Successful Kickstarter Faces Collapse

Successful Kickstarter Faces Collapse

The developers of Haunts: The Manse Macabre earned nearly $29,000 from a successful Kickstarter but may never actually deliver a game.

We get pretty excited about a lot of Kickstarter projects around here, so much so that now and then we forget to toss in the obligatory "buyer beware" warning that you are essentially throwing your money into a great black pit with no guarantee that anything is going to come out the other end. That's usually okay, since it's a pretty good bet that Brian Fargo or Tim Schafer aren't going to take your money and run (I'm still not sure about that Arthur Bruno guy, though) or, possibly worse, do their best and discover that they just don't have what it takes to get the job done. But there are an awful lot of Kickstarters out there and not all of them have that kind of weight behind them.

Haunts: The Manse Macabre was intended to be a turn-based horror game that allows players to play as either the haunters or the hauntees. The pitch video was very well done, plentiful screenshots showed off a cool aesthetic and best of all, the studio, Mob Rules Games, claimed it had already spent $42,500 on development and needed just another $20,000 to get the job done. It ended up with $28,739 from 1214 backers. Simple enough.

But updates on the Kickstarter page stopped on September 11 and didn't restart until yesterday, with a message ominously entitled "Desperate Times." It revealed that "things haven't been going well," and more precisely that the programmers had abandoned the project to do other things and there was nobody left to work on it.

"Now it's just me and Austin. Austin has finished up the art content for the initial release of the game, but he's not a programmer," Mob Rules Games chief Rick Dakan revealed. "I'm not a programmer either. Although I know some small amount about how the level programming works, I'm not capable at this point of fixing the bugs I know about. This is further complicated by the fact that the game is written in the Go programming language, which is not widely used, limiting the pool of potential new programmers."

Dakan said he's not giving up on the project and offered to sign over his share of any future revenues to anyone who can get the game finished and shipped. And while he asked backers to hang in "for what looks to be a long road ahead," he also offered refunds, no questions asked, to any backer who wants one, although he noted that all the money raised through Kickstarter has been spent.

The good news for supporters is that Dakan isn't just walking away from the game, but at this point everything is up in the air. Haunts isn't even in beta state, there are no programmers and nobody ready to step into the breach with an obscure programming language; Dakan is literally asking his Kickstarter supporters if they have the connections or resources to take on the project and get it finished.

Kickstarter's Terms of Use "require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill," but at the same time acknowledge that it has no way to ensure that this happens. The best it can do is "create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don't," but that recourse is strictly between the project creators and their backers. Legal action, in other words - but in the vast majority of cases, that's just not a practical option.

It'd be great for the sake of all involved if Mob Rules can pull this one out, but it doesn't look too promising. And if it doesn't, it would appear that all anyone is going to get out of it is Dakan's promise that the team did its best. "The attached video that Austin put together shows some of the gameplay from across a variety of different level, so you can see how close we are to finishing the game," he wrote. "All the systems are there, and when it works it's fun to play. You can see how we spent your money, and that we weren't just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, even if we have collapsed at the finish line."

Source: Kickstarter

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The sadest part of this that I can see is that they do seem to be trying their best. It just seems odd that all the programmers jumped ship. What happened to cause that?

Kapol:
The sadest part of this that I can see is that they do seem to be trying their best. It just seems odd that all the programmers jumped ship. What happened to cause that?

I was thinking the same thing. If it was just one programmer than i'd understand this kind of thing happens, but for all the programmers to just leave a project that was almost done and already totally funded? It's like jumping off a life-raft. Something must have been going on that we aren't hearing. Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows. Regardless, i hope the project picks back up again for the two remaining developers.

But they already have the money, don't they?, that was pretty much the reason for the crowd funding in the first place, to work on the project full time and get it done.

There's definitely something they're not telling us about all this ordeal.

On a side note, this is why I don't trust crowd funding anymore, yeah, lots of amazing sounding projects, promising the sun and the stars, but until I see the finished product, I'm not buying on their promises anymore (although Shadowrun Online does look neat indeed).

in b4

"CALLED IT! :OIAJSF:OSJDF:LSKJDF:LSKDJFSDF NEVA TRUST DEE KICKSTARTTT! ALL A SCAM!" people

everyone knows it's a damn risk before you toss in your money, get the fuck over it, you're not leagues ahead in intelligence.

OT: it really sucks they fell just short, hopefully they can find a few people to at least get it out there and playable for the people who wanted the game.

curious as to why the team broke/abandoned ship there. still, glad to see the guy taking it "like a man" (don't quote me calling me sexist) and showing us what's there and promising refunds.

jollybarracuda:

... Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows ...

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too. I'm guessing the funds from kickstarter were ending and the developers weren't getting paid anymore. If that's the case, then the saddest part is that the developers were in it only for the money.

I don't know, if i was in the developers' position I would have stayed just to finish the game and honor all their kickstarter supporters. Even if i wasn't getting paid. I wouldn't forget that their previous paychecks came from the supporters.

Sad... really sad.

lolobar:

jollybarracuda:

... Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows ...

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too. I'm guessing the funds from kickstarter were ending and the developers weren't getting paid anymore. If that's the case, then the saddest part is that the developers were in it only for the money.

I don't know, if i was in the developers' position I would have stayed just to finish the game and honor all their kickstarter supporters. Even if i wasn't getting paid. I wouldn't forget that their previous paychecks came from the supporters.

Sad... really sad.

In the world we live in today not many people can afford to work for free. I wouldnt say its sad at all if they had walked out due to lack of payment! They weren't a bunch of bedroom coders bashing a mod together, they were formed as an actual team and if the money isn't coming in then theres no reason for them to stick around.

What I dont understand is how can all the money be spent if it was in the final stages but not have anything they can push out the door? As many have already piped in I cant help but feel theres more to this story than whats being revealed.

On a side note, I cant really see the appeal of this game. Looks a bit dull but the music is kind of cool!

We're talking about the response from the backers on an earlier thread and what investors in general think what they're getting from Kickstarter:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.391569-Kickstarter-game-in-financial-trouble-gamers-dont-rip-devs-apart

The programmers jumped because the project took longer than expected to come to fruition and they had full time job offers to go to with no other income coming in as the KS funds were exhausted.

The above thread is more about the reaction from the investors than the failure of a single Kickstarter game. As an Indie studio owner myself I'm finding the comments interesting.

Fasckira:

lolobar:

jollybarracuda:

... Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows ...

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too. I'm guessing the funds from kickstarter were ending and the developers weren't getting paid anymore. If that's the case, then the saddest part is that the developers were in it only for the money.

I don't know, if i was in the developers' position I would have stayed just to finish the game and honor all their kickstarter supporters. Even if i wasn't getting paid. I wouldn't forget that their previous paychecks came from the supporters.

Sad... really sad.

In the world we live in today not many people can afford to work for free. I wouldnt say its sad at all if they had walked out due to lack of payment! They weren't a bunch of bedroom coders bashing a mod together, they were formed as an actual team and if the money isn't coming in then theres no reason for them to stick around.

What I dont understand is how can all the money be spent if it was in the final stages but not have anything they can push out the door? As many have already piped in I cant help but feel theres more to this story than whats being revealed.

On a side note, I cant really see the appeal of this game. Looks a bit dull but the music is kind of cool!

I feel somewhat guilty for mentioning this but forbes ran this article yesterday and got a interview/response from Rick Daken the guy who organized this project. In the response Deken clarified that it was known by the team that the lead programmer had X number of months before he had to leave because he had another job lined up. The whole mess their in now is because the game has taken longer than expected to complete.

Edit: I said IGN the first time. whoops.

Kapol:
The sadest part of this that I can see is that they do seem to be trying their best. It just seems odd that all the programmers jumped ship. What happened to cause that?

From what I remember from the email (I backed the game), it seems like there were only 2 programmers in the first place, and both ended up leaving for better jobs and wouldn't have any spare time to work on it.

You win some, you lose some, you just lost some.

Kapol:
The sadest part of this that I can see is that they do seem to be trying their best. It just seems odd that all the programmers jumped ship. What happened to cause that?

jollybarracuda:
I was thinking the same thing. If it was just one programmer than i'd understand this kind of thing happens, but for all the programmers to just leave a project that was almost done and already totally funded? It's like jumping off a life-raft. Something must have been going on that we aren't hearing. Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows. Regardless, i hope the project picks back up again for the two remaining developers.

TeletubbiesGolfGun:
curious as to why the team broke/abandoned ship there

The BBC article implies that there were only actually two programmers on the project. The lead programmer was only contracted to work on Haunts for one year, so at the end of that time he went back to working for Google. The other guy appears to have just decided he no longer wants to do it. (From other sources, apparently he was also starting a new job.)

Edit: Thinking about it, if the Kickstarter money has run out then it's entirely understandable that they both moved to other jobs! Rent, bills, food, etc.

lolobar:

jollybarracuda:

... Maybe the programmers weren't getting their paychecks, who knows ...

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too. I'm guessing the funds from kickstarter were ending and the developers weren't getting paid anymore. If that's the case, then the saddest part is that the developers were in it only for the money.

I don't know, if i was in the developers' position I would have stayed just to finish the game and honor all their kickstarter supporters. Even if i wasn't getting paid. I wouldn't forget that their previous paychecks came from the supporters.

Sad... really sad.

According to the BBC, the lead programmer was only contracted to work on the game for 12 months before he returned to Google. It's unfortunate that his time ran out before the game was finished, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.

The other guy seems to have left to start a new job. Which is fair enough if the Kickstarter money had run out. Speaking as a programmer, some of us have rent to pay, food to buy, etc.

Well it was bound to happen, and from the sounds of it this happened in the best possible way, being that this Daken seems to be a standup guy, letting the backers know and is willing to refund their money (From his own pocket, as it seems). It's a shame, but at least it's only as bad as this.

OT, this looks like a neat game. What game is this 'emulating'? Can anyone recommend some cool alternatives to this?

Andy Chalk:
Successful Kickstarter Faces Collapse

Kickstarter's Terms of Use "require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill," but at the same time acknowledge that it has no way to ensure that this happens. The best it can do is "create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don't," but that recourse is strictly between the project creators and their backers. Legal action, in other words - but in the vast majority of cases, that's just not a practical option.

I'm curious about this quote specifically. Does the "rewards" mentioned in this quote refer to the tiered rewards that scale to the pledges, or is the thing being funded referred to as a "reward" for the purposes of this statement?

Instead of making this some kind of cautionary tale, I think it should be an example of how to do right by your donors if your project falls through. I wonder if they could just release the code to a dedicated fan base and hope for the best, or if they can get some more money/an investor and get the game finished.

DrunkOnEstus:

Andy Chalk:
Successful Kickstarter Faces Collapse

Kickstarter's Terms of Use "require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill," but at the same time acknowledge that it has no way to ensure that this happens. The best it can do is "create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don't," but that recourse is strictly between the project creators and their backers. Legal action, in other words - but in the vast majority of cases, that's just not a practical option.

I'm curious about this quote specifically. Does the "rewards" mentioned in this quote refer to the tiered rewards that scale to the pledges, or is the thing being funded referred to as a "reward" for the purposes of this statement?

the tiered rewards as far as i know. the thing you are funding is generally assumed to be an investment

At least they're being up front about it, I guess.

Shakura Jolithion:
Instead of making this some kind of cautionary tale, I think it should be an example of how to do right by your donors if your project falls through. I wonder if they could just release the code to a dedicated fan base and hope for the best, or if they can get some more money/an investor and get the game finished.

the problem with that is this was intended for retail, so as soon as you release the code that option is out the window. then you have the consideration that we are talking about a programming language that is "rare" I mean as a programmer myself what I know of Go is that it is just as if not more rare then FORTRAN and that is almost dead. so its not so much finding someone that can fund it. it's finding someone who can do the work.

not to mention if they are in the level building/bug hunting stage that means that anyone who does come onto the project will have to learn everything that is there pretty intimately, and if they are using the term beta correctly then that means that it might be in a state that you can't just trial, and error the thing to work, and instead you have to be able to figure out the ingenious workarounds of the framework/language. I mean this guy Daken seems like he is willing to fund it himself the rest of the way, but they need a programmer who knows the language, and can learn there code quickly.

They don't need programmers who know GO, they need programmers who know a better language.

Seriously, why did they choose GO in the first place, to proove some kind of point?

I don't like the way some people are using Kickstarter, to kick start projects that will go nowhere, to fund projects that will make money for everyone involved, except for those who funded the thing. The reality of indi development is that it's a struggle, a gamble, people might invest years of their life and get little return at the end - kickstarter is supposed to help developers produce games that people actually want. It's not going exactly to plan is it - how long before people lose faith in it, another couple of failed projects?, more con jobs?, big publishers trying to creep in?

Please don't say 'get over it' while a system that could do a lot of good for struggling indi's and faithful gamers is pissed all over.

That's awfully strange, seeing all the programmers jumping ship even with a successful kickstarter. There has to be something going on that we're not seeing.

Side note, I'm not too sure what the appeal of the game was. I'm hoping the remaining developers manage to get it together and release it.

mew4ever23:
That's awfully strange, seeing all the programmers jumping ship even with a successful kickstarter. There has to be something going on that we're not seeing.

The BBC website is a little more clear on what happened.

Basically, they overran on time and ran out of money. There were only actually two programmers working on the project. The lead programmer was only contracted to work on the game for 12 months. His 12 months is up, so he has gone back to working for Google. The other programmer has also left to start a new job. As Dakan said, all the Kickstarter money is gone. So there's nothing left to pay anyone with anyway. Programmers have to pay rent, buy food, etc. just like normal people.

Estimating how much time and money is needed to complete a software project is (unfortunately) very far from being an exact science. Whether because of unforeseen problems they encountered or simply underestimating the work left to do, they got it wrong this time. But hopefully this project can still get over the finishing line.

The lesson I get from this is don't support any kickstarters where the coders aren't part of the core team.
If they're just in for the pay and not for the credit, then there's a very good chance they will leave if the budget runs out.

You want kickstarter teams who have the passion and who have a personal reputation to ruin should they fail. I even want to see their ugly mugs on kickstarter first.
This still isn't a hard security, but it's better than backing just any designer with a good idea.

image

In all seriousness though that is indeed tragic, it looks very good and you can see they care very much about it. I hope they pull through.

Developing the game in a language that has previously never been used for game development was a pretty ridiculous decision.

mew4ever23:
That's awfully strange, seeing all the programmers jumping ship even with a successful kickstarter. There has to be something going on that we're not seeing.

I think it was as simple as them not having had nearly enough money to pay those programmers. The total amount of money they were burning through in a month is what a normal game development studio would spend on a single developer. And even that proved to be unsustainable.

surg3n:
They don't need programmers who know GO, they need programmers who know a better language.

Seriously, why did they choose GO in the first place, to proove some kind of point?

I suspect that's because one of the two programmers is from Google (according to another comment from the thread).

WHY in the world GO???? Fortran is so much better!!!

The former lead programmer is obviously a dick. There are only 2 reasons to use an obscure language like Go for a commercial project.
1) You want to ensure job security
2) You don't give a damn about the project's success
3) You are an idiot

The guy works for Google so he is (probably) not stupid, so that rules out 1 and 3 and leaves 2.

But it's also the responsibility of the guy in charge to at least look up the language on Wikipedia and realize there only 3 people who know this language and that they all work for Google.

 

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