Defiance Games posts further explanation

By Polar_Bear
In News
Jan 24th, 2014
38 Comments
1075 Views

Defiance Games has posted a longer-form reply to the situation that occurred between them and Torn Armor.

Source

From the update:

Let us preface all this by saying that Defiance Games has had it’s share of ups and downs and we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. It has definitely not been a pretty journey in the least and we are well aware of our reputation.

Over the last few months we have been regrouping and rebuilding to fix our past and bring new products to the market – helped along by a small, but successful Kickstarter in October.

That all said, we can’t stand by and have our reputation further destroyed by statements that only tell a part of the story.

Alyssa Faden (or Natalya Faden) of Torn World has made a statement that basically says we are to blame for her Kickstarter failing. This is absolutely untrue. We don’t believe she could afford to finish her Kickstarter with us or anyone.

Torn raised $67K in April 2013 primarily by including a large number of miniatures as stretch goals and a free shipping offer – similar to what the large companies like Mantic Games do – when they have $1M+ Kickstarters. The core game had 12 unique miniatures (39 total figures per set). They hired another company to sculpt these figures for them and provide manufacturable STL files.

This didn’t happen. It was clear early on that the sculpts that were being produced were not manufacturable at all. A combination of undercuts, ultra-thin part areas, and other problems would mean anyone would be hard pressed to actually produce them. Alyssa then described these sculpts as “sketches” that could be used by other sculptors to create manufacturable models. Torn also hired a number of physical (i.e. non-digital putty/greenstuff) sculptors to make versions of these as well.

The sculpts from Alyssa’s digital sculptors cost close to $20K from what she has told us. This doesn’t include the additional sculptures ($300-400 or more each) done in putty.

At the same time, as Alyssa realized that nothing she had paid for from the digital sculptors was usable, she was receiving quotes from China factories to produce the miniatures. These were coming back 30% or so over what she had “estimated”. One quote we saw put the molding alone at $45K. (i.e. it didn’t include the manufacturing of any miniatures – just the molds to do so – leaving $20K for sculpting, printing, shipping, etc). The project was absolutely doomed at this stage.

At this point she called us and wanted to know if we could help do this project for her. We pushed back as we already had a lot going on here and didn’t want to complicate things. She kept coming back to us asking us to please quote on the project. Finally – and how we now regret this – we did.

Her plan was that she was going to have a new digital sculptor take the digital files and “fix” them to allow them to be molded. This sounded doable and we put in place a project to mold and produce 500 core box sets. Keep in mind there are 12 unique figures in this box set and 39 figures per box. It is not a huge project but something that should take a few weeks to produce after receiving usable files. (Our project also did not include any of the 20+ other sculptures – some of them quite large multi-part expensive pieces including a massive Mu warmachine thing in many separate parts – that were needed to satisfy the Kickstarter – go visit her Kickstarter page to see all the add-on sculpts that were part of this – our part was just the core box set. She planned on having us quote on the additional work for these figures after the first project. At the time we did not know there was probably zero budget for this available.)

We drew up a contract together and this was our responsibility list:

1. Create molds for plastic production from TW-supplied master sculptures
2. Produce plastic figures from DFG-created molds.

Torn were responsible for giving us workable 3D files – which she failed to mention in her post – which we would of course work with the sculptor to make sure we could use. And that is where it fell apart.

As this was happening, the conventional sculptors had finished their work. We were ready to start molding those and producing parts. We sent pictures of the ones we received to Alyssa who posted them up on her Kickstarter pages. Based on the feedback she received she decided that the physical sculpts weren’t good enough. She instructed us not to produce them and wait for the digital files to be redone.

She brought in a sculptor who began to work on the files. Unfortunately, at the time we didn’t know that the files were such a mess that he was basically just re-sculpting everything from scratch. Reportedly, he was being paid $100-200 each – a really low price for the amount of work he was doing. Unfortunately, as he began to deliver the files to us we saw that changes needed to be made. The technical fixes themselves were fine – but the way they were being laid out presented issues with undercuts and in some cases used way too many parts per figure.

For example – the Mu Slinger – a 20mm tall mouse person – was delivered in five separate parts: head, two arms, body, and tail. Alyssa’s instructions were to have as little gluing for the end customer as possible. We went back with a list of changes and suggestions on how to repose the sculpts to get close to a single piece figure.

The sculptor refused to communicate with us. We were forced to play the telephone game through Alyssa. But even then that did not result in changes. Alyssa was pulling her hair out – we were pulling our hair out as well. We just wanted to get some manufacturable files, print them, make the molds and produce what we were hired to make.

We recommended Alyssa hire another sculptor to try to fix the files – someone we trusted and whose work we respected. That was in December – only a short time ago. He started to look at the files and manipulate them. He quickly realized – as the original “fix” sculptor had – that one of the problems was the original files themselves. He asked if we could receive the native ZBrush files to work from. Those would be layered ZTL files. If he had those, he could make changes quickly.

To be safe, we asked Alyssa to ask the original digital sculptors for a sample of the original files to make sure they worked. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead, Alyssa apparently gave those digital sculptors $1000 to send her all the files without looking at them first. (We found out at this point that she and the original sculpting company had had a falling out and weren’t on speaking terms – we don’t know the whole story.)

The new sculptor received the files and discovered that they were a mess. In his words: “the issue isn’t the poses as much as how they decided to layout the layers gaps and spaces that are hard or impossible to patch up because they bound them together. You can cut a piece off there is nothing under it lol have to fill the blank and then smooth it and it looks like crap.”

He spent a lot of time and got us the one hoplite pose finalized which Alyssa posted January 8th. We thought we were now going to be okay but the more the sculptor dug into them the worse the files were.

Alyssa told us that she could not afford to pay for additional sculpting. We HAD to make what we had work. Unfortunately, that was impossible given the files we had to work with. Unless someone were to completely re-sculpt these figures from scratch there was no way we could produce them.

Defiance Games is now a scapegoat for Torn’s decision to shut down this project – a convenient and easy target because of our own well-documented problems. We don’t deny them – we definitely have had them – but we feel they are being used now to cover up Torn’s inability to fulfill their Kickstarter.

We signed on to make their figures but we were never given the files that would allow that to happen. We are still prepared to finish the project and we’ve budgeted the materials and man-hours to do it. We just need usable files and we would be thrilled to do the work and make this project a reality.

Instead we are being blamed for the project’s failure and we’ve been asked to refund the payment. And in the big scheme of things it is fine that they are bailing on their project – that is their right – and want us to pay back money for a part of it that was never completed. But as a small company, we’re just not in a position to do that immediately in a lump sum. Along with offering to complete the project if we’re given files that can be turned into miniatures, we’ve also offered to work out a payment plan. We’d love to see Alyssa’s project succeed, but we won’t lay down and let Defiance be dragged through the mud for something that is – for once – not our fault.

We did not complete the project – because we did not receive files that could be turned into produceable miniatures. If we had these – this project would be done now. We now highly doubt it would have shipped given the financials…this was a severely underfunded Kickstarter and anyone can look at the sheer amount of figures, printing, and shipping and see that.

We know we don’t have a great track record and we’ve been working to fix it. We know we did not complete the project. But we also want people to understand the other side of this story and why that is. This is a terrible situation for everyone involved and the result may be that both our companies go down because of it.

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  • Chameleon

    Definance Games did work on one figure. Where’s the rest of the money for Torn Armor? Keeping your other projects afloat, no doubt.

  • Sounds like a lot of excuse making. Just pay back the money and be done with it.

  • Justacomment

    If you have a debt to pay go get a loan like anybody else… you spent money you shouldn’t have go find that money and give it back. You are not an American bank or car maker. Liquidate assets or get a loan, pay your debts.

    • KelRiever

      Why take a loan when you can skim free money from people willing to throw it at you in a kickstarter! 😛

  • Seems like a no brainer… Return the money and save, if any, face you have left. This could be the first step in ‘saving’ your track record.

  • joshuar56

    Just sounds like a lot more BS from Defiance. If they were paid to make the product, and didn’t produce it. Give the money back. Where is the money?

  • 4tonmantis

    People.. read what they’re saying. There might actually be legitimacy to “some” of what they are claiming.

    What I think happened..
    Torn had no idea what the eff they were doing (despite claiming to be veterans).. low-balled the production costs for the pledge levels.. then fumbled on the contracted work.

    DG low-balled their estimate to get Torn as a client.. didn’t earmark the money and instead put it into their general funds (or whatever structure they’re using) and found themselves in the red on the project. I’ve been in this situation creating models for training programs before.. In THAT instance we missed a paycheck then the pay was cut and split up and the owners took out loans and told us basically to crap the project out as fast as possible to clear it from the board and bring in a better contract.

    The sculptors here are to fault too it seems.. It sounds like they may have dabbled and sculpted as a hobby but never actually worked on anything for production. Hell, I’ve done modeling for animation and training before and am extremely hesitant to try modeling for 3d print (ie. I know better than to claim to be a pro for that type of thing).

    I think the community is generating a lot of hate and rage over this and has already made up their own minds but objectively, they are not the only ones to blame here.

    • joshuar56

      I think it’s pretty obvious that in the end the blame for the projects death is on Torn, but the fact that Defiance took their money, and then spent it elsewhere is just another check mark on their long list of shadiness.

      • 4tonmantis

        Torn is claiming on the KS comments that it’s not over.. and she listed out a few options. I don’t know how sincere that is or if she’s stalling or what.. The average pledge per backer is $121 with 561 backers (according to Kicktraq.. obviously this is just an average figure). That’s small claims court for those 561 unless they do a class action lawsuit. I don’t know if your average person would go through that much hassle for $121. If she is trying to wash her hands of this she might be counting on that. I sincerely hope I’m being overly cynical and/or pessimistic.

        • blkdymnd

          Does some blame go to Torn? Yes, but at the same time, Alyssa has been completely transparent (good news or bad news) with the backers of the project at literally every step of the way. For that reason alone, she is getting a lot of support. I spent almost $200 on the game, I care about it, but she’s built trust through her transparency that I’m giving her every benefit of the doubt that she’ll find a way to get it done, and if she doesn’t then lesson learned for everyone. She had a decent plan at the start. She planned to use the same plastic facility in HK that Paolo uses for Dust Tactics. They upped their prices 30%, and she had to find an alternative! and she wanted to choose a US based manufacturer. So some fault is hers, but some is just plain bad luck as well.

          Regardless, the issue is that Defiance owes a lot of money now, and they are pointing fingers over and over and not addressing the only issue anyone really cares about.

          • 4tonmantis

            We’ve had our differences blkdymnd, but dude.. read her posts on the KS.. she verifies a lot of the above and skirts around the bits that aren’t exactly helpful to her image by saying “hey I’m losing money on this too”.
            The only issue anyone should care about is whether or not the project will be delivered.. Instead people are swarming like frenzied sharks because she chummed up the water.

          • blkdymnd

            And I’m saying that a lot of blame falls on her as well. And I do think they took on a way bigger project than they may have been able to take on. But her RPG freelance work have also given her a lot of good contacts, we’ll see if she can cash those contacts in to help eventually make this successful. I’m not giving her a total pass, but with the money that’s being held/spent by Defiance, I’m also looking at the rest as a lower priority at the moment. I personally think the best avenue for her is to work with a mass producer like FFG, CMON, etc to take the rights, finish it off for the backers, and go from there.

          • 4tonmantis

            Reaper had offered to help.. compared to CMoN (who also has a tarnished track record) I think that is a gift horse that she really shouldn’t be looking..uh.. in the mouth (it made more sense in my head).

            I’m glad to see you’re able to stay objective.. especially given that you actually are a backer on this one. Have you read her latest posts on the KS Comments? It sounds like the amount she sent Defiance is being exaggerated. Both her and them have made comments that lead me to that conclusion (though it may be off).

          • blkdymnd

            Yeah, I agree a bit on that. But until the lawyers are finished (I’m assuming there are some involved), we probably won’t know what money had changed hands for awhile. And I agree, if Reaper can help make this happen, I would jump into that with both feet and let them guide the way. I personally don’t care for the Bones material much, but I understand it’s very inexpensive, holds detail ok, and may be just the thing she needs right now.

    • n815e

      You’ve fallen Tony’s distraction. To change the conversation from “we stole their money” to “they couldn’t produce it even if we didn’t steal their money”.

      • 4tonmantis

        I think this was to me.. the nesting is confusing.

        I didn’t fall for it.. I even said.. they are to blame for their portion.. Choosing to ignore all of the other stuff that is going on is a bit naive though and I submit that you are falling into mob mentality.

        To be clear.. I do not support Defiance or understand why they would do what they have done. I am simply trying to avoid the immature practice of demonizing an entity without understanding all of the facts. Read Alyssa’s post on the KS comments section for Torn.. she pretty much verifies a great deal of what is being said in the above post.

  • Ghool

    So the lesson here is:

    Unless some one is reputable, and has worked with miniatures production before, don’t Kickstart any projects they create involving miniatures production.

    As for who’s to blame? I think both parties need to claim responsibility in this one.

    I agree with 4ton – Torn had no idea what they were doing, or the difficulties involved with producing miniatures.
    That still doesn’t excuse DG from taking their money for almost no work.

    • GhedJennar

      Which puts Kickstarter/Boardgames into a bracket of a preorder service which is sad. This type of crap and Doom that Came to Atlantic City makes it nearly impossible for small companies to get off the ground, even if they have good products and know what they are doing. Since your name isn’t Studio McVey you don’t get to be successful I guess.

      • KelRiever

        No. In fact, I think people have been treating kickstarter as a pre-order website for new games which is silly. Whether they have or not, what it points out is what people should know….that unproven companies are exactly that…unproven. You don’t throw them in the same category and if you back one, while you may be upset at losing your investment, you should have known the risks in the first place. And if you did, well then, you shouldn’t be immensely upset and take responsibility for the decision to invest.

        • Ghool

          And this is exactly the reason I do not take risks on companies/people like Torn Armor. Maybe it is a glorified pre-order system, and if that’s what it evolves into, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least it will prevent messes like this from happening, and a whole pile of people losing their hard-earned cash.

          So Alyssa has RPG contacts – that isn’t even in the same league as making miniatures. Go to a printer, and see how much it costs, and how much work is involved in writing a rulebook. Then compare it to getting even a single miniature mass produced – apples and oranges.

          It’s quite clear that Torn Armor had no clue, and simply tossing your hands in the air because of your own lack of knowledge regarding the business you’re in hurts only the people who gave you their money.

          It is also not true that small companies cannot get off the ground – you don’t need to have $67k+ to start up a single game, as long as you’re smart about it.

          Anyone here heard about Strange Aeons?

          A good friend of mine started it with his own pocket cash, and it has grown enough that he can support himself on its’ income. He didn’t have to take out a bank loan, go to Kickstarter, or do anything besides put in some of his own cash, and have a passion for making his game.
          After several years, he is now getting ready to Kickstart another edition.

          And that’s where the problem lies – people think that a good idea, and no business sense is enough to launch an entire product line.
          It’s not, and it’s becoming quite clear with the number of failed and fraudulent game Kickstarters of late.

  • Bad_Syntax

    The blame goes to the project owner, in this case Torn. Torn can make bazillions of excuses and place the blame everywhere else, but the fact is, Torn owns it, and they dropped the ball.

    If they indeed had a contract with DG to make minis great, but did the contract say that DG was going to DESIGN the mini’s as well? Doesn’t sound like it, and sounds like they tried to help when Torns designer obviously had no clue how to make miniatures for molding. Making a 3D model in 3dstudio isn’t the same as making one that can be molded. There are a LOT of things to worry about, and if your inexperienced it’ll show.

    In this case it really appears Alyssa had no idea what she was doing, and simply screwed up.

    What about rules, maps, and terrain though, was that all DG’s fault too?

    What about the boasts of all that experience on the KS risk page, which obviously wasn’t the case.

    Just happy I was able to see through this one, as out of about 50 KS’s I’ve done almost all have actually delivered (albeit nearly always late) good stuff.

    It was bound to happen though, not every KS can be a success, failure statistically has to occasionally happen.

  • Cergorach

    As much as I dislike Defiance Games, spending the money of a signed contract isn’t all that strange. It’s in this instance not their fault that Torn can’t keep up their part of the bargain, heck Torn should be happy Defiance is willing to pay back anything at all. Small miniature companies just don’t have the liquidity to have ‘spare’ money laying around, especially if their as close to the abyss as Defiance.

    Go read this for some good insights into 3D sculpting for miniature production:
    http://fortressfigures.com/kcontos/before.html

    The problem here is also Defiance, they and their owner have absolutely lost all credibility with folks that know what’s going on. Some part of my brain is saying, they would make the perfect scapegoat for a botched KS campaign. You also might know the saying “The best lies are hidden among the truth.”. Let’s just say that this whole mess is smelling fishy…

    • Bad_Syntax

      A contract with a company isn’t like going to walmart and buying a TV that you can return later for a full refund.

      You don’t “get all your money back” if your not happy with the output. That company may have done a considerable amount of work, spent money on things you wanted, services, etc, and you don’t “get your money back” in this situations, hardly ever. Well, unless it was in the contract.

      This is why most contracts, and I’m betting including this one, had amounts for various things. Since the KS was only $67K, and over $20K was spent before even going to DG, and probably $10K or more on the guy Torn hired to help fix the models, and the money wasn’t totally gone, I’m betting DG doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot of that money, and much of what they did spend they spent hiring somebody to try to help torn fix their crappy models (which most likely was kindness from DG, as that most likely wasn’t budgeted for the project).

      It is extremely wrong on BOTH parties to blame each other (Torn did it first, so they are worse IMO).

      The #1 issue with KS though is they take so damned long, the CUSTOMERS can’t get their money back. I’m betting Torn could have “made something happen” if they were about to have their bank account see $67K in refunds to customers.

      In this scenario, IMO:
      I will never do business with Torn.
      I will be very cautious about DG, and based on their reputation I didn’t jump into their armored trooper KS, well that and it was “just another mini” with no game attached.

      But this is a lesson learned, and maybe I need to call my credit card company and see what their policy is on refunds from pre-ordered products 6 months to a couple years out.

      But I’m amazed here how many folks jump on the “blame DG” bandwagon when their explanation is FAR more comprehensive and logical than Torn’s KS updates.

      I’d like to see DG post a copy of the contract itself, not sure about legality there though, nor if it was written on a napkin.

      • surprize

        I think technically you make an investment in the project, rather then pre-ordered the output. So in this instance people have invested in the Torn project, that project has become junk. It seems to me that it would more analogous to buying shares in a company/venture that fails, rather than a direct analogy to exchanging money for goods. And in which case you lose the investment.

        At some point someone is going to probably test the legality of the way kickstarter works, but in very simple terms I think it works on a principle of you offering to ‘give’ the project money and as a thankyou they send you something in return. It certainly seems to TRY and circumvent some of the normalities of good transactions/distance selling regulations. Kickstarter says all rewards must be fulfilled or a refund has to be issued, but I’m not sure how they would enforce that from the backer. Also as far as I can see they don’t define exactly what “reward” even means in their terms. So there is maybe a legal wrangle to be had about how closely a received reward has to match what they said they were going to give. Also its not clear at all whether stretch goals are part of a “reward”.

        The language of kickstarter is very ambiguous and eventually on some project or other I expect we’ll see a class-action to perhaps answer some of these questions.

        In the short term I guess credit card protections are the best bet for getting money back, but given the lead in times for projects even this might be tough.

        • Cergorach

          It’s absolutely NOT an investment, KS is very clear about that, they call it a pledge and they also make it very clear that they and the customer expect to be supplied with the promised product in this lifetime. As a matter of law it’s also very clear, at least for those who life in the EU, KS is effectively a preorder and the person/company is expected to deliver at all costs. If it’s a person without an LLC. (or equivalent) to protect them from liability personal assets might be seized after successful litigation. Even if there’s an LLC. gross incompetence by the owner might still see their personal assets seized. The problem here is that the loss of a few hundred $ isn’t going to justify a lawsuit that would get you any kind of the money you would put into such litigation. Even a joined lawsuit over $67k by a few hundred people isn’t going to anywhere near doable, unless she owns a really expensive house. Which I doubt, because if she’s ‘loaded’ why start a KS? Credit Card insurance might indeed be the best course of action, but the question is “Does cc insurance extend 10 months past payment?”…

      • joshuar56

        Eric, it’s very obvious that you haven’t even taken the time to completely read any of the articles about this topic. So why are you even commenting?

  • By my very rough estimates, Torn was likely to implode on its own.

    http://dreamforge-games.blogspot.com/2014/01/kickstartes-wild-west-of-financing.html

    This however does not alleviate DG’s duplicity in taking money for a project they could not complete and then spending those resources unrelated projects. Torn needs to be able to succeed or fail on its own merits.

  • tuco

    Is paying up front common in this industry? Hell, you can hire the Millennium Falcon to avoid Imperial Entanglements and they only want half up front.

    I understand that there are costs in doing what Defiance was to perform for Torn, including raw materials as well as manpower, but most industries I’m familiar with are typically pay in full upon delivery or a 10-20% security deposit up front with the balance paid upon delivery. In most cases that’s to prevent situations like this from arising.

    Either way, where’s that George Costanza eating popcorn GIF? I know I have it around here somewhere.

  • 4tonmantis

    I just realized Torn was offering a BONES CLOCKWORK DRAGON from REAPER as a part of their backer levels.. WTF!?!?!?

    • Bad_Syntax

      Torn didn’t know what they were doing, obviously.

      Course, I have that model, and its my only reaper bones model in the box. It looks stupid, so maybe in Torn’s defense reaper offloaded them for cheap…maybe..

    • blkdymnd

      It was a special cross promotion with Reaper, I’m guessing she got them pennies to the dollar or some other deal. Her and Reaper worked a lot behind the scenes on that offer to make sure it worked well for both parties.

      • 4tonmantis

        That’s ironic since Reaper went waaaaay out of their way to make a point of the fact that you weren’t supposed to offer pre-existing products as reward levels. This came up many times in Bones II in response to people asking for things that were in Bones I.

        • blkdymnd

          Maybe they didn’t consider them pre existing since they hadn’t been produced quite yet, if memory serves.

          • blkdymnd

            A lot of that is speculation from the comments conversations I remember. It seemed very much like a mutually beneficial partnering on that one.

  • Fail or succeed, Torn Armor and all Kickstarters have the right to do so under their own merits.

    The core of this issue is that Torn Armor gave a large sum of money to Defiance Games to preform services, services that by their own admission were not rendered. Now, Defiance Games is unwilling or unable to return the unspent portion to the Kickstarter creator, robbing them of any chance to succeed or fail on their own merits.

    Anything beyond this is simply a diversion or misdirection.

    • 4tonmantis

      Does anyone know how much “a large sum” is yet?

      • Large enough that Defiance doesn’t have it in hand to give back.

  • After reading this i am not sure why people have not asked why have digital sculptors doing work and putty pushers do the same work too?It doe seem like a total waste of money to do it both ways.
    From reading the above original post the digital sculptor did work that was not useable.Then another digital sculptor came along and that did not work either.DG had their person look at the files and found out the problems.Like they say they could have helped with this.
    If people are asking DG to give money back for services rendered why are the sculptors that did not deliver the goods asked to do the same?They all would have been paid for work done which most cant be used in its current state.
    Seems like lots of little problems rolling along to me.