Controversy surrounded a Kickstarter project called Areal earlier this year. It was billed as the spiritual successor to the creepy, cult S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, made by some of the same people, and it had serious ambition - but also serious flaws.
The pitch lacked any convincing evidence a game would ever materialise, let alone for $50,000 - and especially not for consoles as well. Developer West-Games couldn't shake a shady reputation and, even though the project met suspicious last-minute success, Areal was eventually suspended by Kickstarter.
West-Games tried to crowdfund through the Areal website but it didn't work. Then everything went quiet. Now West-Games is back, and wants your money all over again. But not for Areal: for Stalker Apocalypse.
It's more or less the same thing - a modified take on the Areal idea. It's a neater pitch and the crowdfunding goal of $600,000 makes much more sense. It's not on Kickstarter, for obvious reasons, but World Wide Funder - a site I've not come across before.
"We were formerly developing a game called Areal," wrote West-Games, "but after raising funds on our website and listening to our fans, we decided to re-focus our vision, and develop what is now Stalker Apocalypse (trademarked)."
Note that the word "Stalker" does not have fullstops separating the letters as the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series does. It's not an acronym, in other words, which probably explains the availability of the trademark.
Broadly the game ideas are similar, with more emphasis on story. Plans for a bespoke game engine have been dropped in favour of using Unreal Engine 4, sensibly, and the idea is to release Stalker Apocalypse on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016.
A multiplatform PC and console release for $600,000, for a game like this? That's still far-fetched. And there's little evidence - as with Areal - of a promising game in the making. There's a bit of game footage (presumably from Stalker Apocalypse) of a character emerging from a cave into strange world, but it's so basic it could have been mocked up in an afternoon.
If West-Games altered Areal to become Stalker Apocalypse, why isn't there more to show? It should have months of development behind it now.
Elsewhere there's reused Areal artwork and there's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. footage, which this time carries a disclaimer:
"The following video contains footage from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise that we developed while at GSC Game World. We are not showing this footage for any commercial gain, and this video should only be interpreted as a demonstration of our capabilities as developers."
There's also this line in the video:
"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is considered by gamers to be in the same league as [The] Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, because of how passionate and realistic the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was."
Quite how West-Games expects people to ignore what happened with Areal and pledge trustingly here, when it's still largely just words, I don't know. I'm in contact with the studio and trying to find out more.