You may or may not be familiar with Hello, Neighbor!. If not, it’s an AI-centric first-person puzzler that has players trying to break into their mysterious neighbor’s basement in an attempt to uncover their darkest secrets. I think it looks as terrifying as it does unique, in the weirdest of ways too, and it totally has my interest piqued. There’s something really compelling about the project’s stylish prototype trailer, too, which you should definitely check out if you’ve yet to see it.

That said, with 26 days to go, the project has so far only managed to raise $9,157 of its $100,000 goal. It’s still early, of course, but its not too soon to ask whether the project is failing to pick up momentum, and to assess the reasons why.

Could it be that Hello, Neighbor is a hard sell? The premise is definitely hard to envision without actually seeing the game in action, and as well-made as the prototype trailer is, it’s clearly very directed. Even I’m having trouble seeing how the game could naturally play out over several hours.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Hello, Neighbor! is so dependent on the performance of its artificial intelligence, either. How many previous games have sold themselves on allegations of incredible, ground-breaking AI, only to fall flat when the AIs in question have failed to live up to their hype? The legacy of such titles is usually preserved over a thousand YouTube videos that reduce stupid enemies to humorous memes. It could be that the Kickstarter community has little faith in a game so dependent on AI getting things right, or of such a concept being executed effectively.

Then again, it could also be a lack of faith in the studio itself.

Hello, Neighbor!Russian developer Dynamic Pixels is new to Kickstarter, Hello, Neighbor! being its first crowdfunded project. The campaign page is certainly well put-together, and the game has an official website for further information. There are screenshots, gifs, videos, stretch goals, backer rewards, information on the team members – everything a backer could want, really. I can’t discuss Dynamic Pixels any further, however, before digging into the team’s own dark secrets.

A lengthy comment posted to our second article on the game under the name of Mike Bazhenov tells a rather interesting story. I can’t confirm the validity of this comment, of course, or the accuracy of anything Bazhenov claims, but it’s in the public’s interest to have this information related, and so I’m going to present it here in full:

‘Probably, I am the main backer of this project from Minakov Mikhail – my ex partner in Dynamic Pixels.

A few days ago, by coincidence of fate, it is 2 years from the date of the decision to exit from my company. And the deadline for the closure of the last payment on the Minakov Mikhail’s debt in payment of my share.

And I saw such an event – Mikhail gaining new debt and gives new promises on Kickstarter.

Past

11 years ago we started with Minakov Mikhail game company named Dynamic Pixels, and worked for 9 (!) Years together… In the end, Minakov Mikhail was boss in sales office Moscow, and I was a development office in Voronezh.

When our business stay more stable, Minakov Mikhail, with the help of his father – a CFO of Dynamic Pixels, reorganized the ownership structure. So I became not legally protected – temporally as they said. But we startupers – we were not up to legal technicalities, we have a lot of work and a good relationship!

Working at trust until 2013Q2. I was ignored in another try to bring the ownership structure in the order. Aditional – our strategic views became different.

Having released all the current projects and assisting in obtaining the contract for a large project, I have decided that it’s time to go their separate ways. Good solution for both.

I had to take one of the sugested exit scheme by Minakov Mikhail (I hope you understand why). And also he refused to sell his share in the company on the basis of the his own assessment.

Moreover, Mikhail has asked installments for 2 years (for 2 years company was provided with cashflow, with skilful management). He even made a few payments with a few monthes delay.

Now

The result of so friendly exit: 1.5 years as Minakov Mikhail not pay his debts, and more than a year did not get in touch.

He did not apologize. Do not asked me to wait more. At the same time, as far as I know, not in poverty. He continued to receive cashflow and use expensive loyal traffic from our products, use mine team and office where I made repairs by my own hands.

Our last meeting in early autumn 2014 ended with the phrase “no money.” Mikhail prudently did not come to the meeting on the new expensive car (about which I has already known from the my team). In his hands was the money, much more than he asks now – and where are they?

I have not disclosed the situation, do not headhunt my ex team. Despite the fact that delays and “ugly” behavior began from the first day of my exit – I was patient. I hoped that Minakov Mikhail not a crook. Still, we starts from zero and worked 9 years together and agreement more than money.

Minakov Mikhail has to pay the debt, otherwise it is not the legal full owner of real Dynamic Pixels and this project too.

My 2 years non-intervention – does not give the possibility to refer, the fact that something has gone wrong because of me.

But the time has come – community should know with whom has a business relationships.

Mike Bazhenov,
co-founder, co-owner (2004-2013-?), ex CTO (2004-2013) of Dynamic Pixels’

His comment isn’t rendered in perfect English, of course, but Bazhenov seems to be accusing Dynamic Pixels of some shady business relations – particularly its CEO, Mikhail Minakov, who he claims is technically not the full legal owner of Dynamic Pixels and Hello, Neighbor!. Again, the linguistic difficulties here make the situation somewhat unclear, but I gather that much from his comment, at least.

Hello, Neighbor!Whether true or not, Bazhenov’s accusations could prove to be damning to the campaign. There’s no quicker way to kill backer support than to put a developer’s trustworthiness into question. It’s worth noting that Bazhenov’s comments were posted to Kickstarter too, though they don’t seem to have been met with much response, if any. That said, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been read by anybody browsing the page. His remarks have the potential to damage the community’s belief in the project, which is a shame, too, because Hello, Neighbor! has a really intriguing premise, and everything seemed fine with the campaign beforehand.

Naturally, I decided to contact Dynamic Pixels’ Mikhail Minakov to hear his side of the story. He was perfectly communicative with me, and provided this response:

‘Dear Gary,

It has come to our attention that a former member of the Dynamic Pixels team has been posting false claims in an effort to discourage and discredit our crowdfunding efforts. This is unfortunate and, in an effort to not give such claims creedence or turn our campaign into a “he said, we said”, we have refrained from responding publicly.

However, the facts from Dynamic Pixels’ perspective are these:

Mike Bazhenov was an early employee and had been working for the company as a Technical Director for 9 years. He was not a co-founder, nor does his name appear on any legal DYNAMICPIXELS LTD documents (Mikhail Minakov is listed as the sole founder).  As a member of top management, Mike Bazhenov was entitled to some bonuses including revenue share  (a precentage of the profits) on products completed during his employ. Two years ago he decided to leave the company and requested severance pay equal to an annual revenue (not profit) of the company. To be clear, there was no legal basis for such request, nor any such agreement in place, so his request was rejected.

As a thank-you for his 9 years of service, Dynamic Pixels paid Mike Bazhenov a bonus in the amount close to his annual salary. Again, that bonus was paid in appreciation of his service, as there was no legal agreement or basis for a ‘buy out’ or continued revenue payments in place. Mike took said bonus payment, but didn’t accept the decision that there would be no further payment, and we could not reach an “amicable agreement”.

Later, as he saw that the company was growing and getting bigger projects, Mike began contacting me seeking additional payments, claiming that these new projects were possible thanks to his previous work for the company. It was explained to him that these new projects had no connection with him, and all revenue from mutual projects (projects with which he was involved) had stopped panning out. There was nothing to talk about. Since then I stopped answering his emails and calls.

We also believe that Dynamic Pixels fulfilled any and all obligations to Mike Bazhenov; view his continued requests for money as a form of extortion, and are prepared to seek legal action to counter his financial claims.

The timing and manner of Mike Bashenov’s comments are most unfortunate, and I am dismayed that this situation could not be resolved in a civilized manner at some point following his departure two years ago. At this juncture my team has been undeservingly hurt. They had no knowledge of the soured relations with Mike Bazhenov until now and, in his efforts to do me harm, he endangers their hard work – work to which he holds no claim or relation.

It is unclear at this point how many backers, if any, have been discouraged by Mike Bazhenov’s comments. To date, we have received only words of encouragement from our community, that such issues must be solved another way. It is not our wish to air any company ‘dirty laundry’ in a public forum, nor do we wish to comment any further on Mike Bashenov’s claims, except to say that we are saddened to have the name of the company and the hard work of the team dishonored in this manner.

– Mikhail Minakov, CEO and founder of Dynamic Pixels’

I refuse to take a side in this debate either way based on such little information. Like Minakov implies, it essentially comes down to Bazhenov’s word against Minakov’s. The Kickstarter community will have to decide for themselves where they stand in this dispute.

Hello, Neighbor!

With regard to Hello, Neighbor! itself, it remains to be seen whether any of this drama has or will affect the game’s ability to secure funding. Maybe it’s one of the reasons the project has failed to pick up an early momentum, or perhaps it has had no influence on the campaign at all. Based on what they’ve already presented of the game, though, I have faith that Dynamic Pixels will get the project done should they manage to reach their target, but I can’t help but view the background to this campaign with a little bit of confusion now.

Drama aside, I still think Hello, Neighbor! looks really interesting, and I’d love to see the game get made.


For more on Hello, Neighbor!, check out our previous coverage, its campaign page on Kickstarter, and follow the game on Twitter. Stay tuned to Cliqist for future coverage.

Gary Alexander Stott
Gary Alexander Stott is a handsome young writer from Scotland absolutely brimming with talent, who feels his best feature is his modesty. When it comes to overthinking narrative and storytelling in games, his otherwise useless degree in English with Creative Writing comes in very handy indeed.
Gary Alexander Stott

@GaryAStott

Production Assistant at @LockwoodLKWD. Working on @AvakinOfficial. Follow me for games industry thoughts and analysis. All views expressed are my own.
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