Don’t just stand there, Come Watch …Familiar Areal Footage

By Alec Meer on July 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

I don’t want to get into any speculation of my own about what’s genuine and who has the right to do what in terms of STALKER’s heritage right now. Let’s just look at the brief in-game footage devs West-Games have finally pumped out to support their slow-moving Kickstarter, and see how we feel then.

Well… Those are some long arms, aren’t they? The devs are at pains to point out that the above is “not representative of Areal’s final quality.”

West-Games also say of the footage that “the first video was made in two weeks. We hope that the early footage that we’ve demonstrated, shows you that we’re a team that’s actively working towards making a great game that we think you’ll all enjoy. We hope that you’ll help us make Areal a reality and support our Kickstarter.

Previously they’ve claimed that they’re creating their own advanced engine for Areal, but some suspicious backers are now concerned about how similar the footage looks to Unity and an off-the-shelf asset pack. E.g.:

/me shrugs. There’s just not enough footage to go on one way or another. There could be a more innocent explanation for the apparent commonalities, but West-Games are certainly going to have to provide it soon, given how much bad PR their project has already has.

Of said bad PR, West-Games said that “We know how to make games and are very passionate about Areal. What we’ve found out though, is that making and launching a Kickstarter is much harder than actually making the game! One of the biggest mistakes that we made was focusing too much on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and not showing footage of Areal itself. This raised a lot of negativity in the community, and many accused us of being a fraud. We just wanted to show people that we were responsible for creating S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. We were completely unprepared for the wave of negativity that surrounded our Kickstarter and honestly, were more than a little discouraged.”

They also put out this video, showing off their somewhat nervous-looking staff:

Areal has six days on the Kick-clock left to go, and sits at $37k of its desired $50k. File under ‘funny old business whatever happens’, I think.

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50 Comments »

  1. Artist says:

    Lets (war)face it – this “campaign” is the biggest joke, if not even a scambag full of lies and half-truths.
    And this “Areal footage” is so much fake. So thats their much anticipated “proof of concept”? Wow, just wow!
    But the drama around it is delicious. Splendid summary:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/06/26/areal-kickstarter-raises-huge-red-flags-backers-beware/

  2. Artist says:

    Oh, and btw, its somehow another joke that the Stalker-series is now perceived as something “positive”! Yes, the feeling and visuals of the game have been nice, but the whole (never-ending) development story is first and foremost a story of fail management. So no surprise that West now brought an ex-Stalker dev on board? Fail harder?

    • Premium User Badge

      Thirith says:

      I agree that the Stalker development had its fair share of bumps and pratfalls, to say the least – but the resulting games are unique and exciting in what they did, and that is something positive. I don’t want a Stalker-flavoured pipe dream, but something that is actually worthy of carrying the Stalker mantle? Yes, please!

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      padger says:

      The Stalker games were… unmitigated brilliance? Sorry, but you are just wrong here. The Stalker games outclass the rest of the FPS genre by some distance.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        I’d be happy to put Stalker in a list of the ten most interesting games of the past decade. I can’t think of anything single-player that has come close to holding my attention for the same amount of time.

        Not sure what the extended development cycle has much relevance on anticipation of anything made in the same spirit.

      • natendi says:

        Totally agree, for me no other game in any genre has hit the same chord as the STALKER series did.

      • Geebs says:

        Spot on. Best overall atmosphere in an fps, which varied brilliantly between merely oppressive and outright terrifying. They somehow managed to do this in such a way that the player doesn’t really get that they were heading into danger until they’re suddenly trapped somewhere nasty with barely enough supplies to make it out.

        All this and the combat was both punishingly realistic and surprisingly well balanced, and the enemies fun to fight.

        Made all the shooting gallery fps that came after look even more ridiculous.

  3. Eukatheude says:

    I was waiting for more RPS coverage for this.
    What they describe would likely be THE game for me. Sadly, while I don’t think this is a scam (ie. running away with money, not using it to fund a demo and hope for investors) I do think they’re completely incompetent and haven’t been straightforward with backers. So either they try taking this again from the top with honesty, or I frankly hope they just fail.

  4. mrmalodor says:

    Terrible. It looks like a crappy version of Survarium.

    • Spacewalk says:

      That’s Areal shame.

      • Scumbag says:

        Puns are scary. I prefer contextual jokes though, so you can get out here, Spacewalker

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Honestly, it couldn’t be much worse than Survarium is in its current form. What a boring, underwhelming experience that one has turned out to be so far.

      • trout says:

        My experience of Survarium so far consists of getting crushed by russians every single game, and what feels like 400+ ping – i’m hoping that i’ll be able to gauge the actual gameplay when they release international servers however – you have to admit tho, at least the enviroment/level art is really ace! any general/specific reasons you didn’t enjoy it yourself?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          The public beta tests have been limited to arena-style maps so far, which has been a big disappointment for me. I want to see some of the much-touted “open world” gameplay the devs have been screaming about since day one, although I do understand the game is still in early development so it makes sense that they’re concentrating on testing the basics ATM.

          Aside from that, I haven’t found the test maps to be very appealing, the weapon selection is paltry, and the ping thing has been a grating issue.

  5. Bull0 says:

    Some of the staff photos on the kickstarter page are from iStock. It isn’t legit, I would give them a very wide berth

    • Artist says:

      Actually that photos are correct. The guy has the rights to sell the pictures on the net. Proof is in the first developers vid where you can see the developer from the picture. Also, thos pictures on the net are from 2012, so that would be a very long planned scam,hehe.

      • Bull0 says:

        So if that’s actually a photo of the lead designer, what the fuck is it doing on iStock?

        Also, they may have fixed the pictures since this was a thing, I haven’t looked recently.

    • Eukatheude says:

      They are real, that has been proved.
      The problem is that very few people on the team actually worked on STALKER, and only one of them could really be called a “key figure”.
      The main problem here is that they are lying about the goal, since it’s not meant to deliver the full game but only to fund a demo for investors.
      Plus their CEO, Eugene Kim, simply doesn’t have a clue.
      By the way, while he claims he was a key figure in STALKER, he actually joined GSC after they all were released. Apparenty he did some management for Stalker online.

      • Philomelle says:

        He was a “software engineer,” meaning he did some work on STALKER Online’s engine.

        More importantly, the dude is really psycho. Between random accusations, insults, attacking pretty much every journalist he’s dealt with so far behind their back and a non-existent grasp on things like budget management and multi-platform development, he reminds me of Dennis Dyack from back when he frequented NeoGAF during Too Human’s development.

        • Eukatheude says:

          Hi Philomelle, I’ve been reading the KS comments everyday so your name has gotten familiar for me. I misremembered about Kim’s work in GSC.

          Yep he definitely seems psycho, but their budget plans seems even worse.
          And we still don’t know who this Leonid Kovtun is. My idea is that, since KS is available only for US companies (don’t know if that has changed) they needed someone to act as their representative in the US. Maybe they just knew the guy.

          I’m so sad because the premise for the game is fantastic for me. I even like the coloured stuff. Pity it’s likely never going to be made.

          • Philomelle says:

            Hah, yes, I guess I spent a bit too much time in that comment section. I don’t mind; even if this Kickstarter ends in a wreckage everyone expects it to, I made some good friends through it.

            I do love the idea behind the game. “Vibrant apocalypse” is one of my favorite settings, it’s why I played Enslaved to death at some point. A shame that this project is covered in red flags and developers either not knowing what they’re doing or being outright hostile to people who have been trying to support them. And let’s not even start on how the funding for their Kickstarter keeps rising by hundreds despite backers dropping like flies.

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          RobF says:

          What’s interesting about being an engineer on STALKER Online is that STALKER Online is nothing to do with GSC. So ummm…

  6. sidhellfire says:

    Arma2 mod would be better by far, and easier to make, even with it’s sluggish controls.
    That lame gun bobbing in video is beyond scope of criticism.

  7. Philomelle says:

    As someone who’s been doing a lot of investigative work with this campaign (I was the one who translated quotes from Russian websites), I am quote fascinated by how much of a trainwreck this is turning out to be. At this point West Games is so desperate that they got two “fans” to spam the Kickstarter campaign’s comment section in order to prevent active discussion, which led to everyone moving into the new update’s comments.

    It’s probably worth noting that despite their continuous claims of being key developers on STALKER, only three people on the team actually worked on that franchise. The only one of those who was actually a key developer is the guy who quit Vostok and joined West halfway through the Kickstarter. Then they have a senior artist and the dude who supervised the (notoriously terrible) balance in expansions.

    Then there’s their project lead, whose connection to STALKER is “worked on STALKER Online’s engine for a year” and whose personality has so far been best summarized as paranoid schizophrenic, a “famous game journalist” whose past work seems to be mostly Facebook games and an “expert in communications and public relations” who never held a PR position in her life and only did things like narrative design on hidden object games.

    Truly a team worthy of continuing the STALKER name.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      I don’t really think that matters. Kickstarter has always been about taking a leap of faith and giving your money to a complete stranger so that hopefully he will do something with it that will bring you enjoyment. These guys are as qualified as pretty much everyone else who has done a Kickstarter in the past. Some succeed, some fail. At least these guys have some actual experience in the industry.

      • Philomelle says:

        It matters because while their pitch is built around the claim that they’re the team responsible for STALKER, when in fact only three of them have any connection to the series. It’s like claiming you’re a key animator in Wreck-It Ralph because you were responsible for drawing the textures for Ralph’s left boot.

        Experience doesn’t really make up for their campaign being built around lies and their project lead being a doucheboat.

      • brokeTM says:

        If you don’t know how to do marketing, don’t do marketing. You’ll just muck it up worse than not doing any marketing. Their videos have been picked apart and scrutinized. The dev/project’s rep is already damaged now, regardless of qualified they are as devs.

        They should have waited, and launched the kickstarter when they actually had an engine and game to show. Without stupid videos of dudes walking in a forest… just show and tell without the salespitch.

        • BlackAlpha says:

          True. However, to me this looks like another lynching that happens every now and then to game developers. So I also lay the blame with the people on the internet for overreacting.

          But I suppose you are right. Ease up on the PR if you have little experience with it because if you say or show the wrong things, you will unleash hell upon yourself.

          Let’s hope they will start working on the game regardless (they weren’t asking for much anyway and they had some money pooled up already), so that later on they can show us something nice and can try another – more successful – Kickstarter.

          • Philomelle says:

            “they had some money pooled up already”

            Except that they didn’t at all. They admitted to a journalist that 50 grand they’re getting from Kickstarter is needed to develop a prototype so they can pitch it to big publishers in hopes of getting big bucks from them. That is the whole reason why they won’t give a budget breakdown, because that would involve admitting that none of the money from Kickstarter would actually go into the game’s development.

            Blaming people for overreacting is fairly embarrassing of you as well, given that so far people have asked very normal questions for dozens of times and have yet to receive a single answer. Absolutely everything on Areal’s Kickstarter page has been proven false because backers, having been given no answers, began to dig through the internet and interviews, only to dig up contradictory information. They have at least three separate claims as to why they need Kickstarter in the first place, three contradictory statements as to how money they have saved up, as well as seemingly zero understanding of multi-platform development (they think console development kits are just software you download) or production phases (they keep referring to pre-production as pre-alpha).

            On the other hand, they have an accusation of all Russian backers as terrorists, three insults directed at different gaming websites, one breached exclusive interview deal with yet another website, a staged Reddit AMA where multiple accounts were created to sing them praise and then immediately deleted after the AMA, a fake account created by their (apparently former) PR Manager to insult backers and sing West Games praises in the comments section, two fans who have been begun deliberately spamming the comment section as soon as people dug up the truth about this footage being generic Unity assets in order to bury it, and multiple claims that other former STALKER developers have been bribing both fans and the press to stage a global conspiracy against them.

            This isn’t even bad PR anymore, this is a bloody trainwreck.

          • BlackAlpha says:

            @Philomelle
            It looks like one big conspiracy theory to me. A long post without any evidence? I’ve seen that countless of times before. So excuse me when I say that I don’t believe you.

            These guys wouldn’t be the first trying to Kickstart enough money to try to get the support of a publisher.

            You are also saying that these guys are hiring people to post propaganda on their Kickstarter page. But I think the people posting that “propaganda” are merely people like you: they believe something and will go to extreme lengths to defend their beliefs – fanatics. I’ve learned the hard way to stay clear of such people… So good luck with your fight and have a good day.

          • Philomelle says:

            Actually, I can provide links to every single thing listed in that post. It’s another thing that RPS automatically screens comments with more than 1-2 links, so I wouldn’t be able to without hopping through an incredibly large number of loops. That said…

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2014/06/26/areal-kickstarter-raises-huge-red-flags-backers-beware/

            Forbes has amassed a decent pile of evidence regarding all those claims. Not all of it, granted, but at least a half of things listed in my post are addressed there.

            So no, you’re free to not believe me. But then also don’t be surprised when people point out that you’re either spouting nonsense or severely in denial, seeing as everything in my post has been investigated to death by now.

          • BlackAlpha says:

            @Philomelle

            Meh, all I see is that their PR kind of sucks. The “evidence” seems circumstantial or it’s just nitpicking. You could pretty much discredit any start-up studio with the accusations that are being thrown around on that website.

            If I have to sum it up in a nutshell…

            I read the answers the devs gave on Reddit and the different interviews and it basically comes down to:
            - They need money to create a good looking prototype.
            - They think that when they show a good looking prototype to a certain investor, they can sign a publishing deal with said investor/publisher.
            - They will then get loads of money.
            - They think they will then be able to create the game using that money.

            But they failed to mention that on the Kickstarter page. On the Kickstarter page they wrote down a (figuratively speaking) copy-paste story that most Kickstarters use. Somebody found out and made a big deal out of it, and so the devs are being lynched. Now, there’s a battle going on between the “loyalists” and the “opposition”.

            But like I said before, it doesn’t really matter. You either trust them to get shit done and deliver the game at the end, or you don’t. The details of how they do it don’t really matter. I understand you might be curious, but it REALLY doesn’t matter. If they really want to rip you off, they’ll simply say what you want to hear and still rip you off. If you want to guess what your chances are for this investment to pay off, you will still be merely guessing.

            Calling them liars and frauds because they don’t want to disclose personal and/or business related details, that seems far fetched. They use assets made by other people as concept art? I then look at other Kickstarters and I wonder: If people really care about those questions, why don’t they ask the same questions at the other Kickstarters? Because they don’t care. It’s just that this time somebody has convinced them that they have been wronged (lied to).

            By the way, make no mistake about it – no matter how well a Kickstarter is presented, no matter how much you think you like the person who is doing the Kickstarter, you will never have a guarantee that they will finish their product and that you’ll get your money’s worth. You should always keep that in mind. Expect Kickstarters to fail, always. You are NOT buying a game. You are giving your money to a complete stranger who is giving you a sales pitch using all the manipulation skills they have, and they will NOT be held responsible if they don’t deliver! Remember that. After a Kickstarter has succeeded, they can at any moment say: “Oops, I failed, but thanks for the money anyway!” If you aren’t OK with that, don’t invest in projects on Kickstarter or whatever.

          • Philomelle says:

            People do ask those questions from other Kickstarters when the origin of their art assets doesn’t match the developers’ claims. Or have you somehow missed the Mythic hoax that was caught several months ago?

            West Games did lie. They presented multiple pieces of content as footage from their proprietary engine, then hastily deleted those screenshots from their campaign and changed their story to them experimenting with Unity. They also made contradictory statements to different press outlets and accused all of those of being bribed by “rival companies” as soon as the outlet expressed doubt. Whenever approached about it for confirmation, they responded with hostility, insults and accusations. That situation has been consistent for all three weeks of the campaign, which is precisely why it reached such an embarrassing state.

            Furthermore, nobody there accused them of being a scam. They were accused of being a grossly mismanaged campaign who have been lying to their backers about the state of their project in hopes of easily securing money. The people’s issue with them is not that of them being a scam, it’s the complete lack of honesty, transparency or dignity.

            And frankly, I’m sure you thought that giving someone me a condescending lecture about what they should and shouldn’t expect from Kickstarter made you look clever. But given that you preceeded it with arguments about how terrible it was of people to thoroughly investigate a suspicious project in order to reduce the risk of backing it, it mostly made you look like a self-contradictory arse.

          • BlackAlpha says:

            @Philomelle

            “The people’s issue with them is not that of them being a scam, it’s the complete lack of honesty, transparency or dignity.”

            Fair enough.

            “And frankly, I’m sure you thought that giving someone me a condescending lecture…”

            I’m sorry if I sounded condescending, that was not my intention.

    • Kein says:

      So, I guess we can sum it up like this:
      - the best of the best of old/original STALKER dev team went into A4 Games
      - the rest, whatever’ left, spread across Vostok Games and West Games.

      Funny enough that Vostok means “East”.

      Whatever, really. We have new Metro confirmed so who cares.

      • Distec says:

        Despite some surface similarities, Metro really isn’t like STALKER though.

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        Don Reba says:

        I would say, some of the best of the original STALKER team went to 4A Games; the best of those who worked on the sequels went to Vostok, and the rest to West Games and various other companies.

  8. Freud says:

    So everyone who ever worked on a Stalker game is now trying to make another Stalker-type game, using their connection to Stalker to get it made.

    Have any of these announced games actually been released? I don’t recall any of their names, because they are so forgettable.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      There is only one at the moment, it’s called Survarium. And it’s not really a STALKER clone, it’s heavily focused on arena-style PvP gameplay. Then there’s a Kickstarter for this game, but unless they can get 13,000 in the next 6 days, it’s not going to happen.

      So don’t get your hopes up, there isn’t going to be a STALKER-like game for at least the next couple of years.

      • fatgleeson says:

        I think I’ve read a comment of yours on Survarium before stating its a deathmatch-only style game. I understand its PvP right now but, unless their plans changed, there is definitely a Stalker-esque game mode coming (who knows when though). The deathmatch alpha is just to get the gunplay down. Or at least thats what I tell myself.

        • BlackAlpha says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong. Last I looked at their schedule a few weeks ago, it was something like:
          - Work on PvP arena style game modes, like team deathmatch and capture the flag.
          - Work on large PvP maps, sounded a bit similar to a DayZ style but only with PvP elements.
          - Work on PvE for the large maps.

          So I don’t think it’s wrong to say that PvP is their focus.

          • fatgleeson says:

            You’re probably not wrong in that case. Its a shame, I was looking forward to the original idea of it being very akin to Stalker

          • BlackAlpha says:

            @fatgleeson

            To be fair, though, even if it’s not a successor to STALKER, it might still turn out to be a decent game in its own right.

          • TheRealHankHill says:

            The game isn’t even close to being released yet. They are going to release a stalker esque game mode, why would they focus on that before ironing out the essentials? That’s the only reason they are focusing on pvp right now.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      No, it isn’t like that at all. Most of the STALKER dev’s are working in 4A Games and Vostok. 4A Games made Metro 2033, which was published by THQ, just like STALKER, and is probably what THQ wanted STALKER to be in the first place. But now 4A Games is working on a futuristic open-world FPS and another Metro game. And Vostok is making Survarium.

      There is also Cradle by Flying Cafe.

  9. Baines says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t see the alleged similarities between Areal and the Unity package in those comparison photos? At least not beyond the general idea of modelling grass, trees, and rocks?

    The textures are different. The models appear to be different, though there isn’t a good image from Areal to say that with 100% certainty. What was allegedly copied?

  10. BigMistake says:

    And nobody mentions the fact they published a “letter” from “Putin” on their KS?

  11. BlackAlpha says:

    The gear is not sci fi. I think pretty much all gear exists in real life. Keep in mind the weapons use fake names for legal purposes (you can use a mod to fix that), but the weapons do exists in real life, most of them are quite old. Except maybe the Gauss Rifle, it doesn’t exist, so that would be the only exception. In real life they only have very large Gauss Guns on ships and those are prototypes only because there are problems with the power supply. But even the exoskeleton suit exists.

    American version:

    Russian version:
    http://www.sinaimg.cn/dy/slidenews/8_img/2013_48/207_97331_333229.jpg
    http://www.sinaimg.cn/dy/slidenews/8_img/2013_48/207_97335_284740.jpg

    The only problem in real life is the power supply. It doesn’t last very long at the moment (an hour or two). But they think they will be able to solve that problem in about 10 years time. Once they solve the power issue, they said they’ll put loads of armor on it. So that’s what their vision is, fully armored exoskeleton suits, similar to what you see in STALKER. In STALKER they use artifacts to solve pretty much all power supply issues.

    I suppose you could make the same argument for the Gauss Rifle. They solved the power supply issue, hence they created a Gauss Rifle.