Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When Kickstarters Eat Their Young - The Doom That Came to Atlantic City - Raising the Bar for Failure

We bitched about Dwimmermount.

We mock Nystul and his Infinite Excuses.

Far West seems further out of reach with each update.

You haven't seen nothing until you've witnessed The Doom That Came to Atlantic City! It raised nearly $123,000 and now it's going bust.

I give it to you without further comment:


Update #27 · Jul 23, 2013 · 136 comments

This is not an easy update to write.

The short version: The project is over, the game is canceled.

After much deliberation I've had to make this decision. I've informed Keith and Lee and neither at all happy with this situation. Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.

From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom that Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects. Everyone involved agreed on this. Since then rifts have formed and every error compounded the growing frustration, causing only more issues. After paying to form the company, for the miniature statues, moving back to Portland, getting software licenses and hiring artists to do things like rule book design and art conforming the money was approaching a point of no return. We had to print at that point or never. Unfortunately that wasn't in the cards for a variety of reasons.

I'm going to write a full post-mortem to explain every issue in greater detail but suffice to say that I never gave up and always intended to get this project printed. My intentions have always been good and I've struggled with this greatly. I've spent a large amount of time pitching investors, begging banks for loans and seeking other sources of funding to fix this. Sadly I found no takers.

As stated above Lee and Keith were not directly involved in this decision. I informed them earlier this month about the situation. Keith went out of his way to speak with his contacts at other companies to see if any could help salvage the game. We spent quite a bit of time working on possible deals and arrangements but in the end they just weren't interested in taking the risk. Keith has only ever done amazing work in getting this made and can't be blamed in any way for its downfall.

My hope now is to eventually refund everyone fully. This puts all of the financial burden directly on my shoulders. Starting with those who've pre-ordered after the Kickstarter campaign through our webstore, then I'll begin working my way through the backer list, starting with those who funded at the highest levels. Unfortunately I can't give any type of schedule for the repayment as I left my job to do this project and must find work again. I'll create a separate bank account to place anything beyond my basic costs of living. Every time that account has a decent amount saved into it I'll issue a payout to a portion of the backer list. I'll post updates with each payout to keep you all informed on the progress.

Again, I never set out to con anyone or to perpetrate a fraud but I did walk into a situation that was beyond my abilities and for that I'm deeply sorry. This has been a rough year, I never wanted to make it harder for anyone. There will be no more monthly updates, not that there have really been in some time, but I will post with each payout, as well as the post-mortem when it is eventually complete.

Sincerest apologies,
Erik Chevalier


  1. At least he's honest about where the project is at the moment and tries to fix the damage with refunds.

    Seems like it isn't a good idea to use kickstarter money to start up a new company (Nystul also spent some of the money on a new company). Keeping their jobs and finishing the project when they've time with longer expected release dates would've at least helped to speed up the refund process in this project.

    1. First time, then. For months he's maintained "late, running behind, but should happen Q3 2013". Then "Um, yeah, pulling the plug".

      Apart from "things are taking longer than expected" I don't remember seeing _anything_ about having project-killing problems.

    2. This post was the first time that I heard about this kickstarter, so my opinions about the creator were based on what Tenkar pasted above :p

  2. Jeez, way to burn down the banana stand. I'd like to buy into his story but I suspect that a look at his tax records and receipts would suggest a lot of waste and mishandling/misappropriation of the money. My decision to avoid 99.9% of all Kickstarters continues to be a wise decision...dreamers and visionaries don't appear to make good businessmen (although a few might make excellent grifters).

  3. Paying back a $123,000? Unless this guy makes some serious cash I suspect he may need money for lawyers to save him from potential lawsuits. To date I am supporting only one kickstarter and updates like this make me weary about new ones. Thanks for taking the time to investigate, post and inform.

  4. Christ on a stick, what I could do with $123,000. And I'd actually DO the fucking thing.

    1. I had no idea anyone else said "Christ on a stick."

  5. I know! Makes me feel good about how far I stretched 12k.

  6. I am soooo nervous about Kickstarters. Thanks, Mr. Tenkar, for becoming the voice of the Better Crowdsourcing Bureau :)

  7. i designed a monopoly parody game - printed 2 a3 sheets glued to board with cloth tape - used commonly available pieces and made version that players could build their own - very cheap and modest first effort - i wont try kick starter for new product till everything ready - money for some final spot art, printing and distribution would be all i needed - id have various contingency plans including my death or ill health and hand over pdf version DIY version immediately - sigh - it isnt that hard

    some rpg ones could hand over drafts with place holder vintage clip art rather than just promising best art and writing that never happens

    do you think modern boardgames are more risky than rpg books?

  8. Too many failures to risk finding a Kickstarter that's "doable."

    I'll continue to hold onto what little money I have.

  9. What the hell does it take to "start a game company", anyway?

    You need about $100 to file a certificate of incorporation and another $100 to start a business bank account. And *maybe* $250 to get a CPA. And then...?

    What are these people doing? Renting office space? Hiring full time staff? Getting health insurance?

    Sweet merciful bloodstained Gods! Have a fucking GAME before you think you need more than a name and a bank account to start a game company!

    1. Honestly I think that they're banking on the fact that the majority of people don't understand what it takes to start a business and they’re foolish enough to believe that if they want to start a business they must have everything - the office, the staff, the advertisements, the benefit packages, the nice furniture – from the start, ignoring the fact that many businesses start out in basements and garages and operate on shoe-string budgets for years before they can afford all the good stuff.

      And then there are the thieves who just want to hide behind excuses . . .

    2. "Sweet merciful bloodstained Gods! Have a fucking GAME before you think you need more than a name and a bank account to start a game company!"

      That's what's so galling. He DID have a game ready. Just needed production.

  10. I backed this, and followed up with Keith Baker, who along with Lee Moyer, are trying to get a copy of the rules out to people who pledged. They retained a lawyer to get the rights from the publisher, a lousy piece of shit (Erik C.).

    Anyway, I would back anything by Keith Baker; that man is a class act. I am tempted to make the 3 hour drive to Portland (I have Erik's address), but my wife is much more level headed and thinks that would be a bad idea lol

  11. Did you read the part in the comments where Keith and Lee (and I believe their lawyer) made him post that last update and 'fess up'? Or the post about how this isn't the first time he has taken money and come up with nothing? Or the part where he used the money to quit work and move to Portland? Jeez, I want the names and bank accounts of the people who are going to let him slide or feel sympathy for this dick.

  12. The more of these I read, the more I'm tempted to do a Help Me Be Unemployed project. People could donate money so that I don't have to work. In exchange, I'll start a blog for my supporters so that I can keep up with all things I'm doing with their money. I'm thinking a mere $45K a year would be sufficient, unless my wife wants in on the deal, in which case I'll have to account for her lost income as well.

    Who wants in?

  13. I was wondering when you would get a hold of this one.

  14. I guess Portland really is "where young people go to retire."

  15. I think the problem is that the basic kickstarter principal is being abused, its being treated as an ongoing business model, a way to avoid risk and liability (Fund super rich guy X's project so he doesn't have to, Veronica Mars kickstarter I'm looking at you), or as a lazymans pre-order. The thing is that, at least as I understand it, kickstarter is for getting an ongoing (or once off) project off the ground when you cant secure more traditional forms of funding. Its for getting the first print run of your game out there, or the first production run of your product, not every run. Its for that kid in some third world dump with a great idea but no funding, not so these jerks can rent an office and play executive without putting in any real work to start.

    1. To be scrupulously fair, and irrespective of what one thinks of Veronica Mars as a TV show, Kristen Bell DID offer to fund a new VM movie out of her own pocket and the studio who owns the property said no way. Now it's entirely possible she was bluffing or the whole thing was a publicity stunt. Regardless, at least one "super rich" person involved with the show did make a public offer to fund the movie, and was turned down. The point of the Kickstarter was less to raise money than to convince the studio that there was enough public interest to justify making the movie AT ALL. In this, it succeeded.

      In any case, I'm fairly confident a VM movie will actually get made (whether it will be any good is another matter). That's in stark contrast to vaporware products like this one, which basically evaporate into moonbeams along with the money from the backers.


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