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August 2021

The Sinking City

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: NACON
Developer: Frogwares
Release Date: June 27, 2019

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'The Sinking City' (ALL) Pirated By Its Own Publisher

by Rainier on March 1, 2021 @ 2:22 p.m. PST

The Sinking City is a game of investigation and mystery taking place in a fictional open world inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

“We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories”

The player steps into the shoes of a 1920s private investigator who finds himself in the city of Oakmont Massachusetts, New England. A city suffering from unprecedented floods  of clearly supernatural origins. A city trembling on the brink of madness. The city, a wide open-world oozing with insanity, is being taken over by an unfathomable supernatural force, and it's up to the player to find out what has taken control of the city... and the minds of the people within it.

Frogwares have released an official statement regarding the recent upload of The Sinking City on Steam.

A step-by-step outline of how a French publisher stole, hacked, changed the source code, and tried to cover up the reporting trail

The above video shows how our former licensee NACON has cracked, hacked, changed our game’s code and content and illegally uploaded our game The Sinking City to Steam on February 26th 2021, in order to commercialize it under their own name without our knowledge. Some of you may have heard about our troubles in the past. This last action was the straw that broke our backs. Here is a step-by-step outline of how a French publisher stole, hacked, changed the source code, and tried to cover up the reporting trail. It’s corporate bullying, and incompetent hacking, at its finest. 

But first, some background

Since the release of The Sinking City was released on the 27th of June 2019, Frogwares has encountered continual problems with its licensee, Nacon. This post/video will look into a particular aspect of the game’s contract and the findings that we, Frogwares, have made. 

Steam is one of the listed platforms of commercialization in the contract between Frogwares and Nacon. But since the release of the game, Nacon’s unlawful actions have forced Frogwares to defend its property and react in front of the French Justice for lack of payments, attempts to steal our IPs, etc which we made a public letter about back in August 2020.

Since then Nacon has tried to force Frogwares to deliver a new master version of the game through the use of their lawyers. The French Justice refused Nacon’s demands twice, first in July 2020 and then in October 2020 during an appeal. The final decision on whether Frogwares is obligated to deliver the Steam version that Nacon is demanding is still set to be judged in trial court in the next months or even years.

So on February 26th 2021 to our great surprise, we found a new version of The Sinking City was uploaded to Steam and launched. But Frogwares didn’t deliver such a version. And this is not the first time something like this has happened. Alain Falc, Nacon owner and CEO warned us on December 28th 2020 in writing that“ You have 48 hours to upload a new Steam master otherwise we will use all solutions available within the law and the contract”. 48 hours later, Nacon purchased a version of The Sinking City through the site Gamesplanet and uploaded it to Steam like it is a Steam version. So immediately after his ultimatum expired, Nacon broke the law and breached the contract. We informed Steam of this and prevented the game from being released because it was obvious that it was a stolen version of the game.

So today, we discovered yet another unknown version of our game and what we found is that Nacon; a publicly listed company in Paris, valued at around 700 millions euros, is yet again behind it. This is now Nacon’s 3rd public attempt to publish a pirated PC version of our game with a previous attempt being made via Utomik in February 2020 and the attempted upload in December 2020. 

Nacon under the management of  its president Alain Falc asked some of their employees, who we even identified, to crack, hack and pirate our game, change its content in order to commercialize it under their own name, and this is how they did it.

How Nacon modified the game files

When launching the game version that Nacon released on Steam versus our version specifically prepared for Gamesplanet, you can see the following differences:

  1. The Nacon Logo has now replaced the Gamesplanet logo; an official Frogwares licensee. 
  2. The loading screen is different; once again the Gamesplanet logo is removed. 
  3. When on the main menu 
    1. the advertisement for Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is not present on the lower left screen, 
    2. the mention of the distribution platform on the lower right screen is also absent.
    3. the “more games” menu option is not present.

We took a look at the data that the Steam version made available for sale on February 26th, and noted that :

  • The folder names and structure is identical to any of Frogwares versions (Gamesplanet; EA origins, Etc…
  • The executable has a similar name but is of a different size than any of our own versions implying modification of the file.
  • The packages are 17Gb, this size corresponds to the versions created around summer 2020 when we switched to a new compressing method to reduce the game size for download purposes. Before this date the only available PC version – on the Epic Game Store – was around 30Gb in size.

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. 

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.

The first step of Nacon was to obtain the key of encryption, then go through the config files and modify them (by the way, we are aware how they got their hands on the encryption key, and we are going to submit our findings to the court). Also add or change some files and then recompile the game like nothing happened and release it.

After decrypting the archive, Nacon had access to the config files, the game files and the game executable.

What we did is that we downloaded the Steam version that Nacon commercialized, and we used our own encryption key on the archive and it worked. The hackers didn’t even care to use a different encryption key than the one we created when recompiling. 

We therefore opened the packages and we identified immediately in the config files the version that was stolen and hacked:  it is a commercial version coming from the site Gamesplanet that was purchased by Nacon like any other player.

Interested in all the tech details, read more here.

Can you survive this beleaguered town and untangle the mysteries responsible for its tragic situation or will you be driven beyond madness yourself?

Key Features:

  • Free Investigation - A unique approach to the detective gameplay were your skills and cunning are your main tools, and not hand-holding UI and pop up clues. Customizable difficulty and grey moral choices mean your conscious is the only guiding light in how you solve cases.
  • Enthralling Story of Insanity in a World of Desolation and Rot - Uncover the mystery of a supernatural flood that envelops the city of Oakmont. Citizens slowly losing their sanity and willingly trapping themselves in this place. Nightmarish creatures and cults becoming the norm. And you, a private detective with his own mental demons, are all that can expose the cosmic powers that pull at these puppet strings. 
  • Deeply Rooted in Lovecraft and Cthulhu Mythos - The Sinking City is heavily inspired and built around the stories of the master horror writer himself, H.P Lovecraft.  Become a part of an iconic universe, encounter familiar characters and relive beloved horror stories while also exploring new takes and twists on the cosmic horror genre.

Currently available on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One, The Sinking City is coming to PS5 on Feb. 19, 2021.

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