Update 23.06.21 : After releasing the article a few more details have come to light that require clarification. While the board design is owned by Chris Smith, Currently the CAD design is actually owned by Paul Andrews who both have contacted Graham Kenny after the reveals of his purchase of Retro Computers Liquidated stock to advise they are supportive of the backer project, so long as no ‘new Vega’s are made with the original parts.
Likewise the Courtcase of Andrews/Smith vs Retro Computers Ltd(RCL)/Levy/Martin/Janko did rule in favour of the former party. However, due to the length of time since the original Indiegogo campaign ended and with RCL, etc. applying to liquidate the company the moment the court case was lost, only the costs awarded to Andrews/Smith were recovered alongside payment from Janko. None of this payment was made utilising any backer monies nor any funds obtained from RCL/Levy/Martin, which it appears had already disappeared at time of writing.
One positive note however is that this whole debacle did create a president which will now affect any future Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign from every getting to this point through the UK courts. Which is a minor comfort to anyone who lost capital during this whole endevour.
Court in the act
Talking about levy and Martin the judge said “ I should say, for the sake of completeness, that at times the Defendants have overstepped certain boundaries, but this has always been when they have been acting in person. I have made allowances for this. In particular, shortly after counsel had made their closing submissions, I received an email from one of the Defendants that was marked ‘private and confidential’ and that was addressed solely to me. This was highly irregular, but I have simply disregarded it. Mr Middleton had no involvement in the sending of that email.”
The judge said of Paul Andrew (about the court appearance) “I found Mr Andrews to be a credible witness. I had the opportunity to observe him closely; his answers were fluent and spontaneous, and his posture and demeanor gave me no cause for concern. There were minor inconsistencies in his evidence, but if anything, these merely confirmed that Mr Andrews was relying on imperfect recollections rather than advancing a self-serving case. It is fair to say that he occasionally asked for questions to be put again, but this was appropriate, and in my view was not an attempt to buy ‘thinking time’. There were, on three occasions, brief attempts to avoid answering Mr Middleton’s questions or to change the topic, but this did not concern me. This is because Mr Andrews immediately gave coherent and relevant answers when the same questions were put by the court; in my view, those attempts were nothing more than an attempt to spar with Mr Middleton.” (Middleton being levy and Martin’s barrister)
He then added about Andrews “In summary (and subject to the points I make below), the impression I got was that Mr Andrews was a truthful witness who was simply doing his best to assist the court.”
Online abuse to the original campaign creators
Martin and levy tired to blame Andrews for online abuse, the judge said “During the course of his closing submissions I asked Mr Middleton what direct evidence he was able to point to that linked the First Claimant with the abuse. Mr Middleton accepted (rightly, in my view) that there was none”
Sadly the social media campaigns that RCL utilised during their months to smear the original campaign owners and highlight disgruntled backers as individuals associated with the previous team alongside delays used as reasons not to produce, not to pay people, including the cost of the 1000 game licenses, parts manufacture, etc. show just how far the current team went on a personal level to hurt those that initially supported them. Hopefully none of them will ever set foot on a funding campaign again, but with information now freely available on the internet, hopefully more people will be wary before trusting them financially again.
Original article : It seems an age ago when I last dropped a news article regarding the dreaded kickstarter known as the Sinclair Spectrum Vega+, and to be honest I thought after Slopes Game Room dropped out the full story on the whole sorry saga it would be the last we heard on the tale of the handheld that almost was – except for those fleeting appearances when a rogue one turns up on ebay.
Yet here I am today to update on some rather exclusive news that been gathering momentum behind the scenes…
So the court case. Well RCL Ltd. was taken to court, with all information about the company placed wide open for review, and as we long suspected the money had indeed gone. Long spent on failed court cases, excessive expenditures, additional wages, and replacement of parts and molds, due to suspected non-payment on previous parts/molds. So with very little leftover for the creditors (of which the backers managed to be included thanks to the resilience of the Facebook group dedicated to bringing justice to those who lost out on their orders) it seemed the final chapter of the book that was available for pre-order on RCL’s very own website was finally written.
Or so it would seem..
A few questions did remain. What happened to the molds? The parts that were pictured in RCL’s often sporadic updates? The PCB’s? Luckily it seems I wasn’t the only one, as Alistair Carty of Hermit Retro Products also was looking into the viability of rebuilding the Vega Plus with his own PCB to eliminate the reported issues faced with the original design (as below) for users who did receive one, while giving others a chance to look at recreating a possible replacement.
However traction appears to have kick-started when Graham Kenny reported he had been touch behind the scenes with the liquidators to purchase stock reported to have been from RCL. These on arrival and finally shown this week, showcased everything every backer suspected. thousands of button parts and cases alongside hundreds of LCD screens and battery all earmarked in a familiar vega design, but no produced PCBs to be found. Highlighting that RCL did indeed spend out backers cash fighting unnecessary ego pleasing court cases rather than using the money for it’s real purpose, producing a product for 1000’s of orders that had been taken through both Indiegogo (before the definition of ‘order’ changed) and directly through its own rudimentary website.
So what does this mean? Well in short with the IP rights for the Vega+ falling into Retro Games ownership, and the original PCB board falling back to the original creator Chris Smith, who both have had good ties with the community of backers seeking justice over the campaign issues after being pushed out of RCL’s operation, and with the Rik Dickinson design ownership also being in the hands of one of the group members, enough of the pieces are coming together for something truly amazing. A community-created handheld built from the ashes of one of the most notorious failures. The group are currently only 400 members strong, yet over 4000 people backed the original Vega+, so should you know anyone who sadly purchased this product, let them know to head over to The Vega Plus Recycle Group and join for updates as we may yet see a happy ending to the terrible tale.