Steam scammers are allegedly stealing and selling indie developers’ free Unreal “Superman” demo [Updated]

Steam scammers are allegedly stealing and selling indie developers’ free Unreal “Superman” demo [Updated]

Update (noon ET): The Steam listing for Heroes City Superman Edition was removed shortly after this piece was released. You can still view it from this Internet Archive link. Butler-Boschma’s review attacking the game as cheating is archived here.

Valve has yet to respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Original story:

A video of Butler-Boschma’s Unreal Engine 5 demo that he posted in April.

Back in April, indie developer Tyson Butler-Boschma released a free Unreal Engine 5 powered “Superman Style Flight Experience” on itch.io. Now he says scammers have been selling a stolen version of this demo on Steam for weeks without permission or any apparent action from Valve.

The Heroes City Superman Edition was released on November 1st on Steam. Developer Hero Game Studios described the game as “a unique experience where you can choose your own hero and go on an adventure on a large, realistically prepared map”. It’s since sold for as much as $35, though it appears to be a copy of Butler-Boschma’s long-running free demo.

After calling the Steam version a “scam”. a tweet from November 1stButler-Boschma posted a Steam review on Nov. 9 claiming that Steam developer Hero Game Studios “just downloaded this work, stole it, and passed it off as their own.”

Go on the offensive

In response to the review, Hero Game Studios claims that Butler-Boschma is one of their “former developers” who left the project and is now trying to claim the rights to the game for profit (although the itch.io demo was always free ). “That’s a lie, I have no idea who they are,” writes Butler-Boschma. “They claim to have made this game… also a lie.”

Butler-Boschma seems to have most of the evidence on this point. On the itch.io demo site published in April, Butler-Boschma describes a free “Just for Fun” demo that “serves simply as a test of what a future superhero game like Superman might look like in a modern city like UE5.” This site points the way also openly point out that the demo builds on that of Epic The Matrix awakens City example where the main character is simply replaced with “a flying superhero variant of my own design”.

“I made this demo myself months ago as a proof of concept, using mostly free assets,” Butler-Boschma writes in his Steam review. “I’ve always been open and honest with…”

The Heroes City Steam page, on the other hand, only lists one Twitter account was made at the end of September and only posted a handful of screenshots from the game. The studio itself doesn’t seem to have any other games or web presence to back up its claim to the title or a long history of development. And that doesn’t even address the obvious copyright issues of selling a game with “Superman Edition” in the title without a license from DC Comic or Warner Bros.

Prepare for the crash.
Enlarge / Prepare for the crash.

Despite all that, Butler-Boschma also says that Hero Game Studios went after his YouTube account and used the copyright strike system to take down a video of the demo he posted in April. This copyright strike Apparently citing the game’s Steam page as proof that Hero Game Studios “wants this game that we own to be deleted from this video”.

“You’re attacking me right now and harassing me at this point,” said Butler-Boschma tweeted. “I don’t feel safe providing my personal information for a counterclaim…”

If this all sounds familiar, it could be due to similarities to an incident over the summer where NiFTy Arcade copied unlicensed versions of freely available HTML5 games and sold them on GameStop’s NFT marketplace. Both situations show how easy it is for scammers to use lax market moderation standards to try to profit from freeware games created by others and how vigilant freeware game makers must be for signs of such theft.

Valve has not yet responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *