Areal, the game pitched as a colorful, open-world post-apocalyptic adventure from "senior ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers," found success on Kickstarter, but now the project has been suspended and all pledges have been canceled. According to a message sent to Kickstarter backers today, "A review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke Kickstarter's rules."
Now the developer has turned to direct funding through its own website in an effort to finance Areal.
The suspension of Areal's Kickstarter hit with less than 48 hours to go in its fundraising campaign. The developer, West Games, had raised nearly $65,000, well beyond its original $50,000 fundraising goal.
Kickstarter doesn't disclose why it suspends campaigns, but said it will take such action if campaigns misrepresent or fail to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator; provide inaccurate or incomplete user information; or misrepresent support by pledging to their own project.
West Games' fundraising project was controversial from its very beginning. Fans of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and skeptics of Areal's ambitions criticized the developer for using footage and concept art from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The studio's fundraising goal appeared suspiciously modest for such an ambitious project targeting release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Windows, Mac and Linux.
Former staffers at GSC Game World — the developer of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. — now at Vostok Games also cast doubt on the project and the hand that the members of the West Games team had in developing the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise.
West Games also had initially little to show of Areal's development during its fundraiser's early days, leading to accusations that the project was a scam. Observers of the project balked at West Games' recent Kickstarter update saying it was possibly contacted by Russian president Vladimir Putin asking to play the game's alpha.
Areal's developer has maintained that its project is legitimate and that West Games has been the subject of harassment and unfair news reports that are "unprofessional and show incredible personal bias." The studio released a gameplay prototype trailer last week.
In an official statement sent to Polygon, West Games says it's taking its fundraising efforts to its own website. It also implies that conflict between Russia and Ukraine is responsible for the harassment the developer has received.
Here's West Games' full statement:
Our Kickstarter was suspended without any warning. As per Kickstarter's policy, we cannot contact them to find out why. Areal is the spiritual successor to STALKER, in terms of our vision for it and in terms of the team that we have (which includes Alexey Sytyanov, the lead game designer and screenwriter for STALKER). You can find out more about us and our team on our website: http://areal.west-games.com/
From the very beginning, we showed what we have accomplished, and showed the atmosphere for what we want to accomplish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTMtpViPhhc).
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.
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). 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. Some sites, in light of this, chose to report based on sources from direct competitors or from the myriad of comments based on lies. Others chose a neutral ground, because of the confusing situation around us, and still others wrote positively about us. All in all, more than a 1,000 news results come up when you type in "Areal Kickstarter" on Google.
After Vice news wrote an article about us, people started contributing every minute, but Kickstarter was afraid of the controversy surrounding our project, so they suspended funding. We set our base goal at 50K; even with 2 days left, we raised more than 64 thousand dollars, and our competitors were doing everything that they could to stop that. Kickstarter is a business, and that was their decision. We were not warned, we do not have a say in the matter, we cannot notify our backers, we cannot message our backers, and we can't post updates anymore. That is how Kickstarter chose to act.
We are the creators of STALKER, and we know that we can make Areal even better than that series, because of advances in technology, gameplay mechanics, and story. We need your support to make that happen, so we have opened up a website wherein we will continue to raise funds. We ask all supporters of Areal who read this, to please head over to our site and contribute there. PayPal is used for safe checkout, but you do not need a PayPal account to donate. Thank you for your understanding.