Board Game Kickstarter Canceled Amidst Claims of Malfeasance

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Board Game Kickstarter Canceled Amidst Claims of Malfeasance


The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, a board game that raised nearly four times its funding goal on Kickstarter last year, has been canceled as the founder admits that the whole thing was "beyond his abilities."

It's the worst possible outcome for a Kickstarter: People love the idea, supporters throw truckloads of money at it and then a year down the road, it all falls apart amidst accusations of wrongdoing. That's exactly what happened to The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, a Kickstarter project that went live last May with a goal of $35,000 that ultimately raised over $122,000, but that has now plunged into oblivion.

"The project is over, the game is canceled," Erik Chevalier, founder and publisher at developer The Forking Path, wrote in a Kickstarter update [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forkingpath/the-doom-that-came-to-atlantic-city/posts/548030] yesterday. "After much deliberation I've had to make this decision. I've informed Keith [game designer Keith Baker] and Lee [artist Lee Moyer] and neither at all happy with this situation. Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person."

The collapse of the Kickstarter is bad enough, but the real anger seems to be reserved for Chevalier's statement that the goal wasn't actually to make the game at all, but to make a game company. "From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom that Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects," he wrote. "Everyone involved agreed on this."

The trouble with that claim is that the Kickstarter pitch video completely contradicts it. In it, Moyer talks about the 20-year evolution of the game, and nothing else. "We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready," he says. "The stars are right for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City. I hope you'll join us on this wild ride." And while he specifically cites the participation of Baker and sculptor Paul Komoda, Chevalier's name isn't mentioned once.

Reaction among backers is about what you'd expect. A few have expressed understanding and sympathy, some have accused it of being a straight-up scam and many others have pointed out that their money was intended to support a game, not the foundation of a new company. One user claimed that after contacting Chevalier, he was told that all art rights have been returned to the game's creators and he thus can't sell any related content for more funding - not that there's much in that pipe anyway. "No pewter figures were ever produced and the t-shirts were going to be printed closer to release, which now isn't happening," he allegedly wrote.

As for refunds, Chevalier said that he hoped to provide them but made it clear that breath probably shouldn't be held. "Unfortunately I can't give any type of schedule for the repayment as I left my job to do this project and must find work again," he wrote. "I'll create a separate bank account to place anything beyond my basic costs of living. Every time that account has a decent amount saved into it I'll issue a payout to a portion of the backer list. I'll post updates with each payout to keep you all informed on the progress."

"Again, I never set out to con anyone or to perpetrate a fraud but I did walk into a situation that was beyond my abilities and for that I'm deeply sorry," he concluded. "This has been a rough year, I never wanted to make it harder for anyone. There will be no more monthly updates, not that there have really been in some time, but I will post with each payout, as well as the post-mortem when it is eventually complete."

Yet as Mighty Rabbit Studios gone [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forkingpath/the-doom-that-came-to-atlantic-city/posts/548030?cursor=3841072#comment-3841071].

And perhaps lending some credence to claims of wrongdoing is a message posted by Baker [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forkingpath/the-doom-that-came-to-atlantic-city/posts/548030?cursor=3837644#comment-3837643] claiming that neither he nor Moyer had anything to do with The Forking Path. "Neither one of us received any of the funds raised by the Kickstarter or presales," he wrote. "I haven't received any form of payment for this game. Lee and I were not involved in the decisions that brought about the end of this project, and we were misinformed about its progress and the state of the game."

The upside is that he and Moyer still want to get the game out to backers; the downside is that it will be a "print-and-play" version - do-it-yourself, in other words - and that they don't have access the backers list. Anyone who backed the game, or knows someone who did, is encouraged to contact Baker at Keith-Baker.com [http://keith-baker.com/].

It's a sad situation for all involved, and it once again drives home the point that Kickstarter is a roll of the dice. Money spent backing them should be treated like money lost, and if you can't afford to lose that money, then you should probably find something better to do with it.

Source: Kickstarter [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forkingpath/the-doom-that-came-to-atlantic-city]


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omega 616

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I might be talking out of my arse a little lot but $122,000 to make a board game that he had in development for 20 years ("We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready")? And he couldn't do it?

Something smells fishy!

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't the "how it works" be the hardest part, which he took 20 years to perfect. Then he gets $122K to make the board and pieces, then to ship it and he can't? Even though he raised 3.5 times more than he needed?

This is the reason I wont even go near the kick starter site.
 

Andy Chalk

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omega 616 said:
I might be talking out of my arse a little lot but $122,000 to make a board game that he had in development for 20 years ("We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready")? And he couldn't do it?

Something smells fishy!

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't the "how it works" be the hardest part, which he took 20 years to perfect. Then he gets $122K to make the board and pieces, then to ship it and he can't? Even though he raised 3.5 times more than he needed?

This is the reason I wont even go near the kick starter site.

Try reading the whole post.

He wasn't intending to make the boardgame. He intended to use the funds earned to start up a company, and essentially what was left would be devoted to the boardgame itself. He just never told backers until now that he was always intending to make the company first.


Which, I'm guessing with someone of a fiscally-management challenged status he seems to have gathered, 122k was far from enough to even get a room.
 

omega 616

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cursedseishi said:
omega 616 said:
I might be talking out of my arse a little lot but $122,000 to make a board game that he had in development for 20 years ("We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready")? And he couldn't do it?

Something smells fishy!

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't the "how it works" be the hardest part, which he took 20 years to perfect. Then he gets $122K to make the board and pieces, then to ship it and he can't? Even though he raised 3.5 times more than he needed?

This is the reason I wont even go near the kick starter site.

Try reading the whole post.

He wasn't intending to make the boardgame. He intended to use the funds earned to start up a company, and essentially what was left would be devoted to the boardgame itself. He just never told backers until now that he was always intending to make the company first.
I read the whole post.

Still fishy that he went about it all like this though, "I want to make a board game for $35K" but you claim to want to try to start a business from the very start? So why the "We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready"?

Why not just say "I want to start a business for X".
 

Raziel

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I don't even look at kickstarter projects.

Sure some of these things can fail, you take your chances there. But situations like this are even worse. In a normal situation like this where you invested in a company and it not only failed, but where the money might not even have been spent on the agreed project you could probably sue or charge embezzlement. But I don't think you have any recourse at all with kickstarter projects.

Even when the project succeeds I don't like kickstarter. Take all those video games that are being funded. If a one of them becomes a massive success the backers don't share in the profits. Kickstarter is just a way to transfer all the risk to other people who you have no legal responsibilities too.
 

Entitled

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Well, at least it will be relatively easy for most backers to get their money back if they choose a Class action lawsuit, given that the dude just built up a nice juicy company that can be bankrupted and liquidated on the grounds of breach of contract.


It's a sad situation for all involved, and it once again drives home the point that Kickstarter is a roll of the dice. Money spent backing them should be treated like money lost, and if you can't afford to lose that money, then you should probably find something better to do with it.
All the more reason to tear this scammer a new one. Every form of commerce is a roll of the dice, until a stable infrastructure is established for weeding out scammers and untrustworthy gamblers, and unprepared, underfunded enterpreteurs get driven away by some legal accountability.

Once upon a time, online shopping was also extremely risky, when the web was riddled with shady dotcom enterpreteurs, who could go bankrupt between your order and your delivery, or just outright run away with your money. But then the bad ones got sued and/or went bankrupt, and now we have Paypal, Amazon, ebay, and their efficiency, and their institutionalized business process.

The same needs to happen with crowdfunding as well. Let the untrustworthy gamblers get weeded out, until the only ones remaining are the ones that are sufficiently used to the procedure that they know what they can and can't get away with.
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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omega 616 said:
cursedseishi said:
omega 616 said:
I might be talking out of my arse a little lot but $122,000 to make a board game that he had in development for 20 years ("We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready")? And he couldn't do it?

Something smells fishy!

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't the "how it works" be the hardest part, which he took 20 years to perfect. Then he gets $122K to make the board and pieces, then to ship it and he can't? Even though he raised 3.5 times more than he needed?

This is the reason I wont even go near the kick starter site.

Try reading the whole post.

He wasn't intending to make the boardgame. He intended to use the funds earned to start up a company, and essentially what was left would be devoted to the boardgame itself. He just never told backers until now that he was always intending to make the company first.
I read the whole post.

Still fishy that he went about it all like this though, "I want to make a board game for $35K" but you claim to want to try to start a business from the very start? So why the "We're finally ready. 20 years on, it's done, it's ready"?

Why not just say "I want to start a business for X".
Because perhaps its easier to hype up and get people interested in supporting game X, than it is for people to throw money to support Company Y being started and then maybe doing Game Z?

I don't know what he was thinking, or how he was going to approach this but...

From the evidence, it appears he was more interested in just getting as much as he could. Leaving out the idea that not all of the money was going to be invested in the game was the easiest step, because like I said above, supporting a game is much more likely for people than it is for them to support a studio being made with potentially nothing shown in return.

And I have no clue what it might take to start up a company, though considering some indie devs have done so in order to release their games, while at a high cost I'm willing to guess 100k was probably enough to get the bare bones set. Yet, like the article brought up, this guy has a horrible track record for fund management. He probably burned through a hell of a lot more on getting a computer than it would take to get a whole office decked out.

And, not wanting to face what could easily turn into a court-ordered payback full of highly negative public PR for him, he decided to can the kickstarter with the "promise" he'll pay people back eventually.
 

Nikolaz72

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Apr 23, 2009
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Raziel said:
I don't even look at kickstarter projects.

Sure some of these things can fail, you take your chances there. But situations like this are even worse. In a normal situation like this where you invested in a company and it not only failed, but where the money might not even have been spent on the agreed project you could probably sue or charge embezzlement. But I don't think you have any recourse at all with kickstarter projects.

Even when the project succeeds I don't like kickstarter. Take all those video games that are being funded. If a one of them becomes a massive success the backers don't share in the profits. Kickstarter is just a way to transfer all the risk to other people who you have no legal responsibilities too.
We get games that we want, rather than the games test groups tell publishers we want?
 

RJ 17

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Gotta take the good with the bad, I suppose. I obviously have absolutely no information to base this off of, but I'd imagine for each true, genuine Kickstarter that's a couple people with a dream project that needs some outside funding to get off the ground, there's a situation like this where the person running it just out-right lies, gets a bunch of money, then closes up shop because "reasons" and says "Yeah, don't know when/if you'll get your money back, but I'll try." Sure you will, what happened to all the money that you had received? Spent it all on weed and hookers, eh? Yeah, them's the breaks I guess.
 

Grabehn

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I have one little problem with what the "he said" part, first it says "it was beyond my capabilities, maybe someone more experienced would've worked better", but then it says "we were not involved in the decision to close the project nor saw any money". So... He was in charge but he wasn't? I don't really get it.
 

CriticalMiss

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This guy seems like trouble. Having one kickstarted project go tits-up after being funded is one thing, having it do so after you have messed up another project elsewhere where you got other people's money is another.

I feel kind of sorry for the creatives who will now probably have trouble getting support for future games because of this guy and have already seen their project get spoiled at someone else's hands. It makes you wonder what he spent the $120k on if there are no assets that can be sold off or given to backers. He probably had more than one steak dinner over the last year.

Grabehn said:
I have one little problem with what the "he said" part, first it says "it was beyond my capabilities, maybe someone more experienced would've worked better", but then it says "we were not involved in the decision to close the project nor saw any money". So... He was in charge but he wasn't? I don't really get it.
There were three people involved. Two weren't involved in the decision, the other (chevalier) was.
 

Raziel

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Grabehn said:
I have one little problem with what the "he said" part, first it says "it was beyond my capabilities, maybe someone more experienced would've worked better", but then it says "we were not involved in the decision to close the project nor saw any money". So... He was in charge but he wasn't? I don't really get it.
I think he was saying it failed because he didn't have the experience needed. That if they had put someone else with experience in charge instead of him it might have succeeded.
 

Andy Chalk

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The guy who said the project was beyond his capabilities was Erik Chevalier, the founder of The Forking Path. The guy who said he wasn't involved with the decision and never saw any money was Keith Baker, the designer of the game. There's still some sorting out to be done but with Baker's post, it sounds like Chevalier founded the company with the intent to publish Baker's game, and then left him hanging along with everyone else.
 

Frezzato

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It's interesting that, even with the excess funds he received, Mr. Chevalier was incapable of floating the company he intended to start. Accusations of malfeasance aside, I'll chalk this one example up as mostly a case of incompetence. Interestingly enough, the failure rate for small businesses in the US reaches 50% at five years [http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/12/start-up-failure-rates-the-definitive-numbers.html], and he couldn't even beat that. I wonder what that ratio would be for entertainment-type companies.

It seems fairly clear to me that Erik Chevalier simply didn't know what he was doing. Yes, he didn't tell anyone what he actually intended to do with the money and it snowballed from there, in which case what he's guilty of is a misrepresentation of the facts on Kickstarter more than anything. I don't know the rules for working through Kickstarter, but that certainly must be a violation of their terms of use. And I suspect that, while it may be grounds for a lawsuit, I doubt that a class-action in this case would be worth the time. With 1,246 backers, after court fees and a cut to the lawyers, I doubt any considerable amount of money would be recovered. Especially if he files for Chapter 11.

This reminds me of an educational special I saw on public TV. It was about entrepreneurs and the one bit of universal advice they had was "If you're going into business for yourself, make sure it's something you love so much that you'd do it for free." I ran that by my friend, who was enrolled in an MBA program at the time, and he responded with some insight of his own. "Yeah, that's because for the first two years you don't make any money," he quipped.

I wonder if Kickstarter will generate its own infamous terminology, a "Kickstarter Bubble" perhaps. Erik Chevalier won't live this down any time soon, so maybe that's punishment enough. However, any angry backers, regardless of their familiarity with Chevalier's background, have only themselves to blame. The onus is on them to do the research and accept the risks for projects that they back.
 

Slycne

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Heh, Joystick Labs is in the same building we are in. They are literally just down the hallway.
 

LordMonty

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This is sounds very ironic, but to be honest i've backed games on kickstarter off and on and you can expect failure from time to time(just got shadowrun returns so no complaints there) but all that really matters is honesty and a strait pitch.

American McGee just restarted his kickstarter for that reason. Good on him for being honoest and keeping it clean and clear what his goals are but in this case people were dumb.
 

Andy Chalk

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Andy Chalk said:
The guy who said the project was beyond his capabilities was Erik Chevalier, the founder of The Forking Path. The guy who said he wasn't involved with the decision and never saw any money was Keith Baker, the designer of the game. There's still some sorting out to be done but with Baker's post, it sounds like Chevalier founded the company with the intent to publish Baker's game, and then left him hanging along with everyone else.
sounds like the actual game designer was screwed on top of the backers
 

Baresark

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As stated time and time again. It's a roll of dice. As for the people who are talking class action lawsuits, well they don't have anything to stand on. Kickstarter does not guarantee a product. At no point does it claim a product will be definitely be provided. I would say that anyone who lost money on this, well it's on them. As my father used to say, you can't get blood from a stone. If this was a company (LLC most likely), then no one is responsible for the money anyway. I haven't backed a project in a while, but only because nothing has tickled my fancy. I still think Kickstarter is a great idea. I have backed quite a few projects, one of my first deliveries is tomorrow with Shadowrun Returns. I can't stand the mentality of people who want to see this end. It's not up to them how people spend their money. It's not predatory, it's all laid bare when you go to Kickstarter. I feel for people who put a lot of money towards something, but that is why I don't generally do more than the minimum to get a copy of the game... though sometimes I shell out for artbooks.
 

Atmos Duality

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Raziel said:
Sure some of these things can fail, you take your chances there. But situations like this are even worse. In a normal situation like this where you invested in a company and it not only failed, but where the money might not even have been spent on the agreed project you could probably sue or charge embezzlement. But I don't think you have any recourse at all with kickstarter projects.
Agreed. That's the biggest problem I have with Kickstarter: Legal recourse is limited, and culpability is extremely loose. The silver lining, is that individually, for most kickstarters the average risk is tiny. (easily less than 100 USD for the average backer, and I bet it's much less than 50 USD).

That said, crowd-sourcing is still new to the gaming mass-market.
Time will tell if the market can cope and produce more quality games than mediocre duds and con-artists.

The problem with con-men and incompetent production isn't anything new; every sort of commission, patron, producer, or backer system in history has gone through this before. Now it's gaming's turn.

Even when the project succeeds I don't like kickstarter. Take all those video games that are being funded. If a one of them becomes a massive success the backers don't share in the profits.
This is a shot in the dark, but I think that most kickstarter backers are more concerned with getting a game they want made at all more than chasing dividends. There's already a market for that in publicly traded companies, of which nearly every AAA game publisher is a part of.

Consider this: I think the major reason crowd-sourcing took off at all is because the largest firms (AAA publishers) are slowly failing. In brief, they're deliberately ignoring an increasingly large aggregate chunk of the market (the so-called "niche game market") and crowd-sourcing offers a way for that market to satisfy demand more directly.

Crowd-sourcing is filling in the increasingly large gaps AAA left in their quest to chase the lowest-common-denominator.

Kickstarter is just a way to transfer all the risk to other people who you have no legal responsibilities too.
Over-generalization.
(Like how some say the army's job is to "just kill people".)

The only major difference between the average crowd-source backer and the average media publisher is that the publisher has access to better legal expertise. This is a problem that will sort itself out with time, by necessity.
 

mirage202

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I'm not entirely sure Kickstarter projects that fail can be legally challenged, despite all manner of different words people use to describe projects on KS and the act of backing all seem to have the same common misconception. You did not pay for a product nor service, and you did not invest so no protection there either.

Kickstarter projects are fund raisers, you donate to a fund raiser, Kickstarter in it's own terms says exactly that, fund raising.

You can't sue a cancer charity when it fails to develop the cure for cancer with that $20 you donated last year so I highly doubt the law will offer any protection here either. No goods or services were explicity offered or paid for and as such no legally bound transaction took place.

I am starting to suspect Kickstarter's success has reached critical mass with too many people walking in thinking that backing a project is no different from placing a preorder or reservation on a normal product which is horribly incorrect thinking.