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Code Hero's buggy Kickstarter has backers preparing to draw legal lines in the sand


Code Hero's Kickstarter concluded on February 24, 2012, with 7,459 people pledging $170,954, almost doubling the project's requested amount and pushing that cash straight to developer Alex Peake. Peake described Code Hero as a game to help people, especially kids, learn how to code, and said he would use the money to launch a version of the game on August 31, with a Code Hero webseries and MMO also in the works.

Ten months later, on December 12, Code Hero had yet to launch in any form and Peake was absent from the Kickstarter conversation. Backers of the Code Hero Kickstarter fumed in the comments, informally requesting their money back, asking Peake where their rewards were, and questioning if Code Hero was a legitimate project at all. Leading the comment swarm was Dustin Deckard, a backer who had given Code Hero $300, but was now considering legal action against Peake and his studio, Primer Labs.

That night we spoke to Deckard and Peake in a Google Hangout. Peake expressed regret over his poor communication and promised he would launch alpha 2, a new version of Code Hero, as an update on its Kickstarter the next day, and that he would provide updates to the Kickstarter on the first of every month.

By January 8, 2013, the second alpha had yet to materialize on Kickstarter or the Primer Labs website, and January 1 passed without a whisper from Peake.

"I have little to no hope that Code Hero will ever be completed," Deckard told us. "The list of features is still unknown, its art style is unknown, its online functionality is unknown."

Joystiq made multiple attempts to contact Peake for clarification, but he failed to respond. Deckard, however, had plenty to say.

"What I should have been doing is putting out, at least, small updates."Alex Peake, Code Hero

"He last emailed me on the 26th, which I haven't replied to as of yet," Deckard said. "He offered me his cell phone and assured me that he cannot possibly be working any faster. I found this frustrating, because it seems to me that he updated me (and me only) in hopes that I would update his community for him. That's why I didn't respond to his email. He didn't answer any of my questions - he just chimed in to say 'still working.'"

When we spoke to Peake in December, he had a chance to review his communication strategy and promised he would update the Kickstarter more often.

"It's hard to think of an answer that doesn't sound really stupid in retrospect, because I feel really stupid for not following the comments more closely," Peake said. "I was focusing on development and trying to finish the game so that I could address all people's questions as a whole, instead of just individually, and what I should have been doing is putting out, at least, small updates."

Aside from one update about a new Unity feature posted on the Primer Labs website – not on the Kickstarter – Peake remained silent.

Code Hero update Four weeks later
Kickstarter makes it clear that project creators are obligated to deliver their rewards, and failure to do so is grounds for a refund or legal action on behalf of the backers.

Of the 50 backers that Deckard asked, not one received a refund. Deckard had his own conclusions about why that was: "This is obviously a sensitive topic, one which even I have refrained from bringing up, because if people start asking for their money back again he's going to be hard-pressed to provide it. He's broke."

"I'm slowly beginning talks with a handful of legal experts who are interested in defining some clearer lines in the sand when it comes to crowd-funded projects like this one."Dustin Deckard, Code Hero backer

Peake said he sold a moderate amount of Code Hero copies on the Primer Labs website every day, so he may have some sort of cash flow. Deckard wished Peake would use that money to fulfill backer rewards. Barring that, Deckard said he was investigating legal avenues.

"This whole thing has raised some interesting and new questions," Deckard said. "I'm slowly beginning talks with a handful of legal experts who are interested in defining some clearer lines in the sand when it comes to crowd-funded projects like this one. What exactly Alex Peake is legally obligated to deliver is entirely unknown. That's very concerning when you consider that 7,459 people opened their wallets to him, some of those people being educators. Whether any of it was intentional deceit doesn't matter at this point. If they were misled, accidentally or not, that's a problem, and I believe that we should make efforts to ensure it doesn't happen any more."

Most of all, Deckard said he'd rather the entire fiasco was over with already.

"At this point, I don't have much interest in beating the guy up any more than I have, albeit inadvertently. Some, identifying as Alex's friends, have accused me of ruining his entire life. That was never my intention."

As for Peake's intentions, Kickstarter backers can only guess. And they are.

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