Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 9th ~ July 21st

Let me talk about the happenings and news in the Kickstarter comments over the past dozen days, sort of summing it up and throwing in my own two cents. (Although, truthfully, there were no comments today.)

It's been 21 days since the Primer Labs' website was noticed to be down. It's been 17 days since Alex Peake stated he was sorting out the issues with the webhost. The domain, or multiple domains (,,, were purchased on GoDaddy and the website itself is hosted on Linode's servers.

Now, I've done some webhosting myself with a provider, though not with Linode or for CHCB. Still, it should not take this long to fix it. If it does, why would you still stick with such a company? What kind of customer service is that? (Ironic, no?) With the domains on GoDaddy, Mr. Peake or a comrade could easily redirect the domains to a different host without much trouble, even to a thrown-together free site.

Posting updates and links in the update area on Kickstarter, maybe even redirecting the domains to that page as well, seems like the easiest thing to do. Why is that area collecting dust, anyway?

Because of this, the links to download the alpha--which the backers all have a right to do--are not normally reachable. Fortunately, Peter S used the Wayback Machine to find us some links for everyone to use, although likely just in Guest Mode. Click here. Unnormally reached, so yay!

There's still some wondering on how this project is going to fare. Since those 17 days ago, Mr. Peake has also fallen silent and is ignoring his backers once again. He even logged into Kickstarter (at least) 8 days ago without a peep. Word has it that Mr. Peake has already moved on to another project, one involving alternate reality gaming glasses.

One thing that has some agreement amongst the backers for sure, and that's how Double Fine has done a far better job with their own Kickstarter game running out of funding before finishing. They've kept their backers up to date. They also shipped out the awards.and have apparently been transparent about their funding.

From the way the comments are turning, legal action is a desired path, even if Mr. Peake miraculously meets his latest promise. Or will Mr. Peake do an about face and suddenly change everyone's minds, updating left and right while throwing up a spreadsheet of where all the money went and have something organized for getting the rewards out? Unfortunately, the sudden change in character seems unlikely at this point, though I hope to be proven wrong.

Here are all the comments, for easy access. I put dates next to the ones that seemed I should.

Majugi (July 9th):
It's nice to see that press articles can still provoke a bit of a response here. However, I do find it annoying that this project is often compared to the Double Fine projects (as in the Develop article linked below). As a backer of both Double Fine Kickstarters, I have to say that the problems aren't even remotely comparable. The Double Fine Adventure game is looking great, backers have already received upwards of ten hours of high-quality video updates in addition to written updates covering both the creation of content and the management of the project (see, and the t-shirt and poster rewards were shipped ages ago. Although Double Fine has projected that the Double Fine Adventure will exceed the Kickstarter funding by a fair amount, it has already procured millions of additional no-strings-attached funds and the controversial two-part release is primarily motivated by the need to release something soon and not a case of the company being unable to deliver a finished game.
There's a few reasons I'm quick to defend Double Fine: (1) they've been very transparent about how funds have been managed and about their project management plans, (2) whether or not it would have been wiser for Double Fine to create a smaller game, I believe that all the funding they have received is being put to good use, and (3) they've been very good at delivering interesting updates and behind-the-scenes content.

It's often said that Kickstarter is not a pre-order system, but Kickstarter is ALSO not a platform for receiving free money. Double Fine Adventure, to me, is a great example of how Kickstarter SHOULD work as a balance between providing creators freedom and flexibility on ambitious projects and providing backers with assurances that their money is not being wasted. The main problem with Code Hero is not that the game hasn't shipped, but rather the fact that there's very little evidence that the Code Hero funding had any tangible result.
Daniel Churcher:
Does anyone have a link to the latest PC Alpha? I saw a Mac version a few posts down, but the PC would be great as well, now that the website is down.
Dustin Deckard:
Majugi - I want to like that comment so hard. I'm also quick to defend Double Fine, because I've poured over every update and watched every video, and feel very informed about the state of their game. Total opposite of this mess here.

Daniel - this project's website is down, and has been for some time. So unless someone else has a copy of the installer somewhere, you're out of luck. I'm not sure you would even be able to log into the game since Alex's whole operation seems totally down. As of today (or yesterday, idk) is pointing at an IIS page, which means it's finally reconnected to SOMETHING, but who knows.
Peter S:
Daniel (and everyone else): Here's a link to both the PC and Mac latest versions, thanks to my friend
It takes a moment for the downloads to start, so don't despair if they don't start downloading instantly.

Like I said before, you *can* play the game by entering 'guest mode', which doesn't seem to require any kind of validation from (or even an internet connection, I think). But if you want to play via logging in, then you're probably out of luck.
I have to admit that this is rather dissappointing. Ultimately, it's probably not surprising given how long the process has gone on for, but really, I get that some of the stretch goals may not have been as doable as envisioned, but I don't understand how the base game isn't finished.
I can't speak for anybody else, but I suspect that financing the stretch goals out of sales would have been an acceptable compromise. Heck, even dropping them to get something would have been preferable.

I don't really have any optimism of this game being finished, but I do hope that I'm wrong about that.
Daniel Churcher:
@ Peter S: Thanks a lot, I never would have thought to use!
Dustin Deckard (July 15th):
So it's been over 2 weeks since the site went down. Anyone else wondering what the reason for this could possibly be?
Deborah Schumacher (July 15th):
The thing is, Alex logged in 2 days ago. he just doesn't want to respond to us.
The page seems to just be a Microsoft affiliate link. Presumably whoever put that link there is earning click-through revenue on it. My first reaction was that the domain was subject to cybersquatting, but it's odd that the domain would lapse now, since the registration seems to be good until August 27. Someone could have guessed the site's admin password, but you'd think the site would be back by now if that were the case. Maybe this is part of the new funding plan for Code Hero; the recent press will have driven a few more people than normal to the site, so this could be a way of monetizing that.
Huh, so apparently the Tactical Corsets site went down on around June 2 (judging by the comments on the Facebook page for that project). It's okay though, because Alex is always up for a relaunch if this post from February 2012 (at the end of the Code Hero campaign) is anything to go by: "!@tacticalcorsets will relaunch! I made Code Hero, a game to teach you to make games @Kickstarter 2 hours left 200K=MMO"
Speaking of which, had I known about the Tactical Corsets (or lack thereof) I would never have backed this project. On the other hand, the MMO stretch goal was warning enough that this wasn't going to happen. This is more than "rather disappointing" -- this is an unbelievably catastrophic failure of a Kickstarter that happened at the same time as an ongoing catastrophic pre-order business failure. Looking back on this, it's hard to believe I ever supported this project, but I like programming games enough that I was willing to throw money at it as a general gesture of goodwill. I'm not looking for a return on that investment. I'm not expecting a breakthrough game. I just feel bad for enabling this delusional project.

If you're reading this Alex, I know what I'm saying here isn't particularly constructive, but if you want constructive advice you should read the comments from the preceding year -- most of them could still help you dig your way out of this if you'd actually learn from them.

For anyone still interested in the project itself, the best written information I've seen about it is this article from November:
While I'm willing to admit my own blue eyednes with this project, as I backed it in my initial enthustiastic phase of KS and didn't do proper research on it, all this is leaving a very bad taste in my mouth. After learning about those tactical corsets I can't help but to feel that Peake was set out to fool us from the get go.
Dustin Deckard (July 16th):
To make matters worse, someone anonymously sent a "tip" to my email that Alex has moved on (in some capacity) and is working with a new alternate reality glasses/gaming startup... so that's a thing. I have no other info to confirm, so please spare me the lectures. I haven't dug up anything of substance but I wouldn't put it past some of you. Not trying to start rumors here - just want to see if anyone can confirm for us.
And Majugi - the site isn't a MS affiliate link - that's just a default landing page for the IIS service on a Windows server. Basically just means he's got the domain connected to a server, but it's not configured correctly to point to the actual website content. It's not anything to do with ads or monetizing clicks. My best guess is that he didn't pay his hosting bill, the site was deleted, and he doesn't have a proper backup. In which case, of course, there's no good reason for him to keep that information private, since it's currently just making him look like a dick. If there's another, technical reason why the site's not up, he would be well served to tell us - I'm sure some backers could help, offer hosting or any other assistance.
Good to know, Dustin. That page did seem a little unusual for an affiliate link. I can buy the "no money for hosting" theory. We know that there's no money for the project, and one way or another most other problems come back to that (with the notable exception of the communication issues).

I wouldn't be surprised if there's another Alex Peake project on the horizon. It seems to be in his nature to come up with project ideas and try to launch them, which I don't begrudge him for at all. I'd be willing to support Alex in the future (not financially, but in principle) if he simply called an official end to all these projects he's left hanging and dealt directly with the consequences of that. The constant refrain of saying they're not dead when they clearly are is what's pushing these projects into scam territory. I don't think it's an intentional scam: it's a pyramid scheme where even the top of the pyramid loses. Unless it really IS a scam, in which case it's been a very effective.

Anyway, I got sidetracked there. I don't think it's a scam. I do think that Alex is being intentionally obtuse in his communications and he seems extremely willing to ignore obligations that are inconvenient to his plans. I suspect he also thinks that these problems will go away if he ever gets to be "in the right place at the right time" to make a brilliant product or, barring that, when the technological singularity happens.

Anyway, Alex, just tell us what's happening with the project. No really, it'll be fun. Think of how much better you'll feel afterwards. You don't need to wait for PAX every year.
Polygon's article from December is actually pretty informative. For some reason, I never saw it.

Update #19 was also a pretty good attempt at communication and again reading it now, it does answer a lot of the questions I had about what's happened to the project, so I'll give the team credit for that (although it also promised a bunch of things that didn't materialize, so it'd be great if you could get to those things). The one big question that it didn't really address was what did the team actually spend time working on and what got done? I get that the money went into developer salaries, but what did that go into?

The main reason I've been pushing to having this project stopped or open-sourced is because I believe that it stands no chance of succeeding with its current direction and funding status. I've been programming for about as long as I can remember (which, admittedly, is not all that long). And yes, if it were my own project, I would still believe I could pull it off somehow. But rationally, if it was my project and it was in this state, it wouldn't matter what I believed; you should have enough empirical evidence of your progress by now to get a grounded estimate of whether you can complete the project.

Don't just think it's a matter of time to finish: do some project management. List the tasks you still need to finish. Estimate how long you think you'll need to get them done. Do some code sprints and figure out how long it actually takes you and then you can scale your estimates by your actual measures. If you try this and it seems like you'll actually finish at some point this decade, then tell us about it! If you try it and it looks like you won't be done before 281 474 976 712 644 AD, then still tell us about it and have a good long think.
Ultimately it is what it is, but I don't understand how they could be out of money without even having the base system completed.
If they've truly run out of money and given up, the least they could do is open source the code or otherwise give back to the community. I'm only out $31 on this, but I know there's folks that have lost more than I made last year.
Dustin Deckard:
Without being told otherwise, I think we have to assume that there's two primary possibilities for why we're not being kept in the loop: 1) There is embarrassingly little work done, the game is hardly different than it was before the $200k came in. And 2) Alex just doesn't want to give up the rights in any capacity, so he can keep his name on it forever and eventually people will (hopefully not) forget that this was such a disaster and he can put another "startup" under his belt.
Yeah, those are both super pessimistic, but I don't think anyone can blame me for being pessimistic after everything we've been through with this fiasco. We're about 3 weeks in now, with the website down. My big fear through all of this is that Alex is just stringing us along at this point, hoping the clamor will continue to get quieter and quieter so he can completely walk away.

As others have echoed, I think the best case scenario is that we get an open source release, someone else is able to get an authentication server up, and a few excellent "the sad story of Code Hero" articles get written to we can close this chapter of Kickstarter/Peake history.

It kind of blows my mind that instead of figuring out how much it would cost to fulfill each of the physical rewards and then setting aside that amount from those pledges, he just went ahead and spent everything.
Jonathan Jou (July 19th):
Does anyone have good references for legal counsel? I am tragically unprepared in this regard, but I'm hopeful that between the 7,459 of us there are a few people who will know who to turn to. It's time to figure out what we can do, and how long it will take to put it together. I don't think we should wait, and I certainly don't think we should stop, even if Alex delivers on his September beta. It sounds like he wants to move on, and in that case, what makes the most sense is a civil, if law-enforced, resolution. There are people who want their money back, people who want answers, and people who want what he has so far, and it seems reasonable to try to get all three from Alex. Has anyone got the comprehensive list of every instance Alex has gone on record and spoken to a media outlet or one of us directly? I remember that he explicitly admitted to having more than the funds he asked for and still deciding not to fulfill physical rewards, that he said the money ran out paying developers for some amount of months, and that he was trying to raise additional funding, which means that he asked for $100,000, got $200,000, and then needed more. The comments he's made here alone are enough to show how many updates, verbal or deliverable, he's promised, and I suspect that if we go through his interviews there's plenty more evidence to make our case.
Dustin Deckard:
Hi Jonathan - you're correct, there's plenty of evidence against him. The challenge is finding a legal rep who wants to take the case as a class action deal, which to be blunt I've had trouble with. Everyone knows how slowly the courts move, so there's still no precedent for a class-action case against a Kickstarter like this.
Arthur Corliss:
Another month goes by -- but wait -- there's been change during that month! Oh.. never mind, his site just went down. Must be the "quietly disappear into the night" part of the scam.

It's sad that this project was so disastrous that I'm extra cautious now in choosing whether to back other projects. I'm really sensitive to whether these campaigns are over promising...

Alex: you're ruining it for everyone.
@Dustin, ultimately, if he spent the money on development related activities, then there's nothing more that's legally required of him. We risked our money that he'd be able to deliver on the goods.

Now, there may be some grounds for people promised physical goods or other services, but even under the best conditions you'd be entitled to maybe attorney's costs plus the original funds.

I don't like that, but the fact is that there were always risks and ultimately, he was hiring people with the money rather than escaping to Cancun.

BTW, IANAL, but ultimately, there's little evidence that this is anything other than a poorly run project that's run out of money.
Jonathan Jou:
Thomas, that would be the most important thing, I'd imagine. Not all of us put enough into the project to miss the funds, but there are six people who put in at least $1012 who might have been hoping to use Code Hero in schools by now, as well as 1217 people who were promised a USB drive and a t-shirt. If the evidence can prove that the project was poorly run and unlikely to make good on its backing tiers, those who want to invest their money elsewhere will have a chance.

As someone who actually wanted the project to succeed, I'm very much interested in a post mortem and the source code, which Alex is not obligated to offer us, but as a fellow non-lawyer I'm hopeful that the process of getting our money back will answer any questions we have, as well as leave the option of making the code open source in a settlement available. I can't say I'm expecting the Code Hero engine to recoup the losses of any of us, much less many of us, but I'd consider it a gesture of good will and a step towards making Alex's vision a reality, rather than the sort of fitful floundering that's going on right now.
Thomas (July 20th):
@Jonathan, IANAL, but it's unlikely that anybody is going to see any money, even if there is a lawsuit filed. And anybody that does get money back, is likely to only be entitled to the actual cost of the item they were promised, not the cost of the full amount they backed.

It sucks, but ultimately, there was always a risk of things going bad, and depending upon how exactly Primer Labs was set up, any awards may very well be limited to the assets owned by Primer Labs, which is to say just the source code. I don't see any indication about how Primer was set up previously.


  1. A recurring comment made is that Primer Labs can likely not be sued due to lack of assets. After a little searching I've found no evidence that Primer Labs exists as a company or LLC. There is an unrelated deodorant company in the area that is registered as "Primer Labs LLC" but the owner responded to my request by stating that he had no connection with Alex Peake. Entity number '201111710155' if you want to search yourself.

    If this is true and Alex never actually formally incorporated that opens him up for personal liability. This also means that likely all payments made for 'code hero' or 'primer labs' were filed as private expenditures.

    I have no idea what that will mean, in the end.

  2. Xero –

    Jess with Joystiq here. I'm working on a story about Code Hero and would love your insight. Send me an email: jess [at] joystiq [dot] com. Thanks!

    – Jess