Kickstarted game halted as devs quit

Development on Haunts: The Manse Macabre stalls as programmers walk away; creator promises refunds, believes game can still be made.

Development on the successfully Kickstarted Haunts: The Manse Macabre has stopped, as programmers on the project have quit. Developer Mob Rules Games head Rick Dakan posted an update to the game's project page to reveal both programmers have left the studio, taking up jobs at Google and elsewhere. Neither developer is able to work on the game in their spare time.

Haunts won't be scaring anyone any time soon.

The Kickstarter campaign for Haunts surpassed its $25,000 target, and closed at $28,739 over the summer. This money has been spent, Dakan said, "but I will personally refund out of my own pocket anyone who wants to withdraw their support, no questions asked." Those seeking refunds can email Dakan directly through his email address listed on the Kickstarter website.

"We’re going to make this game, and if you can hang on for what looks to be a long road ahead, we will get it finished," he said. "But that’s not what I asked you to sign up for and it’s not what you gave us money for. email me directly through Kickstarter if you would like your pledge refunded."

Kickstarter has previously stated that it will not get involved with refunds.

"This has been an emotionally rough couple of months for me, as I’ve invested almost all of my time for the past year or more in Haunts, along with my own money and reputation," Dakan continued. "It’s been terrible to watch it fail despite best efforts, but the failure is mine. There are scores of decisions I’d make differently if I had to do them over, and there were bets I made knowing the risks that haven’t paid off like we needed them to."

Dakan added that the game is nearing completion, but it contains many bugs. And without much programming experience, neither Dakan nor the game's artist, are able to clear these issues out without the help of more knowledgeable individuals.

"With no one left on the project who is capable of implementing those changes and debugging them during testing, the game is in a very patchwork state," Dakan said. "In some cases, levels that once worked fine now have serious issues. Fixing those issues would require fixes both to the level programming and the core system programming, working in tandem."

Despite the troubles, Dakan said he remains invested in bringing Haunts to market, and is currently talking to Blue Mammoth Games about a deal. However, even if this deal does go through, there is no promise that Haunts will be finished.

"These new potential partners won't be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it's out best shot at this point," he said.

Below is a video of Haunts in its current form.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

Discussion

0 comments
AlexFili
AlexFili

They need to use things like Unity3D and HTML5 instead of using some outdated technology that nobody else knows how to code in.

flazzle
flazzle

I love how straightforward and honest this guy is. It's refreshing and this guy is a true man.

I like what I see too. I hope they over come this hurdle and make a cool game.

GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

I knew it would happen sometime, just didn't imagine it would be this soon. I will be shocked it they actually refund everyone!

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

What i don't understand is why did people give them money?

I would never give my money to a product which doesn't exist. 

People whom gave them money how will they get the refund?  Was any receipt, contract signed? They could say you didn't give any money.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

This was bound to happen.  Let's see how They handle this.

Sapphire_Lexy
Sapphire_Lexy

Poor guy, I feel really bad for him. )= what a upsetting experience to go through.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

"Kickstarter has previously stated that it will not get involved with refunds."

Monsters. They only want to grab the money and run.

Error1355
Error1355

While it sure is nice that he is giving money back, it's to be expected this will eventually happen to a kickstarter project. It's the risk part of making an investment.

Bancario51
Bancario51

Ouya

 

Kickstarter is laughable crowd funding website where investors that know nothing about games, take part in

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

These kickstarters are nothing but an investment. Investments always carry risks. People should really examine who they choose to support, and more importantly, WHY they support them before just opening their wallet. In this situation it's nice that refunds are available since that's not always the case, but people shouldn't get this false sense of security that that will always be the case.

WeWerePirates
WeWerePirates

A lot of people either don't understand or more likely don't believe the risks in backing on Kickstarter. People go on about removing the greedy publishers from the equation (and then often some hyperbole about Call of Duty) but the primary role of publishers is absorb risk, remove them from the equation and where does the risk go? What Kickstarter does is let the customers chose to shoulder some of the risk. That's not a bad thing but people need to accept that's really the main thing it does, it's not a pre-order service. The kind of projects that go to kick starter are inherently risky because they've already been passed over by publishers and probably other means of funding or they are so small that they are prone to exactly this kind of personnel issues.

 

The problem with this particular instance of a Kickstarter funded project running into trouble isn't so much that it's particularly bad it's that it's not really offset by a mass of tangible success stories. In terms of games actually delivered the only one I'm aware of FTL.

 

Kickstarter doesn't just function of trust but faith. For project eternity if you look at backing for near or under retail price that accounts for more than two third of the backers but under one third of the funding. In fact about half over 1.5 million of nearly 4 million it got through kick starter came from less than a tenth of the backers. If that faith gets shaken then the mass who thinks it's a pre-order service will thin but more serious the small minority donating frankly stupid amounts of money may well dry up.

 

I'm not saying crowd funding is bad or that it is doomed but that we are near the peak of what it will achieve in gaming. So far it's been up and up as it has only had success stories of projects getting funded. The gritty reality of even a minority of these projects falling through, even honestly is something it hasn't had to contend with yet. Worse yet imagine the loss of faith if some one just out right stole from Kickstarter. Personally I have funded several projects but when I did I was square with the possibility of the money I donated just being gone and that meant I funded less than I otherwise would have.

SonicTH
SonicTH

Personally, I would submit to a Kickstarter that didn't necessarily promise a game, but rather tried to get the attention of a bigger studio.

 

Idea pitching is what we need, not necessarily contributing to the direct development. The developer asking for money hat-in-hand directly to the consumer base can lead to situations like the above. But if you could swing...say Epic Games by using a Kickstarter in order to gather resources to maybe submit to them a working prototype with art assets and concept art to go along with it, I'd be in favor of that.

Crowd-funding cannot be the sole bottom line of a game's development backing unless it's fairly low-key. Marketable games need people with industry connections to actually flesh out and promote the game once it's under way.

Taegre
Taegre

I'm surprised so much of the negative backlash here is focused on Kickstarter and not the developers themselves. Crowd-sourcing shouldn't be the sole means to finance a game (which is what it sounds like these guys tried to do) but it can make the difference between a groundbreaking idea forever left in limbo by cautious publishers and a tangible game.

Snide-Cipher
Snide-Cipher

What a legend! Kickstarter is such an awesome platform for making creative games, but game development comes with risks, and with those risks comes the opportunity for negative people to try and destroy a good thing before it has a chance to prove what it is capable of. 

 

With honest developers like these though, willing to man up and be honest with their backers, it should be fine.

BuzzLiteBeer
BuzzLiteBeer

And this is why Kickstarter is not a sustainable way to fund projects. I knew from the beginning that there was going to be issues with people giving away their money on a promise.

 

When more people start feeling the emptiness of those promises, Kickstarter may die. Not saying this for sure, but I really would not be surprised. Only large and established companies would gain any traction. 

theKSMM
theKSMM

Kinda sounds like he got hosed by his staff.  Did they take the money and run (without completing the assignment for which they were paid, I mean)?

 

Hopefully some other programmers will step in to help him finish his project.  Lots of talented folks have donated their talents to open-source software, so why not this?

hemoleech
hemoleech

Why did the programmers leave if it was almost finished?

cornbredx
cornbredx

That sucks. It's cool he is offering refunds "no matter what if people request it" (paraphrasing) but not cool they gave up on it.

 

Is this the moment people start reconsidering kickstarters? Maybe, I hope not but maybe. I have been wondering who it will be- who will be the guy that kills people's want to crowd fund games?

Vozlov
Vozlov

So two guys are given 25,000 dollars by fans to create a game. All of which has gone and now the developers have quit.( 'Quitting' your own game = giving up )

 

So where exactly has that money gone? Judging by the gameplay videos, not on the game.

 

So how exactly is he going to come up with 25,000 dollars?

 

I think scam is too strong a word, more like idiots who have no idea what they are doing. Selling the ideas to gamers without any thought as to how to put it together. Anyone can do that.

 

Christ if it were ideas that made the game I'd be a millionaire by now.

NiteX
NiteX

How is it a scam if he is giving refunds?

pathosfire
pathosfire

I've only kickstarted the major projects lead by developers I know.  Much less risk that way. 

 

But at least he's offered refunds, so I can't really fault the leader of this project.  And who knows, it still might get completed.

wexorian
wexorian

This is really bad and MAD NEWS, we can't trust even kicksart PPL? damn it this world sucks i Feel robed i can imagine how  ppl feel who Donate money to this project.

worlock77
worlock77

Seriously, to all those saying "it's not a pre-order", "you're not buying anything" etc - how many really think people would put their money into a Kickstarter projects if no product was offered? Do you think anybody would fund a project that said "give us money now, $10, $15, $20, what you can afford, and if when finish the project and get it published you'll then have the incredible opportunity to purchase the game at full retail"?

bignick217
bignick217

@HipHopBeats

What are you talking about.  What you just described is what every company, businessman, country and educational establishment does on a "daily" basis.

 

Someone presents an idea for a product or research or whatever.  They don't have the funds to do it themselves on their own.  So they appeal to whoever is willing to invest.  They either get their funding or they don't.  And if they do, then they either succeed or they don't.  That's the name of the game.  Risk.  It's the same risk every company, businessman, country and educational establishment repeatedly takes.  You, me and every other potential customer is no different in that regard when it comes to kickstarter.  They made an investment.  It didn't pay off in this case.  But that doesn't mean that's always going to be the case.  FTL is a good example of the kickstarter funded project that is not only successful, but is currently doing well in the market as well.  FTL proved to be a sound investment.  I was not one of the ones that invested in FTL, but that's beside the point.  FTL proved successful.

 

As an example, look at the US during WWII.  Look at how many companies and organizations the US government invested in on nothing more than a presentation and a promise.  Take a guess on how many of those investments actually paid off compared to the ones that didn't.  Do you think the US ever got the money they invested back from companies that failed.  No, they didn't  Same game, different forum.  Famous example, Howard Hughes... Some things he delivered.  Some things he didn't...  Look it up.  That's just the way the game is played.

 

This doesn't make consumers gullible.  It just makes consumers more active players in the same game that every other entity plays.

deadkingdg
deadkingdg

 @pilot_riaz The money was given through Kickstarter, it's not like people gave them bills on the corner of a street. Kickstarter is independant to all the projects and keeps logs of everything, just like eBay does. I've had to deal with eBay for a problem with one of the sellers and everything went very well.

 

However, I wouldn't pay for a game before it gets developped. I might not like the end result.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

 @Ripper_TV Kickstarter is basically a bank/escrow house.

 

Don't kill the messenger. 

runarjenssen
runarjenssen

 @Bancario51 Love how you just brushed thousands of different, individual people with one stroke. Also love how you seem to think Kickstarter is a site made up of only gaming-related projects.

Lamesy
Lamesy

 @SonicTH That concept is more realistic for sure, but brings its own problems. Foremost of which is the loss of pre-order incentive: devs could not offer even the modest "you'll get it free IF we make it" that they currently offer, because that would eat profits from would-be publishers/distibutors.The whole scheme would have to be drastically scaled back. $5-20$ K goals max for a pitch, and zero illusion of incentive: the money WILL be spent, and donors WILL NOT get anything in return other than the chance to buy the game full price like everyone else.

melkathi
melkathi

 @Taegre It wasn't though. Dakan had invested a lot of his own money already. The kickstarter was meant to fund the last push for the halloween release. Who knows what transpired inside the team for the second programmer to up an leave (the first programmer it was always known would leave towards the end).

The reason this project failed was not how the funding as organised but that the team fell appart.

runarjenssen
runarjenssen

 @BuzzLiteBeer That's like saying "Driving cars is a bad way of transportation, I knew there was going to be an accident sooner or later".

 

... Or like saying "The Xbox is a bad gaming system, I knew there was going to be one or two bad games for it sooner or later".

worlock77
worlock77

 @theKSMM 

 

Going by the statement on the Kickstarter page the man knew his two programmers would only be available to him for a limited time (until they found steady jobs).

buzzoinks
buzzoinks

 @Vozlov oops... "Christ" - your ideas wouldn't buy a bag of crisps

mlcarter815
mlcarter815

 @Vozlov If people who have no idea what they are doing can get a job with Google, I guess there is hope for the rest of us.

worlock77
worlock77

 @NiteX 

 

He says he's going to offer refunds, and I'm sure he has every intention of doing so now, but frankly I'd be surprised if he's actually able to come up with all the the money to give refunds if a large percentage of people who funded it ask for refunds. As he stated himself - the money that people funded for the project has already been spent, so any refunds will come out of his own pocket. $28k is a lot of money to try to come up with out of one's own pocket.

theshonen8899
theshonen8899

 @wexorian Sounds like you've never heard about the stock market before. Kickstarter is an investment site. You invest in projects you believe in. Some will flop, some will succeed. That's just how life is.

theshonen8899
theshonen8899

 @worlock77 Kickstarter is NOT a pre-order, something you clearly don't understand. Kickstarter is a chance for people to get funded for creative ideas. Instead of relying on giant corporate publishers, Kickstarter allows developers to pitch an idea to the world. But as with ALL game pitches, some will flop, some will succeed. This is the same thing publishers have had to deal with for years. The only difference now is that consumers actually get a choice, and it's up to them to make the right ones.

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

 @deadkingdg thanks for clarifying, i understand now.  I was thinking ppl gave them bills on the corner of a street.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

 @mlcarter815 Not in the traditional sense, no. I guess the equity would be in the form of receiving the game for free since that's essentially what people are contributing to.

cornbredx
cornbredx

 @theshonen8899  its not the stock market at all. That's where a lot of the misconceptions seem to come in. Kickstarter is just people pan handling. You hold no claim to what happens with the money you spend and technically they are not legally obligated to give you anything in return.

worlock77
worlock77

 @theshonen8899  @wexorian 

 

The difference is when you invest on the stock market you get an ownership stake in the company you're investing in. You have some say-so in its future and how it's handled. Comparing Kickstarter to the NASDAQ is a poor analogy.

worlock77
worlock77

 @theshonen8899 

Again, do you really think people would fund these projects if they were not being offered a product for their money?

cornbredx
cornbredx

 @starduke  @theshonen8899  That does not make them legally obligated. Much like a EULA it's not technically legally binding.

 

Damage reputation, indeed. It most certainly will. And the internet doesn't forget. I'm not saying their is no risk for the proposer but the legal risk (while I bet people would sue most definitely) may be less I think the bigger risk is your reputation if you actually cared about that.

 

BTW, just in general, I wanted to add I have backed several projects. I do so with no expectation for them to succeed. I look at it more like really big tips (to help them out), though, and it is considered as much on a tax form.

worlock77
worlock77

 @mlcarter815 

 

No, they don't have to rewards you with the product they make. They don't have to reward you with anything. They're not even under any obligation to actually make anything for that matter. But you know as well as I do that nobody would fund a Kickstarter project without the offer of the product being promoted. That's why people do it because they want that game/album/movie/whatnot. This means that in effect, yes, people do essentially use it like a pre-order service.

mlcarter815
mlcarter815

 @worlock77  The companies don't have to reward the product that they make. They can reward anything they want that is deemed reasonable. The rewards are to make up for the laws that prevent people from buying equity with low sums of money.

starduke
starduke

 @worlock77  Hell no! If there wasn't something they could get out of it, then I doubt very much anyone would fund a Kickstarter. They even have a rule about no "fund my life" projects, so there's no "give me money just because I need it" on there. It's give me money so I can do this thing, and you get this reward, and, because you funded it, one of them is usually a copy of the game, or movie, or book, or whatever the project was. At the same time, you aren't buying anything, and you aren't investing in anything, you're Kickstarting it!