THUD: Development Of Neal Stephenson’s CLANG Halted

By Nathan Grayson on September 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

Yikes. It appears that Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson and the CLANG team have a bit of a mess on their hands. And by “a bit,” I mean the sort that requires years of clean-up and nearly extinguishes at least seven species of marine life. Here’s the skinny: $526,125 in Kickstarter money apparently wasn’t enough for the peripheral-dependent savior of swordfighting, so Stephenson and co were hoping to seek out a more traditional deal to bolster it – for instance venture capital funding or a publisher. So far? No dice. So the team has been forced to “hit the pause button” on further development in order to sort out a new plan of attack. They don’t seem particularly optimistic, either – at least, not in the near term. Oh, and in case you were worried: you’re not getting your money back. Not yet, anyway.

The whole Kickstarter update is kind of astounding, to be honest. It seems like the CLANG team wasn’t prepared to handle the actual logistics of creating this thing at all, and now they’re dealing with the consequences.

“We’ve hit the pause button on further CLANG development while we get the financing situation sorted out. 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.”

“Our only efficient choice is to keep doing what we’re doing and wait for the right investor to come along. The right investor for CLANG is one who has some pre-existing interest in what we are doing. This might be as simple as a personal fascination with swordfighting or sword games, or something more strategic such as a connection with a hardware-based strategy within the video game industry. Finding people like that takes time, which is one reason we ran out of it.”

The post also goes into reasons they’ve been unable to secure further funding (which include everything from risk-averse publishers to hardware requirements to the fact that the team is “missing certain elements” to fickle Neal Stephenson fans to every other possible explanation under the sun) and an upsettingly irresponsible defense of the fact that this whole situation has been horribly communicated. And then there’s this little nugget, which is nearly mind-blowing:

“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.”

Yes. Obviously. Painfully so. For better or worse, Kickstarter leaves very little wiggle room for sweeping changes – that is, unless you do a good job of communicating the reality of a situation with backers and getting them on board beforehand. Whoops. Starting to sound like at least some of this ugly, gushing mess could’ve been circumvented. As is, however, there are figurative baby seals, and they are weeping.

The lesson here is the same as it’s always been – legendary sci-fi authors involved or not. Just because you have a good idea (and maybe even some clout), that doesn’t mean Kickstarter’s your own personal Scrooge McDuck gleaming gold swimming pool. You can’t just dive in headfirst without considering the consequences, because the money’s not actually yours to gamble away – even after it’s changed hands. But I’m starting to think that some people are never going to understand that, so approach Kickstarter with caution. Make decisions with the knowledge that you may never see a return on your investment. Or at least not the one you wanted.

As for what to do about CLANG, well, that’s your call. You can demand your money back, but bear in mind that the dev team’s not obligated to do anything about it [Edit: Actually they are - though the claim that the project is not "dead-parrot dead" might give them solid ground to stand on for now]. Alternatively, you can be “efficient” like Subutai and wait until some mythical investor drops out of thin air at some unspecified date/time – in the meantime throwing even more money at the (admittedly promising) STEM controller system Subutai plans to rely on. There is, however, one thing I absolutely would not do if I were you: get my hopes up.

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143 Comments »

  1. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I had no expectation that this would actually go anywhere, and even if I was wrong about that I felt pretty certain that wherever it went wouldn’t yield a particularly fun experience. It sounds like people with money share my view.

    • sPOONz says:

      Great. Thanks for sharing that. Pat on the back?

      • Hallowsend says:

        Perhaps he’s better sticking with books. I read an article the other day about how he wanted to get in on the ultra-skyscraper business but had come unstuck in planning and had to pause when taking wind into account in construction ideas…

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          It’s that damn reality, forever getting in his way.

          • annie05 says:

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        • Bull0 says:

          I read that article too! On the BBC. And my first thought was, hmm, he ought to be focusing on that kickstarter game. Sorry to hear that it isn’t working out, but on the other hand it’s nice that they got to make the stuff they did, that wouldn’t have been possible without KS, so they did achieve something.

          80k of the KS money was from top-tier backers who got a steel longsword as a reward. I hope they still get those!

        • DigitalParadox says:

          Easy as it is to criticize him, I’m pretty sure that if I was a wildly successful sci-fi author I’d want to put some of my money into developing crazy sci-fi type of stuff too.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Who wouldn’t. The problem is what he promises to do with other peoples money vs what he actually does with it.

            Presumably he managed to pay the guys who made his fancy pitch video at least.

          • zbeeblebrox says:

            You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too, Wren. If you develop a crazy sci-fi project, you’re making a promise. The end. Don’t go around agreeing with the guy above you, then bitch about the consequences of that same exact thing. That’s disingenuous and lazy.

          • WrenBoy says:

            I think that if you read my comment again you will see that I was making a distinction between what digitalparadox said, ie someone trying to make a game with their own money, and what actually happened, ie someone doing not a whole lot with other peoples money.

        • tormeh says:

          Uhm, guys, I’m pretty sure the role Stephenson plays in all this is mostly in PR. He’s doing a lot of things, including writings books, so he just doesn’t have the time. It was inevitable (and good for the KS campaign) that he became a frontman, but it’s not Stephenson’s project.

    • Shuck says:

      Well, this was one of the more obviously problematic ones, since they weren’t even raising the money for the actual game (half-a-million wouldn’t have taken them very far), but for a demo to raise the money for a full game. That’s always an iffy proposition, so no, it’s not the least bit surprising it didn’t work out.

  2. FF56 says:

    I wonder if they talked to Valve seeing as Gabe is a massive knife/sword fan and even made a cameo appearence.

  3. Iain_1986 says:

    The fact that many people (including yourself) still refer to Kickstarter as “investing”….when its more like a donation is part of the issue.

    People need to be much more in the mindset of it being a donation, that you *might* receive a gift from the receiver.

    I’ve said to people in the past, all it takes is a few big names to fail to make part of the Kickstarter bubble pop. This isn’t one of them I don’t think, but if say, Double Fine, or Project Eternity fail to deliver, that could have a much bigger impact.

    • basilisk says:

      I think “patronage” is still by far the best word for what Kickstarter is/should be. It’s all about mutual trust, not really about money changing hands.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Indeed. It’s a “I want this to exist”, not a “I want a piece of this action”.

        • AngoraFish says:

          All the above posts in this thread speak nothing but the truth.

        • malkav11 says:

          I think it’s generally both.

          • DigitalParadox says:

            Investing implies an interest in profit though, and there’s no profit to be made for those pledging in Kickstarters other than the product itself.

          • malkav11 says:

            Oh, it’s absolutely not an investment in any meaningful sense, but I don’t think most people back projects (most of the time) just because they want the project to happen. I think most people also want to receive a tangible reward from the project. I know I’ve personally only backed like one or two projects that I just wanted to see succeed out of well over a hundred. (There’s a cool project that’s attempting to make public domain recordings of Chopin because although his actual music is well out of copyright, the same isn’t true of performances of it. I’m not a classical music fan but I’m a huge fan of the public domain.)

      • Baines says:

        The word is “pre-order”.

        That’s what Kickstarter is, at least when it comes to video games, it is a place to pre-order a game. You get bonuses if you pay more than the pre-order price. Maybe there are time-limited bonuses, too.

        But ultimately Kickstarter is pre-ordering on a promise.

        • Shuck says:

          Well, no. That may be how many people treat Kickstarter for games, but it isn’t a pre-order system.

        • povu says:

          Calling it a pre-order is dangerous, because it can lead to some unpleasant surprises for people who aren’t fully aware of what Kickstarter is and just treat it as an early and cheap pre-order. But a Kickstarter game could turn out very differently from what was originally advertised, or it could not come out at all.

          It’s a gamble, and you should not spend any money on Kickstarter that you can’t afford to lose with nothing in return.

          • malkav11 says:

            There are plenty of preorders where there’s no actual guarantee you’ll ever receive the product. Most of the time you do, but….

        • Leosiegfried says:

          As long as Sui Generis doesn’t fail i’m happy

          • WrenBoy says:

            I am a backer but that project is a long shot at best. There is one very skilled dev and everyone else is just his mate. One guys qualifications are that he’s good at videogames and one woman’s qualifications seem to be that she brings a female touch.

            Good luck to them but given their ambition they need everyone to be great not just one of them.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      I think you can’t ultimately ignore the fact that Kickstarter is, and will be, different things to different people. And that refers to both project creators, and backers.

      Several kickstarter projects *are* selling a product. People don’t pay $20 to ‘might’ get a book or a game, or $200 to ‘possibly’ get a smart watch and by and large, for a lot of projects heads, they consider honouring the kickstarter rewards to be essentially equivalent to honouring a purchase. In the minds of many, honouring the kickstarter reward would be more of a priority than delivering product to other purchasers – that sort of mentality suggests to me that the kickstarter is being treated as a transaction, not merely a ‘bonus’ gift. Other kickstarters are more pie in the sky, for sure.

      Ultimately, I think Kickstarter could do with more honesty, and more clarity about what each kickstarter represents. There’s a difference between kickstarters for books that have already been written, and kickstarters for games that have not been made and might be cancelled. I think at this point, a certain faction of kickstarter users can continue to talk about whether kickstarter should be a simple donation/investment/whatever or not, but there’s no reason why other kickstarter users should adopt this viewpoint.

      • basilisk says:

        You are right, of course, but the basic line separating these is that a watch is just a watch, whereas a videogame, book or film is art; those two categories don’t really compare.

        But yes, on the whole, Kickstarter is a platform where profound misunderstandings happen all the time and on both sides of the process, and there’s probably no way to change that.

        • KikiJiki says:

          I think you’re missing some pretty significant information about say, the Pebble kickstarter. If not missing, then dismissing it out of hand.

          Pebble (I backed it and have mine now) had MASSIVE problems. If they hadn’t gotten $10million as opposed to the $500k they were looking for the project would have suffered the same fate as CLANG. They had to create an entirely bespoke production line in China, and that caused a lot of delays in the delivery schedule, approximately 6 months for the standard black watch.

          I think the real issue that this sorry tale and Pebble show, is that nobody has a fucking clue how much it costs to do something unless they’ve done it before. I see a lot of music kickstaters from established bands where they clearly know how much money they need and arrange things accordingly, or from people who have already produced a small amount of the product they want to take into mass production.

          Game kickstarters seem to be a huge gamble because the folks peddling them haven’t got a clue how much money they really need.

      • Rindan says:

        I think that viewing Kickstarter as an investment is a healthy way to think about it. You invest $50 (or whatever) into a game, hoping that it comes into existence. If it does, you reap the reward and get a warm fuzzy because you helped it happen. There are two sides of an “investment” though. Investments sometimes fail. This is what I think people are missing. You need to look at what a project is doing and evaluate what you think its chances of succeeding actually are. If something is clearly going to fail, no matter how cool it is, you shouldn’t be wasting your money, or if you are, do it knowing that the “investment” is risky and your chances of getting nothing are high.

        Like any sort of investment, some are riskier than others. If someone has a complete product, production lines set up, and just need cash to turn those lines on, the risk is pretty small. If, in the case of Clang, the money is to get a prototype up and running to hopefully entice other investors. I took one look at that and decided that as badly as I wanted it and as much as I like Neal Stephenson, they were screaming at the top of their lungs that this is risky and unlikely to come to fruition any time in the near future, if ever. So, I didn’t give them any money.

        You really need to look at Kickstarter as playing with something risky that can fail. You need to evaluate the potential for a Kickstarter to succeed, and you need to realize that your judgement might fail. If you can’t accept that, you really shouldn’t be using Kickstarting stuff.

        So, frownie face for Clang failing, but I am not shocked and not particularly pissed that a highly risky venture failed.

    • squirrelrampage says:

      Double Fine is in some kind of a mess already with their first Kickstarter. “Project Eternity”, on the other hand, is something that would be surprising if it would end up as a mess, simply because the underlying bells and whistles have been tried and tested in the past. Especially considering Obsidian’s experience with top-down RPGs.

      Overall I think the real danger is not that some big projects fail entirely, but that some Kickstarters end with severe disappointment: “Godus” seems to head that way and if “Star Citizen” ends up with something less than Christ’s second coming… Boy, there are going to be torches and pitchforks everywhere.

      • basilisk says:

        Double Fine is not in any kind of mess, really; the whole thing was taken out of context and blown up to epic proportions. Wait a year or two for the all the smoke to clear and they’ll be once again hailed as one of Kickstarter’s greatest successes.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Double Fine have moved to a perfectly reasonable multi-part installment model, as is entirely consistent with the genre – see Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Wallace & Gromit, Back to the Future, etc.

      • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

        @ Squirrel Rampage.

        I also want to add that from what I’ve seen, Obsidian has been excellent on the communication front. They post regular updates not just on the gameplay but also on the gameplay development and how its all progressing.

        Of course, I’m not sure how widely this opinion is shared amongst the masses – but as this stage I can’t really see how Project Eternity could be a flat out bad game. At WORSE it will be uninspired and people still will have gotten something in the same vein as the old rpgs.

        • Fry says:

          I think a significant percentage of PE’s backers threw money at Obsidian with the idea that it would an updated Infinity Engine game. A game that breaks the mold too much might be more disappointing to them than one that serves up pretty much the same themes and mechanics.

          I agree with your point, though. There’s a way to do Kickstarter right, and clear communication with the backers in step 1. Maybe I’m just fortunate in that the projects I’ve backed seem to be doing it right. We’ll see.

    • Wulfram says:

      http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter+basics#faq_41860

      Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

      Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. [...]We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

      • Iain_1986 says:

        So in this case, can backers ask for their money back?

        How long do people have to wait? Can a company just claim they are still developing when they aren’t? Can they just hire someone on minimum wage and claim “they’re the developer” and get round any legal issues?

        If the backers can ask for their money back….where’s it going to come from?

        • RogueJello says:

          Frankly, no, since the authors appear to have made a good faith effort to get this to work. As one of the backers I’m disappointed of course, but I don’t feel like this was a scam, but rather an effort that failed. When you back these sorts of projects, you have to understand that projects fail all the time, but usually it’s the publisher’s taking the risk, instead of the general public.

          The good faith delivery is really targeted at somebody who might be tempted to run a scam by promising the moon, and then running off with the money. That’s not what happened here.

      • frightlever says:

        There was this:

        http://www.businessinsider.com/how-one-stupid-mistake-and-35000-from-kickstarter-made-an-average-guy-bankrupt-2013-1

        But, if the Kickstarter was on behalf of a limited company then best they can hope for is get it wound up and auction off the IP, for whatever that’s worth. If it’s Neal Stephenson the individual then they can sue him for as much as they can wring out of him. Either way his name is dirt.

      • kwyjibo says:

        The Clang kickstarter was to fund a demo which they could use to pitch to external investors.

        • WrenBoy says:

          I was never interested so didn’t investigate closely but looking at the kickstarter page again this must be buried somewhere in the small print.

          The pitch video mentions a proof of concept and then immediately says but don’t worry there WILL be a game. The rewards section then goes on to promise a game to backers not a demo. I imagine a lot of people reasonably assumed this meant there would be a game without reading much further.

      • Swanny says:

        This comment should be in the alpha position.
        According to KS rules, they must refund the money. If they don’t have it, will this affect other KS projects by people not investing? Has this happened before on KS? I am temporally unable to follow KS or game, reading RPS for 15-20 min a few times a week is literally the extent of my free time for the foreseeable future. Okay, a bit of /. too, but still…

        • Baines says:

          Kickstarter itself stays out of the process.

          The terms that a Kickstarter starter has to agree to (which is hardly a hidden catch, unless you have an underling set up your Kickstarter for you) pretty much just say that your contributors can take legal action themselves.

    • InternetBatman says:

      As patronage it is neither a donation nor an investment. It is closest to a preorder. It’s worth pointing out that if it were truly a donation, the tiers would reflect that in wording (using may rather than will), and far less people would engage in it, leading to many less projects being funded and created.

      • WrenBoy says:

        Patronage or crowd funding are the only correct descriptions. You pre-order something which will exist even if noone takes advantage of the offer.

    • Shadowcat says:

      The fact that many people [...] still refer to Kickstarter as “investing”….when its more like a donation is part of the issue.

      Firstly, a “donation” is something you give without the hope of material gain; however I can’t help but disagree that the existing wording is a problem. When you give something in the hope of getting something desirable back in exchange, that is an investment. Moreover, most investments have an element of risk, and Kickstarter investments tend to have an incredibly obvious element of risk.

      To my mind, anyone giving money to a Kickstarter has accepted the possibility that they will lose that investment. They have accepted that they may get nothing back; or that the thing they get back does not live up to their hopes. That’s the risk you take. Or at least, that’s the baseline that you should use unless you have strong reason to do otherwise.

      The question of risk vs reward is pretty much what defines the concept of investment. To invest is to accept a risk willingly. Obviously you evaluate the extent of the risk on a case by case basis, but to entirely discount the risk aspect of an investment (any investment of any sort) is foolish. Kickstarter, naturally, is not an exception.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Investment describes the creation of capital, which kickstarter is obviously not. Patronage or purchase implies obtaining goods for consumption, which kickstarter more closely matches. One of the few exceptions I would make to that would be something like tethical (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/100316459/tethical-an-srpg-engine/?ref=kicktraq), where the goal is to make an opensource SRPG engine. I realize it’s mostly semantics, but they’re important in this case.

        • Convolvulus says:

          “Patronage” doesn’t necessarily imply an expectation of direct recompense. In this context “patron” means nothing more than “financial supporter.” The same goes for “backer,” a term you’ll find all over Kickstarter documentation. When you help crowdfund a game, you’re like a king (or part of a king, say, a royal toenail) commissioning a sculpture for the betterment of the unwashed masses who have no idea how great Grim Fandango was.

          But semantics and perception will only take crowdfunding so far. The phenomenon is currently in a Wild West stage because it’s new and because there have yet to be any giganimous cockups involving legal action and large sums of money. Eventually the SEC may be obligated to step in and figure out exactly what Kickstarter is. That looming threat is exactly why the organization avoids certain language and heavily promotes terms (and ideas) like “funding” and “reward.” You aren’t buying or pre-ordering anything; you’re receiving a gift in gratitude for kind support, Your Highness. If they used “donation” or “investment” they’d have to file a stack of paperwork for every project on their site.

      • newc0253 says:

        It doesn’t really matter if its an investment or a donation.

        The bottom line here is if you’ve reached the point where you’re asking people to raise half a million dollars to support your project, you have a moral – if not a legal – obligation to have your shit together. You don’t go “hey, here’s a cool idea, give us money to help us make something” and then turn around six months later and complain how everyone expected you to actually do something with all that money.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      TotalBiscuit actually did a decent video on this subject a while back, which is now kind of ironic because I seem to recall he specifically mentions backing this particular game quite heavily (IIRC).

    • JuliaPeterson32 says:

      my classmate’s ex-wife makes $65/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 9 months but last month her check was $12932 just working on the computer for a few hours. additional reading…………….. http://tinyurl.com/n3ccbnk

    • BooleanBob says:

      You could say that Subutei have dropped… a clanger.

      Into a blender.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Man, and Gabe Newell who had a cameo in the pitch video and everything.

      The negative Kickstarter outcomes seem to get a lot more attention than the positive ones (not accusing RPS here, talking more about places like Reddit). So, in the spirit of positive news: Cogition and Starlight Inception just got on Steam. SI has gotten some tentatively positive tweets from people trying it out.

      Giana Sisters is getting a sequel out soon, called Twisted Dreams – Rise of the Owlverlord.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Eh, people want to complain and gawk more than they want to cheer something on. Nothing new.

        Lilly looking through was just greenlit.

      • Shadowcat says:

        Owlverlord.

        (Once isn’t enough.)

      • Oozo says:

        I backed both this and Starlight Inception — luckily, because the week this piece of news arrived is also, as you say, the week the “Starlight Inception”-beta launchend on Steam.

        I can’t say this comes as a surprise. I mean, what “Clang” delivered a few months ago (was that… an alpha? they couldn’t even clearly communicate that) was, frankly, not even worth trying out as a proof of concept. (I didn’t play it with the Razer Hydra, because I was fortunate enough to to buy one, but still, it looked and played like a sub-par “Die By The Sword”).

        “Starlight Inception”, on the other hand, is coming along very nicely. It won’t set the world on fire, but Escape Hatch were very good in communicating with the backers, and judging by the Beta, the game will exactly be what was advertised: A solid, somewhat old-school starfighting game.

        (“Starlight Inception” did not get all too much coverage, but the studio is run by a veteran with a lot of experience — I think that might be something paying attention to whenever somebody cannot at least show clear proof that there is a very solid foundation when a project is going to Kickstarter.)

        Well, I don’t expect every project to work out. It’s patronage, as a lot of people have said. (Even though I sure as hell will not invest in Stephenson’s skyscraper…)

      • trjp says:

        For the record, I find Reddit to be an amazingly positive place – because I only read the stories which are positive (of which there are a lot).

        So I know about the dog which lost a leg and gained a friend – the homeless guy with the golden voice – the gay Marine who’s platoon demob gifts were pink – the fantastic posters in someone’s university – all uplifting and fun.

        In my experience, if you seek negativity you can always find it – the Internet is simply an amplifier of that in that if people cannot find the negativity they want, it allows them to create it.

      • KevinLew says:

        My problem with Kickstarter isn’t even that projects fail, but that most of the projects that ask (or receive) ridiculous amounts of funding often have the greatest chance of disappointment. I cannot name a project that received over $100,000 in funding that could honestly be called one of the greatest games from indie development, and proof that traditional publishers are just stupid. I’m not saying Giana Sisters is bad, but I couldn’t say that it deserved a bunch of IGF awards.

        Looking quickly at Kickstarter, it seems that games that ask for more modest goals (like $50,000 or less) often turn out to be really focused in their vision. Or their game is almost complete and they just need an extra funding from Kickstarter to finish it. These games tend to be really good experiences because they have a real direction and a tight focus on the end game. Games with ten or more levels of stretch goals imply that the game doesn’t have a clear direction.

        Anyway, all I’m saying is that the negativity is because if your project asks for a lot of money, then people expect you to deliver more. If you fail then it really stands out.

  4. Yachmenev says:

    As I understood it, the goal was to create an alpha (which has been delivered) and then use that to gather further interest, which has failed. Seems like poor communication regarding both initial goal, progress and current state.

    • Reapy says:

      Yes the flat out lie of the initial was to make a game or at least some API or anything to advance their goal, but then suddenly it’s all about a demo for vc funding. Further, there was basically no communication for the duration of the project. Yeah they were the wrong team for it, had to gamble for their vision at least, but the whiny update that said everything but, yeah we got in over our heads was downright insulting.

      • Shuck says:

        “Lie”? They were pretty straightforward in the first pitch video for the project as to what they were doing – that they were asking for money to put together a demo in order to raise the money they needed for the full game. (This is why I didn’t even consider backing it, and it didn’t seem all that exciting a Kickstarter – the odds of a game coming out of it were low.) Granted, the rewards descriptions were ambiguous – did “game” mean the demo, or the eventual, potentially-wouldn’t-happen game? (I think the intention was the former, considering they couldn’t fulfill the latter.) I don’t know what they’ve actually produced, but their initial pitch certainly didn’t promise a full game.

  5. Christo4 says:

    Never trust someone who looks like Yuri, it could be a clone

  6. Zeno says:

    A TYPICAL NEAL STEPHENSON ENDING AM I RIGHT COMPATRIOTS?

    • MrBlooDeck says:

      BOOM!

    • Runty McTall says:

      Behold, a man who hath read Diamond Age!

      :)

      Personally, I love his books though. The Waterhouse / Jack Shaftoe ones (including Cryptomonicon) were amongst my favourites of all time. If I had more time I would re-read them again (on kindle).

    • Urthman says:

      Ouch! A palpable hit, sir.

    • Ogun says:

      I was just scrolling through the comments to check that someone had already made this observation :)

      Really big fan of Stephenson (esp. Snowcrash, Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle – that one with the monks blew), but his stories seem to sort of unravel rather than end – it’s a shame.

      • MrBlooDeck says:

        I felt Snow Crash kind of held together, by one thread I admit, but still.

        But the rest… yeah, just a bit.

      • MykulJaxin says:

        I’m glad to find I was probably not the only one to recognize it was him by the picture alone. Yeah, he can’t end books to save his live. But everything else is typically brilliant.

        • MarcP says:

          His books are fantastic, up until the point every female heroine has to turn into a rape victim, a dominatrix male fantasy, or an improbable mix of both. It’s so out of character and generally unnecessary to the story you’d think someone keeps appending fan fiction to his scripts.

    • mechabuddha says:

      So I have a question. The only novel of his I’ve “read” is REAMDE. I put that in quotes because I couldn’t bear to finish it, I thought it was so terrible. Now, I know some of his other stuff is held in higher regard. To people who have read more of his stuff than I have – would I be getting more REAMDE if I expanded my Stephenson horizons, or was that novel a fluke?

  7. Jack_Dandy says:

    Man, I knew this was a bad idea from the beginning.

    Kind of feel bad for those who donated. But then again, maybe it will teach them better sense when it comes to KS projects.

    Hoping this doesn’t do too much damage to the legitimacy of crowdfunding in the public’s eye.

  8. Widthwood says:

    In unrelated news, Double Fine just reported that alpha build of part1 is ready, now they are fixing and polishing it before release.

    • trjp says:

      Alpha build are ALWAYS ready – I started a phrase processing tool for a client yesterday, it’s only 20 lines of code but it’s “alpha build ready” and was from the moment I started typing.

      Alpha means “incomplete”

      Beta means “feature complete but not debugged”

      Pedant mode off…

      • basilisk says:

        FYI, the update specifically says the first half of the game is now “fully playable from start to end”. In any case, there are no universal definitions of what “alpha” and “beta” mean any more (if there ever were).

  9. theblazeuk says:

    “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.”

    I thought that was more of the actual idea rather than a catch…

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed; it’s almost politician-like levels of hateful.

      “Wait, what? You’re going to actually hold me to my manifesto?! I have to be honest?! What a gyp!”

    • Jake says:

      That quote is taken slightly out of context, the next line is: ‘In our case, what it meant was that in April of 2013 we were still executing on a strategy that we had come up with at the beginning of 2012. A conventionally funded company would have changed course several times during such a long span of time, adapting its strategy to what was happening in the market’.

      This isn’t them being flippant I think, it’s an excuse sure, but not such a bad one.

  10. Cramdown says:

    That whole Clang update is full of crazy. I want to comment as a backer, but what’s the point? They’re surrounded by people who think that blaming Neal Stephenson fans for letting them raise so much money is an acceptable approach. It’s all written in this faux-Stephenson style, too. Elephant and fleas! We’re too deep in the weeds of genius to work out how to deliver what we promised for what we raised. They can’t believe they’re obligated to deliver the thing they promised and not pursue other, more interesting things.

    And the backer thread is filled with people who think that’s all dandy.

  11. honuk says:

    call me crazy, but maybe one of the venture capitalists aught to be their millionaire front man. instead I guess he gets to steak 600k and shrug his shoulders. but no one will care, as usual, because what you’re actually buying on kickstarter isn’t a product, but a piece of an identity.

  12. Runty McTall says:

    I’m a backer and I got this e-mail yesterday (today? it all merges…) and weirdly am completely ok with it. Perhaps because I have so many backed games and so little time that I thought it would take until about 2025 to actually play them all (now 2024!) or perhaps because after backing I decided I couldn’t justify the cost of the controller so I would never get the most out of it anyway.

    With more though, it’s not a great showing, no.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      That’s pretty close to what I’m feeling. Slightly disappointed, but I certainly can’t muster the energy to get angry.

      Even though this just happened, I’m considering upping my pledge to Sunless Sea. Small game, experienced crew, focus on good writing.

  13. Lambchops says:

    Clearly he’s too busy planning to not build unfeasibly high towers to get along with not building a sword based peripheral!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24116925

  14. malkav11 says:

    I think this is the first major KS boondoggle (at least since Double Fine pitched Double Fine Adventure – not that that’s a boondoggle, but that’s when I started doing the Kickstarter thing) that I’ve managed -not- to have backed.

    I backed Haunts, backed The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, backed CultRL (if you haven’t heard, the guy behind that one raised well over 30k to develop a pretty intriguing-sounding roguelike, puttered about with minimal communication for a while, then eventually announced on his forums that he wasn’t feeling it and probably wouldn’t continue workng on the game. On his forums, mind you, not Kickstarter. Or at least not until weeks later. He’s planning on making the source code he does have open source, and has offered refunds, but like the DTCAC situation, probably doesn’t have the money to do full refunds anytime soon.).

    Of course, I’ve backed literally over a hundred other projects as well, most of which are ticking right along, possibly with some delays, or have already delivered.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Poor haunts. From the sound of it, the community could have finished it if it wasn’t made in fucking go. That language sounds like a nightmare.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        The language is ok (though when marketing it, it seems they can’t decide if it should be used to replace C or Java).

        I think the problem was that the main developer forked and extended some public Go libraries, and then just left the compiled binaries when he left to go back to Google.

  15. Tuhalu says:

    Actually, nobody has any right to anything refunded here.

    The scope of the Kickstarter was to create a prototype that could be shown to investors in order to raise even more money. This prototype is a real thing that each backer should have by now (it was released back in May). Other rewards are still being delivered as promised.

    They are still trying to get funding, even if they haven’t been successful yet. The developers involved are sticking around in Seattle, taking on only temporary work so they can come back as easily as possible if and when the game gets more funding.

    I’m sure some people are going to tell me I’m wrong about the scope of the project, so I’m just going to link to the Kickstarter page and direct you to the paragraph at the end of the opening spiel just after the pictures of little guys stabbing each other. You can find the following text there:

    Raising an army (or, in this case, building an enormous story-driven video game) is an expensive proposition and can take a number of years. In keeping with the scrappy, ragtag band of adventurers model, we are building this larger vision one step at a time. The next step is to build a functional proof of concept in the form of an exciting prototype we can share with you and use to achieve our next level of funding.

    • Varsava says:

      Only making a demo you say eh? Then what about this little gem taken from the KS page:

      “At first, it’ll be a PC arena game based on one-on-one multiplayer dueling (which is a relatively simple and attainable goal; we don’t want to mess this up by overreaching). “

      • Pardoz says:

        This is where caveat emptor comes in – when one paragraph they’re saying “We need money so we can build a tech demo to flog around the VC circuit to raise money so that maybe someday we might think about the possibility of potentially being in a position to discuss making a working product” and next para they’re saying “Complete game” that should really set off some alarm bells.

    • Deano2099 says:

      It’s an awkward one, as the project was, as you say, just to do a prototype, but the rewards were for the final game: “Download of the game (motion control hardware not included), as well as a thank you credit on our website and within the game.”

      There’s a big distinction between project and reward in KS, more obvious in other sectors such as theatre or art installations where you might want to back the project but don’t live near it, the reward might be a copy of the programme, rather than tickets to the show.

      The project was raising money for a tech demo, but whether they complete that or not is irrelevant. Kickstarter doesn’t force you to finish the project you describe, weirdly enough. What it does do, is force you to deliver all the rewards you promise. And if the reward promised was the complete game, they have to deliver that.

      • Baines says:

        Kickstarter creators are obligated to deliver promised rewards. If they promised that you *would* get a complete game if you donated a certain amount of money, then they are obligated to deliver that complete game.

        The actual project is, in a way, less important. If you don’t promise rewards, then you probably won’t get donations. If you don’t offer your completed project as a reward, then you are probably going to get few donations, unless your project just sounds super amazing.

        If you offer your completed project as a reward, then you are obligated to deliver it as you are every other offered reward.

        If you don’t offer your completed project, then people aren’t really paying you for your project at that point. They are either paying for other rewards, or donating to your project.

  16. Freud says:

    I love that they in the face of failure encourage people to invest in controller technology that also be a waste of money.

    There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee…

  17. trjp says:

    I said at the time they were trying to make something which was impossible, wouldn’t sell even if they made it AND they weren’t asking for enough money to get anywhere anyway.

    The pitch video was brilliant but it’s a lesson learned for KS backers I hope. It’s a reminder than you’re not buying something or guaranteed any form of return, you’re donating money to a cause in the hope that something will come out of it (and you may get a 2013 equivalent of a pen or a clock for your troubles).

    Don’t just watch the pitch video – read what’s being talked about and ask yourself if the goal is realistic and the people have the skills needed. I think it was clear that this didn’t pass that test – if they’d actually come-up with anything here I’d have been amazed – tho I’m a bit surprised they’ve stalled this quickly…

    I’d also like this to be a message to anyone trying to make gaming peripherals – history shows that peripherals which don’t ship with the machine have almost zero chance of success. In PC gaming, even expecting “standards” like a joypad isn’t a good idea – Oculus are heading into this territory right now, as are a load of other folk and it’s a wasteland of dead invention.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Well, except for the flight simulation niche. There is a small but healthy market there for peripherals like joysticks, throttle quadrants, rudder pedals, and TrackIR. All of which, I’ve spent a silly amount of money on.

      A swordfighting game using a force-feedback joystick and rudder pedals for fancy footwork might be fun. But there probably isn’t enough overlap between the hardcore flight simmers and first-person combat crowd to sell enough units. Most flight sim fanatics I know — especially on the civilian, non-combat side — have a big investment in hardware but don’t play any other games.

    • Arglebargle says:

      I thought it was a dumb idea: Not a bad one, just a dumb one. They appear to be totally clueless about the real scope of what they were trying to do, as well as it’s general utility. They also present themselves as a bunch of dumbasses.
      “Let’s put on a show!”
      “My father has a barn….”

  18. Shooop says:

    So is the lesson here never back a Kickstarter that isn’t by inXile?

    Right now my record with Kickstarters is 0 for 2. The naysayers are absolutely right after all it seems.

    • Moraven says:

      Other than the near finished KS (like FTL) a lot are in playable Alpha now. I think the biggest rub is how most if not all KS game projects are delayed.

    • c-Row says:

      Of all the 21 succesfully funed Kickstarter projects I have backed so far, seven were completed and delivered while the others are still in progress, some of them in playable alpha/beta status already, and not a single one got cancelled after being funded. “Naysayers”… pfffft.

    • AngoraFish says:

      FWIW: 61 backed, 6 missed goal (no funds deducted), 10 released or playable near-complete and certified worthy (inc. FTL; Shadowrun; Word Realms; Expeditions: Conquistador; Sir, You are Being Hunted), at least a dozen well on track and looking fantastic (inc. Double Fine, Castle Story, Maia, Knock-Knock, War for the Overworld, Torment, Project Eternity) – all up, 100% wins so far me. If any of the remainder come off this will simply be cream on top. I couldn’t be happier.

      I must admit, however, that Clang never appealed.

      • soulblur says:

        Some of the successes are not quite as good as Id hoped though. I mean, that’s life. But I suspect that if I hadn’t funded Shadowrun but rather bought it at retail, that I wouldn’t have been so happy with it. Castle Story is coming along, but a long way from happening yet. I backed Godus, and I do rather regret that. Net Gain isn’t anything, as far as I can tell. I’m no longer really feeling Xenonauts. So I’ve had some hits and misses, but perhaps no worse than if I’d bought at retail, and I’ve paid less on average than I would have at retail.

        Still sad about the lost potential of The Realm and Ars Magica. Two great sounding concepts that just didn’t quite get traction. Hope they’ll get out there eventually some day.

      • Shooop says:

        But were they any good?

        I consider the very first Kickstarter game I did back, Chivalry, a huge steaming pile. Did the games you backed come close to meeting your expectations based on the things they told you about them?

        • AngoraFish says:

          Yes, but my expectation was never that these would be AAA quality games, or achieve Minecraft’s level of brilliance.

          My expectations are met if I manage to have several hours of fun with some interesting or newish/reworked systems in genres that are currently far too sparse in my Steam library.

          Nothing has yet turned into a steaming pile of proverbial, although even if half of the remaining outstanding pledges do, I’ll still be more than thrilled that I’ve contributed to giving some dedicated indie developers whose interests coincide with mine a head start in the industry.

          One non-Kickstarter success might be worth raising as an example. I’ve backed a minimalist wallet project that still turned out a little big for my taste. Still, it was a decent wallet for a while and I’ve just purchased the revised MK2 version from the same guys which addresses all problems with the original. Couldn’t be happier that I’ve provided seed funding for a manufacturer that is now making exactly the product I’ve been looking for, even if it took them until the second try to fully get it.

  19. Urthman says:

    The thing is, I suspect the majority of backers just wanted to throw them a tip for making such an entertaining kickstarter video. As they even say in this bizarre announcement, a bunch of their backers just wanted Stephenson’s autograph or whatever and didn’t seem to care much about the game.

  20. Pedanticjase says:

    I remember when this was announced watching the pitch video and they did clearly state that they would be looking for more funding and they would only make a demo. Which was the point I said NOPE and moved on.

    Is this only a story because it has a big name attached or because the devs where a bit shitty about explaining their failure.

  21. pupsikaso says:

    Well I didn’t give them any money, but if I had I’d say “Not getting my money back? Like HELL I’m not! Let’s see how they like a chargeback”.

  22. PopeRatzo says:

    I guess if you’re as successful as Neal Stephenson, it’s OK to wear that silly beard and make every day Cosplay Day.

  23. jkz says:

    ” because the money’s not actually yours to gamble away ”

    Well, really, it is. Sort of the problem with kickstarter.

  24. Jenks says:

    I’m not sure how to reconcile these two sentences:

    “Just because you have a good idea (and maybe even some clout), that doesn’t mean Kickstarter’s your own personal Scrooge McDuck gleaming gold swimming pool.”

    “You can demand your money back, but bear in mind that the dev team’s not obligated to do anything about it.”

  25. BurningPet says:

    Sixense’s CFO (the STEM controller company) is Avi arad. if you don’t know who he is, google him.
    the guy is a billionaire. what they asked for in their kickstarter, equals to maybe two weeks worth of his income. and that’s if being modest.

  26. wodin says:

    I’d never back a KS if I was going to be pissed off if it doesn’t happen. Everyone knows the score here..no one has gone in KS backing blind. It’s been mentioned enough times that if it fails you loose the money and will be luck yif you get it back.

    It’s why it boggles my mind that people have spent so much cash on say Star Citizen..I mean why is SC so special compared to all the other poor or cancelled AAA titles? People are assuming SC is going to be the greatest space game ever..erm..I wonder how many developers started out on their gaming thinking it will be the greatest ever in whatever genre it was? Yet it turned out mediocre or worse. So to me it’s crazy the money people have thrown at it.

    Anyway if soemone backs a KS thinking there is no risk..then more fool them.

    • Jenks says:

      “I mean why is SC so special compared to all the other poor or cancelled AAA titles?”

      Chris Roberts

    • derbefrier says:

      Jenks pretty much answered your question about star citizen, I mean look at that fucking game how could you not want to fund it! But anyways. I have helped fund a total of 2 games. The first one was Path of Exile, which I personally love and am extremely happy how it turned out and is only a few weeks away of getting rid of that beta tag(Rocktober!) and Star Citizen, in which I spent way too much money on… I did do this under the assumption I could just be flushing a couple hundred bucks down the toilet but I was doing quite well for myself at the time and had the extra money to throw around. I thought “Well, its not like EA or Activision is ever gonna make this game so why the hell not lets see what Chris can do.” If it does fall on it face I will be disappointed of course but I knew full well it was always a possibility and I made the decision that I could live with that if it ever happened I mean it is just money, I can always get more. This pitch while interesting never gave me the confidence in their product like the other games i helped fund did so he got nothing from me.

  27. Cik says:

    Excellent scam. This guy puts together a business plan with a model to deliver based on an infusion of up-front cash from enthusiasts in his plan, his commitment, only to take the 1/2 million while snickering “suckers”.

    Nice.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      Oh give me a break. 500,000 is chump change for what they were doing. If you think any of that money even still *exists* to be defrauded by Neil or anyone on the team, you’re an idiot. And even if there still is cash, and they’re somehow not swimming in debt and about to declare bankruptcy, the method of fraud you describe is utterly retarded and the IRS wouldn’t even need KS’s help to toss them in jail.

  28. tomimt says:

    So lemme get this straight: a niche product that aims to create a new controller tanks, becuase they don’t actually manage to gather enough money to create such a product and then they are surprised when a horde of investors isn’t stampeding over them?

    Yeah…

  29. Nimdok says:

    Welcome to investing, where sometimes investments fail. If you expect a return on a failed investment, you don’t understand the concept.

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    ” Oh, and in case you were worried: you’re not getting your money back. Thank goodness, right?”

    YES, “Thank goodness”! It would set a horrible precedent if every Kickstarted game project was subject to refunds when they hit roadblocks in development. Kickstarter is a patronage operation, not an investment firm. I’ve never asked for my money back and no one else should either.

    If you demand your money back from a KS project which has hit an unexpected delay but hasn’t completely failed, you are trying to take food out of the mouths of starving artists. If you can’t afford to throw money in the trash, don’t back KS projects. There are quite a few projects I’ve wanted to fund but I ran out of money because the KS money I put aside ran out again. This happens almost every month. Why do I keep on backing projects if some fail? Because most don’t. Many more, possibly all of them would fail if I took back my money when delays happened.

    Every successful Kickstarter game project ever (except for ones like Giana Sisters which cheated by being almost done when they started campaigning) has been delayed. Some have been released. ALL of them have had bumps in the road because that’s game development, stupid.

  31. MadTinkerer says:

    ” For better or worse, Kickstarter leaves very little wiggle room for sweeping changes – that is, unless you do a good job of communicating the reality of a situation with backers and getting them on board beforehand.”

    Making this a separate comment, but I’d like to point out that some of my backed projects have made significant changes to the original proposed designs and as long as the project leads are honest with the backers, the backers are usually cool about any changes that need to be made.

    “Well crap, it looks like I can only get three of the eight biomes finished in time. But here’s some animation work on the fifty unique creatures in Biome #1, some of which are being borrowed from concepts of Biomes 5 and 7 because I can’t get those finished in time. Also, here are some maps of the finished levels, beware minor spoilers!”

    “FIFTY unique creatures! Holy cow, man, that’s awesome! Love the animations, keep up the good work!”

    …and stuff like that.

  32. Beelzebud says:

    There’s that word again. Investment

    It’s right there at the end of the article. People really need to stop referring to kickstarter projects as “investments”. Real investors expect a return on their money. There is no such promise with kickstarter. You notice on Kickstarter they don’t call the money “investments” they call it “donations”, because that’s all it is.

    People were wondering what it would mean for the future of crowd funding if one or two high profile projects fell through and wasted the money. Well, we’re about to find out.

  33. namad says:

    actually RPS clang devs ARE OBLIGATE to give refunds.

    now maybe they don’t have the money for refunds, but they’d lose a class action refund law suit in a heartbeat as the terms of their deal clearly state they’re absolutely totally responsible fiscally for refunds, so go ahead and demand the refunds and cause their company to declare bankruptcy if you want.

  34. zbeeblebrox says:

    If you backed this or any KS project that is failing, and you’re complaining, TOUGH. This is how this shit works. MOST projects fail. MOST startups fail. You were naive and over-excited. Get over it. Nobody weeps for your failure to recognize risk.

    • WrenBoy says:

      Dont you think that the update explaining this failure was incredible though?

      Blaming Kickstarter for sneakily insisting on them delivering what they promised. Blaming rich Stephenson fans for not backing them but being too polite to explain why. Blaming potential investors who did explain why for having no confidence in the abilities of the team.

      I dont think many people expected zero kickstarters to fail or to have every kickstarter realises all of its promises. Expecting developers to take some responsibility when communicating failures isnt too much to ask for at all though.

  35. Roberticus says:

    I remember when Kickstarter was less popular and people would use it to FINISH projects that were already seriously mostly underway. I love that Kickstarter has become so successful already, but I do miss when it was primarily used for projects that were generally too far along to be put on hold or cancelled.

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