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Steam removes popular Chinese strategy game after Ark: Survival Evolved studio claims it stole their source code

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The sandbox strategy game Myth of Empires has been removed from Steam over allegations of copyright infringement, resulting in a DMCA takedown request. Myth of Empires developer Angela Game has so far declined to reveal who requested the game’s removal, but documents viewed by PC Gamer indicate that it came from Studio Wildcard and Snail Games, the developer and publisher of Ark: Survival Evolved.

The takedown request says Angela Game was founded in 2020 by at least one former employee of Snail Games China, Studio Wildcard’s parent company, who had access to the Ark source code. When Myth of Empires was released in November 2021, Studio Wildcard grew “understandably concerned” because of similarities between the two games, including identical gameplay mechanics, which it felt went beyond the possibility of coincidence.

Comparing code headers in the Myth of Empires executable, Studio Wildcard developers claim to have found hundreds of matching class, variable, and function names in a preliminary analysis, which they say confirms that the Ark source code was used in Myth of Empires. A summary of the findings was presented to Valve on December 1, which responded by removing the game on December 3; hosting services have also been asked to stop supporting the game.

“Studio Wildcard and Snail Games USA Inc have a good faith belief that Myth of Empires was built by: (1) stealing the Ark: Survival Evolved source code and (2) using the stolen source code as the gameplay foundation for Myth of Empires,” the complaint states. “Key employees of the developer of Myth of Empires worked at the Chinese parent of Snail Games USA Inc and at least one of them had the credentials that enabled them to access the Ark: Survival Evolved source code.”

In separate statements, Angela Game has unequivocally declared the allegations of source code theft and copyright infringement to be false. “Our development team solemnly declares: Angela Game fully owns all rights and property associated with Myth of Empires and will actively respond to any doubts or allegations on this point,” the studio said on December 7. “We are in active contact with Steam and are doing our best to restore the game to their store. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused players.”

On December 8, responding to rumors about the source of the takedown request, the studio said it was “unable to disclose more details,” but noted that it is “frustrated with this situation as well.”

Regarding the rumours of involved parties in the delisting incident, please read this announcement. pic.twitter.com/oxKALUWyeBDecember 8, 2021

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“We still have faith that we will be able to resolve this situation in a timely manner and make the game available to everyone again,” it wrote.

For now, Myth of Empires remains unavailable for purchase, although it remains playable for anyone who owns it. And people are definitely playing it—more than 36,000 of them at the time of writing, according to Steam Charts. Angela Game has pledged to continue “normal operations and development work,” including performance improvements and content updates that will presumably be rolled out after the game is returned to Steam: if and when that happens.

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