After its crowdfunding campaign was canceled by Kickstarter for undisclosed violations, the team at West Games has embarked on a new one. The team has also changed the name of their game from Areal to STALKER Apocalypse.
The cult classic STALKER franchise was the work of GSC Game World, a now-defunct Ukrainian developer owned by Sergei Grigorovich. Based loosely on the 1972 novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky, its open world and divergent, faction-based story is held up to this day as an example of successful storytelling and emergent gameplay. When the studio was unceremoniously shut down in 2011, all work on the franchise ended. That resulted in a diaspora of developers striking out on their own — including Vostok Games (Survarium) and 4A Games (Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light) — while carrying on the tradition of making nuclear-fueled, post-apocalyptic first-person shooters.
When West Games initially launched its Areal Kickstarter campaign, many cast doubt on the project, pointing out that there was very little actual gameplay to show and making accusations that some assets were recycled. Detractors went so far as to complain to Russian president Vladimir Putin. In a statement to Polygon after the cancellation, the team said that any negative attention they received was because of the jealousy of their peers.
"The fact is that there are a lot of companies that make their livelihood on STALKER," West Games told Polygon at the time. "When we showed up on the scene, they saw us as a threat and did everything that they could to stop us."
The new crowdfunding campaign, launched through the website World Wide Funder, features many of the common themes of the classic STALKER franchise and adds additional features like air vehicles and multiplayer.
"STALKER Apocalypse features a unique story and plenty of familiar elements that will undoubtedly please our fans. There will be single player, multiplayer and split screen game modes. Stalker Apocalypse is being developed on Unreal Engine 4, and will be released on PC (Windows, Mac) and console (Xbox One, PS4) platforms."
The initial Kickstarter campaign set a goal of $50,000, while the new campaign has increased to more than ten times that total at $600,000.
With regard to the use of the STALKER name, the campaign's Q&A section states that "we have registered a trademark for Stalker Apocalypse, and have every right to use it as our title. Stalker by itself is a common word, and anyone can use it."
Polygon has reached out to West Games for comment.