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Dark And Darker removed from Steam following accusations of stolen trade secrets

Ironmace have responded to the claims, asking ChatGPT for some help

You might have heard of Dark And Darker, a dungeon-crawling take on Escape From Tarkov’s PvPvE that’s been gaining popularity over the last few months. Alice0 enjoyed its alpha playtest last December, and it ended up becoming one of the most popular games of February's Steam Next Fest. It wasn't due to launch in full until sometime this winter, but that window's now up in the air after Dark And Darker was removed from Steam over the weekend, following a messy legal dispute between Nexon and developers Ironmace, who have been accused of “using trade secrets and copyrighted information,” allegedly stolen from Nexon.

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“To all our fans,” Ironmace wrote on their Discord server (then reposted to Reddit) “we have recently been served a cease and desist letter and DMCA takedown by Nexon regarding Dark and Darker based on distorted claims.”

What are these distorted claims? Well, in their DMCA letter (which you can read in full here) Nexon say they were developing a project codenamed P3 in 2020-2021, and they claim Ironmace stole assets and ideas from P3, turning it into Dark And Darker. Their first claim involves a former employee - Ju-Hyun Choi - who allegedly “acquired and transferred, without authorisation, more than 11,000 build files… to his personal server.” Nexon say they subsequently fired this employee, who then, apparently, went on to approach other Nexon devs, urging them to leave and develop a P3-like game. Another Nexon employee, Terence Park, founded Ironmace a few months later, and many Nexon employees, including Choi, joined the Dark And Darker developer.

In a response posted to Discord (again reposted to Reddit), Ironmace say that Choi was using a personal server for the use of P3’s programming team since Covid restrictions had made development difficult. Ironmace’s response goes into more detail, but long story short, Nexon were apparently aware of the personal server and they only made accusations of stolen files after the company heard of Choi’s plans to leave.

Nexon also claims that before Dark And Darker, “no other game had the same concept, genre, or plot as the P3 game.” Ironmace responded saying that Dark And Darker is “so generic and common that it can be broadly applied to numerous other fantasy games”. To emphasise their point, Ironmace asked ChatGPT to describe a generic fantasy dungeon-crawler, and the AI’s response isn’t too far off from Dark And Darker.

Nexon have made a number of other claims, and Ironmace have responded to a few on the aforementioned Discord statement. Ironmace say that 950 assets are, in fact, identical since they were bought from the Epic (Unreal Engine) Marketplace - a developer store that’s recently been involved in another recent plagiarism-based controversy between the devs behind Bleak Faith and Elden Ring.

Earlier in March, Ironmace’s offices were searched by officials, but the studio told NME that it was a “quick process” and that “nothing was found.” Dark And Darker was scheduled for a 2023 launch and it’s unclear if the medieval looter is still on track.

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