Um: Areal Devs Are At It Again, With STALKER Apocalypse

See this here? This is a bargepole. It is, I would say, approximately ten feet long. What I’m doing with this bargepole is very deliberately not touching something with it. Even if said bargepole were a hundred feet long, I would still be very deliberately not touching something with it. That something is a crowdfunding attempt for a game called ‘STALKER Apocalypse.’ The people making it previously tried to make a game called Areal.

Yeah, the Areal that got abruptly pulled down from Kickstarter because it made all kinds of dodgy promises about being a spiritual S.T.A.L.K.E.R. sequel. “Stalker is just a word”, apparently. Uh.

West Games are back, and apparently unbowed after a storm of criticism which involved accusations of misrepresentation, controversial investors and allegedly passing off others’ work as their own. They claim they’ve “refocused our vision” and after consulting with their fans are making a Unreal 4-powered STALKER Apocalypse with singleplayer and multiplayer, “and plenty of familiar elements that will undoubtedly please our fans.”

Barge pole. Very, very long barge pole. Not touching with it.

They want $600,000, and their campaign to get it runs until March, but rather revealingly they are not on Kickstarter. They are on ‘World Wide Funder.’ At present they have $150, but it only launched an hour ago.

Look, here’s the link, but this is in the spirit of information, not recommendation. Big old barge pole, remember?

And here’s the video. Bargepole bargepole bargepole.

Lots of promises, unabashed use of the Stalker name and concept, although they don’t in fact have the rights to the old GSC license: “We have registered a trademark for Stalker Apocalypse, and have every right to use it as our title. Stalker by itself is a common word, and anyone can use it.”

Is this how the lawyers at Bethesda felt about Scrolls?

But look, they’ve made a particle effect and everything:

Well, there it is. There. It. Is. Maybe it’s all above board this time. I mean, it would be wantonly foolish to attempt the same dodgy thing twice.

Wouldn’t it?

*Hugs bargepole*

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81 Comments

  1. InnerPartisan says:

    “Stalker is just a word”.
    Well, yes. Just like “full of shit” is just a state of mind. Large bargepole INDEED.

    • battles_atlas says:

      What about the funding website its on? Seems to be bargepole fire sale going on. Very ‘eclectic’ selection of projects, none of which seem to have been given any funding….

      Also this is pretty dubious in the context of game development: “You then receive the money that you raised once your project’s funding period ends – even if you do not reach your base goal.”

      So as things stand three people will find themselves backing a game with a $150 budget.

      • khendrix says:

        Yes, that WFunder platform looks very dubious. Visually it obviously tries to resemble Kickstarter, but pledges are taken whether the goal is met or not, AND “Once you make a pledge, you cannot cancel or lower your pledge” !

        *bargebargebarge*

      • _PAULRUS_ says:

        Clicking on the “comments” tab on the World Wide Funder page presents you with a message that reads ‘Sign up or log in for see comments.”

        Kinda feel like that’s the only incentive I need to never go back there.

      • snowgim says:

        Yep, Kickstarter wasn’t dodgy enough for their dodgy project, so they found somewhere dodgier.

        It’s also always a good sign when people disable comments and ratings on their youtube videos…

  2. Alabaster Crippens says:

    The inclusion of convenient full stoppish screws in that first logo shown in the video seems particularly egregious. To avoid the full stops to not use the trademark, and then still find an excuse to put them back in there?

    My that’s a nice bargepole, may I borrow it?

    • Guvornator says:

      The original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was only called that because it ripped a lot of it’s ideas from the Tarkovsky film but didn’t (as far as I’m aware) have any official licence to do so. So really all they’re doing is continuing a fine old tradition of commercial misrepresentation for profit.

      • Premium User Badge

        distantlurker says:

        *pokes Guvornator with barge pole*

      • statistx says:

        Being inspired and blatantly ripping off are different things.
        The movie also was based on a book with a different title.

        • Guvornator says:

          To which it had the licence. As evidenced by the fact it was written by the book’s authors. And the fact they rewrote the book post the film’s release and called it “Stalker”.

          Generally, a clue to something being ripped off is whether you using a modified version of the name of the thing you are ripping off in the title, of just use a totally different title…

          • UpsilonCrux says:

            Wait, so the Strugatsky brothers ripped *themselves* off?
            Interesting…

            I don’t think you’re correct regarding a retitle of the book either?

            Edit: I don’t seem to be able to reply to your reply. I didn’t know there was a novelisation of the film.
            I’ve always wondered how much of Stalker (film) was the S. Bros and how much was Tarkovsky. If I didn’t already know they wrote the screenplay, I’d be surprised.

          • Guvornator says:

            No, that’s not my point, although self-plagiarism is a thing. Also from wikipedia:

            “The background and some terminology of the game (“The Zone”, “Stalker”) is borrowed from the popular science fiction novella Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and the 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker that was loosely based on it, as well as Stalker, the film’s subsequent novelization by the original authors.”

      • UpsilonCrux says:

        That’s hardly far to the Stalker (include dots) series.
        At most it was loosely inspired by the film, which itself is loosely based on the book (Roadside Picnic).
        Neither the book, nor the film is particularly like the games barring the general theme of an anomalous area of mysterious origin, and some small elements such as the throwing of screws etc.
        The book takes place in Canada for example, and we are led to believe the “Zone” is the result of alien interference/presence – the notion that the “Zone” is analogous to the leftover remains of a roadside picnic found by animals in the woods – inexplicable artifacts which they cannot explain. In this case, our world is the roadside, we are the animals and the anomalies are the leftovers.
        The film takes place in Russia, was made before the Chernobyl disaster and is largely concerned with Christian Mysticism, symbology and other esoteric gubbins.

        But yeah – bargepoles at the ready. That guy is seriously creepy also.

        • All is Well says:

          This is what I wanted to say. Though I haven’t read Roadside Picnic and thus can’t comment as to that, Tarkovsky’s Stalker and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (god how tedious to type that out) are very, very different. I think it’s fair to say that they are entirely different works.

          • UpsilonCrux says:

            It’s a great book, highly recommend. Think there’s been a recent new translation published too.

          • His Dudeness says:

            +1

            It’s an intriguingly good read. A bit bleak like many East-European SF but nearly as much as the Tarkovsky movie.
            Highly recommended and makes for nice present. 8)

        • Razumen says:

          Nitpicking; the book actually takes place in a place called Harmont, a town in a fictitious commonwealth country, so its actual location is petty much unknowable.

  3. Perkelnik says:

    Weapon wheel! Its has weapon wheel! OMG!!! Im so going to cough up 10k USD for backing this absolutely amazing project because of the amazing bonuses I get with it!
    Seriously though, I wish I could do that, hell I would even finance the whole game just to be able to make a character with backstory which would basicaly be the story of West Games

    • Faxanadu says:

      Wolfenstein: New order also has a weapon wheel. And you have to *click* it. To _click_ it. What’s the point of a weapon wheel if you have to CLICK it. *grumpycat.jpg*

  4. mark.barbara says:

    AAA+, invest with confidence.

    Nice if it happens, not holding my breath.

  5. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Yeah, you had to barge in and ruin their chances.

  6. Garek says:

    This made me read up what exactly a “bargepole” is (also, I’m not a native english speaker).
    Now I kind of want you to sell bargepoles as RPS merchandise. But they are a bit impractical, especially if you, like me and most other people, have neither river nor barge at hand.
    Maybe some kind of virtual bargepole to very deliberatly not touch certain crowd fundings, early accesses and games in general with?

    • Gap Gen says:

      That phrase is probably the only time a native English speaker would use the word bargepole, too. Even if, as it turns out, I’ve used one before.

  7. BeaconDev says:

    Those of us in the serious STALKER community just laugh at this sort of thing now.
    I’m the project lead of a large Call of Pripyat mod, and our upcoming relaunch is more impressive than this crowdfunding campaign, AND has more legs to stand on.

    • trout says:

      may i ask for the name or a link to your mod please? i love stalker, always excited to see new content being made for it :D

      • BeaconDev says:

        Call of Pripyat: Redux!
        link to moddb.com

        We’re also in the Top 100 for MOTY this year, so please be generous and vote if you like what you see!

        • Faxanadu says:

          It gets weird at the point where we wait for games for the people who don’t MAKE the games to MAKE the game. Out of the game.

          Like Skyrim – couldn’t care less for the vanilla. Bought, played and enjoyed the game because of the mods.

  8. Gwilym says:

    The anomaly video is beautifully bathetic, like those massive ambitious projects where you read about all the exciting planned features, then come to the ‘media’ section, which consists entirely of an untextured weapon model against a black background. Then get asked for $600,000.

    …aaand then I kept reading the project page and came to an actual untextured weapon model against a black background.

    I like the ‘weapon wheel’ passage. It’s soothing.

    • Sacarathe says:

      “I like the ‘weapon wheel’ passage. It’s soothing.”

      Indeed, it made me wonder if these guys have really worked on a pc game before, what is wrong with expecting people to be able to learn and remember what is in 10 slots.

      I might have gone for this, but as its not on kickstarter, dubious or not, I’m not even going to consider it, also remember when apple tried to trademark “pod”, common words…

  9. gbrading says:

    I have to agree; sounds dubious as hell.

  10. Neurotic says:

    “Here I go again on my own,
    Walking down the only road I’ve ever known…”

    • Artist says:

      I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
      Everything I say has come before
      Assembled into something into something into something
      I am never certain anymore
      I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
      Always trying to catch up with myself
      I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
      Listening to someone’s cry for help

      • Premium User Badge

        bonuswavepilot says:

        “There’s a class of men (and women) who are always on their guard –
        Cunning, treacherous, suspicious – feeling softly – grasping hard –
        Brainy, yet without the courage to forsake the beaten track –
        Cautiously they feel their way behind a bolder spirit’s back.”
        – from ‘The Men Who Come Behind’, Henry Lawson, 1900

  11. TheTingler says:

    This is a good bit:

    “Right now, we are utilizing all assets and models that we have access to, and use them within the game world as temporary “rough drafts”, which will be replaced as development continues by optimized assets that are of the highest caliber in terms of quality.”

    So, if you see any gameplay videos which seem to consist entirely of pre-bought assets cheaply and quickly put together, don’t worry because we’ll change it later! We promise!

  12. Spacewalk says:

    It doesn’t take a Shithead to realise that this is D.O.A.

  13. Artist says:

    Im totally sure Putin approves!

    • All is Well says:

      What has Putin got to do with anything?

      • Bradamantium says:

        The first time ’round the crowdfunding block after everyone got suspicious, this team put out a letter of support sent by Vladimir Putin himself. Really.

  14. Stevostin says:

    I want to state that RPS isn’t talking nearly enough about SURVARIUM, which is already pretty awesome as a multiplayer game (but a different game from STALKER until the free mode is added).

  15. Bradamantium says:

    I almost want to think they HAVE to be serious, because gosh, if they aren’t, they must really think after failing to make $50k on Kickstarter they can fool people out of $600k on some incredibly shady knockoff.

  16. daimonahte says:

    Alec, please remove the “STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl” tag, as CLEARLY the two games are entirely unrelated.

    But gosh, this is possibly the most excited I’ve ever been about a game announcement. This should provide hours of entertainment over the next three months!

    Yeah, bargepole AND hazmat suit firmly in place here.

    • gnodab says:

      +1 to this!
      Evac! Evac!
      No bargepole is long enough. Put it in the containment field and don’t sully the good old (buggy) name of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

  17. Eukatheude says:

    This crap AGAIN? Someone please lock up Eugene Kim for good.
    At least they do make some good looking concept art though.

  18. golem09 says:

    150k for THIS in one hour?

    Sound like baitmoney to me.

    • Llewyn says:

      No, $150. Not $150k.

      • varangian says:

        And a few hours later still only $150 if the World Wide Funder site is to be believed. Which it probably isn’t.

        Obviously the kind folks at RPS have been handing out free bargepoles to anyone whose anomaly detector didn’t go off the scale on seeing this pitch.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Flavour Beans says:

    Thoughts as I was reading this article? “I’m going to be severely disappointed if I go check out their page and they aren’t promising Oculus support.”

    I wasn’t disappointed.

  20. Premium User Badge

    bonuswavepilot says:

    Oh man, from the bios of the devs down the bottom:

    “Pavel is a talented composer, who is incredibly gifted creatively with his music. In 2012, he was invited to compose all of the music for the Eurovision 2012 competition.”

    So now you know who to blame for all of the music in Eurovision 2012. Kind of takes the fun out of the whole ‘different countries’ thing to realise that one guy just does it all…

    • novium says:

      Just checked where they got the image from, here’s the site. link to timurguard.ru
      The guy dosen’t even have linkedin which makes it really suspiscious.

    • Don Reba says:

      That monster!

      • novium says:

        They at least used his real name xD
        If I was able to translate it correctly.

        Edit: why do they even bother, they will never be able to get 600k, especially on that site. This is far from being a new Star Citizen. The “devs” aren’t famous and all the content they are showing is sketchy. Even the fact that they are constanly switching between calling it STALKER and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is supiscious, which technically also is a breach of the original S.T… trademark.

        Another edit: They do NOT own the trademark they claim that they own.
        link to tmsearch.uspto.gov
        (STALKER Apocalypse)
        Neither do they own S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Apocalypse

        • varangian says:

          >why do they even bother, they will never be able to get 600k

          Cynics such as myself might think it’s because whatever they do get they can apparently keep under the terms of World Wide Funder. Could be the videogame equivalent of Springtime for Hitler but even better, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom actually had to put on their production whereas it seems that if this lot don’t get the 600k they want they can just walk away without actually having produced anything. Bar the odd rotating gun on a black background of course.

        • krait says:

          Trademarks can be owned in other countries than the US, IIRC.

          • novium says:

            Yeah, but is really the US one is the only one that matters. They can bribe people to get one in like Nigeria for all I care, but that wouldn’t make it trustworthy. So the fact still stands: it’s a scam.

  21. ZombieJ says:

    If, when you read the word “stalker”, your brain fails to trigger an audio sample of it being said in a Russian accent then you shouldn’t be even attempting to make content for the original games. “Just a word” my hairy arse!

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      What, like “Get out of here, Stalker!”?

      Damn, I just wasted a perfectly good chance to use that as a witty one-line comment on this project…

  22. Lazarus says:

    Wow. This thing appears to currently be the second most funded project on the site (at $2296 at the moment). Unbelievable. However, the most funded project is “Project TOOL”:

    link to wfunder.com

    Here’s the tagline for this lovely piece of excrement:

    “Year 2347. The source of all life on Earth has been stolen. A loyal federal agent is preparing for a mission to save life on Earth, when he discovers that the colonel who is leading the operation wants to destroy most of humanity.”

    Also, this ‘funding site’ seems unwilling to provide any information about itself other than a couple of email addresses. No physical location. No staffing information. No contact address or telephone numbers. And virtually every project on their ‘New and Noteworthy’ page is entirely unfunded and marginally literate at best. Looking at it, one has to wonder if a few people like Mr. Kim got together to create this ‘funding site’ just for their own scams.
    I think we’re going to have to order more bargepoles Alec.

    • P.Funk says:

      My favourite is the bit in the video about how at Five point Four PM a space ship hovers over the site where another identical ship has lain for 2 billion years.

      After watching the entire video I can’t figure out why its called Tool though. Is it just to say that anyone who funds this is a tool?

  23. socrate says:

    what is up with russian dev always trying to scam people?….more importantly why are they still allowed to sell their game on stuff like steam?

  24. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Massive STALKER fan here, played all three more times than I can remember. TBH I went through the whole birth trauma of STALKER 2, the whole THIS TIME WE REALLY MEAN IT Jackson’s (as in Pollack, rhyming slang fans), and I think I would struggle to honestly say I would play all the way through it if even a genuine STALKER 2 came out. Too much waiting, too much replaying old games to tide me over in the meantime.

    I fired up Lost Alpha and the feeling of utter apathy overwhelmed me. The desire to explore and discover had just been completely murderated out of me by all the bullshit. I never, ever thought I would hear myself say that, as one of the reasons I started following RPS in the first place was on the off-chance that STALKER 2 would get announced properly. I just suddenly really do not care, and all this stuff with West is just turning my apathy to hostility.

    Let it die.

  25. PancreaticDefect says:

    Considering this “crowd funding” site has existed for a whole 3 months and was registered through GoDaddy, I’m going to make the assumption its slightly less than legitimate.

    Domain Name: WFUNDER.COM
    Registrar: GODADDY.COM, LLC
    Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
    Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com
    Name Server: NS-1354.AWSDNS-41.ORG
    Name Server: NS-1922.AWSDNS-48.CO.UK
    Name Server: NS-750.AWSDNS-29.NET
    Name Server: NS-89.AWSDNS-11.COM
    Status: clientDeleteProhibited
    Status: clientRenewProhibited
    Status: clientTransferProhibited
    Status: clientUpdateProhibited
    Updated Date: 29-sep-2014
    Creation Date: 02-sep-2014
    Expiration Date: 02-sep-2015

    I will admit, however, that I have never registered a domain name so maybe GoDaddy is the norm.

    • TheTingler says:

      More than that, there’s strong evidence that West Games are the creators of this “World Wide Funder” website. See this Reddit thread for details. I totally believe it. And moreover, they’ve created the rule that they keep any money pledged whether they hit the goal or not.

      • malkav11 says:

        Well, I was going to write the whole thing off as laughably pathetic, but if they’re using an equivalent of Indiegogo’s much maligned “flexible funding” model, then that’s a lot more scummy. Even criminal.

  26. zeekthegeek says:

    Glad to see they’re still employing that Stock Photo as a designer.

    The fake crowdfunding site they made isn’t even a full commitment to the scam, they’re not trying hard enough – the countdowns don’t actually work, nor do the twitter/facebook/linkedin buttons on the footer – they are links to nothing.

  27. malkav11 says:

    I don’t know if they’re a deliberate scam or just entirely hapless and clueless, but either way, they’d be really hard pressed to get anywhere on Kickstarter with a pitch and ask like this, much less on some random third party crowdfund site no one has ever heard of or visits.

  28. PancreaticDefect says:

    I doubt a real, legitimate website owner would use Domains By Proxy. I will not be surprised at all if better internet sleuths than I discover the WFunder.com domain is owned by Eugene Kim or someone associated with him.

    • PancreaticDefect says:

      I’m going to reply to my own comment here to post this article on Forbes where, as I said, someone with far superior detective skills has unearthed a few more interesting things.

      link to forbes.com

  29. Alecthar says:

    So…the “Project TOOL” non-kickstarter on this “crowdfunding site” has a website that’s suspiciously like the Areal site, and a couple other dodgy “games”. Also, World-Wide-Funder or whatever just takes your money when you send it for a project, and you can’t cancel or reduce your “funding” amount after providing it. The whole thing is clearly a ridiculous scam built around a couple of bullshit “games” and other dubious projects, all slapped into a slightly re-colored copy of Kickstarter’s site.

  30. like, a hundred bears says:

    Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve played around with Unreal Engine 4 and I’m almost entirely certain that the “anomaly” effect up there is a stock particle effect included with the engine. While it is technically legal for them to use it as per the license agreement and all that, it is incredibly lazy and disingenuous to pass it off as their own.

  31. albertino says:

    Aside from the composer as mentioned above one of the other dev profile pics is just a stock image: link to canstockphoto.com

    This is as dodgy as it gets – spread the word and stay away!

  32. RhesusRheen says:

    After signing up to the site with a fake email address to see if there were actually any comments on there (there aren’t, funnily enough) I noticed that there isn’t actually a way to create a project on the site. I found a link in one of the guides which just gives a 404.

    I think that adds to the idea that the entire site is a scam rather than just the game, normally I’d think that people would realise that without it even being mentioned, but they somehow have already managed to rake in over $12,000