Cult: Awakening of the Old Ones first launched on Kickstarter on June 5, 2012. It promised a release by October that year, already an ambitious schedule. It’s been over three years and that promised release date is little more a fuzzy memory, if that, than a day anyone remembers playing a new Kickstarted game.
Initially pitched as an RPG in a “user-generated world with a strong focus on storytelling, exploration, and environmental interaction,” little has been seen or heard of the game in quite some time. And by that I mean the last update on the Kickstarter page was October 15, 2014.
Before all communication was severed, late 2013 and all of 2014 were entirely dedicated to handing out refunds. No less than six updates were posted throughout that span detailing refunds, why it was taking so long, and how long much longer it would take. It was after another of these updates that the developer mysteriously vanished; seemingly taking whatever money was left and running.
Until a few days ago, that is. Out of the blue, an update simply titled “Update” was posted by the developer. The post rambles on for several paragraphs, and reads like someone half trying to apologize and half pitch a new reality TV show. Apparently, the developer was working as a live-in caregiver to an old man, allowing him to work without worrying about paying rent. The old man passed away however, forcing the developer to find a new home. It took several months for him to find a job, and when he did, his girlfriend lost hers.
I’m not sure if I believe the post in its entirety, but that doesn’t matter. I more question the intent behind posting it after such a long time. It feels more like a way of garnering sympathy from backers than providing an explanation as to the absence. It seems to be working for the developer, as a majority of the comments are all along the lines of “I don’t need a refund, good luck.”
The backers who don’t want refunds are fine, it’s their money and they can do whatever they want with it. However, the backers who do want a refund clearly aren’t getting one, not after all this time and after the developer cut and ran once before. Either way, both sides seem to be taking this surprisingly well.
And of this I am of two minds. Whether the developer’s story is true or not is irrelevant here, but it’s clearly emotional manipulation, something that can only come from these small indie developers. Imagine Konami’s CEO emerging from his golden pyramid in the sky and saying he fired Kojima because his hamster died and now he feels bad. Are you going to forgive him for that?
On the other hand, this is Kickstarter, not a preorder service. Every project you spend money on is a potential risk, especially with these one man development teams that never made a game before. I don’t want to say that anyone who doesn’t understand that deserves to lose their money, but with how much has been written about failed Kickstarters and the company’s refund policy, you kind of have to.
The developer didn’t have to post anything and backers wouldn’t have been able to do anything to get their money back. Heck, some of them possibly even forgot they backed this in the first place until now. He did say he’s working on a novel now, and is willing to give all the backers a free copy, for whatever that’s worth. It seems development on the game has been canceled.
The fact of the matter is, whether this guy is telling the truth or not doesn’t matter. He’s under no legal obligation to refund people their money, even if he did refund some people but not all. It was scummy to go silent for 14 months, but even still, he didn’t have to post an update at all. Hero or villain, guy with bad luck or liar, how you view this guy is up to you.