Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Doom That Came To Kickstarter

You may remember the Kickstarter for "The Doom That Came To Atlantic City", a lighthearted Lovecraftian take on Monopoly. Sadly, it's imploded in rather spectacular fashion.

"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."

You can read the full story at the link, but it's pretty clear that the blame for this disaster rests on Erik Chevalier. He outright lied to the project's supporters that they were kicking in to fund production of the game when, in fact, he was using the money for...well, no one is exactly sure. He's admitted using the cash to pay for his relocation to Portland, but beyond that the details of where the funds went are a mystery. One place they didn't go is to the game's creators. They licensed production of "Doom" to Chevalier's company and haven't seen one thin dime from the fund drive.

The boardgame wasn't something I was interested in, but I have to admit to having a major jones for the game pieces sculpted by Paul Komoda. He's an incredibly gifted artist and his interpretations are some of the best I've ever seen. Sadly, the master sculpts are in Chevalier's hands and he's apparently ignoring attempts to return them.

Which brings me around to answering a question I've been getting a lot lately.

What's up with the "At the Mountains of Madness" prop Kickstarter?

Put simply, it's on hold until I can be absolutely sure it will go off without a hitch.

If you were part of the Miskatonic University or Arkham Sanitarium Kickstarters you know that I take even small projects seriously. In those efforts there wasn't a lot of money on the line, but the fact remains that there was money involved. People expect something in return for their cash, and rightfully so.

As a prop collector I've learned that the failure rate for short run projects is unbelievably high. Time and again I would front money for an item only to hear a litany of excuses about why I didn't have the goods or a refund. An illness. A death in the family. A divorce. A family crisis. After a while it became obvious that the propmaking community either had the worst luck of any demographic in existence, or was infested by scam artists. In the end it didn't really matter what the reason was. I was out money and didn't have anything to show for it.

When I did my previous Kickstarter projects I vowed I would do everything in my power to not be one of those guys. I took care to budget the print runs accurately and account for the additional cost of shipping. I made sure to include everything I needed to get the packages out the door, from mailers and shipping labels to plastic baggies. When I totaled everything up I added an additional ten percent to cover any unforeseen problems.  I tried to plan for everything.

And, after all that, I still took a bath on both projects.

My printer died in the middle of running off mailing labels.  Ka-ching!  My mailers were undersized and had to be replaced.  Ka-ching!  My estimate of overseas shipping costs was wildly off target.  A very, very big Ka-ching.  By the time all those little glitches were totaled up what were supposed to be break-even projects turned into money pits. 

I haven't mentioned any of this before because it frankly didn't matter.  I had an obligation to provide what I'd promised, and those complications were my problems, not the donors.  Given the relatively small size of the projects I could absorb the financial hit without too much pain. 

The "At the Mountains of Madness" effort is a bit different.  Even with most of the design work already done it's going to require a significant investment for printing and manufacturing, not to mention the absurdly high shipping costs for a larger package of stuff.  If there's a glitch anywhere in there it's likely to cost significantly more to fix than the previous projects.

That financial risk is dwarfed by a much bigger potential problem- my sketchy back.  Things are looking good on that front.  Under the guidance of my cruel taskmasters I've lost 45 of the 100 pounds I have to drop (Yay for me!  Squats rule!), but that extra weight is still putting too much stress on an already dodgy musculature.  I just can't chance taking anything major on until the odds off my back going out are minimized.  Believe me, there are few things more likely to distract you from fulfilling a Kickstarter than invisible goblins plunging red hot daggers into your lower back. 


Jason McKittrick said...

I heard about this yesterday. I really hope Kickstarter seeks legal action. This could really affect people's confidence in donating to a crowd sourced project.

Propnomicon said...

@ Jason McKittrick

Unfortunately, I don't think there's anything Kickstarter can do. They've incurred no loss, so there's no standing for bringing a civil action. Worse, any attempt at trying to gin up a case would likely put them on the hook for the completion of *every* Kickstarter project, something I just can't see them doing.

Dogstar said...

That's too bad that you took a bath on the previous kickstarter. Myself, I was amazed they were so cheap. I easily would have participated at twice the price.

I know there is a fear that too high a price point will drive contributers away. I'll remember on the next one to chip in a bit more.

CoastConFan said...

Suing Kickstarter would be as easy as suing eBay and we know that won't happen. Clearly Kickstarter is simply a vector for projects. I sure hope that this won’t damage other folk’s chances for funding a worthy project in the future.

@Propnomicon: Good for you! Your health comes first as much as like your eldritch productions. I know how much time and effort you put into your projects and how you really try to pack the value into the package.

Unknown said...

Propnomicon - when youre ready to move forward, we'll be here. And i'll make sure to add to my pledge because i absolutely believe in what youre doing, and i want to help. *nods*

Your blog is a huge source of inspiration, and learning opertunitunities.

affliction said...

It has been a long time since you first introduced many of us to the idea of funding small projects in this way with kickstarter. We've seen the scale escalate for projects from well-known contributors, well over a million dollars and loads of extra add-ins. The logistics of something like Cthulhu Wars is indeed Lovecraftian in my mind. I could see a house being quickly overrun with custom-printed waxed pemmican labels…enlist help, man, for your sanity! I’m sure you’ve already thought it all through.
We’re all very happy to hear about the work you’ve been doing for your health, Prop. You show us the dividends of working conscientiously. Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the weight loss. As a past support of your Kickstarters, I can't wait for the next one, and I'll add to the voices that are saying "ask us for more". Thanks!

Aleister Crow said...

Today's update by Chevalier on the Kickstarter page says he's begun issuing refunds. He was answering questions in the comments until the question consistently was "where did the money go?"

Congrats on the weight loss, and good luck on the rest. Health comes first. The Mountains have been waiting this long; a little longer won't hurt.

Charles Dexter Bukowski said...

I'm an occasional reader of your blog and just wanted to say congratulations and voice respect for your decision to fulfil your commitments even at a cost to yourself and your determination to only complete a project when you can do it right - you clearly have a professional and ethical mindset, and I'm sure all of your customers appreciate it. Also thanks for the blog and the many useful links and so on (personally I love all the document props most of all, but it's good to have a mix of different things)!

Dr. Theda said...

Due to our severe nervous disorder we are no longer able to do much with our skills and vast knowledge.... but, would gladly donate our services and help to assist other creative peoples.... Do not know "how" we could be of assistance for we live in poverty... Am a very "creative" person... who has studied ancient cultures ( in ALL aspects... architectural, Theological beliefs... and the objects and pieces of art that they produced... we are a "wealth of information" and "tips" on how to make things fit for the culture that influenced the "design" of custom pieces.... We have also studied Archeology since elementary school days ...

Tóbal said...

I´ve miss this post , and emailed you asking for this Project...sorry about it.
Health is first of all , hope everything is going ok.

Shannon said...

Rest up, absolutely, and when you're ready ... ask us for more. Even if it's only $2, just to be on the safe side.

Also, any chance that the Kickstarter small project after that (likely in 2015) could be for the Masks of Nyarlathotep? :P