Armed Heroes Online, a game released last week to the Canadian iTunes store, is one of the most blatant cases of theft I have ever seen in an iOS app or game, and considering the shitshow of fakes and ripoffs that store is, that's saying a lot. Nearly every visual asset in this game is taken directly from the acclaimed dungeon-crawler Torchlight, by Runic Games, for PC. (And Mac!)
Runic's president, Travis Baldree, said yesterday via Twitter that the game "wholesale stole most of the assets from Torchlight!" Baldree then directly Tweeted the game's account, saying "you realize that since Armed Heroes lifts assets wholesale from Torchlight, we have to notify Apple, right?" He later repeated these same statements to TouchArcade and provided this collage as proof. We've reached out to Baldree directly.
[Update] Baldree returned a call seeking comment. The theft appears to be of audiovisual assets only, not actual game code or mechanics found in Torchlight. "It's kind of funny," Baldree said, "making a mobile MMO (which Armed Heroes purports to be) is hard. But art outsourcing in a place like China is pretty cheap."
Baldree said the asset stealing is so comprehensive, the voice of a Runic technical artist, who supplies the sound effects for a "joke weapon" in Torchlight, also appears in Armed Heroes. Baldree said Runic's attorneys have contacted Apple to demand a takedown, which he said was a pretty easy and straightforward process. "Our main goal is simply to take it down," Baldree told Kotaku. "They shouldn't be selling it."
Baldree said that Runic has seen other visual assets pinched before but it was usually in small details or single instances. "This is different in that every one of their monsters is the same as ours," he said. "It's not like they took one thing because they were running short on time. They took everything. It's so over-the-top."
The game's maker is EGLS Technology, based out of Beijing. It's a free game that appears to be monetized by selling virtual currency—including one in-app purchase totaling $99. Comments underneath the game's YouTube trailer suggest that it also stole visual assets from World of Warcraft. See for yourself above.
Despite this very visible embarrassment and repeated others, I'm so glad Apple is steadfast that it won't "compromise the quality of the teams" it has reviewing App submissions. Evidently it's extremely difficult to find, hire and train contractors with any knowledge of video games who could spot this kind of stealing, or look at something published out of China, to a secondary North American store only, with enormously expensive in-app purchases, and not think any of that warrants further scrutiny.
I realize that other app stores also are a Wild West of questionable content, but they don't offer the veneer of gatekeeping that Apple does. Whoever their "actual, smart, educated, well-trained people," they have on this job, they seem only to be looking for porn, because they aren't doing a thing to protect gamers or legitimate game creators.
This might be a good time to remind folks that Torchlight is now available for $8.99, more than half off, as part of Steam's Summer Sale event.