Kickstarter Cans ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Devs' Campaign: Politics to Blame?

Kickstarter Cans ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Devs' Campaign: Politics to Blame?

"We were subject to constant hostility from Russian Kickstarter accounts (we even got death threats)," says West Games.

A few days ago West Games, founded by former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers and led by Eugene Kim, was on the verge of completing a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its latest project, an open world post-apocalypse title called Areal. Then the campaign was suspended after raising more than $10,000 over its funding target of $50,000 and with 2 days left to run. Now West Games has started up another crowdfunding effort, this time on its own site.

West Games says it doesn't know exactly why Kickstarter canned the crowdfunder, and says that under the rules it can't even contact Kickstarter to find out why, let alone message its backers to let them know what's going on. West Games blames the controversy surrounding its project for the debacle, claiming that a significant number of companies make their livelihood on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. spin-offs and were afraid of its spiritual successor; these companies, West Games alleges, resorted to a dirty tricks campaign to get the Kickstarter pulled.

However the bigger problem, West Games alleges, may be Russia. "Ukrainians and Russians are in an information war right now," it says, "And as a Ukrainian developer, we were subject to constant hostility from Russian Kickstarter accounts (we even got death threats). There are over 16,000 comments on our Kickstarter, which is unprecedented for the amount of supporters that we have, and a lot of our comments are hate filled."

That much is true, as even a cursory glance at the comments thread for Areal's Kickstarter shows. However Kickstarter has been telling people a different story, according to some of the backers. One commenter alleges that Kickstarter sent him this message:

This is a message from Kickstarter's Trust & Safety team. We're writing to notify you that the Areal (Suspended) project has been suspended, and your $1.00 USD pledge has been canceled. A review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke Kickstarter's rules. We may suspend projects when they demonstrate one or more of the following:

A related party posing as an independent, supportive party in project comments or elsewhere

Misrepresenting support by pledging to your own project

Misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator

Providing inaccurate or incomplete user information to Kickstarter or one of our partners

Accordingly, all funding has been stopped and backers will not be charged for their pledges. No further action is required on your part.

Several of the Kickstarter backers allege that abysmal communication, and a lack of reliable updates, played a significant role in the Kickstarter collapse. Though the campaign did reach its goal, that was thanks mainly to two huge donations, each well over $10,000, on the 19th and 20th of July. Intriguingly, this spike is not matched by a spike in donors; either a very small number of rich people jumped on board at the last minute, or someone tried to spoof the system.

These donations coincide with an update from West End that suggests Vladimir Putin, acting on advice from his daughter, sent West End a letter of support. According to the letter, Putin's daughter pledged on Kickstarter, but the letter doesn't say how much. Putin has two daughters; the letter doesn't say which liked Areal.

Does West End have a point? It's impossible to say, and probably will remain so. It's barely plausible that a Russian disinformation campaign might want to squash a Ukrainian game developer, just for giggles; after all, what would it cost, bar a few hours, a fake letter, and a few fake donations? It's not as if pro-Russian supporters haven't been accused of doing things in Ukraine far more insane than that.

It's also plausible that West End invented the letter as a flimsy excuse to cover the donor spike that pulled the Kickstarter over the finish line, or that the game is a put-up job from start to finish. Heck, it's also just barely within the realm of possibility that the Putin letter is real, and that Putin's daughter actually did drop a considerable sum on the Kickstarter. I doubt Vegas would offer great odds on that one, but the probability is still greater than 0, even if by an infinitesimal amount.

One thing ought to be borne in mind by potential donors: Kickstarter doesn't demand the money up front, but the same cannot be said of West Games' latest fundraiser.

Source: Eurogamer

Permalink

It being cancelled has nothing to do with politics, it was an obvious cam from the get go, with stolen concept art, unrealistic goals and the devs acting extremely suspiciously.

Areal looked suspicious from the moment it appeared. The company wants 50K to make a fully 3D STALKER type game? Based out of the USA? They claim to be the EX STALKER team and yet are US based when anyone who even tangentially followed the collapse of GSC game-word knows that almost all of their employees either ended up at 4A games, Vostok Games (Currently developing Savarium under their own power) and all of the STALKER IP is still tangled up in the hands of of their former parent company.

The entire reason STALKER could be made for it's low budgets was because the team was Ukraine based where things are cheaper and the gaming economy less developed.

Those are just the basic facts of the company. The fact that they have a tangential relationship with STALKER at best didn't stop them ripping off it's art. In fact the majority of the art at first was simply lifted from STALKER. Again Vostok games is essential what GSC and STALKER 2 turned into, so how can they claim to be able to use art they not only don't own but who another company has closer links to?

The Bucket:
It being cancelled has nothing to do with politics, it was an obvious cam from the get go, with stolen concept art, unrealistic goals and the devs acting extremely suspiciously.

Didnt seem that much of a scam to me, not more then many other overly ambitious games out there in Kickstarter that end up failing to deliver (even that game from Yogcast).

What was the concept art that was stolen? I am curious about that.

Whilst its KNOWN that these REALLY are ex-GSC devs there, at least several of them, the way the handled the thing was shit.

Their first screenshots were photoshoped or taken from Unity. Yet they claimed that they made a new engine...
Their page used STALKER assets, even siple things like an AK-72U for a weapons list ...

The fact that they handled it so poorly is the problem.
In the first day they already had 30 k. The STALKER community is insane and dedicated to obsession (me included), if the page was handled well and with more honesty (STALKER-like game cant be done in 50k... even to finish it)... they may have gotten away with several million...

Except they did not handle it well.

josemlopes:

The Bucket:
It being cancelled has nothing to do with politics, it was an obvious cam from the get go, with stolen concept art, unrealistic goals and the devs acting extremely suspiciously.

Didnt seem that much of a scam to me, not more then many other overly ambitious games out there in Kickstarter that end up failing to deliver (even that game from Yogcast).

What was the concept art that was stolen? I am curious about that.

Most of it was stolen from Stalker or from novels. The footage for the gameplay video is pretty b.s as well, using assets from Unity and (once again) Stalker almost exclusively.

As for the funding goal; 50,000 for a 3D Stalker like game from scratch on Mac, PC, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U isnt over ambition, its blatant lying

I didn't know about all that stolen stuff people listed above, I just find their statement laughable as all hell. STALKER is EXTREMELY popular in Russia and dissing the devs just because of politics - nah-uh, no sell.

Scrumpmonkey:
Areal looked suspicious from the moment it appeared. The company wants 50K to make a fully 3D STALKER type game? Based out of the USA? They claim to be the EX STALKER team and yet are US based when anyone who even tangentially followed the collapse of GSC game-word knows that almost all of their employees either ended up at 4A games, Vostok Games (Currently developing Savarium under their own power) and all of the STALKER IP is still tangled up in the hands of of their former parent company.

The entire reason STALKER could be made for it's low budgets was because the team was Ukraine based where things are cheaper and the gaming economy less developed.

Those are just the basic facts of the company. The fact that they have a tangential relationship with STALKER at best didn't stop them ripping off it's art. In fact the majority of the art at first was simply lifted from STALKER. Again Vostok games is essential what GSC and STALKER 2 turned into, so how can they claim to be able to use art they not only don't own but who another company has closer links to?

The US location is pretty simple, Kickstarter projects are required to be based out of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Chances are that there was a 1 man 'satellite' office in Las Vegas suburbs.

Don't know about the rest of the allegations.

Ed130 The Vanguard:

Scrumpmonkey:
Areal looked suspicious from the moment it appeared. The company wants 50K to make a fully 3D STALKER type game? Based out of the USA? They claim to be the EX STALKER team and yet are US based when anyone who even tangentially followed the collapse of GSC game-word knows that almost all of their employees either ended up at 4A games, Vostok Games (Currently developing Savarium under their own power) and all of the STALKER IP is still tangled up in the hands of of their former parent company.

The entire reason STALKER could be made for it's low budgets was because the team was Ukraine based where things are cheaper and the gaming economy less developed.

Those are just the basic facts of the company. The fact that they have a tangential relationship with STALKER at best didn't stop them ripping off it's art. In fact the majority of the art at first was simply lifted from STALKER. Again Vostok games is essential what GSC and STALKER 2 turned into, so how can they claim to be able to use art they not only don't own but who another company has closer links to?

The US location is pretty simple, Kickstarter projects are required to be based out of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Chances are that there was a 1 man 'satellite' office in Las Vegas suburbs.

Don't know about the rest of the allegations.

The exact team and location were never really cleared up. All we have is a registered Nevada address and one or two Ex GCS employees with unknown levels of direct involvement in the project. The Vagary was part of the problem.

But, once again, these very basic discrepancies and lack of information aside, as a project Areal was unfeasible on what it was asking for. As a fan of STALKER i took one look at it and immediately could see it was doomed to fail, even if their intentions were good and honest, because you can't make a new Engine for a fully open world dynamic FPS game in the vein of STALKER for $50K, never mind make the entire game.

The project didn't make sense. The people behind it were unclear and almost all of their materials were STALKER based. The project was either dishonest or incompetent above and beyond what we usually see on Kickstarter.

I can't believe this is being treated seriously. It reeks of scam, don't go giving credence to their ridiculous excuses and lies. C'mon.

50,000$ would get you a month MAYBE two of solid development with programmers going full tilt, so I don't know how they planned to make a stalker like game on a budget that small.

Putin likes it?!?!

Seriously did I just read that or am I going mad?!
Surely he'd prefer a war simulator.... oh wait...

The Bucket:
It being cancelled has nothing to do with politics, it was an obvious cam from the get go, with stolen concept art, unrealistic goals and the devs acting extremely suspiciously.

This.

You just KNOW that it's fake when the cash flow doesn't match the donors, i.e. a single-digit number of backers with 5-or-more-digit cash donated.

It's like they didn't learn from all the other Kickscams that did exactly the same thing (their names escape me at the moment).

Kickstarter has gotten WEIRD with stuff like this, Yogventures collapsing, and Oculus Rift selling to Facebook. They can't be happy on it because it affects their rep which makes people less confident about Kickstarting stuff. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

So they plan to make a fully-3D game that not only plays like Stalker, but claims to build on and improve it, and they're asking for an amount of money that wouldn't even cover a single-year's salary for just one of the developers[1] on a project that would probably take two years minimum to finish? Either these guys have NO idea the kind of money that it takes to operate a development studio, or it's a blatant scam. Either way, they should never have been backed by anyone.

[1] Okay, admittedly I don't know what developers make, so maybe it'd cover the one developer, but definitely not a second.

Karloff:
Kickstarter Cans ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Devs' Campaign: Politics to Blame?

Given the coverage this project has had, Betteridge's law of headlines is fully applicable:

Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states: "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

Well reading about their project makes it look shady as all hell, so for once Kickstarter actually came through and stopped a scam before it went down. Makes excuses all you want dev but your shit stinks to high heaven.

It's hard to make any real decisions based on the information presented. The $50k goal mentioned might actually have been supplementary funding, I've seen a lot of Kickstarters that are raising support, and mention that the game will be made whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds, but the Kickstarter allows them to obtain additional funds. The stolen assets however are not a good sign, though I suppose it can be argued that if they ARE the original STALKER team, or have a lot of the same people involved at least part time, that they might have the right to use those assets for their game.

Likewise since the threats and such seem to be genuine and confirmed, it does make me wonder if perhaps Kickstarter caved in to politics. As far as Putin or his Daughter liking the game and donating, that doesn't especially surprise me. Politicians and celebrities are people to, and do the same stuff. I'm sure many politicians, famous people, and their families have donated to kickstarter campaigns over the years, though the personal letter does admittedly seem like a bit much. As far as a political statement from Putin and his family goes, it's important to note that Russia and the rest of the region has been trying to get into game development for a while, with mixed results, and STALKER has been one of the bigger successes to come from that area, and is set in Russia. What's more while there is a ton of Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Putin's ideal situation would be for all of Ukraine to be absorbed into Russia, not just Crimea. Such a gesture and the PR it gives, both showing support of his family for the tech sector/game development, as well as being something that can be references to smooth things over in the long run. It doesn't cost him anything to write the letter, there is nothing malevolent about it, and down the road being able to maybe say "see, I don't hate the Ukrainian people, even during the conflict my family was supporting you" could be useful.

That said, we'll likely never know the entire truth of the matter.

Also remember Putin just gave a speech telling his people to drop the whole "under siege" mentality as the west is not moving into position to attack Russia (whether we should be or not, it's not happening). Which is of course part of him backpedaling over the recent shooting of an airliner, which probably went down because of twitchy fingers caused by the way Russian media has been playing up the myth of an impending invasion force gathering. Even if Russian military didn't do it, it was Russian hardware in the hands of pro-Russian rebels (the most likely culprits, and ones acting due to Russian media). Note that this letter did get out into the public eye, and small gestures like that can add up, as well. After all of Putin's daughter is funding Ukrainian game development, how serious can the problem be?

Karloff:
Does West End have a point?

What the heck is 'West End' in the context of this story? Did the population of the London District that bears the same name jump on kickstarter and complain about the game or something?

It was a scam. Feel sorry for those who almost got fooled, not for the scammers

Therumancer:
It's hard to make any real decisions based on the information presented. The $50k goal mentioned might actually have been supplementary funding, I've seen a lot of Kickstarters that are raising support, and mention that the game will be made whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds, but the Kickstarter allows them to obtain additional funds.

They had no original gameplay in their Kickstarter video. Therefore they need more than just supplementary funding. They didn't even prove to us, that they where actually making a game. They only showed an idea or concept, then cut up a bunch of other footage, and it was a very dishonest video in general.

 

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