Areal Kickstarter Campaign Suspended Days after Hitting Goal
After a miraculous push to success during the last few days of its campaign, West Games' Kickstarter for Areal has been suspended, likely because of the illegal use of assets from a different game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
PC Gamer reports that West Games' Kickstarter campaign for Areal was cancelled just a few days after ending nearly $15,000 above its core goal of $50,000. "From the developers of the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, comes a new post apocalyptic video game called Areal," the Kickstarter page claims. According to previous reports, the West Games was described as a team "composed of former senior GSC Game World staff members" (GSC developed the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series). The problem with West Games' statements is that GSC Game World split in 2011 primarily into Vostok Games and 4A Games (of Metro 2033 fame).
Vostok Marketing Manager Oleg Yavorsky was not happy with West Games' claims and explains that West Games' is comprised of people who contributed very little to the overall product:
So that you understand, over the years of development of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and then Metro series, there have been literally hundreds of people involved in working on various bits and pieces, starting from beta-testers up to modellers responsible for certain weapon models. Many people came to the studio to work for a few months just for the sake of adding 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R. development' to their portfolio. Frequently they claimed afterwards to be the ‘core’ developers behind the game.
On top of these claims, there are shady business dealing going on as well. Areal's lead game designer, Peter Dushynskyi's picture on the Kickstarter page is nothing but a stock photo from Shutterstock. Why would Dushynskyi hide? Many speculate that Areal's released gameplay (provided below) and artwork (seen on the Kickstarter) unlawfully uses various off-the-shell assets of the Unity engine and footage straight from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. PC Gamer also claims that much of Areal's concept art was the same promotional art used for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. With four concept artists on its team (which is a lot for an indie studio), you would think that they would be able to use nothing but original content. Even though these artists may have drawn the original artwork for GSC years ago, West Games should not be able to use it to promote their game without GSC's permission.
There is also the strange story of how Areal was able to raise over $25,000 in crowdfunding during the final two days of its campaign, despite only reeling in a few hundred dollars per day during most of its lifespan. We have provided charts of both its pledges and backers for the past month.
As you can see by Kickstarter's graphs, over $25,000 was donated during the last two days of its campaign. Based on the Backers-per-day graph, it is likely that most of this money was donated by only one or two people, which could have even been the developers themselves trying to greenlight the project at the last minute.
Another theory is that the Kickstarter may have had some generous donations after Eugene Kim, CEO of West Games, posted a ridiculous letter on the Kickstarter that was purportedly from Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia. Why he actually posted this letter, we'll never know. This may have been a front for some of West Games' members to try and anonymously fund the Kickstarter to keep the project going.
While there has been no official word as to why the project was suspended, Kickstarter's FAQ does say that projects can become suspended if the company's Trust and Safety Team believe the campaign holders are up to wrongdoing. West Games has yet to comment, but we're sure that the former senior staff of GSC Game World will stick together with some basic unity, if you catch our drift.