Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 3)

The story so far: James Wallis, old hand in the British RPG industry, takes to Kickstarter to fund his return to RPG design. His campaign is very successful, based largely on his good reputation among gamers; he then pisses away that reputation on a massively delayed delivery process which involved multiple broken promises, several long stretches of total silence and non-interaction with backers, and an honest-to-goodness tie-in with Far West.

Eventually, some products crept out of the darkness, and in this part of the saga I am going to take a look at them and then offer some final thoughts.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 3)”

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Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 2)

The story so far: James Wallis, former head honcho of Hogshead Publishing and a bit of a RPG design celebrity*, runs his Alas Vegas Kickstarter to fund his new indie RPG – his return to game design after a long break. Asking for a humble £3000, he came away with just over £24,000. That’s not a huge budget, but hey, apparently the core text was mostly finished, so the production process would mostly be a matter of waiting for third party stretch goal contributions and the artwork to come in, doing the editing, proofing, and layout, and sorting out the process of printing. All these tasks are the bread and butter of an experienced publisher like Wallis, so there was no reason to expect any great difficulty. And yet…

* That said, his reputation is mostly built on his role in publishing the works of others – WFRPNobilisDragon Warriors – but he also is reasonably well-known for Once Upon a Time – a game he designed with a group of collaborators – and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which as I’ve outlined in my review of it is actually kind of a riff on Once Upon a Time‘s design ideas.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 2)”

Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 1)

This is a Kickstopper article I took great care in writing, and had to think carefully about publishing. Ultimately, although I wasn’t satisfied with my experience with this Kickstarter, I did end up getting my money back – more than my money back, in fact – and I could just walk away from all of this. However, at the same time I also believe there is a strong public interest component in laying out this information. I’m not, at the end of the day, setting out anything which isn’t to a large extent a matter of public record, or was disclosed to a sufficiently great number of project backers so as to dissolve any expectation of confidentiality – but the story has unfolded sufficiently long and slow that I think there is value in gathering the facts together and presenting them like this.

This article is necessarily going to involve a great deal of criticism of the actions of the initiator of the Alas Vegas Kickstarter project, James Wallis. Whenever people complain about the outcome of a Kickstarter they’re very quick to cry “scam” or “fraud”, but I don’t want to do that, not just because I have no evidence that it is the case but because all the evidence I have available to me suggests the opposite. On the basis of all of my interactions and research into this situation, I genuinely do not believe that James set out to cheat or defraud anyone, nor do I think anyone has been deliberately defrauded in the process of this Kickstarter. I believe that his intention was to do exactly what he said he was going to do and to meet all of his promises.

The fact remains, however, that it taken him extraordinarily long to do some of the things he said he was going to do, some of those things remain still not done even years after the fact, and promises and commitments he made to his backers have undeniably been broken. In fact, I think it’s a matter of general interest how someone who began a project with essentially good intentions, a reasonable plan for completion, and the core creative task for the project already largely completed could ultimately end up alienating a great many of their backers through their actions, communications, inaction and lack of communication.

Moreover, it’s also a case study of someone for whom Kickstarter success turned out to be more damaging than failure. It would be easy to write a hit piece if James Wallis seemed to be taking some sort of wry joy in frustrating and enraging his backers, but the truth seems to be quite the opposite. The process of getting the core Alas Vegas product finished seems to have been a living nightmare for Wallis. It injured him in a way I’ve rarely seen in other Kickstarters – or perhaps which other Kickstarter project owners are simply less transparent about.

Bizarrely, one of the reasons I’d never fund another James Wallis-helmed Kickstarter is because part of me feels like it would be cruel to do so – enabling exactly the sort of agonising process that Alas Vegas took would do more damage to him than his project failing to fund in the first place. If I saw Wallis attempting another Kickstarter in future, I think I’d feel about as bad as I would if I witnessed him committing an act of public self-harm, because on a certain level that’s exactly what it would be.

The thing is, I don’t think Wallis is unique. The creative process is different for everyone, and for a very few it can seem, from the outside, little different from self-torture. The mistakes and questionable choices made during the Alas Vegas Kickstarter include some decisions which I cannot fathom the logic of, but also a great many which are completely understandable, and which other creators could well make in similar circumstances.

On top of that, I think a number of the issues the Kickstarter ran into arise not from any actual objective mistakes made by Wallis and are more of a byproduct of his preferred method of working not really being right for the Kickstarter format. Perhaps by telling this story, other creators can take this experience and apply it to their own projects and their creative process, and make a call on whether Kickstarter is actually the right platform for their ideas.

On the other hand, Wallis also made a number of unforced errors, and his behaviour towards his backers is about as far from “best practice” as it’s possible to get. I don’t think he is a scam artist or a fraudster, but I do think he’s deeply unreliable and highly unprofessional, and in particular exhibits avoidant behaviour which makes it very difficult to discuss matters with him when things are going wrong. This isn’t even an isolated incident – in the course of this saga we’ll encounter at least one situation where he exhibited all of those traits in relation to a completely different project.

In the unlikely event that Wallis attempts another crowdfunding project, I think people need to know how this one went so they can make an informed choice as to whether they support his future endeavours. Personally, I wouldn’t.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: Alas, Wallis – A Story of Bad Memories, Bad Luck & Bad Blood (Part 1)”

Kickstopper: That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Restructure (Part 1)

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

Kickstarter fulfilment is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, it’s also a relay race, when the original project creator has to hand over much of the process to someone else. In the tabletop RPG sphere, for instance, there was the Dwimmermount Kickstarter, in which project owner James Maliszewski quite understandably found himself overwhelmed by his father’s terminal illness and had to hand over the work to his publishers at Autarch to finish (though, less excusably, only after they had to go to a really undue level of effort to get in touch with him to find out what was going on).

In the case of the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter, the Kickstarter was begun and finished by Chaosium… but along the way Chaosium underwent an eldritch transformation. The overall effect, in fact, was much like the central identity switch of Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Gone was the familiar Chaosium – eccentric, set in its ways, slightly ineffectual, but with its heart in the right place, rather like Charles Dexter Ward – and in its place was a new Chaosium, stronger, more confident, with the power of old magic behind it, just like Joseph Curwen. And just like in the story, the old Chaosium’s very success destroyed it, leaving the new Chaosium to take its place.

So complex is the saga of this Kickstarter that, for the first time, I am actually going to split a Kickstopper article in half. In this first part, I will cover the exciting Kickstarter fundraising process and the devastating delivery process, picking apart just what went wrong and just how everything went so right in the end. In part 2, I will deliver the actual swag I received.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Restructure (Part 1)”

Kickstopper: I Got Refunded By a Burning Wheel of Fire

This article was previously published on Ferretbrain; due to the imminent closure of that site, I’m moving it over here so that it can remain available.

Well, this is interesting. Folks, for the first time I am going to do a Kickstarter article on a project which successfully funded and where I received nothing save a refund. Even more interestingly, this is a project which seems, for the most part, to be in the process of delivering right on time.

Specifically, this is the story of how Luke Crane’s schtick started wearing thin, and how he responded to questioning of that with an unrequested refund.

Unusual Note on Methodology

Typically when I do these things, I have received some stuff to review. Obviously, I have received nothing, so nothing will get reviewed.

That said, as always I like to give a caveat that in any discussion of a Kickstarter I can only speak with authority about my own personal experience of the process. That goes double here, obviously, because Luke Crane didn’t fall out with all the backers in the same way he fell out with me and some others.

Continue reading “Kickstopper: I Got Refunded By a Burning Wheel of Fire”

So Apparently the RPGPundit Got Quoted In the Washington Post

GenCon has announced such things as the makeup of its industry panels (now batting for gender parity with 13 women and 12 men with Industry Insider status) and its Guest of Honor this year (Mike Pondsmith of Cyberpunk 2020Castle Falkenstein and Mekton fame). It’s 2016, so obviously a faction of angry gamers are throwing a fit about how there’s suddenly all this diversity up in their face and they can’t pretend that the industry is a white boys’ club any more.

I’ve written previously about how the RPGPundit, AKA Kasimir Urbanski, has gone firmly off the deep end of late, with his web forum descending into the sort of GamerGatey SJW-baiting hellhole it had always been semi-threatening to turn into at that. So I was amused to see in the Washington Post‘s article on this quoting one of his tweets on the subject, mostly because of the massive irony involved in the tweet. If anyone in gaming justifies the tag of “douchebag with delusions of significance”, it’s Pundit.

RPGPundit takes the low road, justifies every criticism ever made of him.

So, this post just started making the rounds. I am not in with the Malifaux community so I really can’t comment on what was going on to prompt it, but the general call to not tolerate shitty behaviour in geek hobbies is a good one and worth a read.

I wouldn’t have commented here except the RPGPundit, a loud voice in RPG blogging who is on the map mostly for putting out some well-received OSR products and for screaming invective about storygaming back when Ron Edwards was the darling of the RPG community, has made a kind of terrible post on the subject which I wanted to respond to. I would have posted a comment there, but blogger was acting up and wouldn’t let me. (This is a bug I have encountered before on blogspot blogs so I don’t blame Pundit for that – just for the words he wrote.) So I’ll post my thoughts here instead. Don’t bother reading the full thing if you are not interested in me slamming some dude on the Internet for being wrong on the Internet.

tl;dr version: even if Pundit had cast-iron proof that every single line of Latining’s post was a lie (and he doesn’t), the specific criticisms and arguments he makes in response are beyond the pale. And it’s especially ironic because Latining is saying that the community should police itself and freeze out socially unacceptable behaviour, and back in the day Pundit went to bat strenuously arguing that the community should police itself and freeze out socially unacceptable behaviour.

Continue reading “RPGPundit takes the low road, justifies every criticism ever made of him.”