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  1. #1

    Trials of Ascension, Shady Practices and the Big Crowdfunding Debate

    Update June 22, 2016

    I am updating this post to describe the newest and 4th ´scam´ that is about to come regarding this game. Here is the TLDR if you do not want to read the rest of this thread, or even post. This game has been in development for 15 years now. The first scam was doing a first kickstarter for $750,000 using nothing but Hero engine default stuff despite talking about how much they had ´developed´. The KS failed. The second scam was opening a cash-shop selling virtual items for a game that didn´t exist and raising a claimed $60,000 for a game that was not even started. After these first two scams, the dev team admitted they had nobody on staff who could make a game ( no programmer, no artist). It was just 3 guys posting on forums. This was despite members of their team posting in this very thread that the developers DID have game-making skills. They then used the money from the cash-shop to hire a single Unity developer to do what he could and progress was made. But that Unity developer found out just how worthless the developers and quit ( did not renew his contract). The developers, rather than tell their fans that their only developer had quit, instead rushed a 2nd Kickstarter, showing off the work of the developer and making it seem like everything was going great. The 2nd KS failed The ´developers´ were then not able to access their own servers, and most of what work had been done by the ex-employee was lost.

    So the developers started over. After 2 failed kickstarters and a virtual cash-shop for a non-existent game, the developers have now decided to go the Greenlight/Early Access route as a way to get money for a game that isn´t even in real development. It has been 18 months since the ´new´ Trials of Ascension has been started. And in that time, they have produced minimal progress on their monthly blog. For instance, a model for a block of rock was a featured item one time, a snake was a featured item another month. After 18 months, they still have not been able to create a login system...

    But here is where the deceit comes in once again. They talk about very advanced features, and then make them sound like they are working on them, or that they are even possible. To cut it short, they are saying that players will have a unique procedurally generated island that is fully ´decorated´... including caves and things of that nature. The problem is that what they are describing ( according to their own description), is not even close to being possible. You cannot procedurally generate an island like that and populate it in a way that makes it a useful terrain when a player starts a game. The part about the caves is just ridiculous. Again, this is not even close to being possible with Unity. There is no way you are going to generate a map with caves like that. There is not even a tool in Unity that would you allow to procedurally generate a terrain, populate it with plants, rocks and creatures that has caves as a design tool as a DESIGN TOOL for developers ( probably Gaia is the most advanced). But Gaia is only a design tool, it does not operate as a runtime tool ( it can´t be used to create a terrain in the players game, the terrain is generated on the dev´s computer) and it certainly does not allow for caves. The guy who invented Gaia is pretty much a genius, and this tool which took him a couple years to create, does not even get close to doing what Trials of Ascension says will be a base feature.

    And here is the fuckery that they are doing. They created a UI with sliders/buttons that gives the appearance that there are all these settings that the player can do to adjust ´their´ island to make it unique for them. When in fact, there is absolutely no functionality behind that UI, and there has been no mention in 18 months that they have even started working on this supposedly procedural generated terrain system that can procedurally add caves to Unity terrain. Procedurally generating a terrain at runtime and having it produce anything that would be considered for an RPG type game isn´t even close to being possible. But yet, they have a UI screen that makes it appear it is trivial.

    They have been doing the same crap for 15 years. They are not programmers or even people with a good grasp of Unity. They think of stuff (we call them toilet paper notes) and then talk about those features like they are not only easy, but already being worked on. You do not show images of a UI displaying stuff that you haven´t even started working on, just like you don´t open a virtual cash-shop for a produce that doesn´t even exist.

    Again the fuckery is there. They plan on using screenshots of a standard Unity terrain map, and screenshots of a UI that looks like it is used to produce a proceduraly generated map.. and hope people fall for it. Again, this is coming from developers who have no experience in programming, and they are going to create a tool that even the most advanced Unity programmers aren´t able to do. Heck, if you could actually create a tool that does what Trials of Ascension could do, you wouldn´t even have to make a game, you would be a millionaire just selling it on the Unity asset store.

    Trials of Ascension shady practices.

    This is not the original post, most things here have been edited along the way as our 1+ year of following ToA has taken twists and turns. Many of our original links to the ToA forums were broken when they started deleting their own content to hide their past, however, we had screen captures available which are linked below. Most, heck all, of this work was done by Myobi.

    Setting the Record Straight

    If you only recently heard about Trials of Ascension and feel a little confused about all this, just please, stay awhile and listen… Trials of Ascension is considered by many a scam, others call it a fools dream, some actually believe it will be the best “MMORPG” ever made, I’ll let that for you to decide, I’ll just share what I know and what I’ve seen about this project so far.

    Back in 2001, a man named Don Danielson, or you might have heard about him under the nickname of “Brax” and his team “Shadow Pool”, registered the domain:, in order to start developing what they believed it would be one of the most innovating MMORPGs ever… They immediately started holding IRC chats and doing interviews

    By the sound of it, the road was long and bumpy between 2001-2006, apparently they restarted the project multiple times in order to switch Game Engines, had most of their staff leave in a dispute, and after a few years a revolt by fans demanding something to prove the game was not vaporware. There were a couple of screen shots released along the way, but fans revolted in 2006 which forced the forums to be closed down, but not before posting a comment asking if anyone or someone they knew would donate a million dollars to the project.... All this despite that according to Brax himself, The game was already developed enough to get them multiple funding offers from never named companies, offers that he had to decline due the serious game changes that he wasn’t willing to accept, therefore they were forced to suspend the project due the lack of funds in 2008.

    Later, in 2012, Trials of Ascension was reborn! They had a new team name, “Forged Chaos”, again lead by Brax, and yet another new Game Engine (Hero Engine), that was later changed to Unity. They immediately started posting on the Hero Engine forums asking for help.

    Unlike back in 2008, this time they had the much popular choice of crowdfunding, needless to say it didn’t take them long (in October 2013) to start up their first Kickstarter that ended up by being canceled in November, according to Brax himself he had failed to show the true potential of Trials of Ascension, forcing him to cancel the Kickstarter… honestly, while it is indeed a fancy way to put it, the truth about what actually happened is little more embarrassing than that, it turns out no one in the original Forged Chaos team knew anything about game development at all… there wasn’t even a single person capable of basic programming, thus the only things they had to show on their kickstarter page was a short video using default Hero Engine assets and pages and pages of text with “concept art” that they bought from the Unity forums, obviously they didn’t get anywhere close to the 750,000$ goal riding only on promises of future greatness.

    ... but as they say, “a fool and his money are soon parted”, in January 4 of 2014, a new “solution” arisen to provide the funds to hire one programmer just good enough to create a technical demo, in order to attempt yet another Kickstarter. They called it: The Trials of Ascension Store! Don’t let the name fool you though! According to their “Backers Agreement”, the “store” wasn’t really a store, it was a deep & complex "donation system" that upon purchase forced you to agree that your payment was a “donation” and that the product you were purchasing was “selected reward”, for a game that didn’t had a single line of code yet written. They included things like dance animations and eye patches for a character that did not even exist.

    The Store eventually managed to surpassed the 60,000$ goal, allowing them to hire “Teddy”, the one and only Forged Chaos programmer at the time! Who wrote his first line of code for Trials of Ascension in Feb. 26th 2014, setting them straight towards to goal of completing a functional technical demo in order to launch a second Kickstarter….

    Months later they finally managed to come with their so much spoken of “tech demo” and didn’t take them long to rush ahead to their second Kickstarter attempt, obviously it was yet another catastrophe considering that they only managed to hit 4% of their 600,000$ goal. They spent $67,000 from the cash-shop, to create a demo, that allowed them to reach less than half that during the kickstarter before it was cancelled.

    But it actually gets worse, apparently their one and only programmer, Teddy, had abandoned the project days before the Kickstarter launch, clearly that didn’t stop them from still trying, worst of all is that they didn´t warn their community that once again they were requesting over 500,000$ without a single person capable of programming in the team, Teddy leaving Forged Chaos was shortly followed by PR lead, Xanward.

    As you may imagine…. It gets worse, days after the cancellation Brax allowed Teddy to explain himself to the community, it was simply hilarious and I quote: “After I left, I still consulted with them over a few things like teaching Yevi/Brax how to turn on the servers and as well as fixing some left over bugs.”, apparently the self-proclaimed “game developers” couldn’t even turn on their own servers without someone holding their hands through it… In his parting post, Xanward mentioned that at the last minute, live-streams of the demo on Twitch were cancelled which were to be a major way of promoting the Kickstarter, and instead replaced with IRC chats, which nobody attended.

    From there onwards it was all downhill, many of their biggest fans and financial supporters lost their hopes, upset and disappointed not only due yet another miserable failure but mostly because the way that Forged Chaos handled the entire situation, let’s face it, throwing something at your own community such as: “The three original founders are not qualified to build ToA by ourselves.”; “We are not experts in engineering, animation, modeling, nor are we audio specialists. We are designers at heart.” after claiming to have years of experience in game development for the last 12 years to their fans! But hang on… if in 2013 they claimed to have experience in game development… in 2014 they started accepting “donations” from their community which was under the belief that they were actually experienced… In this very thread, the devs have shown up and posted that they had all the ´game-making skills necessary to make ToA´. and in 2015 they admit that they ain’t “qualified” to do sh!t at all by themselves… let’s grab a dictionary, shall we?

    Scam: A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.

    Fraud: A deception practiced in order to induce another to give up possession of property or surrender a right.
    Isn’t that just fitting enough? Because let’s face it, despite personally believing that their goal of developing a video game is actually legit, the fact still stands, they deliberately deceived their community and eventually took their money under that deception.

    Still, despite all that the show goes on… for a couple of months the project was thrown into a state of “hibernation”, the forums were pretty much silent with only a few whispers about “The Plan” to keep pushing Trials of Ascension forward, until “Kabam!”, somehow “experienced programmers” apparently started falling out of the sky, willingly to work for… a percentage of the products future profit? Right…. But that’s not everything! There were also quite A LOT of changes to the product core itself, basically, what used to be: “We’re putting the RPG back in MMORPG” became “We’re eventually putting the MMO back in yet another 64 player sandbox survival RPG!”, yet most importantly, Steam Greenlight!

    At this time, they also took the opportunity to remove from their forums all mention of the cash-shop, the two kickstarters and the conversations with Teddy and Xanword after the failed 2nd kickstarter... while at the same time announcing a new level of transparency, that began with the introduction of two new programmers who had 15 years of experience in making games... until it was revealed that they never made a game, and had just recently downloaded Unity.

    C’mon, wasn’t that just pretty obvious? It’s what every single “game developer” that manages to download Unity does nowadays! In short their plan consists in re-doing almost everything that Teddy, their previous programmer had done, since that by the sounds of it, his “code base was a mess” and all that *cough cough* ( it is more probable that they were not able to retrieve his work from the server). while removing delaying and dumbing down some of the features that supposedly made their project “innovating” in order to as soon as they have something “playable” to put it in Steam Greenlight in order to attempt an early access…

    If I had to bet, I would say that the results will be far more hilarious than both Kickstarters attempts combined. Unlike Kickstarter and their own forums, in Steam they aren’t allowed to just censor all the negative feedback towards the project like they have been doing so far… in order words either they deal with it, which is something that they apparently don’t know how to do, or simply duck and cover, either way, prepare your popcorn, we are in for a ride!

    So to sum up the development progress and fundraising activities of Trials of Ascension

    2001 Domain Name registered
    2005 Soliciting $1M from investors
    2006 Forums closed due to revolts from people claiming ´vaporware´
    2008 Shadowpool officially closes down, but had done nothing in the previous 2 years.

    2012 Forged Chaos Reborn
    2013 Kickstarter for $750,000 ( reached about $28k)
    2014 January, Cash-shop Launched, sellling ingame items
    2014 February Teddy is hired and writes first line of code
    2015 January Kickstarter #2 is launched for $600,000 ( reached about $24k)
    2015 June New ToA announced, plans to launch on Steam
    2015 July Progress video of ToA on Youtube

    ScreenShot Gallery:
    Last edited by Azrile; 2016-06-23 at 01:37 AM.

  2. #2
    Indie company.

    next time, think everyone is trying to scam you (which is most likely true), you might save a few bucks :x

  3. #3
    Anything that is put in place for the good of people is susceptible to abuse. Really nothing else needs to be said.

  4. #4
    Damn that's shady. I wish people wouldn't trust those folks so easily. I feel bad for them, and it only helps scammers.
    3DS FC: 1177 - 7882 - 6112

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ptolemy66t View Post
    Indie company.

    next time, think everyone is trying to scam you (which is most likely true), you might save a few bucks :x
    Um, technically crowdfunding is donations. And thus far, the vast majority of crowd funded games I can think of are either well on their way to being released, or were released at, or close to, the promised full features.

    I mean, it's about as risky as picking up a AAA game and thinking it's good based off of hype and marketing. That's to say you have to make a value/judgement call on it based on what you know, or do some more research.

  6. #6
    Hmm decided to read their forum. People sure are passionate in the game, and definitely feel a game in development for 12 years will come into fruition.
    3DS FC: 1177 - 7882 - 6112

  7. #7
    Oh, don´t get me wrong. I think Crowdfunding is a great thing for indie developers. But there is the thing. If you are a developer, there is a LOT you can do for free with Unity and for a $100 with Hero Engine. You can build a world, you can implement combat, inventories, build your UI. You can use Blender or 3dsmax to make some models and Gimp to create some textures (all free). Launching a game requires some funding, but actually building a lot of the core of a MMO can be done for free using the tools I listed.

    These guys did NOTHING. they have built nothing into their game, and now they are saying they won´t let you even play the demo unless you donate $500. I donated to a couple of MMOs on KS, but they showed that they had a good start on what they were developing. Maybe their dreams were a little high, but they showed that they had put the legwork into getting the game going.

    ToA has nothing, has shown nothing, and won´t let you see the demo unless you are a $500 donator.

  8. #8
    Want to go on an amusing exercise? Google "Trials of Ascension" and go to any of the Joystiq/Massively articles about the game. Look at the comments, specifically the positive ones and not the ones discussing permadeath and PVP. Be shocked and amazed that the only comments from those people are in Trials of Ascension articles!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by unholytestament View Post
    Want to go on an amusing exercise? Google "Trials of Ascension" and go to any of the Joystiq/Massively articles about the game. Look at the comments, specifically the positive ones and not the ones discussing permadeath and PVP. Be shocked and amazed that the only comments from those people are in Trials of Ascension articles!
    Yeah, after some digging, it turns out that none of the 3 developers know how to code or do graphics at all. They ´outscourced´ someone to a basic 3d house... and then they are using a volunteer from their forums to set up their server login stuff.

    It seems the only thing the devs do is create alts to post on forums. They also are very adept at sending out press releases that get printed by general gaming sites. Again, it takes a lot of skill to raise $50k from players and not even be able to show a screenshot of your game.

  10. #10
    The Insane Val the Moofia Boss's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Southern California
    This is why...

    1. Research the people your tossing money at.

    2. Don't toss money at said people unless you see some actual work done on it. Devs really shouldn't go to kickstarter and ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a game that they haven't even produced a proof of concept for to show on the page.

    3. ...And, most importantly, remember that whenever you throwaway money like this, there is always a chance that your not going to get what was promised to you. Remember that. $60 donation for game doesn't mean you get one. Doesn't mean you get a "quality" game either.

  11. #11
    yeah, I feel bad for Shards Online. A lot of people were doubtful of their game, so withheld from their KS.. and then when it was too late, they made the game available to play, but it was too late to save the KS. You don´t have gameplay that I love, the ruleset can be something I don´t like.. but man, you NEED to actually have at least a semi-playable game before you go to KS. At least show that you did all the work you could do for free.

  12. #12
    The Lightbringer Radio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Drop Bears
    I wouldn't give money to anyone who can't show a previous finished product, even if it's a sorta small indie title, it proves that they're able to make a game and that they're able to finish something. Of course the other best thing is demonstrable evidence of development, Kickstarter shouldn't be used to turn a design treatment into a game, it should be used to help push a game in development off the ground.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Azrile View Post
    I am not kidding you.... $500 to see a demo......

    Now think about this.. who is actually going to see and judge that demo? Nobody but the most serious serious kool-aid drinkers.
    How is it possible that things have gotten this crazy. $500 to see a demo.
    So how is the demo?

  14. #14
    Imo the whole kickstarter thing is a scam. If I want to support a very risky project, give me shares or something that might get value depending on the success, not some lousy shirts or early alpha access.
    Last edited by Valrak; 2014-06-18 at 02:20 AM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by lockedout View Post
    So how is the demo?
    The demo is not even made yet, and at the current pace, it won´t be made for another 6 months or so.

    Get this. ToA currently has no player character ( they are using the default Unity character), they have no UI at all, no action bars, nothing. There are no mobs in the world and no combat system. There are no items in the world, no inventory or backpack.

    But they have a cash-shop on their website where they are selling 20 different vanity pets for $10 each. You can also buy an ´eye patch´ for $15 to put on your character model that doesn´t exist yet.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Azrile View Post
    But they have a cash-shop on their website where they are selling 20 different vanity pets for $10 each. You can also buy an ´eye patch´ for $15 to put on your character model that doesn´t exist yet.
    Man, what are these guys, the trolls of the MMO game business?

  17. #17
    This just in: if you donate $1500, those three devs will come to your house and sit on your couch and smoke pot while they scratch themselves and fart.

    Boy I sure am glad I have some money to throw around. They're coming to my crib on Friday! Game on!

    Shit, I should have asked them if I get to see the demo...

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by lawow74 View Post
    Man, what are these guys, the trolls of the MMO game business?
    That is why I made the title I did. it is almost like they are trying to insult their followers.

    They are selling 10 different ´dances´ for your character that doesn´t exist yet. Yet they can´t even get their ingame camera to show the whole character, so you can buy a dance for $20, and then watch your characters head bob a bit.

    They are also selling the ´rights´ to patterns to craft unique items ingame such as a battle axe that nobody else will be able to craft. ($30 for that one). Did I mention that they currently have 0 items in the entire game and no inventory.

    For $7.50 you can name one of the NPCs that don´t exist in the world. For $200 you can name a landmark that doesn´t exist in the world.

    Seriously, they have no UI, but they have a $200 item in the their cashshop?

  19. #19
    I wonder if this is considered illegal. If not, then it should be. This specific case is borderline fraud.

  20. #20
    They have a backers agreement which basically says everything in the store is a donation (non-tax exempt) and that they can´t be held responsible if the game never ships.

    They put more effort into creating their website, writing that cop-out disclaimer than they actually spent in the game.

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