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Controversial  Areal  Kickstarter suspended, but dev soldiers on
Controversial Areal Kickstarter suspended, but dev soldiers on
July 23, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

Game dev stories don't usually get this weird. West Games, a new Ukrainian studio founded by members of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team recently launched a Kickstarter for a new game, Areal.

That campaign has now been suspended by Kickstarter.

The crowdfunding platform yanked down the campaign with just two days remaining, despite the fact that it had crossed its funding goal. The only explanation the platform has offered publicly -- and, according to West Games, to the campaign's creators as well -- is this section of the Kickstarter FAQ, which covers general reasons campaigns get suspended.

The campaign had a very modest goal ($50,000) for a game that purported to be a "massive and intricately detailed open world," but that wasn't the only red flag: It used lots of placeholder assets but was short on concrete details, as this Rock Paper Shotgun post runs down in detail.

It's the climax of a weird story. West Games' CEO Eugene Kim produced a Russian-language letter that appeared to be from Russian president Vladimir Putin in support of the project -- something he later admitted was not likely authentic in conversation with Kotaku.

In a statement to Polygon, West Games blamed the suspension of its campaign on the current real-life tensions between Russia and the Ukraine and other parties with vested interest in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. IP (and, implicitly, shutting down competition for its audience). West Games also alleged that Kickstarter itself "was afraid of the controversy surrounding our project."

This isn't the end for Areal, as the developer intends to continue accepting funds on its own site -- though it will take a lot more effort on West Games' part to get past the oddness surrounding the campaign and make it seem like a safe bet for backers.

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Jennis Kartens
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The entire story regarding the STALKER trademark is extremely weird. This is not the first time (though the most akward one) problems evolved out of it...

According to sources from bitComposer, they did acquire the rights and fought a legal war ending in their favor back a few years ago.

And now it starts all over again apparently.

Alan Barton
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I found the bit about that "not likely authentic" letter in support of the project more than a bit extremely weird.

Its seriously WTF?! mind-blowing, the more I think about it.

Its got blatant PR stunt lie written in massive Neon letters all over it, as a way to try to get more press attention onto their project.

There is no way that's a legitimate letter and its highly unlikely to have been created by a fan, so that would mean its a seriously amoral Machiavellian lie to use that as a PR stunt attempt to jump onto the back of the high news profile Russia and the Ukraine have in the news at the moment. People are dying out there! ... Oh so lets use that for a PR stunt!... I mean, WTF!?! Even if it was a legitimate letter, why use it as a PR stunt!

Its mind-blowing and shocking.

What with that and only $50k to create a game of that size, I'm not surprised Kickstarter smelled something is wrong and suspended it.

Glenn Sturgeon
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It'd be nice if GSC would sell off the name and rights to the franchies rather than sit on it.

Shay Pierce
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That's disappointing, the industry could use more games about nipples.

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I hope KS continues to implement policies that help protect donators from projects like this.

Josh Fairhurst
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Fun fact: Eugene Kim (the man behind Areal) claims to have console experience, but told people in the Reddit AMA that to develop on consoles you don't need dev kits anymore. He said you can "download developer kits as software"... I'm guessing he never expected other developers to read that. It's complete bullshit and it sums his inexperience and duplicitousness up perfectly.

It's clear as day that Areal will never ship on consoles - I'll be surprised if it ships at all. If for some reason you are actually considering giving West Games money through Paypal, don't.