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How a 'perfect' troll got through Kickstarter's defenses and sunk a game's campaign

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Running a Kickstarter is more or less a full-time job. Interacting with the fans, spreading the word to the press and managing all aspects of a campaign is both time-consuming and often emotionally draining, so what does one do when a troll sinks a months worth of work?

One developer is, sadly, trying to figure that out.

2Awesome Studio was trying to raise €30,000 for its game Dimension Drive, and the campaign seemed to be all but saved by a €7,000 pledge during the final day of the campaign. You can see the team's reaction on the livestream; a long, hard campaign was successful, and they would be able to make their game.

Kickstarter caught on to the fact that the pledge was fraudulent, but the timing was perfect in the worst way. The campaign was sunk.

What happened

"What we know for sure now is that someone made a fraudulent pledge in our campaign, that got removed by the Kickstarter guys 31 min before the end," David Jiminez told Polygon.

So with less than an hour to go, in the middle of night, the team suddenly had to come up with €7,000, a nearly impossible task. The celebration turned to panic as the deadline passed and the campaign wasn't funded.

"Honestly speaking it has been a exhausting month for us," Jiminez said "We have been working really hard to make our campaign a success, and right now we are speechless, demoralized, you name it.

"Honestly, starting from scratch is something that we don't consider now we are too exhausted. We have contacted Kickstarter to see if we can get some extra days or some kind of extension to fix this. Still waiting for a reply."

We reached out to Kickstarter, but they didn't have much to say that would be comforting to the team.

"We work hard to keep Kickstarter a safe and trusted platform. Our Integrity Team actively monitors the system with a range of tools, and acts on reports from our community," a Kickstarter spokesperson told Polygon. "We don’t tolerate abuse of our system, and when we identify users who are acting in bad faith, we don’t hesitate to take action. We've suspended this user's account and are canceling any pledges they've made."

Kickstarter continues to look into the situation, and the company is trying to find ways to prevent this from happening again.

That's a good step, but it doesn't help the affected campaign.

This should be impossible

The Kickstarter terms of use actually make it rather difficult to troll campaigns in this way. The sort of thing this person pulled shouldn't have this negative, and immediate, a reaction. These are the rules designed to stop people from ruining campaigns by pulling support at the last minute.

You can change or cancel your pledge at any time before the project’s funding deadline (with one exception). You can increase, decrease, or cancel your pledge at any time during the campaign, with one exception. During the last 24 hours of the campaign, you can’t decrease or cancel your pledge without contacting customer support first — if that action would drop the project below its funding goal. Once the project has been funded, you can only cancel or change your pledge by making special arrangements directly with the creator.

Here's the problem: This mystery backer didn't try to pull the total. The Kickstarter system itself detected fraudulent activity and yanked the pledge, but it did so at the worst possible time for this particular campaign.

So while Kickstarter has good rules to prevent trolling, the terms of use were more or less beaten by Kickstarter's own automated system. It's a very strange, and likely rare, edge case in terms of a pledge being removed, but that's cold comfort to the team impacted by the issue.

This is, in many ways, the perfect troll. There's little anyone could have done to stop it, and the timing of the pledge coming in and ultimately being removed sunk the campaign completely. It seems like the perfect combination of malice and terrible luck, and it did the maximum possible damage.

The rules forbid you from pulling a pledge in the last 24 hours if it would hurt the campaign, but by using a fraudulent payment method, either by accident or design, Kickstarter's own systems did the troll's work for them.

"We agree that Kickstarter did exactly what they had to," Jiminez told Polygon. "It's just that in our case the timing was brutal. We were funded and we get nothing now. We are of course not blaming Kickstarter. Only this troll."