Caution urged over crowdfunding as Kickstarter-backed venture crashes

Start-ups looking to raise funds via crowdfunding have been urged to ensure they have a working prototype, after a Kickstarter-backed gaming company was forced to stop development on its latest game after its programmers pulled the pin.


Mob Rules Games, which describes itself as a “tiny little start-up”, is a US-based gaming company led by developers Rick Dakan, Jonathan Wills and Austin McKinley.


Dakan, who founded Cryptic Studios and was the original lead designer for City of Heroes, has written dozens of game books and five novels including the Geek Mafia trilogy.


Wills is a former employee of Cryptic Studios and Google, while McKinley has served as head writer and production artist of Facebook game Cold War Clambake.


In June, Mob Rules Games launched a funding campaign via Kickstarter, seeking $25,000 for its latest game Haunts: The Manse Macabre.


Before this, Mob Rules spent about $42,500 to complete the basics of the title.


More than 1,200 people backed the game via Kickstarter, leaving the developers with more than $28,000 to fund its completion. However, the game’s development has come to a screeching halt.


In a recent blog post, Dakan said the principal cause for the company’s “dire condition” is that there are no longer any programmers working on the game.


“Our lead programmer, Jonathan, was always going to move on to something else after a year or so,” Dakan wrote.


“We had hoped that he would be able to work on the game in his spare time, but now that he’s going back at Google, he has told us that his spare time will be very minimal and not enough to make progress on the game.”


“Our second programmer, Josh, has quit the project entirely to take another job. He does not want to work on the game in his spare time.”


Dakan said while the game has all the necessary systems in place, there are a lot of bugs that need to be dealt with, leaving the game “in a very patchwork state”.


“Now it’s just me and Austin. Austin has finished up the art content for the initial release of the game, but he’s not a programmer. I’m not a programmer either,” Dakan said.


“Although I know some small amount about how the level programming works, I’m not capable at this point of fixing the bugs I know about.”


“This is further complicated by the fact that the game is written in the Go programming language, which is not widely used, limiting the pool of potential new programmers.”


Mob Rules is now scrambling to come up with a solution. Dakan insists the game will be completed eventually, but has offered to refund backers’ pledges.


Rick Chen, co-founder of local crowdfunding platform Pozible, says start-ups need to do their research before launching a crowdfunding campaign.


“Certain types of products are more risky, such as developing a game,” Chen says.


“These categories are extremely risky because they are high tech and not something you can easily produce, compared to a film or music. It’s a different type of campaign.”


“When it comes to Pozible, we actually control the campaign based on the risk we see in it.”


“If it’s high risk, we do more of a background check to make sure it doesn’t turn out to be something that’s not really doable. Something very high risk needs to be controlled.”


Ultimately, Chen says start-ups need to ensure they don’t rush into it.


“Make sure everything’s absolutely ready. I highly recommend you shouldn’t come into a big campaign without a proper prototype,” he says.


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