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Blades in the Dark and Kickstarter Ethics

Shining Dragon

Tough Tiger Fist
Validated User
I would say yes. I’d say final acceptance of the offer doesn’t occur until the KS campaign ends, until then you’re free to change your mind. So at the end of the campaign the creator is offering you the product + all the stretch goals and you are free to accept or reject them. The fact that the value of the offer changed over the campaign is irrelevant, it’s the final offer that matters.
That is tricky. Imagine if enough people pull out before the end of the campaign (say hours before the end) to reduce the final amount to just meeting the initial goal (so no stretch goals are achieved).
 
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macd21

Registered User
Validated User
That is tricky. Imagine if enough people pull out before the end of the campaign (say hours before the end) to reduce the final amount to just meeting the initial goal (so no stretch goals are achieved).
Hmm, that’s a good one. I suspect it would be ruled that the offer that was accepted was the one made at the end of the KS, but the question is whether that offer still included the ‘unlocked’ stretch goals, even after the pledges dropped. If so, then stretch goals can’t be rescinded once unlocked unless you cancel the KS (I could be wrong there - IANAL and all that).
 

Uthred

Nature's critical miss
Validated User
The way the stretch goals were listed/advertised with the alternate setting beside the monetary value was amazingly misleading. In the vast majority of KS projects stretch goals are listed like that and when you hit that monetary target the stretch goal is unlocked and included in the pledge. I feel that my pledge was devalued because when I backed it "for all stretch goals" I didn't know I was backing "for all stretch goals if the unpaid designers I asked to do them could be arsed"

This reminds me of the similarly deceptive bullshit from the character creator software for Exalted 3rd edition (in short they had it listed as a stretch goal but neglected to mention they werent in fact giving any money to the creators of said software, which last I checked hasnt come out)
 
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Maxen M

Somewhere off to the side
Validated User
The bottom line for me is that when he set up the rewards, ie. the things people were getting, he included all those things that were unlocked as stretch goals. So he's promising other people's work that he isn't paying them for. To my mind, if you're going to do business, you should ideally promise less than is promised to you, because he is unable to reproduce the work of any named contributor who owns their own IP without their assistance, and yet that's still what the 20 dollar reward tier and up offer in return for funding. There's not much ambiguity there, just risk.

Fortunately however as far as delivery is concerned, all the stretch goals are in development, we don't have direct feedback from those people, but they are all apparently at work, now that the core has been finalised.

(Edit: Actually I checked again, that's not a complete list of the stretch goals, it excludes Moon over Bourbon Street by Chris Bennett and The Doomed by Sage LaTorra, and Blades of the Jhereg, but as I said before/below, that's already covered by what he's said before.)

Also for those who were interested in Blades of the Jhereg, and a few of the other ones, those are just licensed from someone else, and were recorded as being John Harper's creative responsibility, so if he's going to do everything that's within his control, that one is still coming. As someone who seems to have shown a pretty large endurance in terms of this project, keeping going making changes without getting sick of it, I'm sure it'll come eventually. But I can easily see this being like spy party, a computer game that has been being constantly improved over a period of 10 years. You keep getting new good stuff, it just isn't actually finished. I'm not expecting it to take quite that long though, but as a guess, maybe 5?

I do think it sucks that these guys aren't getting paid for their work though. It's good at least that they'll get the full money from future sales, and I hope evil hat would be willing to take them on in the same capacity as a distributor when their expansions finally appear.
 
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bv728

Was he a violent man?
Validated User
I'd probably say that the Stretch Goals are accepted at the end of the campaign - they're clearly contingent on certain funding levels, and the pledge is for 'Core plus unlocked stretch goals at end of campaign', not 'Core plus unlocked stretch goals at an undefined fixed point during campaign'. If someone bombed a KS to kill stretch goals, I don't think that the creator would be obligated to produce them, although the people who funded the campaign would probably be annoyed.
 

Aaron Friesen

New member
The creators of the stretch goals weren't looking for pay in the first place and volunteered their work. Jason Morningstar just posted this on Facebook:

There's an Internet Fracas going on right now over John Harper's game Blades in the Dark, and he is being called out for exploiting stretch goal contributors, many of whom (cough) have yet to deliver their precious things and none of whom got a slice of that delicious Kickstarter money. The fundamental disconnect here is that the people who volunteered to help out did so because they like John and like his game and wanted it to succeed. Each of us knew that we could count on him to do the same, and that embracing mutualism was the best way to grow the community. The things we end up making are our own to give away or sell. I plan on selling Coneycatchers, my contribution, and based on the popularity of Blades in the Dark I will probably make a tidy profit. There's no downside, no bad actors, nothing but love.
 

Uthred

Nature's critical miss
Validated User
The creators of the stretch goals weren't looking for pay in the first place and volunteered their work. Jason Morningstar just posted this on Facebook:
The creators of the stretchgoal are only a part of the issue, misleading the backers is the other part.
 

Maxen M

Somewhere off to the side
Validated User
As much as I dislike calling something an internet fracas when it's people being interested in the welfare of often exploited artists and designers, I'm glad to hear that at least one of the more high profile people involved feels they'll still get money out of it.

I mean, people make free stuff for communities and their friends all the time, and people offer work as prizes for donations to other people too, and stretch goals frequently underestimate how much money will be required to support someone for long enough to actually get something out the door, and rpgs are a long long way from a sustainable industry that pays writers for their full hours, but it does make a difference as a consumer knowing that you haven't actually paid for something to be done.

Like suppose I see that an entire novel is going to be written by someone, and the stretch goal is like $25,000 higher than the last one. I could quite reasonably infer that they're going to get at least some money to live for at least 6 months and actually write that novel, and if they aren't, I'd like that communicated to me so I know if I'm getting someone on low income to slave away in their evenings so that their friend can get 6 months worth of living costs paid. I'd instead say, with the infinitesimal authority I get as a backer "how about we push that stretch goal up a bit and give them enough money to pay rent?". I mean, that's their right, they know their resources, I'd just rather as far as it's up to me, be making sure that people will be getting paid from the work I ask them to do.

Yeah they might get paid eventually, but paradoxically, if I'm funding the kickstarter in order to get that subsidiary work made, then that's one sale they don't get, because I'll already own it, unless I buy it twice! I'm supporting them much less than I would be if I didn't pay extra for the kickstarter, but then bought it from them later if they made it off the srd. That stretch goal being hit is not actually enabling anything that couldn't have been made otherwise, except by their own self-restriction.

It means that every stretch goal that doesn't get hit is an author who has a cool idea they were going to make from their own resources, but now won't because they wanted you to give their friend money in that particular month, when they could just make the game, then give a cut of the money to their friend.

There's bundle psychology there, where people might pay more for a 2 or 3 extra products when they'd only pay for 1 individually, but that's about the only rational I can think of, most of the other implicit logic of a kickstarter, the knowledge that you are giving someone resources to see something that interests you made, is broken.

All that said, I wasn't actually being sarcastic with my first paragraph. If people think they'll actually be benefiting from it, that's good, I hope that everyone does get what they wanted to out of contributing to this, and I'm interested to see the work they produce. I just think it's better for poorer designers or contributors if this kind of thing gets flagged up up front.
 

Valtiel

The most dangerous mistress
Validated User
Personally, I don't care whether the monetary difference between the base goal and the stretch goal goes towards actually funding the stretch goal, or towards increasing the size of the initial print run, or into a company rainy-day fund, or as a bonus to the people who work on the project.

What I do care about is that the risk factors of the whole project, including stretch goals, should be clearly laid out for the backers to see. That includes shit like "we're not actually doing this bit ourselves or even paying someone else to do it; we have an informal and unenforceable contract with a third party who is allegedly willing to work for free." Because if I read that, I'd be thinking "yeah, right, that's never going to happen" and would adjust my pledge accordingly.

Unrelatedly, work-for-exposure is bullshit; the world would be a better place if companies didn't offer it and workers didn't agree to do it.
 
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PST

Registered User
Validated User
Another term would be a gamble, or investment.

You put up money hoping that the project will work out and you'll get a payoff, but there are no guarantees. The only ethic involved was if the person starting the KS genuinely intended to see the thing through from the start.

If he or she did, then all that has happened is you lost your bet.
As I live in the UK, part of the EU, with consumer rights protection, this is not the case.

It might be the case if I back a US kickstarter, with poor consumer rights protection, but any EU kickstarter, or for companies with presence in the EU, ensures my consumer rights.

Courts have found that kickstarters are pre-orders, with a contract of sale, and all the standard protections we enjoy (refunds up to 14 days after delivery).

Good kickstarters offer refunds, bad ones don't, bad crowdfunding campaigns try and tangle people up in EULAs and arbitration (with star citizen probably being the worst, and having a good chance of collapsing all crowdfunding in the future given its size).

Edit: Kickstarter company A continually gave wildly innacurate reports of progress and delivery, to the point of going, to my impression, beyong optimism and into deceitfulness. I asserted my consumer rights and got a full refund, in spite if them attempting to break the law in denying it.
Kickstarter company B is going to take 5+ years to deliver everything I paid for, but at no point do I feel they've misled me on it, so I'm happy to wait to get all the stuff I paid for in the end.

So, no, it's not a bet.

That said, when I pay for X. Y and Z specifically, then I expect X, Y and Z, with A+B+C as possible bonuses. I don't, personally, back for stretch goals, the freebies are not the reason i'll decide to go into a product, it's whether the whole is worth the money, and also whether the core product or service i'm paying for is worth the money.

I'm yet to read a single legal ruling that kickstarters are an investment, anywhere in the world. This idea still gets spread, but without any support given how courts have, historically, found the exact opposite.

Kickstarter company A continually gave false updates on when the product would be out, and I asserted my consumer rights and got a full refund despite them attempting to deny it.
Kickstarter company B will probably take 5+ years to deliver everything I've paid for, but have kept me informed throughout, so i'm more than happy to wait, notwithstanding that they're happy to give refunds to anyone who asks.
 
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