Crimea in 2014 didn’t stop a Ukrainian team from posing as ex-STALKER developers to make an apocryphal sequel.
on paper, Areal was born with very good intentions in the summer of 2014. It came from the hand of a studio called West Games and was intended to be a spiritual sequel to STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl many years before the official creation of the unofficial sequel, STALKER 2. What its developers surely did not expect (or yes…) about the PS4, Xbox One and PC title is that they would sign the busiest summer of their lives and would presumably receive the support of a very powerful ally who, presumably again, preferred “shoot in video games and not on a battlefield”, Vladimir Putin. doWhat are you telling meAntonio Garcia Piedrabuena?
It all starts on June 25, 2014, when the game hits Kickstarter claiming to be “the ultimate spiritual successor” to STALKER. To make it happen they will need a very puzzling figure: $50,000 in 30 days. An unlikely budget to make a video game of such a category a reality, but the Ukrainian study of West Games is clear that it is. They so happily affirmed the spiritual successor and used images of the game they intended to honor with such self-confidence that it didn’t take long for alarm bells to go off: a former director of public relations for the studio behind STALKER, Oleg Yavorsky, set off alarm bells.
“A lot of people signed up for GSC Game World to add to their résumés that they worked on the development of STALKER. Many of them claimed that they were part of the main developers of the game, who knew?“he asked in a forum post collected by DSOGaming, “my concern is that West Games is using STALKER material and assets and presenting them as their own, which is not only illegal, but also wrong (…) the Kickstarter guys should pay attention to the case.” And they did, but first there would be a blushing AMA on Reddit.
The game arrives on Kickstarter claiming to be the ultimate spiritual successor to STALKERHe answered some of the questions from fans by copying and pasting answers from his FAQ section. When the going got tough, it seems new Reddit accounts started popping up at the AMA questionably defending the team. The paranoia reached an important point when some users they found photos of the team in an Internet image bank. However, they managed to make a video with people working in their studio very similar to those who appeared in the photos. What happened? There was speculation about the sale of the photographer’s photos to an image bank after taking them, legitimately, to the team. But that is not the important thing: the important thing is that the shadow of doubt was already over Areal.
And yet, the game managed to be shown off in a promising video demo on July 18th and be greenlit on Kickstarter on July 20th. They miraculously raised $22,000 out of the blue in the days leading up to closing, which raised a few more eyebrows among players, but it wasn’t the weirdest thing to happen to the post-apocalyptic game yet. Spoiler alert: its suspension on Kickstarter four days later wouldn’t be the strangest thing either. The crowdfunding page cut the tap to the game and explained three reasons to lock it: Misrepresenting support by self-funding your own project, misrepresenting or failing to disclose material facts about the project or its creator, and providing inaccurate user information to Kickstarter and its partners.
Immersed in conflict after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly sent a letter supporting the game a day before the Kickstarter hit. He shared the alleged letter in Vice West Games CEO Eugene Kim, a medium in which he assured that the crowdfunding platform “had become a blatant information war in the conflict in Russia and Ukraine in 2014.” What Kim did not fully understand is that his company did not like the Ukrainians or the Russians. But did it cause sympathy in Putin? In the suspicious letter, the no less suspicious president explained that Areal had reached his ears thanks to his daughter.
It is important that our people do not shoot themselves, but play games like thisVladimir Putin“I love video games and shooting games, and I like this idea. It is important that our people do not shoot themselves, but play games like this (…) I carefully got acquainted with your idea, I like it very much. If you give me the opportunity to play the alpha version of the game when it is ready I will invite you to the Kremlin to meet personally, play it a little and talk about the interests of young people, the players of our country. Greetings, Vladimir Putin.” It seems that Kim himself did not quite believe it, but he did not hesitate to try to find a way to contact the Kremlin just in case. Did he? It’s a mystery. But probably not. Never again Arial was heard of.
More about: STALKER and STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl.