The Code Hero Villain


I hope everyone had a better weekend than I did. Normally I like to spend my time keeping busy searching for the latest and greatest on crowd funding and general geekery, but this weekend  I was just busy in general. Sometimes things don’t go right at work, I get that – but if we abide by the old saying about rain, then this week(end) was a tropical monsoon. Still, I survived, and I did manage to find this one little tidbit to share with the rest of you.

Interested? You know what to do.

So, there was a project a year ago back about a video game to help teach children to code on the popular engine unity. Think Mavis Bacon meets Doom.

On the surface that sounds like a laudable goal – to turn content users into content creators and help make an arcane subject more approachable. Taking a look at the project after the fact though (I wasn’t so tuned into Kickstarter when the project was live) shows a few problems thanks to the magical powers of hindsight. That isn’t why I’m telling you about this project a year later, though – the story here lies in the fallout.

Code Hero raised $171K from 7,500 backers, and was scheduled to be fulfilled almost a full year ago. The problem is that it wasn’t. Projects are often late (75% of the time by some estimates,) and statistics drawn from public sources have shown pretty conclusively that the more a project exceeds its goal, the more likely it is to be late. Whether the project is destined to be completed though, or a bunch of people are destined to lose their money isn’t the primary point of contention on the project’s comments page. That would be the lack of communication.

This isn’t the first failed Kickstarter story we’ve discussed here on, and it won’t be the last, but the reception for this one by backers has been very different to date. When last we checked in on our previous story, Manse Macabre, they had produced a feature complete Alpha, but had run out of money, and had no real hope of completing the game for their backers. The key difference in that case was that the project creator confessed this, and swore he would pay back his backers out of his own pocket as he was able. The result was sympathetic, consisting of questions and statements of support, rather than angry demands for refunds.

Code Hero has gone the other way. The silence of the creator has enraged a vocal minority of his backers (though spending their money to go on a trip to Amsterdam to lecture about how awesome his project is certainly didn’t do him any favors in the court of public opinion.) The project has run out of money, though work theoretically continues. Will Code Hero ever see the light of day? Probably not.

That’s not the point though. There are several key lessons you can draw from this fiasco as a project creator: always be honest with your backers about the progress of your project, communicate regularly, especially when people are leaving questions in the comments section of your post, and beware of feature creep (the creators explanation scream that this is the source of many of his problems, in my opinion) for starters. There is also one great lesson for backers: be credulous about projects – if someone has no history of doing something, and they are promising the world, run don’t walk away from their project; I have given money to several projects, only to back out at the half way point as a perfectly reasonable goal gets mutated by stretch goal after stretch goal into something totally outlandish.

So were any of you burned by the Code Hero villain? I’d love to hear a story or two on the subject.

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

6 thoughts on “The Code Hero Villain

  1. Excellent post. While I can appreciate having a more open mind when a failing project is being honest, I still think disagree with using Kickstarter to pay salaries. As you pointed out, estimates are wrong the majority of the time. That means that if you’re using Kickstarter to pay for your (and others’) time, 75% of the time, you won’t have enough money even if your Kickstarter is successful. And stretch goals only make the problem worse.
    Sigh. When will they learn?

    • Look at the Peter Pan rant I had a few weeks ago. I firmly believe that the project’s budget should go to paying for specific jobs that the creators lack the skills to accomplish. The creator should do the lions share of the grunt work for free.

      What profit they make on the deal should be on the backed with the (hopefully) marketable project they have just created. Anything more than that is double dipping in my jaded eyes.

      • Oh, I remember it well. And I am 100% with you on that. There are two main reasons that I post on a Kickstarter: because they’re paying their own salary with the funding, or because they lack the knowledge/experience/etc. to finish the project even if they use the funds to pay others for work they cannot do themselves. Then, of course, there are the ones that just don’t need the money because they are getting funding elsewhere. And sometimes it’s a mix of two, or all three.

      • What about the ones that ask for money for redundant equipment and licenses. I think your unity freak outs, or the ones related to hardware are often the most hilarious.

        Don’t discount them!

      • I forgot about those.. I guess I have lots of reasons!
        That last Kickstarter you sent me is going to be a challenge to write about. Every time I watch/listen to the video, my brain melts out of my eye sockets.

      • That sounds like a great line to start off with though. Right up there with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

        In any case, I’m looking forward to that one.

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