Diablo Clone Armed Heroes Caught Stealing Assets From Torchlight. The Problem of App Store Copycats Intensifies
Last week in the column, I mentioned an up-and-coming MMORPG that appeared to show some promise: Armed Heroes (Currently pulled from the App Store).
Well, it turns out that Armed Heroes was actually copying game assets whole-cloth from a 2009 PC MMORPG called Torchlight. As in blatantly ripping off graphics and sound files, to the level of not even bothering to change some of the file names before including them in Armed Heroes (Giantbomb has a thorough rundown of the thievery). It’s not a case of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”; it’s a blatant KIRF from a Chinese developer who apparently thought that no one would notice.
This is becoming an increasingly common thing in the App Store. Copycats, clones, even thieves, trying — and in some cases succeeding! — in making money off of someone else’s ideas.
I suppose you could say that copy-catting takes many forms. Gameloft, one of the top selling developers in the App Store, built their entire iOS model off of making generic copies of popular console games: NOVA is HALO, Zombie Infection is Resident Evil, Dungeon Hunter is Diablo II. Heck, even the game that we cover most often on Massively Portable, Order and Chaos Online, is a clear imitation of World of Warcraft. But with few exceptions, Gameloft’s imitations are at least mimicing games that do not have an App Store presence, and their games also deviate enough from the original to be distinct.
Another example of cloning, or copying, or imitating, is the recently released Plague, Inc. I am not a big PC gamer, nor have I ever spent much time playing Flash games, so when I reviewed the game a few months ago, I had no idea that the game was starkly similar to Pandemic II, a Flash-based PC game that has since come to iOS. Having since spent time with Pandemic II, I have to say that Plague, Inc. does enough differently — and better! — for me to still say I enjoyed the game. But the game obviously builds off of the formula that Pandemic created.
iOS gamers are used to this sort of close copying. After all, the App Store game section was built in part on close approximations of PC and console games. Only in the last couple of years have the big names actually started bringing their actual, big name branded franchise titles to the App Store. And there are so many App Store games that have copied the basic “complete the level puzzle and earn three stars, free updates coming” model that I’ve lost all track of where it originated.
We iOS games have less tolerance for copycats of existing iOS games. Take Temple Run. I have lost track of how many times a game has appeared in the App Store that was little more than a clone of that game. And often, those games are savaged by reviewers and even pulled from the App Store by Apple. The latest to shoot up the Top 25 charts is Pyramid Run. It’s getting terrible reviews, and reviewers are calling it out as a ripoff, but that hasn’t stopped it from climbing the charts.
The lesson here: iOS gamers don’t expect originality all the time, but a dev at least needs to make an effort.
So, what to think of Armed Heroes? The copying here seems pretty blatant and pretty lazy. I’m not clear whether or not the copying is limited to the assets, or if gameplay is also stolen, but it doesn’t really matter. Armed Heroes has soiled its own reputation, and its act of asset theft will likely haunt it too much for it ever to become a viable player in the App Store. I doubt we will ever cover it at length after this article.
At this point, I can only hope that Runic Games, the makers of Torchlight, saw how excited many of us were for Armed Heroes before this news broke. Maybe they will be encouraged to bring Torchlight to iOS. Another Diablo-esque MMO game in the App Store would be great, especially since Dungeon Hunter III sucked so bad. Just don’t copy Diablo too closely.
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