The tale of The Sinking City has now become as mangled and twisted as the beasts the game itself is about.
In Aug. 2020, developer Frogwares pulled its Lovecraftian horror game The Sinking City from digital stores amid a legal battle with its publisher Nacon, formerly Big Ben Interactive. Frogwares claimed that Nacon engaged in multiple breaches of contract amounting to a required payout of €1,000,000. Following this claim, The Sinking City did in fact stay off online stores until last week, until a court decision made it possible to put the game up again.
Frogwares claims today that Nacon were arguing over which version of the game to upload to PC digital distribution platform Steam, when a listing for it popped up last week out of nowhere while negotiations were still ongoing. The developers immediately came out on social media at the time and asked people not to buy this version, stating it did not come from them.
Most shockingly, Frogwares put forth an incredible allegation: not only is the listing from former publisher Nacon, they say, but it was created by Nacon pirating their game, reverse-engineering the source code, and putting up an old built.
This claim came from Frogwares’ blog, which also had a video detailing their fact-finding accompanying it. The video explains that multiple files were changed, but not in a way that has been rebuilt, but in a way that was ultimately tampered with.
“In order to make changes Nacon had only one way: to decompile or hack the game using a secret key created by Frogwares since the totality of the game’s content is archived with an Epic Unreal Engine encryption system,” the blog post reads. “To be clear this is hacking and when hacking has the purpose to steal a product and make money with it, it’s called piracy or counterfeiting. In order to achieve this goal, programmers with serious skills need to be involved. This is not DIY work by inexperienced people, this is done by programmers who know Unreal engine well.”
Frogwares says they used their own encryption key, which should have been specific to them, on the version uploaded on Steam and were surprised to find it worked, which shouldn’t ever be the case with a new ported version. Moreover, the version Nacon allegedly ported included content that existed after The Sinking City released and was not paid for by Nacon, prompting Frogwares to accuse its former publisher of outright theft.
Frogwares says they are now pursuing legal solutions, but considering how many twists and turns have already taken place in this story, I imagine we’re far from seeing the end of it.