Tragic twist for the disastrous Robotech Kickstarter as designer is driven to suicide by backers

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robotech tactics

When Kickstarters go bad, they tend to go very bad, but Robotech® RPG Tactics™ has been downright catastrophic.

To give you a quick recap of the project, it was launched in 2013 during the hey-day of Kickstarter projects. Billed as a fast paced strategy battle game that expands on the popular Palladium role playing game, Robotech was fully funded as of May 20th, 2013, with estimated delivery for backers in December 2013.

Over the course of 2013, the updates on the Kickstarter page continued to indicate that everything was on track for the promised fulfilment date, until some November 2013, where an update listed several unforeseen issues holding up production and further delay. By September 2014, some backers began to say they’d received their copies of the game, while Palladium Books announced a new, “two-wave” release schedule.

Most backers still hadn’t received anything when Palladium asked their backers if they could sell Robotech at Gencon 2014. After a GenCon attendee got hold of a copy, he recorded an unboxing video which revealed that the game quality was well below what was promised with missing components, unpainted figures and obvious manufacturing flaws. During 2015, backers decided to open a case against Palladium with the Better Business Bureau, while as of February 2016 less than 200 backers from the original 5000 state they’ve received their game.

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You can see why some tempers may have been running high from backers. Now things have really hit the fan, starting with an update posted on February 4th, 2017.

robotech

In this update, a promised new-new delivery date for Wave 2 was announced for the end of 2017, but backers have obviously had enough with empty promises. In a misguided attempt to drum up support, Carmen Bellaire – one of Palladium’s freelance designers – posted a long comment on the Robotech Kickstarter page. In some roundabout way, Bellaire’s comment was attempting to say that if his own Kickstarter for Rifts (due for launch in April 2017) was a success, it would be helpful for Palladium as he could dedicate himself full-time to board games design. It didn’t help that Bellaire’s comment was more than a little accusatory in tone, and he seemed to threaten backers who were attempting to (or stating their intent to) shut down the Rifts Kickstarter.

So, the internet hive-mind being what it is, abuse was hurled at Bellaire. In a tragic turn of events, Palladium’s president, Kevin Siembieda, revealed in Robotech’s latest update that Bellaire attempted to commit suicide after the drama surrounding his comment. He was luckily found in time by his wife, but the state of his recovery is unknown. As an aside, I implore you not to read the backer’s comments on that last update, as apparently some people are completely devoid of empathy.

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There’s no doubt that there are parties at fault in this whole debacle. Four years after the initial Kickstarter, Palladium Books have made a downright mess of things. Backers are angry, as they have every right to be. But to have lashed out at a game designer, to the point of driving him to suicide? That’s really, really messed up.

At this point everything seems up in the air. Who knows if Palladium will ever complete Robotech, or if Rifts will make it to Kickstarter? We don’t even know if Bellaire will pull through, and if he does, will ever come back to doing what he loved.

All I know is that this is a tragic story of a Kickstarter gone horribly wrong.

Last Updated: February 20, 2017

Tracy Benson

All about movies, board games, cider, sci-fi, fantasy and geek culture.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Yeah I’ve seen shit can get pretty harsh when backers feel they’re being ripped off. KS is always a risk, some backers don’t seem to get that. Also think the vast majority of KS campaigns really do want to deliver on all their promises but sometimes it just doesn’t work out, no matter their good intentions.

    • Lu

      What the backers don’t seem to realise is that they aren’t paying for a product or service. They’re providing capital for a startup which – IF and ONLY IF successful – will provide them with their first line of products/services. Investment 101.

      If the campaign makes it’s target, said target should have been planned well enough to cover the production costs (and unexpected expenses).

      • JRob

        I think some project creators, much like any startup business founders, don’t know when to call it quits. After four years of updates saying we’re working on stuff but can’t tell you becuase it’s a secret there is more than a slight appearance of impropriety. While there’d still be some anger, there would be much less in my opinion, if they said this didn’t work out as we had planned, we made some errors in manufacturing that cost us a lot more than we thought, and we had hoped that the profits from wave one would fund wave two but it didn’t.

        As a reasonable person, which I realize is greatly lacking on the Internet, this would be an acceptable end to a project. There’s been more than one project sunk in this timeframe due to unexpected shipping costs and while there was certainly outrage, no one attempted to take their own life over it.

      • Forar

        Kickstarter’s Terms of Use actually states that Creators are expected to fulfill their obligations. Failing that, they are expected to attempt to make things right with their backers. Failing that, they are expected to provide refunds for tiers or portions of backer contributions that they are unable to fulfill. Palladium Books has been refusing to provide refunds (pro-rated and otherwise) since the first ones were asked for, and has shown negligible progress in over 2 years since the first wave of models were delivered.

        No, it’s not a store, as many like to say, nor is it an investment. But it’s also not a charity.

        The comment section has nearly 100,000 posts within it. Believe me, we realize perfectly well the grey area we’re in and how little standard investment or consumer protections apply.

    • Sageville

      You should still get your money back if the KS fails.

      When it succeeds then as a backer you are entitled to what was promised.

      That’s how it works surely.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Nope, it’s not a preorder. You’re making a contribution to help fund the development of whatever the project is, with the aim of getting the product once that is completed. If the project fails you get nothing.

        • Captain JJ

          Which is why it’s entirely your choice to help fund it. But people don’t like admitting to their own mistakes, so others must pay for it.

        • Rick

          yes but if the developer is unable to deliver they have to refund the backers, that is per KS’s own ToS.

          • odinsgrandson

            Ish.

            Kickstarter’s rules are that Kickstarter is not liable for promises creators make.

            Creators are liable for fulfillment of their promises or refunding funds gathered. If neither is possible, then KS requires that creators disclose where the money went, and possibly issue partial refunds.

            However, Ks rules clearly state that the creators can still be held legally liable for their unfulfilled promises, and that the backers may take legal action (which sometimes happens).

            Sure, it isn’t a pre-order system, but backers are entitled to something (Palladium claims to still be working on fulfillment, and so far this has kept them from needing to disclose why they haven’t fulfilled).

      • HvR

        You are in a way investing but getting the POSSIBILITY of getting a reward on product completion instead of the usual part ownership in a company that can POSSIBLY make a profit.

        A lot of this blame needs to go the Kickstart for not making this clearer. They need a big ass warning in red before you click pay.

        • Rick

          actually they do have it in big print, it says if the creator is unable to deliver promised product, then they have to refund the backers, noticed a lot of people here must have skipped over that rule in KS’s ToS.

          • odinsgrandson

            And if they’re unable to refund backers, they need to post financials to show why.

            And KS still states that creators may be held legally liable by their backers.

            Even still- Palladium was a company with a long track record of selling products in game shops. They looked like a pretty safe investment, so this one caught a lot of backers by surprise.

    • Captain JJ

      Yea. Imagine if there was one person at Ubi that could be hounded for what happened to For Honor.
      Another thing with these KS things…you have a name and a person to go ape on.

  • Original Heretic

    Reading the title of this story made me angry. Continuing to read through the article and reading about people hurling abuse at someone to the point where he tries to kill himself?
    I’m seething.

    • Grimsupanoob

      People are dicks.. And because i spent mah dollar bill i want mah gawd damn game…

      Seriously people are dicks though and should learn to treat other people on the opposite side of the screen with some respect and decency

      • Original Heretic

        Worse than dicks, they’re a bunch of keyboard sociopaths. They hide behind their screens and mouth off to whoever they want, safe in their little worlds.

        Jay and Silent Bob had it right.
        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/597529a8072e7d5a5c088148f252cd574040231a655bbe6fa38278adc5c3897b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4ae83721fe53d2493255b46ef499a3a941eb1abcbf00fff21dd2364814ca7c4b.jpg

        And then they beat them all up.

        • Grimsupanoob

          Man that is still my go-to movie….love it

          • Original Heretic

            Dogma is my favourite Kevin Smith movie. But I suppose that’s the heretic in me talking.

          • odinsgrandson

            Naw- Dogma is his best film with the possible exception of Clerks.

      • Rick

        well hard to show someone respect when the person in question disrespects all the backers first, no one started with him, he started it first with the backers and even then the backers did not attack him, but attacked PB and said how they will not back any other PB project and will even warn people about any PB project to stay away, that was the basic tell of what was said to Carmen, now if that can drive a person to suicide then they should have been in a mental Hospital to begin with and heavily medicated. but then I notice how the blog poster and some people here are ready to blame backers on the words of a known Liar, since it is well known that Kevin Siembieda is a liar and may have even been the lynch pin in Carmen’s suicide attempt, not the backers.

    • David Martin

      This article is completely inaccurate. Go to the kickstarter and you can still read everything that transpired. No one acted over the top with him. And if anything he came out and attacked the backers first. And even in the last few comments you can tell everyone was calming down a bit. I was reading it live as it was happening.

  • HvR

    Well I doubt that the comments driven him to it.

    It was contained in a single comment board which he could have chosen to ignore.

    Suspect he some serious mental issues and the comments were only catalyst.

    Hope he makes a full recovery and get the help he needs,

    PS – think Kickstarter bares more blame than the frustrated commentators. This situation is not the first time it happens. They seriously need to review their processes of allowing new projects after successfully funded projects and properly communicate to backers that there are no guarantees and they carry 100% of the risk with their backing.

  • Forar

    While this article presents a good historic breakdown of the campaign, I think it misleads with the title and conclusion that ‘the backers drove him to suicide.’

    This link takes you to Carmen’s original post: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rrpgt/robotech-rpg-tacticstm/comments?cursor=15949591#comment-15949590

    Click “Show Newer Comments” at the top, and it’ll cover the majority of the exchange, a mere 60 or so comments, nearly half of them from Carmen himself. And yes, full disclosure, I have a comment in there. Judge it as you will.

    The exchange was clearly the final straw, but Kevin Siembieda’s efforts to lay this entirely on the backers (especially as a collective, when he barely interacted with a fraction of a fraction of them over the span of a few hours) is both unprofessional and disgusting.

    The whole situation is a tragedy, I absolutely hope Carmen recovers and gets to live out his dream some day, but portraying this as just another case of cyberbullies buys into a narrative being constructed by a notoriously unreliable narrator.

  • megatrons2nd

    Not a very accurate description of the events at all. People defended themselves from an attack in much the same way as it was given to them. The person in question is listed as a co creator of the project, and his work to date is all Palladium work. Also the Kickstarter terms of service say that all rewards need to be delivered or refunds paid, unless not possible, ie the company goes out of business, all the money is gone and a detailed list of how it was spent is made.

  • Jeff Duncan

    This article is crap. Written by some with only a passing knowledge of the situation and written with no reference points or source. Here is my blog where I’ve been covering this fiasco: http://withinthedungeon.blogspot.com/

    • Jason Brown

      I agree with Jeff. Assuming the reported of the suicide are true, Bellaire has my best wishes for a full recovery – as would anyone in his position, and I apologise for not believing the words of Palladium, nor am I invested enough to see if i can find more concrete evidence – from the looks of it neither is Tracy.
      “driving him to suicide?” what utter nonsense. This may have been the last straw (again assuming truth) but web comments wouldn’t make a stable adult try to kill himself.

  • Rick

    Tracy, you should have read the discussion in question before writing your blog, or were you paid by PB to write it? since your blog truly misrepresents what actually happened and is based on the ramblings of a liar known as Kevin Siembieda, this blog does not bode well for your investigative decisions.

  • Rick

    Also Tracy your blog should have been about how Kevin Siembieda basically ruined Carmen Bellaire’s future by posting about his attempted suicide for the entire world to see which is also spreading accross the internet, Carmen will now be considered a risk in a high stress world of miniature/board games and such and will be hard pressed to find work now, because of Kevin posting what he did.

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