Something really beautiful happened today.

I’m back!

If you’re into the RPG community, you might be familiar with “transmedia designer” Gareth Michael Skarka. He’s worked on quite a few projects, most notably the ICONS RPG and, recently, a wildly successful kickstarter for a game that sounds awesome: Far West. Far West is all the best parts of westerns and wuxia, smashed together in a really awesome mashup.

Or, well, it would be, if the game had ever come out. Originally slated for GenCon this year, Mr. Skarka has managed to sit on the game and fifty thousand dollars of his backer’s money for nearly a year and a half now. Now, these things happen. People with little experience in the industry underestimate how much effort can go into producing an RPG – or a “transmedia project” as Skarka refers to Far West as. His grand total of five apologetic updates have become more and more desperate over the last year – which is funny, because it turns out that behind the veil, Gareth Skarka is a scathing douchebag.

Other authors have noted previously how full of shit Skarka is. So much that someone created troll accounts just to mimic him.

In this case, however, he’s gone around the internet to whine about how people are stating real, true facts about his game delays. Witness:

We have delivered some of the material already, just not all of it — and I’ve constantly updated my backers as to our progress.

I’m tired of “grinning and bearing it” when faced with this kind of libel. Knock it the fuck off. Now.

That is some winning customer service, especially when facing the “libel” of people observing that you’ve taken a year and a half and slipped every possible deadline. But okay, people get worked up on the internet. You can almost forgive a guy for losing his professional demean-

Your minimum-wage retail-job understanding of consumer behavior has no application here, despite your concrete assumption that it must.

Oh ho. Now that’s rich. People try to give him a bit of a tip on how to not drive away his current customers, and he insults them. That’s some great service! As someone (who is a lawyer) points out to him,

I have no doubt that being reminded of your professional failure to deliver a product in a timely fashion is embarrassing and personally uncomfortable for you. That does not make it a personal attack. If someone hires me to do a thing, and delivery of the promised work is a year or more late, they have every right to go about town and complain about my services. In point of fact, they could probably file a bar complaint and I would be compelled to correct the matter by the body that governs my profession.

But apparently there are no customers until a product is released. Potential customer aren’t worth winning over, no sir. Not when you have a cool fifty grand already in your pocket. Who’d want more money?

He’s not a customer.  Period.   Here’s the thing:  _There are no customers for FAR WEST yet._     There are backers, which is not the same as a customer — that’s somebody who has invested money to back a process (of which there are 717, and he isn’t one), each of whom is receiving some amount of stock of various products in the line in return for their investment.   Kickstarter is very clear about this.  This is not a consumer process.

When FAR WEST is released, THEN there will be customers, when we release it wide.      So perhaps your argument that he is a “potential” customer is true — we don’t know.  Perhaps the President will get an itch and buy a copy — it could happen, who knows?   Meaningless to speculate.

Oh man. I wish someone had told Reaper that. Then they could have forgone all of that wonderful customer service they are famous for. I mean, that must cost money and shit. Kickstarter clearly is just a place for people to throw money away, and there’s no real promise of delivery. I mean, when I put fifty bucks down for an RPG, I just hope the dude has a few drinks with it and maybe someday shoots me a PDF. That’s the point of Kickstarter.

Oh, did I mention that Skarka’s Buckaroo Banzai RPG is almost a year past its release date?

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16 thoughts on “Something really beautiful happened today.

  1. Ewen says:

    There are certain people in the RPG scene who can’t seem to grasp that how they say things affects the reception they get. It’s just not that hard to be diplomatic. (Hell, I’m doing it right now by not saying something scathing about GMS or naming some other people with I can think of with his same problem.)

  2. Bravo. Well said. I was not familiar with this person, but now i have him on my avoid list. I love kickstarter to death, and its guys like these that are giving it a terrible reputation. I especially loved your comparison of his customer service to Reaper’s. I totally do not feel bad for spending $100 on 300 minis i will probably never get around to painting.

  3. Mark Argent says:

    I preordered the Buckaroo Banzai rpg and I’m enough of a fan that I can wait on it — getting approvals on licensed products can be a stone bitch. but Far West is one of the more ickily problematic rpg, scuse me, transmedia projects I’ve seen out of the rpg scene in a while, and if it never makes it to the shelves, I won’t be heartbroken.

  4. logicalphallacy says:

    Its actually really funny, because the ICONS supplement is also a year past due, there is a thread about it on RPG.net

    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?612670-ICONS-Team-Up-will-we-EVER-see-it

    In any other industry GMS would genuinely be considered a scammer, but in this one he has fans rushing to his defense on Google+ because criticism is why we cannot have nice things.

  5. There’s lots of stuff that’s fairly terrible here, Point by point:

    1) He released a status update for Far West a couple of days ago. It’s pretty obvious that it’s late because he lost staff and didn’t expect 10x the interest. How is it obvious? He says it. This is not exactly a sign of underhanded dealings.

    2) Books are a year late all the time. Mage: The Awakening was a year late. No, it sucks, but it is in no way beyond-the-pale scammy. This even happens in the Real Book Trade.

    3) A dude who self-published an OZ RPG once is not “another author,” any more than I, who used to do prep and cook a little at a fancy pasta restaurant, am “another chef.”

    4) Doing a brief survey I note that most of the drama comes from the same cluster of folks plus said sockpuppets. Like the poster before me, who is posting a link to RPGnet where he posted under 2-3 sockpuppet accounts, including a near-duplicate of the contents of his post here.

    Giving this credence is kind of like saying that your doctor must be lying, because you get spam every day telling you how to make your penis bigger. Look at the volume of evidence!

    5) Basically an RPGnet mod and forum monkeys chased him to his G+ space, which is rude and kind of sub-Tarnowski-level creepy.

    6) Having worked with big IP from time to time, the truth of BB is probably that this was assigned to an intern because IP owners are generally far less interested in their stuff than nerds. Paramount didn’t even archive its own Star Trek materials until maybe 8 years ago — they had to fly someone to Toronto to scan everything. And that’s Star Trek. An 80s movie beloved by few is going to sit around, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Well, except not do a BB RPG.

    So the substantive things we have are that:

    a) He’s really late with a few books.

    b) Oh man, he sure says mean things sometimes.

    If you are afraid you’ll get neither product nor money back, that is the issue to focus on. And given than he is trivially easy to contact, easy to get answers on. Like in that G+ thing, where one of the folks who bought into the KS learned that he’d missed 25 of 29 post-funding updates.

    • Hi, I’m that Oz RPG guy. Malcolm, I may not be as big and important as some people out there, but designing and publishing your own game is no small feat. If you have a problem with my argument, please address my argument.

      (When I found out that my blog was getting traffic from this one, I expected to find myself on the dissection table. I’m only vaguely pleased that I’m not.)

      • Your argument is recycled from other websites because you have no direct experience with the changes you’re holding forth on. This is obvious because otherwise you’d know that a distributor relationship is driven by a 30 day cycle. You don’t generally chuck the whole print run at them. You are also unaware of the scale of the change in demand because you have never seen 1990s numbers, where the shrink in demand has generally been ten to twenty fold since the early 90s. Underground is often cited as an example; it was considered a slow but not unsuccessful seller because according to Ray Winniger, it initially moved 15,000. Gareth knows this kind of thing because he printed and released in that time. He has also released through PDF and POD fulfillment…more than you.

        You’re one of a ton of nerds who are offended by the notion that there are fewer of us and that our hobby may be at long tail, low temperature size. That necessitates a change in business model and aspirations that you have no more authority to comment on than anyone else, because of your lack of experience. Gau picking you as some representative position was weak.

      • fugaros says:

        Malcolm, I’ve come to expect better of you that this sort of reply. Point by point:

        1. Accusing an argument of being “recycled” is the most flagrant sort of red herring, and I think you know it.

        2. An appeal to experience is faulty bedrock. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog pointing out that people who have spent decades in this industry are completely inept and often incapable of producing good new products or adapting to changes in the industry.

        3. I’ve heard a lot about how the RPG industry was burgeoning in the 1990s…so why did this decade see some of the greatest deaths? Where was all that money going, and why were these experienced sages of roleplaying games burning it instead of using it to grow? Since neither side can prevent factual evidence, let’s discuss the ramifications and observable effects.

        4. You go on to say that no one can comment on change (I presume this includes you, as you do not go on to comment on said change). This is a ridiculous statement. Anyone can rationally observe and draw conclusions; some of these conclusions may be contradicted by evidence or experience, or be logically ineffective, but dismissing any predictions as impossible seems a bit harsh.

        5. The entire argument hinges on the crux that Mr. Skarka is some sort of good businessman, which is really the argument this article is going against. Your refutations of “many people are as bad as he is” and “we don’t know what’s going on” are a bit out of place.

        Also, Mr. Wall, I apologize if I misrepresented your article entitled “Gareth-Michael Skarka is full of crap.”

      • Malcolm (replying to your comment below, since I’m not getting a reply button on it.) I may not have a lot of experience, but I do have some. And it’s just that kind of long tail, low temperature experience you’re talking about. My argument, in fact, was that Mr. Skarka was lacking in that experience.

        Because selling to a distributor is not the same as selling directly to a customer. Selling 3000 copies to a distributor (whether in a dump or a trickle) is another stack of stuff in the warehouse. Selling 3000 copies almost entirely to customers is a sign that people love your product. Especially if that 3000 copies represents only 3 months of sales.

        fugaros: (also below) Don’t worry. I’m the guy who gave it that rather bombastic title. I just wish that some of my other, more constructive, posts got the kind of traffic that one did.

      • Okay, that’s what I get for not properly understanding WordPress.

    • logicalphallacy says:

      Just for the record Malcolm, your argument hinges on a few things:

      1. Updates on what he is doing towards getting the book out on time are exactly as good as getting the book out on time

      It doesn’t matter one iota to me that he is keeping people updated (on far west, ICONS and Buckaroo Banzai aren’t even getting that) when they don’t have the product they pledged for, or PAID FOR in the case of ICONS and BB

      2. GMS airs grievances like THIS, everyone else airs grievances like THAT

      When GMS starts grousing about the cruel treatment he received (a verbal warning that he cannot censure other users because he doesn’t like the facts about his business) on twitter or google+ publicly, he is inviting anyone to discuss this. He has no shortage of private options for complaining if he wants them. Most of the people on his google+ page have some interest in what he is saying, why is it OK for him to express himself publicly but not the other way round?

      3. Its only a few people complaining about GMS’ delays so they aren’t really an issue.

      You could very well be right here, this is unverifiable. I can count (at least from my limited knowledge) at least 5 aggravated parties, but that number is not so large. However you take that one step further and say that the limited number makes their claims unverifiable. This is not the case. People have receipts showing they paid money for BB or ICONS, or that they pledged for Far West, people have not received those products, because GMS hasn’t done them like he promised to when he took their money. As inconvenient as that fact is for him, it does not magically not become fact because a few people are being mean about it.

  6. A DIRTY INDIGENT says:

    It’s pretty cool that a dude can carp and moan about being given a verbal warning on a web forum, portraying the person who did it as a overreaching martinet throughout, but when that person pops up and says “Actually you’re full of shit,” THAT is rude and creepy.

  7. Anders Smith says:

    I backed the Far West Kickstarter. Backed at the $100 level, even went and talked to my FLGS about backing, because I was enthusiastic about the project. So now, a year after I was originally told I’d have a game, I have a few chapters of text, a trail of broken promises, and a serious case of backer’s remorse.

    If I’m not a customer, then what am I? At this point, I’m feeling like the answer is ‘a mark’.

    • Have you emailed him? If you have a serious concern you won’t get what you paid for, then do so. Where I’m not going to back him up is the fiction that KS clients are not real preorders, though honestly, this is the buyer beware part of Kickstarter. But email him and check the updates. Delays like this are bad, but as i said they aren’t unheard of.

      Seriously, I would be far more worried by radio silence and avoidance than this. I’m not saying not to be worried at all, but exercise a little diligence before throwing your hands up.

  8. drjuliuskelp says:

    GMS has two basic modes of behavior: whining, and telling everyone else to stop whining. He’s always the first one to bloviate and mouth off about nerds getting upset about trivial things, but when it’s HIM, he has an entirely different set of rules, and cries louder than anyone about his little feelings being hurt. And he’s not self-aware enough to see his own double standard. “Scathing douchebag” is 100% right.

  9. DensityDuck says:

    GMS being a clod? Well, color me not shocked at all. He was a clod fifteen years ago on RPG.net and he’s still a clod.

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