Fonzie’s at the factory

Featured

Fonzie’s at the factory. Not the magical factory, but a real one, in China.

In a suspiciously timely Facebook posting (seven months and a day after that embarrassing night in Paris), Fonzie explains to us that the game is on its way. You just have to wait… a little longer.

Here’s the full text. To see Facebook video follow the link.

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for lack of news. I(Fonzie)’m at factories for many many weeks now. Parts for the game has been in storage, some since 2016 and it has been a major challenge to negotiate both long term warehousing, qc, and clearance to assembly lines given (more than) extreme financial constrains. If you don’t understand what’s said above, never-mind. People who know, knows. People who understand, understands.

Everyone having asked for a refund will get refunded once we solved our issues with paypal, which should happen soon. We got a refund list, do not worry, you will get refunded regardless of what happens, changes of moods, etc. No need to spam us or call my number 10 times a day, costumer support staff in a very long vacation.

Everyone having pre-ordered the game including our investors and our retailers will receive all their games all at once.
We don’t have shipping date yet as we want to make 100% sure no extra suckers joins the party (“Les emmerdes, ça vole toujours en escadrille” – CDG).

More over, because of various constrains aforementioned, we decided to only assemble the copies of the games that were pre-ordered meaning that we wont have any extra copies available for sale at time of release. Fear not, we will have no other choice but to perform another pre-order round. So, if you’re willing to get the game, please make sure you register to our website to receive notification email. We will put on sale the limited editions copies some asked refund for, exciting time ahead.

I’ll get back personally to people who know whenever I regain access to the normal internet, thanks for your patience and trust.
PS: This video is some weeks old if anyone wonders. I’m not the lady in the video, but I’m on the line as well, as always, people who know, knows. People who understand, understands.

More news ahead, whenever good. I’ll save you the bad ones.
Thanks again.
Fonz

Like many of Fonzie’s last messages, it starts with an apology. It then follows with a very succinct explanation. This time, the tone is a little more condescending, and even defensive. Fonzie appeals to the support of his personal entourage. If you know, you know: if you’re not inside the watermelon, I won’t bother to explain why the fucking game doesn’t come out. It’s a very old and very simple method of not answering a burning question. If you don’t understand the mystery, too bad. Fonzie asks for an act of faith (again).

Fonzie (Gwénaël Godde) has a unique talent. He manages to make each update disprove the previous one a bit. Fonzie edits out the past with each update. Fonzie is gaslighting his own customers.

In the December 2017 Facebook posting, Fonzie claims they received the funds blocked by Paypal. He also says that the infamous 50 factories are stocking everything for final assembly. What people didn’t know was that this *final assembly* was two (three?) years away.

 

So now, almost two years later, we learn that Paypal:

  • a) blocked the funds again (or)
  • b) never returned the funds.

If a) Why did Fonzie use Paypal again? Especially when he said in December 2017 that they were going to change payment processors.
If b) What hope does Fonzie have that Paypal will return the money not returned before? Is Paypal really going to sit on that money for several fiscal years, waiting for Fonzie to get a corporate bank account in Hong Kong? As I said in my previous post, isn’t it more likely that Paypal would already have done chargebacks after voiding the orders?

We don’t have any deadlines this time. Fonzie is not in the mood to make promises. He says something about suckers, but it’s just part of the paranoia. He probably doesn’t have a deadline because the game is broken, and he’s lying his ass off.

He obviously doesn’t expect to be able to send the game this year (otherwise he would have said so). Paprium is really going to become the 400-week game (and then some).

 

sep4_2017dec7_2017march27_2018update

Advertisements

Ryaku Dossier: Fonzie’s business in Asia.

Featured

I present a translation of an original research by the user Ryaku, from french forums. This translation respects the original, but was edited for clarity and brevity. The original post in French can be read at:

https://www.gamopat-forum.com/t104109p90-topic-officiel-project-y-paprium#3014287

 

This post is intended to clarify the situation around the WM Company.

These investigations began following messages from people who contacted me a few weeks ago. They wanted to take legal action against WM in order to obtain their refund, but to do so, you need enough information to know what are the possible actions.

Fonzie was aware that if he did not make any official communication before May 16, I was going to post my findings, so he had the chance to keep it confidential.

What will be stated here will not make it clear whether or not the game will ever be released, but will provide some information and allow some people to go through a legal channel if they want a refund. I would not endorse any violent action (whether physical or moral), this information is only intended to give you some information in order to take legal action if you so wish.

Nor will it prevent the game from coming out as some have claimed (if it comes out one day) and I would like to make it clear that. From my point of view, it is better to wait for the game. although the information that follows may tell you the opposite and although Fonzie is a bad manager, he is certainly able to get the game out because while he has many defects, he is someone persistent and wants to go through with it.

I would like to thank Uipneu who gave me the first information allowing my contacts to go further in their research, still ongoing in China.

To begin with this presentation, I would distinguish 2 things:

1 – Facts

2 – Assumptions

 

  • FACT #1:

As a preamble, it should be noted that there are two WM companies.

1) The first company is based in Iowa, US (Watermelon Co.)

2) The Second is based in Hong Kong (Watermelon Games Limited –Registry No. 1669099) at 361-363 Lockhart St., Kiu Yin Building, Suite 22B, WANCHAI, HONG KONG

Source: http://www.watermelon-games.com/ (in Contacts)

Regarding payments made to these companies, it should be noted that until 2015 (months and days unclear), all payments made for Pier Solar or WM projects (Y and N) were made to the company Watermelon Co. in the United States via email enquiries@piersolar.comsource:

wm_pay11

Between 2015 and 2016, the paypal payment address changed to watermelon@watermelon-games.com

wm_pay10

Consequently, all payments made after 2015/2016 (including Paprium’s pre-orders) were made to Watermelon Games Limited, located in Hong Kong.

If you therefore wish to obtain a refund and have made a pre-order with watermelon@watermelon-games.com it is useless to file a complaint with Watermelon in the United States, since it is not the company collecting your money.

  • ASSUMPTION # 1

Was the change of headquarters due to Tulio leaving his partner? Was it because of Hong Kong’s tax advantages? Was it because of its proximity to Chinese suppliers?

We don’t know, but probably all three reasons influenced Fonzie’s decision.

  • FACT #2

It is therefore necessary to investigate Watermelon Games Limited to find out more about Paprium. After reaching some contacts in China, they went to Hong Kong to see where Watermelon was located –source:

photo_10

Instead of “Watermelon Games Ltd”, we read JINETIC CONSULTANTS LIMITED (http://www.jinetic.com/Index/PageId/Jinetic_Home/en/)

This company business is off-shore company incorporation, and is also used as a post office box.

So it is actually via Jinetic that Watermelon Games Limited exists in Hong Kong, there is no physical office as such.

  • FACT #3

So I asked my contacts to investigate a little more.

autori10According to my contacts in China (and if you can read Chinese)

This screenshot (dated 02/21/2019) indicates that the WM company known with the registry number 1669099 has not yet been authorized to operate in China.

Therefore, according to my sources, it cannot carry out any production in its own name in China.

  • ASSUMPTION #2

This does not indicate that Fonzie is unable to produce anything, it is possible to do many things “underwater” [sic] in China.

On the other hand, this may be the cause of “blocked funds”, because the payments were made to Paypal for Watermelon Games Limited, and in view of the amount accumulated by the last presale, Paypal had to request supporting documents, business or viability documents that Fonzie was unable to provide.

If Fonzie would have gone through Watermelon Co. in the U.S. as before, it is very likely that he did not have that fundamental problem because the company set up by Tulio was really working.

  • FACT #4

My contacts were also able to obtain the “Annual return” of Watermelon Games Limited for the years 2016 / 2017 and 2018 (of which I present an extract).

This document defines the status of the company, shares, and the owner of the company.

You will find attached an extract from NAR1 2018 (2016 and 2017 versions are identical)

I have deliberately hidden private information, but you can easily find it on some foreign sites that had already conducted some investigations on Paprium.

As you will see, the owner of Watermelon is Fonzie as the sole and only shareholder (it still had to be proven that the company could have been registered by another person in China). You will also be able to see that Fonzie’s residence is not in China but in France in the company’s declaration.

nar1_110nar1_210nar1_310
nar1_410

  • ASSUMPTION #4

This last point indicates that it is most certainly possible, for those who wish it, and who have been waiting for their refunds for almost a year (without having obtained it), to contact the DGCCRF to file a complaint against Fonzie [Godde, Gwenael], owner of Watermelon Games Limited based in Hong Kong, whose manager resides in France (since it has been registered as such with the registry in Hong Kong).

The above opinions are those of Ryaku, and do not necessarily represent Paprium Fiasco’s positions, strategies or opinions.

 

My two cents

To put it briefly, what Ryaku reported was that:

  • What we know as WaterMelon Games are actually two companies, one based in the USA (WM Co.) and one in Hong Kong (WM Games Ltd.). Both are active, and both are owned and managed by Fonzie. —This information was already known to the readers of this blog.
  • Hong Kong address is the address of the company that incorporated WM. The address listed in WM website is not Fonzie’s actual office.
  • Watermelon Ltd (HK) is not authorized to operate in China.
  • According to Chinese Annual Returns, Fonzie is resident in France.

Now, this information is interesting, but it doesn’t change at all the production limbo the game is in.

  1. Watermelon explains on its website that it has offices in the US and Hong Kong. It does not clarify that they correspond to two separate companies. But the Hong Kong *unit* is called WaterMelon Games Ltd. Therefore it cannot be WaterMelon Co. the business incorporated by Tulio in 2009 in Iowa. That had already been disclosed by this blog.
  2. The fact that the addresses Fonzie publishes are from LLCs formation companies shouldn’t surprise us. It is a common practice for small companies, especially those created through online services. Of course it is not optimal, but it is not illegal. It’s the case of WM USA, and that hasn’t stopped them from doing business.
    muscatine
    In any case, I think Ryaku confirms that we won’t find Fonzie on that Hong Kong street. One less place to look.
  3. I can’t read Chinese, so I take Ryaku’s word for it. WM HK cannot operate in China. Operate is a very broad term.Does it mean that WM cannot sell or buy in China? So what is the point?
    How is the company active and yet unable to trade?
    Is that difficulty the result of a WM fault?
    Didn’t Fonzie complete the steps to have a functional company?

    My bet is WM can’t sell to the public in mainland China. In other words, WMG Ltd. is an offshore company, useful for trading in most countries. But, selling in China probably implies special licenses. That doesn’t mean that Fonzie can’t manufacture in China. Now it is almost trivial to make things in Chinese factories from other countries. If Fonzie owns a company that can’t manufacture in China and sell elsewhere, well, that would be very stupid.
    Also, we have proof that WM manufactured in China. Don’t their products say “Made in China” or “Assembled in China”? We know that WM USA made many of these products, but others were manufactured by a Hong Kong company. We know this from the barcodes on the packaging.
    So the fact that WM can’t “operate” in China doesn’t seem that bad to me.

    Looking for information on Hong Kong taxes (because some offshore jurisdictions prevent a company from trading in that jurisdiction and getting tax benefits – I wanted to know if that explained the “cannot operate” in the Chinese form), I found a very illuminating text:

    The problem with business bank accounts for companies in Hong Kong

    The biggest weakness of LLCs in Delaware and Limiteds in Hong Kong is nothing to do with the legal, tax, or even the financial side of things, it´s bank accounts.

    But, what exactly is the problem?

    The problem isn´t so serious in the case of the Hong Kong Ltd since these companies will still find it very easy to open business accounts throughout the world. But that is precisely the problem, all over the world, just not in Hong Kong.

    And this is a problem, because generally one of the decisive reasons for choosing a location over another is the strength of the banks in that jurisdiction. But whats even more important is having payment services available, such as Paypal.

    If you have a company in Hong Kong but you can´t use Paypal to receive payments from your customers (remember that, as we previously mentioned in our article about payment services, Paypal only allows you to withdraw funds to accounts in the country of residence, in this case in Hong Kong) you end up with a company that doesn´t pay taxes, but can´t receive payments from customers either.

    Although its possible for a person to have several Paypal accounts, precisely in regards to money flows from tax havens alarm bells start to ring and your Paypal account can end up being frozen, especially when it comes to large amounts of money (another option would be to set up a payment subsidiary).

    So, if you wanted to avoid problems with your company in Hong Kong you would have to get a business account. You could therefore process the payments directly, with more ease and less expenses, instead of doing it through third parties.

    And, why is it almost impossible to obtain bank accounts in Hong Kong? There are several reasons for this.

    Until not very long ago everything was relatively simple. Although you had to go in person, the norm was always going and talking to a banker and showing him your business plan. Major banks such as HSBC opened business accounts to companies without major difficulties, including for offshore companies outside of Hong Kong.

    Since the beginning of 2016, HSBC and many other banks have greatly increased their requirements and conditions. Before, if you had a business with a turnover of around $50,000, you could try to obtain a business account. These days, don´t even bother trying if you have a turnover of less than 500,000 dollars (except for activities in China, for example).

    If having a deposit of only $1000 in the bank was enough to open a private account before, today you´ll need around $100,000 to be taken seriously and to be allowed to open one. […]
    The impossibility of deducting invoices in some countries (if you don’t have a real office in Hong Kong), the lack of double taxation agreements with certain important countries and the limited possibility of using payment gateways such as Paypal, Stripe, Braintree or Paymill (since you can´t open business accounts in the country) considerably increases expenses due to the need for additional corporate structures.

    So, if we can´t open a bank account in Hong Kong, we’d better set up our offshore company somewhere else. Maybe an LLC in Delaware, as one might think of first …

    Sorry about the text wall, but there are several *juicy* things here:

    *It is very difficult to open a merchant account with a Hong Kong bank, unless you have a lot of money. While WM raised more than 100k dollars (probably closer to half a million), it was a one-time thing, and WM was not likely to generate those numbers on an yearly basis. That could have prevented the banks from accepting Fonzie as a corporate client.
    *If you have a merchant account, you don’t need Paypal. You can accept credit card payments directly. The fact that WM relied on a Paypal account may mean that Fonzie did not have a corporate bank account in Hong Kong.
    *For Paypal, if your bank account is in the same country as your company, it’s good. If not, there are problems. Extreme case would be freezing of funds due to suspicions of money laundering (offshore company withdrawing money into an account in another country, in large sums, in a short time). It seems exactly what (supposedly) happened with Paprium.
    Now, I ruled out that possibility as one more lie by Fonzie, shot at the last minute to buy time, because the game was not complete.

    If it really happened that PayPal froze WM funds:
    +Fonzie himself assured us that the problem was solved. So I guess it’s solved.
    +I suppose if the Paypal *embargo* had been permanent, all or part of the pre-sales would have gone back to customers, so people would have found out.
    +Given the amount we are talking about, Fonzie could have faced official inquiries (if Paypal suspected money laundering). We don’t know if anything like that happened.
    +Paypal took the money for itself. Very unlikely, because it would mean that Paypal is accesory in the scam ( knowingly).

    So I restate that funding was not reached by Paypal. This does not mean that there were no inquiries by Paypal, demands or even the termination of the business relationship. But I think Fonzie finally had the money he collected from all the pre-sales.
    If Paypal was *scared* of WM’s monetary flows, and decided not to serve it anymore, that would explain why Fonzie is reluctant to take orders again. Although having a half-finished game and not wanting to have more potential complainants also explains it.
    In any case, the question remains as to why Fonzie chose to incorporate his company in Hong Kong, and whether he could foresee the headaches it would bring. Seriously, this guy never stops disappointing me.

    The reasons why Fonzie has an offshore company in Hong Kong can be more sentimental than financial. Watermelon Games Ltd. Watermelon Games Ltd. would be a former company of Fonzie, opportunely renamed.
    Again, I don’t read Chinese, but in the screenshot I see the date 2011-10-04autori10If that is a date of incorporation, or change of name, then WM Hong Kong was not a consequence of Tulio’s departure from WM US. Fonzie’s bond with Hong Kong predates the formation of WM. Fonzie had professional ties with Tototek, a HK company. Together they made the (in)famous Mega Cart.uhdI can’t help but think that Tototek, trusting a self-taught young man like Fonzie, must have made a very big impression on the moustached Frenchman. Did he decide to set up his company in Hong Kong to emulate his mentor? Did he hear the siren calls that Hong Kong would save him money on taxes, and improve access to factories in China?

    What we do know is that something came out under the WM label from Hong Kong. Let’s look at the issue of barcodes.

    barcods

    You can look up a barcode online and find out which company owns the barcode.
    The WM US codes yield the following info:
    gepir.gs1.org
    When we search for Hong Kong codes, we learn that “prefix was never allocated”.
    epir.gs1.org.png
    Did WM use a fake barcode? Since that Hong Kong barcode was used in early products, is this a case of fake it ’til you make it? Was WM HK responsible for this move?
    If since 2014 all WM products use US barcodes belonging to WM Co., why orders are paid to WM Games Ltd (Hong Kong)?
    Why do people pay a company in HK for a product that is manufactured by a company in the USA? Why can WM US handle the entire operation?
    If Fonzie is using WM HK to collect funds, run production, send shipments, why is he using the code of a company in Iowa, which has no part in that process? It’s not very serious, I think, but it’s not consistent with reality.

    This is another example of Fonzie’s obfuscations, dark handling of Paprium. Guy is able to pay for dozens of domains so they don’t squat his “Magical Factory”, but he can’t license a proper GS1 code.

  4. Finally, Fonzie’s in France. It’s good news, because he’ s more at hand, so to speak. Of course, he may have lied on the Annual Return form, I don’t know, maybe there is some taxation gain from pretending to live in France. But it seems to me he’s living in France. Hong Kong is very expensive.
    PS: It would be nice to hear Tulio’s word regarding the issue of barcodes and the two Watermelon companies.

The Game that wasn’t there

Featured

fonlizzie55

Last month I saw the documentary about Theranos. Not the same thing (a game project vs human health), but we can draw some parallels between Elizabeth Holmes and Fonzie: 

  • Goal depends on very complex tech solution that has never been tested before.
  • 1:1 identification between project and leader. All decisions go through him or her.
  • Extreme paranoia. Disproportionate fear of someone stealing their product/ project/glory.
  • Rejection of any form of horizontal organization. No ‘true’ teamwork.
  • Secrecy, divisiveness, factions. All encouraged by the leader
  • Even people close to the leader didn’t know what was really going on. Leader “protected” his/her collaborators from the truth.
  • Isolation of people who wanted to do the right thing, were inquisitive, or opposed the leader (sometimes using direct intimidation).
  • Blatant lies to keep project afloat.
  • When public pressure is too high, deny everything, disconnect from the world and go radio silent.

Speaking of silence, I plotted all @watermelongames tweets (not replies) on this heatmaps.

heatmap1

Chart is split because in 2015 Tulio Adriano abandoned the ship. As you can see, under the reign of Fonzie, Twitter was not a priority.

heatmap2

When they launched the trailer their Twitter activity was almost a third of what they had during the campaign month for PS Kickstarter. It’s almost as if they didn’t want people to know about it. A game that was -at that time- 4 years behind schedule and could keep the company alive…

We haven’t heard from Watermelon Games in six months. Until March 29, when Luis Martins (co-creator of Paprium) told us that Fonzie visited him with a playable version of Paprium (congratulations!). Now, isn’t the timing of this visit suspicious? Exactly 6 months after he showed in Paris that the game was broken beyond all hope?

Now there are manufacturing videos (can it be the same factory that appears in the game box, which we saw in October?). Now there’s a 100% playable game (so there wasn’t one before? -we know there wasn’t) Now there are signed fightsticks (and there wasn’t time for a selfie with Fonzie?)

So, as I see it, there are three options:

  1. Fonzie keeps fooling us, and the game is still in the limbo it’ s been in for at least 4 years.
  2. Fonzie lied to us in Paris, making us believe the game was a lost cause. Real game would be ready months ago, and in the next few weeks happy buyers would receive it in their homes. Fonzie would be confirmed as the biggest troll on the internet.
  3. Fonzie is the luckiest man in the world, and all the Tetris pieces start to fall into place. Whether he got an angel investor, learned to program in 68k assembly, or shaved his mustache, spooky October became flowery May.

I think option 1 is the most likely. Option 3, on the other hand, is the least likely. I mean, can anyone be so lucky? Can Fonzie have the means to make Paprium? Finally? Definitely and forever? This time for real, unlike the other times? Option 2 is unlikely, but more likely than option 3. I sincerely believe that Fonzie is capable of withholding the game for some mystical purpose that we don’t understand.

Option 1 and 2 gives us at least a few months until Fonzie delivers the game or he tell why there’s no game (again).

So in the meantime I’m going to make a game about Paprium.

The next steps: Recover your money, or wait for WM to deliver the game

Featured

We’ve reached a point where it’s up to you to make the next move. Gwenael Godde will continue to play his cards, and things probably won’t change much in the coming months.

So this crossroads has two paths.

  • You wait for the game to come out. Fonzie promises that the game will come out in December. Given the history of non-compliance and lies of this group of developers, I dare say that the game won’t come out in December. So it’s your decision if you want to wait, say, another year to have Paprium in your hands.
  • File a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. If you are an American customer (and I think most WaterMelon Co. customers are), you can file a complaint with the FTC. The FTC cannot resolve individual disputes, but it creates a precedent for WM’s actions.
    WaterMelon Co. is currently in violation of trade rules by not accepting refund requests from dozens of customers.
    WM is a company that is incorporated and operates on U.S. soil and is therefore subject to U.S. laws. Sometimes FTC cases result in refunds for the people affected.
    This list includes recent FTC cases that resulted in refunds. If you’d like information about how the FTC’s refund programs work, take a look at the Office of Claims and Refunds Annual Report.
  • Déposer une plainte auprès de l’autorité de protection des consommateurs en Europe (liste complète). 
  • Dien een klacht in bij de autoriteit voor consumentenbescherming in Europa (volledige lijst).
  • Beschwerde bei der Verbraucherschutzbehörde in Europa einreichen (vollständige Liste).

How can I submit a consumer complaint to the FTC?

To report fraud, identity theft, or an unfair business practice, visit ftc.gov/complaint, click on the FTC Complaint Assistant icon, and answer the questions.

The more information you can provide about the situation, the more useful your complaint will be. If possible, be prepared to provide:

  • Your contact information: name, address, phone number, email
  • The type of product or service involved
  • Information about the company or seller: business name, address, phone number, website, email address, representative’s name
  • Details about the transaction: the amount you paid, how you paid, the date.

It’s up to you to determine how much personal information you want to provide. Providing your contact information will make it easier if they need to reach you to obtain additional information about your complaint.

The FTC Complaint Assistant will guide you through a series of steps.ftc

ftc2

In step 3 you must fill in the information about the company. Now, in the image below you can see WaterMelon’s data, taken from a search on Iowa government’s business database.
You can download a PDF copy here Business Entity Summary – WATERMELON CO.), or do your own search here (just search for watermelon). As a curiosity, Watermelon’s legal name is not Watermelon Games, but Watermelon Co. Also, the address on the record is the address of the agent who incorporated them (NEPPLE LAW, PLC). WM still shows the address of the offices Tulio rented on its website. WaterMelon left that space in 2015.

FTC4As Company Website, I prefer to use the magicalgamefactory site over the other sites associated with WM (paprium.com, watermelon-games.com) because most people bought the game through MGF.com. However, for the e-mail address I use the domain watermelon-games.com, because WM *customer service* is sending all claims to that domain.

Alternatively, you can also file a claim at econsumer.gov

The form is virtually identical to the one on the FTC site, but for international frauds. It would be interesting if someone complained about the Hong Kong headquarters of Watermelon. Here the data taken from their site watermelon-games.com. At least there is a phone number!hongko.png

Of course we rely on information provided by the company itself, and may be outdated.

You can file your claim with the Attorney General’s Office in every state. It is the body in charge of consumer protection in each state.

If you are a Paypal user and did not make a claim you could try, although the experience of other users shows that WM already put that money into Fonzie’s accounts and that having exceeded the period of 180 days, Paypal is not able to make a chargeback. Still, you could try.
People have been more successful recovering money through their Bank (in cases where payment was made from a bank account via Paypal and not with a Paypal balance). It seems that this is the most effective way to achieve a WM refund.

Customers from other countries can turn to the consumer protection agencies of each country.

You are a consumer, and the actions of Watermelon Co. are regulated by federal and state laws. If you feel that this company violated the sales contract, there are laws that protect you.
Please consider taking action to let the authorities know about Watermelon Co.’s situation. There is no guarantee that you will get your money back, or that WM will give you the game. The situation is very serious. And that’s why I think Gwenael Godde has crossed the line, and he’s violating laws.
You’re not a little child anymore. Someone promised you a product and took your money, and you didn’t get anything. There are laws for cases like this. There are websites for cases like this. Do your part. Along with others you can stop cases like Paprium from happening again.

Featured

Paprium: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

PAPRIUM GAMEPLAY (20 min)

 

Things that happened at the Paprium party and left backers with even more questions than before…

  • Game is glitchy as fuck
  • No music
  • No enemies
  • Game PCB has wires and stuff coming out of it.

Post-party theories

  • Game broken? No, PCB broken (the very unit he brought to the party). 
  • Game broken? No, console broken
  • Game broken? No, old demo to avoid spoiling the game.
  • Game broken? No, debug mode
  • Game broken? Yes, but fixable this year
  • Game broken? Yes, but fixable before 2023
  • Game broken? Yes, and it can’t be fixed
  • Game broken? Yes. Fixable? Uh… “I need an external investor” (Fonzie whispered)
Featured

Rise and fall of Watermelon Games, or the inexistence of Paprium (a fan theory)

This will probably be the last post from this blog (except for a short ‘I told you so’ in November, when Fonzie throws in a new excuse).

In fact, I wasn’t going to publish anything again, because I thought I had already made my point. But since an important website picked up the news, I’m going to present one last theory. A more global explanation (more “holistic”, if you will) for the inexplicable.

TL;DR Determined to make the game with the best graphics for Genesis/MD, Gwénaël Godde takes a shortcut using different hardware than planned. Trying to retrofit it proves unsuccessful. The project went dormant until he launched a hype campaign to raise funds to achieve this goal. Of course this only increased the problems. 

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to convince anyone. People have already taken sides for or against WM. When they say that this blog is a Fonzie marketing move, it’s disheartening. I recently learned that you can’t change the opinion of others, at least on the Internet. Read the following lines under your responsibility, and draw your own conclusions.

 

Project Y “Paprium” TIMELINE

timeline

In this graphic, the blue vertical bars represent communications from WM. Basically, post on its official blog (https://www.magicalgamefactory.com) and its Twitter account (@watermelongames). I didn’t include Facebook, because many posts are shared between both social networks, and many elements have been deleted over the years.
The red continuous line represents the messages in the official thread for the game at sega-16.com (http://www.sega-16.com/forum/showthread.php?22142-Paprium-Official-Thread).

The colored areas are different phases that the game has gone through, usually between two completion dates.
The band above the chart is who was in charge of WM, with a green start, during the command of Tulio Cardoso Gonçalves, until a black end, for obvious reasons, with the reign of G.G. “Fonzie.”

In 75 months they spread 105 messages through their official channels. That’s a healthy 1.4 messages per month, loaded with ‘juicy’ information, technical details, game images, maybe a demo?

Well, not really… First, the quality of the information provided by the guys Watermelon was always laughable, to put it mildly. And second, it was never constant. They went through long periods of absolute radio silence. People were deliberately kept in the dark.

If you count the months with zero messages, it’s 52. Yeah, you read that right. 52 months without messages about the most important project for this company. 52 months in which they did not answer, report, or explain what was going on with the game to the (presumably) thousands of people who gave money to make the game happen.

And before anyone says, ‘oh, actually in month X, there was a post…’, go and count messages in their Twitter account (not replies), and on magicalgameFactory.com. Of course I don’t include what came up on Pier Solar or other projects. Of course I do not include what team members have expressed in various forums, as well as WM forums. That’s gossip. If you are a company, or a serious group, you want people to accept your information through formal channels (official accounts). Well, on those formal channels, the company, in a period of 75 months, has been silent for 52.

Regarding Paprium, for more than 4 years, Fonzie has had his lips sealed.

Let’s use a lighter format. Let’s pretend to be Snopes.com and ponder the truthfulness of some of the statements concerning Paprium and what WaterMelon was, in general. And let’s start with that last statement, if you will. I’m using three main sources: SEGA-16 forum, video of Luis Martins with St1ka, and the video of Tulio in Muscatine.

The number of months in which WM has not advanced information on this project totals almost 4.5 years.

TRUE – See explanation above. 

 

Watermelon is a real company.

MIXED – Of course, Watermelon is a company incorporated in the state of Iowa, US in February 2009. BUT: 

  • WM has no offices. The office in Muscatine was closed some time later, after Tulio broke up the partnership. Godde’s current whereabouts are unknown. 
  • WM has no employees. WM has always worked in a distributed manner. People were hired ad-hoc, to perform specific tasks, and once their part was done, they were not presented with a new task. If at some point all the staff who worked on Pier Solar or Paprium had wanted to have that family picture of the company taken, you know, when all the employees get together on the same day and say “cheese”, people would have had to travel from all over the world. There’s nothing wrong with having staff in different parts of the globe. But, currently the company has no contracts with anyone. Although there is a game to be made, all involved claim that their tasks are complete. There’s nothing left to do. Art: done. Music: done. Programming: done. Except for some mythical workers in China, who have been described testing the game, making it, stockpiling it, testing it again, at different times, sometimes in reverse order. 
  • WM has a meager source of income. For a company that bases its sales on hype (not a criticism, they sell cultural products that lose their appeal after a while -just like movies or pop music), not having new stuff in the shed is harmful. The only source of income I can think of is selling digital copies of Pier Solar on Steam and GOG. But obviously the bulk of those sales have already occurred. Now all that’s left are the crumbs. WM is right now an empty husk, a broken egg shell. It was once a duo, who together with other people created a game. Now it’s a tax form in a bank in Iowa, and an elusive Frenchman who tweets “soon” from time to time.

 

Pier Solar is the only Watermelon game

TRUE – WM is a one-hit wonder. Pier Solar on Genesis is not a different experience from the more modern platforms. It’s the same game. Yes, graphics are better, yes, tweaks were made here and there, but it’s the same game. The creative forces did not spring up again, the stars did not line up so that WM could say, “Behold, our second game”. Their gunpowder got wet. They lost the rabbit’s foot. In ten years (fourteen if we count the prehistory of Tulio-Gwénaël, back in 2004), they could not come up with anything else. They never got past Tavern RPG.

 

Fonzie is a talented programmer

doubt

ok, here is when is put the ‘false’ rating, but I really don’t know. I will put a “doubt” instead of a “false”. I am almost certain that it is false, but I have no confirmation, only hints.

Doubt – Gwénaël Godde was known as Fonzie Voltnov, back in the day. Doesn’t sound very Gallic, does it? Maybe it’s her mom’s maiden name. The guy certainly has a Rasputin flair. By googling that name, a lot of information about Bigstache comes up, when he was making his first steps in the retro community. Besides a series of demos (most of which are available on http://www.genny4ever.net/index.php?page=works), we only know of one piece of software other than Pier Solar: Mighty Mighty Missile. And it’s not that good. 

072820
The longer you look at it…

There’s a story behind this game. In Fonzie’s own words:

 It is my first attempt to program a game for the Mega Drive/Mega CD, and of course, it is originally based on ChuChu Rocket. Due to some sound issues (Mega Drive sound tools were not available back in 2003), I decided to do a Mega CD release under a different name. A guy called Mask of Destiny did the Sega CD sound driver and I coded the whole game. Both were coded from scratch, and it was very challenging. Oldergames was going to publish the game, so we sent a beta of the game to make a show at Classic Gaming Expo 2004, and those guys decided to publish the beta instead of waiting for the final. It was a big, bad flop.

Then Good Deal Games decided to publish it again, the final version this time. I think there were more betas sold than final. Some bad reviews were written, which doomed the game. In my opinion, even if the sound can get glitchy (never happened in my copy), it is still a great tribute to Sega. (Editor’s note: Mask of Destiny is one of the first fans who did Mega CD coding. He used ASM loading and PCM routines and has made a sound engine for the system. He helped Fonzie with the Mighty Mighty Missile project and also a cartridge dump cable via the Mega CD, which is available for purchase at Fonzie’s website.)

Here we see Fonzie Voltnov pumping up his product:wow

Rest assured, he delivers:sooner.png

Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20041012071519/http://fvring.free.digitartstudio.com:80/index.php?main=hom

At that time he was very active in the forum segaxtreme.net. He even opened a thread to beg another user to help him with the sound of Mighty Mighty Missile. Quite sad. 

Checking fonzievoltnov profile is like finding an old slide on the street. A window to a time that has passed, a snapshot that is losing its colours. That was almost 15 years ago. And to be honest, I think that rookie version of Fonzie was better. When he tried to be part of the community, he would participate with demos, ask others for help without fear. He was naive, humble… Heck, old Fonzie would have proved me right:64col

Old Godde was good Godde. Except for the hate speech.hate

Fifteen years down the road, this guy knows every trick, he knows every atom of silicon in the VDP. Or at least that’s what people tell me. Let us suppose for a moment that it is so. What good has it done him? This Mozart of the assembler is seeing his effort to show the world his talent frustrated by: a) Baggage handlers who do their work badly b) Someone at Paypal c) a chip. It is not a multiple-choice test. It’s an enumeration, a list. That happened, according to Fonzie, in that order. And that keeps us from playing the best game for Sega Genesis/MD. I’m glad other talented programmers haven’t had to deal with AirFrance or Paypal service, nor have they relied on a custom chip to implement one of their games. John Carmack,  Éric Chahi really dodged a bullet there. 

I guess it’s like the saying goes, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. One would expect that age-long experience would yield more and better games. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both in number and quality, Gwénaël Godde’s production has decreased. And yes, I’m saying that Paprium has less quality than Pier Solar, because, for all practical purposes, Paprium doesn’t exist yet. Nobody has played it, ergo its quality is zero or nil (it is not a judgment or criticism, if something does not have a tangible reality it cannot be qualified or evaluated in its quality. One can infer and hope that something is good, but that has more to do with faith.)

Fonzie may be a competent programmer. His history reflects a guy who started out wanting to conquer the world, and is now sinking with the Titanic, which he designed himself. He went from putting his products in people’s hands, when he was 19, to avoiding, lying and defrauding that same people. Remember that his last product was Pier Solar (2010). For the last eight years, Fonzie has been “non-producing”, “non-programming”. Last six years (a fucking fifth of his life) dedicated to a product that doesn’t fully take hold. In a fraction of that time new projects have arrived. People with more, same and less talent than him have managed to get games out in a matter of two or three semesters, not twelve (and counting). 

 

Watermelon Games “GEMS” system was a total mess

TRUE – Apparently this was Tulio’s idea [UPDATE: Tulio claims it wasn’t his idea] . Gems are (were) a way to exchange your money for WM products. At first I thought that this convoluted system was simply a protection against fraud accusations . This is very common in multi-level scams, especially those involving tokens. But then I realized it was just a marketing strategy that didn’t work, and eventually ended up hurting the company. Let’s see why.
Gems are tokens (or credits). These credits have two functions. One, to acquire the WM games. Second is to influence the design of such games. Tulio has explained that WM was different from other indie developer groups in that they hear feedback from players. Customers have voting power over artistic decisions during game creation. Or that was the pitch.

While the motto that “we do this because we love to make retro games, not for money” is almost universal in the retro community, the facts show that the pursuit of profit drives a lot of choices when it comes to creating games. I’m not judging that. I want to emphasize that money is essential for a campaign of this kind (launching a game in physical format). Interfering with the cash flow can be lethal. And Tulio and Gwénaël did exactly that.

Simply put, the idea was that customers, excited at the prospect of their ideas being heard, would buy thousands of gems. As more gems were more votes, someone with deep pockets could (if that was his or her intention), basically, get a tailor-made game. Of course, with thousands of player-customers, the chances of someone doing that get a little thinner. Even so, Tulio declared that he “could see” people buying more and more gems, as they noticed that the election was taking a direction they didn’t like.

Now, that sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Here’s why it didn’t work out:

  • Complete misunderstanding of their user base. In a way, people who buy games for retro platforms are the ideal customer. These are fairly accommodating buyers (because they don’t see themselves as buyers). It may sound blunt, but people are willing to buy anything as long as it has gold fingers. So, what is the need to involve people? Just make a good game and sell it. Someone will say, “Oh, but it’s nicer when customers participate”. Well, that may be true (although Steve Jobs and Alan Kay would disagree). Which brings us to the next point.
  • Watermelon Games was never about openness or involving its backers. Yes, I am openly contradicting its founders. The facts back me up. Let’s remember that Pier Solar started as an RPG where the main characters would be members of the homebrew website Eidolon’s Inn. At some point that changed, and the game became your run-of-the-mill RPG.
    ffsucker
    Only self-centered Fonzie got a character with his face

     They took a unique idea, twisted it into something already rehashed a thousand times before, and made a business around it. And people loved it.
    The way they kept their clients from getting relevant information is simply insane. 

    And the steps they took to make sure the game wasn’t pirated are ridiculous. If such was their commitment to customers, “crowd-designing” and openness, they should not only distribute the ROM on the internet for free, but also the source code. And finally, if you want people to participate so much, don’t charge for it. Involving people in the early stages of Paprium’s design was simply a marketing gimmick.

  • People don’t like to vote. They don’t want to be part of the creative process. It’s a very big burden. Again, a lack of understanding of their buyers’ psychology. Of course, you’ll always have that guy who wants to have an opinion on everything, and in the case of WM customers even more, because many are developers themselves. But you can take care of these people without charging them for it, and present the finished game to regular buyers. Choices should be limited to cartridge color, language options, packaging materials, or even the name of the game (a choice that was not allowed; today many people consider it a lousy name). 
  • The system was poorly explained. People didn’t understand what the gems were. Most people bought what they needed to get the game, and that was the end of their interaction with WM. They sat in their gems waiting for the game. Many people did not understand, or did not care that their gems resulted in voting power. Or they voted and whatever the outcome, they were happy, because they just wanted the damn game.
    WM staff made no effort to educate their customers on these possibilities, so the system never worked as intended.
    For a typical reaction of the average customer to the “gems” system, listen to this podcast (around minute 21:00).  
  • There is a risk of underfunding. Your funding goal is development cost. But if you divide that by the number of copies you owe your investors, you just made a presale. Other rewards, especially intangible ones, are usually added to help people give out more money than is strictly necessary to get copies. That way fewer people give more money, while it is compensated with exclusive rewards, which separate them from those who buy the game in presales, or when it goes on sale. And I just described crowdfunding.
    The folks at WM added another layer (thinking they were ingenious). They expected from every customer, not just the $50 a copy, but to buy more gems to secure some exclusive rewards, and also (here comes Fonzie and Tulio’s innovation) to buy gems to influence voting. It was the final stage of skimming customers. They made a website just for that (magicalgamefactory.com of course).
    They imagined that people, just for the sake of being right, just to see one idea come to fruition, would dump thousands of gems, seeking to outbid other people. It was an auction of game features. Only that to people (desperate as they are to put a cartridge in their Sega console) any feature was fine. There was no real incentive to pour gems beyond the copies.
    If the total they needed included the “auctioning of features” monies, and that fails, or is less successful than expected, your funding failed. Because of the way they handled it, I don’t think it was successful.
    If it was a way to fleece their customers, and they were just being greedy, well, then the system could have had some use.
  • They didn’t taste their own medicine. They used Kickstarter to fund Pier Solar HD. I guess the extra advertising and exposure that KS gives was worth that 5% of over a quarter of a million dollars.
    If Kickstarter advertising was so important, why didn’t they use it for other projects (they could have run a campaign for Project Y/Paprium and no one would have batted an eyelash. Let us remember that not a year had passed since the project was launched).
    If the gems system was so successful, why give thousands of dollars to a crowdfunding platform when you already have one (kinda).
  • It’s fishy. Tokens are widely used in online scams, especially in pyramids or multi-level scams. By turning users’ money into tokens, the fraudster has already fulfilled his duty by giving them a “product”. The “purchase” is already done. They bought something, because the fraudster convinced them that it was “necessary” to do it that way. What he really wanted was money for nothing. Your money well earned in exchange for a token that today can give you what you crave, and tomorrow can be “degraded” to be worth almost nothing, leaving you empty-handed.
    At first I thought that was the use of Fonzie’s gems. But then I realized it wasn’t the case. WM never altered the price of the gems (10 gems, one dollar). And they had a more than erratic path with purchase “windows” (further confusing people); a con man would have kept selling gems as long as he could.

 

They ran out of money

MIXED –  I don’t think they hit rock bottom, but at first they were desperate for cash. I think they were really counting on the pay-for-voting thing. Because otherwise, there’s no explaining why they were selling a horrible poster for $120. 

pppnts.png
A British artist created a poster for the 20th anniversary of the MD. It was pretty simple. The limited edition of 100 copies sold for £30 ($48 at the time). Someone here is trying to justify the existence of such a piece of paper. posterlccFonzie thought he could almost triple the price. That’s crazy!
Paprium’s art director, Luis, said he was surprised by the high prices and promised to seek an alternative.lxuis

However they continued to promote the poster for over a year, as seen in this forum post from magicalgamefactory.com:gmesmgf

But people did not take the bait, because they were forced to come up with something more substantial for their customers.

postercontrWhat was that fiasco? Why are three posters worth more than a PS4? What were they thinking?!
They sold (or intended to sell) something that must cost $6 to manufacture for 20 times its value. They were sucking money from wherever they could.
In a 2014 interview, Tulio stated that there were 3,000 users registered with MagicalGameFactory [source in Portuguese].
Let’s assume that all users understood the GEMS system and invested enough to get a copy of the game. That’s $150,000. Let’s remember that Paprium wasn’t the only project that was funded by the system, there was that N project. So arbitrarily, let’s say that of those 3k users, two-thirds invested in Paprium. $100,000 to fund the game.
Not bad. That’s more than Xeno Crisis got in Kickstarter ($90,000). It is a project of similar complexity, in which very talented artists are involved.

So $260,000 for Pier Solar HD, between $150,000 and $100,000 for Paprium, this indie studio had $400,000 at its disposal, and yet they tried to steal from its users with some painted sheets of paper.
Or maybe Tulio was misrepresenting the numbers of users (I don’t see why, 3000 is compatible with Pier Solar cartridges runs; it is reasonable to assume that most of the buyers were the first to subscribe to the MGF platform).
Or even worse, that many users didn’t even invest $50 in the game. I think I already proved that the system was actually hurting the company.

I suspect the funding for Paprium was actually much less. Tulio made it his mission to take care of the proper use and spending of Kickstarter’s funds, and Fonzie had to deal with projects that were slowly approaching deadlines, with a funding system that was ill-conceived. A better reading of the situation, and less stubbornness in making decisions, would possibly have led to shutting down the inefficient MGF and turning to KS again.

When they unveiled the trailer, there was a second “funding round”. Hype was very strong, and Fonzie made the most of it economically. In fact, the only purpose of running a hype campaign was to get fresh funds, and buy more time, by making the public believe that the launch was imminent. Last-minute “delays” take effect because people are still mindful of the trailer, and keep an eye on the game.
It is my conviction that the game was “completed” (or something very much like a playable game was put together) in 2014.

Trailer went viral. And the cash started flowing into Fonzie’s accounts. Let’s do the math. I know I’m pulling these numbers out of my ass, but it serves as a basis for knowing how much money vanished by making this vaporware.
166k views in the first month, minus 3k users who had already purchased: 163k potential customers. Using a typical video advertising conversion rate (1.38%) we have about 2250 new customers. For convenience, let’s just say the trailer’s effort paid off in two thousand orders. That’s $138,000 (the price of a copy changed from $50 with the GEMS system to $69, shipping included, during presale).
Does that sound like a lot? Your trailer was seen in the last year by almost 300,000 people. If you managed to convince 1304 people (0.43%) to reserve a copy for $69, you will have $90,000: same amount as Xeno Crisis.

By this I mean that Paprium began his life with a dubious, complicated and inefficient financing scheme. Its creators used questionable tactics to try to reach their goal. And yet the game (or something very similar) was ready within two years (spring 2012 to summer 2014). Then, faced with the reality that the game was impossible to retrofit into the target console (Sega Genesis), excuses were given, or simply nothing was communicated (see the graph at the beginning of the “valley of silence” between March 2014 and March 2016). Then the decision was made to double the efforts. One last attempt to capture the public’s attention, get more funds, and finally run the game on the console. I think Fonzie believed that a hardware solution could be developed, and he needed fresh funds for that. Of course the campaign was based on false advertising, false information, strategies that Mr. Godde often uses. The new funds (money from 2012~2014 gems was used up a long time ago) are used to test whether it is possible to have a special cartridge that will allow the game to run as seen in the trailer, and at the same time (important point) to meet the refund requests. So, by saying, “If you don’t trust me, ask for your refund without any problems” you can reassure your customers, and keep the appearance of reliability, that the company is still operational, and that the game is still in development. Let’s hope those funds reach October of this year, and are enough for a good lawyer.

 

Datenmeister DT128M16VA1LT chipset is fake

TRUE – I’ve talked about this in other posts. So I’ll be brief.  It’s fake and it’s just a publicity stunt because: 

  • The company that makes it doesn’t exist. Daten Semiconductors would be the company in charge of manufacturing the chip.
    Datensemi.com website is registered by Mr. Fonzie in 2013.twtWHOIS Daten Semiconductors has no links to any other technology company, is not listed as a supplier to any company (including Watermelon Games), and has no affiliation with IPC (“The global trade association serving the printed board and electronics assembly industries, their customers and suppliers“).
    ISO 9001 certification and RoHS logos appear on the homepage. The IPC logo also appears, although it is not the IPC member logo (the members’ logo includes the word “member”). This company is not a real company, is not a member of IPC, is not ISO 9001 certified, and is not a RoHS compliant manufacturer.
    The site is written in Chinese in its entirety, with no English version ( uncommon for a company that may aspire to have customers all over the world). The content of the site has remained unchanged over the last five years (again, unusual for an “innovative” company).
    The site was registered in October 2013, however, there is a banner with the text “gold supplier 2009”. There is also a copyright notice 2005-2012. So the company’s site is created years after the company started operations. Weird for a business like this.
    DT128M16VA1LT: searching for this does not provide any results on mouser.com and similar sites. The part does not exist. 

  • Its function is so vague, it could do any task. It’s a perfect example of vaporware. Since its “existence” was announced it has been:
    An audio codec chip
    A mapping chip
    A graphics acceleration chip, achieving more “parallax layers”
    A data compression chip.
    An anti-piracy device
    RAM memory
    Backup memory
    All of the above.
  • Paprium’s music was intended for a regular cartridge. In this interview in April 2017 (in the middle of Fonzie’s hype effort), David Burton, Paprium composer, explains the process of creating the music. Although Fonzie explains there that the chip will provide extra audio channels, it is clear that the music strictly uses the YM2612 chip. Considering that the music was mostly completed in 2014, when no one knew about the existence of the’Datenmeister’, it makes sense:

We used a custom made tracker code named: Wavemelon, which Tiido created. He would then routinely ask for feedback regarding bugs and features we wanted implemented. Tiido’s tracker gave us the option to create custom instruments for the YM2612, (Genesis sound chip) so if we ever needed a certain sound, all we had to do was tweak away in the software until we got the sound we wanted. I included a demo track (which you can listen to below) which demonstrates a programmed TL tweak (Total Level, a volume setting that distorts sound) right at the beginning of the track. This helps create a more dynamic sound.

The YM2612 is a 4OP chip. This means that it has four Operators (labelled in the image below as 1-4). Each Operator can be used to add depth on any given channel of a track. And by combining various parameters such as feedback, for example, all kinds of amazing sounds can be created. In a nutshell, the Mega Drive was actually a pretty powerful synth device, but only with the right tools. Yuzo Koshiro, for example, had the tools to shape his own sounds which is why his FM soundtracks sounded so good.

The Wavemelon also includes virtual cutoff and resonance knobs which can be found on most real hardware synthesizers. These offer the ability to filter sound so it can be very crisp, sharp, or muffled. Many dance acts use this technique to create variation in repetitive patterns. And thanks to the Wavemelon, we can now do it on the Mega Drive.

  • Fonzie has no in-depth knowledge of hardware. In his Tototek years he was in charge of the interface side, not pcb or component design. I wonder if he has any knowledge of VHDL. I think these lines from his former partner Tulio speak volumes.tuliz.png
  • It’s too expensive a solution. It would be totally unaffordable to use an ASIC chip or even an FPGA. Due to the volume of editions of this type (well under 10,000 units), a custom ASIC chip would be too expensive. FPGA may be more achievable, but the question is, why make the product more expensive, more complicated and delayed? But I can see Fonzie implementing an expensive solution that nobody asked for, while trying to recover money by selling posters, or leaving developers unpaid. 
  • Sound is Fonzie’s Achilles’ heel. Since its first commercial game, the sound implementation has been the nemesis of Mr Godde – why would this time be any different? He always ends up resorting to the kind charity of people who know more than he does.
  • Fonzie kept Datemeister’s existence hidden until 2017. For four years no one knew that Paprium would make use of this powerful piece of silicon. Which makes you wonder what the fuck they were going to release in 2014 (if they met that deadline), or what the fuck is so great that it deserves to be almost 5 years late to come out. 
  • If it’s a rebranded ordinary chip, there’s no point in having implementation problems that they’ re having allegedly. Some forum users have justified the creation of a fake semiconductor factory, and basically the invention of an entire Datenmeister lore, as a marketing gimmick. They say Fonzie uses a standard chip, but since he’s a marketing genius, he designs a logo, a name, and people love it. It’s purple, and it has a German name! Cool! Well, I see two problems with this. What took him so long to show it? If it’s a marketing move, why did he wait four years to do it? And why are the chip problems only now being discovered? If you didn’t have to worry about the design of the chip, if it’s something tested and used in other applications, how does such an important component that is supposedly tested thoroughly since 2014 only give us problems at the last minute? And they were testing a cartridge in 2014. It’s part of their press kit. news_y_1
  • It’s an excuse. As we know, Fonzie’s excuses have no correlation with reality. They’re lies to avoid taking responsibility. For whatever reason Fonzie created the legend of the Datenmeister (marketing, engineering gullibility, practicing Chinese), this chip provides invaluable services to him, having aborted the launch date of “early 2018”. 

 

Gwenael Godde ‘Fonzie’ is solely to blame.

TRUE – As the only person with decision-making power in the company, he is the sole responsible. His track record of actions against employees, partners and customers,  shows someone who thinks only of himself. Paprium was his idea, and he decided to turn it into something that can’t work. He took all the steps necessary to deny people the game they paid for. I believe that the collaborators closest to him know the truth, or suspect that there is no game. That all these years they’ve been trying to get to the end of the rainbow. Especially Luis Martins, who gave Paprium the cyberpunk look (which I consider remarkable). If Fonzie is Paprium’s dad, Luis is the mom. The guy still has images of Paprium as profile pic on Twitter. And he’s right to do so. In theory the project is still alive, and it is the project that most represents him. But he must also know, better than we do, because he was in WM’s “kitchen”, that there will be harsh months ahead. Months of silence and lies. So far Luis has been a valuable soldier to the cause. He was Paprium’s human face after Tulio left. And at times, he has been WM’s only link to the community. I think Fonzie has a reality distortion field. He persuades people, and puts people on his side, even if they are defending a lost cause. When Paprium’s thread at SEGA-16 stalled on a difficult subject (trailer transparency effects), Luis, the man who should have known why we were seeing what we were seeing, used a distraction to avoid the topic. lxspap

I’m not saying he behaved in a bad way. There is so much at stake for those closest to Fonzie that they cannot afford to see the project wrecked. None of this would have been necessary if Fonzie had done the right thing: not lying and keeping his patrons up to date. Some, like Zebbe, have abandoned ship. The guy you see sitting there is the same guy who edited the very first message from Paprium’s thread in SEGA-16 to describe the game as vaporware. offices

Then there’s Tulio. He seems like a nice guy, and I think the success of Watermelon/Pier Solar bears his signature. He’s someone much more reasonable than Fonzie. In the Muscatine interview, he stated that he decided to leave WM in October or November 2014, but stayed until July 2015, to ensure that Pier Solar HD was finally completed. It was always strange to me that he left the company he founded, having barely achieved one of his goals (to port Pier Solar to modern systems). Left a job to dedicate himself to WM full time, went through a successful crowdfunding campaign, and one day step aside. To start over. Disagreements with Fonzie happened because the Frenchman refused to port projects to modern consoles.But there has to be something else. Something to scare away the good Tulio, to the point where he prefers to give up everything he had achieved to keep his hands clean.
I think it was (it’s a theory, I have no proof), that Tulio discovered the true nature of Project Y. He found out how far Fonzie could go. He learned that what would keep the company afloat for years to come was basically a fraud. Tulio then left the company, giving the benefit of the doubt to his former partner. He didn’t want to make him his enemy, and after all, it was Fonzie’s project.

In conclusion

Watermelon Games is now over. Project Y/Paprium would have been developed for a more powerful platform than SEGA Genesis. This decision was motivated by Fonzie’s ambitions to be the creator of the best 16-bit game. He acted alone, and prevented his collaborators from being exposed to the truth.
His strategy of silence or misinformation is eroding the reputation that WM had achieved with Pier Solar.
When the day comes when Fonzie admits he can’t deliver the game, or delivers a much inferior version than promised, he will have broken ties with very talented collaborators, who believed in him, and will have the rejection of the people he betrayed.
I believe that real efforts were made to bring the game to market between 2013 and 2014. As a result of this work, the game got its graphic art, and music. It is possible that the complexity of the game, and Fonzie’s interest in preserving the graphic splendor achieved by the pixel artists, caused him to use some shortcuts. He may have used libraries for Neo Geo instead of Sega Genesis.
He could also have programmed the game for PC. Transparency effects can result from video editing. This would constitute false advertising.
The pictures released in 2014 do not differ much from the trailer footage.  The shortage of images or video gameplay does not allow you to assess how many levels were created, or the actual scale of the game. The game made no obvious progress between 2014 and 2017~2018, which is in line with the theory that the development of the game stopped in 2014, and since then Fonzie has been looking for a way to (really) implement it on Sega Genesis. Fonzie believes (or believed) that a hardware solution is possible, with a “magic” chip in the cartridge. The 2017 release of the game would have been to raise funds to develop such a solution (not Fonzie in person, but outside talent). Fonzie also knows that if that’s not possible, the game (and WM) has no future. He gave himself until October of this year, and said it is “the last chance”.

For all that, I have no hope that the game will come out in October, nor ever. All that remains is to wait a few months. Probably Fonzie will give another excuse. We’ll see how many he persuades.

 

 


My sources are
Paprium: Official Thread
Tulio Goncalves, 2Dream video game developers @Startup Grind Muscatine
St1ka’s Retro Corner Live Stream: Mega Drive (Feat. Paprium Art Director, Luis Martins)

 

Follow me on Twitter

@paprium_fiasco