Darkish and Darker developer Ironmace has launched a four-part response to its authorized problem from Maplestory writer Nexon, together with an summary assertion, a written rebuttal and asset comparisons from Ironmace’s character idea artist, an inventory of in-game property and their origins, and the reportedly full, solely partially-redacted git log (opens in new tab) (a sequential historical past of adjustments to the sport’s code) of Darkish and Darker’s growth to date.
Darkish and Darker timeline
July, 2021: Nexon mission P3 lead developer Ju-Hyun Choi is fired from the corporate. Choi would later be mission lead on Darkish and Darker.August 5, 2021: Nexon reveals identify of mission P3 (opens in new tab) to the general public as a part of an initiative of video games “developed at a sooner tempo and delivered to market the place they are often fine-tuned primarily based on helpful enter from gamers.” P3 is ready to be a primary particular person, medieval fantasy, dungeon crawling PvPvE recreation, much like Darkish and DarkerAugust 9, 2021: Terence Park, director of recreation growth at Nexon and “head of the sub-team for P3 mission” leaves Nexon. He’s presently CEO at IronmaceSeptember 2021: Nexon hires for a mission “P7” that’s later revealed (in March 2022) to have changed or developed out of P3, supposedly changing into a extra up to date, firearms-focused survival gameDevelopment begins on Darkish and Darker, based on the git log launched by Ironmace “The [Ironmace developers] labored for greater than a month in a shabby jiu jitsu gymnasium with out pay utilizing our personal private PCs as a take a look at of our resolve and teamwork.”October 2021: Ironmace formally foundedFebruary 6, 2023: A playable on-line demo of Darkish and Darker is successful on the Steam Subsequent Fest. We liked it (opens in new tab), and it rapidly turned one of the vital performed video games on Steam whereas its demo was reside.February 16, 2023: Allegation that Darkish and Darker makes use of property and/or code taken from mission P3 first seems on Korean gaming website, This Is Sport (opens in new tab).March 8, 2023: Police raid Ironmace (opens in new tab) primarily based on Nexon allegations of stolen code.March 25, 2023: Darkish and Darker is delisted from Steam (opens in new tab) fully following DMCA request (opens in new tab) by Nexon to Valve. Nexon alleges that idea artwork, code, and in-engine property from P3 had been all utilized in Darkish and Darker, moreover that P3 and Darkish and Darker mission chief Ju-Hyun Choi illegally transferred a major quantity of growth supplies to a non-public server earlier than being terminated from Nexon. Nexon additionally alleges that Park and Choi inspired P3 group members to depart Nexon for Ironmace.
Ironmace’s overview response (opens in new tab) is six pages lengthy and in addition features a hyperlink to Nexon’s takedown request (opens in new tab) to Valve. Ironmace frames the personal server accusation towards P3 and Darkish and Darker mission lead Ju-Hyun Choi as a belated retaliation for his selecting to depart Nexon in the midst of 2021, claiming that his utilization of a non-public server to retailer recreation property was an outgrowth of do business from home diversifications throughout Covid lockdowns.
As Ironmace places it, Choi’s utilization of the server was discouraged by Nexon, however by no means immediately shut down, and receded to a secondary concern because the group returned to workplace. It was when Choi introduced an intention to depart Nexon, Ironmace claims, that authorized proceedings towards him started and he was terminated by the corporate. Additional, Ironmace alleges that Nexon solely copyrighted its P3 growth supplies in February of this yr, seemingly in response to Darkish and Darker’s success within the Steam Subsequent Fest.
Ironmace additionally had harsh phrases for Nexon’s declare that the studio couldn’t have produced working prototypes of Darkish and Darker so rapidly with out commerce secrets and techniques from Nexon: “The truth that an enormous recreation firm like Nexon cannot develop video games this quick doesn’t suggest that different studios, huge and small, cannot develop at that velocity.”
Whereas each P3 and Darkish and Darker are being made utilizing Unreal Engine, Ironmace claims that P3 was “written whereas studying as a result of not one of the programmers had any expertise utilizing Unreal Engine on the time of the mission,” and that “utilizing the code and property of the P3 mission as a reference wouldn’t have been useful in continuing with the Darkish and Darker mission.” To bolster the declare, Ironmace launched partly redacted git logs (opens in new tab) of Darkish and Darker’s growth, a large doc stretching again to the mission’s inception in September 2021.
One other declare of Nexon’s that Ironmace contests is the listing of property Nexon says is shared between the 2 video games. Nexon argues that that is an amazing similarity and proof of theft, whereas Ironmace factors out that they’re all both purchasable property on the Unreal retailer, or else generated by growth instruments like Wwise. Ironmace included a spreadsheet (opens in new tab) detailing the sources of the information singled out by Nexon.
One of many extra attention-grabbing displays from Ironmace is its comparability of P3 class ideas to these from Darkish and Darker (opens in new tab). Nexon claims that Darkish and Darker’s character courses derive from copyrighted idea artwork, whereas P3 and Darkish and Darker share an as-of-yet unnamed lead idea artist. The artist in query outlines numerous reference photos they utilized in creating Darkish and Darker’s characters, earlier than contrasting them with counterparts from P3. The artist appears to be arguing that each units of characters merely draw from the identical effectively of generic, tabletop fantasy inspiration courting again to Dungeons and Dragons, they usually all do characterize distinct items of artwork rendered in several poses and settings.
Curiously, Ironmace features a dialog log with ChatGPT the place the corporate makes an attempt to safe a definition of a “PvP dungeon crawl recreation.” Whereas an odd gesture, it appears to be an try to undermine Nexon’s declare that P3 and Darkish and Darker share an identical premises. Whether or not that’s true or not, videogame genres usually are not protected by copyright, and lots of examples of “Antz vs. Bug’s Life” video games exist throughout a number of genres and platforms (Chivalry vs. Mordhau, CoD vs. Battlefield, hell, even Mario vs. Sonic to call just a few.)
Nexon has vital monetary and authorized weight to convey to bear towards Ironmace, however it might not have an hermetic case towards the developer. Circumstantially, one can actually see an overview of disgruntled builders convincing a group to depart Nexon and make their dream recreation on their very own, however absent particular makes use of of copyrighted artwork or code for Nexon to level to, the smaller developer could possibly squeak it out of this conundrum.
As for why Ironmace is publicizing its supplies, my finest guess is that it’s trying to reassure followers and potential traders of Darkish and Darker’s future, or else to tip its hand to Nexon within the hopes that the writer might withdraw its claims. I discover it arduous to disregard the parallels with the saga of Disco Elysium (opens in new tab), its developer ZA/UM, and its founding artists feuding with its moneymen, a battle that’s equally getting slugged out in public by means of duelling lawsuits and public statements.