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iOS app accused of stealing assets from Runic Games'  Torchlight
iOS app accused of stealing assets from Runic Games' Torchlight
July 18, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

July 18, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing

A new iOS brawler dubbed Armed Heroes Online has caused quite a stir this week, as the 3D action game has been accused of stealing its art assets from Runic Games' popular action RPG Torchlight.

Giant Bomb reports that shortly after Armed Heroes Online debuted on the iTunes App Store, Runic Games president Travis Baldree called the game into question, as he noticed that the title looked an awful lot like the game he released in 2009.

Baldree claims that this goes beyond the typical "cloning" often seen on iOS and Android. As he pointed out in a comparison image, many of the assets in Armed Heroes Online aren't just similar to Torchlight; they're almost identical.

In addition, Baldree downloaded and picked apart the mobile app, and discovered that many of the audio files were also taken from Torchlight -- with Runic's misspelled file names still intact.

While there's been no official word from Chinese developer EGLS, posters claiming to represent the company on the game's forums have denied Baldree's claims, asserting that Armed Heroes Online is in fact using original material. Given the anonymous nature of those boards, however, it's unclear whether these responses are actually coming from the company itself.

Adding to the controversy, a forum poster claiming to be a spokesperson for EGLS created a thread on Touch Arcade, denouncing Baldree's claims altogether. Like on the ELGS forums, however, the poster offered no proof of his or her identity.

"We can hardly agree with Mr. Travis Baldree who judged that EGLS 'wholesale stole most of the assets from Torchlight!' only based on the similarity between several small monsters. The judgment is simply untenable," the alleged spokesperson said.

Things only got more heated when the poster turned the tables on Runic and claimed that Torchlight "blatantly ripped off" WildTangent's Fate. It's an interesting accusation, since Baldree himself used to work at WildTangent, and in fact was one of the primary developers behind that 2005 RPG.

As of this writing, Armed Heroes Online is not longer available on the iTunes App Store.

[Update: ELGS has issued its official statement in response to Baldree's allegations, and said that it plans to "modify some parts" of Armed Heroes Online in an effort to calm the ongoing controversy. The company did not however, admit to copying the game, nor did it apologize for its actions.

"As a professional game developer, EGLS has been always dedicating our every effort to bring out better game experience for our players. Players always come first. There, we prefer to modify some parts of Armed Heroes Online where have caused those disputes rather than go on arguing. As long as this carves out a way out of angry disputes, it will be definitely worth our efforts," the company said via a statement on Joystiq.

In addition, the company added that if necessary, it will submit documents, files, and other materials to Apple in hopes of proving that it did not copy Runic's assets.]

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Kyle Redd
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"Baldtree downloaded and picked apart the mobile app, and discovered that many of the audio files were also taken from Torchlight -- with Runic's misspelled file names still intact."

So, maybe change the headline from "accused of" to "caught," then.

gormee kornell
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won't be the first time someone from china has blatantly ripped off someone's original work, made it uglier and tries to pass it off as something they made.

makes me ashamed to be chinese even though i'm not from china

Ron Dippold
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They also accused Runic of heavily borrowing from Diablo II. Apparently unaware that Runic are the Diablo II devs - also conflating copying designs with outright theft of assets.

There's also significant looting of World of Warcraft in there too. Some of the idle animations, the necromancer armor is WoW warlock armor, who knows what else.

august clark
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Yeah, well pot-kettle, and we can't verify cause and effect either, so their next defense will likely involve time travel.

Michael Haney
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devs from china steal? what...? no...

George Blott
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Looks like they did a poor job of covering their tracks (filenames etc..), which makes them at the very least lazy. I'm not sure how I feel about this to be honest, I empathize with the Torchlight team, but on the other hand I very much enjoy sample-based music / remix culture. I'd like to think that some of the techniques used by those music producers have an analog in game design/art direction.

There's a grey area between games that might be "a love letter to [blank]", like I Want to be the Guy and it's sampled sprites, or Team Meat's use of elements from their friend's games - and blatant art rip-offs like this. Something interesting might be brewing in that grey area.

Kevin Fishburne
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This obviously depends on the nature of the individual developer, but asking for permission may have made a world of difference. Taking, using and publishing another dev's assets without even asking is really a slap in the face. And whether or not Torchlight is a "rip off" of Fate is a separate issue from Travis's accusation, so using that as some kind of defense is inane.