RAW Game Scam: Beware of False Promises

Introduction to Kickstarter and Project RAW:

Kickstarter is nothing if not a world of wildly varying outcomes. It exists to help fund projects that lack their stream of capital and much of the time it works out just fine. However, there are a lot of situations that don't go as planned. One of the more prominent recent examples of those outcomes, or lack of an outcome, is the game RAW. At first, RAW seemed too good to be true, as many Kickstarter projects do. This one raised expectations to very high levels to gain the attention that was needed to fund the game.

Description of RAW's Concept:

RAW was billed as a fairly revolutionary idea, combining the concept seen in open-world action games like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead with a persistently active online MMORPG where the player would have the opportunity to alter the world for everyone else. Power, money, and livelihoods would all be in the balance of other players' actions as well as your own. Interacting with the world also meant changing it in fundamental ways. Whether you want to become part of the town's power structure through government affairs, try your hand at business, or just mess around and complete contracts at your own pace, RAW promises a little something for just about everyone who finds the idea interesting.

Initial Interest and Skepticism:

The project was met with interest as well as skepticism for its huge promises, but Killer Whale Games pressed on with the project and continued collecting funding from Kickstarter users for quite some time. The project immediately spawned lots of questions: How is a team this small and inexperienced going to pull off something this ambitious? How is this an MMORPG if each world has less than 100 players? What is the post-launch timeline for server maintenance and updates? Is there a timeline at all? Where exactly is the money going? Will additional talent be hired? What is the proof of concept? All these valid questions and more were asked and mostly met with even bigger promises as answers, promises that rarely resulted in anything but more promises.

Emerging Red Flags:

As a result, various red flags started popping up when videos of the game's current state were released. Backers were recognizing assets being used that the team did not create on their own. The money for the project was seemingly being lit on fire, as their financial reports would later reveal. Despite this, the project would continue to gain steam, and it would surpass its sub-80 grand goal by reaching six figures in a relatively short amount of time when compared to other similar projects on the site. It seemed that, despite the issues and the questions, momentum was in favor of Killer Whale, at least for a while.

Kickstarter's Intervention and Cancellation:

All that said, Kickstarter seemed to take multiple issues with Killer Whale's process for the project, and just one day before the funding would be live, they canceled it. Just as it was reaching the 200 grand mark, the decision seemed rather sudden and even unexpected, as red flags for the game were being raised for quite a while before the decision. Seemingly recycled assets, questionable gameplay trailers, not meeting various benchmarks, and other decisions were leading to lots of doubts about the project leading up to its cancellation by Kickstarter.

Kickstarter's Explanation and Response:

Once that fateful day came, Kickstarter released a message to the backers stating, "To protect our community, we may suspend projects when they demonstrate one or more of the following: a creator or someone directly related to them posing as an independent party to create the illusion of support in project comments or elsewhere, or appropriating someone else's biography or falsifying an identity, or misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator." While the message didn't go into explicit detail about which of these infractions the folks over at Killer Whale were guilty of, it was clear that something substantial was discovered that Kickstarter was just plain not comfortable with, and as a result, didn't want the project using their platform to collect funds.

Killer Whale's Response and Indiegogo Campaign:

Shortly after, they clarified further, "Our rules and guidelines ask that creators seek to raise the amount of money needed to bring a project to completion and fulfill all rewards." The creator stated in an update that they would need to raise additional funds outside of Kickstarter to complete the game. "We require projects to be honest and presented, and this project failed to meet that standard." While this seemed like a valid reason to terminate the campaign, it was odd that it came right at the end of it and let other previous red flags go unanswered. Even still, Killer Whale was quick to respond with their own, let's say, passionate response via Twitter, in which they, after insulting Kickstarter as a platform multiple times, eventually got around to mentioning that they do indeed have other sources of funding and are starting a new campaign on the Indiegogo site to continue production.

Conclusion and Lessons Learned:

After all of this, despite all the bluster, details on the game's development are still hard to find, and it's tough to nail down exactly where the project is in development. Even to this day, the last tweet from Killer Whale is simply a link to their Discord, and I couldn't for the life of me find any trace of their game on Indiegogo's website. All of that being said, whether or not this game ever really amounts to anything that resembles what it was promised to be, it can serve as one thing helpful to the gaming community: it's a lesson for potential backers to do their research before giving up their hard-earned money to projects that may or may not deserve it. 

Anybody with a little bit of initiative and a few hours to spare can put together a list of promises, start a Kickstarter campaign, and even cobble together some promising-looking trailers to impress potential backers. That doesn't mean everything you see is a scam, and that doesn't even necessarily mean that RAW itself was intended to be a scam, but it does mean that the ease of getting a nice-looking campaign up and running can make actual scams hard to discern from real projects that are being run appropriately. Making a video game in today's world is hard, and I don't ever want to criticize the development of one without underlining this fact. 

Here it does seem that we had, at the very least, a mismanaged project on our hands, and at most, a full-blown scam. We obviously can't read the developers' minds, so we can't know for sure if malicious intent was present from the onset of the project, but like I said, the best thing we can get out of this mess was the RAW game is that proof of concept is everything.

Call to Action:

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