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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