Suspended Kickstarter Says They're In An 'Information War' With Russia

Suspended Kickstarter Says They're In An 'Information War' With Russia

With barely two days left in its controversial Kickstarter campaign to bring "a definitive spiritual successor to the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R." into the world, Areal developer West Games had the rug pulled out from underneath it yesterday when its project was suddenly suspended. But that hasn't stopped the Ukrainian developer from trying to bring its embattled shooter into existence.

Several hours after Kickstarter suspended the project with no additional comment, West Games reached out to me with another explanation for the tangled series of events leading up to Tuesday. This new email was simply to deliver a blanket statement that West Games CEO Eugene Kim also posted on the game's website and social media channels. But like all my previous correspondence with Kim, his response to Areal's suspension attempted to rationalize many of the game's suspicious elements by blaming competing Ukrainian developers for spreading misinformation, and by linking his studio to an ongoing "information war" being waged between Russia and Ukraine.

"The fact is that there are a lot of companies that make their livelihood on STALKER, so when we showed up on the scene, they saw us as a threat and did everything that they could to stop us," Kim wrote.

"People also need to take into account that Ukrainians and Russians are in an information war right now, and as a Ukrainian developer, we were subject to constant hostility from Russian Kickstarter accounts (we even got death threats)," he continued. "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."

Kim went on to say that West Games had set up its own donation page on its website, where interested gamers could continue to support the project.

As I wrote yesterday, part of what makes it difficult to pin down the truth about Areal here is that there is a degree of validity to both of these statements. Competing Ukrainian developers also claiming a strong STALKER heritage publicly criticised West Games and Areal on several occasions. Kim did show me images from Areal's Kickstarter showing that some particularly aggressive backers were listed as Russian. But Kim's examples didn't describe the entirety of Areal's vocal critics online by any measure. And, of course, many different aspects of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine continue to be front page news regardless of anything video game-related.

I haven't heard from Kim since he sent over a copy of his statement on the Kickstarter suspension. West Games has remained uncharacteristically silent since then. And while Areal remains a mystery to me, it doesn't sound like the team behind it is planning to give up on the game any time soon.

"We are the creators of STALKER," Kim wrote in the conclusion of his statement, "and we know that we can make Areal even better than that series, because of advances in technology, gameplay mechanics, and story."


Comments

    Goddamn it. Bring these guys State-side or Australia side so they can work :(

      They say they've been working on it for ages, yet they have literally not a single digital asset to show. A number of their promotional materials are straight lifted from other stuff, and every single question about the game is deflected. Kim is paranoid as hell and keeps making bizarre claims to explain away all the stinky bits of the situation.

      At best they have nothing at all and are doing this to get enough money to make a prototype that they can shop to publishers (which is against kickstarter rules). More likely the whole thing is a scam and they are just too close to nabbing the cash to stop now.

        Never heard this before. Actual proof? Not denying it, but would like to see some proof of it. These claims get bandied around all the time by people.

          Read the story he posted yesterday. He points out a few suspicious points there and here

          The comments section on their kickstarter page is (or was) full of accusations of espionage.
          Kim dodges questions all day, in every press interaction he has.
          The video they released for kickstarter had nothing but Stalker art and a few hand drawn sketches/digital pieces of new material. You can still see it on their site. Apparently some of the stuff was lifted directly from Unity support documents, but I wouldn't know.
          Have a look at their site and you'll see that every single picture is concept. There's one thing that looks like it might be an actual digitial game asset and it's an ak74/su. Identical to the ones in Stalker.
          Last week Kim claimed that they were legit because president Putin sent him a letter wishing them luck.
          This week there have been several brand new kickstarter accounts backing Areal for several thousand dollars each as their first and only contribution.

          I want it to be real. I put 100+ hours into each Stalker. I played all the major mods. I put 40 hours or more into Misery on the Black Road setting. I'm currently playing through Lost Alpha. I put money down for day one access to the Survarium beta. I'm the biggest Stalker fan. I WANT this to be real.

          The whole thing just looks like too many coincidences.

            I just checked my Stalker COP steam page. 193 hours. Kill me.

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