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RUMOR: Heavy Gear Assault in Trouble, Devs Unpaid Since July

Posted Jan 14, 2016 by William Murphy

RUMOR: Heavy Gear Assault in Trouble, Devs Unpaid Since July

We have been getting reports from (former) employees of Heavy Gear Assault developer MekTek and Stompy Bot Coporation that not only has development of the mech-based action MMO slowed to a crawl, but the former and current employees of the company haven't been paid since leaving for Gamescom in 2015. Read on for direct quotes from two former employees, as well as a rebuttal from MekTek CEO Vince McMillan who refutes said claims.

In short, something is going on with Heavy Gear Assault and its employees, but what's not clear is what exactly that something is.  Multiple employees are reporting that they have not been paid since July 2015, and have such exhausted savings and moved on to other jobs. Yet, as recently as November 15, 2015, Stompy Bot is reporting that it closed its first tranche of financing. If that's the case, you'd assume the employees would have been compensated, right?

Our sources requested to remain anonymous, but we have confirmed their previous positions at the company. Here are their tales. First:

The developers (of Heavy Gear Assault) haven't been paid since July. As such, there is only one person working on the game. One of the programmers can actually live without a paycheck, and he got various family members to pitch in and invest thousands of dollars into the game's development.

It happened, of course, right as GamesCom was happening. The story changes depending on when the question is asked, but the short answer was that the game wasn't ready to go to the public, and suddenly the booth we were supposed to have didn't happen because a check bounced. Then another check to get equipment there. We were all assured that our checks would go through just fine.

Of course, they didn't.

We were told that the money was tied up in a trust, and there was plenty there but they overspent so the board members would need to look things over to make sure nobody was trying to walk away with the money. The next week, it was that a board member was "somewhere in South America". Weeks turned to months, with promises of pay (and back pay) while everyone's savings dried up.

The prompt for reaching out and telling people that the product is dead has a number of straws. The last one was the link above, talking about all the work that would be happening, and, of course, a "restructuring of the dev team". Which, if he means "one person's working on it because nobody has been paid", then that'd be more of a layoff.

The fact that the company is saying it's bringing in money, but has yet to actually pay anyone. We were all told that the round of investing was done, and we just needed to get the check. That was back in November, which goes to the other other straw breaking the back.

Management haven't spoken to the dev team in months. Funnily, since November and before that it was quite sporadic at best.

And for a bit more detail into the whole situation from our second former employee:

You see, all of the Mektek/Stompybot team were in crunch mode for the month of July to prepare for a big showing at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. From my understanding, we had reserved a large space and all the bells and whistles for the booth and the plan was to send a crew over to work and promote Heavy Gear Assault.

Shortly before Gamescom, things suddenly changed. We no longer were sending a squad of 6-10 workers, but it was just Vince (CEO) and John (Marketing) who were going and it was a bare bones set up with one small area in the Canadian section. While they were in Germany, we were due to be paid our salaries - but it never happened and we were not able to connect with them while they were overseas.

When they returned, we were assured 100% that the problem was because our bank account was overdrawn (due to Gamescom expenses) and that it required all the signatures from our investors but there was one missing and could not be contacted. At least, that's what we were told. During this time, we continued to work because we were told that the money was there, it just needed to be released.

With that investor still at large in South America somewhere (or so we were told) we were told to hold off on working until they could get us paid (these was a couple of weeks later). Well when that story could no longer be believed, we were finally told a different story and how the investor backed out. So they were trying to find new ones. 

I must also say that during this time, not once did our leaders arrange any timely updates. There was one company call during these past 6 months that we invited the CEO to and basically blindsided him to get any information. Since then, the company went public with stocks available and during all this time, still has a player base buying into the game (I do not have the numbers of how much that has yielded).

Our last official communication/update from our leader Vince was in November. He has refused to tell us anything concerning the status of any monies or investments into the company. Our other higher ups have also remained silence - as if there is a gag order in effect, not saying anything to us no matter how much we beg or demand.

The players finally became sick of the radio silence (community updates) and the very limited patch updates done by one particular developer who is doing all he can by volunteering his time to keep the game afloat. They created a forum post/petition demanding for some kind of update. Our illustrious CEO Vince responded without any tact whatsoever and the players as well as the developers have felt like they've been slapped in the face. The update he provided was untruths and unfortunately this is the first update we've heard from him internally in all these months.

It's time to end this charade and that is why I am writing this. There needs to be accountability. The workers at Stompybot/Mektek are in the dark and haven't been paid in over 6 months. Many have had to uproot their lives drastically and in a panic because payment was never received. We were told several times that the money was coming and to hold on, only to get no future updates and no money. We have lost hope for the company and our corporate team but we never, ever wished the players to be punished for this sad situation and the lack of accountability from the company. 

We reached out to Stompy Bot CEO Vince MacMillan who had this to say on the matter:

Heavy Gear Assault is currently undergoing extensive regression testing and we are upgrading to Unreal Engine 4.10 along with a series of infrastructure upgrades to launch our eSports module in Q2/Q3 2016. During regression testing the production has been restructured.

We then followed up: What does restructured mean? Are the employees still on the project, are you hiring new members? Will the previous employees be compensated for their work?  Mr. MacMillan assured us that employees are being compensated, and asked us to divulge our sources, which we declined to do. 

If development is ongoing with a new team, why were the previous employees unpaid for their work? Why has there been little to no communication from the team to its customers?

We are currently waiting on further clarification of the development and employment situation at Stompy Bot and MekTek, and we ask that any and all current or past employees who are willing to speak to the situation either do so here in the comments, or email us directly at editor at mmorpg dot com (and news at mmorpg dot com).

We'll update the story as we learn more. 

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William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.