Legal advice and print-and-play: What will happen to the cancelled $122,000 board game Kickstarter
The Kickstarter campaign for The Doom That Came to Atlantic City ended with over $122,000 in funding, much more than the initial $35,000 goal. The latest update on the campaign was something of a shock, with a man named Erik Chevalier claiming that no games will be printed, no content will make it out to fans, and refunds may be offered at some point in the future.
Backers were, quite understandably, not happy with the situation, and the cryptic details in the update didn’t help things. I reached out to Chevalier to see if he’d be willing to expound on what happened.
“I would really like to talk about the project but I need to wait until next week so I can get some legal advice,” he wrote back. “As you can imagine its all quite a mess already, don't want to make it any worse by saying the wrong things. Hopefully you understand my position.” He promised to contact the Report again when he could say more.
The Penny Arcade Report had spoken with Keith Baker, one of the designers of the game, last September. He had shared some details of the project, and his history in board games. Baker is a fascinating guy, with a long history of game design; the story remains worth reading. I reached out to Baker again to try to figure out what went wrong.
Hell, until the final update saying that no one could be getting a copy of the game, most fans had never even heard of Erik Chevalier. So what gives?
The man behind the curtain
“Erik's not new; he's always been the man behind the curtain. I didn't set up the Kickstarter; it was set up by Erik's company, The Forking Path,” Baker explained via e-mail. “My name is on the front page because I made the game and that's a good piece of PR for him.”
“But my relationship to The Forking Path is exactly the same as my relationship with Atlas over Gloom; they license the rights to produce the game, and I get a royalty,” he continued. “I'm not consulted about their business decisions, I don't know what they spend their money on, and so on. And as I noted on my website, neither Lee or I ever actually received royalties from Doom.”
Baker’s website offers a lengthy explanation of his relationship with the game, and he seems just as misled as the fans who backed the project. “Lee Moyer and Keith Baker are not part of the Forking Path. Neither one of us received any of the funds raised by the Kickstarter or presales,” he wrote.
“I haven’t received any form of payment for this game. Lee and I were not involved in the decisions that brought about the end of this project, and we were misinformed about its progress and the state of the game.”
The rights to the art and design revert to them, and they’re working on getting a print and play version of the game to backers as quickly as possible. “You’ll have to use your own cardstock and paper, and we can’t produce the amazing miniatures sculpted by Paul Komoda,” Baker wrote. “But we can share our ideas and our work, and we hope that you will enjoy it.”
“The game is done, and has been for a long time,” Baker told me. That part of the Kickstarter was accurate; Baker and Moyer had believed the game was actually at the printers.
“Now that the Lee Moyer and I have regained the rights to the art and design, we can go about converting it to print-and-play for backers; the issue there is that the format you give to a printer, one-card-per-pdf, isn't something that I can hand you to print out on your home printer,” Baker continued. “So we need to convert the assets to a more suitable format, and Lee's the critical path there.”
So what happened to the money?
If Keith Baker and Lee Moyer never received payment, and the game was never printed, what happened to the money? Until Erik Chevalier talks, and it sounds like that may happen through lawyers, we may never know.
Keep in mind that we're not talking about an extensive amount of cash; after Kickstarter fees and the cost of processing payments it's likely around $110,000 or so made through the process, and Chevalier's update suggested the money was spent on creating a company, not a game. As anyone who has started even a modest company can attest, $110,000 is very easy to burn through very quickly.
The tragedy is that the money was likely more than enough to print and ship the board games and pewter figures that were promised to backers; no one signed up to fund a company. They wanted a product.
It's great that Baker and Moyer are working to get the game into the hands of backers in some form, but if Chevalier had stuck to the initial scope of the project it's very likely everyone involved would now be playing a fun board game instead of waiting for a refund that may never arrive.