Yesterday's announcement of the sci-fi strategy MMO Stellaris: Galaxy Command was interesting because it marked what appeared to be a pretty big move into mobile gaming by Paradox, a publisher whose games generally aren't what you'd call mobile-friendly. But things took an unexpected twist when, shortly after our post went live, Paradox took down the beta, which had been soft-launched in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden.
The problem, Paradox said in a tweet, was that at least one piece of artwork in the game "was taken from another source." It didn't say who, but it was quickly determined to have come from Halo—the original image can be seen on the ArtStation page of Kenny Magnusson, the technical art director at Halo studio 343 Industries. Paradox—which is publishing but not developing the game, Stellaris: Galaxy Command is being made by mobile studio GameBear—apologized and took the game offline "to perform a full content sweep and ensure this issue is resolved."
While only one image immediately jumped out as stolen, it's possible that Paradox is now discovering more deeply-rooted problems. In an update posted earlier today, it said that the "initial analysis" of art assets has been completed, "however we feel this situation requires more scrutiny."
"We have taken the decision to continue the hiatus. The game's servers will remain offline and its availability will be limited while a full investigation is run," Paradox said. "The whole process will take place shortly and, as soon as we're able, we'll update you again on when the game will be possible to play."
Players. We have an update for you on the current status of our game's availability and the ongoing investigation into the source of some of the in-game art assets. pic.twitter.com/QKChYzpHVpOctober 16, 2019
In a reply tweet, Paradox also addressed complaints that Stellaris: Galaxy Command is simply a reskin of GameBear's mobile strategy game Nova Empire, a complaint that arose when an error message shown to users who declined to grant the game required permissions referred to it as Nova Empire. "No denying that this is embarassing but it's actually a placeholder text that was copied into our game during the early stage of development, before we had a name," Paradox explained.
Paradox's move into mobile gaming hasn't exactly been greeted with universal applause from its existing fan base—no surprise there, really—and this obviously doesn't help with initial impressions. But Paradox appears to be handling it as well as can be expected, with a quick takedown, unequivocal apology, and what appears to be an in-depth examination of the rest of the game. And while free-to-play mobile games are sometimes burdened with egregious monetization options, I still think the promise of an EVE Online-style game that doesn't require EVE Online-style dedication and focus might be enough to change some minds, if the developers can pull it off.
The Halo 4 concept art used in Stellaris: Galaxy Command can be seen below; directly below is its appearance in the game. I've reached out to Paradox for more information and will update if I receive a reply.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.