Somebody asked me about a comment I made online about the odd situation raised by the state of Homestuck^2 and Hiveswap’s authorship. I sent them a long message but by the time I was done I realized I had quite a few thoughts on the issue, and so this is me expanding that out a bit.
One of your questions was whether I thought Gio was a stalker. It’s my personal take that he probably does not technically qualify as one, but I also don’t think it’s a simple “no” either, given his antagonistic fixation toward people at WP, and his persistent invasiveness has made the women at WP uncomfortable.
Suffice to say for now, I don’t trust him, I will never speak to him, and probably no one from WP ever will either.
After the backer update came out, I took at look at Gio’s revisions to his article, and unsurprisingly, he just rearranged all the new facts so that he could draw all the same basic negative conclusions he’d already drawn.
I think this would be a bizarre conclusion to reach for anyone who was looking at that update objectively, and just indicates that the facts never really mattered because he had already made up his mind.
The only explanation is what everyone at WP suspected all along.
He’s a troll.
You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation.
It all started on 4/13/2021. That’s right, I’m writing a story about me this time. It’s my blog, after all. First I wrote a history, then reported on a rumor, and now it’s time to tell a thriller.
Homestuck is once again lit up over fan merch. Homestuck and fan merch have a long and troubled history, but this latest incident is between artists, Redbubble, and Viz media. Here are my thoughts on that!
In late May 2021, artists who sold Homestuck merch on Redbubble got this email:
Thank you for submitting your fan art for Homestuck and/or Hiveswap as part of Redbubble’s Fan Art Partner Program.
At this time, our partnership with the rights holder VIZ Media has come to an end. When a partnership expires, we are required to remove officially approved artworks from the marketplace. This means that your Homestuck and/or Hiveswap designs will be removed from Redbubble soon.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- It is important to know that licensors do not allow previously approved designs once sold on Redbubble to be sold on any other platform, even after the program ends.
- Because this removal is not in response to a complaint, your account will not be negatively impacted.
Partnerships come and go, but don’t worry. We’re looking forward to partnering with more awesome brands in the future.
Check out our Current Brand Partnerships list to see all the properties that are actively accepting submissions. For additional information, we recommend checking out the Fan Art Partner Program FAQ.
Thank you, Redbubble
This hit a lot of people, and hit them hard:
Fri May 28 14:45:37 +0000 2021
to add insult to tonight's injury, redbubble has decided to spontaneously take down the main 12's sigil shirts off of the VE storefront on viz's behalf. the storefront they've been on for three years. without issue. that use alchemy symbols. which are public domain.
Wed Jun 02 19:24:29 +0000 2021
update on the redbubble situation: looks like if you have any currently running VE merchandise, you're officially an owner of limited edition products that we legally cannot reuse or redistribute.
what a fucking joke.
Unfortunately for Twitter and brevity this is actually the intersection of a couple different complicated issues, which I’ll try to summarize here.
Copyright law really sucks for fanartists, actually🔗
Just gonna get this one out of the way right off the bat. Copyright law gives IP owners a tremendous amount of power over what’s done with their characters and designs, even extending far into derivative fanart. If you own Homestuck, you actually can take someone to court over selling merch of their fantroll, and probably win. That’s not a great starting point, but it’s the truth.
Eevee has a great write-up of why this is bad. I’d also point you to Tom Scott’s video about how copyright law isn’t designed for intermediate platforms like Redbubble, but suffice it to say, yeah, copyright law really sucks for fanartists, actually.
This is the most complex thing going on here, certainly, but it’s not new and interesting. What is new and interesting, though, is
Redbubble forcing predatory licensing on people🔗
Now, copyright law sucks for fanartists, but that doesn’t explain what happened here.
Befriendus; everybody’s favorite visual novel about making alien friends. It’s got trolls, yes, but it also has a slew of accessibility options. You can adjust everything: color, font, motion, even spelling. It’s clean, it’s easy, and it works. Here’s how we did it.
When I was designing the basic accessibility framework I had these principles in mind:
- Accessible scripts must be easy to write; work should never be duplicated
- Demanding people write multiple versions of work is bad design and encourages accessibility to eventually be dropped in favour of efficient production
- Humans should never do postprocessing tasks
- We’re writing software; a computer should do any and all mechanical work, not writers
- Accessibility options should have as granular control as possible
- Whenever possible, players should be able to select exactly what they need, not be forced to use something that doesn’t match their needs.
- Options should be compatible with each other whenever possible
- Just pushing out transcripts is not accessible design.
The best way to explain these is probably to explain what we ended up doing, and how each design choice was made carefully in accordance with those principles.
As of Kickstarter Update #36, What Pumpkin made the following statement about the accuser from this article: (They didn’t tell you it was the source in this article, I’m telling you that)
As an addendum, WP has identified the primary source of a disclosure to a well-circulated document of the Hiveswap development process. WP has been aware of a pattern of false claims this former employee has made since the end of their employment at the beginning of 2014. As this individual was not present during the end of the development contract with GC, nor the WP NYC development period, all of the information they have shared is based on speculation and conjecture.
There is a detailed analysis of this update in The Hiveswap Fiasco, but to summarize:
According to What Pumpkin, this is a disgruntled ex-employee who left the team in early 2014, meaning anything they said later than that is speculation. In addition to the obvious — that a whistleblower doesn’t like the practices they’re whistleblowing — this would mean they were not privy to the events of 2014 or later, making anything they said about that only semi-informed speculation.
This makes sense. Many of the claims made here early in the timeline turned out to be correct, and even verified by What Pumpkin later on. Some of the later ones seem incorrect; semi-informed exaggerations to make a point. As with everything else, I will note which claims are dubious. It is entirely possible some of this information was provided in bad faith, but some of still holds up.
In the same Kickstarter update, though, they explicitly confirm a significant amount of the news I broke, including multiple major points in this very article! I have also noted those cases.
When I wrote the Hiveswap article, I left a note asking for people to contact me if there were any facts I got wrong or major events I missed. A number of people took me up on that, which I am thankful for.
However, there was one big report I got that was too significant to just edit into the article. Because these allegations were new, and from a credible source, I thought they warranted their own article and research.
For the rest of the story about Hiveswap, see The Hiveswap Fiasco, to which this is a kind of sequel.
By the request of the source (because Andrew is known to be aggressively litigious), I have edited our conversation into a synthetic document. This is a summary of the claims from the source to preserve their anonymity and ensure clarity. I am not yet asserting anything, just stating what the source said; I’ll hold my personal comments until after the whole thing. Here is that report:
What actually happened with The Odd Gentlemen🔗
The biggest reason there’s an NDA in place about The Odd Gentlemen’s involvement is that Andrew wanted to cover up the fact that much of the blame is on Andrew’s failure to deliver a workable plan to the studio in the agreed-upon schedule.
While parts of the ipgd post are true, the post distorts what happened into a story designed to make Andrew look like he did no wrong. What actually happened is this:
One of the reasons Homestuck was so popular is how contemporary it was to internet culture. You tell anyone that Homestuck is heavily influenced by internet culture and they’ll nod and agree and you’ll both be very intelligent media critics. But somehow, even from that same group, you’ll see people who notice how the writing style of Homestuck changes over its nine year run and forget about contemporary culture entirely, which is a mistake.
A quick note here about how Kickstarter works. This may seem excessive to litigate now, but as you’ll read shortly, it’s unfortunately surprisingly relevant. When a Kickstarter project succeeds, backers pay the creator directly, not Kickstarter — Kickstarter takes a cut, but the transaction is between the backer and the creator. For this reason, Kickstarter doesn’t guarantee refunds.
However, Kickstarter is not a blind donation based on trust alone: creators are legally obligated to fulfill backers. From Kickstarter’s own accountability FAQ:
Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?
When a project is successfully funded, the creator must complete the project and fulfill each reward. Once a creator has done so, they’ve satisfied their obligation to their backers.
Throughout the process, creators owe their backers a high standard of effort, honest communication, and a dedication to bringing the project to life. At the same time, backers must understand that they’re not buying something when they back a project—they’re helping to create something new, not ordering something that already exists. There may be changes or delays, and there’s a chance something could happen that prevents the creator from being able to finish the project as promised.
If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they’ve failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement. To right this, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers.
The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they’re unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.
Now, if a project fails and goes bankrupt, they obviously can’t fulfill their obligations. Kickstarter projects fail all the time. However, there are concrete, legal obligations on creators of successfully funded projects, as long as they’re capable of doing so. Or, if there’s a reason that the final product can’t be completed, (non-bankrupt) project creators are obligated to refund their backers. Note that there are two obligations here: between the creator and Kickstarter, the company, and between the creator and the project backers.
So, in the case of the Homestuck Kickstarter, “MS Paint Adventures” is legally obligated by both Kickstarter and the project backers to deliver the promised game and merchandise to the project’s backers. But hopefully it won’t come to that, right?
The real story of Hiveswap isn’t about the game or the universe. Rather, the conversation “about Hiveswap” is dominated by stories about the development and history of the game as a project — starting as a Kickstarter success story but then bouncing from scandal to scandal for years. The story of how Andrew Hussie burned through a $2.5 million dollar investment over eight years to produce almost nothing is fascinating, convoluted, and poorly understood even among Homestuck fans.
Right now, this meta-story mostly exists in the form of oral history. This is probably due to the fact that a lot of the key sources are ephemeral — and most of them have been deleted — but it’s also because it feels premature to write up a “postmortem” on a game’s development before it’s even an eighth of the way finished. There is also significant pressure on people in the know — even people who just lived through backing the project — to keep quiet about all this, for reasons I’ll get into.
I’m documenting the story so far so that the Hiveswap Story isn’t lost to time, and so there’s a decent summary of events so far, and maybe even so new Hiveswap fans can catch up. I dug through every page, announcement, interview, blog post, FAQ, and tweet I could find, and the culmination is this the most comprehensive — as far as I can tell — explanation of Hiveswap to date.