The Manse Macabre – Only Mostly Dead
On October 18th, Rick Dakan, of Mob Rules Games announced that the The Manse Macabe was on the ropes: his programmers had quit, he was running low on cash, and his resources and options were dwindling. Last night, word started to get around that it had failed from a variety of news outlets (here and here for instance). As with most sensational news stories, quick to get out the door, they may have missed the bigger picture; it appears the fans and supporters are stepping up to give this game, currently in a feature complete alpha state, a new lease on life.
Now, on to the details.
(Fund The Wardenclyffe Horror!)
Mob Rules Games is hardly the only project that will fail to deliver on the expectations of their backers. In this case, reading about the detailed write ups that Rick provides, it seems that they had neither the time nor the budget to accomplish a game of this scale. I imagine that this will be a common enough problem in the months and years to come. What isn’t common though is the way that Rick came to his backers and fessed up, laying himself bare for the scourging that he was sure would come, telling his backers:
This has been an emotionally rough couple of months for me, as I’ve invested almost all of my time for the past year or more in Haunts, along with my own money and reputation. It’s been terrible to watch it fail despite best efforts, but the failure is mine. There are scores of decisions I’d make differently if I had to do them over, and there were bets I made knowing the risks that haven’t paid off like we needed them to. I have failed to update because things were constantly going from bad to worse and then we started to see some rays of hope and I was hoping for something more concrete in the good news department. My obligation to all of you generous Kickstarter backers is foremost in my mind and I have not served you as well as I should have.
I will turn over my share of any future revenue from the game to whoever manages to get it finished, fun, and out to you. We have spent all the money we raised, but I will personally refund out of my own pocket anyone who wants to withdraw their support, no questions asked. We’re going to make this game, and if you can hang on for what looks to be a long road ahead, we will get it finished, but that’s not what I asked you to sign up for and it’s not what you gave us money for. email me directly through Kickstarter if you would like your pledge refunded.
This is a singularly classy moment in my mind; this is how all situations of this sort should be handled – with accountability.
Rick’s backers then went on to surprise him, largely offering him understanding and offers of support ranging from support and forgiveness to help with programming. Reading the comments is actually quite touching. One backer, Xyem, who best summed up the mood of the backers’ comments said:
This whole thing actually makes me proud to be a part of this project, even though I am just a backer.
From Rick’s absolute determination to get this game done, to the gracious understanding of the backers when things have gone wrong, to the mass of offers of help and suggestions… Haunts seems to already have a great community.
Though we all want the projects we back to succeed barring that, this is the best case scenario. I often talk in these posts about how important community is in Kickstarter – that you aren’t just pre-ordering a product, that you are investing in a team, and an idea. This situation really bears that out. I hope that Rick’s backers are able to help him see this project through, and that The Manse Macabre lives to see the light of day. I will of course have more news on the subject as it develops.
Given some of the awful projects I’ve noticed recently, it’s actually a little refreshing to see one that, if it had to fail, is failing with grace and honesty. It doesn’t necessarily make me want to jump in to help them, of course, but I appreciate the community rallying around the project.
I think this may be the chief strength of Kickstarter as a concept. You’re not just pledging to back a comic, a game, a record, etc. It gives you a sense of ownership, and a sense of community with other fans of the project. That is, I think, why Amanda Palmer was able to get $1.2 million, why the “Order of the Stick” project got their $1.2 million. They already were building those communities outside of KS, who were happy to throw all their money at something they love. And they illustrate the two ways that can play out.
Amanda Palmer took her money, and then tried to recruit musicians to volunteer to back her up on her tour. Some of her fans (and certainly many if not most professional music who had an opinion on it) turned on her, questioning her ability to manage money, and her ethical standards. The community as a whole rallied around her, but it could have gotten ugly.
Rich Burlew, the creator of “The Order of the Stick”, as had a hell of a time getting orders together. It seems he’s been overwhelmed by his success, and it’s biting him on the ass a bit. But then he had an accident, cut himself with glass to the point where he had to have emergency surgery. He’s not going to be able to draw for a minimum of six weeks plus physical therapy time. As with the “Manse Macabre” community, Rich’s backers have been overwhelmingly supportive and patient.
Have any KS projects succeeded in funding, and then fail to produce, with the project team being shady or unpleasant about it? Then, I think, we’ll see the darker side of the Kickstarter community as the backers turn on the project owners. Maybe some lawsuits. If it hasn’t happened yet, I guess it’s only a matter of time.
(Gah, does my every post comment have to be a wall of text?)
Don’t worry Brian, I love your walls of text, and completely agree with your sentiment! This is why I shudder when I look at big company’s posting project after project on Kickstarter (I’m looking at you Queen Games). That isn’t community building, its a production pipeline – its a revenue source.
To the best of my knowledge, no Kickstarter projects have gotten truly ugly yet, though I’m sure the day will come. Heaven help us if its one of the big ones.
I predict the OotS project will get ugly. My sympathies for the guy’s injury, but he was behind the 8-ball even before he hurt himself. It not a surprise, really, the guy couldn’t get his shit together enough to post a webcomic on a regular schedule.
OotS? Would you care to elaborate on the webccomic bit?
Inversely, does that mean that since I post this blog like clockwork, I could run a great video game project, or maybe just an awesome webcomic?
Run? Yeah, I’d say you’d do well at running a company, a project, or a program. Would it be successful? Depends on whether or not your content was any good. A successful company is like baking. You gotta have all the ingredients.
Yes – but my point was what about his comic makes you think he would fail to deliver on his game? If his reputation was so bad, as you say, why would people support the project?
What about his comic makes me think he would fail to deliver on the game? The fat that he can’t follow through on what he said he was going to. If I tell you I’m going to post here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but only manage to get two a month complete, why in the hell would you hire me to be your, I don’t know, community manager? Sure, the posts I wrote were great. Doesn’t have jack to do with my work ethic,sense of responsibility, or business sense.
Burlew tells a great story, has an impeccable sense of humor. I love his comic. I’ll buy his books when they come out. I gave up a long time ago on checking his website regularly for the latest strip. As for why he made money? Because ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’.
So you would argue that the forgiveness and leniency that his fans are showing him is or might be a special case because of that? I hadn’t considered that.
Thank you for giving me an interesting new angle to think about.
I think that is the first time I’ve ever been quoted outside of where I posted… and I would have missed it if Rick hadn’t linked to this article in the latest Haunts update (#28)! It’s really nice to see a write-up about this situation that doesn’t focus heavily on the negative aspects, so much kudos to you for that.
I know it is only a little thing, but would you mind correcting my nick? It is “Xyem”, not “Xylem”. I wasn’t aware the word “xylem” was so well known that people confuse my nick for it as often as they do. Oh well!
I’m glad you liked the post, and I’m sorry I got the handle incorrect. Most stories seem to focus on the sensational part of this story, but I find the backer reaction to be much more interesting.
No worries about the mistake, they happen and it is easily done. Thanks for correcting it 🙂
And I agree regarding the community reaction. The public response, at least, was so unanimously supportive I actually began to wonder if the negative comments were simply being deleted. It was so.. unusual for there to be no bad comments at all that by the end of reading them all, I felt like I was dreaming, had gone on the wrong internet or got out of bed in another dimension. Surreal and heart-warming, who knew those two feelings would go together?!