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Haunts: The Manse Macabre is a turn-based, horror game where you can play as the haunts or the intruders. PC/Mac/Linux and Ipad plans.
1,214 backers pledged $28,739 to help bring this project to life.

Desperate Times

Posted by Rick Dakan (Creator)

Sorry for the long delay in updates, and special apologies to those who have emailed or commented in the last week and to whom I haven’t yet replied. As I’m sure many of you suspect, things haven’t been going well for Haunts and Mob Rules Games. I am still determined to get the game out, but I no longer have any way of knowing when and how that will happen.

The principal cause for our dire condition is that there are no longer any programmers working on the game. Our lead programmer, Jonathan, was always going to move on to something else after a year or so. We had hoped that he would be able to work on the game in his spare time, but now that he’s going back at Google, he has told us that his spare time will be very minimal and not enough to make progress on the game. Our second programmer, Josh, has quit the project entirely to take another job. He does not want to work on the game in his spare time.

The game as it stands has all the systems in place, but there are a lot of bugs. Knowing Jonathan would be leaving, the plan had been to get online play working and release the Beta, with Josh working to make the levels run in online play and scripting the AI for the single player versions of those levels.

Unfortunately, getting online play working took three times longer than estimated (instead of the twice as long as estimated I’d been counting on). It also required making adjustments to programming for all the levels, even when they’re not being played online. With no one left on the project who is capable of implementing those changes and debugging them during testing, the game is in a very patchwork state. In some cases, levels that once worked fine now have serious issues. Fixing those issues would require fixes both to the level programming and the core system programming, working in tandem.

But now it’s just me and Austin. Austin has finished up the art content for the initial release of the game, but he’s not a programmer. I’m not a programmer either. Although I know some small amount about how the level programming works, I’m not capable at this point of fixing the bugs I know about. This is further complicated by the fact that the game is written in the Go programming language, which is not widely used, limiting the pool of potential new programmers.

What then, to do? We are not giving up! I am currently in talks with another game company owned by some old friends and coworkers of mine, Blue Mammoth Games. They have expressed an interest in taking on Haunts. Austin and I would continue on in our roles, although we would both be doing so in our spare time. These new potential partners won't be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it's out best shot at this point.

This has been an emotionally rough couple of months for me, as I’ve invested almost all of my time for the past year or more in Haunts, along with my own money and reputation. It’s been terrible to watch it fail despite best efforts, but the failure is mine. There are scores of decisions I’d make differently if I had to do them over, and there were bets I made knowing the risks that haven’t paid off like we needed them to. I have failed to update because things were constantly going from bad to worse and then we started to see some rays of hope and I was hoping for something more concrete in the good news department. My obligation to all of you generous Kickstarter backers is foremost in my mind and I have not served you as well as I should have.

I will turn over my share of any future revenue from the game to whoever manages to get it finished, fun, and out to you. We have spent all the money we raised, but I will personally refund out of my own pocket anyone who wants to withdraw their support, no questions asked. We’re going to make this game, and if you can hang on for what looks to be a long road ahead, we will get it finished, but that’s not what I asked you to sign up for and it’s not what you gave us money for. email me directly through Kickstarter if you would like your pledge refunded.

Finally, although I’m very hopeful about the partnership deal I’m pursuing, that deal is not made yet and my friends at Blue Mammoth have said it’s fine if I look for other options. I haven’t found any yet, but now I’m throwing it open to you all. If any of you or someone you know is interested in and capable of taking on Haunts and doing right by it, I’d love to hear from you.

I have made an update to the Mob Rules Games web site that has descriptions and images of some of the work we’ve been doing. The attached video that Austin put together shows some of the gameplay from across a variety of different level, so you can see how close we are to finishing the game. All the systems are there, and when it works it’s fun to play. You can see how we spent your money, and that we weren’t just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, even if we have collapsed at the finish line.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Adrian Bolt

      Damn, Rick I feel for you. I'm also in the 'no refund and it'll be done when it's ready' group. All I ask is that you stick with your wonderful vision for the game.

      I don't suppose any of these game news sites that want to interview you will pay for the privilege, but it should be useful publicity and will hopefully lead to some programmers contacting you.

    2. Jonny Paylor on

      Rick, please don't worry, all is most certainly not lost. I think I can speak for the vast majority of us in saying we are backers for a reason and that is that we want to support people like you with projects like this through both the difficult times and the good. We understand that things can go wrong but we're still here and as supportive as ever. You've been hit, but you've not been knocked out, so dust yourself off, pick yourself up and move on - you'll reach that goal eventually, one way or another I'm sure!

    3. The Evolutionary on

      The one of the biggest issues with Kickstarter appears to be taxes. The government just has the IRS stamp kickstarter projects as incomes. In part because often there is no business registration, which in turn has business expenses (which is refunded in tax filings). Of course if one registers as a business owner (and therefore self-employed), you lose ability to ask for unemployment benefits. :D A tax accountant may be able to help recover lost money from taxes since you haven't made anything yet. What I suggest is a profit-sharing schema for anyone willing to contribute a REGULAR block of hours per week. That way there is at least some hope that people giving their time regularly get something back besides the feeling of a job well done. The game could also be sold for $5-10 on ouya, or even GOG, Humble Bundle, Desura and so forth. Hope this brainstorm helps.

    4. Missing avatar

      Xyem on

      This whole thing actually makes me proud to be a part of this project, even though I am just a backer.

      From Rick's absolute determination to get this game done, to the gracious understanding of the backers when things have gone wrong, to the mass of offers of help and suggestions... Haunts seems to already have a great community.

    5. Rick Dakan 2-time creator on


      I will write up a more detailed description of the gameplay and answer your questions ASAP. I am swamped with media requests from game news sites that want to interview me about the project's problems, which is a big surprise to me, but I want to get the story out there from my POV.

      But I'll do a gameplay post later this evening or tomorrow morning for sure.

    6. longbeach on

      I wrote a long comment, so I'll pull out the questions here:

      Can you explain the battle mechanics? (Move, attack, defense, special attacks? what's Ego do?)

      How do you 'find objects'? (do you have to be next to them to reveal them? how many hiding places per board on avg?)

      Do some scenarios lean more to the intruders and other's easier for the guests? I don't feel each board should have a 50/50 chance for either side, but would be good to know a rough estimate.

      Can you release an alpha now? Even if it is just multiplayer so we can see the state of the gameplay?
      I think single player is in dire straits from the looks of it.

    7. Seumas Froemke on

      I'm not eager for a refund, at the moment. Regular status updates and knowing things are still in progress is enough for me. It's only October. Expecting the estimated delivery date for a Kickstarter is wishful thinking and delays are inevitable.

    8. Robert V Frazier on

      I don't need a refund, and I'm glad to see that most everybody commenting here says the same. Don't give up, take as much time as it needs, and eventually you'll see it through. This won't be the first game that took much longer than originally planned. Also, if you don't find any experienced Go programmers, look for experienced C or C++ game programmers. The differences between Go and C++ are not that big.

    9. Matt on

      Agree with the majority of the people here that I invested in an idea, and investing is a risk. I commend you for discussing the problems. I like the idea about open-sourcing the game, perhaps as donation-ware so that you can be compensated for all the time you have already put in to the game. I am also willing to kick in a few more dollars to assist. Do you have a PayPal account?

    10. James Miller on

      I'm still in all the way. These things happen, and you're keeping us up on what's going on. Keep the game alive and you've got my support.

    11. Missing avatar

      Jeremy Reaban on

      Well, only $5. But on the other hand, I think when you pitch a KS, you should have a finalized game design. It seems like you threw away what you had in favor of a more multiplayer game, then when you found out that was harder to do, you ran out of money. If you had just stuck to your initial plans, it probably would have worked out better.

    12. Missing avatar

      Tracey Robertson on

      Sorry to hear the bad news. I hope this is a things can only get better from here situation, and that you've turned the corner. I don't know if your reference to Austin's being done with the art for the initial release means all the caricatures got done but, if so, I'd be interested in seeing those. Or are you thinking of keeping those under cover for now? Best of luck.

    13. Shadow Stalker

      Rick as a one of your many backers, I for one appreciate both your honesty and courage for telling your backers the truth. I'am sure you know by now, that many of us here want Haunts to come out eventually after all that why we backed the game. Thank you for all your past and continued efforts in trying to bring out Haunts. I for one do not want a refund. Best of luck in finishing the game in one way or another. I'am looking forward to playing it. : )

    14. Alex Brem on

      I definitely do not want a refund, although I pledged $50. There's always a risk in Kickstarter projects, that's the nature of it. And we all who pledged it should also take our share, not just the creators.

      Haunts is a wonderful game concept, prototype and hopefully - against great odds - it'll become playable soon. If everything else goes wrong, I really would like to see this project taking a complete open source route (as I understand, the Go source code is open already).

      My deepest wishes for Rick, Austin and Jonathan for trying, creating and making it this far! He who doesn't try already failed to succeed. Or something like that. :)

    15. Missing avatar

      Lion on

      Sounds like you picked your friends poorly if they were willing to so easily drop the project and leave you to your fate.

      The best you can do is chalk it up to a life lesson. I'll wait for when you do manage to finish it.

    16. sinisterandroid on

      Breaks my heart to hear this, for sure, but that's the nature of backing creative projects like this. I really hope it works out for you – and I do hope you're rewarded for your efforts, not only in the pleasure of seeing it completed successfully, but financially as well.

      I'd love to help out in any way I can – but I've not touched Go before, and I certainly don't think I'd have the resources to take on something like this.

    17. Missing avatar

      PinkPiggy on

      I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. :-( Big hugs. You can keep my money. Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. Nobody is perfect! I make mistakes at work and fall short sometimes, so why should I expect perfection from you? I wish you nothing but the VERY BEST. I admired your ethic and business model. I hope you can find work so you can pay your bills. I wish you and the team success and happiness. I look forward to playing the game when your new partner comes out with it.

    18. Zael on

      Demand a refund? No way! Kickstarter is a place for hopes, and for those of us with enough belief to support those hopes, in whatever meager way we can. Haunts is a beautiful project and I'm still 100% behind it.
      Hearing that such kind and caring people are behind it and still working on it, makes supporting it even greater. I never cared about the delivery dates, as I take them as they are - rough estimates - and the whole idea of pledging support for a Kickstarter project is just that - pledging support for the hope that the project will one day come to fruition.
      Good luck, and let's all hope this will still turn out in the best way possible, and that the successful sales will make Rick a rich man. =)
      *off to read up on Go*

    19. longbeach on

      This is grave news for sure, and I seem to be split in pieces on this. We seem to be blocked out of the bad news until it is already charred on the grill. The last sour update showed that many people were not looking for a multiplayer game, yet we find out now that there is no turning back. I am unsure any of the AI would be worth playing as an opponent. That is because of how good the dynamic gameplay is described in the 10 plot lines. If there are so many bugs in the game that the dev team up, left and quit (for various reasons, but points out the bugs are not trivial easy fixes) I can't see how the AI will have its wits in good order.

      What we need to know going forward is how does the gameplay really work? I see the stats, and a few buttons, but are the mechanics deep enough to bring out the great plot lines that you wrote about?

      Will each scene just be a tug of war where whoever gets the early jump usually wins?

      Like I said, I am in torn on this project since the plot lines are fantastic for each era but I don't see much hope the coding keeping pace. The art looks great for what it needs to be.

      I'm one of the 20 that put in $250. I wish these major stumbling blocks were discussed much earlier with us all.. it could of kept this on pace and in the right direction

      You are doing the right thing now pitching it to other game dev houses. Might as well pitch like a maniac to all of them and see what catches.... who knows, might end up as a triple A game if the right person gets smitten by this with the body of work that has been created.

    20. Michael Riser on

      It's definitely a shame, but I won't be asking for my admittedly small contribution back. Kickstarter helps to fund projects we want to see happen. It isn't a preorder machine and it doesn't guarantee success. I believe you guys did your best, and while it's a shame that so many roadblocks have gotten in the way, there's nothing that makes me think the money was wasted or the project neglected. We made an investment here as did you guys, and thus we can all say it's a bummer that it didn't work out as planned. But all is not lost... and I'll keep my fingers crossed that things will work out with these other folks, or that you'll find a way through.

      Don't beat yourself up, Rick. Shit happens, sadly, and life is always uncertain. If you did your best and used these invested resources properly, then you've got nothing at all to feel guilty about.

    21. Rick Dakan 2-time creator on

      Thanks all very much for your kindness and understanding - I can't express how encouraging it is. I will answer some questions a number of you have asked more formally in another update tomorrow morning, but quickly I want to talk about open sourcing the game. The game's code is already open source and the contents Creative Commons. If we can't get something commercial together - and I still think we can! - then I will public domain/totally open source everything, absolutely. Even with the commercial release, the code will remain open source of course. More soon...


    22. Hulker69 on

      Hey, tis a really pity this has not come to pass as we all wished. I feel for you Rick. Maybe open sourcing it if no-one takes it on commercially will provide a suitable resting place for it. There has obviously been a good deal of work put into it that the community could resurrect. Good luck with whatever Rick.

    23. Zombie Pug on

      I'll be honest, I expected a bloodbath when I came over to check the comments. But, I'm very impressed with the mature, realistic response that Rick has received. It has to do his heart good to see these comments. I'm only out $5, so I'm not upset nor do I need a refund.

    24. Missing avatar

      Alex Earp on

      So, this game is either going to be lost in development hell or it's going to a different group of developers who are going to change God knows what. I'm a little more inclined to ask for a refund as I donated $50, but I'll hold off until I see where this is going. Good luck Rick.

    25. Chris Williams on

      while i'm upset about this as a fan, i think you've tried very hard to do right by us and i'm sorry that your programmers quit the project. that's very unfortunate. on the bright side, maybe you'll find someone who can do even BETTER with this game than they could have? :) i personally do not want a refund, but don't be afraid to give us updates, even if it's going rough.

    26. Missing avatar

      Frank Marcelli on

      Please post or arrange for an open source version of the game. It'd be an interesting project to take on (and learn Go for a reason). If there are dev notes to the code, that'd be awesome.

      Besides that, you've learned something from this all and it should better equip you for future projects. :)

    27. Space Monkey on

      I agree with others: I invested in the project so that you could work on it, and so you did. I did not pre-order a game.
      I understand that you first objective will be to make the project in a commercial form, but if this should fail I would also recommend to release the source and make this an open source project.

    28. Ziffy "zifnabbe"

      making it open-source isn't that a bad idea... unfortunately I don't know if I would have the time to contribute to it (although it would be great to learn about the world of 'game' programming)

    29. Stephen Perkins on

      I pledged my money to this project with the understanding that you were trying to build something and I believed in the project and the people making it. That hasn't changed and in my eyes, you never really owed me anything other than to attempt to follow through on your idea. I'm sorry this has happened, I hope that things get better and you are eventually able to release the game or facilitate the release of the game in some form, not for my sake, but because I know it's what you want.

    30. Missing avatar

      Waelen on

      Grave news indeed. Well, I'm not going to ask for a refund either. In the worst case, try to at least release the source code – the project might have a future as an open-source one. I took a look at Go once myself, but didn't get too far into it at the time, might be willing to try contributing to an existing codebase though.
      Anyway, keep my pledge and know you have my support for whatever you decide to do next!

    31. John Falcon

      If I'm honest with myself, I have blown far more than $45 on projects and goods less worthy than the potential Haunts has. Keep my pledge with my blessing and with the hope that something good may eventually come from this.....

    32. Mike Caprio on

      Release the source code. Put it on a public repo on github and give community developers a chance to work on it, fix it, finish it. I'm a developer, I'll contribute. It's open source, put it in the open!

    33. S.D. on

      I agree with kibertoad. You've got a playable alpha (that's what "all systems in place" means). That's huge! Don't discount that. Also, with the major art assets and music in place, you can begin to deliver some digital rewards to us (i.e., the soundtrack!), as an olive branch, since your licensing is intended to be liberal anyway.
      I've got some other great ideas that I've seen work on similarly shoestring indie titles. I'll send you a message with a little "Plan B" sauce :-)

    34. Josh Jones

      Paypal is a great idea. Putting up a little more to help this game get made the right way is more than worth it. I'm in for the paypal.

    35. Irfon-Kim Ahmad on

      Ultimately, Kickstarter is a form of venture capital, not a pre-order in the usual sense. I feel awful for you that so much of your heart and soul went into this only to have it fall on such hard times. However, the possibility from my perspective as an investor that the project might not succeed was always there. That's why you include your resume, of sorts, in the pitch. I'm not going to ask for a refund, and I hope that eventually I wind up with a cool game! If not... well, the t-shirt is really nice. :)

    36. Missing avatar

      Linus Stenlund on

      I feel this is okay, i knew the risks that where involved. I dont want my money back, and if you find a way to finish the game you believe in, i share kibertoad's view that opening a paypal is ok. I am willing to put up a little more money.

    37. Missing avatar

      kibertoad on

      Please consider opening up a Paypal or something for voluntary donations to keep the project alive. Your commitment to the project and readiness to listen to the community feedback were second to none, and it'd be my honour to up my pledge unconditionally when I get paid - and I hope others wouldn't mind joining me.