The legal fight between Ironmace Games and publisher Nexon continues. However, the studio has managed to conduct an alpha playtest by distributing a client for the controversial multiplayer game Dark and Darker via torrent.
After Nexon filed a lawsuit against Dark and Darker developer Ironmace, the studio found another way to distribute the game outside of Steam. The team took the unusual decision of sharing a torrent link to the latest alpha build and allowing users from all over the world to try the project.
On the game’s Discord channel, Ironmace recently announced that 457,181 players took part in the April playtest.
39.23% of users were from the US, followed by Japan (7.67%), Canada (4.9%), China (4.22%), Germany (3.7%), and Russia (3.64%).
The studio also shared other stats, including data on the most popular character classes, most played maps, and in-game items.
Although the results of this “torrent Alpha” are impressive, it is clear that Ironmace won’t be able to legally distribute and sell Dark and Dark unless it solves its issues with Nexon.
Brief timeline of the legal drama around Dark and Darker
- A couple of years ago, Ju-Hyun Choi and Terence Seungha Park worked at Nexon on a project codenamed P3. They both signed non-disclosure agreements regarding the development of the game and the publisher’s intellectual property.
- Overall, the P3 team consisted of roughly 20 developers. According to court documents filed by Nexon, the company spent ₩1.1 billion (around $834k) on the project that was in development for 11 months, from August 2020 to July 2021.
- In June 2021, Nexon found out that Choi was stealing important files, builds, the source code for the game, and other data. As a result, he was fired, with Park voluntarily leaving the company shortly after.
- Choi and Park eventually founded Ironmace Games and got help from nine other members of Project P3. Together, they started developing their own title called Dark and Darker, a fantasy FPS PvPvE action game built upon some ideas from Nexon’s unreleased project.
Barbarian class in P3 and Dark and Darker (from Nexon’s court documents)
- Dark and Darker first came to light in February 2023 when its demo peaked at over 100,000 concurrent players during the Steam Next Fest. Players loved the way the game combined classic RPG mechanics with the extraction shooter elements.
- However, later that month, the studio’s office in Seoul was searched by the police. Developers were accused of stealing assets and the P3 source code from Nexon.
- As a result, Dark and Darker was pulled from Steam over copyright infringement. The game won’t return to Valve’s store unless the dispute between Nexon and Ironmace is resolved.
- In April, the South Korean publisher eventually filed a lawsuit against Ironmace in the US. It called for the studio to stop the development of Dark and Darker and demanded monetary damages.
- “Video game developers would not be able to invest years’ worth of person-hours in developing video games if their employees could simply transfer their employer’s project files to their own personal servers and start a new company,” the lawsuit reads.
- Ironmace called Nexon’s behavior “nothing more than anti-competitive bully tactics designed to put a small indie game studio out of business.”
- The studio also claimed that it hasn’t done anything unlawful asked Valve to return the game to Steam.
Cleric class in P3 and Dark and Darker (from Nexon’s court documents)
- Nexon, however, argues that there was no game in the market with the same concept and genre as Project P3 until the public announcement of Dark and Darker.
- The company also believes that it is impossible to develop a project like this in such a short period of time without using Nexon’s files and confidential information.
- According to the court documents, thousands of files in both games have the same names. Nexon also claimed that both titles have similar classes, and game design of Dark and Darker is “suspiciously similar to Project P3.”