Here's an explanation of Dark and Dark and Ironmouse's legal issues with publisher Nexon.

Dark and Darker Legal Issues Explained

Dark and Darker, Ironmace Games’ player vs player vs enemy dungeon crawler has caused a stir, and not just because people have been looking forward to it. Would-be players aside, there’s a whole legal situation surrounding the game, which resulted in this game missing out on its Steam Early Access debut. So what are all these legal shenanigans about? If that’s what you’re wondering, here are the Dark and Darker legal issues explained.

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Here’s Why Dark and Darker Has Run Into Some Legal Trouble

Dark and Darker’s legal issues, which have seen the game removed from Steam, stem from a dispute with a former publisher, Nexon. No, not Nacon, that was a whole different legal drama.

This situation has been going on since at least 2021, when Nexon filed a legal complaint alleging that Ironmace Games had stolen code. The short version is that Nexon says that Ironmace took code and assets from a cancelled project, left, and went to make their own copy of the game they were working on. The long version? You might want to strap in for this.

Prior to forming Ironmace, some of the developer’s staff worked for Nexon (based in South Korea), developing a game called P3 Project. According to Nexon’s 2023 US filing (there’s a US and a South Korean case ongoing), P3 Project was a fantasy game “.. where players hunt for items while fighting each other and the monsters in the game.”

They allege that, while the project was canceled, the developers who later became Ironmace stole code and assets and that “P3 and Dark and Darker are substantially the same game.” Ironmace’s Ju-Hyun Choi and Terence Seungha Park (the latter of whom founded the company) are named as well as the company itself.

So, more than just arguing that Darker and Darker’s a P3 clone, Nexon alleges that the game uses assets taken from the stolen project. How many assets? The 2023 filing claims that “11,602 P3 Project files” were taken. They also allege that Choi recruited people from Nexon’s P3 team to help recreate the game outside of Nexon.

But this is more than just a case of legal back and forth. In response to Nexon’s 2021 complaint, the South Korean police raided Ironmace’s office. Ironmace claimed that nothing had been taken but you can bet not a lot of work got done that day.

How Has Ironmace Responded to These Allegations?

On the subject of these issues, Ironmace hasn’t engaged with the media much. But the company has posted statements to Reddit and to the Dark and Darker discord. One statement (thanks, PC Gamer) reads:

“Our code was built from scratch. Most of our assets are purchased from the Unreal marketplace. All other assets and all game designs docs were created in house. This has already been audited by an outside agency. As far as we know you cannot copyright a game genre.”

The statement suggests the stolen code allegations stem from a “..disgruntled 3rd party”. In other words, they’ve been refuting the allegations and pressing on with development. But then, in March of this year, Dark and Darker was removed from Steam.

Why Was Dark and Darker Removed From Steam?

Nexon filed a DMCA takedown, which led to Valve removing it from the digital storefront in March. Ironmace also received a cease and desist and in response, issued another Discord statement. It also advised players to torrent its latest playtest.

“Nexon states that according to their investigation, “Dark and Darker appears to have been built and developed using trades secrets and copyrighted information, copied and stolen from Nexon.” We would like to show that these allegations are baseless. No copyrighted materials or misappropriated trade secrets from Nexon were used by IRONMACE,” the statement reads. The developer is also attempting to get it back on Steam.

So where does this leave Ironmace and Nexon? Both the US and South Korean court cases are still ongoing. The latter may be settled between August 2023 and September 2023 but it could just as easily drag on.

And the game? The Early Access version is out now, available through non-Steam platforms. Here’s where and how to downloads Dark and Darker. Those are Dark and Darker’s legal issues explained.

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Chris McMullen
Chris McMullen is a freelance contributor at The Escapist and has been with the site since 2020. He returned to writing about games following several career changes, with his most recent stint lasting five-plus years. He hopes that, through his writing work, he settles the karmic debt he incurred by persuading his parents to buy a Mega CD. Outside of The Escapist, Chris covers news and more for GameSpew. He's also been published at such sites as VG247, Space, and more. His tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though he'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based. At Escapist, he's covered such games as Infinite Craft, Lies of P, Starfield, and numerous other major titles.