Someone’s trying to revive Marvel Heroes. That’s not too surprising, considering the game’s sudden collapse and the way people tend to be about these sorts of things (see: City of Heroes, Star Wars: Galaxies). What’s unusual about this attempt is that it’s being run by Xavier’s School For The Gifted — OK, not quite, but there is an educational institute involved.

The IndieGogo page for the Marvel Heroes Rebirth looks like your standard fundraising page, complete with extraordinarily hopeful donation tiers — $50,000 makes you a Studio Partner! The overall tone is optimistic, perhaps too much so, as the entity behind it all, Paragon Institute, believes it can acquire the game assets from Gazillion and then negotiate with Disney/Marvel to secure the rights to continuing the licensed game.

If that doesn’t work, or the community, i.e. backers, vote a different way, there’s a solution for that, too. The makers of the new game would “strip out Marvel-licensed content” and continue the game as a generic super-powered ARPG. There’s also the hope that a new ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office might allow for abandoned MMOs, such as Marvel Heroes, to be exempt from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and that Paragon Institute would be allowed to continue using its Marvel-related assets.

To enable all this, Paragon Institute is asking for $450,000, though it’s also set a secondary goal of $900,000, to help deal with the creditors from Gazillion’s bankruptcy case.

But what exactly is Paragon Institute? According to the IndieGogo page, “Paragon Institute is a 501(c)(3) educational, non-profit,” and its goal is to found a new studio, ElderMage Games, to help create the “new” Marvel Heroes. The ElderMage website has little information, and the Paragon site is … well, not what we’d expect from an entity trying to revive an MMORPG. And yes, that is the same entity that’s behind Marvel Heroes Rebirth. The address on the contact page matches up with the one found here and here, and those sites also mention “Willis Adkins,” the same name found at the top of the IndieGogo page.

That address is 103 Shotts Court, Cary, NC. A Google Street View of that address gets us a location that looks nothing like an educational institute:

The more you dig, the stranger things get. The Paragon Institute’s “For Students, Faculties, and Staff” page includes a link for “Former Chadwick University Students.” That leads to what would presumably the website for Chadwick University, which is now a dead link. Chadwick University lives on in Google Search results, though, and there is clearly some relationship between it and Paragon Institute:

So what is Chadwick University? Search the internet for it, and you’ll find several references to it being a “diploma mill,” defined by Wikipedia as “a company or organization that claims to be a higher education institution but provides illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee.”

What does all this have to do with the Greek debt crisis? Glad you asked! According to Fox News, “the former State Secretary of Industry, who was in charge of spending billions of euros in the run-up to the country’s debt crisis” claimed to have an MBA from Chadwick, an unaccredited university. The story goes on to state that it’s actually “illegal to seek employment with a Chadwick University degree in Texas, while Oregon and Michigan classify it as an unacceptable institution for credentialing for those seeking jobs.”

In its defense, we did find some people who spoke highly of Chadwick university, on this review site and on the Chadwick Alumni Association site. Chadwick University appears to have ceased operations sometime in the last few years, after Alabama, where it was nominally situated, changed its laws. While MMOBomb hasn’t confirmed the exact nature of the link between Chadwick University and the Paragon Institute, it’s possible that Paragon is looking to continue Chadwick’s legacy when it opens for business a little over a year from now.

As for Willis Adkins, the name associated with the Marvel Heroes Reborn IndieGogo and Paragon Institute, he appears to own First Summit Group, LLC, which owns the domains scifrontiers.org, gamescapestudios.us, Heinleinacademy.org, and BradburyInstitute.org. If nothing else, Adkins appears to be a fan of classic science fiction. He also ran for the United States Congress in 2008, as a Libertarian candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd district. He finished third, with 1.8% of the vote.

One final note: Epic Games makes the MOBA Paragonfor now, at least — and Epic Games is located in Cary, NC, the same city Paragon Institute and Adkins list for an address. We have no reason to think Epic Games has anything to do with this fundraiser, but it struck us as an odd coincidence.

We’ve reached out to Adkins to try and learn more about his efforts to revive Marvel Heroes and Paragon Institute’s relationship with Chadwick University. In the meantime, note that the fundraiser has a flexible goal, which means, “This campaign will receive all funds raised even if it does not reach its goal.” As of now, on the evening of Feb. 6, it sits at $305 of its $450,000 goal.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

4 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Joe on February 19, 2018

    He never said Paragon was a diploma mill, he said it was a non-profit institution, or that it “was really” Chadwick. He said Chadwick was the college that was accused of being a diploma mill. And if the company allowed team members to work from home, why would one of those homes show up as the company address? A lot of those responses make no sense!

  2. Will Adkins on February 10, 2018

    I can confirm that mmoBOMB did not contact me before publishing this fake news and false accusations. Had they done so, or if they had done even the most basic research, Jason’s mistruths may have been avoided.

    “Paragon Institute, believes it can acquire the game assets from Gazillion and then negotiate with Disney/Marvel to secure the rights to continuing the licensed game.”
    HALF-TRUE: It is possible to obtain game assets in a several ways; the two most promising: work with Gazillion in advance of court-ordered liquidation, work with courts to help pay down amounts owed to creditors. As far as retaining rights to Marvel Assets, this is clearly stated as being a long-shot and would require deep pockets.

    “The ElderMage website has little information”
    TRUE. Marvel Heroes folding has accelerated the new focus by 4-6 months; Paragon was still in the Business Planning, Grant Acquisition, and Recruiting phase when the news hit. If Gazillion had given more warning, then YES, there could be additional content.

    Paragon is a diploma mill
    COMPLETE LIE: Paragon Institute has been legally empowered since it was formed, as American Southern University in 2008, to award diplomas. However, it has not issued one during that time. The original intent was to create MOOCs and partner with other institutions to award accredited academic credit. As other providers moved into that space, the organization has pursued other initiatives more targeted at niche markets – such as STEM training and the one proposed with the IndieGoGo campaign. JASON – can you provide ANY evidence that Paragon has EVER awarded a diploma, legitimate or otherwise?

    Paragon Institute is really Chadwick University
    COMPLETE LIE: A public records check shows that the AL-based, for-profit university ceased operations 11 years ago (not a few years as you assert), sold its assets, and settled its debts. The only things that remained were its academic records and a .EDU web site used to process transcript requests. When the alumnus that ran this service needed to retire, Paragon was asked to assume the role of records custodian. After vetting the organization, an agreement was reached that had Paragon providing transcripts providing it was made clear that the school was not accredited and that they may be unacceptable in some states; it is up to the recipient to determine if they are acceptable. This also cleared the way for Paragon to use the .EDU domain for its own purposes and to better reflect the mission of the organization; however, a link was to be provided so former students will know where to request transcripts. Noone involved with Paragon has ever had any other involvement with Chadwick.

    Chadwick University was a Diploma Mill
    UNLIKELY: The main reason cited for being a diploma mill is that Chadwick University granted credit for life experience. Particularly during that time, accreditation was more about protecting faculty and the school rather than students; they did not want a precedent set for avoiding classes and associated revenue. While the practice was attacked then, now virtually every university in the country accepts credit for life experience ranging from military service and certifications to test-out options like the AP exams. We vetted the records before agreeing to process transcript requests – what we found was that most students spent years and thousands of dollars pursuing an unaccredited degree. The students are the victims in this scenario, not because they didn’t put forth a legitimate effort, but because the degree isn’t recognized by many employers. To not provide them with a means of getting transcripts would be even worse.

    As a side note, not being recognized by Texas does not mean that Chadwick wasn’t a good education. I don’t expect most people to know about academic licensure, unless they claim they do and portray it incorrectly. In Texas, you must either be accredited or be based in the state for your degree to be recognized. Period. It’s not based on academic quality in that regard.

    Chadwick was operating as a correspondence course operation; with the growth of the Internet the need for that dropped to nothing and the organization faded away.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Clayton_Jr.#Chadwick_University
    http://www.acenet.edu
    http://www.umuc.edu/transfers-and-credits/fast-paths-to-credit/industry-certification-and-courses.cfm

    “it’s possible that Paragon is looking to continue Chadwick’s legacy when it opens for business a little over a year from now.”
    INCORRECT: Paragon has been in operation, serving various niche learning needs since 2008. Only the proposed Eldermage Studios is a new initiative.

    Paragon is seeking to ride on the coat tails of the Paragon MOBA also based in Cary
    UNTRUE: A public records check at the NC Office of the Secretary of State shows that the name change was made in 2015, months before the world even knew about plans for the game.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paragon_(video_game)

    “He also ran for the United States Congress in 2008, as a Libertarian candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd district. He finished third, with 1.8% of the vote”
    TRUE: The third-party needed to pull in 2% of the vote across the state to remain on the ballot. This paved the way for future campaigns. It was a clean race, ran in only a few months v. a year for other candidates, helped achieve the desired goal, and was run without taking contributions from our citizens. I knew that I wasn’t going for the ‘win’ and could not take funding knowing that.

    “A Google Street View of that address gets us a location that looks nothing like an educational institute”
    TRUE: For years, Paragon Institute has allowed team members to work remotely from their homes which has many benefits for them and the company. This includes contractors acting as adjunct faculty using the virtual corporation concept that has been around for decades. Onsite/collaboration meetings are held at sponsor locations or sites like Regus. We’ve been very successful in providing learning opportunities at little to no cost to students by using these concepts.

    Will a studio require co-location of at least some team members? Most likely, but why would we pay high overhead associated with it until it is needed? Gazillion, who was paying $57,024.41 monthly in rent. is going into bankrupcty. All costs must be handled smartly. A shiny building does not make success.

    Yes, the IndieGoGo campaign has stalled. Much of the feedback I’ve received attributed it to your article which was a misleading attempt to drive traffic and revenue; this then spread to other sites. We have been in contact with former Gazillion staff members (a limited number albeit) and was looking forward to announcing this soon. Even though they understand the situation, they feel the perception of the endeavor is too negative right now.

    Jason, I get that you’re not a real news organization; you are a well-read gaming blog, but your readers still expect integrity just the same. In this case you are attempting to make the news rather than report it. We don’t know if it is malice on your part driving this or an inability to do real investigative reporting. We hope it’s not ill intent.
    -Will Adkins

  3. LeiHngWei on February 7, 2018

    Paragon Institute? FFS. Paragon was the first red flag, invoking the City of Heroes nostalgia/outrage from fans. What’s next, spiritual successor? Oh wait, “That means we can still save the game and, if necessary, launch a re-branded successor with your support!”. I’m avoiding this scam.

    • Guest on February 8, 2018

      They will get sued if they relaunch the game.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?