Can You Help The Indie Stone?

By John Walker on May 18th, 2011 at 11:44 pm.

Scenes in Hartlepool this morning.

Are you an indie developer who’s set up to receive money without going through either Paypal or Google Checkout? How do you fancy helping The Indie Stone, who couldn’t be having more bad luck and misfortune in the run up to the release of Project Zomboid if they all fell down drains and their trousers caught fire. The last disaster was when they had their money frozen by Google. The latest madness to happen to the fledgling indie studio is an email from Paypal announcing that they’re closing their account because of “bad customer experiences”, none of which The Indie Stone has ever heard of, nor has been proven by Paypal. The developers, planning to release the demo for Zomboid in only three days, now have accounts with both companies either frozen or closing (with their funds unobtainable) despite neither company offering any helpful explanation. They need help.

Paypal’s email says,

“This measure is necessary to protect against the risk of bad customer experiences and financial losses, in view of certain activity related to your account that we have reason to believe has taken place.”

The team have yet to call Paypal to try to sort out this latest setback. Because, extraordinarily, their offices were evacuated today after a car exploded, and were then quarantined. They are officially the unluckiest developers in the world. Their lives are being written by the authors of The Brittas Empire. But this is the latest blow in a series of appeals, and their time has run out.

So perhaps you can help? Do you have a payment system established, which you could let them use for the pre-ordering and sales of their game? Maybe they’d plug you on their site, or you could all just get together and have some sort of overseas adventure where you capture a band of smugglers after which you become the fastest of friends for ever? Perhaps you’ve been through it, and know the way out. I don’t know how any of it works. I just know that smugglers will be caught.

You can get in touch with The Indie Stone by emailing: lemmy101@gmail.com.

For those who already pre-ordered, worry not, they have a plan. You can read it here.

Let’s get this situation sorted.

__________________

« | »

, , .

86 Comments »

  1. dadioflex says:

    I pre-ordered Starfarer to get access to the alpha and it used BMT as a payment mechanism – can’t they set up something like that for the demo, but call the demo the Alpha access for pre-orderers?

    • FLBR says:

      Yeah Grappling Hook used/uses BMT and I didn’t have a problem with that.

      But tell me, why isn’t Project Zomboid releasing on Steam? I’ve not been following this game.

    • dadioflex says:

      I guess they need the pre-orders to finish development whereas Steam would expect, ya know, an actual product before they sell it. Don’t really get pre-orders on Steam for small fry indies.

      Oh, obviously BMT would take a generous cut, but as has been demonstrated trying to use Google Checkout or Paypal without a corporate go-between is going to see you squashed like a bug.

    • JFS says:

      That’s just it. They have nothing to show to the public at the moment, so I guess Steam would not accept them. I bet they’re gonna anger their asses off after Zomboid has gone stellar, but at the moment there probably isn’t a real possibility to publish through Steam.

    • salejemaster says:

      UH OH the dev of grappling hook, hello there sir I quite like your game :D

    • FLBR says:

      @salejemaster; I wish I was!

    • salejemaster says:

      awwww, thought you where giving your point of view from the dev side not the customer side my mistake :P

    • qrter says:

      That’s quite an unexpected surprise, yes.

    • Richie Shoemaker says:

      Oooh, Starfarer looks right up my space-alley.

    • Dominic White says:

      I did a ‘first 25 minutes’ video bit on Starfarer here.

      http://www.diygamer.com/2011/05/starfarer_alpha_video/

      It’s all kinds of ace. Even without a campaign mode (it looks to have a pseudo-4x thing planned), it’s a really amazing space combat/tactics game. The next alpha build is apparently adding the option to add your own custom ships in new missions, if you can come up with an appropriate sprite.

    • Towercap says:

      Omigosh, Starfarer is *excellent*. So worth the tenner.

  2. Noc says:

    D:

  3. MythArcana says:

    Call Wikileaks and blow the IRS whistle on Paypal and see how they like frozen accounts.

  4. Ertard says:

    How does Paypal get away with stuff like this? I’ve seen it happen so many times.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Presumably a lot of small print when you create an account.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      They’re not obliged to do business with anyone. If they think you’re a risk, tough. As long as they’re not also stealing your money.

      Even if you aren’t able to set up a proper merchant account, there are still a whole lot more than two options out there. 2Checkout is a reputable one.

    • Mistabashi says:

      I would say that any internet payment provider is going to need a lot of clauses that stipulate they can immediately withold funds / close accounts pending further investigation if there’s any accusation or suggestion of dodgy dealings. It’s a business that is inherantly going to open to a lot of fraud, so they pretty much have to act first and ask questions later. We don’t yet know why this happened but presumably it isn’t just someone at Paypal deciding “let’s randomly hold this company’s account for shits and giggles”.

      I think the real isssue is the lack of actual human beings to deal with these issues promptly, and generally poor communication (although when the possibility of fraud is involved it’s often going to be beneficial not to ‘show your cards’ so to speak).

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Didn’t they used to just take people’s money and blow them off? I’m sure I had some reason for having “never do business with PayPal” seared across my frontal lobe.

    • somini says:

      PayPal is not a bank, therefore they don’t have to comply with those tiny rules the real banks have. Can you imagine having less regulation than banks? It’s crazy!!
      As result of my past experience, I too will never use PayPal again, unless it’s a life or death situation.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      To be fair, whether Paypal is a bank or not, they’re an excellent venue for money laundering, fraud, etc. I’m not in the online banking business, but according to my training in regular-banking, that sort of thing is a huge problem.

      In Paypal’s defense, they’ve never seen your face. All you need is a working email account. So when you set up a Paypal account, from their perspective there’s a pretty much even chance you’re pulling some kind of scam, because they have to deal with that kind of shit all the time.

      This is the real reason why Blizzard is so hard on gold farmers and people selling their accounts. Any time there’s any opportunity for criminals to make an easy buck, they will take it. And as soon as Blizzard and/or Paypal accidentally involve themselves in some kind of major organized crime they’ll be the ones being shut down by various law enforcement agencies.

      All you need is a working email account to set up a Paypal account, and you can say you’re just a poor Indie, but seriously: Paypal honestly can’t afford to take the risk that you’re not some Mafia type who’s laundering money via a website with screenshots ripped from some other source, until it’s been properly investigated. Real fraud happens all the time. It sucks that small developers are caught in the crossfire, but that’s better than the FBI/Interpol/whoever shutting Paypal down and there being no paypal at all.

    • battles_atlas says:

      @ MadTinkerer

      You seem to be under the strange impression that banks actually face any legal censure for criminal activities. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/03/us-bank-mexico-drug-gangs?INTCMP=SRCH

    • mike2R says:

      Anyone who acts as a payment processor does take a big risk of fraud. Someone stung Apple a few years back I seem to recall. Put up a song for sale on itunes, then used a load of stolen cards to purchase it and tried to do a disappearing act with the money – when the owners of the compromised cards noticed the unauthorised transactions the money was returned to them via chargeback – meaning that the money got taken back from Apple.

      Be easy enough to do something similar as an fake Indy game developer, with Paypal left holding the baby.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I don’t care what clauses they have in fine print, they should not be allowed to just take money that’s not theirs because of some obscure rule. They didn’t even say what the problem was in that form letter email they sent. Either way you slice it that’s downright shady and I don’t know how they get away with it. I’ve heard of this happening several times with Paypal for no apparent reason. They shouldn’t be allowed to do that, and I wish someone would take them to court.

    • Big Murray says:

      The irony is that in simply taking the money with no adequete reason, Paypal are effectively committing an act of fraud themselves.

    • Deano2099 says:

      What you’re missing there is the money *is* theirs.

      When you pay PayPal, you pay PayPal. It’s entirely up to them what they do with the money. Any money in a PayPal account belongs to PayPal. When you withdraw it, you ask them to send you that money. Again, they can do what they want.

      The thing is, of course, is that if they didn’t do the right thing, no-one would use them. But I’m fairly sure PayPal could close down tomorrow, the owners could pocket the contents of anyone’s account, and there’s nothing you could do about it.

      They’re not a bank, they don’t face those banking regulations, and frankly it’s because of that freedom that they’re actually able to offer the service they do (ie. there’s a reason HBOS didn’t set up PayPal first). If they were made liable for the money, they’d have to be a lot more stringent about who they let set up merchant accounts, just like a bank.

      Not a great situation, and PayPal can be dicks, but that’s the cost of the service.

      TLDR: PayPal isn’t a bank, it’s a transfer service. Use it like the latter.

  5. Hunam says:

    I think it’s time they phoned some poor person at google and paypal and started threatening legal papers.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Yes, Google and Paypal are so poor there is no way they will be able to afford a defence team, muhaha.

    • trjp says:

      PayPal will point to their T&Cs and that’s all they need to do – you can threaten anything from legal action to the apocalypse, I reckon their T&Cs will cover it.

    • rivalin says:

      Jesus, people’s lack of legal knowledge is breathtaking; YOU CAN WRITE ANYTHING IN TERMS AND CONDITIONS, THAT DOES NOT MEAN IT IS ENFORCEABLE!

      You know when you buy a toaster that says in its instructions “we are not liable for death or injury caused by faulty manufacture or negligence on our part”, guess what? THEY ARE!

      EULA’s- NOT ENFORCEABLE!

      Any bullshit that Paypal/Google Checkout put in their T & C’s that runs contrary to UK contract law is not enforceable.

      At the very least, something has to change, any money disputed should be held by a third party until the dispute is reolved. Also the injured party should be able to demand their money be handed over or the incident immediately reported to the police (how many fraudsters are going to ask the police to get their money back?)

      Why are large businesses not held to the same standard as everyone else?

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Just because they have a lot of money and can hire top of the line lawyers doesn’t mean they can get away with shady and/or illegal business practices. Judges rule against large corporations all the time.

  6. qrter says:

    Yet another reminder why I cut Paypal out of my life. Not to be trusted.

    • Laephis says:

      Yep, I cut out Paypal, too. I recently wanted to subscribe to RPS, but with Paypal as the only option, I had to hold off. What a shame.

    • sassy says:

      I still use them but don’t trust them even slightly. I basically use them as a way to hide my credit card details online, so paypal never see my money. This has the added benefit of protection from paypal and the even greater protection from my bank.

      Still I wouldn’t trust any of them, they are the biggest scammers.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      You think Paypal are going to steal your $2 subscription to RPS? isn’t that a bit low, even by their standards?

    • Lilliput King says:

      crimson: Laughing all the way to the bank, buying pennywhistles and lollipops.

    • westyfield says:

      @Crimsoneer

      I don’t think there’s a worry that Paypal would steal RPS subscription fees, it’s more that Paypal have demonstrated themselves to be a shower of pillocks, and I’d rather have nothing to do with them.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Even though it would be a pain in the ass you could always get one of those prepaid Visa cards that let you reload it with money. I think there are fees involved with those so you’d have to check it out thoroughly.

  7. Diziet Sma says:

    This is such a shame, I gladly donated when I heard about the project and did so with Paypal just before their problems arose with Google. :( I hope they managed to get something sorted and recover the funds in their Paypal account through the arbitrary processes they (Paypal) deem necessary. :(

  8. Matt says:

    Yeah, I would suggest using something like BMT, Fastspring, or Plimus (although apparently cliffski isn’t a fan of the third) rather than freeze-happy PayPal.

  9. TsunamiWombat says:

    Start complainging, as customers, to both Paypal and Google for this situation. Write letters. Threaten to withdraw your business.

    If the internet can rally around that Geohot guy, why can’t it help these guys?

  10. Miidgi says:

    I thought the Google thing got resolved? They posted that Google had apologized for the issue and will be returning their money “soon” weeks ago. Did they never get it?

  11. trjp says:

    The problem is that accounts with PayPal and Google Checkout are strung with nasty one-sided rules and regulations and neither is regulated as a bank or regular credit company would be – there are few rules which apply to what they do, basically…

    My experience with PayPal is that if you contact them formally, presenting yourself as a proper company (registration numbers, vat/tax references etc.) then they will sort things out and you can keep getting money through them – it will take time tho.

    Google definately encourage this – the basic ID they ask for (a credit/debit card) won’t get you far, they want proper company registration stuff (pref. US based with SS numbers, sadly).

    Remember, you may know you’re a legit individual offering a great game or whatever – but to PayPal you’re no different to the 1000s of scammers, cheats and conmen they deal with every single day – unless you make yourself different…

  12. kickme22 says:

    One that you DO NOT WANT TO USE click and buy. We preordered a game then cancelled the preorder click and buy then froze our account with 50 dollars still locked in it. We then called customer support, it was based in england and they wanted passport and driver’s license information over the phone.
    Our account is still frozen and we ended up canceling that credit card because we were afraid of identity theft.

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, Clickandbuy is another shitty one, they made a mistake in their administration which ended up in my Steam account being locked down. Luckily I could convince C&B the mistake was theirs, and my Steam account was opened up again. Did take a couple of weeks, C&B are much like Paypal in the awful faceless customer service respect.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I never had a problem with Click&Buy.

  13. scut says:

    I believe it was in the last post regarding Indie Stone’s Google Checkout woes that someone mentioned Bitcoin. Indie Stone should start accepting Bitcoin donations and pre-orders.
    It will be a low-risk option for Indie Stone, because few people will be able to pay in Bitcoins at this point, but the upside is that the transactions will be secure and cannot be frozen by some corporation. Bitcoins already have surprisingly stable market value, so anyone accepting them can sell them at the end of the day if they prefer to have their savings in a different currency.

    Of course they should also get setup with BMT or a similar conventional service for credit card transactions. Diversity always pays off.

    • hadrianw says:

      I was thinking about BitCoin too – http://www.bitcoin.org/
      But do they dare to support it? ;)

    • hexapodium says:

      @frightlever so long as someone, somewhere, is offering bitcoin exchange services, it’s a perfectly reasonable currency. It may have all sorts of issues related to not having a central bank, but that just renders it a shock-happy currency rather than one smoothed through intervention. I wouldn’t call it a long-term investment, and I wouldn’t want to have a bank account denominated in it, but as a short-term medium of exchange (someone buys bc, buys a game, and your payment processor immediately converts back out) it’s fine. Certainly web stores are capable of real-time pricing in response to the exchange rate on their favoured exchange.

    • Nesetalis says:

      bitcoins is probably the best solution for this… :p so many ways to convert random currencies to BTC and back again… plus no one to freeze your account!

  14. Tailsn says:

    The same thing happened with my company – one day PayPal just decided they didn’t want us around anymore. So they gave us the boot.

    Then we found AlertPay. It’s PayPal without the stick in the mud bit.

  15. Laephis says:

    Both AmEx and Visa are planning to compete with Paypal this year. Hopefully their service will be a substantial improvement. More info can be found here:
    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/223676/american_express_takes_on_paypal_in_online_payments_war.html
    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/222396/visa_to_offer_persontoperson_payments.html

    Edit: It looks like AmEx’s Serve is up and running now.

    http://www.serve.com/

    • qrter says:

      Thing is, I don’t want anything to do with credit cards, either.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      No matter what service you use, there’s going to be someone who don’t want anything to do with it.

      Also: You can do anything in Project Zomboid.

  16. Moris says:

    I rent a VPS on egypt and when they got shutdown by the government paypal canceled their account, they’re now using 2CheckOut which allows paypal as well as credit cards.
    Edit: kickstarter is for us only and now charges 5% of the pledge so I guess its not the best option for them.

  17. Zyrxil says:

    Have they tried Amazon Payments? Latest paypal competitor.

  18. Yosharian says:

    What the hell… These guys have the worst luck.

  19. BloodPukeSalvation says:

    /me thinks google and paypal teamed up and the outcome was an attempt to blow up their offices via a car bomb. obviously it failed… these guys are also terrible at getting murdered.

    honestly, i cant wait till this gets sorted out as ive been planing on purchasing the game so long as the reviews are decent (and by that i mean a few RPS folk recommending it) AND theres some kind of functional payment system (and by that i mean they can actually take the money i give them).

    to those that have pre-ordered. have you received some kind of serial key yet? i would assume that the devs will actually release the game to those that have purchased it even though they are having trouble getting hold of the money.

    • JFS says:

      Yes, we have gotten one. Two caveats though, 1) it doesn’t work yet as they haven’t put the work-in-progress version online at this time, and 2) quite a few people haven’t gotten it due to a bug in the sending routine. Also, several guys found it in their spam folder. However, while there are problems, the developers seem to be hellbent on handing over at least something to the pre-orderers in order to sustain credibility and reputation, despite all the setbacks. I, for one, trust in them.

  20. MiniMatt says:

    @MadTinkerer – that is actually a pretty good response and at least sets out the problems and options faced. I tend to disagree with the final analysis though, that Paypal et al don’t have the systems to investigate fraud thoroughly in the manner real banks would and so have to take a broad brush approach which necessarily means there will be mistakes – and the choice is a straight, take it or leave it. Surely real banks could make the same argument? Real banks had to put in all the systems you talk of because consumers and legislators demanded fraud protection with low(ish) levels of mistaken heavy handedness.

    Anyone making, or thinking they’re going to make, any kind of money (and by this I mean turnover, not profit – this game could make tens of thousands but I would guess if you work out the time and effort they would still all end up working for minimum wage or less) is going to attract at least the attentions of the tax man. As such one would expect attention to things like company formation, accountants fees etc – adding a merchant bank app to take payments (which would involve far more detailed background checks than a functional email address) doesn’t seem to onerous an extra task or expense? I may very well be being naive here as the last time I set such a thing up was a good decade ago for a small law firm, but if I recall the initial setup cost was about what I was paying for a low-end 1u server at the time, and the running costs were reasonable (and I suspect cheaper than paypal rates).

    Perhaps I am being naive here – like I say it’s been ages since I last set one up – how realistic is it to expect anyone expecting to take eg thousands of pounds through a payment system to set up a payment system with a proper regulated (and demanding of checks in return) bank?

    • rivalin says:

      You’re not being naive except in so far as assuming that 99% of the population isn’t completed terrified of anything remotely “business”, “companies house, charters, incorporation, that sounds jolly complicated and Not For Me” goes the refrain of the indie programmer until they’ve made enough money that they have to do it for tax reasons (or a few million and can hire someone to do it for them a la Notch)

      But really it’s not very complicated if people can get past their innate phobia of it, and is the sort of thing that makes dealing with shit like this significantly easier.

  21. Assaf says:

    this is so sad, i hope they’ll have more luck from now on.

  22. Atic Atac says:

    Apparently Steam doesn’t like “lower-resolution games” as evident by their recent reasoning for turning down the fantastic Gemini Rue.

    • phlebas says:

      That was the reason? How silly.

    • bglamb says:

      They released Terraria quick enough.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I guess the 800×600 of Terraria is fine, but the 320×200 of Gemini Rue isn’t. For whatever reason.

      Edit: Maybe the Steam overlay doesn’t work at that resolution. It’s pretty crammed at 800 already.

  23. bglamb says:

    I know they are claiming innocence in all this, and Paypal don’t have the best record, but is it not possible that there *is* a reason their accounts keep getting frozen?

    It seems quite bold to request someone get their own account involved if there’s even a chance of wrong-doing on their part, and your investigation seems to consist of nothing but them telling you they are innocent.

    • JFS says:

      Problem is, no one except Paypal knows exactly what happened, and they don’t really tell you. That’s the big issue.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Aye, it’s possible that they’re the unluckiest developer in the world. It’s genuinely more likely that there’s something more going on.

      Before you kill me: I’m not saying there’s something more going on. I kinda trust RPS that they wouldn’t have posted this and encouraged people to help if they didn’t have all the details.

      But on the balance of probabilities it *looks* well dodgy.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      All the previous strongly suggests that the Zomboid developers are bumbling idiots business-wise. Incompetence vs malice, etc.

      I’m sure they’re lovely people who are nothing but honest. I’m sure they’re not running a scam. They just have no idea how to distinguish themselves from those who are, they’ve made several foolish mistakes, and so it all looks alike to Paypal and Google.

    • lemmy101 says:

      I’m a games programmer, Jim!

  24. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Well, someone smashed the mirror in the bathroom so there you go.

    But seriously, hope they start getting a bit more luck headed their way, and hopefully their game gets a good enough write up on RPS so I can justify buying it!

  25. DeanLearner says:

    What takes the piss is, once this developer gets some publicity, paypal will come out and say “here you go, all better, indie developers are important to us blah blah” and flick the switch letting them back on.

    At the same time, they will just switch things off for others without a proper explanation because it’s easier and that’s poor.

  26. BloodPukeSalvation says:

    anyone know the total sum of frozen funds?

    wouldnt be surprised if it hasnt been mentioned but am curious as to the amount if it has been.

    • Baggypants says:

      Why would that be anyone’s business? regardless of weather it’s £50 or £50,000 if an account is being closed due to poor customer experience you’d think they’d provide some evidence.

    • BloodPukeSalvation says:

      the paypal vs minecraft fiasco had the total withheld value exposed. this was, however, a very large sum of cash so i suppose it helped make headlines. so… its not uncommon for the amount withheld to be publicized. in any case, i just wanted to know if it had been mentioned. doenst matter that its not. i agree that it doesnt make the scenario and less troubling.

  27. Atic Atac says:

    How can I as a Google Checkout buyer help them out and tell Google I willingly parted with my funds to them?

    • patricij says:

      as it is quite hard to get in touch with anyone in control and not auto-reply bots, there is little to do, I’m afraid…

  28. bonjovi says:

    *puts politics hat on
    The only reason this is happening is because of the stupid regulations. they’re scared of laundering money, a phenomenon that is created by prohibition. So the need to regulate because previous regulations created new problems. I’m sure someone will start regulating this problem soon or win election promising that :-)

    • Ezhar says:

      No, this is happening because PayPal is actually evil. Not merely incompetent and uncaring, but malicious.

  29. Feet says:

    The Brittas Empire has aged terribly. Don’t rewatch it, just hold tight your memories from the 90s instead.

  30. phlebas says:

    A quibble: That email doesn’t claim there have been bad customer experiences. It says there has been some (as yet unspecified) suspect activity on the account, and they’re locking it down because fraud often leads to bad customer experiences and financial losses. It’s a pretty reasonable thing to do if the account looks as though it might have been hacked or used for fraud/money laundering. The lack of a quick and transparent resolution process is what they should be spanked for.

  31. Big Murray says:

    Their next project should be a game about them releasing this game. It would be an epic underdog story.

    The CEO of Paypal would be the final boss.

  32. OJ287 says:

    Can’t give it back mate, that’d be a financial loss wouldn’t it. I’m a geezer I’m a little bit whuuugh, a little bit wheeey!