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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wayward Kickstarter - The Quantum RPG is Dead, Toast, Ain't Gonna Happen

The latest (and probably last) update from Josh - yes, backer only but as the project is dead, I'm sharing it - submitted without further comment:

Project Update #83: I Don't Even Know What to Title This
 Backer_white For backers only Posted by Joshua Frost ♥ Like

I've spend the better part of the last 8 months trying to decide how to write this post. I'm just going to say it:

This project is dead. For now. Possibly forever.

I've spent the better part of the last two years trying not to throw anyone under the bus regarding the project's tardiness. I've been non-specific about details, taken the blame for it, watched people compliment the reason the project was late and is now dead as being a hard worker while I'm some asshole slacker.

Now, I haven't been perfect. I've made key mistakes--mistakes born of inexperience running an entire company and mistakes of trust.

I built an amazing business plan and budget with the help of a non-profit in Seattle that does just that for new small businesses. I hired what I thought were the right people, and for the most part, they were. Though there were complaints, we released the Beta on a timeline I was comfortable with.

And that's where the problems broke the company.

See, Hugo Solis has a problem with deadlines. I noticed it before the Beta, but since we didn't need everything done by the Beta for the final book, I let it slide. Around July 2012 I informed Hugo that I absolutely, positively, needed all of the art for the book done by September 1, 2012. The Beta was releasing in August 2012 and the business plan and budget I'd developed with the help of Community Capital Development in Seattle said I had some wiggle room, but if I didn't have the book off to the presses by October 1, 2012, I was going to be in some real trouble.

Hugo informed me around the end of July that he would have everything done by September 1, 2012. He even created a handy little graphic of an August calendar that showed everything he would finish and when it would be finished by. This was about the time I started saying the following: "I need the full color world map done first. It'll take at least a week to edit it in Photoshop to add tags, borders, country names, etc. I can't get that last."

To this day, I still don't have that map.

Hugo spent August 2012 working on his free frog PDF that he made available on my previous employer's website. I spent August 2012 freaking the fuck out and constantly badgering him over and over and over for the art he promised. When September 1 blew by with only a very small percentage of the remaining art completed, I knew Infinite X Studio was in real trouble.

So I did the dumbest thing I've ever done: I started a new Kickstarter hoping it would generate the revenue I needed to finish project #1, probably with a new bunch of artists rather than one single artist, from which I would use the proceeds to finish project #2. You know, the TSR model. And that worked really well for TSR.

Thank all the gods ever created that Kickstarter failed. That would have been a fucking disaster.

After that Kickstarter failed, I generated new budgets and a new business plan and spent a few months pitching the project to anyone I knew who had money and would be willing to buy a piece of the company to help me get over the hump and finish the book. While I was doing this, I was also pushing Hugo quite frequently to finish the fucking art already. I received numerous promises of completion, numerous excuses for the lack of completion, and aged about 15 years in a single season.

I also spent that time feverishly re-writing the game. Because as luck (???) would have it, I had a profound insight that made the game unbelievably better. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and, meanwhile, art failed to arrive, art failed to arrive, art failed to arrive.

Sometime around May-ish 2013, a hard look at my family's finances made it very clear to me that I wasn't going to sustain not having a job or even having a company for much longer. One of the additional downsides to blowing the budget and business plan to pieces was that I couldn't even afford to renew the LLC in fall 2012. This meant that, for all intents and purposes, Infinite X Studio ceased to exist then. I hoped I would be able to find away around that and I did not.

This was about the time I fired Hugo.

I then set about pitching the project to every artist I could find and afford. Guess what those artists wouldn't do? Create art without being paid up front! Do I blame them? Hell no! I paid Hugo 50% up front. Will I ever do that again? Hell no. Of course, that presupposes I ever try to create something like Infinite X Studio again and, at this point, that seems highly unlikely.

Hugo begged his way back into the project with additional promises. A few new small pieces of art came in. I continued to say again and again and again that I needed the full color world map done IMMEDIATELY and it continued to fail to arrive.

In August 2013, reality finally broke my little bubble and I realized I needed a fucking job.

So I started working part time as an admin at a sporting goods store. For those of you who fucking hate me right now, feel vindicated that I now have a horrible, demeaning job well below my talents and job experience. Hurray me.

Even after starting the admin job in September 2013, I continued pushing for more art and trying to balance a new life schedule around work. And then in early November 2013, I lost all the steam I'd built. Lacking money, any new art in months (and definitely no fucking sign of the largest part of the entire project, the full color world map), I focussed on work and the family and decided I was done with marketing, business, the hobby gaming industry, the Internet, Facebook, and 99% of all forms of communication. In January of this year, I began the process of wracking up massive debt (hurray America!) to return to school and get a degree in something I'd come to love in the past 10 years that would keep me as far away from the hobby industry as possible: Physics. So for those of you who fucking hate me--sorry, that's actually going pretty okay right now.

Now you have the history. Now you have my frustrations. I've endeavored to present them in a way that's void of marketing speak and bullshit reality dodging. I'm sure I've left out a few things here or there, but the story is the simplest version I could write.

So here's the deal:

Technically (and quite legally, in fact), this project died when the LLC died. I still want to finish this thing, but in order to do so, I would need money to start a new LLC (the smallest cost) and money to hire an artist or seven to finish the project (the largest cost). For all his professing that there's quote, "Art just laying around" waiting for me, there's absolutely nothing in the past two years that leads me to believe this is in anyway true whatsoever. And, on the small chance I'm wrong and it is true, there's zero trust remaining between myself and Hugo Solis. Hiring him for this project, despite his obvious and incredible talent, was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my professional career.

While there may be future updates and while there's a slim--oh so slim--chance a miracle might happen and money might fall out of my ass, you should assume there will be no further updates from me. The project is dead, no longer has a timeline, and has no plans to resume.

Unless, like I said, money falls out of my ass.



  1. Yeah, that pretty much was early Image Comics.

    I feel a bit sorry for the guy, actually. He tried to do it right (Business planning group, budgets). He did things wrong too, like not coming forward right off the bat. I am sure the backers would have been fine with a low-art version of the book.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Or even a no-art version...

      Granted, I know nothing of the project, but I find it a bit hard to fathom that everything apparently fell apart due to one artist's delays and incompetence.

      EDITED TO ADD: I just now saw where he WAS the only artist hired to work on the project. Stupid, stupid position to be placed in. (Never have your entire business model/project sitting on the shoulders of just one person.)

  2. It sounds like all he needs is a world map and it would be usable... Maybe release new, smaller regional maps over time and as they become available. I think sometimes creators refuse to release projects until THEY think it is "perfect."

  3. "I started a new Kickstarter hoping it would generate the revenue I needed to finish project #1, probably with a new bunch of artists rather than one single artist, from which I would use the proceeds to finish project #2. You know, the TSR model."

    Sounds more like the Chuck Ponzi model.

  4. Since he's in Washington, he better hope that the Washington AG doesn't come after him.

  5. I'm curious as to what Hugo's side of the story is. He mentioned on the KS website that he commented on the above update--as I am not a backer of this KS, I cannot see what he said. My heart goes out to the backers on this--as a backer of Dwimmermount, I understand all too well about long delays (but at least Dwimmermount may be seeing the light of day soon).

  6. I'm not certain why, if the book was re-written "better," it could not have been published in 2013. Assuming (and this is a dumb assumption) that the money generated for printing (again dumb assumption) hadn't been spend on something else, the whole project could have been released with PD and Open Source artwork along with a map made in something like Hexographer. Maybe not exactly what was wished for, but good enough.

    1. As a fan of the Classic Traveller style (ART IS FOR SISSIES) I would pregnant had preferred the straight text book, anyway.

  7. Someone posted Hugo's response at RPG.net:

    "Well, since I'm beign held responsable for the failure of this project, I guess I aught to speak in my behaf. I can't take the time for a detailed response right now, but you'll hear from me tonight.

    I'm do have to say this now, the only ways I could possibly be directly responsable for this are:

    1- If the product was Press-ready (all written,edited and laid out) and just waiting for the artwork to be dropped in. -Not the case, as you all are aware on IXS's last post on september 2013, the product was not yet finished, not even 100% written, let alone edited or laid out.

    2-If a BIG chunk (25-35k) of the funds was used to pay upfront for the artwork and thus leaving Infinite X Studio budgetless to pay for art and on a dead-set position to demand such artwork from me. This wasn't the case. You are owed the info that less than 5% of the total funds raised on the campaign was used to pay for artwork, and that some of the artwork that was delivered was never paid for.

    3- If we had a contract we only I could do the artwork for this game, and thus rendering Infinite X studio helpless to find another artistic solution. -We did not have such contract.

    I'll give more details tonight (that is, if I'm not banned from here).

    If anyone needs to contact me you can find me on deviantart as Butterfrog and also on facebook under the same butterfrog moniker."

    1. I notice that he doesn't deny missing hard deadlines for art. His excuse seems to be, "Well, why was it on my shoulders?", which is a fair question (and one that everyone interested in doing something similar should keep in mind). But given that it was, and to the extent that it was, the responsibility is his. You don't miss deadlines. Also, he was apparently paid half upfront, and if that is true, then point 2, especially the last half of the final sentence, is pretty disingenuous unless he delivered over half of the art commissioned (which it seems he did not).

    2. I don't see any way to make a judgement about what happened. If the artist was handing stuff in and not getting paid, then maybe he decided to drag his feet. If there was not contract, then it *is* strange that Josh didn't just turn to another artist.

      Just another example of how "share holders" have zero leverage via Kickstarter.

    3. Why I'll never find or start one. It's a graft engine.

  8. There's a reason I only back projects from known entities with a proven track record.

  9. More proof that great idea men are not synonymous with good businessmen.

    In this industry, the first warning sign is honestly the part where they mention "and then I ran out of money and realized I needed to get a regular job." You know who does Kickstarters, gets them out on time and in great shape, and still has a real job? Clark Peterson, that's who.

    Seriously....why anyone thinks "Oh! Kickstarter funds! let me quit my day job and pursue my vainglorious RPG vision" is exhibiting clear signs of delusional misimpressions about what sort of (and size) industry they are in.

    1. Nick I've noticed this with a few failed kickstarters as well.. I kept thinking dude your not gonna get rich off this.. don't quit the day job dumbass...

  10. I love the snarky remark about money falling out of his ass. Maybe some of the 42 grand is up there?

  11. I don't think he realizes that if he mixed personal funds with kickstarter money (shared bank accounts, checks written out of businesses account for personal items) that this is not dead and his backers OR the Attorney General can pierce the corporate veil and sue him directly.

  12. Just once I'd like to see one of these failed Kickstarter guys have the guts to say in so many words, "I fucked up." Instead it's always a lot of excuses and finger-pointing.

    Even if his artist screwed him as royally as he claims, he never should have been trying to (apparently) live on Kickstarter proceeds for a year or more. Here's a hint: DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB GUYS. There's plenty of time to create a game on your off hours if you work on it INSTEAD OF watching TV and playing video games. Countless people have written successful novels that way; you can use the same method to write your umpteenth unnecessary clone of D&D.

  13. What a fricken mess. Now the artist is trying to sell his original pieces to the backers that he just screwed over after trying to play the victim. Probably most of the blame should be directed at dude in charge but this guy clearly has some part in it. That takes a lot of gall. I think the people who dropped $1000+ on the project should be getting that art for free especially since this Hugo guy was already paid 50% of his contract.

  14. All I got from that is:
    (1) I took my backers' money and lived off it instead of using it for the project.
    (2) I'm superior and shouldn't have to work for a living like the rest of you slobs. I'm too good to work as an admin at a sporting goods store. It disgusts me to take a job many of you would love to have.
    (3) It's not my fault, blame someone else.

  15. "a horrible, demeaning job well below my talents"

    I don't think so. He's lucky they'll have him.

  16. 42 grand? That's a pretty solid chunk of money.

  17. Allowing a 42,000 project to be blocked by one flake artist is not even a good lie.

    I could do this project in 2 months for that amount including a good chunk of