Project Phoenix scammed us? Creative Intelegent Art Fraud?

Oct 27, 2017
276
Sweden
Sadly this is what I imagine most Kickstarters would turn into so I've never backed anything.
I've backed 93 successful kickstarters to date and nothing like this has happened to me, there have been delays sure but that's to be expected, I'm willing to take the risk for projects I believe in.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,440
Finland
Yura posted this on the steam community for Tiny Metal.

Defamation by Former Employee
28 December - HIROAKI YURA Producer/Director

This thread is intended to clear the air in regards to the false accusation from a former employee, Mr. Tariq Lacy.

On the morning of November 20th, 2017, Japan Standard Time, Mr. Lacy posted a false accusation claiming that development of TINY METAL used funds from Project Phoenix.

Despite presenting evidence to the falsehood of Tariq’s accusations, his lies have been repeated and have deterred potential players from enjoying TINY METAL. We have shared confidential evidence to members of the press, leading to Gamespot confirming that TINY METAL never once used Project Phoenix funding.

Gamespot: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/facing-accusations-of-mismanagement-project-phoeni/1100-6455702/

TINY METAL has only ever used outside sources of funding. Our staff have personally gone through considerable sacrifices and hardship to bring TINY METAL to life. To claim that we used Project Phoenix development funds to create TINY METAL is an insult to all the developers who have made these sacrifices.

Japanese law prevents us from providing full details about Mr. Lacy, his motivations, and his actions during his brief time at our company. Please understand that Japanese law would not protect us from potential further abuse from Mr. Lacy if we provide these details in public.

He has refused to apologise for his lies. Our only option to clear our name is to bring Mr. Lacy to court. Unfortunately, he is ignoring multiple legal correspondence in an attempt to delay. Once we submit evidence to the court, it will become public and everyone can understand the truth. We hope that this message will be received by him and that he will take actions to resolve this serious matter.

The lies Mr. Lacy posted are not the first of his actions deserving to be brought to court, they are merely the most public. We wrongly thought we could be free of him in private, but he has forced the issues public.

The motivations behind Mr. Lacy’s actions will become clear as the court case unfolds, and we will keep everyone informed as the case progresses. The court will be open to the public and we have invited journalists to attend.

We are a small and earnest team, though Mr. Lacy’s actions in the office and posting of his lies has caused great distress among his former co-workers. We have devoted over two years of our lives to bring TINY METAL to life. Having poured our heart and souls into TINY METAL, it is truly a sad thing to see false and evidence-less accusations cause such great harm.

I want to end this message on a positive note: we will continue despite how much we have been hurt. Our goal is to make TINY METAL the very best game it can be, no matter what obstacles we may face. TINY METAL was a passion project for all of us and we thank you everyone for your support.

Hiroaki Yura
Producer / Director
 
Oct 25, 2017
654
I wonder which other press people have seen the evidence other than gamespot, should be interesting to find out the truth.
If it really was a case of one disgruntled employee trying to cause trouble then he has caused major damage to the sales of tiny metal.
I can't imagine that the developers would want this to go to court in any case but if it means the people that funded the original game get answers then that's great for them.
 
Oct 25, 2017
8,567
Ohio
My big question is if Tiny Metal didn't use any of the Project Phoenix funds, where is Project Phoenix and why did the team decide to focus entirely on a separate game for years while development on the kickstarter that was funded languished without so much as a message related to them just flat axing the game? The main comments here are the dev lying but nothing in relation to what actually happened to the kickstarter or when they will finally deliver on something from that kickstarter.

I still think anyone that backed the game has been scammed and will never see hide nor hair of anything because that money is gone and is attached to something entirely different or worse they just pocketed most of the money for themselves. I also hope that Tiny Metal fails miserably and Yura never has a chance to produce a game ever again in his life.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,181
My big question is if Tiny Metal didn't use any of the Project Phoenix funds, where is Project Phoenix and why did the team decide to focus entirely on a separate game for years while development on the kickstarter that was funded languished without so much as a message related to them just flat axing the game? The main comments here are the dev lying but nothing in relation to what actually happened to the kickstarter or when they will finally deliver on something from that kickstarter.

I still think anyone that backed the game has been scammed and will never see hide nor hair of anything because that money is gone and is attached to something entirely different or worse they just pocketed most of the money for themselves. I also hope that Tiny Metal fails miserably and Yura never has a chance to produce a game ever again in his life.
My sentiment. If you really want to dispel rumors of misappropriated funds, how about you deliver Project Phoenix? Moving on to and completing a new project when you received money for a different project and accepted it paints a pretty clear picture. If the money wasn't used on Tiny Metal, where is it?
 
Oct 30, 2017
232
I wonder which other press people have seen the evidence other than gamespot, should be interesting to find out the truth.
If it really was a case of one disgruntled employee trying to cause trouble then he has caused major damage to the sales of tiny metal.
I can't imagine that the developers would want this to go to court in any case but if it means the people that funded the original game get answers then that's great for them.
Kotaku picked up on these claims late last month and did an article on it
project-phoenix
 
Oct 30, 2017
2,993
Maybe not funds, but the entire fucking development studio got shifted to TM? "The money isn't lost yet" is really the primary takeaway from his statement. It's been almost 5 fucking years, so I don't fucking have any goodwill and rather belief the employer who has nothing to gain from making these claims.
 
OP
OP
Aurizen
Oct 25, 2017
438
Philly
I still want my money back. I feel they given up or just don't care for the game anymore. How did they just make a game years after they set out to do this one? Either they give everyone who backed it their money back or devote their entire time to make the game and bump the rewards up one tier or two. I contributed a decent amount to this game. Its saddening to see this.
 

Falk

Resettlement Advisor
Member
Oct 26, 2017
974
If it really was a case of one disgruntled employee trying to cause trouble then he has caused major damage to the sales of tiny metal.
To be absolutely, brutally honest, I feel like the whole thing probably gained Tiny Metal a lot more exposure/buzz than if nothing had happened.
 
Oct 27, 2017
3,232
I am going to do some severe mental gymnastics about this, so bear with me:

The only way Mr. Yura is telling the truth, is that he burned through all the money from the KS, as he probably didn't do a good estimate about the game's cost. So, he found external investors, but they weren't willing to approve the money he requested, so he settled for less, and he, or his team or whatever came up with Tiny Metal, as proof they can actually deliver the game.

As for Mr. Lacy, well, probably he is telling the truth about Yura asking him to mask some of the losses. But dunno, Mr. Yura saying that the other guy harassed people on the workplay its a very delicate subject.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,813
Seattle
My sentiment. If you really want to dispel rumors of misappropriated funds, how about you deliver Project Phoenix? Moving on to and completing a new project when you received money for a different project and accepted it paints a pretty clear picture. If the money wasn't used on Tiny Metal, where is it?
The developer claimed all it would take is "a bit more programming", but that they were unhappy with art they outsourced:

http://www.siliconera.com/2017/12/1...hoenix/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

What has been the biggest obstacle for Project Phoenix?
Hiroyuki Yura, Director/Producer: We could actually deliver with a bit more programming, but the fact is, if you read my updates, we aren’t happy with what Airborne Studios (an art outsourcing company used by CIA) delivered. We aren’t happy at all, it looks too cheaply made.
His claim is basically that they spent money on outsourced art, didn't like it.. and so therefore the project died because they didn't have the funds to make up for the money wasted on bad art.

He has a rather long winded version of that in the interview, but that about sums it up.

He never addressed the fact they let the KS languish and never provided updates, and just moved on and started Tiny Metal without letting backers know. He's pretty dismissive in general in the above interview.
 
Oct 26, 2017
6,169
Madrid
From that post:

We have shared confidential evidence to members of the press, leading to Gamespot confirming that TINY METAL never once used Project Phoenix funding.
Gamespot: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/facing-accusations-of-mismanagement-project-phoeni/1100-6455702/
However, reading the Gamespot article that link refers to, it mentions absolutely nothing about evidence of any kind, or any other reason to believe TM didn't use PP funding beyond quoting Yura's claims to that effect verbatim. Could anyone with a Gamespot account contact the writer and point them towards Yura's claims? I can't imagine them being happy about being misrepresented this way.
 
Oct 27, 2017
673
Paris
"We could actually deliver with a bit more programming"

I heard that sentence so often when I was a programmer, coming from people who generally have no idea what they were talking about, this "bit more" always ended up being a time consuming mess.
I have honestly no idea about how he managed the project but these words just add to the pile of arguments that Yura clearly don't seem to know much about what programming involve and how hard it is.
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,722
Singapore
So what happened to Project Phoenix then? Where did that money go?
Into the toilet probably? It was what, a million dollars? That's not a lot of money. In the hands of an inexperienced team which has never actually produced a game before, led by someone who has never led a development team before, it can be easily squandered.
 

Falk

Resettlement Advisor
Member
Oct 26, 2017
974
https://www.polygon.com/2017/12/28/16803348/tiny-metal-kickstarter-project-phoenix-controversy

I think this has to be the most comprehensive* and relatively unbiased read on the situation, complete with quotes and linkbacks to relevant articles and Kickstarter updates.

*at least, as it pertains strictly to Tiny Metal and Project Phoenix; no mention of the other stuff CIA has been working on in the interim such as Under the Dog (Kinema Citrus subsequently had a falling out with Yura over that Kickstarter) and the various music projects CIA has worked on. This makes the statement from the article "and the man behind Project Phoenix has since moved on to another project altogether, a strategy game called Tiny Metal" a little bit reductionist.

I don't know why I even bother to check thus thread when if gets bumped, I only get mad afterwards
sorry
 
Nov 17, 2017
11,908
Utah
I think I donated....literally one dollar for this. I had to choose to drop a large amount of money in either this or Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I'm so freaking glad I chose Shantae.

Then again it wasn't really a tough decision...
 

Falk

Resettlement Advisor
Member
Oct 26, 2017
974
No updates since November.
Im just here for the ride at this point.
It's one hell of a ride at that; Hiroaki Yura posted just over two weeks ago that they have an official apology from Tariq and will take about two weeks to post an update about the situation (but i guess just like project phoenix and tiny metal multiplayer the time estimate here doesn't mean much lolo)

Just a couple days ago someone called out the 'btw please help my friend's project!' shenanigans, waiting to see how this pans out.

edit: for posterity in case something happens to the thread itself.
 
Oct 25, 2017
356
Japan
There is an update on this matter:

Tiny Metal Dispute Settled With Former Employee Admitting Embezzlement Allegations "Contrary to the Truth"

On the accusations:

USgamer said:
On June 20th the Tokyo Court Civic Affairs appears to have reached a settlement. In the translated mediation document given to USgamer, AREA35 ("complainant company") and Lacy ("counterparty") agreed on a resolution. "The counterparty admits that the post/article/comment written on the 20th of November 2017 on the "Project Phoenix" Facebook Page, managed by the complainant company, is contrary to the truth and to apologize to the complainant company," reads the mediation document, referring to Lacy's November Facebook post.
On financial settlement:

USgamer said:
In accordance with the Tokyo court’s decision, Lacy also agreed to pay 410,661 yen (~$3,700) to Masamichi Eguchi, vice president of AREA35 and guarantor of Lacy’s rent agreement. AREA35 also acknowledges its obligations to pay Lacy 600,000 yen (~$5,400) as part of a previous contract agreement.
More at the link.
 
Nov 12, 2017
1,800
There's been an update on the Kickstarter as well.

Sorry for the lack of updates. All updates had to be put on hold pending a legal dispute with a disgruntled former employee of my other company AREA 35, Inc., Tariq Lacy.

The dispute is now resolved and Mr Lacy has publicly admitted the following: He had unauthorized third-party access to this project's Facebook page He used said access to falsely accuse and lie about the funding for this Kickstarter being embezzled to fund the development of AREA 35's game, TINY METAL.

Being clear once again, that's not something I would do, or have done, and no Kickstarter funding was ever used for anything other than work on Project Phoenix.

After pursuing litigation to defend myself from these lies, Tariq admitted that his claims were completely untrue and had agreed to publicly denounce his claims. However, he chose to not fully disclose and publicise his admission on his Facebook account as he had agreed which forced further legal action so that he would be held to his false words and be forced to disclose his dishonesty.

It's not surprising that it's difficult to get publicity to correct the record on a false accusation when it was so shocking to begin with, but I will continue to move forward.


Tariq's public apology on Facebook

Because of the lies that were spread to damage AREA 35's reputation and hurt TINY METAL's release, many of those interested in TINY METAL and those introduced to it in the context of the fake funding claims chose not to support the game. Despite the negative coverage based on that lie, the sales of TINY METAL have been OK. While not a smash hit, it also hasn't been a bust, and we've got some good reviews and great experience & feedback that we can apply to our next game.

Because Sony Music Entertainment/Unties was the publisher for TINY METAL, we unfortunately couldn't get permission to give it to Project Phoenix backers. In the future, however, I hope to be able to provide future games to you as my thanks while still pursuing the ultimate goal of Project Phoenix and the originally offered rewards.

As I've stated in the past, my aspiration for Project Phoenix itself is to secure outside funding to move it forward and present something at the scope that I've intended. Right now, that has meant pursuing an indirect path through other separate game projects like TINY METAL both as a proving ground for outside funding of Project Phoenix and a means to provide for my staff and children. Through developing and shipping other completed projects like TINY METAL, I aim to create the stepping stones needed to resume Project Phoenix and begin to provide all of you something tangible for your support. Project Phoenix will always be a marathon rather than a sprint, but I do plan to get there one step at a time.

Hiroaki Yura
Director / Producer of Project Phoenix
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,473
At this point, they should just admit failure instead of spinning people along for several years. Let people move on instead of continuing this charade.
 
Oct 26, 2017
59
Kuwait
Well, at this point I’ve stopped caring. This is sad.
I don’t know how they’ll even start to work on this game, Yura was busy making another.

And I backed it for an effing Vita version lol
 
Dec 15, 2017
1,661
Ah yes, this project makes me look at Nobuo Uematsu in a different light.
For $5k, you would think he would compose something for you at this point.

I thought this necro-bump would have an update to the status of this game.
But I guess not.