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Wednesday
Oct312012

Halloween Thanks-giving

Happy Halloween!

I want to thank all of you for sticking with us and for all the kindness and support you've offered in the past few weeks. It's been just plain amazing. 

We're figuring out the whole open source development thing - if you want to pop over and take a look at the project's site, it's here:

https://mrg-trac.sourcerepo.com/mrg_Haunts/wiki/WikiStart

As a token of our thanks and as a Halloween treat, Austin has put together some cool wallpapers based on Haunts - there's one for the denizens and one for the intruders, as well as some more understated backgrounds that are suitable for cell phones and tablets. Enjoy!


Haunts Wallpapers

Tuesday
Oct232012

All The Way Open!

We have a plan! 

We’re going to finish developing Haunts: The Manse Macabre as an Open Source project. The source code has been open from the beginning, but now we’re going to fully embrace open development model and making the game entirely open source. We’ve had about thirty programmers from a variety of backgrounds, including many proficient in Go, who have stepped forward and offered to help finish the game. We’re still in the process of setting up the infrastructure for issue tracking, source control, documentation wikis, and other tools necessary before we can begin in earnest, but we hope to have that all up and running within the next week or two.

Today I sent out a survey to all the interested programmers who’ve contacted me to get a better idea of what people are interested in working on and how much time they’ll have. We’ll be appointing some interim release managers in the short run and then working together to elect those positions. If you’re interested in being included in the survey now, contact me through Kickstarter. But anyone will be able to help out once we get started, we'll need programmers with a variety of skills and interests, testers and more.

If you'd like to join the crew, just fill this survey out:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dE1CVTVIOWJpSGZOX3plQURfV0ZzOVE6MQ

Blue Mammoth is still interested in the project, but their involvement will come once the game is much closer to finished, and will be to facilitate the retail release, get copies out to our backers, and help promote and distribute the final game. Someone from Blue Mammoth will probably have a finger in helping out on the development side, but getting this game finished will be up to the community of volunteers.
There are still a ton of details to be figured out about the licensing (we may end up adopting a slightly different open license if it needs to be more open), credit, business model, etc. Plus setting up the issues list, organize the priorities for what needs to get done, establishing a public knowledge base, and more. This is just the beginning, but I’m excited about where it’s going and enthusiastic as hell about the support we’re getting.

Art!  

Austin is finishing up the inking on the caricatures and those should be out to backers this week.  

Additionally, based on backer S.D.'s excellent suggestion, he's working up some cool Haunts themed wallpaper images for both desktops and mobile devices, which will be out for Halloween.

In The News

 

We've gotten a lot of press coverage, most of it in the general vein of, "Look, see, Kickstarter projects can go bad, so be careful!" I think that's a fair and useful point to make. But we're committed to being the follow-up story. You know, the underdog who comes back from the brink of collapse and proves a resounding success! 

Here's one nice piece I wanted to share with you. 

http://caffeineforge.com/2012/10/20/the-manse-macabre-only-mostly-dead/

I've also done a few interviews, including one for a radio show that podcasts their episodes. That should run next week, and I'll share the link with you when I get it.

Friday
Oct192012

Haunts The Kickstarter Cautionary Tale

We have gotten a crazy amount of media coverage for our project. The tone of much of it seems to center around Haunts being the first notable Kickstarter video game project to fail. A dubious honor to be sure, and not entirely accurate.

We have not given up. This is not over. We are going to finish this game.

I’m more confident than I have been in many weeks, thanks entirely to the outpouring of support and offers of help that I’ve gotten from our supporters. I’ve done a number of interviews already, with some more to come. We’re renewed in our commitment to get this game out.

In case you’re curious - I know I was! - here’s a list of some of the stories about us. I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, these are just the English language ones I’ve seen:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/10/18/fully-funded-kickstarter-game-goes-belly-up-haunts-the-manse-macabre-is-out-of-money-as-programmers-call-it-quits/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20003916

http://www.joystiq.com/2012/10/19/kickstarter-game-haunts-development-halted-programmers-quit/

http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2012/10/19/3525746/haunts-kickstarter-project-halted-after-money-depleted-and

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/10/haunts-kickstarter-failure-highlights-the-risks-of-crowdfunding/

http://www.develop-online.net/news/42293/Backers-left-in-cold-as-devs-quit-Kickstarter-project

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/179789/Promising_Kickstarter_game_runs_out_of_money_programmers_steam.php#.UIGzs8XAdFt

http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/successful-kickstarter-outing-haunts-the-manse-macabre-faces-uncertain-future/0104895

http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPad/Haunts%3A+The+Manse+Macabre/news.asp?c=45921

http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/19/development-halts-on-successfully-funded-kickstarter-game-haunts/

http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/what-happens-wh-2.php

http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/10/19/kickstarted-game-haunts-gives-up-the-ghost-sheds-devs-promises-refunds/

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/haunts-the-manse-macabre/

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/120238-Successful-Kickstarter-Faces-Collapse

Friday
Oct192012

Better Morning

It’s been a heartwarming 14 hours or so, and I have to start by saying thank you to all the kind and supportive emails and comments I’ve been getting. I had been dreading today for the past week or so, as we worked up the details and I scrambled around to find some silver lining to our dark clouds. Turns out, I should have come to you all sooner in my search for support.

Updates

Which brings me to the first question I’ve been asked by both backers and media: why are we just hearing about this now? That is the fairest of questions, and I should have addressed it in my post yesterday. You’re only hearing about it now because I was scared to bring you bad news. I kept hoping things would work out, that we would find our way through to launch a beta this month and move forward from there towards release. I wasn’t really certain that wasn’t possible until close to the last minute, when everything failed to come together.

I should have been more forthcoming and regular with updates, but not sharing bad news was too easy and too much of a temptation for me. In retrospect, I and you and the game would have been much better served if I’d set up a strictly scheduled, regular update regimen. However we end up moving forward, that will be part of things from now on.

Money

I mentioned that we’ve spent all the money. That’s not strictly true, but as far as hiring new programmers to work for a regular salary, it is. We actually have a fair amount in the bank, but most of that is about to be sent to the IRS as part of payroll taxes. I also still need to pay for sound and have money set aside for licensing fees for FMOD once the game releases. We met our goal back in the beginning of July, raising $28,000, of which we got to keep about $25K after Kickstarter and Amazon Payments fees. With the addition of Josh in August, our burn rate went to about $1900 per week for salaries for Jonathan, Austin, and Josh. Eleven weeks of that cost a little over $20,000, plus another $1200 or so for printing and shipping t-shirts.


Programmers

I’ve had a lot of interested emails from programmers offering their help. Thank you all very much! There’s a lot to sift through and I’m not sure what the best way to proceed will be, but I am very encouraged by these offers and want to try and figure out the best way to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve reached out to a good friend of mine who’s an expert in collaborative open source development, and he and I will talk soon. I also want to discuss this exciting development with Blue Mammoth and get their take on it.

Open Source

A lot of you have mentioned that we should open source everything if worse comes to worse. In fact, the code is already open, but if we cannot pull together to make this a retail product, we will absolutely fully open source everything, content and code and turn it over to the community. Actually, at some point we’d like to do that no matter what, even after a retail release (however many years later, when it makes fiscal sense). But right now the code is under the same modified BSD license as the Go programming language and the contents are all Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share-Alike.

Caricatures

Some of you have noticed that the caricatures for the high-level donors are in the game. Other of you have gotten your t-shirts. Austin has been driving hard to finish game content these last weeks, so he hasn’t had time to polish up and package the physical caricatures and the t-shirts for our highest-level donors. He’s on that now, and we should be shipping them out next week.

I’m doing an interview with a blogger from Forbes this afternoon, and I’m sure he’ll have some more tough questions for me, so look for that sometime soon. I’ll also be doing a chat with Bill Abner from No High Scores, who has run some successful Kickstarters of his own, so hopefully they will help keep me in line and ask the questions I’m not thinking of.

Thanks again.

Rick

Thursday
Oct182012

Desperate Times

Sorry for the long delay in updates, and special apologies to those who have emailed or commented in the last week and to whom I haven’t yet replied. As I’m sure many of you suspect, things haven’t been going well for Haunts and Mob Rules Games. I am still determined to get the game out, but I no longer have any way of knowing when and how that will happen.

The principal cause for our 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. 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.

The game as it stands has all the systems in place, but there are a lot of bugs. Knowing Jonathan would be leaving, the plan had been to get online play working and release the Beta, with Josh working to make the levels run in online play and scripting the AI for the single player versions of those levels.

Unfortunately, getting online play working took three times longer than estimated (instead of the twice as long as estimated I’d been counting on). It also required making adjustments to programming for all the levels, even when they’re not being played online. With no one left on the project who is capable of implementing those changes and debugging them during testing, the game is in a very patchwork state. In some cases, levels that once worked fine now have serious issues. Fixing those issues would require fixes both to the level programming and the core system programming, working in tandem.

But 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. 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.

What then, to do? We are not giving up! I am currently in talks with another game company owned by some old friends and coworkers of mine, Blue Mammoth Games. They have expressed an interest in taking on Haunts. Austin and I would continue on in our roles, although we would both be doing so in our spare time. These new potential partners won't be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it's out best shot at this point.

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.

Finally, although I’m very hopeful about the partnership deal I’m pursuing, that deal is not made yet and my friends at Blue Mammoth have said it’s fine if I look for other options. I haven’t found any yet, but now I’m throwing it open to you all. If any of you or someone you know is interested in and capable of taking on Haunts and doing right by it, I’d love to hear from you.

I have made an update to the Mob Rules Games web site that has descriptions and images of some of the work we’ve been doing. The attached video that Austin put together shows some of the gameplay from across a variety of different level, so you can see how close we are to finishing the game. All the systems are there, and when it works it’s fun to play. You can see how we spent your money, and that we weren’t just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, even if we have collapsed at the finish line.

http://www.mobrulesgames.com/haunts/2012/10/18/the-story-thus-far.html