French Dev Admits To ‘Ripping Off’ Devolver Digital Game [Updated]

French Dev Admits To ‘Ripping Off’ Devolver Digital Game [Updated]
Image: GRIS

Devolver Digital has called out app developer, Fabulous, on Twitter for ripping off the artwork and animation from one of its indie titles, GRIS. When contacted by Kotaku Australia, Fabulous described the likeness as a mere ‘mistake’ and a case of inspiration gone too far.

This story has been updated below and now includes a statement from Ustwo.

This issue came to light when Devolver Digital published a side-by-side comparison of GRIS and a video that Fabulous published to social media several months ago.

The similarities led to Fabulous removing the video and speaking to Devolver directly about the issue. “Similar to you, we’re a small startup inspired by the things we love. We have removed the video as a preemptive action & are investigating. We’ve privately contacted Devolver Digital to resolve this. Any wrongdoing on our part was certainly not intentional,” said Fabulous on Twitter.

Another Twitter user revealed that some aspects of the app, which is also named Fabulous, resembled the loading screens from Monument Valley by Ustwo. It’s not as overt as the above, there is a similarity in the use of ‘in which’ and the name of the character engaging in an activity.

Left: A Monument Valley chapter screen. Right: A screenshot from Fabulous by Mattia Traverso on Twitter

It’s a difficult situation. When you make something that people like, especially in design, you hope it inspires others. That can be very rewarding until a line is crossed. In this case, Devolver have determined that line was crossed and the developers have taken the offending video down,” said Ustwo marketing lead Oscar Guardiola in an email.

“The above screenshot reads to us more like a nod or an Easter egg to Monument Valley and we don’t have an issue with it.”

Speaking to Kotaku Australia, Fabulous has reiterated its public stance – it is a small 20-person startup, not a big corporation like Devolver Digital stated in the tweet.

Fabulous CEO Sami Ben Hassine stated that the company was inspired by several titles while developing the app.

“From the very beginning, and as we are gamers ourselves, we were inspired by games like Journey, Monument Valley, and books like the Little Prince or The Alchemist, to create our universe,” Hassine said over email.

Hassine went on to say that the video, which was created several months ago has been removed and that the company is looking into the matter.

“We have a team of 2 artists and freelancers,” Hassine said. “We’re still investigating this as all of this has been sudden, but any wrongdoing from our side is not intentional. It might be that one of our artists or freelancers got inspired by a game that they liked.”

The Fabulous CEO said the the potential theft of intellectual property was “not intentional”. “This has been one mistake we didn’t even know we were making and was certainly an inspiration pushed a bit far,” he added.

Devolver Digital declined to comment any further for this story.

Update November 11:

Fabulous CEO Sami Ben Hassine, wrote a Medium post regarding the outcome of its internal investigation into the alleged plagiarism.

The company points to a single unnamed designer as the creator of the video in question. It also states that the protagonist of its app, Amber, was inspired by both Monument Valley and Journey.

The designer weighs in on the post, admitting to “ripping off” GRIS but insisting that it was a mistake and inspiration taken too far.

“When I was about to start the animation, I told our design lead. that I was gonna get inspired from a game called ‘GRIS’ for the animation. He never played the game, so he gave me the OK for ‘getting inspired’. I took the word ‘inspired’ way too far, “said the designer in the post.

“I fully realise that I ripped off the game now, but in the animation process that wasn’t my intention at all. AT ALL. I was so amazed by the game animation, especially of the character’s cape that looks so much like Amber’s cape and I had no idea back then how to animate her cape (cloth animation is one of the hardest things to do), so I played the game cinematic over and over and over again to grasp the cape mechanics.”

The designer goes on to describe how this came to pass and takes sole responsibility.

“For the opening scene (Amber in the big hand) that looks like GRIS opening scene, I liked the scene so much and thought it would fit perfectly into the Hero Journey animation so I did something similar to it with no intention to do so. Then, the cape movements, I did something similar with the same mistake in mind: I was only referring to the cape mechanics,” they wrote.

“I took things way too far and what I thought I was managing got slipped out of my control without me even noticing. Our lead designer had no idea about that since he, like I said, didn’t play the game. I am the only person responsible for this catastrophe.”

“As a content creator, I am ashamed that I ended up copying someone else’s hard work, and believe me this is the first time that I know of this has happened to me.”

The blog post then returns to Hassine, who reiterates that the team’s work is art and for the greater good.

“Once again, I do hope that everyone realises that this can happen. We are all humans. We all make mistakes.”


  • I work in an office where some of my colleagues are responsible for writing artwork briefs to be sent to bargain-basement third world illustration houses because the company is too cheap to pay for locals. Looking over my colleagues shoulders this kind of things seems to be a constant problem.

    The conversations (always via email) typically run something like this: “here’s some inspiration images of the kind style we’re going for” [what comes back is a direct copy] “no no no, it was only meant as inspiration, at least mix things up a bit so it doesn’t look like we’ve copied it directly” [image comes back with the colour changed].

    Aside from the obvious problem of outsourcing creativity to third world contractors who’ve been selected entirely because they’re cheap, what’s most disappointing here is that rather than getting the message these devs appear to have simply doubled down and gone, bugger it, we’ve paid for the artwork now so let’s just run with what we have and see if anyone complains.

  • This Article

    In which

    Kas learns that the names ‘Ida’ and ‘Mat’ are supposedly really similar… Apparently for no reason beyond them both having three letters yet sharing no other commonalities.

    • Considering the chapter style has been used in European literature going back hundreds of years, including the french author Jules Verne, I’d say they’re without a leg to complain on.

      Heck, all we’d need to do is point them at the TV Tropes page ‘In Which a Trope is Described’ for more than enough examples.

        • You commented on a minor issue that was not even raised by Devolver and made a sarcastic aside as if it were the entire argument.

          It’s simply wrong to suggest that the chapter screens were raised for “no reason beyond them both having three letters”. The chapter screens were raised because they look extremely similar to other screens from the same game that the devs have already been sprung copying from.

          Sure, the chapter screens are not copyright breaking on their own, but that isn’t an argument that anyone is making other than you. The chapter screens would never have been raised at all if a pattern of copying hadn’t already been identified.

          • You’re a fool if you think that I was commenting on anything more than the author’s part in the article regarding the names…
            there is a similarity in the use of ‘in which’ and the name of the character engaging in an activity

          • In the time you’ve spent writing embarrassing comments Kasterix you could have watched the video several times over and realised you’re wrong.

          • He’s clearly talking about the article. The content of the video is irrelevant to his comment.

          • At NO point did I say anything about Devolver’s claims being untrue. At all. Not once.

            Try reading.

    • The “in which” thing is definitely a stretch. Although I suppose it is technically a reaction from the Internet to the actual plagiarism. Maybe not worth the prominence in the article though.

  • Wonder if Devolver Digital contacted them privately before calling them out on twitter. I might be entirely unreasonable here but I would expect that to be the logical first step before shaming another company in a public forum.

    • Hey Leonardo. Apols for my bois making a near pixel by pixel copy of your Mona Lisa to promote our game. But sheesh dawg, a bit of courtesy mate. Couldn’t you have just fired us off a quick email, ya know, to save us the embarrassment of being called out for blatantly stealing your work and all?

    • Lol, as if any such contact wouldn’t have been moved to the trash or given the ‘we’ll return your call’ treatment.

  • I mean… this is super common when you use freelancer to source artwork.

    @angorafish nailed it.
    I very much doubt it was on purpose. However not replacing it would be atrocious form.

  • As a writer I’m inspired by Lord of the Rings, but if I ‘accidentally’ include a chapter about a race of small humanoids and call it “Concerning Hobbits” there are likely to be repercussions.

  • “so I played the game cinematic over and over and over again”
    “so I did something similar to it with no intention to do so”
    “I do hope that everyone realises that this can happen”

    PSA: Please don’t accidentally watch someone else’s work repeatedly and then copy it exactly. It can happen to anyone.

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