Archangel Studios unwittingly used animations from Elden Ring, after buying assets for Bleak Faith: Forsaken from the Epic Marketplace.
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The claims of plagiarism were primarily born from Dark Souls modder @meowmaritus, who shared a tweet showing strong similarities between the animations in the two games. Despite the video not being their own, the user feared their software — used to modify animations in similar FromSoftware games — had been used to lift or copy the animations from Elden Ring.
“Saw this footage floating around. Bleak Faith: Forspoken is 100% using animations ripped directly 1:1 from Elden Ring,” @meowmaritus claimed. “I do NOT condone people using my DS Anim Studio software to aid in exporting animations to include in commercial products or sell them on Epic Games Store.”
@meowmaritus later corrected themselves, noting they meant Bleak Faith: Forsaken, and that animations from Dark Souls III had also appeared.
Saw this footage floating around. Bleak Faith: Forspoken is 100% using animations ripped directly 1:1 from Elden Ring.
I do NOT condone people using my DS Anim Studio software to aid in exporting animations to include in commercial products or sell them on Epic Games Store. pic.twitter.com/9JHGMeu9as
— Meowmaritus (@meowmaritus) March 12, 2023
“To make it clear I don’t have any issues with devs being very inspired by fromsoft (like Nioh, Mortal Shell, new Lords of the Fallen),” @meowmaritus prefaced. “None of those games use the literal assets from inside fromsoft games’ data, they are just big fans of From Soft and heavily referenced.”
“Hell even Lies of P, which has some extremely extremely similar animation to FromSoft stuff is actually different animations, not reused assets like Bleak Faith,” @meowmaritus condemned.
Others in replies voiced claims that Archangel Studios had bought the animation assets from Epic Game’s Unreal Engine Asset Store, not knowing the source of the animations. Speaking on the game’s official Discord server, developer “überfaith42” spoke on March 11th.
“People are also talking about stolen assets a lot so a few things to understand,” überfaith42 addressed.
“1) We’re always been transparent about using the Epic Marketplace for animations that are good and fit our theme (the rest I made – we just needed more variety and I’m not an animator by trade, I had to learn for this game),” überfaith42 explained, adding, “the link to the main one getting flack I will put at the end, you can buy it yourself, and try making Bleak Faith yourself too!”
“2) The only other things from the Epic Marketplace that I use is for generic VFX that was a waste of time to make since I’d make things that looked virtually the same anyway, and things that are so generic (like some rocks) that didn’t require artistic direction. THE ENTIRE WORLD was built by hand,” überfaith42 clarified.
“So about 10% of the art is outsourced, whereas AAA companies outsource about 70% of their art (since they have the budget, we don’t have that option and so any idea we have needs to be made in-house). Same goes for our trailers, you guys love them, and they are all made by 2 people. My brother and myself,” überfaith42 explained.
“ALL AAA companies outsource their promotional work to other companies. Keep that in mind as well.”
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“Another additional thing, Rotoscoping is a technique in animation where you trace other movement (animations, videos, anything). If timings overlap in an animation on completely separate rigs, that’s not something you can copyright easily and mostly not worth trying to do,” überfaith42 insisted.
“If you find animations that are similar, on completely separate rigs and skeletons, it’s more than likely rotoscoping is involved as a method of tracing. You can’t just trace a brand logo and use it as your own, but you can trace a lot of things and those things do become your own,” überfaith42 justified. “A lot of anime you love rotoscopes famous scenes from film and media to similar effects.”
“I’m posting all of this so that I don’t need to repeat myself in general.”
The Epic Marketplace link leads to a user called “PersiaNinja.” While that link now has no content, archives from June 2021 show the user was selling animation assets. The user had content up to March 15th, 2023.
Curiously, both the 2021 and 2023 links show only 7 different animation sets, despite Elden Ring launching in 2022. While the game did reuse some animations from Dark Souls III, newer animations were also showcased — such as those of boss Malenia.
überfaith42 addressed the situation again on March 12th. “Just an update on this, I’ve submitted a ticket raising the concerns of the community to the Epic Customer Service and outlining the animation accusations. We decided to be preemptive as a sign of good faith and a generally very pleased customer at the Epic Marketplace. We’ll let you know what they say about it and will respond accordingly.”
“And a second point,” überfaith42 continued, “we’re not judges or versed in what is and isn’t allowed, or who owns the rights to any of these animations. This is why we reached out, to get some confirmation about the person who makes these animations.”
überfaith42 would elaborate more later. “I’ve thought on the issue myself since last night and seeing the comparison footage was already a pretty crap experience (I have not played any titles more than a few minutes here and there, and spent some more time with DS3).”
“REGARDLESS of the legal situation, even if it all turns out to be fine and nobody has a problem and this seller is a legit person/s (which all of the customers were lead to believe by the seller existing on the store for so long and many creators using their work) – I still will spend my time going forward working on alternatives,” überfaith42 expressed.
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“I want to stress this decision comes currently purely out of an artistic lens,” überfaith42 emphasized, “as an artist I take pride in all the manual work and unique things I’ve built over the course of these many years – I WANTED the game to stand out and bring its own flare in as many ways as possible.”
“I definitely wasn’t aware any of animations were really similar to anything else, I just thought we were doing business with a legitimate entity and that their work fit our vision of the combat. If it turns out that this seller is illegitimate, we will have all been victims of nefarious behavior. I have also reached out to the seller’s email.”
Once again überfaith42 stated “Our intention was always to make something unique, and those that have given the game a chance have taken note that we really weren’t here to make a copy of anything, or build off of someone else’s success.”
“We may have missed the quality mark on a lot of fronts (that we’re working on and will continue working on), but we definitely have shown that there’s a lot of originality. I hope to see this situation resolved as soon as possible, and am completely willing (and waiting since it’s the weekend) to get to the bottom of this with Epic.”
March 13th would see the official Bleak Faith: Forsaken Twitter account reveal what Epic Games stated. “Hello everyone. As promised here is an update on the animation asset issue. We have heard back from the escalation team at Epic which was as follows:”
“Pursuant to the Marketplace Distribution Agreement, each Marketplace seller represents and warrants to Epic that they have appropriate rights to upload their content. As with any store that hosts third-party content, however, Epic is not in a position to independently verify such rights, and Epic makes no such guarantee to purchasers of the content,” Epic Games was quoted as stating.
“So essentially, they state they cannot verify the copyright of the animation packages purchased through their store,” Archangel Studios summarized. “This is not satisfactory for us and so we have taken the decision to replace the assets purchased from the store over the next several days.”
“Certainly this has been a huge lesson for us and hopefully other indie creators out there too that assets on these storefronts seemingly cannot be purchased in good faith. Back to work we go! Again, thank you for bringing the issue to our attention and helping us improve the game.”
In a statement to IGN, the developer summarized and vindicated themselves further. “Since the start of development, Archangel Studios has always been transparent with their community about the use of Epic Marketplace assets. While only 10% of the game has been outsourced in this manner, it has helped speed up the development process immensely.”
“As a three-person studio, it was a vital resource to utilize throughout the four-year development. The assets in question were purchased from the Epic Marketplace in good faith and with the understanding that Epic went through the proper vetting and review process before listing them for sale,” Archangel Studio condemned.
Archangel Studio concluded with the same message in their earlier tweet, stating store assets “cannot be purchased in good faith.”
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