Ant Simulator Cancelled Amidst Accusations And Conflicting Reports (Real Life Ants Still Fascinating)

Things I am relatively certain of: Ant Simulator [official site] is cancelled and I am sad about that.

Things I am far less certain of: pretty much everything else that’s happening regarding Ant Simulator

This is because the creator’s resignation from the project involved accusations that his business partners were using funding to pay for liquor and restaurants and so on, and they’ve now responded with their version of the story which details a a very different story.

I’m going to give the basics of the back-and-forth as it stands at the moment in case you guys put money towards it or were simply looking forward to the game coming out and are wondering what happened.

Ant Simulator started out as a Ludum Dare game jam idea [page here]. When I wrote about it back in September it was because there was a cool video about lighting and pollen effects and suchlike that had caught my eye. Also it was an excuse to talk about the real life cool things ants can do. Then yesterday gamejourno Twitter was all “liquor and strippers and Kickstarter funds”. That was because developer Eric Tereshinski had posted a video on the ETeeskiTutorials YouTube channel to say the game was cancelled and he had resigned.

“I recently found out that my ex-business partners were secretly stealing company money,” alleges Terenshinski on the video. “They had secretly spent the overwhelming majority of both our Kickstarter money* and the Ant Simulator investment money on liquor, restaurants, bars and even strippers.”

He added that if he released the game without the partners they had said they would sue. “Resigning and cancelling Ant Simulator is really the only option available to me right now.”

The partners, Tyler Monce and Devon Staley have since spoken to Game Informer to give their own version of events. Monce calls Tereshinski’s accusations “completely false” and goes on to address some of the specific claims:

“I don’t know why he’s painting that picture, but the reality is that anything that was spent in a bar or restaurant was very reasonable in nature when you look at any business, including video game companies. It was part of our operating budget, it’s not anything that was excessive. It was all reported to the IRS. The picture he’s painting about that is 100 percent bull****.”

It then becomes a story about Tereshinski taking control of company property, bank accounts, social media accounts and so on. According to Monce, he suspected Tereshinski of trying to cut the partners out of the game. “We made it clear that we weren’t going to let him do that, because we had a moral and legal right not to,” he says.

It’s a quote which offers a very different reading of the partners not wanting Tereshinski to release the game without them.

If you’re interested you should definitely go over and read the whole thing. It also has Monce and Staley talking about paying contractors and why an opportunity with Sony went south (Tereshinski’s account of the same event is on Polygon). I’ve also sent an email to Tereshinski to ask a few follow-up questions.

So where does this leave Ant Simulator, project backers, Tereshinski, Staley and Monce?

Well, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Ant Simulator is dead. As part of the Polygon interview Tereshinski put the number of Ant Simulator pre-orders at seven and the video he released to announce his resignation notes that he will send an email to those people about getting refunds. I’ve sent an email to ask about what happens/happened if you invested in the beta or sponsored the project.

According to his announcement, Tereshinski intends to rebrand his YouTube, remove the ETeeski LLC content from his channel (that includes the Ant Simulator videos and the Ultimate GameDev Tutorials series) and carry on making videos about game development. I’ve asked what will happen to these videos – whether they will get rehomed or are just being deleted.

According to Game Informer, Staley and Monce are planning to pursue legal action against Tereshinski but are currently focused on refuting their former business partner’s claims.

Here is a National Geographic documentary about ants functioning as a superorganism. I’m watching that while I have my lunch.

*The Kickstarter was, as far as I can tell, by the ETeeski company but was for the Ultimate GameDev Tutorials series rather than Ant Simulator. You could, however, buy into the Ant Simulator beta (although that beta got cancelled before it started) or give money to sponsor the game’s development via the website.

68 Comments

  1. Mr. Robot says:

    Ants are fascinating! People are disappointing.

  2. TillEulenspiegel says:

    but the reality is that anything that was spent in a bar or restaurant was very reasonable in nature

    Yeah this isn’t much of a defense.

    • sfoumatou says:

      Really? It sounds like you need evidence to make this kind of claim, which they most likely have since their spending was reported to the IRS.

      Of course no one has seen any of that evidence, but yeah, just wanted to point that out. Besides, saying they spent the “overwhelming majority” of funds on restaurants and bars is just… a completely outrageous claim. Their calm response makes me believe that the accusation is simply nuts.

      • horsemedic says:

        Me too. And I don’t know if it was prudence or time zones or what, but thanks RPS for being possibly the only game news outlet that didn’t rush this online yesterday, before the supposed booze-n’-stripper villains had a chance to give their side.

        Regardless, I’m still a bit terrified of the kiddie mob ready to pummel the two guys because a guy on YouTube said they were bad.

      • silentdan says:

        The first thing you learn about being crooked and successful is, respond to all accusations calmly. I don’t give a calm denial any more weight than an incredulous one.

        That said, I’m deeply suspicious of Tereshinski’s assertions. He claims the “vast majority” of the money went to unnecessary luxuries, while the accused say “no, it was a reasonable amount.” 51% is way too much to be reasonable, and is only a slight majority, not a vast majority. So, let’s crack open the books. If it’s way under 50%, Tereshinski’s lying. If it’s way over, the other two are lying.

        This one’s pretty simple to sort out. We just need the financial data.

        • Baines says:

          The two sides likely have vastly different views of what a “reasonable amount” is. Tereshinski, as a coder who wants to deliver his product, probably believes anything above a tiny fraction of the funds isn’t reasonable. The partners probably believe nearly any amount is reasonable, as long as they can claim (or believe) that it helps sell the product and/or service.

      • Shuck says:

        Their funding was from the Kickstarter, a few pre-orders, some random crowdfunding and apparently some private investment from a friend – no amount of money should have been spent on alcohol or strippers. That the IRS allows such as a business expense is irrelevant. If they were a fully-funded game studio with a well-heeled publisher, they could spend money on entertainment, but they’re not – a few people gave them money intended for specific uses: making game dev videos and working on the game, and using it for anything else was a violation of trust.

      • horsemedic says:

        Reading between the lines of each side’s story, it sounds like there was hardly any money invested in the project. Even Tereshinski has said the disputed money is in the “low thousands.” If a few thou is all it takes to sink your venture, the project was probably doomed regardless of bar tabs.

      • aepervius says:

        It is not much of a defense because it leaves up to people to set what is reasonable or not. A good defense would have been “we never spent more than 20$ top per persons per day”. Because then one can discuss whether it is reasonable or not on facts. Instead they just said it is “reasonable” leaving speculation open. So no it was not much of a defense.

    • Baines says:

      That defense makes me believe Tereshinski’s side more. Rather than an actual justification, it is an “everyone else does it” admission. (It is a lot like when Molyneux defended going over budget on Godus with the argument that it was okay because all these other people in various businesses get away with going over budget.)

      • Sabbatai says:

        But literally…everyone else does do it. It’s part of running a business.

        When you quit your day job to start your own business which you run for 8-10 (or more) hours a day, you still need to eat.

        When you take meetings with other professionals, it is just as likely to be over food at a restaurant as it is to be in an office.

        There is nothing wrong with spending SOME money on restaurants. The “operating budget” for any business includes stuff like this for a reason.

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          gritz says:

          Strippers are not food!

        • Baines says:

          Lots of people jaywalk, litter, steal office supplies, and the rest, but that doesn’t make the acts legal. People smoke, drink alcohol, and eat junk food, but those things all have negative effects on health.

          “Everyone does it” isn’t a defense. It is what you say when you know what you are doing is probably not the best thing you should be doing. It is the kind of justification that you resort to when you don’t have anything better to use.

          Yes, people need to eat. No, people don’t actually need to make their meals business expenses.

          Lots of people abuse business expense accounts, and those partners were probably doing it themselves, but just because it might be legal doesn’t mean it was right to do so.

          • zacharai says:

            I completely agree with Baines’s point on bars & restaurants. It is far cheaper to eat at home and make it yourself than to go to a restaurant. Same with alcohol, of course.

            Once you release a game and make some money, sure, spend it how you want. But the criticism is warranted at this point.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Yes, people need to eat. No, people don’t actually need to make their meals business expenses.

            So instead of spending money on living costs while they work, people doing full time game dev should spend even more money on living costs while they work?

            The reason people are saying “other businesses do it” isn’t because they’re trying to excuse bad behaviour by pointing the finger elsewhere. They’re saying it because that is a necessary part of many kinds of business. They’re run by humans who need to eat and socialise, and in some cases discuss business in a social setting.

            Yes, it’s cheaper to eat at home. But sometimes it’s healthier for everyone to get out and talk business somewhere else. I’ve worked for small (very much non-game) businesses that did it, and the result was a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm, everyone getting along better, and in at least one case, a friendly relationship with a very useful supplier.

            Sure, it’s possible these two were taking the piss, and as none of us know what really went on it’s reasonable to admit that if they were doing it to excess, that’s a different mattter. But the puritannical nonsense coming from some people here is ridiculous.

          • Baines says:

            Tereshinski presumably wasn’t burning company money on bars and strippers. And it is questionable whether the partners were anything near doing “full time game dev”, as Tereshinski made a point that they’d given themselves positions that held no obligation to produce any work. (I’d guess that they were meant to be handling non-coding matters.)

            As others have pointed out, the company probably didn’t have much money. If you care about the company and/or the projects it pursues, then you don’t go around wasting company money.

    • Sabbatai says:

      Considering that the IRS has rules for what constitutes a “business expense” and that eating food is included… I’d say it is a perfectly acceptable response.

      Every single company on Earth has an “operating budget” and it always includes food. Whether it is treating employees to an in-office lunch to reward them or just to encourage them to stay in the office… or a meeting with contractors or business partners or potential hires. It is perfectly reasonable to include food in a company’s expenses.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        You’re talking about how big businesses and startups with VC funding work.

        Kickstartered projects on a shoestring budget are not remotely the same thing.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Also, the issue isn’t “food”. It’s spending money on restaurants and bars.

        • molamolacolacake says:

          That’s pretty common business practice in the US. In this case it may have been excessive, I have no idea, but we use our corporate cards to buy food at restaurants quite regularly and with permission. A restaurant, or bar even, is a good place to actually conduct business or encourage bonding among colleagues.

      • Sam says:

        The day-to-day living costs of the developers needing food should come from paying themselves a reasonable wage, and local laws permitting they’re free to spend some of that wage on sex work and liquor.

        It’s totally reasonable to use some funds to pay for business meetings at restaurants. But if your fledgling game development company goes bust because you’ve spent almost your entire budget on business lunches then it’s incompetence at best.

  3. int says:

    How antagonistic and in such bad formicidae; a fully fertilizing gamergate of a pissant. I may act a queen but I shan’t drone on.

  4. Captain Deadlock says:

    “ETeeski seeks to serve as a leader in providing knowledge and enjoyment of video games to consumers through rigorous adherence to our core values of transparency, trust, and creativity”

    OMG SO MUCH VOMIT
    IT’S EVERYWHERE
    REALLY THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH PAPER BAGS IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE

    • ACE209 says:

      Twist – The guys claim Tereshinski has control of the website.
      “He took control of everything,” Monce continued. “He took control of not only all the company’s physical property, our bank accounts, our social media accounts, our website (which he changed to just our faces for some unknown reason), that was all him.

      • jkz says:

        Yes, saw that, very suspicious. That’s what makes it look like a bad hatchet job by the developer on his former business partners, letting them shoulder the entire blame for the failed project.

  5. frogulox says:

    “Seven”

    I laughed.
    I am a horrible soulless bastard.

    • Troubletcat says:

      You’re not a bad person. I initially thought it might’ve been a typo (maybe they meant seven hundred? seven thousand?) but then the thing about him planning to personally email them about a refund…

      Seven pre-orders…

      Methinks there might be another reason for calling it quits on development than the stated.

      • bills6693 says:

        Unfortunatly may be true. Its a shame – I would have readily bought this once it was completed, as would others I’m sure. But pre-ordering a game which is by a small studio, made of unknown people, at an early stage? Afraid I’ve been burned too many times before (as, again, I’m sure many others agree, and the pre-order sales agree)

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        Phasma Felis says:

        It looks like they opened up a pre-order campaign, and then cancelled it almost immediately after having second thoughts. They were getting the money from elsewhere, obviously.

  6. Cinek says:

    Well, that’s kickstarter there for you.

    Still – I’d love to see someone make an ant simulator… one day… hopefully.

    • Janichsan says:

      No, that’s idiots for you. This has nothing to do with Kickstarter. The same could have happened if they had acquired the funds differently.

      • Cinek says:

        If they had acquired funds in the other way than crowdunding – there wouldn’t be thousands of people loosing money, most likely it’d be investors – who know the risks – or/and banks in case of a loan – who can get their money back through the usual means, punishing the devs in the end.

    • vorador says:

      Come on, SimAnt is looking at your face from it’s shallow grave.

    • Hypocee says:

      Formicarium didn’t quite get Kickstarted but may come to exist still.

  7. BarryDennen12 says:

    I’m choosing to believe that the ‘hookers and blow’ version of events is the one that really took place.
    Also, there hasn’t been a truly great ant game since Sim Ant, and I don’t think this would’ve been it. It looked cool as a first impression but lurching around as an ant looks like too weird of an experience to be enjoyable for very long.

    • John O says:

      Yea that line of reasoning is just way too compelling. I want to believe

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      Harlander says:

      Have there been any ant games since SimAnt?

    • Coming Second says:

      Me too. I much prefer the reality where the two guys saw they had gotten all of seven pre-orders and said to themselves “You know what, fuck ants. Let’s spend it all on hookers, whiskey and blackjack instead.”

  8. Distec says:

    GRUBBERGATE because it’s 2016.

  9. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    He should’ve contacted the authorities rather than just riling up feces flinging internet monkeys perhaps? If it’s actual embezzlement, rather than have his business partners counter-accuse him of slander and causing further internet drama confusion.
    I hope the partners goes through with the legal action.

    (Another nail for the Early Access and Crowdfunding models)

    • Baines says:

      Tereshinski doesn’t appear to know much about legal and business matters, which is presumably how he got into this mess in the first place.

      He says in the YouTube comments section that they listed themselves as consultants in the contract, which gave them the right to spend company money without actually being obligated to work on anything. The partners have the paperwork to prove they had various business meetings. Tereshinski calls the meetings “bullshit meetings“, but it would be on him to somehow prove that claim.

      In the end, he’s decided that it simply isn’t worth the time and cost to sue, even assuming that he’d win.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        I don’t know what’s going on or their business arrangements other than what’s said in the article so I’m reluctant to pick sides from just that but if they’ve been using business assets for private leisure without agreements (even if calling a visit to the strip club a business meeting), shouldn’t it potentially be a criminal case rather than a civil dispute?

        • Asurmen says:

          Well, I can’t speak for US tax laws, but UK tax as long as as the entertainment was ostensibly for business purposes, no matter where it occurs it’s a legit expense and tax deductible/refundable/not an employment benefit.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            I meant the spending in non-agreed ways rather than tax reasons but my knowledge regarding foreign law or their company setup equals zero. I don’t know what I’m talking about basically.

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            Jdopus says:

            Actually that’s wrong. The UK government allow a hard capped limit of up to £25 per person per day in the form of a subsistence allowance for when you have to work long or anti-social hours.

            Having lunch with customers, going to a bar or paying for strippers is unfortunately not tax deductible.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      You can run a company into the ground without committing any crimes, assuming you aren’t stupid enough to announce your plan.

      You can also operate a business in an underhanded, shady way without committing crimes. In some industries, it’s almost a requirement to be competitive.

      In all likelihood, they didn’t do anything that’s illegal. That doesn’t make it okay to hire strippers with kickstarter money, at least from a business ethics perspective, whether there is an allotted stripper budget or not.

  10. Artist says:

    So they pulled an “Alex Fundora”?!

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    teije says:

    Why would the dev even make those accusations public? This is an internal fight. Just say the project is cancelled, and move on. Even if he’s right it’s such an immature way to act that no partner in the future will ever want to work with him.

    • vorador says:

      AFAIK the people involved were close friends. I take he’s feeling both betrayed and frustrated. Betrayed because they reported their personal parties as business expenses from an extremely small budget, and frustrated because he can’t even make the game because they said to sue if he did the work.

      So this is a kneejerk response.

      The interesting bit is that those guys response. They don’t deny the expenses, they just say “they’re a reasonable part of the process”. I’d say they’re full of it, since most indie studios work from home to cut expenses. They don’t need to do business reunions on a bar for christ sake’s.

  12. brucethemoose says:

    I’m leaning on Tereshinski side on this one. There’s simply no room for “business expenses” like having meetings in a restaurant for an indie game like this.

  13. rexx.sabotage says:

    let’s just replace all this noise with a:

    Have You Played… SimAnt?

  14. racccoon says:

    Imagine just how many drinks n partys Star Citizen devs have had.

  15. Xzi says:

    This is always the risk with unproven developers who have no previous work to show. They might be good developers but very poor at managing money. Or they could be shit at both. We’ll never really know now. Hopefully people remember the names in case any of these people put up other Kickstarters.

  16. Ufofighter says:

    Strippers? These developers are such noobs!

    You have to put the spending under: External consulting expenditures -> Experts in Biomechanics -> Human kinetics -> Body expresion -> Consultants -> Mandy, Amber, Candy, Tiffany.

    This newcomers…