Tim Schafer’s three million dollar success story was a boon for developers looking for free reign to create projects publishers wouldn’t normally touch. However, a few bad apples are more than willing to spoil the bunch by finding ways to scam people out of their money. Take the case of Little Monster Productions’ Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men. Claiming to have scraped together talent from Activision/Blizzard, Disney and Pixar, studio founder Seth Westphal promised a single and multiplayer RPG made from the mechanics of World of Warcraft with Skyrim-level visuals. It wasn’t long before Little Monster Productions got called out for blatant plagiarism and theft.
At first glance, Mythic sounded like an exciting project: an RPG made from some top tier industry folk fueled by a “for gamers by gamers” mentality. However, there are some standout oddities in the project description. For one, Little Monster Productions only asked for $80,000 to fund the game. That hardly seems like enough money to build something on par with World of Warcraft and Skyrim – two games that, at least, required double the amount of money Westphal needs. Little Monster Productions was quick to point out, however, that, “Our team has been able to raise a substantial amount from various VC’s and Angel Investors as well as pulling out our own wallets!” That sort of makes sense, sure. Another oddity is that there are only twelve people working on the game. How could a game of Mythic’s scope be accomplished by such a small team by the target date of May 2013? But wait, they’ve been “writing schedules and sticking to them for the better part of the last decade.” Er, well…okay.
What ultimately exposes this project as a farce are the sharp eyed Something Awful forum users that discovered the in-game assets were stolen from Photoshop tutorials, an art competition and fantasy artist Gonzalo Ordoňez Arias. The best part? The photos of the Little Monster Productions offices posted on Facebook (now deleted) were lifted from the Burton Design Group’s website! Boy, I haven’t seen this much blatant theft since Limbo of the Lost. In an attempt to weasel out of the numerous accusations, Westphal wrote the following:
A few members of our team worked at BDG last year beforeother [sic] found out the owner was being shady with funds. They left and joined our team shortly after. 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 [sic] questions please feel free to ask.
Of course, there would be no opportunity to ask follow up questions as Westphal jumped ship, shut down his website and closed the Kickstarter account after cancelling the project. Hilariously, an employee from the Burton Design Group came forward and claimed that Westphal was fired from the company for “noncompliance.”Thankfully, the scam was caught before the project had a chance to reach its target, but it only managed to raise $4,739 so there wasn’t much of a chance that backers were going to lose their money.
This makes me wonder if we’re going to see some increased oversight from Kickstarter, especially since this isn’t the first time someone scammed people out of their money. Should they step in and demand credentials from those initiating a project or request some form of personal capital? That would certainly taint the spirit of the website, but if enough people get scammed, you can bet that they will want Kickstarter’s blood.