An eye-catching Superman demo, made in Unreal Engine 5 and widely circulated online earlier this year, has been taken and sold on Steam as an $11 game.
The original proof-of-concept demo - titled A Superman Style Flight Experience (UE5) - was created by Toybox Games' Tyson Butler-Boschma, utilising the City Sample from Epic Games' The Matrix Awakens as a sandbox for superhero flight. In April, Butler-Boschma made the playable demo freely available via itch.io, but unfortunately, it's here things begin to go awry.
At the start of November, Butler-Boschma was alerted to the fact an entity calling itself Hero Game Studios had taken his demo - a project he created "for fun to show what could be made" in Unreal Engine 5 - and started selling it on Steam under the name Heroes City Superman Edition with an asking price of $10.99 USD.
Initially, Butler-Boschma urged his followers to retweet his concerns and report the game on Steam. Later, however, as Heroes City Superman Edition continued to be sold despite his best efforts, he took to its Steam discussion boards to warn potential purchasers away - whereupon Hero Game Studios banned him under the guise of "hate speech".
Butler-Boschma's next step was to purchase a copy of Heroes City Superman Edition in order to leave a Steam review where he could share his story in more detail. "I made this demo myself months ago as a proof of concept, using mostly free assets," he wrote, "and several YouTube videos and reviews will confirm this, and I was always open and honest about it."
"To be safe, I bought this game... my game, to absolutely confirm it was my project," he continued, "and I have confirmed this just now when I played it, and found the opening level I created from scratch WITH A MESSAGE FROM ME, explaining to players how the simple demo works and offers two doors to walk through."
"It's the morality that is the biggest issue here," Butler-Boschma added. "If they took it and put it on Steam for free, I wouldn't have really cared, but they are selling it, making wild claims, taking people's money, using pure lies, and dragging my name through the mud in the process."
Hero Game Studios responded to the review, insisting "our game is not stolen", and claiming Butler-Boschma was "one of the former developers of our user team [who left] a long time ago. But now he claims that the entire project belongs to him, but this is completely false. The game's rights and development process belong entirely to us. The reason why he did this is because the sales were increasing quite rapidly. He thinks he can make money from it."
While Hero Game Studios' claims appeared dubious based on the timeline of events, that didn't stop it from pursuing Butler-Boschma further, going as far as to launch a copyright claim on a YouTube video he had made in April to showcase his Superman demo.
"They are straight up attacking and harassing me at this point and I don't feel safe providing my personal information for a counter claim," an exasperated Butler-Boschma wrote on Twitter. "I am at a complete loss at this point... Steam has done nothing and now I feel the same will happen with Youtube...".
Thankfully, albeit two weeks on and only after the incident began to gain traction across major news outlets, progress has finally been made. The copyright claim on Butler-Boschma's YouTube video has been resolved and Valve has, at long last, pulled Heroes City Superman Edition from sale - although questions remain about how it managed to make it through the platform's submissions process in the first place.