In 2021, one of the most common uses of NFTs has turned ironic. NFTs are tracked using blockchain technology to prove ownership of a given artwork, and that ownership has sometimes cost tens of millions of dollars. The sad reality behind this new trend is that digital artists often see their own works made into NFT without their permission, forcing artists to scramble to seek DMCA takedowns and prove copyright ownership of their own pieces. .
An independent game named Fires recently had its assets used in the marketing of another alleged independent game, Epic Hero Battles, although it is not clear if this is a video game. The creator of Fires, Dan Hindes, called Epic Hero Battles on Twitter for using her art as a backdrop to her website without her permission, but further research reveals that most of her art so far has also been stolen from other artists, including those who do not. ‘have not yet been found or named.
What are Epic Hero Battles and how do they use NFTs?
We don’t know what kind of indie game Epic Hero Battles is supposed to be, by which development studio it is created and what other developers are on its team. Much of the information shared through the game’s official website and Twitter (which was only created this month and has much of its content removed) is very vague. Some users try to get more information via Epic Hero Battles‘Official Discord, but its creator, 0xArdds, was hesitant to reveal much information about the game.
Supposedly, Epic Hero Battles is a battle royale game where players will buy heroes in the form of NFTs through the OpenSea marketplace. While each NFT appears to function as a different fighter in the game, they are all similar variations, mostly of the same old man but in different clothes, holding a different weapon, and next to a pet. According to the OpenSea page, each NFT is one of 10,000 uniquely generated pairs, and they each have various skills and strengths, such as a human hero type, magic resistance, and the Trident of the Ending weapon. Theoretically, this would influence the dynamics of the battle and likely take a while to sort out issues, especially since Battles Royals usually operate online.
According to 0xArdds on Discord, the game has been in development since May and is slated for release in November. However, as some Discord users have pointed out, this is an extremely short development timeframe, especially for a game created only by “a small group of friends,” 0xArdds said on Discord, suggesting to folks that this is not a game in development, but rather a quick buck by selling some NFTs.
To corroborate this, when asked who else was on that team, including the “recently” hired artists, 0xArdds failed to answer. In fact, when asked these kinds of questions, the alleged developer would boot people from the Discord server. This, of course, also raises the question of why 0xArdds didn’t just hire artists or properly secure the rights to use 2D pixel art in the first place.
The art stolen by Epic Hero Battles
This controversy arose when Firesdeveloper Dan Hindes posted a side-by-side comparison of Epic Hero Battles web page next to a Fires title card, showing that the pixel art had clearly been ripped off without his permission. Shortly after, the official Epic Hero Battles Twitter responded that it had removed this from its site, calling it an “error” and “would not happen again.”
Subsequently, however, other users reported other stolen assets as well, and they were only removed from the site after the Twitter account was made aware of it. For example, itch.io user Elthen noticed that his work was being used for promotional purposes by this upcoming Battle Royale game and told the developer that it was against his licensing policy. Hindes also pointed out that the backdrop used on the website, now also removed and replaced with a solid gray wall, was created by pixelated artists known as Boki Boki.
However, some assets are currently used on the Epic Hero Battles Twitter, like a pink and purple sunset for its banner and profile icon. While no artist has come forward to claim them, it is likely that this is someone else’s work as well. Additionally, many have noticed that the art styles used in NFTs are inconsistent, from human-style backgrounds, weapons, and companions. It’s entirely possible that these assets were taken from different locations and grafted together to create the animated NFTs for sale. This would explain why reverse image searches return nothing; they are “original” images using stolen art.
Again, there is probably no game in development. Many users think that this is just one person using an indie pixel art game as a front to sell a few NFTs in order to make a quick buck. Of course, it is possible that this battle royale is underway, but there is more evidence against it. The Twitter account was created this month and only has a few posts on it; either it exists just to sell these NFTs, or it has been deleted from its contents. Unfortunately, whether this is a real game in development or not, if 0xArdds is able to sell these NFTs anyway, due to the blockchain ledger, suitable artists might have a harder time claim ownership in the future.
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