Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Kickstarter That's About to Be a Year Late: Quantum Roleplaying System

Look at that. Another "holy shit it's really late" RPG Kickstarter.

Now, you have to give credit where credit is due, this one tried to go to eleven! Last fall, with Quantum already months late, they tried to fund a city setting book for the as yet still unreleased RPG. Needless to say, that went over like a ton of bricks and didnt fund. Just imagine the fun we'd be having if it had...

Anyhow, last month Josh, the main man behind Quantum decided to address the "elephant in the room" - refunds!

Here's the post from Kickstarter:

A (Not So) Quick Word on Refunds

Update #61 · Feb. 13, 2013 · 36 comments
Hey folks,

I've held off long enough on this topic, time to address it.

I've had two (unfortunately very public) requests for refunds on the Quantum RPG Kickstarter project. I haven't responded yet for two reasons: the requests didn't make sense to me and I needed to read and study the issue to determine an answer.

The Quantum RPG Kickstarter project has 580 backers. Two of those backers want a refund. That's .3% of backers. I only include the math because the two individuals asking for a refund are doing so in a manner that's freaking out some of the other backers in other circles ("People are asking for refunds! Is the project dead!?").

While I appreciate their requests and absolutely understand their frustration, Kickstarter projects are not the same as buying a product in a store. Even Kickstarter themselves said as much recently in a blog post titled Kickstarter is Not a Store.


Additionally, anyone who backs a Kickstarter project should first review the Terms of Service. In the ToS is this line:

Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.
I am able and willing to fulfill the reward. The project exceeded it's Estimated Delivery Date and that's all. (by a fucking year, but who's counting?)

I'd also like to point out another blog post recently on the Kickstarter blog titled Is lateness failure?


Specifically, I want to note (from that post) that only 25% of projects are completed on time (again, a year late IS NOT common) and just 3.6% of projects failed to deliver their rewards. Then there's this section in the blog post:

The focus on lateness within Kickstarter brings three problems.

First, it incentivizes creators to take shortcuts to hit their deadlines. As legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto recently said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

Second, it ignores what makes Kickstarter so unique: getting to watch a project come to life. The opportunity to see how something is made and to have a hand in its creation is a special thing. If a creator turns the creative process into a story they share with backers, delays don't have to be bad news.

Third, it presumes that Kickstarter is a store. Sure, it's unacceptable for a store to ship something late.
But Kickstarter is not a store. The Estimated Delivery Date is the creator’s best guess at how things will go, and it’s made at a very early stage in the project’s life.

I'm not willing to shortcut the quality of the project in order to push it out. It'll be done once I have all of the art in, once the chapters are fully written, fully edited (twice), and fully laid out. The day I ship the files to the printer is the day I'll be able to announce a release date. Personally, I think Kickstarter makes a huge mistake forcing project creators to put an Estimated Delivery Date on their projects and, now, they're having to post on their blog to address the grumbling about late projects since they didn't make a clear enough point (to backers) that Kickstarter is about watching the creative process on projects you like (and then getting a reward for your backing) and not about shopping in an e-store.

Two final thoughts:

1. I owe you a game and weekly updates about the game as it's being worked on. You'll get what I owe you.
2. If you truly do not want your rewards when the game is finished and being shipped out to backers, I will refund your money then. I'm not a monster. (so, if the game never finishes...)

One more final final thought:

I'm just a guy, okay? It's just me. I'm human, I'm not perfect, I have personal life issues like everyone else, and this project has become something far larger than what was intended. I love this project. I love my backers. If you feel I've been short, angry, quiet, disheartened, or rude, it seriously makes me sad to hear it. It's never been my intent to be any of those things, especially toward my backers, and I would encourage everyone to not infer emotion via the written word. Emotion is impossible to determine sometimes online without dozens of emoticons ;-) :-) :-O :-P.

I'm working. Hugo is working. The project moves closer to completion every day. Let me get it there, let me update you weekly about it, and I believe you'll love the results. Every day I see things in the game that make me excited. My enthusiasm for this project has only grown since the beginning.

I owe this project to you, the backers. I owe it to you in the sense that you are owed your rewards, but also in the sense that without you, I wouldn't have been able to work on it at all at the levels Hugo and I (and Blake and Colleen and Reid and Drew and Kyle) have been able to.

Thank you for backing the project.

Seriously, I love you guys. #Cartman


(the only project I've backed that's running later than this is Far West)


  1. The project like the proverbial cat is both alive and dead. Its status does not resolve itself until you look.

  2. Stories like this are why I have more or less sworn off KS. Douchebags who hide behind the fine-print of the TOS to excuse behavior that is obviously unacceptable and breaks the social (if not legal) contract between donor and recipient.


  3. As a lawyer, my opinion is that a court would likely insert a 'reasonable time from estimated delivery date' implied term into the backer-creator contract. ie You might not be able to sue for failure to meet deadline, you might not be able to sue for 30 days late (although EU sales law has a 30 day fulfilment requirement that might be persuasive here in UK & EU), but you could certainly sue for your money back after 6 months or 1 year.

    The appropriate thing to do, of course, is give no-fuss refunds on request if you fail to meet the estimated delivery date. This guy seems a bad actor.

  4. I would have loved to see him write that in his Kickstarter as it went live to see how many people backed it then. I've been a writer on and off for three decades and I've always had a deadline. Sometimes late happens. That late and your ass is on the street looking for another job. This guy does not get it.

  5. There's also the possibility of getting a refund from the credit card processor. I don't think they're going to be swayed by fancy interpretations of TOS and blog posts about Kickstarter not being a store.

    That said, @Matthew: I wouldn't swear off KS entirely. Just make sure that projects are, for the most part, done. Kickstarting an RPG project that isn't written is just ludicrous at this point. If you want me to have enough faith in a project to pay for the art and editing and layout, you should have enough faith in it to write it on your own time and get remunerated for it after the fact (if that).

  6. Making a game is hard. It's too bad this fellow didn't know that up front... which begs the question as to why so many folks invested to begin with!

    IANAL but it seems that if someone chooses to invest, it's their risk to be had... many many games (especially video games) have been vaporware but still had millions invested by some poor sucker. I've supported several KS and there hasn't been a lot of on-time delivery, but that doesn't make the model wrong, just the criteria upon which I select something to invest in!

  7. @Joseph - Understood and I still look to back that project that I believe in. And to be clear, I have had success. I backed FGG's S&W and was happy to do so. The delays didn't bother me because (1) they weren't particularly egregious in the grand scheme of things and (2) the updates from Bill and team were always transparent as to the reasons for the delay.

    More and more, what I am noticing is what should have been apparent to me on day 1, which is that companies using KS as an alternative source of financing are usually more or less timely. They are in the business of managing projects, delivering products to customers, etc. Similarly, individual writers who have always had a corporate infrastructure behind them and who have no idea how to run a project from start to finish are demonstrating quite clearly that...they have no idea how to run a project from start to finish.

    I have not completely sworn off KS, but I try to be choosy about what I back and usually look for an established company that can clearly elucidate why is it using KS (the recent Reaper offering is a perfect example of that).

  8. And if I may be allowed a semi-on-topic boast, I used to teach project management software and techniques, and have been a PM, or involved in PM one way or another, in my day job for going on 11 years or so. :-)

    1. @Joseph I'm a PMP myself, and like you no doubt, are amazed by the rookie mistakes that get made. Not just on KS but many places I visit IRL... places that should know better.

    2. Or you could on topic boost and point out the PDF of your Kickstarter was very early and, even with a bad run of proof, your print version is on track to be on time (and still maybe a bit early if memory recalls).

      AD&D so far only has Spears of the Dawn for competition in terms of well done KS that I've been given money (and I'm a guy who cut Autarch a lot of slack on ACKS:PC because they stayed in touch).

  9. ks needs a database of creatives who can help projects - art, editing, playtesters - or updates could ask for helpers if there is a need.

    A rescue plane for late projects or guidelines for late projects would be good. Time seems to be biggest killer. Ill go kickstarter in a year or so but i will do some small pdfs first then go KS only when text finished and layout mock up ready so KS will be for art.
    Im now waiting 5 months for artist to get me art for a project i paid cash upfront for a quick turn around

    In my job delays come from other departments adding changing stuff to prove they exist and to waste money and make projects un-viable due to lateness - heartbreaking

  10. @Konsumterra - I feel for you on that 5 months waiting on an artist. We had that problem here at Stardust Publications with a writer that was contracted to write an assignment for the Dark Aeons core book. It took us 3 months of back and forth between our company and the writer only to find out that they didnt have the time because of family engagements. Obviously we reassigned the assignment, but not before it threw off out production schedule by about 4-5 months (due to finding another writer for the assignment, then editing, layout...etc).

    My advice is NEVER pay in advance when it comes to a project. If you are going to pay them Artist/Writer/Editor anything, make sure that its only a 1/3rd of the final payment to insure that even if they back out, you arent in the hole. Because chasing down some of these fly by night writers and artists requires more time and money than a small press has to make it worth pursuing. If they burn you, simply put, spread the word to your peers about what happened and that writer or artist or editor wont be finding work anytime soon after that.

  11. Actually I'd be willing to wager that the need for a database of available freelance artists/editors/proofreaders/layout folks/etc. goes beyond Kickstarter. I'm surprised that some place like RPGGeek hasn't already done such a thing (beyond a forum for "calls for artists" and so forth). I know I'd certainly find such a thing useful.

    Does anyone know if there's such a thing around?


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