Code Hero Kickstarter Goes Bad - UPDATED

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Code Hero Kickstarter Goes Bad - UPDATED

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It appears that a lawsuit may be coalescing around a successful Kickstarter whose creator appears to have taken the money and run.

Code Hero first came to light back in February, when we brought your attention the Kickstarter for the game that promised to teach you how to make a game. "The idea is to suck people into the rabbit hole of an adventure, and at the other end, they ship a game," Primer Labs founder Alex Peake said, and it was an idea that resonated with gamers. The Code Hero Kickstarter ended up bringing in over $170,000, nearly double its $100,000 goal.

And then the wheels came off.

The delivery of various backer rewards, all of which were rather oddly scheduled for February 2012 - odd because the Kickstarter didn't end until February 24 - apparently never happened, and worse, Peake seems to have walked away from the project. A video of his closing remarks at the "20 Under 20 Summit" in November is floating around on YouTube but the last Kickstarter update, promising an upcoming "Alpha release," was posted on September 3 and the Primer Labs and Code Hero Twitter accounts have been silent since September 6 and prior to that hadn't posted a message since the spring.

Nervous-sounding forum posts have been going up on Kickstarter since March but they've taken on an increased urgency over the past couple of months, as backers have begun to demand refunds and dig deeper into Peake's history. Much of the concern appears to stem from Peake's post-Kickstarter admission that the money raised, despite being so far over goal, isn't enough to get the job done. "What will determine how quickly [the beta] gets ready is how quickly we can get the necessary funding and programmers to do it," he told VideogameWriters last month. "We can deliver a bunch of levels that deliver on what we promised originally, but what we have in mind is ten times more ambitious."

That statement came as a surprise to Code Hero backers, who forgivably believed that the amount Peake asked for was the amount he needed to do the job. In the final hours of the Kickstarter, Peake even claimed that if $200,000 could be raised, "We can make Code Hero an MMO multiverse in addition to single player!" And while at least one backer expressed hope that the drive for more funding means the project will eventually work out, others appear to be gearing up for ugliness.

"A modest number of Code Hero backers have reached out to me, sharing information and requesting to be kept 'in the loop' with any of our collective findings. You should know, right off the bat, that based on what we've found (and been told) - Alex Peake seems to have run out of money after spending it recklessly, and doesn't plan on continuing with this project," backer Dustin Deckard wrote. "There are well over 1000 backers out there who pledged for physical rewards. And, tragically, 6 backers who pledged at the $1k level who thought their money would be well spent on an educational tool for schools."

Deckard invited disgruntled backers to contact him at codeheroclassaction@gmail.com with whatever details or information about their pledge or contact with Primer Labs they feel comfortable sharing. And although the email address is a bit provocative, he added that he's not looking to go to Defcon 1 just yet. "Please note that this is an early attempt at organizing backers of Code Hero into a group where we can better communicate," he wrote. "No legal papers have been filed at this time."

UPDATE: Alex Peake has released a statement in which he says the development of Code Hero is continuing and apologizes for the lack of updates.

"I owe you a thanks for your support and an apology for our lack of updates on all the progress we've made with your help. I started the Code Hero project to make a game that teaches people how to make games and you backed us to help make that happen. We are going to finish this game for you and everybody else in the world who wants to learn how to code," the statement says.

"We're testing a new second alpha release tomorrow to show what we've added since then and we're working towards a third more feature complete alpha that will be ready for general use as a complete learning tool," it continues. "I know the level of frustration some people have is high right now and that it is my fault for not communicating about our ongoing progress, but I want to reassure everyone who has backed us not to panic: Code Hero is not dead and we will not let our supporters and Kickstarter backers down. All our backer rewards will be delivered along with the game. It is taking longer than we hoped, but the game is becoming awesomer than we planned too."

Peake's statement can be read in full at primerlabs.com.

Source: Kickstarter

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My heart just sank through the floor.

This was the first Kickstarter I backed. Admittedly it was only $13 but still...

I've sent my details off to codeheroclassaction@gmail.com so we'll see what happens.

This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

This is going to come off meaner than I want it to, but the first thing to catch my eye on the front page of the original kickstarter states: 'A game that teaches you how to make games with a 3d code gun!'

Which makes me think, why stop there? Why not a game that teaches you about feudal japan with a 3d samurai banana... just seems a bit overly hopeful IMO.

Pyrian:
This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

Color me surprised it didnt happen sooner. This was the one thing that bugged me about Kickstarter.

Pyrian:
This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

Investments are risky investments in general, to be fair.

And what did we learn? Don't donate more money than you are willing to lose. Blindly trusting that they deliver on their promise is just plain foolish.

I reckon a few of my kickstarter projects have gone wandering... they might come back, but there's not much I can do about it. Such is the nature of kickstarter projects. All I can do is accept I've lost the money and move on. (Any law suit, if possible, is not worth it.)

It pays to do a smidge of due diligence. Five minutes with Google shows that Alex Peake has left a trail of half-finished projects and disgruntled customers behind him over the last five years (including a now-collapsed venture in "tactical corsets"...no, I didn't make that up). He appears, putting it kindly, to have a bit more imagination than attention span.

When I saw the title, I was imagining a lawsuit by Activision where they claimed to own the rights to "X Hero", putting the kibosh on it being legally completed. This might actually be worse.

Guys don't waste your time with sending off an email about a class action. The company is an LLC, if the money has been spent you can't get it back.

ShadowKirby:

Pyrian:
This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

Investments are risky investments in general, to be fair.

Normally with an investment you get to see the books and a properly costed business plan, so you are in position to judge the risk for yourself. You don't get that option with kickstarter, so you have no way of knowing if the investment is realistic or not. Its not even an investment, to be honest, because you get no return on the money.

ritchards:
I reckon a few of my kickstarter projects have gone wandering... they might come back, but there's not much I can do about it. Such is the nature of kickstarter projects. All I can do is accept I've lost the money and move on. (Any law suit, if possible, is not worth it.)

A law suit is worth it not for people to get their $10 or $20 back, but to financially ruin this person for the rest of his life.

Let Peter Molyneux and Al Lowe, and David Braben, and Neal Stephenson, and Chris Roberts, and anyone who treats Kickstarter as a business deal know, that if they break that deal, then all their property belongs to us.

The solution to Kickstarter's side effects can be either to treat it as an inconsequential "donation system", or as a responsible business model. Only that latter has a chance to actually reform the gaming industry in any meaningfu way, and for that to work, KS pitchers need to start to take responsibility.

Christ, what an asshole. I'm glad most people on that site aren't like this ...

Pyrian:
This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

I can't believe I have to say this every time there's a crowd funding article...

Kickstarter projects are not investments. They aren't. They are technically pre-orders of products that do not yet exist. That's why Kickstarter rewards can't be things like equity in the company or monetary returns. The word "investment" has a very specific meaning that makes the SEC itch to get involved, and Kickstarter (and RocketHub and every other crowd funding website) sidesteps that by making them pre-orders and for-profit donations.

Similar to investments, crowd sourced projects are risky if you haven't done your due-diligence. Personally, I've funded Wasteland 2, The Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun Online, and Project Eternity. With the exception of The Banner Saga, all of these games are by development companies with proven track records. The Banner Saga is made by a new development company, but the company is full of--you guessed it--developers with proven track records (and they've already released the beta for the stand-alone multiplayer). A little Googling (or decades of gaming experience) goes a long way.

As far as a class action lawsuit is confirmed... I doubt they'll legally be able to get their money back. As long as Peake didn't fly private jets and host parties all over the place, he can just bankrupt his company and be off the hook for all the money. Even if he did fly private jets and host parties all over the place, he can probably just bankrupt his company and be off the hook for all the money.

DrunkOnEstus:
When I saw the title, I was imagining a lawsuit by Activision where they claimed to own the rights to "X Hero", putting the kibosh on it being legally completed. This might actually be worse.

Or they'd just change the name...

WanderingFool:
Color me surprised it didnt happen sooner. This was the one thing that bugged me about Kickstarter.

I think it happened not long after the soonest it could, really. How long has kickstarter been a big thing? And how long has this particular project been "kicking" around? I imagine there's quite a few more projects still in the works right now that won't actually pan out.

ShadowKirby:
Investments are risky investments in general, to be fair.

Some more than others. I guess I should've wrote relatively risky.

Azuaron:
Kickstarter projects are not investments. They aren't. They are technically pre-orders of products that do not yet exist.

The SEC can make legalistic definitions to their hearts' content, but paid "pre-orders of products that do not yet exist" easily fits within the basic, colloquial definition of an investment.

Azuaron:
Similar to investments, crowd sourced projects are risky if you haven't done your due-diligence.

Due diligence reduces risk - often dramatically - but it does not eliminate it. It remains to be seen how the more reputable projects turn out, in general.

The way I look at it, Kickstarter is basically crowd-sourced Venture Capitalism. It's a high risk investment, particularly backing video games. I don't expect every project to deliver what it promises, but those that do will hopefully make up for those that failed.

I backed 5 computer game projects on Kickstarter this year, I only expect 1 of them to succeed. That one being The Banner Saga and so far it is turning out to be a very different game than I expected, but still good. I have high hopes for Wasteland 2 and Project Eternity, but both have still to produce anything tangible.

The other 2 I have written off to experience.

However I can understand people who pledged hundreds, or even thousands feeling pissed off.

Andy Chalk:
In the final hours of the Kickstarter, Peake even claimed that if $200,000 could be raised, "We can make Code Hero an MMO multiverse in addition to single player!"

Let's be honest, if anyone believed that that could happen for merely $200000 they were completely delusional.

Azuaron:
[quote="Pyrian" post="7.395980.16104916"]Even if he did fly private jets and host parties all over the place, he can probably just bankrupt his company and be off the hook for all the money.

I'm not sure if it works like that. He registered on Kickstarter as Alex Peake, and signed the Terms of Use that he understands that his pitch means a legally binding financial transaction.

Like you said, Kickstarted games are pre-orders. If I offer to sell you a product for money, after a given time, and then I fail to send it for too long after I get the money, then I owe you the money. Whether I planned to make my product through a company, and wheher it went bankrupt doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if I don't actually have the money, so I can't actually pay your few bucks, I will still legally continue to be indebted to you, and the other backers, which is not a profitable place to be on the long term.

And here we come to the irony of kickstarter. It makes the most sense to support those with histories of making good games. But those who need the the money most are those who don't have histories. But without the history to know they will produce a product it is a shaky investment at best.

The Raider Dr. Jones:
It pays to do a smidge of due diligence. Five minutes with Google shows that Alex Peake has left a trail of half-finished projects and disgruntled customers behind him over the last five years (including a now-collapsed venture in "tactical corsets"...no, I didn't make that up). He appears, putting it kindly, to have a bit more imagination than attention span.

hes apparently trying to start his own space program to colonise a planet 20 light years away as well .. i really wish i was making that up :-|

wombat_of_war:
hes apparently trying to start his own space program to colonise a planet 20 light years away as well .. i really wish i was making that up :-|

holy god, you're kind of right: http://www.spacepunk.org/

People gave this guy one hundred and seventy thousand hard American dollars.

scam artist confidence scam, i doubt he is crazy, he sure seems to have a good time inventing big ideas burning all the investment capital and jetting.

guy should be prosecuted for fraud, simple as that.

Hum, would you look at the time, Kickstarter's honeymoon is over. Time to see if it will survive now that people begin to realize it isn't a magic money and dream machine. The bubble pops... lets see if the bottom falls out.

Azuaron:

DrunkOnEstus:
When I saw the title, I was imagining a lawsuit by Activision where they claimed to own the rights to "X Hero", putting the kibosh on it being legally completed. This might actually be worse.

Or they'd just change the name...

Sorry, poor wording. I meant that the situation that actually did arise is probably worse than the hypothetical Activision scenario. Definitely not implying that a cease-and-desist letter is worse than unkept promises involving thousands of other people's dollars.

I'm a backer of this project, and I'm also someone who has interacted with Alex a lot over the last month. I can tell you-- this project is STILL going places.. he's been super busy and unfortunately neglected the PR aspect of Code Hero, and done a terrible job keeping in touch with his backers. But the project is not by a long shot dead, and Alex is absolutely not a fraud or a con-man. I urge you not to write Code Hero off, and to download the latest version. He's a smart guy with a great, inspired project which is actually looking quite tight..

He just posted a response to this here:

https://primerlabs.com/developmentcontinues

This worries me about Kickstarter, but it's a risk when you give money to a project. So far I actually have not seen any physical rewards yet, but Feb-March is supposed to be when a lot of my perks are delivered. We shall see around then what happens. The ones I've backed so far have been good with giving consistent updates throughout. Makes me wonder what will happen with the Ouya.

Lemondrop:
I'm a backer of this project, and I'm also someone who has interacted with Alex a lot over the last month. I can tell you-- this project is STILL going places.. he's been super busy and unfortunately neglected the PR aspect of Code Hero, and done a terrible job keeping in touch with his backers. But the project is not by a long shot dead, and Alex is absolutely not a fraud or a con-man. I urge you not to write Code Hero off, and to download the latest version. He's a smart guy with a great, inspired project which is actually looking quite tight..

He just posted a response to this here:

https://primerlabs.com/developmentcontinues

Let's see...your account was created today, and this is your only post.

A quick google search for 'alex peake kickstarter' turns up this Escapist article on the first page, as well as on the first page (under news) for 'alex peake code hero'.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found Alex Peake.

fapper plain:

Lemondrop:
-Snip-

Let's see...your account was created today, and this is your only post.

A quick google search for 'alex peake kickstarter' turns up this Escapist article on the first page, as well as on the first page (under news) for 'alex peake code hero'.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found Alex Peake.

Damn, got ninja'd. I'd just done figuring it out myself.
I'd say "Hi Alex, or one of his "employees"" but puppet posters tend to be one offs/drive bys in my experience.

Entitled:
I'm not sure if it works like that. He registered on Kickstarter as Alex Peake, and signed the Terms of Use that he understands that his pitch means a legally binding financial transaction.

Like you said, Kickstarted games are pre-orders. If I offer to sell you a product for money, after a given time, and then I fail to send it for too long after I get the money, then I owe you the money. Whether I planned to make my product through a company, and wheher it went bankrupt doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if I don't actually have the money, so I can't actually pay your few bucks, I will still legally continue to be indebted to you, and the other backers, which is not a profitable place to be on the long term.

I'm not sure you grasp the concept of a LLC or "Limited Liability Company", which basically means that said person is liable for all risks with the wealth and assets of the company but NOT with his own. If there's nothing to get from the company after bankrupting it and selling whatever assets it might've had (which would primarily go to banks and other creditors and only if there's something left would reach "Backers") then tough luck. (you've likely just lost a few dozen dollars)

That said, this was bound to happen, has happened before and is going to continue happening and I want to personally punch everyone going on about some "KickStarter bubble" all the time just because a few projects failed.

Next time be more careful what you put your money towards and if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
So far all the projects I have pitched in on seem to be doing rather well and there isn't any indication that they won't come out.
If they are going to be good/fulfilling games or ultimately disappointing remains to be seen though.

Ah jeez... My heart goes out the backers, and all, but the project had red flags of implausibility flying all over the place. If it ever happened, it would have been something more akin the Peter Molyneuxs At the Movies game - something that looks the part on a superficial level but just doesn't deliver what was promised in terms of filmmaking.

Also, I'll defend kickstarter to the death, and it's really a buyer beware thing. Projects will fall through and people will lose money, if anything news like this should keep people grounded and not pledge more money than they're willing to lose if the end product doesn't materialize.

And, yeah. The only people that have any business as part of a class action lawsuit should be the people expecting the physical rewards. KS was never to be used as some kind of a pre-order or guaranteed end-product.

I've supported 2 Kickstarts, and only at the 10 or 15 dollar level. I would never invest heavily in a project unless I'm going to get some return on it. Who are these people who donate thousands of dollars anyway? Optimistic to say the least. Remember, inside every cynic there is a dead idealist.

Azuaron:

Pyrian:
This was bound to happen. And I'm sure it will happen again. Kickstarters are risky investments in general.

Similar to investments, crowd sourced projects are risky if you haven't done your due-diligence. Personally, I've funded Wasteland 2, The Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun Online, and Project Eternity. With the exception of The Banner Saga, all of these games are by development companies with proven track records. The Banner Saga is made by a new development company, but the company is full of--you guessed it--developers with proven track records (and they've already released the beta for the stand-alone multiplayer). A little Googling (or decades of gaming experience) goes a long way.

Pretty much, after all who is this Alex Peake?
As far as we know just some guy who has a great idea, even if he steal money from the gamers he can just declare it as a bad investment and declare bankruptcy. He'll never work in the game industry again, but would he care? probably not

The industry heavyweights that goes on Kickstarter are about as reliable as it gets since they have everything to lose if they don't follow through with their project. It's one thing for them to make a shitty game, it's quite another if they steal money. They don't guarantee that they will make a great game, but at the very least they will deliver a game

If you went to the Code Hero site you could get beta access for $5. I tried it out, realised what a pile of wank it was and ignored the Kick Starter page for it after that.

I think my fondest memory from within the game was accidently spawning 500 looping staircases causing my laptop to freeze.

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