Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Found money

For those not following the story, the makers of the video series Extra Credits have decided to leave The Escapist.  As of today, there are about a hundred articles and videos out there about it.  I've linked a couple of Extra Credits videos on my blog that touched on topics that I write about.  I find the series interesting and insightful about the gaming industry.

But with this drama, it becomes a reflection of an EVE Online topic, too.

The short version of the drama, as I understand it, goes like this:
  1. The Escapist has been having problems paying its contributors for quite a while, so the makers of Extra Credits agreed to be "last in the queue" when payments went out, so The Escapist could concentrate their remaining funds on other video producers.
  2. The makers of the series had been paying their artist, Allison Theus, out of their own pocket, and then waiting for reimbursement from The Escapist.
  3. This is how things went for at least six months, until this June, when Allison needed extensive shoulder surgery.  So the makers of Extra Credits asked The Escapist for their back pay -- some $20000 -- so they could help with that expense.
  4. The Escapist came up with $1000 for them, which was nowhere near enough.  The surgery, plus the cost needed to hire guest artists while Allison recovered, were estimated to be between $15000 and $20000.
  5. The people involved on both sides decided to set up a Rockethub page asking for donations.  The EC makers would contribute a special episode for people who donated.  The Escapist would provide t-shirts and paywall accounts for their site to people who donated.
  6. The donations greatly exceeded expectations during the first week.
  7. The people involved on both sides agreed that any additional money gained over what was needed would be used for guest artists and other needs for the Extra Credits videos.
  8. The donation page went viral, then greatly exceeded even the wildest dreams of everyone involved.  (The total donations currently stand near $100,000.)
  9. The makers of Extra Credits decided to use the additional donated money to start an independent gaming studio.
  10. They hired a "business development manager."
  11. They then went back to The Escapist and demanded the remainder of the money that they were owed, or (as an alternative) an agreement for them to fully own the Intellectual Property rights around the Extra Credits videos, so that they could produce their own merchandise.
  12. The Escapist was open to this, but stated that if alternate uses for the extra donations were being contemplated, they felt that some of the extra money made from donations should cover the cost of t-shirts and other benefits that The Escapist had donated, and further, that additional Extra Credits videos for use by The Escpaist should be produced with some of that money, to the tune of $9500 worth of content.
  13. The makers of Extra Credits roundly rejected this, and demanded the remaining money they were owed, or they would leave The Escapist.
  14. The Escapist paid them in full.  Or they didn't.  The two sides disagree on that.
  15. The makers of Extra Credits decided to leave The Escapist regardless of if they were paid or not.

There's probably some gross simplifications and some inaccuracies here and there in that account.  Any time you start dealing with money and contracts and expectations, things are hardly simple.  Still, that probably captures the gist of what happened.

Who comes out of this looking bad?

Everyone involved, of course.  Everyone involved in this is coming out of it looking greedy, petty, and selfish.

The Escapist sure didn't need its dirty laundry aired.  A dozen or so of their contributors are coming out of the woodwork to confirm that The Escapist hasn't been paying their bills.  To first donate those t-shirts and paywall accounts, and then demand that those donations be paid for in full?  Yeah, that isn't cool.  To try to use that donation money as an excuse to say that the makers of the content they were supposed to be buying have been paid?  Also not cool.

But the makers of Extra Credits aren't looking any better.  To use the proceeds of donations to a humanitarian effort as a catapult from which to launch a personal business endeavor?  That isn't cool, either.  To push for IP rights, then continue to press on a publisher that they knew was in financial difficulty because of the leverage they had from the money from those donations?  Another uncool act.  But then, to top it off, they put all of this out on the Internet to be tried in the court of public opinion.

And that back-and-forth public bickering is still going on.

Yeah, everyone involved in this looks really really bad.

In real life, I've seen this situation play out at least a dozen times.  Large amounts of found money never ever brings out the good in people.  Money can't buy happiness, they say, but I'll tell you what it can buy: acrimony, distrust, and until-that-moment repressed hurt feelings.

How does this relate to EVE Online?  Glad you asked.

How many corps and alliances in EVE have fractured when a suddenly-available, heretofore unknown source of vast ISK was uncovered?  From wormhole loot to moongoo to supercap production profit to a surprisingly successful new business venture, found ISK doesn't bring out the good in people any more than found money does.  Just this year, we've heard many stories of corps or individuals taking money they felt they were owed from alliance coffers.  I'm sure every person reading this post has a story about how a large amount of found ISK broke up or did damage to a corp or alliance they were in.

And broke up or damaged the friendships of the people involved.  Nobody ever comes out of these situations looking good.

If EVE is real, this is one of the darker reflections of that.

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