The Doom that Came to Atlantic City was a Monopoly-inspired game that, like the much more popular Cthulhu Wars, put the player in the role of the Great Old Ones destroying the Earth. It was launched as a Kickstarter by The Forking Path on May 7, 2012 and concluded on June 6, 2012 well over its $35,000 goal, surpassing $122,000:
The Doom is a labor of love and terror from three exceptional talents. It is the brainchild of artist Lee Moyer, inspired by his love of the Cthulhu Mythos and disdain for a certain board game that shall not be named. Game designer Keith Baker is best known for the Origins Award winning card game Gloom, and he brings the same dark sense of humor to the devastation of Atlantic City. Keith and Lee have enlisted the help of their friend Paul Komoda to design some of the more eldritch visual elements of the game. His talents can be seen on-screen in the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing and Cabin In The Woods. He brings that vision and long association with H. R. Giger to his designs of the Great Old Ones.
Sounds good, right? There’s just one problem: The Kickstarter’s promised rewards never materialized. Worse, by The Forking Path principal Eric Chevalier’s own admission, the Kickstarter wasn’t funding a game, it was funding the company to LAUNCH the game:
From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom that Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects. Everyone involved agreed on this. Since then rifts have formed and every error compounded the growing frustration, causing only more issues. After paying to form the company, for the miniature statues, moving back to Portland, getting software licenses and hiring artists to do things like rule book design and art conforming the money was approaching a point of no return. We had to print at that point or never. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards for a variety of reasons.
Keith Baker responded on his blog:
When Lee and I first heard this news from Erik, it came as a shock. We’ve been working on this game for over a decade. In 2011 we had it ready to go to the printer with Z-Man Games, until a change in ownership dropped it from production. Based on the information we’d been receiving from the Forking Path we believed that the game was in production. It’s a personal and financial blow to both of us, but what concerns Lee and I is that people who believed in our work and put their faith in this Kickstarter have been let down… Lee and I don’t know exactly how the money was spent, why the backers were misled, what challenges were faced or what drove the decisions that led to the cancellation of the game. Not only did we not make any money from the game, we have actually lost money; as soon as we learned the true state of affairs, we engaged a lawyer to compel The Forking Path to come forward to the backers and to honor its pledge to issue refunds.
Baker made it clear that he and Lee Moyer received none of the funds raised by the Kickstarter and promised to produce a print-and-play version of the game at no cost. That didn’t quell the ire of the contributors, who dug into Chevalier’s past. Mighty Rabbit Studios commented:
Erik was a part of Joystick Labs – an independent game development incubator in Durham, NC – which formed five companies (mine included). Erik formed a company called Inari, Inc. and got $20,000 in seed funding to build a social pinball game. By the end of six months, the money was gone and there was nothing to show for it. Erik’s investors for Inari got completely burned. From what we saw, most of the money went towards buying stuff on Amazon.
Chevalier responded to the allegation:
Any references to my past business and involvement with the defunct Joystick Labs is irrelevant to this topic. From a surface level it may seem similar but that was a very different situation. Every company at Joystick was provided with the same amount of funds and not a single team delivered their qualifying projects within that budget or schedule. Expectations were set too high and the daily realities of independent video game development were drastically underestimated by all parties involved. The two games that did eventually reach the market were funded separately from the main program by outside investors or publishers, and neither found commercial success. The Joystick Lab owners were experienced venture capitalists and well aware of the risks involved with investing in start-ups. While explaining that entire situation could fill a large book it is really not relevant here.
As for the fact that Chevalier created a company, not a game, with the funds:
The company I started was meant to provide a framework for supporting The Doom that Came to Atlantic City with how-to-play videos, supplementary add-ons, and general customer support. The software licensed was needed to process art for press and do layout of elements such as the rulebook. The laptop used to edit the original pitch video could barely handle the high resolution files from the game’s creator, so I upgraded to a desktop computer that could deal with it. The move back to Portland from California was multi-pronged, but mainly in order to work in a less expensive and more supportive community that I felt would benefit the company, and by extension its customers, in time. Whether or not you think every cent should have gone to the printer and creators, and none to the publisher, it takes money just to get a project like this ready and build the framework that will keep it going after release. My hope was to one day use that framework to support additional games and allow the company to grow, just like any other business venture, but “The Doom” was first and central to the idea of the company. Without it The Forking Path ceases to exist. I put every effort into making this work and am more frustrated than anyone with its failure.
Steven Zeck pointed out that Chevalier started another company in April 2013:
In his summary of what he claims he intended for Forking Path, he states that he felt the need to create a company that could support the game. “Including creating How-To Videos”. Do you know a lot of games with how-to videos? That bit could be considered to be the excuse he used to justify supporting his “other” company, where he gets to be a cool hipster indie film producer. In a video from April, he refers to the “New Filming Rig” he’s just bought. He also created a new film company.. in April. “Suicide Pact LLC”.
Enough backers have filed legal complaints that the mainstream news media noticed. Chevalier pleaded for clemency from his backers:
Lastly I’d like to talk about the legal threats I’ve received in the last 24 hours. I know that any trust in what I say is gone for the great majority of you and I get it. There is nothing I can say at this point to repair that, I just have to hope that I’m not digging the hole deeper with every keystroke. I’ve publicly promised to repay EVERY backer because that is my obligation per the Kickstarter Terms of Service. I am contractually bound to do that much and I absolutely intend to. If I were to immediately pay back as many of you as I could right this moment a sizeable percentage would go unrefunded which would only cause more problems. If I’m dragged into court then everything will vanish into legal fees and I’ll never be able to refund anyone else. If a little more patience is dredged up from the depths and I’m given time to work and refill the coffers I can eventually, with some hard work and dedication, refund everyone.
Chevalier added in response to KATU’s inquiry:
Chevalier did promptly respond to an email from KATU News and stated that he “would very much like to get my side of the story out there, but at the moment I’m seeking legal advice.” He also stated “it was never a case of fraud, simply mistakes and unfortunate events behind the scenes.”
There are likely to be more details revealed as the various lawsuits come to light. Whatever the outcome, this latest failed Kickstarter serves as a reminder of the dangers of crowdsourcing.
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