Kickstarter Game Project Accused of Lifting Assets

| 24 Apr 2012 14:15

A $10,000 Kickstarter has been accused of using a "cookie-cutter" game-making tutorial.

I'm a pretty big fan of Kickstarter. Just ask Brian Fargo, who's currently in possession of more of my money than I'm comfortable admitting in public. I talk about it a lot here, too, because the possibility of seeing great ideas turned into great games is legitimately exciting. But there's also a certain risk inherent in jumping into the fray; Tim Schafer probably isn't going to take the money and catch a plane to Aruba, but somebody might.

To be perfectly clear, that's not what D.S. Williams, the man behind Ron Paul: Road to REVOLution has done. But his Kickstarter, which has raised nearly $10,000 so far, does look a little dodgy. The game will be a "sidescrolling platformer action/adventure game, reminiscent of console classics like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog," except instead of a cartoon Italian plumber or anthropomorphic blue rodent, you'll play as Libertarian icon Ron Paul, working your way across the U.S. in pursuit of gold, which I assume will represent campaign contributions, and delegates.

"The game is full of original artwork and gameplay mechanics," the Kickstarter page says. "Indie Game Development at its finest, the game is designed, programmed, conceived, and produced by me, D.S. Williams."

But as Something Awful discovered, that may not be entirely true. The site laid its hands on the game's source code thanks to some insecure server directories and found references to "A small step by step tutorial for game creation with MelonJS" nestled therein. That would be MelonJS, the "lightweight HTML5 game engine," which includes on its website a tutorial for making a simple platforming game.

Also found on the server was some of the "original artwork," which appears to include assets from the Super NES game Earthbound, as well as a monster from Braid and Waluigi, both slightly modified to fit the theme of the game.

Williams told Beefjack that Something Awful had actually found an early build of the game that he'd left unprotected while sharing "proof of concept" with some friends. "While they had access to the source code of that very early build, they could have seen that the game, even at that stage, was far beyond a 'basic tutorial'," he said. The artwork, he added, is just a placeholder for the alpha build and will not appear in the final release.

"The funding I receive is partly going toward the production of new artwork," he said. "This is no secret."

Regardless of how it all turns out, the mini-controversy illustrates some of the risks of Kickstarting unknown projects. If Jordan Weisman wants money to make a new Shadowrun game you can safely assume it's on the up-and-up, but there's less certainty when it comes to random guys on the internet. Nothing is guaranteed, so exercise a little caution - and don't kick in money you can't afford to lose.

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