Video game preservationists attempt to raise $450K to rez Marvel Heroes [Updated]

(We’ve updated below with MMOBomb’s detailed investigation into this Indiegogo – short story, don’t go handing over your dough.)

With Marvel Heroes dead and gone, most fans have moved on to other gaming pastures. After all, it would take a miracle to bring it back, right? Turns out that miracles are pretty expensive in this modern age, but there are always those who will take a shot at the near-impossible.

Enter Paragon Institute, a new non-profit that says it wants to purchase Marvel Heroes for $450,000 (or more) and form an indie studio to operate it. Even more interesting, this group says it wants to use Marvel Heroes and other titles as “learning labs” to train developers and preserve abandoned video games.

“Our goal is to establish ElderMage Studios as a learning lab to partner experienced professionals with aspiring game developers to help them gain the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work in the field,” the group posted on IndieGoGo. “This may include time spent supporting or enhancing existing titles to create entirely new ones. A secondary mission is to preserve games that are no longer supported so that those who have licensed them may continue using them and so others may learn from them.”

The group claims it plans to acquire Marvel Heroes’ rights following Gazillion’s bankruptcy, however unlikely that may sound. With it, the new studio would either keep restore the MMO or create a new superhero gaming universe. Dealing with Disney and IP-protected content is a challenge, but there is a chance to retain it if the U.S. Copyright Office approves a proposal to exempt abandoned MMOs from DMCA protection (which it has not done yet).

“With your support, we intend to approach Gazillion Entertainment to acquire its relevant assets either as part of restructuring in advance of an involuntary bankruptcy or in response to a court-ordered liquidation of assets in order to settle debts. Plans are being made for a Section 363 asset buyout under the US Bankruptcy code. Ideally, we would present an initial proposal shortly after the first court hearing scheduled on February 23rd.”

Source: Indiegogo via MMORPG
Updated: As MMOBomb reports, the folks behind this particular crowdfund may not be the type you want to hand money to even if you didn’t find the premise shady from the start. The publication uncovered that the organization has ties to a diploma mill college and an apparently fake address.
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35 Comments on "Video game preservationists attempt to raise $450K to rez Marvel Heroes [Updated]"

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k2apa
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k2apa

Don’t even need to find it to be shady, if people are of some knowledge, they will instantly realize it is literally impossible to revive this game as the take down is by Disney, the current owner of Marvel and a Global corporation with like 100000000x the amount of this crowdfounding to block it.

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Will Adkins

OPEN LETTER REGARDING CLAIMS BY MMOBOMB

I can confirm that mmoBOMB did not contact me before publishing this fake news and false accusations. Had they done so, or if they had done even the most basic research, Jason’s mistruths may have been avoided.

“Paragon Institute, believes it can acquire the game assets from Gazillion and then negotiate with Disney/Marvel to secure the rights to continuing the licensed game.”
HALF-TRUE: It is possible to obtain game assets in a several ways; the two most promising: work with Gazillion in advance of court-ordered liquidation, work with courts to help pay down amounts owed to creditors. As far as retaining rights to Marvel Assets, this is clearly stated as being a long-shot and would require deep pockets.

“The ElderMage website has little information”
TRUE. Marvel Heroes folding has accelerated the new focus by 4-6 months; Paragon was still in the Business Planning, Grant Acquisition, and Recruiting phase when the news hit. If Gazillion had given more warning, then YES, there could be additional content.

Paragon is a diploma mill
COMPLETE LIE: Paragon Institute has been legally empowered since it was formed, as American Southern University in 2008, to award diplomas. However, it has not issued one during that time. The original intent was to create MOOCs and partner with other institutions to award accredited academic credit. As other providers moved into that space, the organization has pursued other initiatives more targeted at niche markets – such as STEM training and the one proposed with the IndieGoGo campaign. JASON – can you provide ANY evidence that Paragon has EVER awarded a diploma, legitimate or otherwise?

Paragon Institute is really Chadwick University
COMPLETE LIE: A public records check shows that the AL-based, for-profit university ceased operations 11 years ago (not a few years as you assert), sold its assets, and settled its debts. The only things that remained were its academic records and a .EDU web site used to process transcript requests. When the alumnus that ran this service needed to retire, Paragon was asked to assume the role of records custodian. After vetting the organization, an agreement was reached that had Paragon providing transcripts providing it was made clear that the school was not accredited and that they may be unacceptable in some states; it is up to the recipient to determine if they are acceptable. This also cleared the way for Paragon to use the .EDU domain for its own purposes and to better reflect the mission of the organization; however, a link was to be provided so former students will know where to request transcripts. Noone involved with Paragon has ever had any other involvement with Chadwick.

Chadwick University was a Diploma Mill
UNLIKELY: The main reason cited for being a diploma mill is that Chadwick University granted credit for life experience. Particularly during that time, accreditation was more about protecting faculty and the school rather than students; they did not want a precedent set for avoiding classes and associated revenue. While the practice was attacked then, now virtually every university in the country accepts credit for life experience ranging from military service and certifications to test-out options like the AP exams. We vetted the records before agreeing to process transcript requests – what we found was that most students spent years and thousands of dollars pursuing an unaccredited degree. The students are the victims in this scenario, not because they didn’t put forth a legitimate effort, but because the degree isn’t recognized by many employers. To not provide them with a means of getting transcripts would be even worse.

As a side note, not being recognized by Texas does not mean that Chadwick wasn’t a good education. I don’t expect most people to know about academic licensure, unless they claim they do and portray it incorrectly. In Texas, you must either be accredited or be based in the state for your degree to be recognized. Period. It’s not based on academic quality in that regard.

Chadwick was operating as a correspondence course operation; with the growth of the Internet the need for that dropped to nothing and the organization faded away.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Clayton_Jr.#Chadwick_University
http://www.acenet.edu
http://www.umuc.edu/transfers-and-credits/fast-paths-to-credit/industry-certification-and-courses.cfm

“it’s possible that Paragon is looking to continue Chadwick’s legacy when it opens for business a little over a year from now.”
INCORRECT: Paragon has been in operation, serving various niche learning needs since 2008. Only the proposed Eldermage Studios is a new initiative.

Paragon is seeking to ride on the coat tails of the Paragon MOBA also based in Cary
UNTRUE: A public records check at the NC Office of the Secretary of State shows that the name change was made in 2015, months before the world even knew about plans for the game.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paragon_(video_game)

“He also ran for the United States Congress in 2008, as a Libertarian candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd district. He finished third, with 1.8% of the vote”
TRUE: The third-party needed to pull in 2% of the vote across the state to remain on the ballot. This paved the way for future campaigns. It was a clean race, ran in only a few months v. a year for other candidates, helped achieve the desired goal, and was run without taking contributions from our citizens. I knew that I wasn’t going for the ‘win’ and could not take funding knowing that.

“A Google Street View of that address gets us a location that looks nothing like an educational institute”
TRUE: For years, Paragon Institute has allowed team members to work remotely from their homes which has many benefits for them and the company. This includes contractors acting as adjunct faculty using the virtual corporation concept that has been around for decades. Onsite/collaboration meetings are held at sponsor locations or sites like Regus. We’ve been very successful in providing learning opportunities at little to no cost to students by using these concepts.

Will a studio require co-location of at least some team members? Most likely, but why would we pay high overhead associated with it until it is needed? Gazillion, who was paying $57,024.41 monthly in rent. is going into bankrupcty. All costs must be handled smartly. A shiny building does not make success.

Yes, the IndieGoGo campaign has stalled. Much of the feedback I’ve received attributed it to your article which was a misleading attempt to drive traffic and revenue; this then spread to other sites. We have been in contact with former Gazillion staff members (a limited number albeit) and was looking forward to announcing this soon. Even though they understand the situation, they feel the perception of the endeavor is too negative right now.

Jason, I get that you’re not a real news organization; you are a well-read gaming blog, but your readers still expect integrity just the same. In this case you are attempting to make the news rather than report it. We don’t know if it is malice on your part driving this or an inability to do real investigative reporting. We hope it’s not ill intent.
-Will Adkins

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Marvel Heroes Revival Fundraiser Appears To Have Ties To “Diploma Mill” University

MMO Bomb did some digging and…the sketchy as fuck crowdfunding attempt does indeed seem sketchy as fuck.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

Yes, the legitimacy of the “company” or “school” behind this is, well non existant. They’re not legitimate. They sold fake diplomas, there is no actual school.

If you enjoy giving money to scam artists however, you should immediately go donate to their campaign.

Reader
Johnnyt305

The players wanted the game to die, every day in chat theyd complain and on forums just counting til doomsday for the past 3 years lol. They got what they asked for.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

That isn’t true. There are always complainers on every single MMORPG complaining about the game, while thousands more are going about enjoying themselves. We didn’t want the game to die, and the people on the forums were a very small minority of the player base as well. There were like 2-3 people who made horrible suggestions on that forum that Gazillion actually listened to and ruined a number of characters in the process when they were doing their “BUE” and Omega updates.

Anyway that’s what ruined the game, the “Biggest Update Ever” followed by the Omega system. It dumbed down and narrowed the PC game, ruining it because they felt that console players would be too confused by a more open world and more open systems, and they wanted to make a console version while making all the versions the exact same game. So they ruined the PC game to make what they thought console users would enjoy (which I don’t believe console users are as shallow and inept as Gazillion thought).

We did want it to go back to the old game and get new ongoing content and story levels. The best ongoing MMORPGs keep adding new story and progression, they don’t take a huge step backwards, and they don’t just keep adding new characters and small events only, they do bigger world expansions.

BUE / Omega ruined the PC game. I wouldn’t touch that version with a 50 foot wireless keyboard.

Anyway this whole thing here isn’t about having the actual game going again. That can’t and won’t be done. I don’t know what this guy is trying to do (he used to sell fake Diplomas) but I wouldn’t invest any money into whatever sketchy thing he’s trying to get going. Could he have turned a new leaf and is actually legitimate now? He *could* have but looking at his hastily thrown together web sites that’s very doubtful. Does he think this will be a teaching tool at his fake university that doesn’t exist? Because it doesn’t actually exist… Whatever is going on I wouldn’t think for a moment there’s a chance of the game being back around.

plannick
Reader
plannick

just ask yourself how many skill slots there are in diablo 2 or 3. reducing 2 or 3 bars (one of the biggest complaint of bue) down to 1 isn’t dumbing down. most people just look up “best” builds and copy / paste that so there isn’t all that much change for them when we got omega instead. though i did like some of the weird stuff off the old system, they could probably have split off the stranger stuff like calling in starlord’s starship into its own thing. that they didn’t even have the whole bue pretty much sorted before implementing bits of it was the biggest mistake.

not only have these people got to buy the assets off gaz, they have to get a deal with Disney to use the characters and stuff… not going to happen. that’s even before reading about diploma mills…

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I applaud the effort, but even in the unlikely instance they did manage to revive it, it wouldn’t restore accounts or the countless hundreds of $/£ we all spent on them from before.. we’d all be back at point dot. I for one have no intention of dropping money on that game again in order to restore what I already owned even if it did revive.

It’s done, better to let it lie and focus on the next new supers mmo

Reader
A Dad Supreme

“Our goal is to establish ElderMage Studios as a learning lab to partner experienced professionals with aspiring game developers to help them gain the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work in the field,” the group posted on IndieGoGo. “This may include time spent supporting or enhancing existing titles to create entirely new ones. A secondary mission is to preserve games that are no longer supported so that those who have licensed them may continue using them and so others may learn from them.”

At the end of the day, I can see Disney asking “What’s in it for us? We aren’t a non-profit. Why should we lend our IP to you to “teach” aspiring people when we already can hire the best in the industry to make games?”

While this might be a good pitch to elicit $5 and $10 donations from the uninformed or people likely to throw money at anything with a “indie” brand on it, it’s not really a feasible business plan other than a way to collect $450k.

It’s not really a win-win for Disney so I can see them telling their lawyers to warm up the jets and be on stand-by.

Reader
Hirku

Yeah…

gl.jpg
Reader
David Blair

Red flags abound.

The IndieGoGo uses Marvel Heroes images/videos plucked off the internet and one DC image I’m assuming was used without permission. The website link to https://www.eldermage.com is forwarded (with a certificate error) to https://paragon.edu/landing/ which looks like a hastily put together wix.com website.

The President, Will Adkins, does have a robust resume on Linked In, with a PMP, which is not easy to get. Based on the dates of education and employment, I’d guess him to be 49 or 50.

The website mentions a “former students of Chadwick University” but Will’s Linked In doesn’t mention that institution (and the link doesn’t go anywhere).

He mentions Massively at the top of the IndieGoGo, so perhaps he’ll stop by and provide an interview to answer questions…

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

Chadwick University wasn’t a real University. They sold Diplomas for a fee – they weren’t a real school. Whatever is happening here definitely is not on the level.

Reader
Leo

Do these people have any experience running an MMO? Do they have video game experience? Do they have experience getting & managing financing?

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

No, the guy running the campaign only has experience in selling fake Diplomas for a University that didn’t actually exist.

If you want to give a scam artist money and think “Hey maybe *this time* he’s doing something legitimate.” despite the fake quickly made websites and such, that’s up to you though :D

Reader
Leo

the fact that they said nothing about the crew behind the scenes or about how the financing was going to be spent already raised big red flags for me. On top of many other small things that just seemed odd (like making the fact that there is a tax deduction as a main selling point to investing)

Reader
Nate Woodard

I feel like the best case scenario here is that those interested in the project develop a game in the spirit of Marvel Heroes. There’s simply too many legal hurdles for the game to see the light of day.