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Developer of cancelled Yogscast game reveals where the money went
Developer of cancelled Yogscast game reveals where the money went
July 21, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

Winterkewl Games' lead developer Kris Vale has published a frank accounting to the studio's Kickstarter page for Yogventures that lays out how the Glendale-based indie developer managed to spend nearly half a million crowdfunded dollars without making a game.

You may remember that in 2012 the popular Yogscast YouTubers teamed up with Winterkewl and successfully Kickstarted development of an open-world sandbox game called Yogventures.

Earlier this month Yogscast announced that the game has been cancelled and that it would attempt to "make things right" by giving Yogventures backers access to TUG (The Untitled Game), an open-world survival game that is currently in development by Nerd Kingdom.

Now Winterkewl has reported in a final backer update how it spent its $567,665 Kickstarter take, which was pared down to an estimated $415,000 in usable funds after Kickstarter and Amazon took their cuts.

Notably, the studio decided to pay 6 different developers a lump sum of $35k/apiece upfront in exchange for their work on the project. This proved troublesome when, after roughly two weeks of work on the game, one developer left his day job at another developer to accept a job at a new studio with a contract that prevented him from working on Yogventures.

He allegedly refused to return his payment, and the loss of that $35k reportedly caused a falling out between Winterkewl and Yogscast that led to the developer returning the remaining ~$150,000 to the YouTubers so that Yogscast could manage the fulfillment of backer rewards and the hiring of another developer.

Development continued for a year and a half, but though the indie developers reportedly "produced a huge number of assets for prices that by their normal work a day rates were really really low," Yogscast decided to publicly cancel the game, which "came as much as a surprise to me [Vale] as to anyone" since Yogscast reportedly did not privately notify him before doing so.

"Too many design changes and my in-experience as a project lead and programmer were what's to blame for our company never really making what it was we set out to make," wrote Vale. "I'm afraid Winterkewl Games has a negative balance at this point. We don't have any of the money left and as such can't really offer refunds."

Developers, take note: this is a particularly public example of what can happen when an inexperienced team lands a Kickstarter windfall, and it's worth reading Vale's brief accounting of how things went wrong over on the Yogventures Kickstarter page.

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Tyler King
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So after reading Winterkewl's explanation on their kickstarter page it really sounds like everyone just took a piece of the pie and ran with it. I'm not concerned with the amount paid to the artists for their work, although its a shame about the guys who literally just took the money and ran, but more concerning is yogscast themselves. They took $150k to hire a programmer, which they said they would give $100k of that $150k, then the other $50k would go to the physical rewards. In 18 months they never hired a lead programmer! Please someone tell me I missed something somewhere and they did actually pay out that $100k to a lead programmer somewhere. Because unless I'm missing something it really looks it got pocketed. I would be super pissed if I had donated to it.

Ron Dippold
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Yogs/Winterkewl share most of the blame for amazingly bad management and throwing suitcases of cash around, but even if they'd spent it well there was absolutely no way this could have been delivered.

Go look at the Kickstarter page if you haven't, and marvel at all those pie in the sky features, scheduled for delivery in six months by a small new team. Really! Go look, it's breathtaking. That's (optimistically) at least three years of work by a decent sized team.

I know it's bad form to blame the victim, and again Yogs/Winterkewl have most of the blame, but this sort of thing is going to happen when you back something impossible to deliver. Kickstarters really should have someone /else/ not related to the team writing an extra Risks section, but of course Kickstarter wouldn't do that. They've already recently loosened the controls on scams after seeing how much money Indiegogo was getting from dumb people (Solar Roads, for instance).

Robert Carter
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This is what happens when critics/lets players/etc dont understand development processes and decide to "Make the game theyve always wanted" without learning about what the process is like.

Everyone at one point in their lives has asked "Why doesnt this game have multiplayer! And it should have an editor mode, and let you control enemies, and let you spawn big scary dragons like 'RRRAAAWWWRRRRRR!!'". Well, okay, maybe thats just me, but the point is you wonder why games dont have every feature under the sun until you start creating those features yourself and realize the impressive amount of work they take. As you point out, that game listed on KS was designed by someone with minimal to no time creating an actual game anywhere near this magnitude. They would have been lucky to have a pre-alpha candidate in 6 months.

But I think its becoming another problem altogether, with these vocal personalities knowing so little about the subject matter of which they speak more and more people are becoming misinformed on what development is like. The other week HuffPo Entertainment wrote a piece about how they 'discovered' Frozen was originally going to be a 2D traditional animation, and posted a bunch of 2D artwork to prove it. The writer for a major entertainment media site didnt know what concept art was!

And apparently couldnt be bothered to ask anyone who did. This is common thing I see online now, where people have a question (why is there 2D art for a 3D movie, as an example), but instead of researching it or trying to look deeper they take the first conclusion that pops into their head and runs with it. Sure its a round peg in a square hole, but the peg is small enough to fit through so why look any further. This is like finding the script of the movie and saying "A-Ha! Written dialogue proves this movie was originally going to be a novel!".

If youre going to inform someone about something, you should be INFORMED ABOUT IT. And likewise, if youre going to make a game with a scope larger than the original Mario Brothers, your should probably either have experience in games that size or pay a consultant who does before you decide how long it will take and what kind of costs are involved.

George Burdell
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Of course the developer is to blame for promising something they couldn't deliver, but I think the yogscast went about this business in a very unprofessional manner.

At the one hand they were confident in trusting an unknown external party with a lot of money from investors from their fanbase, and on the other hand they decided to fundamentally disrupt development when the first mistake surfaced. These are two opposite and excessive decisions, which leads me to think they went into this without much of a plan.

To top it all off, they've decided to discard virtually all progress on the game out of the blue (if we can believe the dev) and distance themselves from the project, as if they weren't the ones who orchestrated this. (I know they exposed all assets and code to the TUG project, but I seriously doubt it will be of much use)

If anything, this entire ordeal shows that making an ambitious game is not something that can be tackled if you're armed only with an overdose of enthousiasm. I feel sorry for everyone involved.

Chris Melby
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Wow, Amazon and Kickstarter took almost 30%. And these guys really do suck, because they've just made it harder for the rest of us.

John Ardussi
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We got 83% of our amount. About 15% of the collected amount is fees. The rest is caused by people who don't pay.

John Ardussi
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The truly evil part in my mind is that this will discourage people from donating to other projects that will ship. This project was totally out of control. Their goal was $250,000. If you are given that plus an extra $160,000 and release nothing, you are either incompetent or evil. Sending checks to people who have not done the work is clearly incompetent. They needed a project manager with experience.

Kevin Fishburne
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"Sending checks to people who have not done the work is clearly incompetent."

I think you nailed it right there, despite any other problems with management or the project in general. I have never seen or heard of anyone anywhere getting paid in advance for work, much less the entire sum of the contract. That's supremely crazy and begs the worst part of our nature to take over.

Kyle Redd
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As dumb as that was, I also want to know how much of a greedy asshole you'd have to be to get paid $35,000 for a job, and not give at least *some* of the money back when you are not able to deliver after working on it for only two weeks. Particularly when that $35,000 is a significant portion of a very limited, crowdfunded budget.

Whoever that loser is, I hope he's satisfied with himself.

James Margaris
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"The truly evil part in my mind is that this will discourage people from donating to other projects that will ship. ...Sending checks to people who have not done the work is clearly incompetent. "

You do realize these two statements are in direct opposition no?

On one hand you're saying it's stupid to give a guy $35k for work he hasn't done, while at the same time bemoaning the fact that people may not give substantially more money (in aggregate) to organizations that haven't done the work.

Here's a novel idea: pay people after the work is done or while it's being done!

John Owens
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I wonder if we'll ever find out the name of that artist.

Greg Quinn
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Why the heck are they paying people lump sums that haven't delivered any work? That is cause for fail right there.

If you approach it from a very basic business standpoint, and pay team members a salary each month (which has stood the test of time), in a year's time you have a year's work to show. Even then if you run out of money, you could gain some more funding using your year's work as leverage.

Zachary Strebeck
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It's kind of amazing.

John Owens
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Not necessarily. He can't review everything the guy does it as he does. As he said he was also the only real programmer on the project.

So he was trying to manage a team of 5 or 6 people while at the same time doing his job.

The only way that would work is if the people on the team where honest and worked autonomously. If you are being paid a salary it's quite easy to avoid doing much for a couple of weeks if your manager isn't keeping a close enough eye on you.

Obviously experienced managers understand that you need to word contracts so that you have deliverables and schedules including milestones and build into them points where the person gets paid and provisions for rework.

As an employer you also want to put off payment as long as possible and reserve the right to cancel at any point without payment etc but it basically means you have to write a pretty shitty contract that as an employee YOU wouldn't want to sign.

And that's where the problems come. You have to switch your mindset from being an employee to an employer as you have to protect yourself to the point where you could screw the employee if you want to avoid being screwed yourself.

Nooh Ha
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This was going to happen sooner or later. So many of these crowdfunding platforms have precious little accountability to their backers and there are no requirements for presenting the business model/ business case.
The whole episode may push a few backers away but I hope it will also make backers and studios aware that studios seeking funding need to demonstrate business acumen as well as creative brilliance to secure the trust of backers.

Javier Degirolmo
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To those who wonder about the artist that ran away with the $35,000: from what I gather, the contract did say that he had to work on the artwork, but it lacked a termination clause, which meant that he could easily not do the job and nothing happen with it (since the contract never stipulated what would happen in such a case). So it's basically a badly drafted contract.

Yama Habib
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Let's be honest, everyone saw this coming. Everyone who read the kickstarter campaign upon announcement, everyone who knew that Winterkewl had never finished a game to date, and everyone who saw the videos on Winterkewl's youtube channel before they were made private due to bad publicity.

The only reason the kickstarter got funded was due to strength of the Yogscast brand, which now most certainly has lost a lot of consumer goodwill.

Everyone is to blame here, from the devs, to the Yogscast members who oversaw the project, to the backers, to Kickstarter themselves. I just hope this doesn't hurt the crowdfunding model as a whole which, when utilized properly, has the potential to expand and diversify the games industry in a healthy way.

Colin Sullivan
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The contract drafting failure was particularly sad. I doubt they had a lawyer review the contracts, or ignored the lawyer's advice, because to have $35k disappear is a spectacular drafting failure that should not have happened. It sounds like this was negotiated after the Kickstarter ended too, which is a bad sign since they should be figuring that out before the first dollar is pledged.

I would also like to know why they only received 73% of the pledged money? 10% goes to Amazon and Kickstarter, and often another 5% or so might be lost to failed pledges, but that is still roughly 12% (about $68k) that they didn't receive. Were there massive amounts of fake pledges?

Yama Habib
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Knowing the Yogscast fanbase, I can imagine a sizable chunk of the pledges were made by kids who don't really understand what Kickstarter is for, and were just excited by the notion of a Yogscast themed game.

With that in mind, it makes sense as to why a lot of them wouldn't actually deliver.