Bookwright, game designer, gamer, collector of too much stuff. Want to discuss a project, idea or send hate mail just email me!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Ever Happened to Mystic Eye Games?

I get this question a lot, and recently Nicole from Green Ronin talked a little about this so I thought maybe it was time to talk more about this.

We were doing well, that was the toughest part to swallow when we stepped away from publishing.
Within the first year of publishing during the d20  craze we were being noted as one of the breakaway companies, it was a great feeling to be honest.  I loved this job, loved the community and even with the issues listed below it was one of the most enjoyable times in my life.
I truly believe publishing saved me from being depressed,  I was going through a divorce with two infants (I can breed, amazing isn't it), had a very stressful job and my getaway was to write, order art for Mystic Eye Games.

We were rolling along doing well when distributor number one suddenly stopped paying, we saw sales records but no money, we finally got word that they shut down and went out of business, we did get our remaining stock from them but we lost around $50, 000.

It hurt, bad I will not lie, we had good product and good reviews so we charged everything we could charge.  Gen Con, GAMA, printing and so on.  We found another distributor quite quickly, thanks to Green Ronin and Bastion Press.

We started slowly climbing out of the hole, we could never pay us, but we could pay everyone else...oh that reminds me, here is how getting paid in publishing works...

Publisher gets writers, layout, art, editing etc.... pays for art and writing on a delayed schedule to offset what is about to happen.  Printing, you pay for printing up front, then you send it to a distributor, then they send it to retailers, distributors pay you around 40% MSRP and usually up to 90 days from when they "buy" if from you.  So a $20 retail book brings in the publisher around $8 to pay for all the expenses AND you do not see that money for 90 days.

OK, back to the death of MEG...
So we are basically not paying any of the lost money back but not losing money when we produce The Deep, The Deep is an underwater sourcebook for d20 that honestly was brilliant.  It was so big we did it in hardcover, our first hardcover.  This was the break out book along with our new post apocalyptic setting Fall of Man.  We were about to change the world.

Well, that was until distributor number two played fuzzy math, and the "order a lot and return it after our commission is guaranteed game" so we print a lot, sell a lot and get a lot of returns, but only after the agreed upon time where the distributor did not have to return his percentage.  So for a few months we OWED them money, and then money just stopped...again.

We were out around $30k from this distributor, had around $30k of debt on our credit cards and realized we could not afford to be in the business, so we stopped producing books, shut down the shop and got away from publishing.

Besides taking years and years to pay off the debt, it put a bad taste in my mouth for gaming, forums and all of that, that is what probably made it so painful, it took what I loved and made me turn away from it.

 I started gaming again and playing MMO's but never went back to publishing or writing.

So years later, I am still friends with publishers, and fellow designers and I decide it is time to crawl back out and try some more, I can say that MEG is now Samurai Sheepdog and Doug and I got the band back together again.  We are freelancing and we are doing some projects on Kickstarter.
We are writing again and branching out to fiction, boardgames and children's books.

We are back, but no thanks to distributors!*

* I should note that neither of the above distributors are in business anymore so there is no malice against any current distributors.

This is (was) the cover art for Fall of Man.


  1. Ah yeah, the hurting times. Divorce in the midst of that is just injury on top of, well, injury. Ouch.

    GR either worked out agreements with people to pay them less than originally agreed upon, turn over the rights to their work, offer them copies of their work they could sell, or pay them off (s l o w l y) over time. We ran a fund-raiser to raise money... today we probably could have done an IndieGoGo or Kickstarter to help out but then it was purely relying on fans to pay in advance for promised special products. Most people we worked with understood what we'd been through but one freelancer in specific chose getting paid his full fee (which we explained would take a long time to recover) but then complained to family and friends (who harassed us in public, even chanting "Pay your freelancers" at the ENnies one year on his behalf even though we WERE paying him off!) and remains bitter to this day about his "losses" because although we paid him off at his contracted 5 cents a word rate (and he made many times more than GR ever did from his book) we had to do it over an extended period. Man, that incident in particular still stings because we really felt that we were doing right by him in the face of our six-figure loss... only to have him leave hating us anyway. :(

    Sometimes I think it's better to be out of it and away from the harshitude. <3 to you, Hal!

    1. I hear ya Nik, I am in a good place now, I am freelancing when asked, and have fiction being published as well as a few projects we will put on Kickstarter. We are doing it slow with very little out of pocket money so no matter what happens we are doing it right and having fun.

      Oh, and <3 you too, see you at GenCon!

  2. Actually, reading this blog has stirred up some of that past frustration. I was freelancing a ton and almost jumped into bed with said shady distributor right before it all fell apart. I had a handful of clients that got screwed and struggled or failed to pay me. I was always grateful that, although it took some time, GR paid off every penny of the work I did for them during that time.

    1. Ed, I am sorry I brought up frustration for you, that was not my intent. You know I am a fan of you and your work.

  3. Speaking as one of your writers, staff editors and layout persons, I can attest that the GenCon I spent with you guys was one of my most treasured memories. We were on top of the world, it seemed that we were about to take off, we got tons of booth swag, met everyone from our favorite publishers, got lots of stuff autographed, oh and played in games too. I loved it all, and I loved seeing my name in print. And I owed it all to you. I can't speak as a professional - that's not what I am. I am a gamer first. And I saw my stuff become real, and people bought it, and gamed with it, and asked me questions - asked for my advice on their games. I'll always treasure that.

    1. Becky, those conventions were some of my favorite memories as well, getting the shirts and booth ready and just watching people want to meet all of us was a blast. I agree hanging out with you guys in person (not online) was fantastic.

  4. We've not met, but as a brother in the industry I feel for you and wish more people understood the difficulties and risks we take to produce games for their enjoyment. I think this posting is well written and gives some of that insight to those who will read it.

    1. Thanks Cliff, and it was nice to tell people what happened, we needed the time away to make it less painful. We are back but we are not charging anything we are working slow and steady so we will have money for all the projects or the projects will not be done.

  5. Do you still have the content from the old mystic eye games and rise of evil website, like free downloads, web enhancements, errata and the like?

    1. I am pretty sure we have some of it but not all of it, was there something specific you are looking for?