impending bankruptcy filing and cancellation of Kickstarted Winterkewl/Yogscast game Yogventures! and the alleged transfer of its assets over to TUG, a sandbox game by Nerd Kingdom that we've written about since its reveal last year. Journalists and gamers have suggested that in spite its claims to the contrary, Yogscast itself might be liable for refunds, as would any beneficiary of assets entangled in a future bankruptcy filing. We spoke to TUG's Peter "Ino" Salinas to shed light on the situation and its implications for TUG.
Massively: Yogscast has distanced itself from Winterkewl, the studio making Yogventures!, but statements made by Winterkewl seem to suggest that Yogscast is simply transferring its support for Winterkewl's game to your pre-existing game, TUG, causing Yogventures to go bankrupt and disavowing any obligation to underwrite the spent half million in Kickstarter funds. Is that your understanding of the situation? Can you clarify it for our readers?
Nerd Kingdom's Peter Salinas: There are a lot of details to the discussions that Yogs and Winterkewl had before we started to develop our friendship with the Yogscast. We were also honestly wary of the situation ourselves at first, having been aware of Yogventures! around the time we did our own Kickstarter campaign. The reality of the situation was this: A young and ambitious developer overscoped a project... this would not be the first time that happened; it's just a total bummer that it had to happen with a massive community involved. And during that time, the Yogscast group, knowing little enough about development, agreed to let them use their likeness in their own project. Yogs knew that Yogscast itself was not equipped to manage the project, so they let Winterkewl use their brand and a community to build on. Sadly in that process, all the milestones that were set by Winterkewl, which would have allowed the Yogscast to promote the project, never were hit. How can you promote or make an experience with nothing to share? Even we had our own time to put in before we were able to demonstrate anything reasonable.
As for the money, as with any Kickstarter, the amount of funds that are shown for reaching a goal are rarely what the completed campaign states. It's a huge issue, and is up to the developer to disclose that information publicly. Lots of large backers come in for what you think was $10k, but later you find out it was a young gamer who meant to put in $10 or even just do it to see if they can get away with it (I'm speculating there). The same happened to us. But in spite of all of this, it certainly could have been handled differently by both sides. But this could be said about anything, I suppose.
What sort of legal obligations to Yogventures!'s backers does Nerd Kingdom incur as a result of the acquisition of Winterkewl's assets? Doesn't Yogscast's transfer of these assets -- funded by Kickstarter -- to TUG imply Yogscast's involvement in the canceled project was more than a mere YouTube partnership?
Well, to clarify, although it was offered, we did not accept it. We are engineers and developers who love what we are doing, and that won't change. So with this, I don't know what kind of legal obligation exists. We are just trying to give the players a home, which ultimately is to our advantage at NK. These are all early believers in community and interaction in some form, and we can use their help to test what we are building, give feedback, and help inspire the rest of the community. It certainly could depending on how a journalist words it or pushes to imply such a thing :). But the fact of the matter is that Yogscast, like many YouTubers today, has become a very powerful and influential brand. It's not outrageous to think that any assets lost of floating in the event of a failure would be transferred back to Yogscast. I suppose Doritos would do the same thing with another app that got canned, instead of letting the flying spicy nacho chips float around for use in other people's games... delicious and innovative as that might sound. And we do think that Yogscast was only trying to help us out of gratitude for wanting to help them and their community, by offering those assets to speed things along. But it's just not as easy as frankensteining different things together to make something work.
Gamers might infer that Yogscast's lack of experience and poor judgment in the Yogventures! situation makes it a risky partnership, yet Nerd Kingdom joined forces anyway. Why? What makes NK confident that Yogscast won't divert support from TUG in a similar way should TUG fail to meet expectations? Isn't NK worried that the negative publicity could hurt TUG?
Sure, but to be fair, they might say a lot of things. I personally agree with this sentiment in part. There was a poor call here on both sides; Winterkewl should have been much more forthcoming about their experience and plans for use of funds very early on. And Yogscast should have done better to make clear that they had no direct involvement in the development of a game. A lot of this could have been avoided. We don't really have any set expectations with the Yogscast and NK partnership, aside from trying to make cool things. It's nothing exclusive; we just really like what they do and thought it would be fun to make content together. We will work with other YouTubers, modders, developers, researchers... we are not reliant on only them, though they are important to us, as any of our partners are and will be. Our own project has always been about collaboration and community, and we stated this from day one; we are simply practicing that here. And negative or not, we are happy for the chance to step up and prove ourselves and our own project; it's an opportunity to show people the amazing work we have done and continue to do. We are anxious to be challenged and step to the bat, we don't hide from anything, and we are always excited for people to question what we do. It's what drives us as developers.
We understand that Nerd Kingdom will be distributing TUG to the original Kickstarter backers of Yogventures!. Is NK doing anything else for them? What about Yogventures! backers who already paid for TUG independently -- is there a chance for refunds?
Yeah, we did think it would be pretty rad to do some TUG-themed content in some form. But bottom line is, it's our project and our world, so anything we do needs to fit and not take away from the tone. We take the worlds "narrative" very seriously, so it's gonna take some thought on how to handle it. Some of the solutions are unknown, but we are gonna look for solutions that make sense and make every happy that we can.
Can you talk about what sorts of assets you were able to accept from Yogventures! and whether they will speed up the production of (or change the direction of) TUG in a noticeable way? What about the Winterkewl developers -- will they be brought on to work on TUG? How much influence will the Yogscast folks themselves have over the future of TUG?
None, and we never will. We have an emotional attachment with everything we do... we like to do the research and build things from the ground up. This attachment is part of the reason we were happy to not use a shelf engine and do something on our own. This also is said for art assets for the project. Yogscast does not have any direct influence, but without question, if there is some fun content that we want to try out that we think would be neat for the Yogscast group to play with in the future, we will totally get them involved in the dialogue. I think without question that Yogscast did as much diligence on us as we did on them. We have turned down publishers, certain investors, and other partners in the past, we certainly would not accept someone just to make things easy. And I seriously doubt that Yogscast would put itself in a position to work closely with someone who was not up to snuff and could not make the Yogventures! backers happy. This is something that we actually share and something I admired about the Yogscast stepping up; it was more about their not wanting to let their community down after all of this more than it was about not pissing off backers. But now, it's going to be people confusing the two, and that's a bummer. Either way, it wont stop us from busting our chops to make something awesome. We have been on the project this long; no reason to change that now.
In a follow up email, Salinas clarified that none of the Winterkewl developers have been brought on to work on TUG. Thanks very much to him for discussing the situation with Massively.
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