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Work Halted On Neal Stephenson's Kickstarted Swordfighting Video Game 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the lots-going-on-in-that-headline dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last year, sci-fi author Neal Stephenson and a team of game developers set out to make video game swordfighting awesome. They set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of hardware and software tech that would make replace console controllers with something more realistic. Now, production on that tech and the game in which they showcase it has been halted. In an update on the Kickstarter page, Stephenson explains how they've sought other investments without success. The project is 'on pause,' and the team asks for patience. He says, 'The overall climate in the industry has become risk-averse to a degree that is difficult to appreciate until you've seen it. It is especially bemusing to CLANG team members who, by cheerfully foregoing other opportunities so that they could associate themselves with a startup in the swordfighting space, have already shown an attitude to career, financial, and reputational risk normally associated with the cast members of Jackass. To a game publisher crouched in a fetal position under a blanket, CLANG seems extra worrisome because it is coupled to a new hardware controller.'"
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Work Halted On Neal Stephenson's Kickstarted Swordfighting Video Game

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:13PM (#44904577)
    ...about why I don't trust kickstarter.
    Sure, I'll fund you. Once you have something ready to deliver.
    Otherwise, I'm not going to trust a bunch of newbies with my money, essentially giving them an interest free loan.
    • by Sylak (1611137) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:15PM (#44904607)
      New kickstarter rules actually require hardware prototypes before they can get on the site to help avoid things like this...
      • by firex726 (1188453)

        THat's not all that reassuring, especially new companies people who did not have real world experience in large scale manufacturing.

        Often times it seems, even with a prototype they will just take the lowest bid from a Chinese company to manufacture something; and as it turns out, it's shit quality, is delayed, and has budget overruns. Resulting effectively having the project die because they'd need to redo the entire Kickstarter to raise money for a second round of manufacturing.

      • The problem with that is that they become like the patent office and if they don't understand what they are looking at it can't be funded. It assumes they are technically more competent than anybody who would use the service. I never saw a javascript that allows somebody to teleport a physical device for them to look at, but I could have missed it.
        • by tgd (2822)

          The problem with that is that they become like the patent office and if they don't understand what they are looking at it can't be funded. It assumes they are technically more competent than anybody who would use the service. I never saw a javascript that allows somebody to teleport a physical device for them to look at, but I could have missed it.

          Here's the dirty little secret though -- if you have a product that actually is valuable, actually could work, and prove you have the business experience and ability to deliver it, there's a whole WORLD of finance options available to you. Banks. Angels. VCs. Its not rocket science.

          Kickstarter was meant for simpler things -- funding an indie band recording a CD, and things like that. Not "zomg, I'm building a $10m game!" or "Here's a new smartphone!" Kickstarter (or anyone else like IndieGoGo) projects tha

          • by interval1066 (668936) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:53PM (#44905957) Homepage Journal
            You'd think VC's would be mildly interested in new games considering Grand Theft Auto V made Rockstar Games a billion dollars yesterday. That was 1 day's sales. The first day it was available.
            • by PlastikMissle (2498382) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:59PM (#44906049)
              GTA V (and all the rest of the so called A list games) are just rehashes of a proven formula. Anything that deviates from these proven formulas has a very hard time finding investors. That's why the market is ruled by sequels and me-too games.
              • by hedwards (940851)

                Not really, the reason for all the rehashes and sequels is that the people lending the money have some way of estimating what the IP is worth. There's a guaranteed audience that will give it a shot and you don't have to waste resources selling the concept. That safety is also a large part of why it so often doesn't work out well in terms of artistic merit.

                Hollywood actually likes new stories, it's just that most of the new stories are garbage whereas the presold ideas like Spiderman 14 and Superman 1,000,00

                • by PlastikMissle (2498382) on Friday September 20, 2013 @04:04PM (#44906751)
                  Which is exactly what I was saying, no?
                  • by hedwards (940851)

                    Unless you botched your post, that's not at all what you were saying. Rehashes and sequels sell tons of copies in large part because that's what the audience demands. They've played the previous game or they've played the spiritual predecessor and you get a shit load of word of mouth, whether or not the new game is any good.

                    That's why a game like GTA V can sell $800m when it first releases. People are already familiar with the game.

                    Truth be told studios prefer to release new games that are innovative, it's

            • by tgd (2822)

              You'd think VC's would be mildly interested in new games considering Grand Theft Auto V made Rockstar Games a billion dollars yesterday. That was 1 day's sales. The first day it was available.

              VC's, unlike Kickstarter supporters, know what the odds really are of a game that starts development ever shipping. And the odds that a game that ships ever breaks even.

              There's a reason things don't get traditional funding. And a reason why this game in question isn't getting funding. If there was a market, and the team was sure to deliver, then there'd be people lining up to invest in it. The fact that there aren't simply means the due diligence the potential investors are doing are turning up concerns abo

              • by hedwards (940851)

                I don't agree, KS has a huge variation in the kinds of projects that are being funded. Some of them are so simple that they can scarcely fail. A book where it's been written and the author is just looking to fund the printing. Or a sunglasses design where all the details have been worked out, but they need to buy a couple thousand to make it economical.

                The problem is that people let themselves get wrapped up in the hype without having the time to do any research or access to much of the inside dirt on what'

            • by Quarters (18322)
              Sales are not profit. R* didn't make a billion dollars in one day. GTA V sold $1B worth of copies in a day. At best R* will see about 40% of that. Even then, VCs aren't going to just jump at game development. GTA is the exception, not the rule. It cost over $265M and took somewhere in the neighborhood of five years to make GTA V. During development *every* R* studio was involved with it. There were no other games in production. There was no fallback plan, essentially. GTAV was risky every way you look at it
              • At best R* will see about 40% of that.

                Dude. Listen to yourself. As a developer, I'd lick my own ass to take 5% of that. Hardly a failure. Probably a much better indicator of sucess than anything you've come up with.

          • Most of those sources are risk averse, resulting in a lot of look alike products. It's the more harebrained schemes like this one that Kickstarter is all about. The ones that the establishment won't look at while they pump out COD XIXIX11 and it's related cash cows.
            • by tgd (2822) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:23PM (#44906341)

              Most of those sources are risk averse, resulting in a lot of look alike products.

              It's the more harebrained schemes like this one that Kickstarter is all about. The ones that the establishment won't look at while they pump out COD XIXIX11 and it's related cash cows.

              Oh absolutely. But that risk is a risk for a reason. People shouldn't be surprised when money thrown at unvetted ideas disappears. No one who put down $20 on that Kickstarter asked for a business plan, or to see their market analysis. And, clearly, also had never built professional software or they would've known there wasn't nearly enough capital there. And if there's not enough capital at the start, you better be asking those questions or you have no idea if the rest will ever materialize.

              • I put in my $20, and wished it Godspeed. They did deliver a prototype, and it's sorta usable, so they didn't just take the money and run. I'm not upset.
          • I think you are making my point. The only person who could get one started is somebody who should already be able to do it and is willing to give away 5% for nothing or if it is so innovative that kickstarter doesn't understand it, then neither of them gets anything done because they are both stupid in two different orthogonal ways. Besides that, it seems that kickstarter is just a dressed up man in the middle attack on people who invest or buy and those who create. Kinda like RIAA.
          • Gaming in particular has become a very conservative industry, with remakes and sequels becoming more and more dominant. They're even making sequels to games that didn't do that well (Mirror's Edge) rather than make new IPs.

            Brian Fargo tried to make Wasteland 2 a reality for a couple decades, he's a reasonably big name with a long history, yet he couldn't get anyone to sign off on it, he went to Kickstarter and now they're in the final stages of development of what looks to be pretty good. It's the same s
    • by ledow (319597) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:25PM (#44904725) Homepage

      I have to agree in part - I'm very, very, very averse to "pre-orders" of any kind, especially speculative pre-orders.

      That said, a careful person can get a lot of success out of Kickstarter. The Defense Grid 2 kickstarter? I got more hardware and software out of that than my money was worth within weeks and the game I invested in is definitely being built and yet I'm already "in profit" on what I invested.

      I also supported a project set around a guy making a pack of gaming cards. I have them in my hands, and a bonus app on my phone, and a pretty presentation book with games, and a little felt pack to hold them in. I never expected 90% of that even KNOWING what I was investing in, but the guy behind it delivered, and delivered enormously.

      It's not "kickstarter" that should be distrusted. It's investment. If it's not your thing, and you're a bad judge of what projects to invest in, then, no, it won't be good for you. I've seen enormous amounts of money thrown away on junk on Kickstarter - big names make no difference, grandiose ideas make no difference, planning and management make no difference. You have to just think to yourself "Who is this person? Can they deliver? Will it be worth THEM delivering?" - you're investing in the people, not the product, or even the execution.

      As such, there are plenty of worthwhile things on Kickstarter and I think it's huge sections on indie music, dance projects, art projects etc. are a fabulous idea. But I've never invested in something that I didn't believe would pan out - I checked the HISTORY of the people and my trust in them more than anything to do with the product.

      If you invest in a random project because it's something you want, then you might as well buy anything on QVC that "sounds good". The fact that it might turn out to be utter shite that cons you with fancy words and impossible promises is something that you shouldn't even need to be told to factor into your decision.

      • by Asmodae (1155077)
        It's not wholly about return on investment. Even if you don't get the proposed 'thing' that money was spent and paid people to work. People learn from failures, maybe next time they'll be better prepared. There are worse places to put your money (e.g. Walmart), even if you didn't get anything out of it directly, your society and economy does which comes around eventually.
    • by pezpunk (205653) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:28PM (#44904767) Homepage

      Nobody's asking you to trust Kickstarter (to do anything other than show proposals and track donations).

      YOU are responsible for evaluating whether you think a particular campaign is trustworthy or worth donating to. Some succeed and some fail (and I don't mean fail to secure funding). Kickstarter is not vouching for the success of these campaigns and doesn't pretend to. It's hooking up people with ideas with people willing to donate.

      you seem to be operating under the mistaken impression that Kickstarter is an online store.

      • I agree. If you think your buying a product on kickstarter you are diluting yourself. Your helping a project, that IF successful might weild you a reward based upon your contribution.
      • My takeaway from this thread is that most posters here:
        * Do not understand how venture fundraising works.
        * Do not understand what is meant by the words donate or pledge.
        * Are quite upset over what is ultimately a failure of (mistaken) expectations.

        As others of the more clueful posters have noted, Kickstarter projects are ventures, not items in a store. And ventures are like gambling -- you should only ever play with money that you can afford to lose. Sure, it's disappointing to lose, but it's part and

        • Personally, I respect the fact that he's savvy enough to realize that further development at this time would be a losing venture. Better to mothball for now and have some RoI in the future than to keep operating and have all the funds vanish into the gaping maw of operational expenses.

    • by Lithdren (605362)

      You're view is increadibly valid, for people who dont understand kickstarter.

      If you're using Kickstarter as a pre-order concept, you're not very smart. If you're avoiding Kickstarter because you dont want to get ripped off I could see that. If you're avoiding kickstarter because you're worried you wont get the item you're 'pre-ordering' something then I think we're better off if you dont get involved, because you clearly do not understand it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Okay, cool. I'll just keep this pile of money for myself. I'm glad you cleared that up. I'm sure everyone on Kickstarter will thank you.

        • by jandrese (485)
          It's better than you going apeshit because some idea didn't pan out and you never got the product you kickstarted. Kickstarters are risky business. Even if they do deliver there is no guarantee that the final product will be good. From a financial standpoint, a lot of Kickstarters don't make much sense. You're assuming a lot of risk and they're still charging you basically full price for the final product and you don't share in the profits. That said, these tend to be the safest kickstarters, because t
      • If a project fails for a good reason, explained in detail, with hard financial proof (invoice screenshots, legal paperwork and whatnot) then I would not miss my donation - because funding a kickstarter project is what I'd define as "donation".
        However... I take issue with funded projects which "just fail". Someone posting an update saying "the market sucks, we haven't planned ahead, sorry, goodbye and thanks for all the fish" - that's just trolling. It takes 5 minutes to write that text and all while you loo

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "If you're using Kickstarter as a pre-order concept, you're not very smart."

        Go tell that to DoubleBear productions with their game Dead State.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:35PM (#44904875)
      Look at it more of a "voting with your wallet" type deal and maybe it will make more sense. If you view it as purchasing something, yeah, it's a stupid way to do that. Uncertainty if you're going to actually get it, long delays, etc. But that's not what you're doing, you're putting money to see a product become developed.

      If you're entirely happy with what consumer products you are being offered, you don't need to tell yourself it has to do with trust. You can just say "I don't want to invest in cool new products." No one will think you're a coward. Except for slashdot, which has already labeled you an anonymous coward.
    • Interest free loan? hah. You give them the money with no strings attached. You're not investing, you're not pre-purchasing. You have no legal standing and kickstarter doesn't give a shit what happens after the project is funded.
      • Actually you do, the KS Terms of Service do require the projects to deliver or give the money back to whoever asks for it. Not doing so is breach of contract. We'll see what happens when that's tested, but there is standing.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, kickstarter works for some.

      not for concepts they have no idea how to make properly. contrary to what some fiction authors believe writing the fiction backstory is the easiest part of it(game making). this time it was an idea for "real swordfighting". that's pretty hard to do well short of building a robot to swordfight against! thus potentially it would need infinite amount of research.

      it's not a loan though :D it's just giving them money. Hardware projects now need to have a prototype to show: that's

    • Kickstarter is like Micro-Venture Capitalism.

      High Risk of failure. However you don't need a large upfront investment.
      It is kinda like playing the lottery.

    • by mcl630 (1839996)

      News flash: Investing involves risk.

    • by brit74 (831798)
      Hey AC. I support what you're saying, even if lots of angry Slashdot commenters can't. What's funny is that people will invent all kinds of reasons to disagree with you, and then they'll turn around and attack you for "believing that Kickstarter is riskless". Duh. The fact that Kickstarter is *RISKY* is a legitimate reason not to fund stuff. It's funny how Slashdotters will agree with what you're saying, but pretend that they disagree and find ways to vilify and insult you for holding the same view tha
    • by r1348 (2567295)

      On Kickstarter you make an investment, you don't buy a product.
      If you want to fund someone once they've aproduct to deliver, there's a place for you: Amazon.

  • Not a shock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:21PM (#44904681) Homepage

    As someone who has done a bit of both Japanese and French style fencing, I was excited about this game. But its pausing (read: cancellation) does not come as a surprise. Any game that requires special hardware is going to face an uphill battle. My guess is that it became apparent the hardware they needed to make the game work they way they envisioned was going to be unrealistically expensive (like over $100 per unit). Theoretically, that hardware could come down in price in the near future and they could start back up- but I seriously doubt it.

    • Re:Not a shock (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jerry Atrick (2461566) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:53PM (#44905087)

      It's not so much the cost of the hardware. There's almost no use for it outside it's niche so there's zero chance any publisher or larger developer will be interested in using it. Up front they should have known they were on their own developing the product, complaining that no one else wants to support it shows total cluelessness.

      For the sort of swordplay I like, with medieval weapons, $100 wouldn't come near providing any sort of realism. Restricting it to lighter weapons and sports like fencing removes any chance of wider interest from the gaming public.

      • It's not so much the cost of the hardware. There's almost no use for it outside it's niche so there's zero chance any publisher or larger developer will be interested in using it. Up front they should have known they were on their own developing the product, complaining that no one else wants to support it shows total cluelessness.

        For the sort of swordplay I like, with medieval weapons, $100 wouldn't come near providing any sort of realism. Restricting it to lighter weapons and sports like fencing removes any chance of wider interest from the gaming public.

        Based on the gameplay video here [slashdot.org], I'm wondering why they didn't just go Kinect + nerf sword.

        • Based on the astonishing (bad) motion tracking in that video I'm surprised they didn't just use a Wii.

          • Re:Not a shock (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @12:49AM (#44910003)

            I always thought the combination could be incredible - kinect for large-scale position tracking, and wiimote for the subtle stuff. Coordinating the input might be challenging, but in theory it should allow for both accuracy and precision to improve dramatically.

    • I tried the samuri game with my grandson on the Wii. Pfftttt! Like you, I have actual sword experience and I can't see anything against an opponent working. There's no tactile feedback. If you want to play with swords, join a local fencing club. Cost about the same as the game probably would have.
  • It'll be a lesson for other developers, perhaps they would have been better off adding the hardware controller as a stretch goal and getting the main product out without the controller to begin with. All this in hindsight of course :)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They also should decide whether they are building a game or a c compiler, duh!

  • Video of the game (Score:5, Informative)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:23PM (#44904701) Homepage

    In case anybody is wondering of the state of the game, there is a nice video review of it [youtube.com].

  • by Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:26PM (#44904741) Homepage
    Chris Kohler reports that Subutai Corporation, the developer of Clang, the motion-controlled swordfighting game spearheaded by fiction author Neal Stephenson, has burned through the over half a million dollars that backers donated [wired.com] and can't finish the game without even more money. "We've hit the pause button on further CLANG development while we get the financing situation sorted out," says the Clang Team. "We stretched the Kickstarter money farther than we had expected to, but securing the next round, along with constructing improvised shelters and hoarding beans, has to be our top priority for now."

    But not so fast writes Kohler. "What shocks me about this particular update is that Subutai seems to be neither apologetic, nor realistic about what actually occurred in this case. Reading the update, it seems like the blame is falling everywhere but on Subutai's own decisions."

    The Clang Team says that "Kickstarter is amazing, but one of the hidden catches is that once you have taken a bunch of people's money to do a thing, you have to actually do that thing [kickstarter.com], and not some other thing that you thought up in the meantime." Only after completing the whole Kickstarter did they discover the hidden trick to the whole thing writes Kohler, which is that you have to make the thing you took people's money to make [wired.com].

    "Hey, Kickstarter creators: If you run out of money and need to explain things to your backers, you're stuck between a rock and a hard place and I don't envy you having to decide how to approach it. But I can say one thing: Definitely do not post an update like this."
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      Shit happens. People fail. This is especially true if you are trying something new and interesting. A pathological fear of failure is stupid and ultimately counterproductive.

      There's no sure thing. It's stupid to even to to think like that.

      As others have said: it's not an online store.

      Stop thinking strictly like a W-2 employee or consumer.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If someone was setting out to run a marathon in 3 hours, do you appreciate the person more that busted their ass and got it done in 4 hours instead, or woke up, showed up at the race, then decided, "ah, screw it, it looks like I'm not going to finish in 3 hours... time to stop for a beer" ...?

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:52PM (#44905063)

      I was under the impression from the beginning that the money they were asking for was to build a working model that would be used to sell the game's concept to someone with more money; there's simply no way the amount they were raising was sufficient to make a deliverable product. 500K minus all the expenses of hardware prototyping leaves enough for maybe half a dozen (not very well paid) developers for one year, and that ignores all the expenses of actually building and delivering production hardware at the end. I find it hard to believe that anyone thought they were fully funding the game from the ground up with that level of financing.

      • by Tipa (881911)

        They weren't building hardware -- they were using third party hardware. That people were unlikely to have or for which they had any other use. They were just building the software.

    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:56PM (#44905143) Homepage

      Yup, seen it a million times. Someone gets a large amount of money from Kickstarter, all at once, and falls in love with the idea of doing things. The actual project...well, we'll get that done...later. Who could possibly spend (pinky finger) one million dollars?

      Wow, you weren't kidding about him saying "Kickstarter is amazing, but one of the hidden catches is that once you have taken a bunch of people's money to do a thing, you have to actually do that thing, and not some other thing that you thought up in the meantime." Amazing. He actually said it, and actually called it a "hidden catch". And he wonders why he's having trouble getting investors to buy in to his idea?

      The real problem is that Kickstarter lets novices (some people call them "idiots") get ahold of large sums of cash. These people then make beginner mistakes of the sort you would expect beginners to make. They then can't handle criticism and get angry when people start complaining expecting a product.

      This is why stretch goals are a horrible idea. Take someone that is already in over their head in a project that will be difficult to complete, and add EVEN MORE stuff to do. Unfortunately people love this stuff and won't stop giving money. A victimless crime, I suppose.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        Unfortunately people love this stuff and won't stop giving money. A victimless crime, I suppose.

        It's a crime that I haven't been given this money. Give it to meeeee!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dywolf (2673597)

      wait wait wait wait...
      you mean they didnt know they need to deliver after taking peoples money?
      are they taking lessons from Congress or something?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2013/09/clang-kickstarter/

  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:29PM (#44904785)
    1) Use it to support fundraisers that are purely charity. Where the rewards don't matter. My cousin used Kickstarter to raise a few thousand dollars to get an album made for his kids rock band. Money was raised from friends and family. The tee shirts and cds he sent out didn't really matter.
    2) Use it to preorder stuff from established companies that have a history of shipping stuff. A company that been in buisness for 20 years is going to get you your stuff.
    3) If risking your money on something untested, risk it on stuff that is already built and tested. The Oculus Rift was already awesome and being demoed when its Kickstarter started. Artist ofter already have their songs, books, or prints ready. They just need money to print stuff.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:01PM (#44905213)

      No matter what, the money you put towards a project needs to be like any other unsecured investment: Money you can afford to lose. On Kickstarter you are investing for creative, rather than financial, return but the rules are the same. Obviously you want to vet what you invest in first, and if it seems like they don't know what they are doing, have a poor business plan, are scam artists, etc don't invest. However even if it is an established company, good rep, etc, etc you still need to be prepared to lose the money with no return.

      I love Kickstarter, I've backed 10 videogames on it so far, but it is something I'm realistic about. Currently of those 3 have delivered as promised, 5 look like they are on track for release as promised, 1 is floundering badly and will likely fail, and 1 appears to have failed (the dev hasn't announced it, but there's been nothing from him in a long time and the game is in a very early alpha state). I'm ok with that. I only spent money I could afford to lose and I didn't expect all the products would work out, particularly since it was some smaller devs in some cases.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        I love Kickstarter, I've backed 10 videogames on it so far, but it is something I'm realistic about. Currently of those 3 have delivered as promised

        About how long did you play those 3 games for, in total?

        • I don't know, I don't have hour logs on all of them since they aren't all on Steam. For the one on Steam, 25 hours, probably somewhere in the 60-100 range for all of them (one of the ones off Steam I've played a lot).

          • by Raenex (947668)

            I'm impressed. I figured they would be virtual dust collectors.

            • You have to understand the reason that I kick started these games in the first place is that their ideas appeal to me. All of them were concepts I liked, and types of games I liked. So I'm not surprised that I ended up playing them quite a bit. They also turned out quite good. The three games, in case you're wondering, Faster Than Light, Shadow Run Returns, and expansion for the Defense Grid.

              You have to remember that kick starter hasn't just seen small indie games, it has also seen some larger studios. Plus

              • by Raenex (947668)

                You have to understand the reason that I kick started these games in the first place is that their ideas appeal to me.

                Oh, I know, it's just that even with that there's often a disconnect between fanciful speculation and realization. I'm glad it worked out for you.

                • I'm fairly pragmatic about it. Like I'm not butthurt about the two failures. As I said, you have to go in knowing that it could fail. Also, if one or more of the games isn't fun, that's a risk too, but it is a risk with released games too. I've bought commercial games that have sucked royally (I'm looking at your Brink).

  • by hirschma (187820) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:31PM (#44904821)

    Wow.

    So let me get this straight: Best-selling, presumably well-heeled author uses his star power to hold the beggar's cup on Kickstarter.

    Author spends the proceeds without delivering anything.

    Author pens a nice FU to the folks that trusted him, gives up.

    Stephenson: how about digging into your pocket and delivering what you promised? I sincerely hope that he now has 9000+ former fans that will never buy another book from him, and will tell their family and friends to do the same. And thus ends up taking a bigger financial hit than just simply doing the right thing.

    • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:53PM (#44905093) Homepage

      It's not just Stephenson. Take a look at who else is involved with Subutai [subutai.mn], the team behind Clang:

      • Mark Teppo
      • Karen Laur
      • Greg Bear
      • Gabe Newell
      • The Kennedy Marshall Company
      • Bezos Expeditions

      While some of those titles may mean nothing more than "Gabe paid for our lunch one time so he's an Investor, and he said that the dosas were pretty good so that makes him a Strategic Advisor too", it's still a list designed to make even people who aren't fans of Neal Stephenson take notice.

      • by Dr. Spork (142693)
        Sounds like a group that doesn't really need to hold out a tin cup when they want to get a project funded. If they really want this game, they could probably find enough money to continue under their couch cushions. To me it sounds more like they got bored when they realized that this would be hard, and moved on to some other fantasy/project. That's their right. I've also abandoned my share of half-finished projects, for similar reasons. The thing is, they shouldn't have taken kickstarter money if they knew
    • by Anonymous Coward

      First. I would not be certain that the letter was written by Stephenson or that the failure of CLANG was his doing.
      Second, I read and purchase Stephenson's books becuase I enjoy reading them; I have no intention of depriving myself of this pleasure because someone else invested in a potential idea without worrying about risk.

      86 people pledged more than $500 toward this project,(out of a total 9023), this money is at risk. I'd expect that anyone investing $500 or more would perform the due diligence about

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You really think he makes that much money?

      He is no doubt comfortable, but not making nearly the bank of Kevin J. Anderson or Neil Gaiman. He just doesn't crank out the volume of books for that.

  • by LNO (180595) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:32PM (#44904837)

    Sure, they raised over $500k from 9000+ backers, but they hadn't raised that money to make a sweet swordfighting game... they raised that so they could raise their profile to get funding from more traditional sources. From Kotaku's take on it [kotaku.com]:

    "Despite hitting its funding goal of $500,000 last year, development on the game is grinding to a halt, with Stephenson writing on the game's Kickstarter page that CLANG is now an "evenings and weekends" project because the money has run out, and many developers have sought contract work elsewhere.

    But wait. That's not all. Turns out the money was never going to fund development of the game in the first place; the developers were simply using it as a starting point from which they could attract venture capitalist and/or publisher backing, which for whatever reason hasn't materialised."

    • Obviously the money went to making the game, otherwise it wouldn't have run out. And I'd hope that anyone who backs a project like is capable of recognizing that $500,000 is not enough to build a game like this.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        And I'd hope that anyone who backs a project like is capable of recognizing that $500,000 is not enough to build a game like this.

        When a contractor fails to deliver whats promised within budget then its a failure on the contractor for adequating estimating the cost involved.

        Its part of their job to either up the bid amount, or to scale back the scope of work. I have no sympathy for them if they take the money saying "Yep, we can do it!" and when the project goes over budget they think YOU should have known that that wasn't enough money.

        • by MrEricSir (398214)

          When a contractor fails to deliver whats promised within budget then its a failure on the contractor for adequating estimating the cost involved.

          Sure, but if that contractor is making unrealistic promises, at some point it's a matter of caveat emptor. The contributors knew exactly what they were getting into, and if they didn't, who's fault is that?

        • When a contractor fails to deliver whats promised within budget then its a failure on the contractor for adequating estimating the cost involved.

          And such a pity that this sort of thing happens constantly in government funded projects because the contractor did his best pinkie swear while submitting a low-ball bid, knowing that they wouldn't actually be on the hook for the inevitable cost/schedule overruns.

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:36PM (#44904887)

    They actually exceeded their donations goal by $26,125 yet still didnt deliver so where does that leave people that donated their hard-earned moeny to see this thing through? I'd be REALLY pissed if I was one of the 9 people that donated over $10,000.

    If it is so easy to get over half a million in donations by claiming you're gonna do something cool then just coming up with some lame excuse a few months later, I think I might have to come up with my own kickstarter page with no intentions of ever actually delivering.
    I'm thinking a kit that costs $5000 and turns your car into a personal spaceship sounds cool.

    • by Luthair (847766)
      I suspect if you started without the intent to deliver it might legally be fraud, however naive ignorance is entirely defensible.
    • Re:ripped off (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Friday September 20, 2013 @05:58PM (#44907887)

      I'd be REALLY pissed if I was one of the 9 people that donated over $10,000.

      You shouldn't, if you were, for two reasons.

      One: disposable income is relative. It's safe to assume that someone who pitches in five digits for a video game is not hurting for that cash. That pledge loss is to them what $100 might be to you or I. Or $10 for someone else.

      Two: Kickstarter is a patronage system. Pure and simple. It's not a purchasing system, it's not a cash-now-product-later system. Patronage. You provide funds to a person or group whom you respect and wish to assist. There's no guarantee in patronage. The artist may produce something you don't like. The artist may die. The artist's muse may prove elusive for a time. Shit happens. If you're viewing Kickstarter as anything else, you're doing it wrong.

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        Spot on. Several others have made good posts about proper use of Kickstarter, but you got the essence.

        I've got very little money to put to a project, generally enough for a copy of the game or CD and the like every month or so; I've gotten good return on four, three are in progress - and all late, and one appears to be dead. I'm satisfied with the outcomes. It helped that I well understood what patronage is and was what I consider a KS campaign to be.

        There's one project, Tangiers, where the communication

  • This is pathetic. They blew through $500K and they don't even have a demo. Reading through their stuff, it seems like all they really intended to do was a standard fighting game with a sword-like controller and better fighting mechanics. Nothing indicates that you'd feel a blow when you hit something, or when you got hit. A Kinect can do that. Even the old-model Kinect.

    There's some handwaving about force feedback, but nothing about how to actually do it. It's not impossible, and you can do better than ju

  • Because Generic Cutlass Clashers has gotten so stale lately.
  • However he clearly does not have the chops to be an entrepreneur.

    There is currently no shortage of money aggressively chasing startups and video game studios. If he can't generate interest despite the successful Kick-starter campaign, then he should really re-evaluate his business plan, his pitch and his fund raising strategy. Failure to generate any interest at all is a great indicator that you are doing something very wrong.

  • I would not use the wording some others did, but i also am disappointed. The focus on additional funding which appeared over the time was not perceived from the initial project brief.

    Clang has a great vision. Such visions can fail. But that would not create any disappointment from my side. That is the purpose of Kickstarter: to fund risky projects. My disappointment was created by what i perceived a creeping change of the project direction: from a game production into creating a startup company. The second

  • So it looks like they never had enough funding in the first place. This should have been obvious.

    Stephenson fancies himself as being very tech-savvy, but he's no programmer. I'm sure he had this idea (that many people still have, admittedly), that making a game isn't all that hard. Making a game is *colossally* difficult. It requires all kinds of specialized skills, and the people with those skills aren't cheap, and there aren't many of them.

    Yeah, you can crank out 16-bit-level games pretty quickly and chea

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:06PM (#44905285)

    Given the statement "We stretched the Kickstarter money farther than we had expected to" the only conclusion is that when stated that for $10,000 they'd give you:

    * Steel longsword based on a design by noted sword-smith and Foreworld contributor, Angus Trim
    * A Studio tour and lunch with the team!
    * Gotlandic war knife based on a design by bladesmith Jeff Pringle
    * Original concept art plus invitations to company parties in Seattle
    * Your face on your exclusive character!
    * Name a character in the large world Foreworld game project.
    * Name a character in a future Foreworld story, the alternate history in which The Mongoliad (and CLANG) is set
    * Complete Mongoliad trilogy signed by team plus invitations to company parties in Seattle.
    * Print version of the illustrated CLANG fighting manual signed by the team
    * Copy of the Deluxe Edition of The Mongoliad Book 1, signed by the writers
    * Motivational poster signed by the team. OMVI patch.
    * Print edition of illustrated CLANG fighting manual.
    * T-shirt with CLANG/Subutai Kickstarter campaign graphic.
    * PDF of illustrated Clang fighting manual.
    * Download of game concept art in pdf format.
    * Two copies of the game

    They had no intention of actually doing so, since apparently they've already done more than they expected with the money in the first place.

  • by grumpyman (849537) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:30PM (#44905611)
    Should NOT be a job creation program. I think this is what happened here.
  • by Luthair (847766) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:48PM (#44905869)

    The reality is that backing Kickstarter projects is really the risk of an investment without the returns of an investment. In the past when people hit the point in the projects that they needed outside funding they'd need to find investors who'd own part of the product, Now they hit Kickstarter charge full price for a product they may never deliver and in the event its successful maintain all of the profits.

    This is particularly bothersome to me when people like Neal Stephenson and Zach Braff who have money themselves, as well as access to investors. Kickstarter ought to be the place where small time folks who've completed the product but don't have access to the funds to get the initial batch made.

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      This is particularly bothersome to me when people like Neal Stephenson and Zach Braff who have money themselves, as well as access to investors. Kickstarter ought to be the place where small time folks who've completed the product but don't have access to the funds to get the initial batch made.

      While I agree with this statement in principle, there are apparently thousands of people who disagree, and I'm not going to tell them what to do with their money.

  • Sorry to hear it, but luckily we still have GCC...
  • Nobody can be a bigger badass than Raven.

  • They should somehow connect it conceptually to Star Citizen. There seems to be no limits to the gullibility, er, resources of the funding crowd for that.

  • by WillgasM (1646719) on Friday September 20, 2013 @05:03PM (#44907409) Homepage
    Are we sure that letter wasn't posted by The Onion? It's too comedic to be true.
  • that the person identified as the project's Lead Programmer also happens to list on his public bio for his first title credit as a game programmer: BattleCruiser 3000AD. Not even kidding.

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