If you didn’t already know, there’s a bit of controversy surrounding OUYA’s Free The Games Fund, which aims to match, dollar for dollar, any video game Kickstarter project that raises more than $50,000 and is exclusive to OUYA for the first six months of its release. It sounds like a great idea, and it probably could have been had a couple development teams not tried to scam the system.
The Kickstarter project for Elementary My Dear Holmes by Victory Square Games was recently suspended by Kickstarter after raising nearly $59,000. Gridiron Thunder, developed by MogoTXT, raised $171,000, was not suspended and appears to be the first game to qualify for OUYA’s Free The Games Fund.
However, concerns had been raised about the legitimacy of the donations in both projects, essentially claiming the two companies set up a series of dummy accounts and contributed money to their own projects, which violated Kickstarter’s terms, with the intent of raising enough money to meet the $50,000 Free The Games Fund barrier and receive a 100-percent profit on every dollar raised thereafter. It was even found that many of the accounts that donated to Elementary My Dear Holmes matched the same IP address as Victory Square Games.
This brings us to SuckerFree Games’ Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus, which up until yesterday had only raised about $2,700, and with about a week left in its campaign to raise at least $10,000, looked like it was destined for failure. That’s until William McDonald’s father unexpectedly stepped in to help.
“My father has finally decided to give us a break,” McDonald wrote in a blog update on the game’s project page. “My father gave me 5 checks to give to my most trustworthy of friends. The 5th check was given to John to pledge for my father.”
The checks McDonald’s father gave him were for $9,990 each, and after McDonald gives them to his friends, they’ll contribute the money entirely to his Kickstarter project. After all the money has been contributed, Eye of Draconus will be over the $50,000 barrier and qualify Sucker Free Games for the Free The Games Fund.
“We did go to him before we did the Kickstarter,” McDonald told us during an interview on Sept. 12. “We went to all of our family trying to get funds, just enough to finish the first episode. Everyone told us no, or to quote my father, ‘Not only no, but hell no.’ My dad wouldn’t give me the money until he saw this opportunity.”
While some people claim what McDonald is doing is not too different than what Victory Square Games and MogoTXT did with their campaigns, he maintains that it’s different.
“We’re not like these other people. There’s no scam here,” he said. “OUYA is getting an exclusive title for six months. Everyone who backs it gets their games. We get to finish our games, and everyone who is handling my father’s money to pledge gets an OUYA like it says in the $2,000 level. Everyone’s getting what they paid for.”
Additionally, McDonald said he contacted Kickstarter before agreeing to his father’s proposal to ensure it didn’t violate the company’s terms.
“They told us that this would not be a violation of (Kickstarter) rules, that we are free to go ahead and they wished us luck,” he said.
Even with that said, however, McDonald understands that his game may, in his view, unfairly be lumped in with the rest of the recent OUYA controversy but believes being forthright with the public is the best course of action.
“We want to be honest. That’s why we released the update we did,” he said. “Unlike everybody else, we’re telling people what we’re doing. I think that’s the best policy. People can still get angry, but I don’t feel like we deserve any negative backlash from this.”
However, that still hasn’t convinced some people that his campaign is any different than Gridiron Thunder or Elementary My Dear Holmes.
“What you are planning to do is exactly the same thing that Gridiron did,” grantmoore3d wrote in the game’s thread on OuyaForum.com. “People are going to view it that way, it’s going to be another project that was only successful because someone with deep pockets funded it.”
McDonald said his father isn’t rich, though. “My dad lives in a shitty house by himself. His wife is dead. He’s been saving his pension money to buy a car, and this is essentially all his savings, so he’s basically broke as far as disposable income because of this project,” he said.
The next question is whether McDonald and his father have an under-the-table agreement to use the $50,000 they get from OUYA to pay his father back.
“Well, that’s something that we talked about to him,” McDonald said. “We might, and we might not. I’m hoping our game will make money so we can pay him back that way.”
However, Danielle Dorsey, who is developing the game alongside McDonald, said it’s unlikely they’ll use the money to pay his father back.
“The money, initially, what we’re going to do with it, is to pay our artist,” she said. “We have one artist who has been waiting on good faith for $500 that we haven’t been able to pay her for two months. So the first disbursement of OUYA money is to pay our artist.
“Whatever money comes after that, we’re going to be fulfilling our obligations on Kickstarter,” she continued. “We still have to pay for episode two and three, so there’s really not going to be any money left to pay his dad unless we budget this crazily well and nothing ever goes wrong.”
As of the time of this writing, it appears two checks have been cashed and donated to Eye of Draconus, as its pledges currently sit at $22,787.
It’s also worth noting this isn’t the first time SuckerFree Games used Kickstarter to fund Eye of Draconus. On May 11, 2011, the company raised $5,177 in its first Kickstarter campaign. At that point in time, they planned to release the game six to nine months after the campaign ended, which would have been anywhere from November 2011 to February 2012.
“Many unforeseen and significant events have happened since 2011,” reads the new Kickstarter campaign. “Since the ending of our Kickstarter, we’ve suffered an apartment flood, forced relocation, multiple deaths in the family, a car crash, loss of jobs, reduced hours and divorce, but we haven’t stopped working on the game.”
Because of these issues and others he and Dorsey had, they weren’t able to fund the development of the game from their first Kickstarter campaign.
“With this opportunity to get matching funds for Dungeons from OUYA we will be able to hire our artists full time,” they wrote. “The additional funds would enable us to expand our game to match its original design document. We could add features that were previously considered too expensive.”
McDonald hopes to unveil and release Eye of Draconus at PAX Prime 2014.
(Editor’s note: In our effort to be completely transparent, I should note that I personally backed Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus.)