A couple of weeks back, we covered the impending Kickstarter funding of Dreamworld, a game by a couple of MMORPG industry novices promising the moon and throwing up red flags left and right. As we noted at the time, the Kickstarter was stuffed chiefly with stock assets and promises to put an “infinite open world MMO” with “millions of players” in a “single world” – i.e., the kind of thing the most brilliant and experienced minds in the industry would surely done already if it were so easy that two kids could do it during a pandemic. In interviews, the pair of devs even talk up significant YCombinator investment and bragged about counting a Twitch co-founder and Google senior VP as investors, but they were light on details about how their tech could revolutionize the genre.
Nevertheless, the Kickstarter funded for over $64,000 from 663 humans who will never see their money again unless Kickstarter puts a stop to it all, which seems unlikely at this point since Kickstarter nets $3200 if it just does nothing. In the days immediately following the end of the Kickstarter, the devs flaked, multiple videos and interviews disappeared from the internet, and the Discord went full cult-mode. In fact, it took these dudes 10 days after the Kickstarter funded to actually post anything at all, in spite of their promises (and basic gratitude and crowdfunding decorum), and then it was a fluffy promotional bit for Discord. There’s been very little of substance communicated since, apart from a brief Discord message about hiring two new fresh-from-college developers.
YouTube, however, has been busy. If you search for Dreamworld on YouTube, it’s just one long list of snarky videos calling the game a scam; there’s a whole category of folks who do these callouts full-time, so this is catnip for them, and some of them have even done good work digging into another failed project from one of these devs. But the most interesting of them all is one we saw via MMO Fallout last night: a video from the ex-fiancee of one of the developers detailing her unwitting role in the drama.
See, in the original Kickstarter pitch for Dreamworld, one of the devs, Zachary Kaplan, talked up a sad backstory about how he lost a job and was summarily dumped by his fiancee, a tragedy that led to the creation of Dreamworld (and a convenient way to entice money from sympathetic internet denizens). But according to Aislinn Evans, she got engaged to Zachary Kaplan in 2019, and contrary to what’s implied in the Kickstarter video, she didn’t dump him because he lost his job opportunity when COVID hit; in fact, they were together several more months after that, living with her parents, who also employed him during that period. Where Kaplan says he pitched Dreamworld to his friend and co-founder Garrison Bellack after the breakup, Evans says they had been working on it for months: “He was literally multiple months into already developing this before I broke up with him,” she says.
“Like, he was in the midst of working on this when I broke up with him, and me breaking up with him did not affect that in any way. […] The fact that he’s using it to leverage his Kickstarter video in this way, like it just feels like straight-up emotional manipulation – sorry, emotional marketing. It’s just not the honest story, timeline, or motive.”
In other words, the Kickstarter origin story isn’t just unnecessarily emotionally wrought, according to Evans; it’s also untrue. While Evans doesn’t actually explain the details of why she called off the engagement (nor should she have to), she does clarify that it wasn’t because of his lost job or over a cheap engagement ring. The ring is actually a whole thing in the video: She claims the engagement ring Kaplan gave her turned out to be a fake, something that he lied to her directly and repeatedly about for the 10 months she wore it. Yeah, that took a turn.
Bizarrely, Evans says that she doesn’t bear Kaplan any ill will. By the end of the video, she’s actually sticking up for him, confirming Garrison Bellack’s resume and reassuring gamers that Kaplan isn’t high in his videos (he’s a teetotaler, she laughs). “I can guarantee that these boys are not trying to scam anyone,” she says. “They truly believe that they are going to deliver on everything that they have promised. This is not two guys who purposefully came up with a project that they knew they weren’t going to be able to do just so that they could get a quick payday from Kickstarter and then disappear with this money.” This, of course, is exactly what a lot of folks believe since this is exactly what we have seen so many studios do, but she is adamant: “That is absolutely not what is happening here. They really, truly believe that they can make this happen. However, whether they can deliver on it or not, like, again, I can’t speak to that and I’m not going to because I don’t have that gaming development technical background.”
Truthfully, I got to this part of the video and I genuinely started wondering whether she’s in on it and this is really just an MMOARG and we’re all accidental players, but MMO Fallout’s Connor assures me I’ve lost my mind and need to get off YouTube for a while, and he’s correct. So you probably didn’t need this side drama in your life, and if you read MOP, you probably also didn’t need to be told that one way or another this game was either a scam or a mess that should be a hard nope from your wallet because you already knew that the first time we covered it. But if you somehow still needed a reason not to believe everything some guy says in a Kickstarter, well, here’s another lady keen on reminding you.