"Definitive spiritual successor" to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. hits Kickstarter

UPDATE: Survarium dev Vostok speaks to Eurogamer.

UPDATE 12PM BST: I've spoken to Survarium developer Vostok Games - founded by former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. devs - about Areal.

The biggest concern is West-Games apparently using footage and assets from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series to represent Areal.

"My biggest concern with West-Games is using the footage and assets of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and representing them as their own, which is not only illegal, but simply just not right," Vostok's PR and marketing manager Oleg Yavorsky told me.

He said there was footage of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat used.

"I guess it's all made for the sake of getting extra publicity (which unfortunately works), but guys on Kickstarter should probably pay attention."

Whether any legal action will be pursued is up to GSC, the existing shell of the developer that made - and owns - S.T.A.L.K.E.R..

Another irritant for Yavorsky and Vostok was West-Games' claim of being comprised of developers who were considered the core S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team. GSC infamously took ages making the game, announcing it in 2001 for release in 2003, but subsequently delaying and delaying until a buggy release in 2007.

Many people worked on the game in those years, Yavorsky argued.

"So that you understand, since the long years of development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and then Metro, there have been literally hundreds of people involved in working on their bits and pieces, starting from beta-testers up to modellers responsible for certain weaponry models," he said.

"Many people came to the studio to work for a few months just for the sake of adding S.T.A.L.K.E.R. development to their portfolio. Frequently they claimed afterwards to be the 'core' developers behind the game - you wouldn't know anyway, right?"

Specifically regarding the West-Games roster he said: "Well, some of those people did work for GSC for substantial periods of time. However their role as core team would be overestimated."

We've contacted both West-Games and GSC for comment.

UPDATE 10.30AM BST: The Areal Kickstarter has come under fire from Vostok Games, the studio formed when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developer GSC collapsed, and the studio that's making its own thematic successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., called Survarium.

The bone of contention is West-Games claiming it is made up of staff that made S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro: Last Light when apparently it isn't.

Vostok spokesperson Joe Mullin wrote this in the Survarium forum (via VG247): "We have contacted GSC's lawyers regarding this fraudulent claim of being the developers of Stalker and Metro Last Light. Please do all you can do ensure people know these claims are false."

Since the original story was published, some pledges have been retracted. The project is now under half-funded, sitting at around $20,000 raised.

ORIGINAL STORY 9AM BST: An Eastern European, post-apocalyptic horror game called Areal is off to a great start on Kickstarter, raising more than half its low $50,000 goal in under 24 hours.

It's billed as the "definitive spiritual successor" to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games and it's made by former GSC Game World (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) and 4A Games (Metro: Last Light) staff. The new studio, West-Games, is based in Ukraine with an address in Las Vegas presumably for Kickstarter purposes.

West-Games described Areal as a "love letter" to fans of post-apocalyptic horror games. It sounds ambitious: big open world, non-linear story, modifiable weaponry, usable vehicles, adaptive AI and... a release on nearly every platform under the sun, including Wii U (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC and Mac).

There's a core team of 11 experienced developers and the project is clearly more than just words, as glimpsed in the Kickstarter video. The art depicts a colourful and eye-catching world based around the "unearthly" and corrupting meteoric material of Metamorphite.

But can $50,000 really fund "the culmination of everything that we want to see from a post apocalyptic game", as West-Games put it? No; the core team has invested their savings and Kickstarter success will "open up a ton of financial options for us that will make sure that Areal becomes the AAA title that it was always envisioned as".

"All we need is for the Kickstarter and S.T.AL.K.E.R. community to support our Kickstarter, and Areal is guaranteed an unhurried and complete release."

A pledge of $25 secures you a copy of the game on any platform when it eventually comes out - a date estimated as September 2015, which also sounds ambitious to me.

Areal being the "definitive spiritual successor" to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. may be a proclamation Vostok Games takes none too kindly to. Vostok, after all, was the studio that rose from GSC Game World's ashes to make what it called a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Survarium. That game's in beta and is due out at some point later this year.

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