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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Clang!

Kickstarter, once the dream of a better future. Now infested with scammers. 

Although scam might be a pretty strong word to call Clang since I doubt the creators went into it with an intention to defraud their backers like the creator of The Doom that Came to Atlantic City did. Still, the fact of the matter is that they did hit their funding goal; if only just barely, and as such, they are kind of required to fulfill their backers pledges. 

The issue at hand really seems to a conflicting view of what both parties believe their pledge is. Neal Stephenson and Subutai both seem to have the opinion that they HAVE fulfilled backers pledges already as they released a demo of the technology they promised in Clang. In their very very wordy update, they go on to explain how they did their best and how it's everyone's fault but theirs. Of course, the best statement is this 


LESSONS LEARNED
--Kickstarter lock-in. Kickstarter is amazing, but one of the hidden catches is that once you have taken a bunch of people's money to do a thing, you have to actually do that thing, and not some other thing that you thought up in the meantime. In our case, what it meant was that in April of 2013 we were still executing on a strategy that we had come up with at the beginning of 2012. A conventionally funded company would have changed course several times during such a long span of time, adapting its strategy to what was happening in the market. --the Neal Stephenson fan obfuscation hypothesis.
Who knew taking people's money for a product would make you legally obligated to deliver what you promise? Apparently not Subutai and Stephenson. 

Of course, they do have a different definition of product than their backers though. According to them, all the KS was meant to do was fund a prototype or a demo as they would like to call it, which they succeeded at doing and released back in April 2013. Of course, according to them, this meant they fulfilled their obligations. 

However, the backers have a different view of it. They argue that the KS was meant to deliver a full game and that the demo hardly counts as fulfilling their pledges. Are they crazy? Did they just misunderstand the verbosity of the KS page?

Maybe not. Because there are some pretty damning indications a game WAS supposed to come out from the KS. One of which is the statement taken directly from their KS page. Notice how it says it'll be a PC arena game and there's nothing about prototypes in it. This paragraph is also conveniently located above the prototype paragraph. 

Then there are also the pledges. Notice how they state that the backers will be getting a game. Not a demo, not a game demo. But a GAME. Is it perhaps a poorly worded pledge, where they mistakenly used the word game instead of demo or even prototype? Maybe, who knows? It could be an honest mistake or it could just be an intentionally misleading one. However, what's particular strange is the fact that if they felt the demo WAS the fulfillment of the backers pledges, why did they not announce 'MISSION OVER' when the demo was released in April 2013 and start congratulating themselves? Why did they wait till September 2013 before saying that they couldn't make the full game if they felt they had already fulfilled the pledges? Could it be because they were intending to release the full game but when it was clear it wouldn't come true, they decided to cut their losses?

So what is the truth? Honestly, no one knows. However, if Neal Stephenson was smart, he'd just pony up and refund everyone who wanted a refund a refund. Because as it is, the wording of the pledge DID indicate a Game was going to be the reward, not a demo. Even if it was a mistake, no Judge is going to care about what you meant and will instead look at the wording of the contract (in this case, KS)

Some might argue that it's not Neal Stephenson at fault here but Subutai, however I would beg to differ. It's his name plastered all over the KS. His name is the first thing people see when they come onto the KS page, along with a video with him in it. The introduction to the KS even reads 'Hi, Neal Stephenson here'. And let's not even forget the sheer number of videos with him IN them on the KS. Obviously he has some deep ties to the people who's actually creating the game. However, unlike the creators in The Doom who Came to Atlantic City; who were honestly shocked at what happened to the KS, Neal doesn't offer any apologies but instead expects people to just accept the outcome. Seriously not cool.