Successful Kickstarter outing Haunts: The Manse Macabre faces uncertain future

What happens when a successful Kickstarter project goes wrong? We may well be about to find out.

Developer Rick Dakan’s promised multiplayer horror romp Hanuts: The Manse Macabre successfully passed its Kickstarter project, raising a total of $28k+ from 1,214 backers last July.

However, having already missed its proposed release date question marks remain over whether the game will ever be released.

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,” Dakan said in a statement.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.”

It should be noted that when pledging to Kickstarter a person is merely contributing to a game’s development, not pre-ordering a game. But with detailed promises of final product and stretch goals, users can be forgiven for misunderstanding this.

Kickstarters are legally obliged to fulfil all rewards of their project”. Could this provide the basis for a legal challenge to creators whose projects fail? It may not be long until we find out.

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