Treadful Mistank: EA Explains Tiberium Alliances’ Tanks

By Nathan Grayson on April 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Total coincidence, I'm sure.
So EA made a bit of boo-boo. The publishing behemoth recently came under fire for seemingly commandeering and conquering tank designs from Warhammer 40K for use in bite-sized browser-based disaster C&C: Tiberium Alliances. The resemblance was pretty much unmistakable. Every turret, tread, and grindy, mashy thing was replicated almost 1:1. So, EA, it all looks pretty incriminating, and I’ve heard prison is a rough place for giant multi-national conglomerates like yourself. What say you in your own defense?

In a statement to GameSpot, EA wrote the whole situation off as a big misunderstanding.

“Games Workshop and EA are aware of the IP issues around the artwork in question, which have now been resolved. The artwork was internal EA concept art that was unintentionally released publicly. No Warhammer 40,000 tanks have ever made an appearance in Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, and never will. Games Workshop and EA continue to have a strong relationship working together on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and the new free to play game Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes which just entered open beta.”

Internal concept or not, that still means someone (or maybe even a few someones) at EA found themselves a bit too ”inspired” by Games Workshop’s pioneering work in the field of hulking metal death machines. So one would expect that perhaps those people have since boxed up their collections of desk-adorning WH40K figurines and found a new place of employment. And yet, it’s hard not to be skeptical of EA as a whole, if only because big publishers have ended up with giant spotlights shone on their gleaming red hands far too frequently as of late.

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127 Comments »

  1. cliffski says:

    whats the point of concept art you won’t use and is not original? They could have just taken a photo of the warhammer tank, if thats what it was being used for. (a sort of mood-board of style).
    Sounds like serious backtracking to me.

    • Dana says:

      Because it may just act as a visual concept of stylistic designs.

      • Sirbolt says:

        This is probably not even concept art. In no production environment i’ve worked in would this be the practice. Concepts get thrown away all the time, but before modelling and texturing this an Art Director would have signed of on a simpler representation. Considering Tiberium Alliance basically uses pre-rendered assets this even looks like a production model, and not a concept. Someone stole, be it AD or Artist.

      • cassus says:

        If you’re a concept artist and pull this sort of crap, you’re basically done in the industry. A concept artists job is to come up with new stuff. sure, they take inspiration from stuff, but the whole thing is to make it new. Getting into the field of concept art is pretty tough, and if you got a job at EA you’re skilled enough to know that pulling crap like this will get you fired and discredited throughout the industry. Either this was a lazy concept artist, or it was a concept artist who got the task of just Ctrl-c Ctrl-v some Games Workshop stuff. Wouldn’t put it past EA to be honest.. Only reason it’s not in the game is that testers spotted the copies pretty early..

        • nitftas says:

          Seems to me like they were using the model to test their lighting + texturing out, without having to design the real tank they plan on using. Notch is doing that in 0x10c (where he uses a model that looks like the Soldier from TF2). http://short-urls.net/70a

    • bglamb says:

      “We should make tanks like in 40k.”
      “Can you show me some concept art for that?”
      “Sure!”

    • Turbobutts says:

      Brainstorming. Look it up.

      • cliffski says:

        wow, sarcasm
        look it up.

        brainstorming means new ideas, not ctrl+c + ctrl+v (look it up).

        • FunkyBadger3 says:

          When ethics and deadlines collide.

          • Phantoon says:

            I’m pretty sure you’re fired if you work at EA and admit to having any ethics.

        • DrGonzo says:

          Wow, grammar.

          Look it up.

          It enables you to relay things such as sarcasm.

          • outoffeelinsobad says:

            Wow. 1 Corinthians 13:11: look it up.

            I apologize on behalf of the community for the silliness, Cliffski.

            Also, I find it depressing that EA turned this into a “target of opportunity” to promote their new FTP Warhammer MMO.

          • RockandGrohl says:

            Wow, bitchiness, look it up.

            Both of you have valid points. Yes, this is the sort of thing you do for brainstorming. You take inspiration for existing and successful ideas. Like it or not, not everything in the world is an original idea.

            Playing devils advocate. The EA design is clearly 95% similar, and it should have been altered a bit more even if it was just a brainstorm.

          • Skabooga says:

            Wow, snapping shrimps. Look it up. Those things are awesome.

          • TsunamiWombat says:

            Wow, running gags, look it up

          • jrodman says:

            Wow, an MMO.
            Look it up.

          • Crispy says:

            Wow! A third-person, singular, neuter pronoun; look it up.

    • Unaco says:

      Inspiration.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Surely if you just wanted it as part of a collection for inspiration/mood, you’d just use photos of the model/GW’s artwork of it. The banner image appears to indicate some hours were sunk into modelling and texturing it, then putting it on a little unit-spotlight graphic with a name and faction (i.e. already put into the context of the game—it’s not labelled “that Ork tank”).

        • bglamb says:

          This is how beurocracy works.

        • RakeShark says:

          Yeah, you tend to lose the “inspiration” artistic license leeway when you translate the source material to you own work with only a changed paint job.

        • Unaco says:

          Maybe they wanted the concept to be in the context of the game, with the little unit-spotlight graphic with a name and faction etc.

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        Inspiration? At EA? Surely you haven’t forgotten this: https://imgur.com/DXVoh.jpg

        • Unaco says:

          No… I haven’t forgotten that. Considering I had no clue about it in the first place, I could hardly forget it, could I? Also… Not that I was planning to play the Mass Effect trilogy anytime soon, but thanks for the fucking spoiler if I ever do play it.

          • Underwhelmed says:

            Well one consolation, the picture doesn’t have to come as an aftermath of the event described. So while yeah, you know that you will get the picture, and yeah, you know of one situation it will emerge, you can at least take some solace in knowing that the story can work to that point in several other ways.

            Also, yeah, don’t click blind links from smug self-entitled internet nerds. has Goatse taught us nothing?

          • Dlarit says:

            I wouldnt get upset over this its like saying *Spoiler* Mario dies in level 1 of Super Mario Bros, he did in that one game i played that time but it may not happen in the game you play dont worry.

        • senorpoco says:

          Created an account especially just to say, thank you for the spoiler. I have spent weeks tiptoeing around stories discussing the ending of ME3 until I get time to play it.

      • h4plo says:

        What the fuck man? Some sort of spoiler tag would have been great here. Very well, and very respectfully, played.

    • Chris D says:

      Lots of people seem to be missing Cliffski’s point. Using a 40K tank for inspiration is fine but then you just use a picture of the real thing. You don’t pay an artist to draw you a copy of something you can’t use.

    • trjp says:

      The word they should have used is “placeholder art” and then everyone would have to say “oh – yeah – errr – ok” and that’s that.

      It is entirely possible they simply lifted the models from an actual Warhammer game – even!?

    • bill says:

      Hey clifski, no-one read all your comment! ;-)

    • Lobotomist says:

      I really love the naivete of some people here.

      So for your service let me translate this from PR to actual speech :

      One of our designers was lazy and copied G.W. Tank , thought nobody will notice. But internet did.
      We had to pay lot of money to G.W. The designer was promptly sacked and sued. And our PR had to think of something that will make us appear less bad. So we came up with “Only internal concept” story.

    • Lemming says:

      It’s perfectly possible that the artist in question had these already done for his/her own amusement, and then it was used as placeholder art when prototyping the game.

      /knocks off tinfoil hats on his way out the door

    • Bhazor says:

      @Cliffski

      Agreed, if this was just for inspiration why give it a name? More importantly why spend hours rendering it. Backpedalling, furiously.

    • tungstenHead says:

      Familiarization with the ideas in use; practice using those ideas; a general exercise for the artist; internalization of the ideas through use so that they are more second nature to the artist; examination in detail of the ideas to better understand them; fandom for the subject in question. All are valid reasons for an artist to take someone else’s work and reproduce it in detail. Some of those reasons don’t fly when an artist is working on the clock, but I’m not trying to exonerate the people that made this mistake. They cocked up, that’s plain enough to see. I can’t say who at EA is responsible, but, frankly, that’s none of my damn business anyway. That’s theirs and they can have it.

    • Booch says:

      Seems to me like they were using the model to test their lighting + texturing out, without having to design the real tank they plan on using. Notch is doing that in 0x10c (where he uses a model that looks like the Soldier from TF2).

      • Bhazor says:

        Sooooooooo instead of using one of their tank designs from their 20 year old game franchise they instead take the time to model a new wholly unrelated tank. As a shader test.

        Are you kidding me? I mean they’ve got 3D models from their other games already, it would be an hours work to port one of those in. What you’re looking at up there took days and why would they do that instead of making a model they could actually use in game.

        • Jim9137 says:

          I am fairly confident making one of those tanks at most took a day from start to finish. Most likely less than handful of hours. I base this upon the fact that it is a fairly boxy, simple design that uses plenty of elementary pieces; has plenty of repeating bits that can simply be cloned along a path or otherwise; and has an actual professional instead of a mere hobbyist doing it.

          • Ichi_1 says:

            Do you actually have a job? At no point would my boss come up to me and say ‘Hey, can you waste a day’s work making something we don’t need?’.

            At best a designer cut major corners and is losing his job because of it, at worst someone ordered him to copy Warhammer.

          • Booch says:

            Well you’re assuming everyones boss is like yours ( I’m sure we both know people who don’t even pay attention to their underlings, let alone nag them to make sure every hour of work done is 100% productive) as well as assuming that the models weren’t already made before hand by the artist in his spare time, or even from another project (EA has worked with GW before).

    • Sirbolt says:

      Of course it’s backtracking, no one would make that polished concept art without it having been signed off for production. For those saying “inspiration” or “brainstorming” not one of the production environments i’ve worked in would do this. Too timeconsuming and serves no purpose when you can just use the original image. So basically EA are lying, and some concept artist and/or Art Director didn’t think anyone would notice.

    • Sirbolt says:

      There isn’t. In no production environment i’ve worked in would this be the practice. Concepts get thrown away all the time, but before modelling and texturing this an Art Director would have signed of on a simpler representation. Considering Tiberium Alliance basically uses pre-rendered assets this even looks like a production model, and not a concept. Someone stole, be it AD or Artist.

    • Shuck says:

      I can see these being used as placeholder models if (and only if) either one of the artists had previously worked on a WH40K game where these were made but not used, or they had previously made them for fun, perhaps as part of their portfolio. I can’t conceive of another scenario except that someone was trying to pull a fast one.

  2. Hellraiserzlo says:

    Internally they can do what ever the fuck they want to, maybe the point of those 40k tanks is giving that grotesque mood that they want to replicate, that’s how inspiration and prototyping works.
    No need to be so judgmental on EA… \:

    • Antsy says:

      Leave EA alone! LEAVE EA ALONE!

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      The point is there’s about a thousand GW images already out there to use for refence if that’s all they wanted. They didn’t need to draw their own concept art with C&C logos all over unless they were trying to pass them off as their own.

      Also, it wasn’t internal was it? Unless we’re all EA employees

    • lurkalisk says:

      “…that grotesque mood that they want to replicate…”

      Honestly, that’s the real problem I have with all this. The tank in question looks like some sort of battle-cage from the 1300′s, which is fitting for WH40K (though, this is an example without peer, as I’ve seen), but is NOT AT ALL fitting for anything C&C. But that’s to be expected from any IP EA extracted postmortem from a fallen friendly unit (felled by friendly fire, in this case, as EA is wont to do).

    • Hellraiserzlo says:

      Screw EA, but I am tired from reading bad jokes on them after every time they take a piss.
      Especially if it’s blaming them for trademark violation before they actually did it.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        What? They just did it. There’s a picture of it, having been done, at the top of the page. Did you just wake up or something?

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Next week on RPS, Gabe Newell doodles Mickey Mouse on his whiteboard and is…no, wait, that’s clearly not stealing. But it totally is when EA do it.

    Did that tank in the banner image appear in the game or not?

  4. El Sapiente says:

    What? And I thought they actually used that in a game. So much about misleading news.

    • Skabooga says:

      Well, I don’t suppose any of us would know if it actually appeared in the game or not. :)

  5. datom says:

    This was pretty predictable. Either it is a) concept art or b) more than that. If it was b), they fire the artist and claim a). It’s a pretty sensible defence

  6. RakeShark says:

    How positively Edge-y of EA.

  7. Choca says:

    The funniest and part of this news is : “Games Workshop and EA continue to have a strong relationship working together on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning”

    • MordeaniisChaos says:

      OH GOD YOU’RE RIGHT.

    • Verity says:

      Yes, they work SO hard on this game, SO hard… I’d like it to go F2P instead of that 4-or-so-button-spamming mindless piece of a game they concentrate on. :(

  8. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Well, if a public Facebook page is for internal use nowadays… that particular screenshot was uploaded somewhere in early February!

  9. Tony M says:

    I think you’re being a bit unfair to EA here. The CEO can’t psychically screen every artist to check they aren’t cutting corners by plagiarizing. If they eventually picked up the problem and cut the assets for the game, then they have acted appropriately.

    Yes releasing the “concept art” was a stuff up though.

  10. theleif says:

    I for one wouldn’t mid if more artists got more “inspired” by the 40k ork design.

  11. Blackcompany says:

    so…in other words, this tank will not be part of the game’s official cannon…

  12. simonh says:

    As much as I may dislike EA it doesn’t seem fair to blame the company or the management for this. It was probably a single artist who held the whole responsibility for producing the tanks for the project, and it shouldn’t be the job of management to police every artist about IP infringement, they should frankly be able to be trusted not to do it anyway. This guy got lazy though.

  13. Tei says:

    I drawed once something that accidentally ended up the same idea as other popular dude. I not copied from him, and he probably not copied from me. We drawed the same thing accidentally. It happends. So every time I see something like this, I take it with a ENORMEOUS mountain of salt, because uncanny aparences can happends accidentally. I don’t say that this is not copied, I say that this can (perfectly) be not copied.

    • LionsPhil says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptomnesia

      (See also: why patent law is a load of bollocks.)

    • Ritashi says:

      It could be that this particular artist is a big 40k fan, happens to have seen those models many years ago, managed to subconsciously memorize them in detail, and then recreate them under the impression that they were his own, original ideas. It’s more likely that he simply took a bit too much “inspiration” from the models in question. Occam’s razor, I fear, probably applies here.

      It also doesn’t really matter if it was intentionally stolen or not, it was indeed stolen. At this stage it should really be no major issue to simply get rid of those resources and not use them in a commercial product. The artist probably got some heat, but he may or may not have gotten fired based on his track record at EA. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was fired though, had these made it all the way into a game before being discovered there could have been major consequences.

  14. HisMastersVoice says:

    An “internal concept” that happens to be a fully modeled and textured game asset? Yeah, makes perfect sense…

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s not impossible. Here’s the creation of some Planetside 2 concept art, and in the process it’s modelled and sort-of textured. But EA’s does look more like a lower-poly in-game model, yeah.

    • mckertis says:

      “Yeah, makes perfect sense…”

      It totally does. Today’s tools are so powerful, you can create concept art entirely in 3D, and it will probably wont take much longer than some 2D speedpaint. Folks with some skills, like, for example, Alex Alvarez, do exactly that, pretty much daily.

      • Sirbolt says:

        No, they don’t. This would take way more time than a speedpaint or any quick organic sculpt in zbrush.

      • Shuck says:

        The thing is, using existing IPs for inspiration happens at the very earliest stages of concepting, when setting a style direction. At that stage you use images you find – if you’re going to go to the effort of even sketching it out roughly, the sketch would be of an original design.
        The only way this could end up as even a placeholder model is if they took it from an existing WH40K game (apparently not), or one of the artists happened to have previously modeled some WH40K tanks for fun as part of his portfolio. Otherwise the only way it would end up in actual 3D model form is if an artist was trying to pass off an existing design as one of his own.

    • The Colonel says:

      Also, are we supposed the believe it’s coincidence that this is a super obscure model from 1995. It smacks of looking for something that no-one will recognise…

  15. jalf says:

    No Warhammer 40,000 tanks have ever made an appearance in Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, and never will.

    /sadface

    WH40k tanks make everything better.

  16. Archonsod says:

    GW did just lift their tank designs from some of the wackier stuff being mooted during the world wars though, so in fairness it could be that they’re both actually ripping off the Kaiser.

  17. d34thm0nk3y says:

    Dear god folks. It’s just random art. I really doubt EA would have attempted to directly copy other people in their games. That’s just retarded.

    • Ritashi says:

      EA? No. A random concept artist? Well, maybe.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It’s because it is EA, and rules of engagement dictate you should always defend your allies and be an ass about your enemies, not matter how hypocritical one may sound.

      After reading Nathan’s final paragraph I tried to picture what if instead of EA, this was Valve? Certainly it would read like “It was concept art. It’s ok. No harm done”.

      PS: Also love the fact how quick we are to “demand” people’s jobs in this economy.

      • Phantoon says:

        No one demanded the guy’s job. It’s merely quite likely EA canned the guy because they do that.

        I can’t fathom why people still defend EA despite everything they’ve done.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          What’s making you think I was defending EA? You just proved my point.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            “The Rules of Engagement

            Rule 1 – Sod logic, apparently

            Rule 4 – In any article which portrays a company in a negative light that has previously had negative coverage from other media outlets, 1/4 of the comments shall call into question the journalistic integrity of the author of the piece. Prefered arguements include putting words into the journalist’s mouth and stating with certainty that a more popular company would not be treated negatively in the same circumstances, no evidence of this required.

            Rule 5 – The actors of rule 4 can, on occasion, be called a shill and accused of being on the payrole of the reported company, again, no evidence will be required. Both parties will then display inexcusably poor reasoning in a long and pointless slanging match, drowning out any chance of useful conversation.”

            Man, I hate those rules. Imagine if people didn’t have to follow them in every single story about EA

    • Soon says:

      They’re not denying they copied it. They’re saying they unintentionally released it to the public along with other similar images showing the units as part of a gallery of promotional images (which I think could be downloaded as a wallpaper image with company logos and website address on).

    • Shooop says:

      Remember who’s doing it though – EA has been ripping off other people’s ideas and passing them off as brand new for some time now.

      So if this had been finalized, approved in game models GW would have sued them into oblivion and we would have stood up and applauded.

  18. DickSocrates says:

    It would be difficult to even claim they were used as placeholders when you see how much attention to detail there was, and by that I mean, why would you fully model someone else’s work only to then go on an design something else? Sure, other games have had high detail concept work, but I imagine that was under serious consideration for being the final product and the high detail was used to judge it accurately. Can’t say the same here.

    I don’t think anyone can seriously think EA did it on purpose. Whoever’s job it was to design them did it on purpose and they’re probably looking for a new job right now.

    The usual cause for ripping off someone else’s work is feeling extreme pressure, whoever did this may have been panicking hard and desperate. OR they may just be a bumhole.

  19. bglamb says:

    Also, GW have produced, what, a million different tanks in the last few decades. They are a defining influence in the genre and it’s natural that if you make a tank, it’s gonna look something like something GW have done. (I’m not saying this example isn’t a bit -too- close, but worth keeping in mind).

    You might as well start saying that people are ripping off Tolkien. Or better yet, Shakespeare.

  20. vanilla bear says:

    I’m not sure how some people are misinterpreting the press release .. it confirms what we thought happened anyway: a naive designer copied a GW tank, which somehow got released without anyone picking up what had happened. Then after it got noticed on the internet EA confirmed to GW that they would remove it from the game.

    It’s internal concept art in the sense that it hasn’t been put into the game, but it’s obviously more than “brainstorming” if they’ve modelled it all and given it a name.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Welcome to the beauracracy.
      Design artist under time-pressure copies the tank and passes it on.
      Manager’s too busy to spot-check, and anyway, everyone they hire is an expert, passes it on.
      PR/Web-bods get hold of it, don’t check it because a) not their job, b) no time, c) no one would have passed it on already ifit wasn’t alright, right?
      etc.

      You – e.g. anyone who doesn’t work in a large (500 people plus) organistation – would be terrified how often this happens…

  21. Jim9137 says:

    I have this dream of a great character, fulled with frills and fliffs and edged digs.

    Therefore I shall draw a stick figure with a tophat.

  22. alundra says:

    What do they have to say on their own defense??

    We get bullied by homophobes!!!! and….and…and….We think of the children!!!!

    • Vorphalack says:

      And while we were all busy making more room for them in our hearts, they were out stealing tanks.

      They think of the children? WHY DOES NO ONE EVER THINK OF THE TANKS?!

  23. Kasabian says:

    Regardless of how talented an artist is, modelling and texturing an asset like that takes time. Also considering it’s textures look baked, it would of taken a fairly large amount of time and also involved a high poly phase. Be it a sculpt or not.

    Realistically, that’s not what a concept piece would look like, unless the artist was extremely inefficient. Which they could of been. The fact that there’s more than one though, is a bit curious.

    EA are either lying or wasting time and resources. I find it hard to believe the latter due to EA being so hard-nosed on that front.

  24. codename_bloodfist says:

    EA should stick to being inspired by Devianart and StockPhoto.

  25. Sirbolt says:

    This is probably not even concept art. In no production environment i’ve worked in would this be the practice. Concepts get thrown away all the time, but before modelling and texturing this an Art Director would have signed of on a simpler representation. Considering Tiberium Alliance basically uses pre-rendered assets this even looks like a production model, and not a concept. Someone “stole”, be it AD or Artist.

  26. BobsLawnService says:

    Call me when EA release images like this in a game or through official PR channels. Otherwise it is just a storm in a teacup.

    • identiti_crisis says:

      Supposedly it was on their official Facebook page, and a couple of other places. (According to the comments above)

      As everybody knows, if it’s on Facebook, it’s official.

    • Tokamak says:

      Call me when professional astroturfers have infiltrated RPS’ comment system. Oh wait.

  27. DazedByTheHaze says:

    “EA explains …” stopped right there. They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. How they hell they wanna explain something to me. POINT, NO QUESTION MARK.

  28. Shooop says:

    How disappointing.

    I really did want to see EA and GW get into it, there’s no one who deserves it more right now.

  29. Valkesh says:

    Basically, these were going to be used, but since they hadn’t been implemented yet they dodged the bullet and could claim it was never meant for release and smoothed things out with their contacts at GW. Also, perfect time to plug their microtransactionfest of a game at the end there.

  30. Astroman says:

    This is what happens when you outsource all of your art to China and India.

  31. ScottHarrigan says:

    EA has not been faring very well lately. Their war on used games has been quite irritating as well as their insistence on joining the EA site; I have gone so far as to boycott EA games. This fiasco does not really help their case either. It is quite a shame because Kingdoms of Amalur looks like such a fun game.

    http://www.videodetective.com/games/kingdoms-of-amalur-reckoning/261710

  32. Redd says:

    you fucking toilet

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  34. Universal Quitter says:

    Maybe they just like the tank and thought a model of it would look cool?