No - John's reputation was known in the WMS circle, and was out in the hobby circles as well because insiders like Python and others painted him as such. (Python TOPCast Interview was in 2007). And Python wasn't the first to trash JPOP, he was just one of the more flamboyant ones about it. JPOP couldn't get hired, or even have his designs bought by Stern.
The only redeeming thing he had going was that Zizzle had been moderately received. Everything else was people buying into the aurora of his past titles at WMS... where every insider tale talked about his games needing to be bailed out, his inability to complete stuff, and his complete reliance on others. Yes, everyone had kind things to say about his vision/eye for things - but they also almost universally stood against crediting John for the games' successes.
All of this was in the open and understood at the time - the faithful just didn't want to hear it. They drooled over the next CV/TOTAN/TOM... and it would be super limited so super valuable???? TAKE MY MONEY!!! That's JPOP in a nutshell.
I do acknowledge tho that the ben heck association probably brought in many to RAZA.. as the combination of new/cool thinking plus JPOP style was an attractive view for people.
Then add in the actual "how will you do this" angle. I get that at the time many people new to the hobby probably had no idea how difficult it is to get a game to production volume at the time. Most hobbyists had not yet seen the struggles DP, HWP, Spooky and others make that more visible.. and educated them on the subject. But that is simply ignorance of the topic, not relying on hindsight. The challenges to face were understood by others... the buyers just dismissed it. Interviews and stories from insiders had told the tales of the struggles. Again, people like Joe Kaminkow in 2007 had told stories about the DE pinball startup. The IPB fiasco was already in the history books.. and people like Kerry Stair told some of the tale. The cautionary tales were out there - even if you weren't someone familiar with product development - people just didn't want to focus on the 'why not', they just wanted to focus on the what can I get.
Even at the time, JPOP did nothing (except create a website and promotional pieces) to convey to anyone his credibility in actually getting a product to market. In fact, in hindsight, you can see how he may have even intentionally shyed away from that topic... with stupid stunt thinking like the ben&Jpop assembling your game crap. It's not hindsight that exposed these concerns -- people just didn't want to hear it.
Quoted from applejuice:
At the time, from being involved and working with john, nobody had a concern that John couldn't do it
What I will say is hindsight.. is the insight into John's ability to maintain that deception through his controlling of information about the project and its contributors. He duped people like you by limiting what you knew and his ploys of using secrecy, limited info releases, and gifts helped keep people from becoming critical of the project.
And to be blunt, but honest... that was poor research by you. To not vet and investigate the startups viability and funding, their runway, their leadership and their track record. It's one thing to work on a project when you don't put your career/lifestyle on the line to do so - it's a whole different level to commit to where your livelihood depends on it. And as someone who is just an employee, not an equity holder, you better have faith the company has the resources or plan to actually pay you before committing. Andrew Heighway was a predator in this sense as well... leveraging people into spots where they couldn't get off the bus even when they wanted to.
Honestly, that type of vetting is the only element adding any story to the deeproot plan to date IMO.. in that multiple, seasoned people who should know what to be looking for have commited to Deeproot with significant life choices.