Areal Kickstarter: Vladimir Putin, Media Bias, Trolls
With only three more days to go on the clock, developer West Games has breached its $50,000 goal for Areal, a game inspired by the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. shooter series. That in itself isn’t too surprising news, as that latter example is a cult hit; it’s more about the way this was achieved.
Until recently, the Areal campaign had been stalling on its initial momentum of somewhat over $30,000, due to an overwhelming amount of concerns, slowly turning to criticisms. There was uncertainty just how the developer was related to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, issues with Areal not having any footage and much more.
Now, three days before the end, the pledged donations have nearly doubled over the span of one weekend, totally $64,061 at the time of writing. Again, that’s not necessarily troublesome, were it not that there is no significant amount of added backers to the total.
As funding tool Kicktraq shows, Areal’s Kickstarter suddenly raised $12,000 on Saturday and $14,000 again on Sunday. Adversely, the project only gained two new backers and that after two weeks of stagnation. That’s suspicious, at the very least.
One of the many problems surrounding Areal’s campaign is that there are supposedly a considerable amount of its 1000 backers that have donated, only to lower their pledge to $1, messing with statistics. Moreover, several people backing out of the campaign would alter the real addition of new backers, by subtracting those who have left.
There’s much more weirdness surrounding the sudden turnaround though, as developer West Games announced this weekend that they had gotten a letter, supposedly originating from the Kremlin. In the letter, Vladimir Putin would be expressing interest in the game, after a pledge from a family member put it on the radar of the Russian President.
Allegedly, Putin would link the game to the current Ukranian conflict, urging people to play games like Areal, instead of shooting each other. Again, this seems highly suspect, particularly in its phrasing.
Not only does it inexplicably mention Areal as the successor of STALKER for no apparent reason, but the letter extends an invitation to the Kremlin. While the developer does acknowledge that the letter might not be factual, there is however no issue with not using it as a marketing tool for the campaign.
Things turn real ugly when, in a following update, developer West Games lashes out at news outlets, particularly VG247 and Forbes. This update opens with the following accusations:
We feel that two news sites have been completely one-sided and subjective in their coverage of us. We feel that their coverage of us lacks basic journalistic integrity and their articles have devolved into personal speculation and slander against us.
This is indicative of the issues with Areal’s campaign so far. It’s long been a mudslinging contest, which doesn’t inspire confidence in the otherwise interesting concept of a post-apocalyptic shooter in a natural setting.
For instance, this is their accusation of VG247’s concise article that discusses Areal’s short gameplay trailer:
They […] say that Survarium, a free to play MMO shooter, is the true successor to STALKER (which was a single player only series), and that you should all play it instead of supporting us.
This is the full line in the actual VG247 article:
If you’re after a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. we’d recommend Vostok’s free-to-play Survarium. It’s good.
It doesn’t state the “true” succession part, nor does it exclude one project in favor of another; it simply mentions it. This would indicate that the developer lists anything beyond praise as being a personal attack.
More distorted still, that same Kickstarter update lists a dozen or so personal names, along with a compiled collage of their work, resembling internet meme paste-jobs. That’s a dedicated amount of effort put into negative argumentation.
That in itself would be less problematic were it not that, at the same time, West Games doesn’t provide tangible information on most of their own criticism. There lies the real problem in Areal, since the gameplay might not be stellar, but probably enough to warrant $50,000.
In previous concerns, people asked why the company had simply used Unity store mockups and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. assets to promote their game, which have since been removed. Others asked how they were planning to ship the game to consoles and if the company was even registered at all as a Sony of Microsoft developer.
No answers were ever provided. The only tactic developer West Games keeps resorting to is quoting definitions and evading questions by overstating their past projects as a basis of trust and referring to anything else as a means to slander them.
This sense of immature butting back questions is in line with projects like the awfully handled Air Control or Earth: Year 2066, where any and all criticisms is merely waved off as “troll” material, while not letting the game speak for itself.
The former example used other assets to promote its game as well, which it then also removed. Both squashed criticisms, by simply stamping the “troll” marker on them and moving on. Neither of those projects have any worthwhile gameplay to show, which would not work in favor for Areal’s chances to break that mold.
Another link in the recent Kickstarter donations can be made with Gridiron Thunder, a game on Kickstarter that made use of Ouya’s Free The Games promotion, which doubles funds for a completed campaign. It eventually garnered so much negative attention that Ouya was forced to significantly alter their funding actions.
As expected, developer West Games has since had to post a Kickstarter update apologizing for their outburst regarding media outlets. Currently, the campaign has nearly 14,000 comments; so an average of 14 for each backer.
If you want our thoughts on whether or not to back Areal, our answer would be: No, not at this point. If it’s that early in conceptualization and can’t show any material for it, there’s still plenty of time for it to grow and at least show off a prototype worth getting excited about.
Ideas and anti-arguments aren’t nearly enough and $50,000 wouldn’t bring that concept closer to completion, as exciting as a project may sound. You can still buy it when it comes out, should it be that spectacular.