Dark and Darker developer Ironmace has denied allegations that the game uses stolen assets and code, saying in a statement on Discord that all of Dark and Darker's code was "built from scratch," and its assets were either purchased from the Unreal marketplace or designed internally.
The claim that Dark and Darker uses stolen assets and code first appeared on Korean site This is Game (Google translated), which said that developer Ironmace includes former employees of Nexon who were "disciplined and fired" by Nexon, and are now building Dark and Darker using materials they worked on while at Nexon. A Nexon project revealed in 2021 as "P3" was basically used as a prototype of Dark and Darker, according to the claim, and images from Project P3 definitely have a certain proto-Dark and Darker look to them.
Later in 2021, Nexon changed course to a different project, P7, a contemporary survival adventure. Around the same time, Ironmace was founded, at least in part by former Nexon employees. Ironmace's website suggests that they did not part on the happiest of terms.
"We are a merry band of veteran game developers disillusioned by the exploitative and greedy practices we once helped create," it says. "We are experts who have worked on many of the biggest hits in Korea.
"We’ve seen first hand how corporate game companies sell their soul for the easy payday. We are disappointed to see them doubling down on more and more exploitative practices, becoming more like casinos instead of bringing joy to gamers."
Developers leaving big companies to try their hand at indie development isn't at all unusual, but obviously swiping code and assets to use in a non-Nexon game is a very different situation. The report also alleges that former Nexon employees now working at Ironmace were caught trying to take other code, resources, and development documents from the company.
Ironmace, however, says none of it is true. In a message posted on the Dark and Darker Discord, Terence (presumably Ironmace CEO Terence Seung-ha) said, "ABSOLUTELY NO stolen assets or code were used to make our game."
"Our code was built from scratch," Seung-ha wrote. "Most of our assets are purchased from the Unreal marketplace. All other assets and all game designs docs were created inhouse. This has already been audited by an outside agency. As far as we know you cannot copyright a game genre."
Seung-ha also addressed a lawsuit referenced in a separate This is Game report (Google translated), saying that it is a "separate personal matter" filed against a single Ironmace employee. "No lawsuit has been filed against Ironmace," he wrote.
Korean news site YTN (Google translated) says Nexon did file a complaint against Dark and Darker relating to the "Unfair Competition & Trade Secrets Protection Act," however, alleging that CEO Park Mo and other employees stole information about a game they were working on while at Nexon. Game industry commentator PlayerIGN said that case was initially filed in August 2022, but that Nexon has requested a "deeper investigation" as Dark and Darker has continued testing and growing in popularity. It's not clear whether that's the same action noted by Seung-ha.
The case was done in August 2022, but as Dark and Darker hosted more tests, NEXON requested deeper investigation.Report covered by YTN, the first 24-hour Korean news channel and one of the biggest in the country: https://t.co/DCZpGZ7tD5YouTube link: https://t.co/qr7j6Kwtl0February 20, 2023
Seung-ha said he believes the rumors of stolen code and assets were raised by "a disgruntled third party," although he provided no details as to who that might be or why they're trying to stir up trouble. For now, Ironmace is attempting to handle the matter "privately," Seung-ha said, but will defend itself against legal action if it has to. Nexon has not publicly commented on the matter. I've reached out to Nexon and Ironmace for more information and will update if I receive a reply.