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Thursday, July 25, 2013

When Kickstarters Eat Their Young - The Doom That Came To Atlantic City! - Part II - Don't Sue!



It's a fucking shame I share a first name with this piece of shit.

Again, I'm not going to comment throughout the update, as that would just distract from the bullshit already on the page.

I suspect if this hadn't raised 4 times it's goal, it would have been completed already. The more money raise, the more these folks find ways to misuse it.

I do love the "don't sue! if you do, all the money will go to lawyer fees!" I got news for you Erik. If folks sue you, its not to recover money - it's to bury you...

Nystul almost seems competent in comparison. 

Here's the latest. You can go to the original page and read some of the comments. Priceless.

Clarifications

Update #28 · Jul 25, 2013 · 16 comments  
This is not the post-mortem but a clarification for the last update. Its wordy, yes, but there is a lot of clarifying to do as many have already stated.

I've read every comment but they are too many to address individually. I've attempted to respond to every email and have gotten through most of them but will continue to reply. This morning, after reading the comments about reporting me to the Oregon Department of Justice, I contacted them and explained the situation in great detail. While they gave no promises their agent didn't feel that I'd committed any fraud. I am going to provide them with more information and work with them to see what I need to do to make this right in their eyes. I will also be contacting any other agencies who receive reports in order to provide them with a transparent view of the scenario from all angles. This project has been a year of frustration on every level. There are things you don't know and I can't talk about yet without first seeking legal advice, but hopefully in time everything will be made clear. I don't expect everyone to accept my apologies, there is nothing I can say that will make every single backer forgive me.

By canceling the game I returned all rights to the title, art and sculptures to their creators. This prevents me from producing any products, free or sold, related to the property. This means that I cannot distribute any type of print and play editions or related merchandise such as miniatures. Keith has commented that a print and play version is in the works but I am not a part of that. Since the last update Keith has been provided with all of your contact information so that he can update you as these become available.

The miniature statue originals were copied once for safety as they were very fragile. Those copies are still in China at the moment. They're going to be shipped back soon and returned to Paul Komoda. No pewter figures were created as they were to be done after the plastic sets were produced due to the original sculptures' fragility, as stated in previous updates.

I see Kickstarter backers, myself included, as pre-order customers and not investors in a corporation. Its against the Kickstarter ToS to sell shares of a company as a reward tier. As a project creator here I owe, per my contractual obligations with Kickstarter's ToS, the listed rewards or a full refund, nothing more or less. The estimated delivery dates are just that though, estimates. Once people have backed at that level those values are locked and unchangeable in this system, but still remain as only estimates which do not take into account any issues a project creator may run into. When I originally launched the project the terms were different then they are now but I'm sticking to the current version which promises "rewards or refunds" with no other options.

Any references to my past business and involvement with the defunct Joystick Labs is irrelevant to this topic. From a surface level it may seem similar but that was a very different situation. Every company at Joystick was provided with the same amount of funds and not a single team delivered their qualifying projects within that budget or schedule. Expectations were set too high and the daily realities of independent video game development were drastically underestimated by all parties involved. The two games that did eventually reach the market were funded separately from the main program by outside investors or publishers, and neither found commercial success. The Joystick Lab owners were experienced venture capitalists and well aware of the risks involved with investing in start-ups. While explaining that entire situation could fill a large book it is really not relevant here.

In regards to comments about backers never expecting to ever see a refund you should all know that I've already started the process and several individuals have already received refunds via the online store where I took post-campaign pre-orders. There is an issue with the PayPal API through Shopify that is preventing direct refunds in some cases but I've emailed those affected and am working it out directly with them. The reason I chose to refund the post-campaign purchases first is because they were offered a solid delivery date, unlike the estimated delivery date here, and never had the benefit of even my sparsest project updates. It is also the simplest amount to refund due to the system in use there, despite Paypal API issues. I am still working out the system by which I will refund everyone else as Kickstarter's Amazon payment system only allows direct refunds within the first 30 days.

Even if this project had folded on day one, before I'd spent a single cent of the funding, I would NOT have been able to immediately refund everyone due to the 10% fees that Kickstarter and Amazon took off the top. This is true for all Kickstarter projects. The few that have provided full refunds had to come up with those funds from other sources.

The company I started was meant to provide a framework for supporting The Doom that Came to Atlantic City with how-to-play videos, supplementary add-ons, and general customer support. The software licensed was needed to process art for press and do layout of elements such as the rulebook. The laptop used to edit the original pitch video could barely handle the high resolution files from the game's creator, so I upgraded to a desktop computer that could deal with it. The move back to Portland from California was multi-pronged, but mainly in order to work in a less expensive and more supportive community that I felt would benefit the company, and by extension its customers, in time.

Whether or not you think every cent should have gone to the printer and creators, and none to the publisher, it takes money just to get a project like this ready and build the framework that will keep it going after release. My hope was to one day use that framework to support additional games and allow the company to grow, just like any other business venture, but "The Doom" was first and central to the idea of the company. Without it The Forking Path ceases to exist. I put every effort into making this work and am more frustrated than anyone with its failure.

Lastly I'd like to talk about the legal threats I've received in the last 24 hours. I know that any trust in what I say is gone for the great majority of you and I get it. There is nothing I can say at this point to repair that, I just have to hope that I'm not digging the hole deeper with every keystroke. I've publicly promised to repay EVERY backer because that is my obligation per the Kickstarter Terms of Service. I am contractually bound to do that much and I absolutely intend to. If I were to immediately pay back as many of you as I could right this moment a sizeable percentage would go unrefunded which would only cause more problems. If I'm dragged into court then everything will vanish into legal fees and I'll never be able to refund anyone else. If a little more patience is dredged up from the depths and I'm given time to work and refill the coffers I can eventually, with some hard work and dedication, refund everyone.

I know this sucks. I'd rather work with everyone to find ways for it to not suck so much instead of dragging it out even more painfully. I appreciate everyone who's emailed or commented with kind messages. I don't want to create any more deadlines that might be broken so I won't give an exact date for the post-mortem but it is in the works. Again, I really am sorry.

- Erik

erik@theforkingpath.com



20 comments:

  1. What a piece of crap this guy is. He took $110K and spent it on what exactly? Doesn't sound like any money went into producing a game.

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  2. Sounds like he used to it "build a company." Which didn't happen, of course.

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  3. Who the hell needs videos and customer support to play a Monopoly-style board-game?

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  4. 110K was to kickstarted a game and not a company - that's what the backers supported. So much BS. There should be a requirement for every kickstarter to have a list of every expense readily made available in google docs with pdf's of receipts to be accessed by anyone at anytime and full disclosure how much money is going in someone's pockets. This system clearly is being abused.

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  5. Not to excuse what seems to have happened here, I do think the culture piles a lot of pressure on entrepreneurs, that the wealth divide and the ubiquity and nature of advertising encourage people not only to dream big, but also go big too early. The approach that implies may be too short-termist and ultimately destructive in a way that ripples out, as we may be seeing here. I get the impression that as a society we value the quick buck too far over the more sure rewards of sustained effort.

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    1. It takes two to make that happen though: someone to make the pitch, and someone to buy into it. I can't apologize for someone who didn't properly work out a business model and expense estimate in advance that was at least realistic before diving into a risky venture any more than I can pity someone who throws cash at a complete unknown...though I'll go easy on the backer who's swindled because at least if this is their first Kickstarter then they may be deluded by the presentation of the KS that it's a legitimate business deal.

      Either way, as I kept reading the guy's post I started thinking, "If he had a lawyer I think he'd have been advised to shut up a long time ago."

      Delete
  6. Thanks for curing any itch remaining I might've had to back any more Kickstarters!

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  7. Setting aside the question of whether Erik is a fraud or a mere buffoon, no one should overlook how the Kickstarter model so powerfully enabled him to create this mess. It seems to me that, if crowdsourcing is going to be a viable model going forward, there will have to be some means found of discouraging the many, *many* Erik Chevaliers of this world who are so eager to participate. Until then, anyone who is willing to throw money at these projects -- especially at the most generous levels -- has to accept that they are to some degree complicit in all the mischief. Perusing all the comments here and on that last update, I'm struck by the sense that some people seem a little too thrilled with their own righteous indignation. A little introspection would go a long way here.

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    1. "Setting aside the question of whether Erik is a fraud or a mere buffoon..."

      Why not both?

      "...no one should overlook how the Kickstarter model so powerfully enabled him to create this mess."

      I agree. As far as I can see, it's pretty much an open invitation to dubious behavior and outright fraud.

      Delete
  8. This situation really, really stinks. It just *sounds* like Erik is playing a shell game.

    1. The Kickstarter money went to Inari, a company founded by Erik that seems to no longer exist.

    2. Prior to the Kickstarter, Inari received investments for the production of a video game that was never delivered.

    So, did the Kickstarter funds go to pay off Inari debt?

    3. A second company, The Forking Path, was created by Erik to publish the board game.

    Were funds from Inari transferred to this company? Under what sort of legal framework? A loan? This has potential tax repercussions.

    4. Forking Path, or Erik (it's unclear) purchased rights to two Knizia games after the Kickstarter.

    Did he use the Kickstarter funds for this?

    5. Why did Keith Baker state that he had to use legal pressure in order to get Erik to admit to the fact that he didn't in fact have a product? What exact legal pressure was brought to bear?

    6. Why isn't Erik simply declaring bankruptcy? That's the most honest and straight forward path. It puts an outside entity in charge of selling off assets and paying off creditors.

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    1. 7. It appears Erik created a third company, Intrinsic Gray, as a vehicle to write, direct and produce a movie. Were Kickstarter funds used in this enterprise?

      Btw, the website with this info was pulled down in the past day or two, but folks over at BGG found a copy

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:h8qLkEqrCmgJ:www.behance.net/etchevalier/wip+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

      Delete
  9. The guy's a crook. It isn't a reflection on the people he duped or even the kickstarter system. You cannot crook proof business. This isn't a reflection on kickstarter or the kickstarter business model. It is a reflection on a crook who spent $110K who admits he didn't use the money to produce the game. Why would anybody who was swindled be the least bit supportive of this shmoe?

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    1. Yeah, introspection is probably pointless. At any rate, I'm certainly glad you won't let this isolated incident negatively affect your decision as to whether or not you will support my new kickstarter at the highest level! For a mere pittance of $1200, you get a PDF and *physical* copy of the actual "Dragons of Brooklyn Bridge" board game, a t-shirt emblazoned with an image of *your own face*, and I will personally visit your mom's house with my lead designer and thank her for your being born (17 out of 20 slots still available!).

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  10. Wow are you guys mean.


    He obviously needed a new quad-core, double graphics card computer to play World of Warcraft while Venting about his woes.

    And he obviously need to move to Portland to hire more lazy slackers with the promise of $7.00 cans of PBR.

    And he had an outstanding debt to Rosie the Severed Torso escort to pay off.

    Cut the guy some slack.

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  11. The other thing that is odd about this is that Eric seems to have only been the front man for publishing.


    What about the other three "professional" game designers and sculptors who have been working on this for 10 to 20 years? I think Keith, Lee, and whoever the fuck else bear a lot of the blame here. Almost all of the KS promo material and videos were done by these guys, not Eric.

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    1. Did those guys ever have access to the KS money, though? They designed the game, but Chevalier was supposed to publish it, and he appears to have spent the money on things that were not key to the "produce a board game" goal.

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  12. I think Kickstarter has made a few too many people think they can become business moguls overnight, the easy way, etc. Just because you may be a creative person with an idea and a passion for the hobby DOES NOT automatically mean you are also a savvy businessperson! I mean, I think the stretch goals are part of the problem: unless you really understand the business-end consequences of each tier/goal, you should not be promising all of these extra goodies. And, you should have started some kind of development on your own before you get the Kickstarter going. In other words, the best way to do a Kickstarter is to put up some of your own seed money first, then build that into your costs once you get far enough in development to warrant a Kickstarter. Granted, there might be some crowdfunding projects out there that were already in development before a Kickstarter project that still failed, but probably not as many as the ones that were based on the "I got a great idea and I'll start working after the Kickstarter is over" type.

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  13. lots of my friends who are artists have been requested to do art for games and other amateur pipe dreams - many offer low pay in return for profits - in most cases they have no hope of achieving their goals. If artist says i retain all art ownership and want 50% profit as its my work selling project then most back off - they all believe their work is worth more and they will make it. They need art - artists dont need them but they dont see it. This happens with comics, games, films all kinds of projects - most are useless. Many blow money on crap like parking fines, wages for non existent work and amateur wastefulness. Even semi successful projects are difficult, self handicapping and some creators more interested in looking cool and industry success and dont really love their own products. Ignoring artist advice when they have 30 years commercial fantasy experience while dream creators have none is very common too. Having created a newspaper, several magazines and other projects i say start small - make a good dummy or test product first and listen to experts not your own delusions of genius and unproven or dated marketing/branding ideas. Start small guys then grow.

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  14. Well if the big list of game publisher's that Keith lists were not interested in producing this game that has been ready for ten years, then I'm sure if probably blows.

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