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THUD: Development Of Neal Stephenson's CLANG Halted

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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Nathan Grayson

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