Today has been an interesting day. I found out the artist I used for Cake Off (the previous one to the amazing Maria Becvar) has posted all the completed art she finished online and basically spouted a load of half-truths about what really happened.

But being told I haven’t paid her and that I lied is agony because – for someone who values honesty above everything else – it’s just painful to know people might think I have acted in some way which is contrary to how I always try and treat people; which is with fairness and kindness and consideration.

So I’ve deliberated all day on this subject and I wanted to make a comment, just in case if does come up in the future and I can refer people to this post. I’m not going to discuss it in future. This is my truth and I have all the correspondence with my solicitor and I don’t see any need to get into a he-said / she-said situation. Everything we discussed is right there in black and white…

Ultimately, the artist signed a contract to say they spoke fluent English. And I’ve been back over the emails and you’d not know the artist wasn’t English… until the contract was signed and then bizarrely, we went from perfect English to barely able to communicate at all.

That said, her work was so good and I’d already paid a fair bit of money for concept art work to be done, so I tried to shoulder on as best I could, but it got to the point where I had to use an actual interpreter just to be understood.

I should have dropped the project then and there, but you have to remember, hundreds of pounds had been spent and literally MONTHS of my time trying to find the artist in the first place.

Once we were on the project, then came the excuses. Endless people were sick, and then a message “I’ve had to flee the country…” (yep, you heard me). Just when I thought I had heard every excuse in the book…

And though it all I understood. Problems happen and heaven knows nothing runs smoothly, so I said it was all OK and hopefully we could get back to work after all the delays.

The project took a LONG time. To do the 20 cakes and 20 ingredients took MONTHS longer than we had agreed in the contract, simply down to all the problems that kept coming up. The work was pretty great and I’m not going to punish someone for problems in their lives, even if we’d massively gone past the original date on the contract.

And then one day, quite out of the blue, when the final cake was all but designed, I got an email: “I’m leaving the project on Monday”.

Now the truth is: I was shocked. Horrified even. Cake Off was three years late at this point and the money was running out. I went back over my emails and it’s very clear that I begged her to stay on. I told her she could have an extension until August 2018 (8 months later) to finish the 20 additional pieces, but she replied that today would be her final day and that she wasn’t able to do any more work. She wouldn’t even finish the unfinished cakes or ingredients. She was going back to a real job and that was that.

The final tally: I had 20 cakes (quite a few of them unfinished or requiring changes) and some ingredients that again, she never made the changes I asked for.

So, what do you do? What does a small company do when you’ve invested so much time into a project only to be told the artist is leaving with no notice? This is devastating.

I spoke to my legal adviser who said I could sue for damages. And they are substantial. A year’s worth of delays had cost me enormously. I sometimes think artists think pulling out of a job has no consequence, but this was 2018 and Cake Off was already incredibly late. I’m down tens of thousands of pounds – at least – simply due to the lack of sales and a lack of being able to launch another game (as Cake Off is designed to be the start of a series).

I tried to get a replacement artist, but the style was so unique, there’s no way it could be replicated by another artist. So I’m literally left with unfinished art I cannot use on a project where the artist has quit. There are no other avenues left to explore…

So I did what anyone would have done if someone had HALF FINISHED half of a job; I got my money back. My solicitor told me I was entitled to a whole lot more, but being outside of Europe, I had no chance of getting any more money.

AND, even if I could, I didn’t want to litigate. I just wanted the artist to do the job she signed up for. A job on which I had been endlessly patient and was months late and I was still prepared to give her a chance.

So I came away with nothing. Just bitterness and a whole load of wasted time.

Sure. I feel terrible. I hate it when projects go wrong and I hate it even more when people are telling lies about what really happened. Do I owe the artist money? Only if they did the actual work to completion.

Do they deserve paying for the work I cannot use on a project they didn’t finish? I guess everyone will have a different opinion. UK Law is pretty clear on where I stand and if it was a UK artist you can be damn well sure I would have gone to court over this. I think everyone should understand that time is precious and worse – breaking contracts is utterly unacceptable.

Ultimately, I just want everyone to play fair and to do the work they say they will, and that appears to be quite rare in this industry.

But telling lies about what happened – what REALLY happened – that’s not cool. They say the truth is somewhere in the middle of a story, but in this case, I didn’t have an artist or art for a project that still hasn’t seen the light of day.

And it all ruins what should be a wonderful and exciting process. This past few years have not been fun with artists taking me for a ride, lying to me, lying about me, and generally not doing what they signed up for. And it’s made me paranoid and it’s utterly destroyed the fun part of the design process.

Ultimately, I believe, if the artist wanted paying, she should have completed the project. It’s as simple as that.

Because when you get treated this way, there are no winners.

We all lost.

The Great Magical Cake Off will be released eventually, but this deeply negative experience will be forever hanging over me, sullying what should have been a wonderful and exciting moment in my company’s history.

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