Category Archives: Kickstarter

Camelot Unchained Refund Received

What will likely be the last post on the topic of Camelot Unchained here for some time.

I got a refund on my Kickstarter pledge.  I got it very quickly and with no deductions for processing charges at the CSE end of things, just the money transfer fee from PayPal, a mere $3.49.  Op success.  I should be very happy.

And yet I am still a little prickly about the whole thing.  I still think that a transaction ID for a credit charge remains a pretty unlikely thing for people to have around nearly seven years later.  Mark Jacobs says that the company needs to use that to protect themselves from scammers, but it sure can make it hard on people who didn’t keep one specific email from that far back.

I am also a bit prickly about the fact that I got a refund so very quickly.  I have an egalitarian streak, and getting jumped to the head of the line and getting an expedited refund straight from the CEO for being the loud mouth doesn’t make necessarily make me feel good about myself.  I’m not giving the money back… dollar votes are still a thing in my mind, and that was a motivation here… but I don’t have to like the fact that others are going to be stuck.  I don’t want to be special, I just want to be part of a system that works.  But that is so rarely the case.

Before you declare this a victory proving that blogs are still relevant, I have to stop you.  They aren’t.  Blogging remains a backwater in the world of social media.  If Bree at Massively OP had not mentioned me to Mark Jacobs I might still be waiting for the Pony Express to deliver my request to the archives department of my credit card company in Wichita in the hope that they would be able to find a transaction ID somewhere in the Indiana Jones warehouse where I imagine they store their old paper records and other such these treasures.

I did not ask Bree to do this for me.  She had asked me to forward the email blast that CSE sent out to everybody asking for refunds last week, and I followed that up with the next message from CSE just to keep her in the loop.  Next thing I knew Mark Jacobs had taken up residence in my comment section.  It was a bit of a shock.

As for why I wanted a refund, there are a couple of reasons.  The first, as I mentioned above, is dollar votes, the idea that you spend your money on things you support and believe in and withhold it from things that you do not.  After years of delays and updates and things that have not come to pass, I began to feel my support was not warranted.  There is a whole story of a startup I worked for in the 90s that plays into this, but I will just say that enthusiasm fatigue is a thing.  Given enough changes, updates, delays, and excuses and your capacity to give a shit will eventually fade.

This is why I try not to get invested in games too early in their development cycle.  It rarely ends well as all surprise and sense of accomplishment tends to be broken by early familiarity.

I also pledged more for this campaign than I did for many other, largely due to Mark Jacobs visiting my blog back during the Kickstarter campaign.  This week was not his first visit.  Blogs were still mildly relevant in 2013 I guess.  And while $110 isn’t going to make a huge difference in my life, I pledged that much only because of him.

And then there is the fact that almost seven years down the road I am not sure I care about the game any more.  Part of that is the enthusiasm fatigue I mentioned above.  I unsubscribed from the updates email list because it was tiring to read after a few years.  (For whatever reason I have not unsubscribe from the Star Citizen weekly updates. I suppose their brevity makes them less wearing.)

But part of it is my, my life, my friends, and what I enjoy have all changed over time.  Seven years changes people.  What CSE is selling doesn’t really thrill me now, so a chance to redirect a bit of money into something that I might enjoy is something worth doing.

Now to figure out what that is.

Anyway, I won’t harp on this or be one of those people who has to post something negative every time Camelot Unchained gets mentioned.  That isn’t my style.  I got my money back and I can move on to something else and leave this in the past.

Camelot Unchained Refunds Require Transaction IDs

I received a response from the Camelot Unchained about my refund request.

As I expected, and despite a comment from Mark Jacobs over at Massively OP about matching up email addresses or whatever, City State Entertainment’s official line to me is that they require transaction IDs for all refunds.  The text of their response:

Hello,

Thank you for sending the information. All purchases have TransactionIDs, it acts as a receipt for your purchase. We do need the transactionID to process the refund. It is a long alphanumeric ID. If you cannot locate it, please contact Kickstarter or Paypal and they will retrieve it for you.

Thank You,
CSE Support Team

As I explained in my previous post on this, there were no transaction IDs provided at the time of my Kickstarter pledge and that my credit card company does not keep such records past the six year mark, and we’re coming up on the seventh anniversary of the funding of the Kickstarter.

I suppose it is possible Kickstarter might have be able to provide the transaction ID.  I will contact them next to see if they keep records that old.  I will not be surprised if they do not.

But this continues to confirm my suspicion that they will stonewall people on the transaction ID front, with the added bonus that we now know that what Mark Jacobs says in comments over at Massively OP may not necessarily reflect reality.  Another reason to call into question what he is pitching now.

Addendum: Have you tried contacting Kickstarter?  They do not want to be contacted, something which I suspect City State Entertainment knows.  (Their email is support@kickstarter.com, which wasn’t anywhere on their site but which worked all the same.)

Addendum 2: Article at Massively OP where Mark Jacobs responded in comments that transaction IDs were not required.  Post update incorporating Mark’s comment:

[Update: MOP tipster Wilhelm has noted that some of the info might be difficult to come by, given that some credit card companies do not keep transaction IDs that old, but Jacobs says that people should send in what they do have and support will try to match you by email address.]

The Camelot Unchained Refund Stonewalling Begins

Last week Mark Jacobs dropped the bombshell that his company, seven years into the Camelot Unchained project and more than four years after the promised delivery date, had taken it upon itself to work on a different game, Final Stand: Ragnarok.

He did say that backers of the Kickstarter campaign would get the new game, but since there isn’t anything like a ship date for either the new game or Camelot Unchained, that seems like a pretty easy promise to make.  Backers now have double the non-available games, which still totals up to zero games.

He was also quite clear that he and his company were under no legal obligation to give backers access to the new game nor even to finish Camelot Unchained.  This came in a context that makes me think he wants us to be grateful to him that he’s giving us anything at all.

So I decided I wanted a refund.  I took all the information I had related to my Kickstarter pledge and sent it to the address indicated on their store FAQ page.

(It is support@citystateentertainment.com if you want it.)

What I got in response was a form letter from Mark.  I love it when you take the time to put together information and the company just ignores it and sends you something you didn’t ask for instead.

In this case it was a plea from Mark Jacobs for another chance.  He is going to give another interview later today.  He’ll have a schedule for us.  He is sure we’ll like what we see.  He is ignoring requests for a refund in hopes that we’ll be taken in yet again.

Basically, after having had to take everything on faith for almost seven years it is a plea to continue to take things on faith, because the track record so far say that any dates he announces today will end up being slipped later on.

I know that software development is art rather than science.  But I also resent being taken for a gullible sucker when somebody tells me things over and over and they consistently and repeatedly fail to come to pass.  And when somebody starts reminding me that they’re not legally obligated to live up to what they say big red flashing lights start going off.

The only useful bit of information in the whole email was what they would need to process a refund.

In order to process your refund, please send us all transaction ID(s), address and phone number. All refunds are processed by PayPal, can take 90 days to process, and can carry fees (per our refund policy https://store.camelotunchained.com/faq )

That is actually considerably less information than I sent them in my first email message, save for the “transaction ID” request.

What transaction ID?  I assume it is the transaction ID for the credit card charge.  But the original email from Kickstarter does not have a transaction ID attached, just the usual last four digits of an otherwise obfuscated credit card number.  If I had used PayPal or Amazon payments, I might be able to find it via that route, except that back in 2013 Kickstarter didn’t use either of those.  You had to put up your own credit card.

My credit card statement for the charge, which I do still have, does not show a transaction ID.

I tried calling up the credit card company to see if they could get a transaction ID for the charge, however they only keep records back for six years, so a charge on May 2, 2013 isn’t available in their system any more.

The agent was mildly impressed I was trying to get a refund on such an old transaction and suggested that I could write the the archives department to ask if they could find something.  When I asked for their email address I was told they only transact via postal mail or fax.

I will write something out and send it off and maybe I will get something back some day, but I doubt it.

I strongly suspect that Mark Jacobs has the transaction ID requirement in there because it isn’t something to which people have easy access.  He can go on claiming that refunds are available while not having to worry about actually having to give refunds.

I will respond again with the information I do have, but I expect no refund will be forthcoming.

It looks like my only recourse is to give the project a frowny face over on Kickstarter.

That empty box is where you mark when what you backed has been delivered

That and to try not to such a gullible sucker again.

Addendum:

Get Your Camelot Unchained Refund Now

The thing that kind of separated the ongoing bullshit that comes out of Chris Roberts around Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained was that at least the latter had not gone down the rampant feature creep path.

Because, otherwise, there are a lot of similarities between the two projects… and the two personalities.  Even their previous games were failures that they blamed on their corporate overlords, but now that they run the show the projects keep spinning out into infinity and you start to feel their overlords might have had a point.  With nobody holding them to their plans they do as they please.

And then yesterday Mark Jacobs told the world in an interview over at Massively OP that his company, City State Entertainment, has been working on another game for the last half of a year. It is named Colossus or Ragnarok or something… it isn’t clear… and boy was it a surprise.

If that isn’t the ultimate in feature creep, I don’t know what is.  They now have two in development games with no ship date instead of just one.  This is not progress.

In the interview Mark says in the same sentence that the new game both has and has not slowed down Camelot Unchained, which means that it has and he is just spinning bullshit now.  He learned well from his time at EA I guess.

I thought maybe his bit of pre-Kickstart campaign self-flagellation about Warhammer Online, where he sort of took a bit of the blame on his shoulders, meant something.  But it clearly didn’t.  In looking back I had forgotten how, despite everything, he still clung to the Metacritic score the game got at launch, like he was holding out for a “Best Score for an Otherwise Failed Game” award at GDC or something.

So now Camelot Unchained is just fantasy Star Citizen in my eyes, minus the broken alpha demo content you can play.  It is put up or shut up for them both.  Until they ship something real it is all just bullshit.

The difference for me is that I am in on Star Citizen for the minimum bid, but I pledged a lot more for Camelot Unchained and I am feeling all the more the sucker for the faith I showed.

I want a refund.

City State Entertainment says on their FAQ page that they will give people refunds.  Just send an email to support@citystateentertainment.com asking for one.  You won’t get the full amount back.  They will subtract the fees the incur giving you the refund, but at least you ought to get something back.  And it is about the only message one can send that Mark won’t just hand wave away.

We shall see what I get in response.  I expect them to stonewall me on the request.   And I will certainly post updates here on how it goes.

I had already pledged never to Kickstart an MMO again, so I cannot really swear further on that.  But this certainly hasn’t done anything to soften my view on this.

Finally, I am curious that he went to Massively OP first for this announcement.  It isn’t like a gaming site with a bigger audience wouldn’t have been happy to have the scoop.  Did he expect it would slip by or that he would get a more favorable response going there?  The big sites will pick up the story anyway.

Related:

Gamers are Not a Unified Demographic

As regular as clockwork over the life of this blog I have had somebody poke me in comments, in chat, or via email about their great new idea.

They are going to create a social network for gamers.

Back in the day I was willing to buy into this idea.  There was a time when I could believe that somebody could pull together the gamer demographic.

So over the years, I have signed up for various sites including XFire, GuildCafe, Raptr, Anook, Gax Online, WeGame, UGame, Rupture, GamerDNA, and probably quite a few more whose names I have simply forgotten over time.

And every one of those sites has one thing in common: failure.

Most of them are dead.  Raptr called it quits after a long run, though their site remains up, if untended. Xfire morphed into a video game league then shut down. GuildCafe was purchased and shut down.  GamerDNA was purchased and shut down.  UGame is just gone.  WeGame disappeared and the name was picked up last year by Tencent. Rupture, from the guy who created Napster, was bought by EA and shut down.  And GAX Online went offline when Ryan and Gary found that they had not reached a self-sustaining critical mass and likely never would.

In digging through my brain for this post the only site I could come up with that was still online was Anook, which we used as a nexus for Blaugust a few years back, and it is shambling along like it simply isn’t aware that it is dead yet.  It has some regulars, but nothing like the amount of users needed to make it a sustainable venture.

So here we are in 2018 and what pops into my email inbox but a press release about a Kickstarter to fund yet another gamer social network.

I give you GameCritter and their Kickstarter campaign.

I’m sure they licensed those characters for use in their promotional material

The Kickstarter campaign for GameCritter launched this past Thursday looking to raise about $55,000, though it is an Australian company running it, so they’re really asking for $75,000 in their upside down dollaree doos, but Kickstarted nicely converts the currency for you.

That isn’t a big ask, but they might as well be asking for the moon and a million dollars since they have already failed my reliable benchmark for Kickstarter success; if you don’t make 20% of your ask in the first 24 hours just go home.  They didn’t even make 1% in the first three days, and the charts over at Kicktraq don’t show the situation getting any better with time.  Their cause is lost, though not for a lack of overselling.

The company actually had the audacity in the email to claim that this was the, and I quote, “World’s First Social Platform For Gamers!”

However, none of their features seem all that interesting or original.

  • Social Platform with User Posts, Friends, Instant messaging & Commenting
  • Community-Driven Reviews, Guides, Discussion Forums & Question/Answer Forums
  • Addictive Levelling & Rewards System with over 1,500+ Levels & 13 Ranks
  • Hundreds of Unique Collectable Avatars, Companions, Badges & Achievements
  • Competitive Leaderboards with Various Metrics and Clans (Grouping)

From top to bottom the list is “been done many times,” “available on many other sites,” and “meaningless fluff” x3.  Basically, nothing compelling there really.

They are offering features for developers and publishers as well.  I guess that is new-ish.

  •  Dedicated Profile Pages to Build & Foster Fan Followings
  • Raise Crowdfunding for New Projects with Support from Fans
  • Create Revenue by Selling Games Directly from Our Platform
  • Smart Targeted Advertising with Multiple Metrics
  • Powerful Analytics Dashboard for Big Data Handling
  • Conduct User Surveys & Polls to Gauge Strategic Business Direction

The question is, what developer is going to jump on board this platform for any of those things?  Would you crowdfund on a site that couldn’t successfully crowdfund itself into existence?  Or would you trust a company that didn’t even notice that a competitor mentioned in its Kickstarter FAQ had been discontinued over a year? (Hint: Raptr)

Seriously, I could sit here and shit on this whole thing all day long and well into the night, but there is a point where you go beyond disagreement and into just being mean and I don’t want to get too far in that direction.

Instead, I want to explore for a bit why this idea, this plan for a gamer social network, has never worked and likely will never work.

I believe the problem here is that all of the people founding these sorts of projects are operating with a flawed premise, the belief that gamers are some sort of single, unified demographic.

You can guess what I think about that from the title of this post.

It isn’t that gamers do not come together, it is just that what we come together over is a lot more specific than just being a gamer.  What brings us together?

Specific Games: World of Warcraft or Pokemon Go players, when they meet, have something to share with each other immediately.

Gaming Franchises: We all know somebody who has to buy the latest Civilization or Call of Duty or Mario or Fallout title the day it comes out.

Gaming Genres:  There are clear followings for things like MMORPGs or MOBAs or FPSs or MUDs.

Platforms: While not as unifying, we definitely divide ourselves by platform and find common cause with our fellow PC or XBox or PlayStation gamers.  Some people even claim to be gamers even though they only use their phone.

I suppose an analogy would be food.  We like certain restaurants, or types of restaurants, or types of food, but I am not sure we really need a social network platform dedicated to eating.

Furthermore, we already tend to form up into those various groupings using the resources already available.  We use the developers forums, or our own alternate forums if we feel the developer is being too heavy handed in moderating messages.  We form groups on Reddit or Facebook around our shared specific interest.  We follow developers or hash tags on Twitter and Instagram.  We frequent the gaming news sites that best cover our favorite genres.  We even start writing blogs about the games we play, which in turn tend to become part of ad hoc blogging communities.

So when somebody new shows up and says that we should drop all of the infrastructure and social bonds that have formed organically over the years to hop on their shiny new venture, it just isn’t going to happen unless there is something genuinely new on tap.  And, so far, such sites have only offered warmed over versions of well worn ideas.

Basically, such sites fail on both key counts.  They are pitching to a demographic that doesn’t exist and they are not offering any compelling reason to use their platform.

Even a site like Something Awful, whose forums probably represent one of the best cross-genre discussions of video game topics around, is based on an overarching community that goes beyond video games, and within the video game section of the forums, the various genres and games are divided up into groups and specific titles.  While there is some cross-pollination, people tend to stick to their interests, so the EVE Online players aren’t heavily represented in the Pokemon forum and vice versa.

And that doesn’t even get into how Steam is trying to become even more of a social media experience for gamers, where it has the advantage of players already invested in their platform and already… oh, and they pretty much offer everything GameCritter is claiming for end users while having more than 150 million people signed on.  And even there we stratify into groups of friends or followers of specific games or genres.  Still, Steam comes as close to a gamer social network as anything I suppose.

Maybe if you’re somebody like Discord or Twitch and have people already using your service as a social platform you can back your way into this sort of thing by adding more game specific features… and a store… both sites want to sell you things.

Anyway, the GameCritter Kickstarter is going to fail hard for a variety of reasons, and not just because their pre-campaign promotional activities apparently involved sending out hyperbolic press releases to cynical old coots like myself.  (Seriously though, if nobody in the gaming press is taking you seriously enough to do a story on your product, you should take this as huge red flag.)

In the end something like GameCritter looks like a solution in search of a problem.  There is nothing on offer for end users there that hasn’t been tried already.  It apparently only works if you have something compelling to offer the way Steam does.

The World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter Clears Nearly $600K

In something of an amazing turn around, or a demonstration of how well things can go when you do it right, the second Kickstarter campaign for the World of Warcraft Diary closed up earlier today having brought in $598,999 from 8,379 backers.

The book to come

Considering the ask for the campaign was a modest $10,000, that is quite a feat.

In fact, the second campaign was almost the opposite of the first one back in March, which asked for $400,000 and couldn’t even get to $10,000.  Instead the new campaign reached 10x its goal in the first 24 hours and averaged over $43,000 a day over the course of the campaign.

That is a wild success by any measure and along the way The World of Warcraft Diary became the highest funded non-fiction book on Kickstarter.

This is an example of getting everything right after having done many things wrong (no advance notices of the campaign, no press build-up, no kind words/backing from Blizzard, asking for too much money, and not having a plan for updates).

The campaign also again shows that Kickstarter is better for some things, discreet projects like books or other art, and less good for more complicated things like video games, especially online massively multiplayer video games and Minecraft servers.

The promised date for delivery for the book is December 2018, so in theory I might get my copy by Christmas.  Yet I suspect it will be late.  Not every project I have backed has been long delayed, but I think the closest any project has come was to show up a month late.  It will be something for me to read early in the new year I hope.

Kickstarter and the Return of the World of Warcraft Diary

I wrote about the first run at the World of Warcraft Diary back in March.  I was concerned that the ask for the project was too much ($400,000) and that the publicity groundwork hadn’t been done for the project.  One of the rules of Kickstarter campaigns is that your core audience should know it is coming and be ready to support it.

Anyway, the campaign failed, but the author took what he learned to heart and said he would be back again with a second run with better groundwork and a more reasonable ask.  And so here we go with round two of the World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaign.

And it has funded already.

I got an email via the original campaign because I was a backer letting me know that the new round would be showing up this week.  But by the time I got around to check on it the campaign was already funded.

Op Success

That is crazy first day success, and the first day isn’t even done as I write this.  My usual minimum benchmark for success is 20% in the first 24 hours, but this is already past 1049% and the number keeps going.  The charts over at Kicktraq show the tale of the campaign.

So yes, this book looks like it will be a thing.

The level of success doesn’t really surprise me.  World of Warcraft is huge and still popular and has enough of a fanbase to support this level of effort… or even the first $400K level of effort… so long as the word gets out to the fans.

I mean, if Andrew Groen can get huge numbers out of the comparatively tiny EVE Online fan base, then the WoW fan base should be able to beat that in a blink.  I will be interested to see where this campaign ends up with such big initial interest.

Anyway, if you are interested the campaign will run through to the morning of September 25, 2018.  Again, you can find the campaign page here.