Alex Peake’s Kickstarter project Code Hero was successfully funded back in February, but some of the projects 7,459 backers are now demanding their money back fearing that the project may have stalled. Some press reports even suggested that Primer Labs, Peake’s studio, was facing a lawsuit from a disgruntled backer.
Peake insists, however, that the project remains on track, and has made a public apology on Primer Labs’ website for failing to update backers regularly enough. The update also clarifies that the developer has been in touch with the individual that supposedly launched litigation, who confirmed in an email that this wasn’t the case and that his position has been “misinterpreted in some media reports”. Primer also moved to appease backers with a Google Hangout in which Peake spoke to concerned parties directly.
“It has been a gut-wrenchingly brutal experience being attacked from all sides and [by the] media over my failure to communicate with backers between releases,” Peake told us when we contacted him about the issue. “That was my bad, and I’m working to address that. But we’ve been hard at work on this game for two years, and though it has taken longer than we planned, we’ve never stopped working on it and we’re going to keep making it awesomer [sic] till it’s done and anyone can learn programming by playing.”
Peake goes on to express his disappointment that some sections of the game press has published articles quoting backers’ comments on the Kickstarter page as fact, and suggested that he had walked away from the project – accusations, he says, that he wasn’t offered adequate opportunity to respond to.
“At this point the only thing we can do is apologise for the communication failure, communicate what we’ve built, show what we’re building next and deliver regular updates and releases till the game’s done,” he adds.
The Code Hero update includes a FAQ which admits that Primer has already spent the $170,954 it raised through Kickstarter due to the project taking longer than originally estimated – a delay it puts down to having to expand the scope of the game to achieve its ambitions. However, it stresses that a team of developers is continuing to work on the project in a voluntary capacity. Kickstarter rewards, which remain unissued, will be handed out “closer to shipping” when the game reaches a beta state – the first alpha was released earlier in the year. Further more, it promises that progress updates, including screenshots and videos of new art and gameplay, will now be posted monthly.
Code Hero is hardly the first game to slip from its intended schedule, but the investment – both personal and financial – that backers have in the project has meant the delays have been felt more acutely. And while Peake is clearly a talented visionary, the problems his young studio has encountered highlight the perhaps disproportionate expectations placed on inexperienced developers by those that back their ambitious projects. If Peake can stick to his promise of regular updates, which show demonstrable progress, then there’s no reason to believe Code Hero won’t eventually be finished and should sate backers’ desire for better communication. But it will be enlightening to see just how far above the originally proposed budget (Primer asked for just $100,000 on Kickstarter) the final project will finally come in at.
The Code Hero campaign was launched in the same month as Double Fine Adventures, at a time before the best strategies on Kickstarter were so defined. Primer Labs got much of what is now considered essential right – it had a working prototype, plenty of screenshots and information, and an engaging video pitch – but it came up short on communication, arguably the most important post-funding aspect of any campaign. Todays backers feel deeply involved with the projects they pledge to, and it is no longer enough to drive enthusiasm and then get on with development away from their continued scrutiny.