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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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