Recently, the hardcore fantasy FPS game Dark and Darker from Korean developer Ironmace was removed from Steam due to a copyright claim (DMCA) filed by Nexon. The game experienced tremendous success upon the release of its demo earlier in the year, reaching over 100,000 daily concurrent players and quickly becoming one of the most played titles on Steam, breaking popularity records.
Nexon alleges that Ironmace used copyrighted material and trade secrets from a canceled project called “Project P3”. Nexon claims that Ju-Hyun Choithe project team leader, transferred files to his personal server before being fired and convinced other team members to leave Nexon and create a similar game.
Nexon also points out that Terence Seungha Park, the company’s former director of game development and head of the Project P3 sub-team, left the company to found Ironmace, joined by Ju-Hyun Choi as managing director. Additionally, ten of the twenty members of the Project P3 team have also left Nexon, and are now believed to be working on Ironmace. The company argues that it is impossible for Ironmace to have developed Dark and Darker in such a short time without stealing secrets and sensitive information from Nexon.
Nexon maintains that the similarities in character design, concepts, genre, and story support their allegations. An example that the company presents is that “the premise of both games involves adventurers entering dungeons full of monsters and treasures in search of riches.” Other similarities reportedly include the PvPvE genre, FPS and RPG elements, character classes, the game’s starting point, and user interaction with game features.
Ironmace officially responded to Nexon’s accusations on his Discord server, calling them “baseless.” They claim that the copyright was filed six months after the release of Dark and Darker and Ju-Hyun Choi’s file transfers were authorized. They affirm that the development of the new game would be from scratch, supported by testimonies before the police.
They highlight trust in Ju-Hyun Choi as the reason several team members left Nexon, and question the originality of Project P3’s “concept, genre, and plot”, citing other similar games. They explain the rapid development of Dark and Darker thanks to the purchase of assets in the Unreal Marketplace and a better team structure.
They point out that Project P3 was hastily created, and using it would have been a hindrance rather than a benefit. They argue that most of the similarities in filenames are due to the same engine and purchased Unreal Engine assets, and the remaining files can be explained by naming conventions and general concepts.
Ironmace challenges Nexon to quickly submit evidence through the police or renounce its unsubstantiated claims, and is willing to conduct comparative analysis with a third-party auditor if Nexon provides its files.
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