Winterkewl Games has told Eurogamer it will disband, following the demise of its $567,000 Yogscast-backed Kickstarter project Yogventures.
The bankrupted studio chose to abandon the project after it became clear that the game's development would never become sustainable, based on the studio's limited resources and the pace at which the game was progressing.
But questions remain of the $150,000 of Kickstarter backer money entrusted to Yogscast during the project itself. Winterkewl does not know whether that was all spent.
"While we are all very experienced artists, business men / women we are not, and that's the biggest lesson learned," Winterkewl founder Kristafer Vale began. "Winterkewl Games is going to be dissolved in 2015 after we file the final taxes for 2014."
As revealed yesterday, an early rift occurred between the developer and Yogscast when one of Winterkewl's staff left to join LucasArts with his $35k share of the Kickstarter funds. This lump sum had been paid in exchange for an expected six months of work on the project. In reality, the artist worked for "about two weeks".
It was after this incident that Yogscast asked for the remainder of the project's budget - around $150,000 - to be sent to them for safe keeping.
"Lewis [Brindley, Yogscast co-founder], being a lot more experienced with running a business than I, was rightly upset about that blunder on my part. He wanted to get more involved in the way the finances were being handled as he clearly saw potential for disaster. That's why they asked for the remainder of the funds to be sent to them for them to handle the physical rewards etc.
"Now, I made it clear what that money was still ear-marked for, but we again didn't draw up a very specific contract for it, and as such I don't have much recourse on how and what that money was to be spent on.
"The Yogscast did spend a significant portion of those funds to create and ship all the backer rewards, and they did assist with the marketing in the form of the E3 booth and the videos they created for the Kickstarter campaign itself.
"This was all part of a plan that revolved around the Yogscast promoting the game in return for the use of their IP. Above and beyond that I can't say."
Eurogamer has contacted Yogscast for more information on what the $150,000 was spent on but has yet to receive a response.
In a statement posted over the weekend, Yogscast seemed to suggest that Winterkewl was only telling part of the story - but declined to add any information of its own.
"We're not ready to make a detailed statement about what happened with Yogventures," Yogscast's Brindley wrote. "Winterkewl's statement omits much and I would disagree with a number of points, but there's no value in going into detail."
Presumably, if any money remains, this could now be offered to anyone that wants a refund on their pledges - something that Yogscast has to date pointed backers to the now-bankrupt Winterkewl to try and obtain.
"We continued to develop the project for another 18 months," Vale continued, "hoping that at some point the work itself would give Yogscast enough content that they could finally start advertising our pre-order business. And that once the audiences saw what we were making we may finally make enough to hire a few programmers...
"Sadly, as a programmer myself, I just never achieved that goal. The game is extremely ambitious and there are thousands of stories in my backlog that have to be addressed before the game could ever live up to the expectations everyone had, and after taking an additional five months unpaid leave from work, I was still coming up short and had to admit that there was no way forward for us to continue on the game.
"All of the remaining members of Winterkewl understood the risk that we may be working on this game for two years and never see another penny for our efforts. However, the potential for success seemed high enough that we bet on the Yogscast's ability as a marketing channel to make the effort worthwhile. We knew there was a risk that since they have all the control of the marketing that we may not be able to control just how and to what scale that marketing would manifest, but we trusted that it would ultimately work out for all involved.
"I naively thought that since everyone at Winterkewl went to the same college, we've all remained close colleagues and friends for over 12 years, I thought that history alone would 'keep everyone honest' but when the artist that had to leave the project wouldn't give any of his retainer back, I couldn't legally force him to. This was completely my mistake and I deeply regret it more than anything else."
Yogscast has given Yogventures backers a Steam key for Nerd Kingdom's TUG, an open-world sandbox which it is now partnering with instead.
Speaking to Eurogamer, TUG developer and Nerd Kingdom founder Peter Salinas stated that his studio's game could be a good replacement.
"The goals of the project are fairly similar, so a lot of the things they [backers] thought were important about Yogventures, they are finding in TUG," he said. "We certainly do have a handful of replies we get from disappointed and frustrated backers, but we take the time to create dialogue with them all and try to get them in a good place. So far, we have succeeded with each one we have talked to, and have gotten the community excited all over again, so it's pretty rad.
Yogscast has even suggested that TUG may include rewards for Yogventures fans. Some Kickstarter backers paid $750 to name Yogventures weapons, NPCs, locations, custom blocks, decorations and creatures.
"It's going to be tough to do those in a project where we are avoiding naming anything for the players in the long run," Salinas admits. "It's a bit of a social experiment for developed communication... maybe a bit boring for some people :P.
"We are going to offer the rewards that were close to our own from Kickstarter, and we may do some more TUG-themed bits if the community are into it. There are other things we could do also, but we want the chance to chat with the community about them, let them know what that means for development and our timelines and see how they feel about it."
But the fact remains that, however good TUG is, it will not be the same game that Yogventures backers originally paid for.
"The experience for me, is one of deep regret, but also a lot of gratitude to everyone involved," Winterkewl's Vale concluded. "Yogscast accepted our offer of making a game for their community based on our experience as feature film animation veterans and the fact that were were able to quickly put together a good demo showing where the game would head.
"The financial mistakes, the loss of key personnel without a backup plan, and the bizarre contractual relationship with the members of Winterkewl, all eroded that faith. This got exasperated by the fact that all the members of Winterkewl were frustrated by the lack of marketing videos that never materialised for the above reasons.
"It was a very painful learning experience for everyone involved, but my sincere hope is that if nothing else, the backers enjoy the rewards the Yogscast were able to provide, and that the future of Yogventures may still turn out better than where it is currently."