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The Case Against Armed Heroes Online

In the face of mounting, damning evidence it used assets from Runic Games' Torchlight, the accused developer continues digging a bigger hole for itself.

A look at Armed Heroes Online, a recently launched (in Canada) iOS game mired in copyright allegations.

Cloning isn’t new to video games, and it’s been a huge problem on Apple’s App Store. At least cloning involves some level of imitative work, though. Blatant stealing is something else altogether, an allegation with marked evidence that’s been made against the recently launched iOS hack ‘n slash Armed Heroes Online.

Armed Heroes Online comes from EGLS, a mobile developer also responsible for Adventure of Monkey King, a simple MMORPG loosely based on Chinese mythology. Armed Heroes Online has already launched in Canada, and is not available in the United States. As of this writing, it's is still available in Canada.

Soon after the game launched, however, the game came under scrutiny from Travis Baldree, president of Torchlight developer Runic Games, who noticed Armed Heroes Online contained some interesting similarities.

So, wow - this game is releasing on the app store. They wholesale stole most of the assets from Torchlight! ah.eglsgame.com

— Travis Baldree (@TwinStickGames) July 13, 2012

It wasn’t just that Armed Heroes Online looked similar to Torchlight, it was Torchlight in some cases, and Baldree went about compiling an image full of evidence suggesting there was direct asset crossover.

Odd, right?

At this point, I contacted Baldree, who’d gone a step further in the meantime. He downloaded the game from the Canadian App Store, and opened up the application’s guts. Inside, Baldree found more blatant moves by EGLS, including use of Torchlight sound files. More astoundingly, the WAV files were named exactly as they were in Torchlight, including misspellings by Runic Games. Within the app, Baldree found “mechdwardeath1.wav,” a mispelling from Torchlight that should have been “mechdwarfdeath1.wav,” if the company had caught it, and “yourenotgood.wav,” a jokingly titled sound file by Runic Games technical artist Adam Perin.

“Frankly, I find the whole thing really, really funny,” he told me over email. “It's just the most bafflingly clueless example of copyright infringement I think I've ever witnessed.”

I began looking into EGLS, the company behind Armed Heroes Online, and came up with little outside of learning it's a Chinese company. The company's websites are a confusing maze, and there is no reliable contact information on any of them. All requests sent to the email EGLS used to contact media about the game (service@g2us.com) and the email address listed for the owner of the eglsgame.com domain (erifwang@gmail.com) have gone unanswered.

There is a message board associated with the game pages for Armed Heroes Online and Adventure of Monkey King, however, meant for questions from players. When I first glanced at them, Kotaku had run a story about Baldree and his findings, prompting a series of harsh posts levied against EGLS. The responses were equally brash.

It’s unclear whether these are actual responses from EGLS. The message board software being used on the EGLS website allows every user to make up their user name on the fly (which explains "test," written by me, in the shot below), meaning anyone could be representing EGLS. It’s hard to imagine someone going to bat for a company in this situation, but this is the Internet. Hoping to prompt a response from EGLS, I posted a message, and got this:

Again, I can’t be sure who is writing these message, but let’s hope it’s not actually EGLS.

“I can't be positive given the way their strange board is set up - maybe it's somebody trolling and posting as EGLS?” said Baldree, as we both scratched our heads over the unfolding events. “But it lightens my mood and fosters a certain mental image that makes this more funny than heartbreaking.”

These messages were wiped clean earlier this week, unfortunately, and the Armed Heroes Online website is currently offline. Curiously, none of the other EGLS websites are down. Imagine that.

A forum poster named “Serena zhang,” claiming to be a spokesperson for EGLS, created a thread on Touch Arcade yesterday morning, prepared to offer a counterpoint to Baldree and the allegations against Armed Heroes Online. A look at the post history of “Serena zhang” shows a history of EGLS-related comments.The spokesperson pointed out EGLS is a Beijing, China-based company that’s been working on Armed Heroes Online since 2010.

“We can hardly agree with Mr. Travis Baldree who judged that EGLS ‘wholesale stole most of the assets from Torchlight!’ only based on the similarity between several small monsters,” said the spokesperson. “The judgment is simply untenable.”

The spokesperson provided their own set of comparison images, though avoided addressing the same creature and environment comparisons brought up by Baldree. Instead, the EGLS spokesperson claimed both Torchlight and Armed Heroes Online were guilty of pulling inspiration from the same source: Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.

“Some members of our team are both crazy game fans and ecstatic movie lovers,” said the spokesperson. “They indeed get inspirations from other games and movies, which however is totally different from directly decoding or “stealing” assets from other games. Learning and getting inspired from other games or movies actually helps many game designers generate new ideas and creations. We are always making great efforts to develop games with creative features to find a balance.”

The comparison between Torchlight and Fate presented by the unnamed EGLS spokesperson.

The EGLS spokesperson then wonders if Baldree and his team at Torchlight may have taken too much inspiration from another action RPG, WildTangent’s Fate, and cites several design similarities.

“Does it mean that we can conclude that Torchlight blatantly ripped off Fate?” said the spokesperson.

Of course, the spokesperson neglects to mention Baldree actually worked on Fate at WildTangent. So, uh, right. Yes. Given this, you might expect how the rest of the thread played out at Touch Arcade.

I sent a private message to the supposed spokesperson and privately messaged their account, but, as expected, received no response. The spokesperson has made no posts since starting the Touch Arcade thread.

I’ve contacted Apple about the allegations but have yet to hear back. Baldree said Runic Games’ lawyers are investigating Armed Heroes Online, as well.

For the moment, anyway, Armed Heroes Online is still in the App Store.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
159 Comments
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Posted by sonicrift

I gift fucks all the time!

Posted by JakeLogan

@umbaglo said:

"Not copied different texture and polygon" is now one of the best responses.

I second that motion - It's now going to be my "go to" excuse, regardless of context

Posted by Doctorchimp

@Chibithor said:

The houses in the comparison, aren't they both just generic cabins? I can get behind the rest of the screenshots being blatant copies (Well, the plant is at least somewhat different) but as I see it the houses are just generic, and because of that, similar.

In that Touch Arcade forum Travis Baldtree explained why they look different and how easy it would be to fiddle the assets.

Moving the holes in the leaf texture takes seconds. They're just blobs of black in the alpha channel.
Most of the textures have been minorly retouched, I guess in some sort of minimal effort to make them feel 'different' -
The amount of effort it would take to replicate these assets from scratch with the perfectly matched proportions and structure would be triple what it would take to just make their own assets. It just makes no sense.
The fact that the sound effects are direct rips further reinforces the obvious conclusion that all of these assets are rips with minor poly reduction and texture tweaks.
Especially when you combine it with the fact that the Tilesets are also rips. And the monsters appear in the same tilesets, using the same sounds, and with the same animations. Those goblin death animations are identical to ours.
The idea that they've just carefully observed every proportion, texture, and vertex and somehow recreated it with this level of fidelity is completely implausible.
There's more than one building type in the Torchlight town. The reason that one in the shot doesn't perfectly match up is because it is a frankenstein of multiple Torchlight town building parts. Because they were made of intersecting chunks of geometry, it's really, really simple to twiddle around the bits to make new buildings. We know. We built it that way on purpose so that we could make new buildings. :P
Posted by Xeteh

@EGLSzzhang: Someone is trying too hard.

Posted by Nonapod

@EGLSzzhang: I hope this is just a troll.

Posted by Saganomics

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

You are precious.

Posted by ds8k

Some proofreading would be nice.

"it's is"

Posted by _Zombie_

@TheLastGunslinger said:

If those are official comments from EGLS in the forums it's possible they just hired Ocean Marketing to handle this.

Daaaaayuuuum.

Edited by falling_fast

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

the point is, you blatantly stole other people's work. and then you come on here trying to claim that it's okay because torchlight was influenced by other games. maybe you don't understand how copyright law works here in north america.

Posted by Benny

@EGLSzzhang: Surely a troll.

Posted by drag

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

lol

Posted by KDR_11k

The smartphone game markets are so full of outright illegal stuff that I'm always wary when I see something that looks too professional in some areas and too wonky in others (some games I got suspicious of turned out to simply use the same repository of royalty free art, I know of Tyrian but didn't know about RT3D which is a common thread between MANY space based indie games). There's enough scummery on there that I wonder if any of that alleged approval process actually exists, if the videogame industry was as aggressive as the RIAA there would probably be tons of content filters on these marketplaces already.

Posted by falling_fast

@EGLSzzhang said:

@damnable_fiend said:

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

the point is, you blatantly stole other people's work.

We steal not a thing! Just another example of bully little know company here. How is inspiration steal?

a lot of the art assets and sound files are the exact same, as the article explains. how is that NOT stealing?

Posted by GalacticGravy

@MiniPato said:

I've been conditioned!

I read that as "Cards Against Humanity."

Holy shit I thought I was the only one. haha I totally read "Cards Against Humanity" for a split second, too.

Posted by Levio

Gee, you really think someone would do that? just go on an Internet forum and impersonate EGLS?

Posted by The_Laughing_Man
@EGLSzzhang said:

@damnable_fiend said:

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

the point is, you blatantly stole other people's work.

We steal not a thing! Just another example of bully little know company here. How is inspiration steal?

Learn english. Dont steal assets/sounds. Get your own ideas. Have a nice day. 
Posted by Phished0ne

This is a shitshow.

Posted by _Zombie_

@Nonapod said:

@EGLSzzhang: I hope this is just a troll.

If it isn't, then holy shit this comments section just got fun.

Posted by Chibithor

@Doctorchimp: Ah, thanks. Makes more sense, then.

Posted by John1912

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

Lol, nice trolling. We only met with angry lol....

Posted by Owlhead

@EGLSzzhang: and what about the sound files?

Posted by FunExplosions

@EGLSzzhang said:

@damnable_fiend said:

@EGLSzzhang said:

This piece is not fair to EGLS. We work hard to bring amazing work to the West and we are only met with angry. Why is there anger toward a small group trying to make game inspired from prestige? The evidence to refute the evidence of Rubic Games is set in stone, yet we receive no respects. Is it because EGLS is from China? We do not copy! We only use other work as a way to make new ideas!

Maybe next time Patrick wait for a response from EGLS before he go and make another article? Maybe next time he is fair, instead of making bad of little foreign company? We have right to make game just like the rest of industry powerful houses.

the point is, you blatantly stole other people's work.

We steal not a thing! Just another example of bully little know company here. How is inspiration steal?

I act Chinese, too. Don't believe account real. It fake.

Posted by Sweetz

@mtcantor said:

Newsflash: small Chinese software developer doesn't respect copyright laws.

I'm shocked, really shocked.

Chinese anything, not just software. It's a nation with entire industries thriving on making knock offs and copying the work of others. It's really kind of fucked how little IP rights are respected there.

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

I'm not even angry. Seriously, I'm impressed.

Nice job Trick.

Posted by KoolAid

"It wasn’t just that Armed Heroes Online looked similar to Torchlight, it was Torchlight in some cases"

I find it interesting that it wasn't mentioned that the games themselves are completely different, its just some assets we are talking about.

Posted by CornBREDX

I think they're secretly admitting they also ripped off WoW, not just Torchlight. That necromancer looks amazingly like an undead warlock from WoW several years ago.

It's pretty blatant in that video one of the other commentors linked.

Anyway, I don't really know that EGLS is really commenting on this. It feels a lot like troll posts- every one of them (even the one in these comments- look for it you guys, he's there). It's pretty easy to exploit a company that will not comment on what they're doing. And they won't. I wouldn't be surprised if this company does this all the time, and this just happens to be the first time someone stood up and said something about it/noticed enough to dig deeper and find pretty verifiable evidence.

Edited by Lurkero

If you keep denying, "they" have to do all the work.

Time for some real game journalism, boys.

Posted by Manatassi

@EGLSzzhang said:

@Nonapod said:

@EGLSzzhang: I hope this is just a troll.

We tell you we do not copy Troll. Runic copy troll design for other games why can we not then? That is a true inquiry that has been left non answered.

Aww sorry dude but your fake inability to speak english is sorta obvious. Otherwise I have to say a rather amusing Troll given the context of the article. Nicely done :)

Posted by GaspoweR

That EGSL account seems like a troll account... The grammar is just way off compared to the posts being made in Touch Arcade.

Posted by dvorak

@The_Laughing_Man: If you think that is a real response, you need to spend more time on the internet, or maybe less, even.

Posted by Fobwashed

These guys actually make Zynga not seem so bad by comparison. Stealing/sharing of gameplay concepts and ideas is unavoidable but straight up copy pasting assets is a different story. If they had remodeled everything and made their own textures. . . it'd still suck but would be infinitely more forgivable than what appears to be going on here. Here's to hoping this'll generate enough news for Apple to remove it from the app store.

That being said, if Torchlight did come to the appstore, I doubt this would effect its sales in the least. Shit is still totally wrong, but just sayin. Bring torchlight to iOS =P

Posted by The_Laughing_Man
@dvorak said:

@The_Laughing_Man: If you think that is a real response, you need to spend more time on the internet, or maybe less, even.

Im trying to make him waist his 5 fists posts so he cant post for another 24 hours. 
Posted by AjayRaz

@Yummylee said:

@AjayRaz said:

bahaha those responses are horrible. dude does not gift a F--K

in his coffee.

this is the best revelation that i have ever witnessed

Posted by BabyChooChoo

straight up jacked the Tier 10 warlock set from WoW lol. Not that I find that surprising considering how much shit they literally stole right out of Torchlight. Wow...just wow.

Edited by fox01313

That is pretty damning evidence on EGLS from the look of it & their sorry counterpoint using how their characters differ but not the rest. If it is a Chinese company, no surprise there on copying everything they can get a hand on. Hope this doesn't further delay Torchlight2 as they sue the hell out of this company.

Posted by R3DT1D3

If I only copy and paste half the wikipedia article and then write the rest myself, it's not plagiarism because I clearly wrote half of it.

-EGLS

Posted by Stubee

Lol i love the comparison images they posted trying to defend there games.

"OUR GAME IS NOT A RIP OFF AS OUR ORC WARRIOR LOOKS NOTHING LIKE YOUR HEALTH POTION. THANKS AND GOOD NIGHT"

Posted by Aeterna
Posted by zeekthegeek

Torchlight was designed partially by the creator of FATE, who co-founded Runic Games. So yes there are similarities there.

Posted by Quantical

I hope to see a follow up and some justice but then again, it's a Chinese company. I don't think they know what a copyright is either.

Posted by AxleBro

yea i dont mind idea stealing as long as you add to it or whatever or make it look different but they literally just took models from torchlight and put it in their game.

Posted by Salarn

@KoolAid said:

I find it interesting that it wasn't mentioned that the games themselves are completely different, its just some assets we are talking about.

Assets are the most expensive part of a game to create, and pretty much the only element of game development that can be protected by copyright law.

Posted by probablytuna

This is so pathetic. It's like arguing with a seven year old who refuses to acknowledge anything the other person says.

Posted by pekoe212

This reminds me of stories I've heard of Chinese businesspeople stealing files from foreign colleagues at meetings and conventions. "Hey let me just download the file right onto your laptop from my thumb drive," and they actually steal corporate files, blueprints, whatever, from people they are supposed to be doing business with. I know there's a lot of corruption in government and industry there, but it is the blatancy of it that is shocking. To have this game company outright denying plagiarism in the face of clear evidence, for example. Ugh.

Posted by beepmachine

@Stubee: Hahaha yeah, they must have a crack team of lawyers over there preparing this shit.

The best way to hurt them is to spread the word about this and not buy their shitty game (I'm assuming here, the game might actually be fantastic, but who cares, fuck them).

Posted by subyman

That's pretty sad. It really sucks to put all that hard work into a game just for another company to make profit off of your work. If the Chinese videogame industry is ever going to be a legitimate player, they need to learn to create things instead of copying things. Hopefully, the developers at Torchlight see Apple take this game down once all the evidence is in.

Posted by dvorak

@Gordo789: not captured texture or polygon. not a copy.

Posted by FreedomTown

The models don't amount to anything. The damning thing is the blatant sound files and the exact naming. No one needs to look any further then that. But yes, it is a given those images are a blatant rip also.

But really, would you expect more from this company? This happens more then you'd think. Hopefully if it hasn't happened already, their game is taken off the store and anything further from them is blacklisted.

Posted by bybeach

@Xeteh said:

@EGLSzzhang: Someone is trying too hard.

'met with angry'.... that is kind of funny. But I like going off on the real thing, not somebody prodding away.....I'm kind of suprised though if this is true(what Patick is reporting). Not at all that it would happen in China, but in what for them would be a foriegn market. I am suprised they would expose themselves to this....I'm sure they should know better.

Posted by Atary77

The screenshot comparisons show a lot of similarities, but the most damning thing here is when Baldree found the sound files that had the EXACT same misspellings as what Ruinic games originally called them. Can they honestly expect us to believe that they made the same misspelling not once but twice if not more?!

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