Adventures with a client who won’t pay

Over at Secret Lab, we’ve been dealing with a client who won’t pay. Since October last year, we’ve been working on a gorgeous iPad application for a big name client who has been nothing but full of praise for our (quite frankly, amazingly good) work. They have literally sent emails thanking us and telling us how great the work has been.

Per our standard terms, we don’t turn over source code and ownership of source code until the final payment. They accepted this, in writing, up front. It’s pretty standard stuff.

The client has been hard to pin down, and has declared how busy they are are travelling the world (join the club, we travel all the time and respond instantly) and generally being very important, by way of explanation to their lack of responsiveness (not our problem, but whatever). They have also disappeared or been unreachable for large periods after the app shipped to the App Store and went live.

There was some squabbling by the client over this (I imagine they probably didn’t read what they agree to, pretty standard stuff — we suspected they hadn’t read the terms when we started getting emails complaining that we were over budget. We were not over budget by a single cent), and when they refused to pay until they received the source code we renegotiated (after offering escrow, and a few other options), and arrived upon: they’d pay 50% of the remaining owing, we’d send the code, they’d immediately send the other 50% payment.

They paid the first 50% (late, I might add) and we immediately (literally, immediately) sent the code along. They have yet to pay the other 50%.

Now, months after the app shipped (literally months after the client shipped the app to the App Store and is collecting the IAP revenue), and weeks after they were meant to pay the second 50%, they have declared that it is ‘terrible’ and ‘horribly broken’, and are refusing to pay until they fix it. (I say they fix it, because while we’ve offered — even though we’re definitely not obligated to — they haven’t given us a bug report.)

It’s at this point I should add: after shipping the first release to the App Store, the client activated an optional final milestone in our agreement for us to perform some additional work on any bugs discovered since launch. All were minor, and largely cosmetic (the client supplied the list), and we shipped that build off to them. They have yet to set it live, and if there was a ‘terrible’, ‘horribly broken’ issue with the first version that shipped we’d have expected them to include that on the list of things to fix for that milestone (and if they were so unhappy with us why did they activate that milestone?)

Despite the client disappearing for a number of weeks in between the app shipping and them turning up and declaring it broken we, of course, offered to take a look into the issue they were seeing.

No bug report was forthcoming and the client went back to ignoring us. So we got our lawyer involved, and the client responded with a video showing the app not working to our lawyer. They didn’t supply a bug report, or credentials that result in the broken experience the video showed. Nothing useful, just a video. (We can’t reproduce the issue, but aren’t accusing them of lying; software is software. Software has bugs. While they had ample opportunity to report such a bug, and while we’re no longer really obligated to look into it, we would, because we like our clients. We just need an actual bug report, not a video, and not emails ranting about how everything is broken without providing context or requested information).

We’re owed nearly $50,000 AUD, and are very very out of pocket. The client throws around such comments as “it’s not that much money”, and “money is not the problem” but doesn’t take us up on our very generous offer to take a look into their issues regardless (and, indeed, only sent a video when our lawyer got involved. The video isn’t helpful to actually investigate the problem.)

We’re now in the position of having to take what seemed like a dream client to court for an amount of money that, while not very much in the scheme of things, makes a big difference to a small business that’s very selective with who it takes as a client.

Suffice to say, it hurts us, big time, and makes the difference between being able to go to a conference where we might find more work, and having to stay home. Or, you know, fund the popular open source project we work on.

I guess that we’re lucky that we’ve never had to really deal with this before in our nearly 12 years of existence.

Recommendations welcome. My email is paris@paris.id.au ❤️

Doing things the hard way

This year, Jon gave a talk at GDC called “Making Night in the Woods Better with Open Source”. In it, he talked about how Night in the Woods (which came out last month and you should totally go buy) used the open source process in its development.

Unlike most of our other talks, we did something a little ridiculous with this one – we built an entire presentation system, from scratch, into Night in the Woods. We’re actually pretty proud of this, and so we put together a video showing how it was done. Check it out!

 

 

Online Swift Training

This event has now passed! But there’ll be more in the future! If you want to learn Swift, check out our brand new book: Learning Swift.

Online Swift TrainingSuper awesome! Next week we’ll be running live online Swift programming training through O’Reilly Media. You can learn more and sign up over on the O’Reilly Media site.

The gist of it is: you’ll join us live online for a day of Swift programming, where we’ll teach you the language, how to use it for iOS (or OS X) programming, and where to learn more. Everyone will get a video of the training afterwards, as well as an ebook copy of our brand new Learning Swift book.

TasJam Game Jam

Over the weekend we participated on the first TasJam Game Jam. TasJam is a statewide game jam event, held simultaneously in Hobart, Launceston, and Burnie, and was organised by the Tasmanian Game Development Society.

TasJam 2015

The weekend was absolutely fantastic, and the organisers did a brilliant job of running the jam, and the mentors/judges who came down from Melbourne –– Kamina (from Tin Man Games), Lauren, and Katie (both from Lumi Consulting) –– were all really insightful, and such a positive presence at the jam. It was a great environment to get things done in, and there was a lot of great feedback and ideas shared amongst participants.

Game from TasJam 2015 by Secret Lab

Jon and I spent our time repurposing assets from one of the games we’re building at Secret Lab –– Gnome’s Well –– and building a single-stick multiplayer shooter game. The game involves wizard hats waking up to prevent the the wizard’s treasure from being stolen by invading gnomes using drone-copters. We think it’s pretty fun, and it came out really well for such a short build.

It was a great opportunity for us to learn how to use game controllers, which are not something that we’ve ever used before! We were also super-impressed when we rebuilt the game (which we built using Unity) for iOS, and it ran flawlessly on an iPad Air 2 using MFi game controllers.

Game from TasJam 2015 by Secret Lab

You can find more pictures, as well as videos and photos on the Secret Lab Tumblr. I also took a lot of photos at the event, and you can find those on my Flickr. TasJam used itch.io for submissions, so don’t forget to check out all the awesome games there.

You can download our prototype if you have a Mac and some PS3/PS4 controllers to pair to it, as well! Thanks to Jason and Ducky for organising such an awesome event!

GovHack 2015 Wins!

Question Time from GovHack 2015 –– art by Rex SmealThe (Inter)national GovHack 2015 Red Carpet awards were held in Sydney last night! The game –– Question Time –– that I created together with Jon, Tim, Josh, Arabella, Rex, and Sebastian, won a few awards! They are:

  • 1st Place for Best Open Government Data Hack (sponsored by the Department of Finance and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
  • 2nd Place for Best Entrepreneurial Hack (sponsored by Telstra and the Department of Industry)

Locally, in the Tasmanian prizes, we won:

  • the Design Excellence award, for the most usable, complete and appealing designed hack;
  • and the Most Disruptive award!

The hard work of everyone on the team really pulled off! Every year I participate in GovHack, the quality improves, and the team work really makes it come together beautifully.

The full list of winners, international, national, and local, is on the GovHack website. Thanks to everyone who organises, hosts, sponsors, and participates in GovHack. It’s a huge amount of fun! This was the third time I participated, and it definitely won’t be my last.