Overpromised and Underdelivered

I just read about the latest Derek Smart drama, which, like Summer Blockbuster movies, is fun and goes great with popcorn but lacks any real depth. Still, it got me to thinking, and reading the rather succinct summary of demands that Smart laid down at RSI’s feet. And it occurred to me that a couple of those are things that I would love to see out of Cryptozooic’s Hex crew as well.

Now you may not see the comparison as fair right away, but from an original backer perspective, I think it is. SC funded on Nov. 19, 2012 with 2.1m and 34k+ backers. It promised that: “The people who pledge for their spaceships will get to test-fly them long before the general public. 12 months in, we will allow the early backers to play the multiplayer space combat Alpha, and then 20-22 months in they will get to play the Star Citizen Beta, adventuring around the huge open galaxy, well before the general public.” If you’ve followed the story at all, you know those numbers were slightly exaggerated. 24 months for that combat thing, and 32 months and counting on that Beta.

Meanwhile, Hex funded on Jun 7, 2013, with 2.3m and almost 18k backers. It stated: “Our goal is 300,000. This amount will insure we can meet the last of our art and engineering requirements” and “we have built a series of deliverables that we believe can be completed in the remaining development time we have scheduled. We have tested the game systems and feel confident everything will socket together and create a fantastic experience. Further game testing is of critical importance, and we have planned for a staggered beta phase that will allow us to polish the experience and catch all the bugs (this is will include both private and public testing).” Alpha was scheduled for Aug of 2013 and Beta for Sept. Alpha launched a couple of months late and Beta as well, but neither Alpha nor Beta had any of the promised MMO elements that were supposedly all but finished. 25 months later, that is still true. Even basic character creation does not exist.

Another comparison: just as SC has sold and sold and sold, so too has Hex. While no MMO is even on the radar yet, Crypto continues to rake in money from the sale of tickets to PvP tournements, as well as the sales of starter and booster backs. They have also now just completed and launched their third set of cards. I’m sure that there is a volume differential on the sales, but you can see the parallels, yes?

So Smart had 7 demands, but really for HEX, we can dismiss the 7th outright, as I am not aware of any nepotism issues. Here’s the rest:

1. disclose the full detailed (private jet travel? we want to see it) P&L accounting (money in off-shore bank accounts? we want to know about them) for every crowd-funded dime that has been raised and spent on this project. Allow an independent forensics accountant, hired by backers, to come and do an audit. This is standard practice in developer-publisher relationships. So you know how that works.
2. disclose the true state of the project in terms of what is expected to be delivered, and when. Allow an independent Executive Producer, hired by backers, to come and do a project review in order to get an accurate picture of the game state, so we know when it is likely to see the light of day – if ever
3. disclose the true timeline for the project’s completion. As per the above.
4. setup a page offering refunds to all those who REQUEST it. The TOS is going to be the first thing attacked in any lawsuit. It is not likely to survive a legal challenge. Plus, the FTC will trump all that crap anyway, so there is that.
5. admit, in no uncertain terms, and apologize that the scope of the project has changed since the original $2.1m kickstarter crowd-funding campaign
6. halt all further crowd-funding activities until a sizable part of the game – as originally pitched in 2012 – has been delivered to backers who have paid for it. In other words, STOP selling virtual items and taking money for vaporware

Now for me, #1 is not strictly necessary. I’m not worried that Crypto is off partying on private yachts or something. And #5 is only really necessary if they have indeed decided to drop the MMO portion of the game.
And I have to say here, if they have looked at that, as developers, and said – we just can’t do that, its beyond us or no longer something we want to pursue – *that’s okay*. Just enact #4 above and I’m happy to walk away from the whole fiasco with no hard feelings.

But if the MMO is still really on the table and in development I want to see #2 and #3 as soon as possible. Right now, there is no timeline, not even a whisper of when these things might be coming to a test server. No questions are answered about them, no information is given. At least tell me something.

And if this is an issue, then just “TOS” me out and gimme my money back. I mean, I’m not as (in)famous as Smart, but if that’s the only way to get this resolved, I promise I can be just as much of a pain in the ass.