Update (noon ET): The Heroes City Superman Edition Steam listing was removed shortly after this piece went live. You can still see it via this Internet Archive link. Butler-Boschma’s review attacking the game as a scam is archived here.
Valve still hasn’t responded to Ars’ request for comment.
In April, indie developer Tyson Butler-Boschma released a free “Superman Style Flight Experience,” powered by Unreal Engine 5, on itch.io. Now he says scammers have been selling a stolen version of this demo on Steam for weeks without permission or apparent action from Valve.
Heroes City Superman Edition launched on Steam on November 1, with developer Hero Game Studios describing the game as “a unique experience where you can choose your own hero and experience an adventure on a large, realistically prepared map.” It has since sold for as much as $35 despite appearing to be a carbon copy of Butler-Boschma’s long-running free demo.
After rating the Steam version as a “scam” in a tweet from November 1Butler-Boschma posted a Steam review on Nov. 9 alleging that developer Steam Hero Game Studios “just uploaded, stole, and passed off this work as their own.”
Go on the attack
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 (even though the demo itch. io has always been free). “It’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 his side on this. On the itch.io demo page published in April, Butler-Boschma describes a “just for fun” free demo that is “simply a test of what a future superhero game like Superman might look like in a modern city. scale running on UE5.” This page is also candid about the demo being built on Epic The matrix awakens city sample, with the main character simply replaced by “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 about it…”
The Heroes City Steam page, on the other hand, only lists a Twitter account that was created at the end of September and has only released a handful of screenshots of the game. The studio itself doesn’t appear to have any other games or any web presence supporting its claim to the title or any long-standing development work. And that doesn’t even get into the obvious copyright issues of selling a game with “Superman Edition” in the title without any license from DC Comic or Warner Bros.
Despite all this, Butler-Boschma also says that Hero Game Studios went after his YouTube account, using the copyright notice system to take down a demo video he posted in april. This copyright infringement warning apparently quoting the game’s Steam page as evidence that Hero Game Studios “wants this game of ours removed from this video”.
“They’re attacking and harassing me directly at this point,” Butler-Boschma said. tweeted. “I don’t feel safe providing my personal information for a counterclaim…”
If this all sounds somewhat familiar, it might be due to similarities to a summertime incident where NiFTy Arcade copied and sold unlicensed versions of HTML5 games available for free 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 free games created by others and how vigilant free game makers need to be about signs of such theft.
Valve has yet to respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica.
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