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Subject: Mark MacKinnon Addresses Guardians Of Order Closure Concerns rss

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Mark MacKinnon
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This will be my only post on this subject to establish facts surrounding the situation, since very little has changed in nearly a decade.

My name is Mark MacKinnon and I was a shareholder and CEO of a publishing company from 1999 until 2006 called Guardians Of Order (GoO). By 2004/2005, it became clear that GoO could not continue operating as it had done so due to mounting financial pressure (largely precipitated by unfavourable exchange rates, prolonged release delays, and my inexperienced management). Despite best efforts by GoO's exceptional employees, and perhaps fanciful belief that the next few products could turn things around (they could not), GoO was forced to lay off all staff and continue as a one-employee operation. This last-ditch effort was unsuccessful.

It is a matter of public record that GoO ceased operation in 2006 due to a crushing debt load from which it was impossible to recover. Over the coming months as I attempted to wrap up the company finances, creditors (including printers, investors, freelancers, licensors, licensees, etc.) were sent letters to their last known addresses informing them that due to a negative operating capital and account balances, no income would be coming to offset the accounts payable.

Rights to many of GoO's IPs were sold to Arthaus Inc. to pay secured creditors. Inventory was either sold or abandoned or seized, again with any income taken by secured creditors. Rights to freelance work (art and writing) that was not paid for reverted to the original creditors. Any orders or pre-orders for products were either fulfilled by GoO, refunded, or fulfilled by Arthaus by prior arrangement.

In addition to the facts presented above, I'd like to address a few questions more personally:

1. How do I feel about GoO's closure?
Words cannot possibly explain the guilt and remorse I feel about how the last couple of years of GoO's operation went down. It is my greatest personal failure in life, and it caused not only incredible financial hardship for my family but cost me my closest friendship as well. How I feel is not important to anyone reading this message, though, and the pain that I will carry for the rest of my life is my own. What is important is that I failed many, many people due to my lack of business acumen and blindness to the crumbling realities a decade ago. My failures were not done maliciously, and I walked away from GoO with significant debt ... not cash in my pocket. I do not seek nor expect forgiveness. I know saying that I am truly sorry and expressing my deepest regrets will not change the events that happened, but nevertheless I am extremely sorry.

2. Who is responsible for GoO's debts?
As an incorporation, nearly all debt was incurred (and contracts signed) by the company itself. With no assets and a red balance sheet, GoO ceased operations in 2006 and left creditors unpaid. One of the protections incorporation provides separates the financial responsibilities of the company from its shareholders -- which is a primary reason why people form corporations rather than operating sole proprietorships. Consequently, only the company is responsible for company debts. Although no law requires it, I would personally love to cover all GoO debts myself, but do not now (nor will likely ever) have enough spare cash to do so. Regardless what anyone thinks of my choices, my family will ALWAYS come first in my life and the income I earn goes to providing for them.

3. Why didn't you stop sooner and make things right?
I certainly wish I did, but my foolish optimism lead me to believe I could get GoO back on track by just working harder and releasing more product. I desperately wanted GoO to succeed; it had a half-dozen employees that counted on bi-weekly paycheques and unpaid freelancers that wanted to receive remuneration for their works. Abandoning hope and shutting down GoO years earlier would have made fulfilling my responsibilities impossible, but I failed to realise I was only making matters worse.

4. What is Dyskami Publishing Company and what is your affiliation with it?
Dyskami is a new company, of which I am a stakeholder, that plans to publish my latest game design: a fairy tale board game called Upon a Fable. Marketing company Kickin' It Games is currently running a Kickstarter campaign (http://kck.st/ZOMIcX) to help raise funds through pledges to bring the game to market. Dyskami is in no way related to GoO, nor does it own any of GoO's assets (GoO has no assets), but it is indeed a company that I am connected with.

5. Why should I trust Dyskami and back Upon a Fable? Will you steal my money?
Although many creditors were not paid by GoO, no gaming consumer ever paid GoO for a product but did not receive it. Upon a Fable is nearly ready to send to the printers and needs the support of backers to make it a reality. Dyskami has no debt and no monthly salary overhead, owes no money to freelancers, and is not a risk to become insolvent. Personally, I have learned much about business operations since my time as CEO of GoO and I would not have even considered involving myself with a new publishing venture if I thought anything remotely similar to the past would happen again. Only you can decide if trust in Dyskami is an issue for you, but there is simply no possibility that I am involved in the creation of a new game with the sole purpose of taking backers' money and not providing an excellent product in return. Every backer of Upon a Fable WILL receive the game as promised and on time.

6. Why didn't you disclose everything in advance? Did you think no one would remember who you are?
Of course I expected my foray back into publishing to gather attention and make some people angry. I have nothing to hide (my history is public knowledge) and can handle the heat; believe me, I've said much worse things to myself than anyone else could. I've never tried to conceal who I was nor what my connection to the gaming industry is. There are simply some people who will never forget, never forgive, what happened ... and I have come to terms with that. But for those who can recognise a quality board game design when they see it and read about it, and for those who believe even people that have failures can change and improve and learn over time, I believe Upon a Fable is worthy of a serious look. It's a really good game -- likely my best design ever.
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James Lowder
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As one of the freelancers with contracts Mark MacKinnon failed to honor, I can sum up my reaction this way: Mark continued to solicit new work from people after he knew the company was doomed, and when things went bad he actively misled us or refused to talk to us. He had opportunities to make things right, opportunities that did not involve money out of his pocket, and he refused to take advantage of those opportunities.

There's a long public trail to back up this claim. George Martin posted on his message board at the time of the Guardians collapse: "I have been trying to reach Mark MacKinnon for months. His office is closed, emails either bounce back or go unanswered, his office phone has been disconnected, and his home phone and cell phone are answered by recordings. I leave messages, but no one ever calls back. One of the recorded messages suggests that Mark is now selling real estate."

Bad things happen to companies and they cannot magically make money appear to pay off debts when they do. How the individuals running the company handle the crisis is what separates the sincere from the scam artists.

After years of refusing to communicate with the creatives he burned, Mark is speaking here because he has a new product to sell. If you're thinking of trusting him with money for the Kickstarter, keep in mind how he dealt with the creatives who trusted him with their work.
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Val Teixeira
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Thanks for taking the time to address this issue. I truly sympathize with your situation and I can understand how such a poor state of affairs can come about.

I must admit that I feel truly conflicted about this issue. On the one hand, I can understand how you are trying to make the best of your life and how you wish that things didn't go down the way they did. I know how easy it is to have your own judgment clouded by optimism and to allow that to grow into bigger mistakes.

In fact, it's that very optimism that I feel now that clouds my judgment in this case. And that's where we come to the other hand. Trust, once broken, is hard to reclaim, no matter how remorseful you may be, or how regrettable the circumstances. The fact that you are using KS to start up another company before having built up this trust again is worrying.

I have no issues with you as a designer, and if that was your only role in this matter, I would have no cause to worry. However, you are now wearing the hat of a publisher and producer too - all without having already had a board game you've designed published (independent of you or your companies) to, at least, start rebuilding this trust. You haven't been an active part of this community for very long either - another way that you could have earned trust. You are coming out of nowhere and are asking people to invest in your idea, with a poor business history which you did not even disclose until pushed.

This makes me, very deservedly, weary. I would like to trust you, I truly, truly would. I know I'm sounding very harsh and critical and if your intentions are truly good and noble, I hope that you'll look upon these words with understanding. It seems that you are very much aware that what you are asking for is a lot to ask and requires a tremendous leap of faith.

Unfortunately, I too, have a family to look after, and I'd like to believe that the board-gaming community, and, in fact, even the rest of the world is part of that family - even you. It is for that reason that I ask you to stop for a moment and reconsider this project. Perhaps it is not the right time for it yet. Perhaps you should spend some more time contributing to this community and earn back this trust. Perhaps you should spend more time supported other KS projects (as it appears you've barely supported any). I think this would be the best way forward for both you and the community. You already admitted to making a mistake once before by being overly optimistic and blindly going forward - do you really want to go rushing ahead now?

I do not want to dismiss you out of hand for your past, and I don't think many of us here want that either. We would love to have you and your games and designs as part of our community. I know that you may still push ahead and achieve funding anyway, as you have the support of enough trusted and established people within the community to do so. I worry for their sake too. I know that this fact alone may convince you to continue on this path. It isn't the right way forward though and it isn't the right way of doing things. At least, that's my opinion on the matter, which I know may not be shared by others.

If your project does not reach funding, or if it is cancelled, I truly hope that you will be able to redeem yourself and our trust and that your project will achieve success in the future.

All the best (and with a heavy heart),
Val
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Thank you for your insightful post, Val. Since I certainly wouldn't want anyone to feel pressured into backing something for which they have reservations, I of course understand if you'd prefer to not support this project or perhaps take a wait-and-see approach. It's going to be a great campaign (with some exclusive stretch goals TBA) and a spectacular game, though, so I hope you'll give it a chance when it hits stores later this year.
 
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James Lowder
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If Mark were sincere about cleaning up the messes he created, he would have made efforts in that direction before launching the new project through Kickstarter.

And one more note: People often created work for Mark under work-for-hire contracts and connected to existing intellectual properties. That work did not necessarily revert when he failed to pay them. Moreover, Mark published a lot of that work, without paying, so its worth in the marketplace was greatly diminished even if it reverted. First publications rights and reprint rights hold very different values.

Mark is still trading off that unpaid work, too. A book he shows as the start of his Kickstarter video, as proof of his past industry triumphs, is one for which he failed to pay many of the designers and artists.

By the by, is it Mark writing the responses under the publisher name now? Someone else?
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I'm another freelancer who GoO owed, and I can confirm that James is absolutely right. Our work was still being sold well after GoO was wound up, without payment to us. I didn't lose out as badly as some did -- only a few hundred dollars -- but there were dozens of artists and writers and game designers owed thousands of dollars each, all of whose work GoO or its successors continued to sell. There is no way that was ethical, and I find Mark's original post quite disingenuous and insincere.
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Ian Sturrock wrote:
and I find Mark's original post quite disingenuous and insincere.


Even more so, if he doesnt offer any rebuttal to the comments made here.

Its a shame, because the game looks enticing.
And Dyskami Publishing sounds solid.

But every KS project is already a risk without any bad info.
This mounts the risk BIG time.
And makes me really pause in looking at the project.
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Val Teixeira
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dyskamipublishing wrote:
Thank you for your insightful post, Val.


This seems a bit insincere in light of this inflammatory post.

Unfortunately the only problem that you see is that people are being 'jerks.' This is not a logical or helpful argument, nor does it consider the real concerns people have.

Artists not being paid is a serious legal concern. Unfortunately this project has come in the wake of Up Front, which has been at the very best, severely stalled, and, at the very worst, will fail to deliver due to legal issues.

The other major concern is that Mark (and Dyskami Publishing) has not established any good credentials after this catastrophic failure. Sure, GoO produced plentiful, great games before they went belly up - I won't deny that and I'm sure that you may be capable of doing it again. But will there be no legal issues? Will there be no-one harmed (or has there been no-one harmed already) by this product.

The fact that you are telling people that they need to back this project in order to ensure that people get paid for their hard-work is worrying too. These people are working for the company in exactly the same way that previous artists and freelancers worked for the previous company, and look how that turned out for them. Is this not history repeating itself? Why should any backers be a part of this? I wonder how many of them, like you, knowingly got involved in this situation while knowing all the facts and history. I know many of your current backers did not.

If everyone had already been paid up front, or were only working for you once they were paid, I'd feel more confident. But the fact that you still seem to employ the same methodology of 'promises now, payment later' that GoO used that led to its very failure have me and many others concerned. It appears that you have learnt little to nothing from that experience.

I'm sorry if I'm one of those 'jerks' you are referring to. I'm sorry if you lose funding because of this. I do think you have a great product and I would like to see it in gamers' hands. I just don't think you're going the right way about it and I think that is bad for the community, for your own campaign and for the people who are working with you.
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TheNameForgotten wrote:
dyskamipublishing wrote:
Thank you for your insightful post, Val.


This seems a bit insincere in light of this inflammatory post.


That post wasn't written by Mark.
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Daniel Kearns
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Quote:
Some people are actively attempting to discourage people from supporting Mark's new game publishing effort - the Upon a Fable board game. Some people are actively attempting to sabotage the success of the game.


Here's the part that galls me. No one is trying to prevent or sabotage the release of the game. People are sharing information that will hopefully prevent other people from getting ripped off the way they were. If this prevents anything, well that's on the shoulders on the person who blew it the first time.

Here's an idea, why don't you put up the capital yourselves? Sell a product, not promises because quite frankly, you haven't earned anyone's trust, quite the opposite.

Jesus, you prove yourself to be a failure and you expect everyone to just jump on board again no questions asked? What world do these people live in?
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Val Teixeira
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mattwolfe wrote:
TheNameForgotten wrote:
dyskamipublishing wrote:
Thank you for your insightful post, Val.


This seems a bit insincere in light of this inflammatory post.


That post wasn't written by Mark.


It wasn't, but I was quoting Dyskami Publishing, which, I am led to believe, is being posted by Jeff Mackintosh, who both wrote what I quoted and the post I linked.

Although I may be confused on this point. It's hard to keep track of a faceless corporation.
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I notice that he doesn't address the continued use of stolen artwork to propel this new project.

Again, that is where my decision to cancel my pledge happened. Not because of past mistakes, but because of continued mistakes, with a complete lack of regard for those they are continuing to take advantage of. Even so far as to defend using the stolen artwork, because they considered something inside the book to be "ok" to use. WHAT?

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Thanks for the link to the post from Mr. MacKinnon's partner in this new venture.

So the people connected to the new company (and this same guy is answering questions over on the Kickstarter, too) think anyone who is pointing out Mark's past poor behavior is the bad guy. I can't say I'm surprised.

No one has been saying Mark walked away with all kinds of loot. What has been said is that Mark continued to solicit work after things were failing. That's irresponsible. When things really went bad, he again failed to act in a responsible fashion and made any earlier mistakes worse by refusing to talk with creatives. He then cut deals--selling IPs or selling individual products on e-sites--that further compounded some of the problems. Ever since, he has refused to make any effort to resolve the problems he created.

He took a bad situation and made it worse. He refused to do any of the things he might have done to make it better, even if those things would not have required any money.

The comment linked above is a good lesson for anyone who is thinking of backing the Kickstarter. Remember: if it goes wrong and you try to hold them responsible, it's your fault. You're the villain.
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I'd like some insight from Mark regarding why an account at Drive-Thru RPG and RPGNow continued to sell digital copies of many of the publications that Guardians of Order no longer had the rights to after ceasing operations. How much was sold, who collected the money, and even more importantly, did any of that money go to the unpaid creditors?

How much trust does he expect the informed public to put in him and his further ventures when we know the man behind the poor decisions at GoO is the same man that wants folks to trust him and back him now? The consumers might not have gotten ripped off, but many other people did.
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I feel genuinely bad for the Kickstarter backers. Another failed project could not only hurt any people contracted to work on the game, but it will also cause backers to lose some faith in Kickstarter. And, as evidenced by Project Eternity and Torment, I think some ideas could flourish given a chance.
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Skip Olivares wrote:
I feel genuinely bad for the Kickstarter backers. Another failed project could not only hurt any people contracted to work on the game, but it will also cause backers to lose some faith in Kickstarter. And, as evidenced by Project Eternity and Torment, I think some ideas could flourish given a chance.


You realize that the project is still running and could actually succeed? If you already feel bad about the backers now, you make the assumption that the project is not even intended to succeed. I find it a bit too early for being so sure.
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Thamos von Nostria wrote:
Skip Olivares wrote:
I feel genuinely bad for the Kickstarter backers. Another failed project could not only hurt any people contracted to work on the game, but it will also cause backers to lose some faith in Kickstarter. And, as evidenced by Project Eternity and Torment, I think some ideas could flourish given a chance.


You realize that the project is still running and could actually succeed? If you already feel bad about the backers now, you make the assumption that the project is not even intended to succeed. I find it a bit too early for being so sure.


I think he meant failed as in gets funded but not delivered.
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Dyskami Publishing pulled the inflammatory post.

Did anyone happen to save it so that those of us that missed it have a chance to be called jerks too?

And this is a professional company, huh? My daughter's lemonade stand seems to have a better handle on things.

Psst. You don't nip things in the bud by closing rank and pulling the ostrich routine. Oh, wait... it worked for MacKinnon in the past.

Way to stand up for yourself, Mark. Be proud.


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DBoonsGhost wrote:
Did anyone happen to save it so that those of us that missed it have a chance to be called jerks too?


Copied from Google+...(I also have a screen capture of this, in case anyone claims I changed anything...)


Jeff Mackintosh Yesterday 10:30 PM - Public wrote:


Some people are jerks. I hate jerks.

I know there's some heavy stuff going on today and I'm just going to assume that people who know me know my thoughts on today's events but something else happened which bothered me a great deal and, try as I might, I just can't let it go. I have to address it because I f'ing hate jerks.

You see, Mark MacKinnon, the guy behind the Upon a Fable board game for which I did the design work is not only my friend, he's also my former boss, from my days at Guardians of Order, the RPG publishing company. As some of you know, that company went under. Due to a variety of reasons, primarily a weakening economy and a collapsing US dollar (compared to the Canadian dollar) as well as some business-related mistakes (mostly centered around choices of products to publish), the company failed. In its last days, the company, and individually the staff of the company, made every attempt to wrap things up properly, which is to say we attempted to pay off all outstanding debts. But, as most things go when you're failing, things didn't go as planned and the company left many debts unpaid. Numerous suppliers, including freelance writers and artists, were unpaid for work done towards the end of the company's life.

Including me.

You see, I did a substantial amount of freelance work on the last big project the company was working on - the A Game of Thrones RPG - and I ended up not getting paid for that work. As did many others.

Now, some people view Mark as a villain for this failure. Some people have been portraying him as some nefarious conman who intentionally screws over the working man while sleeping on a mattress filled with $100 bills.

Um, no.

Mark made some mistakes in the final days of GOO (and I'm quite certain he would be the first to point them out) and Mark failed to meet several obligations but he didn't do it maliciously. There was no intent to leave debts unpaid. He'd run a company which had paid thousands and thousands of dollars to many freelancers over the years. Had he wanted to cut and run with fat loads of cash, believe me, there were better times to do that. The company failed. It sucks but it happened.

He certainly could have handled things better but, quite frankly, we all made mistakes in those final days. He was no different - he made mistakes. The company that we'd worked our butts off to build into a successful publishing house was failing. Trust me, we were trying to salvage things but, as the history books clearly tell, we failed. Mark failed. He's not the first business man to fail and he won't be the last. Guardians of Order isn't the first failed company that left unpaid debts in its wake and it won't be the last. It's not a new story but it most certainly is a story without a villain. People failed despite the best intentions but there were no villains.

Well, up until today.

As I said, some people are painting Mark as a villain. Some people are actively attempting to discourage people from supporting Mark's new game publishing effort - the Upon a Fable board game. Some people are actively attempting to sabotage the success of the game. I understand they aren't happy about not being paid for their work - I'm still upset I wasn't paid for my work - but they are now actively attempting to harm Mark's chances of success and his ability to see Upon a Fable through to completion. There are people, including me, who have put a lot of work into this project. There are people at Kickin' It Games who are currently, right now, putting a lot of work into this project. The people who are encouraging gamers to not support Upon a Fable are intentionally and directly harming the chances of people like me and the gang at Kickin' It Games from being paid for our work.

Mark left unpaid debts because of unfortunate circumstances and failed attempts to salvage the company. These jerks are intentionally attempting to prevent people from being paid for their work.

I'll let you guess who I think are the villains of this story. I'll let you guess who's actions are motivated by malice. I'll let you guess who I think are the jerks.

Some people are jerks. I hate jerks.

(The opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine and mine alone. If you have a problem with this post, feel free to unfriend me.)


Sorry to fuel the fire, but the tactics of the last day or two by these guys, has dropped me from someone who was willing to overlook the past...into someone who is actively rallying against them. I guess I can join the ranks of the "jerks".
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DBoonsGhost wrote:

Did anyone happen to save it so that those of us that missed it have a chance to be called jerks too?


Unfortunately not. Not because of the 'jerk' part, but because it gave me some insight as to how they are currently running Dyskami Publishing Company. Jeff's request that people back this project so that the people who have already worked on it get paid was particularly insightful and probably the greatest turning point for me. It showed that they are using the same model as the first business - the big promises to artists, freelancers, etc. with the same hopes that their buyers will show an interest in their products and throw money their way. Given that they've only recently started being active on BGG, I can't believe that they've done much market research to even back up their hopes.

It really is blindly pushing forward, making promises with little to no real evidence or financing, and blindly expecting people to pay them so that they can fulfill these promises. Absolutely terrible business practices that's likely to result in people getting hurt down the line.

I know some people get hung up on the designer side of things, and see that this is a great project from the design aspect. Unfortunately many people fail to realize that you are not just funding an idea, you are funding a company.

I always quote Travis Worthington from Indie Boards & Cards :

I have always said this, if you are kickstarting your own design you are now a publisher. And being both a designer and publisher you have to do both, understand both worlds and be really good at them. I would suspect that most self designed kickstarters lose money, perhaps even significant amounts of money despite being successfully funded. So be sure you know what you are getting into, and make the design with foresight on whether you want to self publish or it you want to work with a publisher.



I am not convinced that Dyskami Publishing Company really understands or knows how to be good at being a publisher. People are currently funding the design - they need to also think if they want to fund the publishing company and their business model - because by funding the design, that's exactly what they are doing too.

EDIT: This is the part I was referencing. Thanks for posting this up!

Jeff Mackintosh Yesterday 10:30 PM - Public wrote:

There are people, including me, who have put a lot of work into this project. There are people at Kickin' It Games who are currently, right now, putting a lot of work into this project. The people who are encouraging gamers to not support Upon a Fable are intentionally and directly harming the chances of people like me and the gang at Kickin' It Games from being paid for our work.
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Jeff Mackintosh Yesterday 10:30 PM - Public wrote:

People failed despite the best intentions but there were no villains.

Well, up until today.

As I said, some people are painting Mark as a villain. Some people are actively attempting to discourage people from supporting Mark's new game publishing effort - the Upon a Fable board game. Some people are actively attempting to sabotage the success of the game.
(emphasis mine)

Jeff Mackintosh on the Kickstarter Commentary wrote:
As for jerks and villains, I've accused nobody of being a villain. You've done a poor job of reading my post (which I've linked to in an earlier comment).


PR fail.

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From KS, in response to being questioned as to why the Google post was taken down, Jeff replied:


wrote:

As for deleting the Google+ post, you're right - I did. I decided to take my social networking back to friends-only content. My friends, some of whom disagree with me strongly on this subject because they were also affected by it, can still see my post. The public, however, no longer can. I'm under no obligation to give the public access to my social media posts and I've decided to restrict that access. I stand by what I said and retract nothing. I simply no longer wish to discuss that post with random strangers. Random strangers don't have the benefit of knowing who I am and how I speak. My friends do.

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Val Teixeira
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Jeff Mackintosh Yesterday 10:30 PM - Public wrote:

There are people, including me, who have put a lot of work into this project. There are people at Kickin' It Games who are currently, right now, putting a lot of work into this project. The people who are encouraging gamers to not support Upon a Fable are intentionally and directly harming the chances of people like me and the gang at Kickin' It Games from being paid for our work.


I must admit, I find this sentiment strange. If people do not back this KS project to its funding point, who are these people going to go to in order to get their paycheck? Are they going to come to us, the people that are saying that this project (in its current state) should not be backed? Are we the ones to blame for them not being paid?

Or is Dyskami to blame for giving these people false hope? For making promises that relied on blind trust from others, and blind trust from the people they employed. I didn't tell these people to work without being paid, and I'm sure all the other detractors aren't telling them this either. It is Dyskami that made this arrangement with them, and convinced them to work for the promise of future payment. Why should anyone else be held accountable for their promises?

And another thing I noticed being mentioned is that people are worried about Mark, about ruining his chances of redeeming himself and making a livelihood. Has Mark not been surviving well enough over the past decade to still have time to design this board game? His company declared bankruptcy, but I'm not aware of Mark having ever done the same. He will live on just fine without this project succeeding. His life was not destroyed nor will it be should this project fail. At worst, another company will go under, or fail to get past it's initial project.

If this is truly a great game and idea, there will no doubt be many opportunities for Mark (and the other people involved) to sell this idea to an established publisher that people can trust. There is no reason why it must be Dyskami producing this game.
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Andreas Krüger
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ropya wrote:


I think he meant failed as in gets funded but not delivered.


Sure. And it is too early to be so certain of that. Wait until it should be delivered, then start feeling sorry or happy for the backers. I understand why doubts need to be discussed, but until now it is just that: Doubt, not certainty.
 
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