Upcoming first-person shooter game Dark and Darker is scheduled to launch later this year, but even at this early stage it’s causing controversy.
Last month, police in South Korea raided the offices of local game studio Ironmace. According to reports, the developers allegedly stole assets from their former employer, game publisher Nexon, which is allegedly working on a similar project too.
A few days later, Nexon sent a DMCA takedown notice to Valve, asking it to remove the Dark and Darker project from Steam. The detailed takedown notices accused Ironmace of copyright infringement and stealing trade secrets.
“This letter is to inform you of Ironmace’s misconduct, constituting misappropriation of Nexon’s trade secrets and copyright infringement and to request that Valve take down all versions of Dark and Darker from Steam,” the company wrote (pdf).
Steam swiftly complied, but the enforcement action and follow-up legal pressure didn’t stop ‘Dark and Darker’ development. Ironmace refuted the accusations in detail and continued to work on the game.
This weekend, Ironmace was ready to share the latest Alpha release with its fans. Without Steam access, Ironmace had to choose a different distribution method and after some internal deliberation, opted to go “old school” with a BitTorrent release.
“Unfortunately, due to the complexities of our situation, especially across international lines, it is taking time to resolve the Steam situation. In order for us to keep our promise to our fans we’ve had to go old school this time,” Ironmace wrote.
The developers typically share these types of announcements with their large Discord following. In this case, however, users had to go to Twitter for the actual magnet torrent link, as Discord apparently doesn’t support torrents.
Twitter has no torrent restrictions so the magnet link was posted there. The torrent link also made its way to Steam, where the developers provided additional background information, as well as a recommendation to use the qBitTorrent client.
In the hours that followed, tens of thousands of fans used the torrent link to download a copy of the playtest release. At the time of writing, the release still has close to 20,000 people actively seeding it. This is a massive success in terms of distribution but not without controversy.
Shortly after the torrent link was posted to Twitter, ‘someone’ sent a DMCA notice to the social media platform, requesting its removal. The notice hasn’t been published yet, but it seems reasonable to assume that Nexon may be behind it.
Since the torrent release itself is immensely popular, the Dark and Darker team is not giving up. After their tweet was removed, the magnet link was posted on Discord in a base64 encoded message.
“Thank you for your patience! To download the playtest please follow these instructions,” Ironmace’s Garysun writes, pointing people to a public base64 decoder.
At the time of publication, the Discord message is still online, but given Nexon’s stance on the matter, that may not be the case for long.
The torrent swarm is impossible to take down, however. At least in theory, Nexon could ask trackers to blacklist the hash, but that’s never going to happen. Even if they did manage to pull off the impossible, the files can still be shared – old school – through DHT and PEX.