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Why Code Hero Was A Huge Kickstarter Disaster

Back in 2012, 7459 backers signed up to crowdfund Code Hero, "a game that teaches you how to make games." The idea of the first-person shooter was that players would use a Code Gun that would put Javascript into a Unity 3D engine. 


Code Hero was spearheaded by Alex Peake and his team at Primer Labs. For a while, after $170,954 was raised by enthusiastic backers, all seemed well. The alpha build of Code Hero was scheduled to be shown at Pax Prime 2012, but according to Engadget, it didn't show up. This is despite the fact that Kickstarter updates from that time indicated Peake and his crew would bring the alpha to the event.

As not-very-frequent updates continued, commenters did seem to be playing different builds of the game. A December 2013 update said that a survey was going out so that people could finally, much later than planned, receive their T-shirt rewards. But many claimed they never saw the email. A post from the project manager, forwarded by Peake, implied that many backer addresses had been lost. 


After the last Kickstarter update from the project manager in 2014, though, it seemed like most supporters gave up the ghost, including those threatening lawsuits. So what really happened with Code Hero?

The developer ran out of funds, and the game was never completed

In mid-2013, Engadget talked to Peake, who told the publication that he'd run out of money by mid-2012. Not paying his internet hosting service led to issues with links on his website, too. 

He claimed the money paid for development for nine months, with the bulk of it going to wages and living expenses for 10 new employees. However, it appears that at least one, David Lopez, was stiffed, and didn't believe that the money went to compensating anyone — instead, it "magically disappeared," Lopez said. Peake claimed the team was continuing work on the beta with volunteer help after the money was gone.


While supporters did see releases of early versions, Primer Labs never got close to finishing the game, as far as anyone can tell. Still, after the Kickstarter stopped being updated in 2014, Peake (or a volunteer) continued posting on his Code Hero website into 2017. In September 2016, he said new levels were being built, and in early 2017 he claimed to be dropping "new versions this year." However, if you try to download Code Hero 0.2, you'll find the file is missing. And that seems to be that.

Was it all a scam?

In the end, it's possible that the problems with Code Hero boiled down to inexperienced management and a lack of communication with backers. Peake didn't want to post news until he'd completed a game update, but "the update took longer than expected," he admitted in a Polygon interview from 2012. And when he ran out of Kickstarter money, because he underestimated the amount he'd need, he also didn't tell his backers.


But he seemed passionate about the project. He even convinced IGN to allow him into the IGN Open House, a project to support indie developers in the Bay Area. And while Primer Labs seemed to have a "revolving door," Polygon said, the site also interviewed several sources that claimed Peake was clearly committed to the project.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the guy was 100 percent devoted to that project because everything I saw was that he was putting a lot of energy into that game at all times," one source said. "I don't think Alex is a crook or a thief at all."

Whatever his intentions, however, the game is certainly dead today — and an example of "buyer, beware" when it comes to spending money on Kickstarter.