Kickstopped: The Strange Case of Mythic: Gods & Men

By Alec Meer on May 1st, 2012 at 4:30 pm.

herp derp I can use paintbrush derp

While this last month or so has littered the digital ground with the beautiful blossom of Kickstarter triumphs (and not just in games; dunno about you, but I am in MAXIMUM NERDJOY mode about a Pebble watch winging its way to me later this year) this week has shown the potentially seedy underbelly of rampant crowdsourcing. The strange, faintly disturbing tale of Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men was uncovered by Something Awful, picked up by our very own forum and from there sent on to Reddit, which in turn led to the project in question’s shutting down.

Now that’s what I call crowd-sourcing. Well done, forum. We promise to find a way to deal with the spam in thanks.

You might already have heard that Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men mysteriously shut its Kickstarter page down late last week, but what we didn’t know was why. Now we may do. Specifically, that much of what had gone up on the Gods & Men Kickstarter page appeared to have derived from other sources. This included game assets, but it also included photographs of what was claimed to be developer Little Monster Productions’ offices.

Which is a bloody funny business for sure. Little Monster claimed the motivation in closing the project was because they actually had enough funding after all. Which makes it rather odd that the majority of information about Little Monster as a company either never existed or has been methodically removed from the internet subsequently.

I quote shamelessly from Xeophyte on the RPS forum, who picked this up from Something Awful:

  • God character art is from here, just with a sepia filter applied.
  • Backgrounds are from here and here.
  • Poster consists of this icon on top of this texture.
  • Their sword reward pictures are from here.
  • The reward tier text and values are copied wholesale from The Banner Saga’s kickstarter, with just a game name search & replace.
  • Their office photos are just crops from the Burton Design Group.

Meanwhile, claims such their being “the same team that left Activision / Blizzard in search of something better” after working on Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft (‘2009-2011′) and that “Animations will be done via motion capture thanks to some friends at Disney/Pixar” perhaps seemed a little too good to be true. Right now, it does seem as though they were.

The last that was heard from Little Monsters themselves was “As for the concept art, it seems we have been subjected to false claims of ownership right to our concepts. The game itself is well in progress and is NOT a scam of any kind. Thank you for understanding. If you have any furthure questions please feel free to ask.” That was three days ago. Then there was project closure. Then there was silence. And discomfort. Great, great discomfort.

There may be far more yet to come out in the wash, or perhaps Little Monster have been horribly misrepresented and will soon tell their side of the story. In either case, until it’s cleared it seems a mercy that the project ‘only’ drew $4,739 of its $80k goal before being shut down.

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70 Comments »

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  1. AbyssUK says:

    I blame Justin and Robert they should keep that pesky Little Monster under control…
    [Damn it now i have that song in my head again…]

    NB: Only parents with young children will understand this comment.

  2. pakoito says:

    Hi mom, I’m on the news. I did it for reddit karma, of course MUA HA HA HA!!

  3. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    Didn’t take long for that well to be poisoned, did it? As ever, the internet accelerates normal procedure to the point of just being depressing.

    I don’t think this is big enough to really dent any momentum behind games on Kickstarter, but it’s probably the first sign of things starting to turn. The real backlash will be when a previously funded game doesn’t get released, or just turns out to be a rushed pile of garbage.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      I predicted this months ago: first the hype and people rushing to jump on projects, then you’ll have a project that won’t be able to make it due to unforseen circumstances (lead designer leaving, higher costs than expected, etc.), then people will discover that Kickstarter won’t be responsible for magically great games and suddenly, in a year’s time, a lot of people will be avoiding Kickstarter and the people remaining won’t be enough to fund the bigger titles.

      • Vorphalack says:

        This isn’t anything like your prediction. We have yet to see a successful kickstarter funded title fail, or even hear a rumor that one may be failing. This was a pretty obvious scam that was shut down before it could reach $5k pledged.

        Hopefully it will make people a bit more aware of who they are giving their money to, but it’s hardly the end times already.

        • Fumarole says:

          Indeed, there’s quite a large difference between a scam and a game that fails to ship.

      • HothMonster says:

        That assumes every game fails. I funded 6 games so far if 1 doesn’t finish and the rest run the gambit from mediocre to great the failed game will not stop me from funding again.

        If one shitty game could ruin everything the video game industry would have died after ET came out.

        • Yglorba says:

          Well, remember, though you surely know this: It almost did. Took years to recover.

          • Premium User Badge

            Malibu Stacey says:

            In North America yes, the rest of world was doing perfectly fine.

            But let’s not let facts get in the way of good old hyperbole.

        • cheez says:

          but ET sold well and wasn’t responsible for the gaming collapse. ET’s problem was not selling too little, but manufacturing too many. As I heard it, there were more ET cartridges than Atari 2600 sales. ET had its flaws but it was a fairly average game as they go in those days. Back in those days, the video game industry died due to a number of factors. For starters, the number of existing consoles was spread pretty thin, and the simplicity of games made for such low power systems created too much garbage to sift through, resulting in overall low sales for everyone. Videogames were not popular yet, and owning them was still expensive.

      • Savagetech says:

        While I’m with you on the skepticism/doomsaying of Kickstarter, I disagree that there will not be enough funding for bigger titles in the future. Unless Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, and every other big-name project turns out as complete tripe then Kickstarter will still work just fine for gaming celebrities to get funding for projects that studios would turn down. People won’t have to trust Kickstarter in general if they trust the specific developer, because the developers are the ones with the power to abuse/misuse Kickstarter. I agree that any indie or unknown games will likely need to be small in scale to reach their funding though; once enough “ambitious” indies deliver crap/fail to deliver then people will be wary of all but the most reserved and reasonable pitches.

    • Wreckdum says:

      I think the little interview with the “developer” is the most obvious part… How anyone could watch this then donate money to this fat kid recording a video in the bedroom of his moms house after he got home from school is beyond me.

      “After nearly two years of planning I took every penny I had saved and left the big publisher I was at. I hired an elite team of experts…”

      Stopped listening. Quiet fat boy. Finish your homework. Maybe learn how to write a better script next time.

      • ArthurBarnhouse says:

        Yeah you never see a fat person developing games. How was this not obvious to people who contributed? Can’t they see he’s fat?

    • Skabooga says:

      Indeed, reminds me greatly of the early days of email, when people were so excited about the possibilities of this “electronic mail”. I was like, “Don’t get your hopes, it’s only a matter of time before people use this to con you and flood you with advertisements.” I think history bore me out.

    • HothMonster says:

      “The real backlash will be when a previously funded game doesn’t get released, or just turns out to be a rushed pile of garbage.”

      idk people still pre-order but a lot of games that get preorders are rushed piles of garbage.

    • Shooop says:

      This is actually a very positive thing. Without the internet and all its information lying right at peoples’ fingers this scam would have gone on much, much longer. And because news of those discoveries spread so fast the scam itself was snuffed out probably completely.

      Scams only work when there’s a lack of information, ways to examine something’s legitimacy, and interest.

  4. Boozebeard says:

    That video was dreadful. I don’t understand why anyone would have pledged money to this in the first place, even if it wasn’t a scam it was clearly going to turn out terrible.

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      Muffalopadus says:

      What I’m wondering is why no one noticed how the Police Warfare kickstarter had 5 producers but only one 3D artist and no programmers. Thank goodness that didn’t pan out either.

    • SiHy_ says:

      Me neither. The editing alone had me cringing. That’s not to mention the clichéd tag lines (“GAMES… WILL NEVER… BE THE SAME” ha!) and the uncomfortable onscreen appearence of the “Creative Director”.
      Mind, you have to have some balls to plaster your face onto an intentionally fraudulant scam.

  5. TillEulenspiegel says:

    the project ‘only’ drew $4,739 of its $80k goal

    Subtract from that the $2500 contribution from one person who was likely in on this feeble attempt at a scam.

    This is yet another advantage of the way Kickstarter works, how pledges are only charged after the deadline. A few weeks is plenty of time for doubts to be raised. If you’re just trying to grab a bit of money and run, Kickstarter is a terrible place to do it.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Hah, I didn’t even consider the fraudulent “donations” to buff up the numbers (as is the case with many fo these scams, planting fake “interested people” to bolster up confidence). I’d be surprised if more than $1000 was pledged by real people.

  6. sinister agent says:

    The Kinnnnng of Lim-booooo!

  7. deanimate says:

    off topic I know but any eta on the second part of the Dishonored article?

  8. coffeetable says:

    Kickstarter could make for some great Ponzi schemes.

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    JoeyJungle says:

    I thought that said ‘Peggle watch’ and was absurdly excited for a moment there

  10. gwathdring says:

    I don’t expect this sort of thing to be particularly successful. It is quite hard to generate interest in a game concept and drum up support. It requires a large net sum of passion, innovation, and evident capability. It would be quite difficult to falsify the necessary components in order to make a particularly coherent whole and it would be even more difficult and time consuming to make a fake game from scratch in a convincing manner that was not effectively the same amount of effort and money as actually designing said game in the first place.

  11. lordfrikk says:

    This is certainly as close as I get to being Internet famous, haha. All hail Google Image Search and TinEye.

  12. mouton says:

    Kickstarter scams were – and still are – inevitable, no surprise here. But, as you see, it is self-regulating.

    Much more dangerous will be kickstarters started by otherwise reputable/known/competent folk who would then make some bad decisions and catastrophically fail to deliver despite blowing all the money away.

  13. Askeladd says:

    Congrats ladys and gents that helped to write internet history!

  14. arboreal says:

    37 saddest failed Kickstarters: http://tinyurl.com/cb5fn22

    • diebroken says:

      Thanks, made my day reading through that list… “I’ve had my share of wet dreams when I was younger because I stood thinking about some girl that I wanted while I was in still High School. Those are regular, normal stress release dreams.”

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I dunno, I probably would have gone for the hubble space cards…and probably the gay board game.

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      Craymen Edge says:

      More terrible failed Kickstarters here: http://shit-starter.tumblr.com/

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Oh god, can’t stop laughing after the one that asked for “$529,000 (WHAT THE SHIT)”.

  15. Jake Albano says:

    Worth pointing out that Pixar is decidedly proud of the fact that they don’t use motion capture, and haven’t for any of their movies.

    • Shuck says:

      And that the team that worked on Diablo 2 is not the same one that worked on World of Warcraft.

  16. fish99 says:

    Since this is attempted fraud and Kickstarter obviously have names and addresses for the people behind it, I would hope they would be passing details onto law enforcement. Otherwise they’re just going to encourage people to keep trying it.

    TBH this is a fairly crude attempt but I’m sure future scams will be harder to spot. Anyone can knock up some renders in 3dsmax after all.

    • mouton says:

      Internet will disseminate them all. Either something will be high profile and get busted or it will fail due to being low profile anyway.

  17. Calabi says:

    Its going to be hard to fool people on the internet. They are connected and they are smart and have been scammed before.

  18. MSJ says:

    Coincidentally, Something Awful also has this comedy article about (fake) failed Kickstarters. Come on, fund that X-com: Enforcer remake!
    http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/kickstarter-failed-funding.php

  19. Reefpirate says:

    3D Environments? 3D Gameplay?!?! Shut up and take my money!

  20. PiratePuncher says:

    This reminds me of the fiasco that was Limbo of the Lost. That game was full of stolen material http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo_of_the_Lost

    • Phantoon says:

      Oh yes. I loved the playthrough of someone slogging through that awful mess. It was amazing.

  21. Dominic White says:

    There’s some folks already calling this the death-knell of Kickstarter. One scam project that got identified and shut down early? And people are going to jump ship because of that? Really?

    Reminds me of the people who declared that Minecraft would be the first and last alphafunded game, because everyone hated the end result SO much that nobody would ever have faith in buying early EVER AGAIN.

    Give people a *little* credit, why don’t you?

    • Phantoon says:

      You say this about internet people.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Indeed. I’ve read of a few (though not necessarily here) who appear to be a little too eager to call the entire concept of crowd-funding “dead” because of this incident. As if they had the words “SEE?? I TOLD YOU SO!!” jumping out of their throats and were ready to spew it as soon as anything remotely negative happened to one of these projects.

      Unfortunately for them, this is hardly any sort of “happening”. The scam was caught very quickly and no money exchanged hands. If anything, it strengthened the idea that scammers aren’t going to get away with people’s money very easily.

  22. pipman3000 says:

    morons. if you want to scam people online you don’t use kickstarter you use indiegogo. they have an option to let you keep all the donated money when the project fails to meet it’s goal so you can start a project for something vague like a “final fantasy style action-rpg with a deep plot and varied characters” and some name like “the arkh project” then you start plasturing it all over the internet and as long as nobody digs up evidence of past scams or finds your racist tumblr blog you’ll be fine.

  23. Face In The Punch says:

    At least none of the backers lost money since it didn’t hit it’s goal:

    -Backers agree to provide their payment information at the time they pledge to a campaign. The payment will be collected at or after the campaign deadline and only if the amount of money pledged as of the deadline is at least equal to the fundraising goal. The amount Backers pledge is the amount they will be charged.

    This also gives security to people who back a project but for whatever reason can’t proceed. The T&Cs are less clear about what would happen if a campaign did hit it’s goal before turning out to be fraudulent, although it does say:

    -Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.

    Implying that if it didn’t go ahead for what ever reason the “Project Creator” would be required to refund the money, looks like they would have to ask them though.

  24. psyk says:

    Doing what your writing an article about in the article LMAO

  25. thelongshot says:

    Had I seen the page, I would have recognised the gods from the card game my friend designed, Myth: Pantheons. Not really the artist he wanted, and many things about that game didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to.

  26. zagor says:

    how there thou deej

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    Huh. Well it happened faster than I thought. Not knowing the specifics of the plaigarism, there were more than a few problems with the video though:

    1) The guy looks way too young to have any worthwhile experience.

    2) He uses ignorant and immature phrasing like “if you consider yourself a gamer, a true gamer”. A pitch is never about the one being pitched to, it’s about the idea and the team’s ability to deliver on the idea.

    3) The entire “elite team” is all either too shy to be on camera or didn’t show up for the shoot. He might as well have claimed he had a hot girlfriend who lives in Canada which is why you can’t meet her right now.

    4) The video showed literally nothing about how the game might play or even what the characters were like, and his description of the gameplay was so ridiculously generic, I couldn’t even figure out what sort of game this was supposed to be. “action-strategy based RPG” means nothing other than it probably doesn’t have turn based combat. Are you the god in question? A servant of the god? And what exactly do you do as that character? What are your goals? Who or what do you fight? The logo monster?

    5) What office? That’s half of a wall of a bedroom!

    Other projects that are less “impressive” looking due to not stealing their assets at least usually manage to give a reasonably detailed description of the game itself. And that is why I have no doubt that this is a scam.

    The guy is probably a graphic design or “game design” student still in university. I was in a Game Design course in Camden County College, which was basically a combination of Graphic Design and Marketing where you were taught absolutely nothing of the technical skills needed to make a game and the programming team was expected to know or teach themselves the necessary skills. The teacher was a complete fraud and actually encouraged fraudulent behavior among his favorite students. To keep this a short story, I quit halfway through. In retrospect it reminded me of a combination of 21 and The Music Man.

    Anyway, I don’t know where this guy goes to university or how bad (or otherwise) his teachers are, but this just smacks of student work. I could have done the same thing with what I knew of photoshop and the Adobe video editing tools… But actually the video is so bad I could have easily done it in paint.net and Windows Movie Maker. The guy obviously has zero experience and doesn’t have any real idea of how games are made, only how they are played.

    • Shuck says:

      There are oh so, so many obvious issues with this that indicate a scam, beyond even what you’ve mentioned. First there’s the weird, garbled prose – industry professionals would do better. The AAA (supposed) game art assets (conspicuously lacking characters) on display are far beyond what the supposed (very low) budget would allow – which means this guy doesn’t even have a clue how much game development actually costs. They claim they’re working with “gray box” level assets, but also that they’ll be done in a year. So the guy obviously doesn’t have a clue how long a AAA game takes to make, either. They claim industry all-stars make up the team (and have amazingly ended up at the same unknown company), yet the front-man is a young nobody (with no obvious industry dev experience). Despite mentioning the games they’ve supposedly been involved with, their names aren’t ever mentioned. In fact, what they did on those games isn’t mentioned (despite being a FAQ). It’s at least implied that the employees worked on all the games mentioned together, yet the games were developed by two different companies by different teams. A lot of what he says doesn’t even make sense such as that Pixar was going to do the animations. It shows a profound lack of understanding of game development processes, the differences in film and video game animation, and what and how Pixar operates. The whole thing isn’t just a scam – it’s also pretty delusional. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were mental health issues at play here.
      The guy in the video (Seth Westphal) turns out to be the former office manager for an indie studio that appears to mostly make mobile games. So yeah, he’s not a developer.

  28. LiveWire says:

    Well one good thing to all this is my work has gotten a lot more exposure, even if no one knows where it’s from :)

    All the “in game screenshots” and “3D environments” are from games I worked on over the last few years, mostly Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Happy Feet 2.

    In fact the footage looks to be stolen directly from a co-worker’s demo reel:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfqaYEMxbLA

    For further proof, my demo reel also contains some of the same examples but with the game, developer, and publishers noted:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjiL4-HbuyI

    Even without the blatantly stolen art this “pitch” is so full of BS I’m surprised anyone donated anything at all. 3D enviroments? 3D gameplay? OMG sign me up! Honestly, even the scammer himself doesn’t sound convinced of what he’s saying.

  29. Reynoldio says:

    Thanks, that’s another $140 spent on that blimmin site. Cheers Alec!

  30. oh_cookies says:

    I’m impressed by that. While there’s a ton of rumors telling that you definitely need a well-known person to make a cameo for your project’s being approved (remember that dude Gabe in that kickstarter), and a little piece of ‘kickstarter ate my brain and stole my sister idea” junk, some fat kid just comes from nowhere, gets approved and tries to do some greatest scam in indie gamedev history.

    Oh wait. And there are “approved” projects like that.

    Looks like someone at Kickstarter has to annually make a black viral legend to attract people and stop them worrying about the armor-piercing PR faces, copyright issues, stolen sisters ideas and other undercover stuff which you don’t like. Which doesn’t makes fat boy a hero, though.