Jason Appleton Greed Monger Truth
Back around 1998 I experienced something amazing for the first time which was MMORPG gaming. I was a young IT consultant at a company called MicroAge Service solutions and my roomate at the time showed me a game that would forever change my perception of gaming. The game was called Ultima Online. The gateway to a new MMORPG addiction that would span the next decades of my life. After UO, I explored Everquest which was the first 1st Person 3D MMORPG that basically made you feel like you were in a massive world with other people. Over the decades new MMORPG games had released, of which I played and enjoyed pretty much all of them, but none of them captured my interest quite like Ultima Online did. My first love.
As a child I used to sit around with graph paper and draw out pixelated characters with a dream of creating my own game. Playing Text adventure games like Zork and adventure games like Maniac Mansion and so many others. Back then I had a Commodore SX64 that my mom bought me at a yard sale and made payments on for 6 months so that I could have my first computer. Shortly after I became a member of a computer club that would meet once a month and a gentleman named Dominick used to take all of my floppy disks and by the next month fill them all with new games for me. Raised by a single mother we didn’t have much money but I had such a passion for computers and electronics, robotics and the like. I wanted to create my own game since I was 15 years old.
In 2012 I began researching and learning about a game development engine called Unity. A door was opened. The more I learned not only about the engine but the asset store and other offerings by the company, I began trying to find out if it would be possible to use this platform to build my dream game. At the time I was playing a game called Salem which was an MMORPG apparently created by one man. It was an addicting title but graphically not up to par with other titles at the time, though it had a time sink element that forced you to work hard to achieve your goals. It reminded me of Ultima Online in some regards. The more I learned about the Unity Engine and played Salem, the more I thought it must be possible to build something similar. I wanted to bring the best elements of Ultima Online into a model similar to Salem but using a land system whereby players could actually own their own land and resell it if they chose to. This was an idea I got from playing Entropia Universe which is a real cash economy MMORPG.
While exploring more options and asking questions in the Unity forum I was contacted by a developer that shared my interest in creating a game like mine. He had shown me some projects he had worked on in the past and convinced me he had the knowledge of Unity needed to realize my idea but didn’t have the business development background I had. We decided to become partners in this new project we called Greed Monger. This was the first day of several of the worst years of my life that still plague me today.
Things started out with him putting together some demo scenes to show his talent with the engine and to show me that Unity was much more capable than I was giving it credit for as my original idea was more simplistic and something that could be upgraded over time as resources allowed. Convinced we were onto something I discovered a platform for funding passion projects called Kickstarter. We discussed Kickstarter as being a way to help push our efforts farther, faster with some additional funding which at the time I thought I could fund the project myself over a long period of time or see if the gaming public shared my vision and potentially chip in to help. I put together the Kickstarter campaign and launched it thinking nobody would care and I would be funding the games development myself.
I was wrong and the public cared. To my shock, my $30,000 goal became over $90,000 in pledged contributions from the gaming public who loved what I was wanting to build. The majority of the gaming community was excited, though before the Kickstarter campaign even ended, I had a few individuals launch a campaign against me calling me a scammer, due to the fact that I was trying to develop an MMORPG and wasn’t a developer myself. Apparently the leader of this charge was a developer in the UK who it was much later brought to my attention that he had tried Kickstarting his own project in the past and the campaign failed. Bitter at the idea of a non developer obtaining public support apparently fueled an interest in seeing me fail as well. Though I’m sure this person would love credit for sending Greed Monger into the ground single handedly, he was merely one bad apple that mixed with what was to come,including some of my own public outbursts, helped spoil many more.
I was guilty of a lot, but none of which involved theft or scamming in any way. I was guilty of venting frustration publicly for starters. Due to the fact that I had put my name and neck on the chopping block instead of a company, the public persisted in attacking me personally before we had even begun hard development. False accusations, slander, you name it. An anonymous horde of trolls doing anything possible to fuel hate for no other reason that it being fun for them to start forum threads picking up where one spiteful and jealous individual planted the seed. It was a popcorn fest as I defended myself and my name against so much made up garbage that I finally lashed out against what I should have ignored. This seemed to add credibility to some of the claims against me which only grew as a result. Gotta love the anonymity of the interwebs.
On the development front, I had a growing team of freelancers from all over the world (big mistake). I had some really solid people working on Greed Monger including a couple AAA developers from projects like Crysis and others. One was working on world building the 5 climates of the game world while another built a modular house and castle building system. I had a user interface designed with all of the bells and whistles and a growing library of assets from the Unity Asset Store and Envato, not to mention the custom assets I had created. Things appeared to be going well for a while. Then, the problems began. My lead developer told me that Unity wasn’t going to work out. This after a great deal of money had been spent already getting everything we now had. Apparently there was a world stitching issue with the heightmaps for the game world, this was a problem as I wanted the world climates and zones to load seamlessly without any loading times. This was also something my developer explained wouldn’t be a problem from the beginning. From there we bought into the Hero engine due to my developers previous experience in developing an MMORPG on that platform. Months were spent on this engine as well as resources until my lead told me this too wouldn’t work. All the while, my lead developer was pushing away my other devs claiming various excuses such as lack of experience, hard to work with, you name it. In hindsight I realized that it may well have been him hiding the fact that he wasn’t sure what he was doing and didn’t want anyone around with the experience and knowledge enough that they would recognize his issues and alert me.
During all of this, I was the bad guy who shot from the hip while he catered to the community, all while bleeding our resources and making excuses to me as I pushed and pushed to hit deadlines for various milestones that were never once met. The problem I had was with limited funds, every engine change cost money we couldn’t get back and with the community growing in uproar in what was becoming a self fulfilling prophecy, I could no longer find the help I needed to see things through and was ultimately locked into either making my lead developer make good on his constant promises of delivery or cancel the project. Once the Kickstarter funds were used, I began using my own resources. Against my lead developers direction I had to cancel the very expensive hosting account he original swore we needed and cut it down to a fraction of the monthly expense. At one point during all of this he threatened to leave the project and me holding the bag at which point I threatened to sue him. He made it public and of course I was further vilified for it.
Finally, after 3 years of dealing with complete chaos, my lead developer came to me with a new partner and told me to sign all assets over to them or he was bailing on me. They would sign agreements to fulfill the pledge rewards and complete the game as his new partner apparently had interest from additional investors. I had a choice. I could either make one last ditch effort in just getting the game finished for everyone and remove myself from the equation (which mind you everything up to this point had been blamed on me anyway and I honestly just went with it, thinking, once the game was finished, none of it would matter anyway.) or cancel it all. I had a huge library of game assets, custom systems, models and licenses all which would have gone to waste. I agreed to the deal. I had an agreement drafted that gave them all of the games assets with their promise to complete the project and fulfill all pledge rewards and everyone signed it. I shipped his new partner the rest of the t-shirts and publicly announced my departure and the new arrangement.
I honestly figured, if its really me pushing and driving you to finish the game that’s the problem and all of the drama surrounding the project, here you go. No more excuses. Just get it done. I didn’t sell the assets to them, I simply gave them everything. I washed my hands of it and tried to move on with my life. Of course, they got nothing accomplished. They didn’t send out the rest of the shirts. To my knowledge they did absolutely nothing.
To this day, I am labeled a scammer, a thief and more. Those who pledged large sums of money to the project have almost all sent me letters, emails and or facebook messages letting me know they understand and felt bad about what I was dealing with while some of those who pledged $1 to $50 or nothing at all, have stalked everything I do online spreading more rumors and hate as they link click bait videos and forum posts online that label me wrongly on websites more interested in the traffic they generate than the damage their sites cause the livlihoods of those affected. Allowing such content to remain on their site and rank in Search Engines is as if the site itself is making those statements which can be cause for damages in the future unless removed. I’ve thought about taking action about some of it, but I haven’t to this day for one simple reason. I put my name and reputation on the line on the promises of someone I should have vetted better beforehand. I may have been mislead, but it was me who sold the idea of the project and put my name and marketing experience behind it. By the time I realized what was happening, I cut all additional funding efforts and got very aggressive in cost cutting and milestone demands, but all was for naught. I still feel responsible. That’s why I’ve not done anything yet.
I recently got a phone call from one of these internet trolls who was shocked at my answering the phone. He began apologizing for all of the terrible things he had done and said about me online and confessed to being bi-polar and having other mental issues and that he runs hot and cold and just wanted closure. He had sent me many Facebook messages and whether it was him or someone else, I found my Facebook account riddled with countless links to negative clickbait videos about me that continued to pop up as I deleted them until changing my Facebook settings.
So, what is my plan moving forward? I wish I knew who these trolls were that are always spreading rumors and hate so that I could at some point refund everyone else. Ultimately though, its been 6 years since this all began and to this day, it doesn’t sit well with me. Nevermind the losers with nothing better to do than sell inflatable arm waving signs while cleaning their ear gauges (yeah, I know who ya are too bud) and blast me at every turn, or the conspiracy nutters and general crazies who, while few in number are very loud on the web or the websites who loved this story as clickbait heaven using my horrors as revenue fuel. I care about those things, but not enough to let it dictate my happiness of future success.
Overall, I plan to be able to refund everyone that contributed to the project. I’ve attempted to do so through Cryptocurrency but that’s not allowed through Kickstarter and the project I was working on had to be put on hold as it is fairly sizable in scope and before I dive into that, I first want to finish my platform project. I’ve actually partnered with an enterprise level software and applications developer for this platform and expect to have a prototype in January of 2018. Provided this project goes as planned, I have 20% of the tokens related to the project reserved for myself and my development partner. I plan to sell enough of my personal share of tokens to be put into a Paypal account to refund contributors once and for all. Lets face it, trying to come up with $100k to pay back donations to a passion project isn’t exactly easy. I do well in my career and I do alright with my other ventures, but most people don’t just have $100k lying around. The very nature of Kickstarter is for those wanting to donate funds to the passion projects of others, but many look at it as a presale with no allowance for failure due to the big companies that use Kickstarter that way and generate millions in contributions for single projects.
Regardless, this project was the bane of my existence for years and I want to put it behind me once and for all and the only way I’ll be able to do that, is to do what I can to refund the pledges and never look back. My hope is that 2018 is fruitful enough to enable me to do that.