copying Diablo" part was a nice touch too, considering that Runic was founded by people from Blizzard North, who made Diablo in the first place. How dare they steal so many ideas from themselves?

And we used to wonder why they taught us to do a works cited in school...

There's a difference between inspired by and having some of the same monster names and, ffs, typos? That's pretty evident theft, right there.

[cheap jab at piracy]Hey this is gaming, copyright violation is okay so long as you have a flimsy excuse or are mildly annoyed right?[/cheap jab at piracy]

The issue here is whether or not they can prove that their assets were used in the final game. If they used the same assets then the company preformed an illegal action. If they just modeled the exact same asset themselves then they are in the clear, though there company is soulless, unless they replicated the entire game.

Nalgas D. Lemur:

NLS:
Wow...
So these chinese try to reply with: Hey look! Torchlight stole the pet idea from another game called Fate! But fail to take notice that Fate was developed by Travis Baldree himself...

I thought the "copying Diablo" part was a nice touch too, considering that Runic was founded by people from Blizzard North, who made Diablo in the first place. How dare they steal so many ideas from themselves?

Yeah, my biggest gripe with this is probably summed up as: Runic accuses EGLS of sound + model theft. Instead of adressing that and saying "oh sorry we stole that", they accuse Runic of stealing ideas from themselves, and therefore it's ok.
It's like stealing a car, giving it a quick paint-job, and then say "but the owner had washed the car before, so therefore it's ok to steal it". Sense, it makes none.

iPhone...MMO...?

*twitch*

The similarities (at least from the few pictures I saw) are pretty striking. Far more importantly though WHEN THE FUCK IS TORCHLIGHT 2 COMING OUT!!

kitsuta:
in, of all places, an online forum at TouchArcade.

Once you realize that TouchArcade is the largest gathering place for iOS gamers and developers on the net (with a tradition of surprisingly frequent visits from developers in the threads for their own games, something that holds true for small-time indie devs and Rovio as well as the guys behind Brink, Chair/Unreal, and people from the EA Mobile division), this becomes a far less curious choice of channel. The TA forums are where Baldree first posted his (seemingly fully justified) claims as well.

Micalas:
iPhone...MMO...?

*twitch*

You'd be surprised. Check out videos of Order & Chaos Online, a WoW clone for iOS from Gameloft. It plays almost exactly like WoW, looks similar, works wonderfully well on the small screen and even over 3G connections, and is, because of its heritage, of course insufferably tedious, non-stimulating and unrewarding.

But it does stand as an indication that modern generic MMOs work really well on smartphones.

Now, Vendetta Online, a full twitch-based open space simulation MMO, on smartphones, that's the real achievement, and the real indication of smartphone gaming targeted towards a very hardcore online crowd.

Y'know, EGLS did a pretty good job pointing out that Torchlight ripped off Fable in a lot of ways. But they didn't do perfectly. If they had done a bit more research, they would've directed Baldree to look at a new game that's about to be released called 'Torchlight 2' that also shares quite a few similarities with Torchlight.

Looking at the side by side pics... that's some pretty damn blatant cut and paste.

Concepts, assets, controls... code and design is apparently free for plagiarism in the mobile market. The major difference this time is the laziness of the redesign team... oh, and the fact that Torchlight wasn't a free flash game, unlike Crush the Castle. Still can't believe they got away with charging for Angry Birds...

IP theft always annoys me, having written short stories and started work on video game projects I can state with certainty that it takes a lot of time, resources and slamming your head against a brick wall to come up with something truly unique and viable that you yourself are happy with. To have some asshole waltz by and just straight up steal that work you spent so long developing would be heart breaking. And yeah, I've had it happen to me.

Voren:
Sounds like the people in Torchlight did the same thing I did back when I worked designing auto-cad prints. I used to put my initials in impossible to see places, and thus making secret imperfections. After a year of having quit, I got called back to teach some new people who had replaced me just to find their drawings were suspiciously similar to mine. When I pointed that the similarities to the head of the division, who wouldn't believe it, all I had to do was make the imperfection visible. VIOLA! sure enough they had no idea what they were doing and just copying and pasting my previous works.

However, this isn't the same company copying and pasting other employee's work. This is a company blatantly stealing from another and trying to bullshit their way out.

I used to do the same thing when I used Revit architecture. Lol

It is hard to tell if someone stole assets from this game since the lazy aesthetic style is copy and pasted by a dozen or more games lately.
Just a small sample, obviously D1-2 and PoE are exempt, since I pulled this from the PoE forums.
http://i.imgur.com/5baE9.jpg

...says the guys who lifted assets wholesale from FATE.

Not saying that Torchlight is bad (it's marginally better than FATE), but the gems are identical, the fish are identical, the function of the town is identical, and a bunch of other little identical things. Because they're the same game, except Torchlight is steampunk-y with guns.

Some of the developers at Runic Games are former Wildtangent employees. Also Travis Baldree (President of Runic Games) was also a former employee and worked on Fate. So there is good reason for the similarities between Fate and Torchlight.

lacktheknack:
...says the guys who lifted assets wholesale from FATE.

Not saying that Torchlight is bad (it's marginally better than FATE), but the gems are identical, the fish are identical, the function of the town is identical, and a bunch of other little identical things. Because they're the same game, except Torchlight is steampunk-y with guns.

That's not assets. That's ideas/mechanics. And Runic actually said they wouldn't mind a clone, the problem they have is they took their files, modified some of them a little, and then used them. Which they really have to care about for legal reasons. FATE was also made by one of Runic's cofounders, so stealing his own ideas and mechanics isn't something I really care about anyway.

kitsuta:

The game, made by Beijing developer EGLS.....

ah. why do i feel guilty when i said to myself 'china must be involved in it' before i clicked the news.

and thats how china is "beating the pirates"
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/117482-China-Were-Beating-the-Pirates

I'm not sure about the polygons - I mean the textures look like almost direct rips - but the models seem to be lower polygon counts, maybe they ran the media through a polygon reducer.

Inspiration is one thing, practically every game is inspired by other games - there are very few original ideas out there. It's not a problem though, if an established idea works for a game, then why shouldn't it adopt it as it's own. That's a given, and comparing Torchlight to Fable is a fairly pointless and petty argument.

Stealing media directly from another game is plain retarded. It probably happens all the time, hell - I've had media 'stolen' from me, well, lets say 'used without credit'. It kinda sticks in your craw, especially when all you'd really care about is a little recognition - like that team of a dozen artists listed in the credits, that dozen people stealing from 1 poor indi developer (for instance), well it's pathetic... where indipendant artists are concerned - having their name in the credits can make a big difference, it can be more valuable than being paid, when trying to secure future work for instance. God only knows just how much media industry professionals have used without permission.

Thing is though, they really dropped the ball. If I had made a game like that, that looked like Torchlight, played like it, stole from it... well I'd contact Runic and put the game forward as a mobile version of Torchlight - I mean, a mobile Torchlight, how fricken well would that do on the App store! - A Diablo-like that isn't Dungeon Hunter, that would be awesome.

infinity_turtles:

lacktheknack:
...says the guys who lifted assets wholesale from FATE.

Not saying that Torchlight is bad (it's marginally better than FATE), but the gems are identical, the fish are identical, the function of the town is identical, and a bunch of other little identical things. Because they're the same game, except Torchlight is steampunk-y with guns.

That's not assets. That's ideas/mechanics. And Runic actually said they wouldn't mind a clone, the problem they have is they took their files, modified some of them a little, and then used them. Which they really have to care about for legal reasons. FATE was also made by one of Runic's cofounders, so stealing his own ideas and mechanics isn't something I really care about anyway.

In terms of fish and gems, they WERE lifted wholesale. They're literally identical.

There was other stuff, too, but I don't have time to check right now.

What I find really funny about this mess is that Runic/Torchlight is published by another chinese company, Perfect World Interactive. If PWI gets involved in China as well this could get really bad for EGLS.

lacktheknack:
In terms of fish and gems, they WERE lifted wholesale. They're literally identical.

There was other stuff, too, but I don't have time to check right now.

No they arent literally identical. The mechanics are almost identical, and they serve the exact same purpose. The art, sound effects, and even the code, are not the same. Google them, and then do a side by side comparison. They're close, using the same sort of artstyle and being fish/gems, and again mechanically they serve the same purpose but with only the slightest deviations in how they effect stats. They copied Fate yes, but then the guy who made it co-founded Runic.

Now, Armed Heroes literally, and I mean literally, took Torchlight's files, altered some, and plopped them into the game. They copied wholesale the sound file from a gag weapon, which is voiced by one of their members. They have sound effect files named after Torchlight's enemies and bosses, complete with misspellings. Some of the enemies have their textures edited very slightly, but all of them use the same models and animations from Torchlight.

Copying a games design and stealing assets are not the same thing.

Captcha: have fun
I would captcha, but Orcs Must Die 2 doesn't come out until the 30th

infinity_turtles:

lacktheknack:
In terms of fish and gems, they WERE lifted wholesale. They're literally identical.

There was other stuff, too, but I don't have time to check right now.

No they arent literally identical. The mechanics are almost identical, and they serve the exact same purpose. The art, sound effects, and even the code, are not the same. Google them, and then do a side by side comparison. They're close, using the same sort of artstyle and being fish/gems, and again mechanically they serve the same purpose but with only the slightest deviations in how they effect stats. They copied Fate yes, but then the guy who made it co-founded Runic.

Now, Armed Heroes literally, and I mean literally, took Torchlight's files, altered some, and plopped them into the game. They copied wholesale the sound file from a gag weapon, which is voiced by one of their members. They have sound effect files named after Torchlight's enemies and bosses, complete with misspellings. Some of the enemies have their textures edited very slightly, but all of them use the same models and animations from Torchlight.

Copying a games design and stealing assets are not the same thing.

Captcha: have fun
I would captcha, but Orcs Must Die 2 doesn't come out until the 30th

Again, I don't begrudge them that. They just could have fooled me (and did).

I'm certainly not defending Armed Heroes. They have plain old poor form.

Runic handled this rather well.
Also, funny how they accuse Runic for getting inspired by games that some of them actually made.

Also, I wonder if the guys at Runic intentionally misspelled the names.
When working on a program I intentionally misspell some parts that won't be visible to the user. That way I can always see if someone actually just copied my work or not. I was even accused of copying someone else MC mode until I proved that that mod is just a copy of my mod.

Funny how people try to earn money or respect in a community by taking other peoples work.

 

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