Tuesday 27 June 2017

Disappointment with Flytrap Factory

To my great disappointment, I discovered this morning that I have been kicked out of a Facebook group. Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t annoy me, but in this instance, it has rather touched a nerve. The group in question was The Caveman vs Wild Secret Tribal Council, a closed group for backers of the Flytrap Factory Kickstarter from November 2016, Caveman vs Wild: The Big Chill.

As readers of this blog will know, I have championed Flytrap Factory since mid-last year when I started my descent into prehistoric hunting games with TUSK. The sculpting of their 20mm cavemen is, in my opinion, superb. Despite having already started developing Palaeo Diet, I did my best to promote Flytrap’s Kickstarter, my blog post on the project received over 1300 views and I also posted about it on various forums (Lead Adventure Forum, The Wargames Website and TMP).

I have never hidden the fact that I was working on a prehistoric hunting game for Ganesha Games. Indeed, I have posted on it frequently since December last year. However, while I have shared photos of my painted Flytrap miniatures to their group and on their own forum, I have always been conscious not to discuss Palaeo Diet in those places.

Never the less, back in May I discovered that I had mysteriously been ejected from the group. When I queried this with the owner of Flytrap, he claimed to not know how it had happened and suggested that it was the result of malign interference from a soured previous relationship with another wargaming company… As unlikely as that excuse sounded, I let it pass as I was keen to watch how the project developed.

It was also in May that same time that I found that my name had been omitted from the list of Kickstarter backers in the playtesting draft of the Flytrap rules – something which the owner claims to have fixed but which I can’t comment on as I have not been privy to any updated version. All I can say is that I hope he does include it as he is contractually obliged to do so given my Kickstarter pledge level.

Likewise, I let it pass without much fuss that my Kickstarter pledge was only partially completed on time (March), with the remainder only arriving this month – and then only five of the six models advertised, and those arriving not fully conforming with the advertised sculpts for the pack. I noted my disappointment, but let it go because for my purposes, I only needed three.

Now, as Palaeo Diet nears completion – it is scheduled for release next month – we were thinking about listing companies that make appropriate miniatures in the back, the same as we did with Faustus Furius. I contacted Flytrap to ask permission to list them and, as a courtesy, to allow the owner to have a look at the almost finalised rules. He was happy to receive the rules, but then asked not to be listed as a recommended company given what he saw as the inherent confusion that it might cause.

Then, I was kicked out of the Facebook group again. It was only when I questioned this (although now also ‘unfriended’), that I was provided with an explanation citing a conflict of interests and his need to protect his property as best he could. I suggested this might be something of an overreaction, expressed my disappointment, but accepted his decision. So far all correspondence had been private.

Then, a third party copied me into an open message posted by Flytrap on their group – a message to which I was given no opportunity to reply given my ejection. I repeat it in full below; the emphasis is my own, indicating aspects that I would like the opportunity to respond to after the post.

Just a small heads up, I have removed IW Nic from this group unfortunately. The reason for this was explained to him via social media message today. In a nutshell, IW Nic recently disclosed to me that he is/has penned a ruleset for Ganesha Games entitled 'Paleo Diet', a prehistoric hunting and survival game.
He explained to me in his words that there was no conflict of interest to be had. I was privy to reviewing these rules today and was a little disappointed to see more than a good number of uncannily similar concepts and processes being utilised in his system to those used in CvW.
This has put me a little on the defensive considering I want to take the time with you (my council) to really iron out everything properly and do not wish to be shunted into having to go retail release before I am good and ready just because a competitor is jumping the gun on releasing a set... I owe CvW more than the 'Johnny-come-lately' labeling it would suffer having been trumped by the competition.
The decision to let Nic go is not personal, it is however business and not only Flytrap, but all of you in the council have invested a great deal into the development of Caveman vs Wild thus far, and with so much more to come a decision had to be made.
Ganesha games is a clear and present competitor with wide scope, deep pockets and great influence. I need to make moves to protect our investment moving forward.
I do wish Nic and Ganesha all the best for the future, I just need to be a little tighter on our own developments ahead. Especially with part two in development and part three to come.
I just wanted to explain to the group personally.

1) recently disclosed to me
I might be reading into this, but to me this suggests that I had been keeping Palaeo Diet a secret. If the owner has been keeping an eye on the forums, or my own blog, he cannot have been unaware of my project. Indeed, when I offered to show him my draft last week he said that he was already aware of the rules.

2) 'Paleo Diet'
PalAeo Diet. I have nothing against Americans, but I am not one, and therefore use conventional English spelling. Pedantry? Perhaps.

3) disappointed to see more than a good number of uncannily similar concepts and processes being utilised in his system to those used in CvW.
Having seen both my rules from inception, and the playtest draft of Caveman vs Wild I can confirm that both are prehistoric hunting games where players take on the role of hunters in a prehistoric world. Both also employ an AI mechanic to regulate the actions of animals. There the similarities cease and I cannot imagine a prehistoric hunting game without these similarities.

The implication here is that I might have borrowed some of his ideas. I very much hope that is just a possible implication and not his intention. I pride myself on honesty and decency, and that sort of thing is beyond the pale.

Palaeo Diet embraces an AI mechanism that evolved from the one used in TUSK by Wessex Games. This is integrated into a simplified version of the Ganesha Games core mechanic that I developed for Faustus Furius. The approach has been to keep the actions of hunters quite simple to allow for constant interactions with/from beasts without leaving the player bewildered with numerous charts. There have been a number of small changes to the Palaeo Diet mechanics as a result of playtesting, but nothing substantive since it was first sent out to testers in January. January. Five months before Flytrap’s playtest draft was made available.

4) and do not wish to be shunted into having to go retail release before I am good and ready just because a competitor
I do not see how my participation in the group could have impacted on that? We are a month away from release and Flytrap are just starting to playtest. Regardless, I have to say that feedback from other game developers – even those with potentially competing projects – has always benefitted my own rule writing.

5) and not only Flytrap, but all of you in the council have invested a great deal into the development of Caveman vs Wild thus far,
Yes. Including myself. I don’t see in what way my contribution promoting and funding Flytrap has been lessened because of my own projects.

6) Ganesha games is a clear and present competitor with wide scope, deep pockets and great influence
I believe this is something of a misrepresentation. It would be nice for Ganesha to be an apex predator in the world of gaming, and maybe someday it will be. For now, it remains a product of Andrea Sfiligoi’s passion and innovation, supported by one other person with responsibility for the small range of miniatures, and a couple of rule authors like myself who do get royalties, but primarily write because we love it.

So here we are. I still love the Flytrap sculpts. They have such great character and are a joy to paint. The customer service has been… middling. However, as I vent my spleen, I have to state, once again, how very disappointed I am with the attitude and approach taken by the company’s owner. 

*August 2017 EDIT*
As far as I am concerned, this matter is closed. I have said my piece. Palaeo Diet is out, but I still look forward to seeing the completed version of Caveman vs Wild and, presuming I have enough stuff, to play and enjoy the game.

For the sake of transparency, I will note that there have been quite a number of comments left on this post - more than I would have imagined actually. Most have been supportive of me, a couple have been supportive of Flytrap Factory. That is completely fine. A number of them have included language that was not all together helpful. I deleted the first few, and then (after Blogger started asking me to moderate) decided not to post later ones. This has now resulted in someone who has never been in contact with me before demanding to know why comments have been deleted.

I was contacted by the owner of Flytrap yesterday who stressed that his intention was never to offend me. In the process of chatting I explained about various comments and why I had decided to suppress all of them - a move which he seemed to agree was a fair call. This is a fairly niche area, but there is enough scope for multiple rule sets. Hunt and let hunt (as they might have said).

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