The Kickstarter campaign for Lynn and the Spirits of Inao has been canceled, along with the game itself, according to a somewhat cryptic update left by developer Bloomylight Studio. The cancellation of the beautiful-looking project left fans in dismay, as it had garnered considerable attention from the press for being openly inspired by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, famous for such animated films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro.
Worse, the cancellation appears to have been the result of allegations from former interns of Bloomylight regarding repeated coercion and an ongoing lack of payment despite months of work on the project, an oversight considered illegal in France, where the studio is located.
From the Kickstarter:
First of all, thank you to all of the backers who supported Lynn and the Spirits of Inao.
After being deeply affected by the various stories from the past few days, and conscious of the mistakes from the past which are now harming the game, we have taken the difficult decision to end the adventure here. In the face of the violent declarations made to us and the threats uttered against members of the team, we now have to end this project that was born in 2011. It is regrettable that a handful of individuals were able to destroy the work of so many people and that they spent so much energy to cause a relentlessness of incredible violence against our team.
We would like to thank all the people who contributed to the game and got involved in the project. These last five years spent working hard on Lynn and the Spirits of Inao were an unforgettable experience motivated by the passion to create a game of quality and to offer a new experience.
Thank you for your understanding.
A reddit post is keeping track of a considerable amount of information, and while very little of it can be properly verified at this point without thorough review by someone fluent in French, the sheer volume carries a certain degree of weight. Posts like this one are in English, and do not paint a pretty picture, claiming that Bloomylight Studio has no actual employees, has been loosely run out of founder David Tollari’s apartment, and has used the work of a string of different interns who have not only gone unpaid, but were pressured to do extra work, threatened with bad references if they resisted, and asked to sign documents stating that payment had actually been rendered. There are even further claims that the game was nothing more than pretty animations created by interns, without any programming to back them up:
An unverified comment on the Kickstarter page claims that the following is a translated message from the intern who originally went public with the story:
“I need to tell something concerning the scandal raised by my testimony. I don’t regret my testimony, all is true, I explained my experience and a lot of other interns joined me in this approach, bringing their own testimonies similar to mine.
But I’m absolutely AGAINST the lynching concerning the director David Tollari. Violence is virulent and fast. This case, despite the faults of the man, is by no means a reason to insult him or show him as a target.
This case has to be solved in respect and norms of what we call justice and while keeping our civism. I was amazed by such a fast reaction of social networks and am honored to have such support. I really thank you a lot but I just wanted to be clear and I don’t endorse any propagation of violence. Thanks a lot.
I will keep you informed about the progress of this story.”
Most of the information is still in French, so English-speaking countries aren’t yet privy to all the facts, but I suspect that more will be known shortly.
In a world where game development already frequently suffers from aggressively bad labor practices and a lack of union representation, these stories hit all the harder. Everyone deserves to be paid for their labor, and the exploitation of passionate young game developers is neither a new thing nor one that is likely to stop without further industry reform. More needs to be done. The only question is when?
Though Bloomylight’s Facebook page has been deleted, their main website still exists, and nothing else is known about the fate of the studio. I have attempted to contact Mr. Tollari for comment since we recently interviewed him about the project, but have not yet been able to reach him.