By Nathaniel Liles
Note: The opinions expressed in this editorial are not necessarily the views or opinions of Cliqist.com.
I want a lightsaber. I want one so bad, guys. In fact, I can say that’s probably true of almost every single person born between 1977 and ever, and while lightsabers are apparently “impossible,” says those egghead scientists, what’s the single closest thing we can realistically expect in this day and age? A badass, motion-controlled swordfighting game that we could then modify to have lightsabers. Just think about it! Aside from the obvious hurdles, like all current motion control being absolute garbage, this could really revolutionize the way we play, and one man, author Neil Stephenson, set out to do just that. Unfortunately, it was a failure, and we’re pretty sure it was their own fault.
We were presented with the Kickstarter campaign for CLANG, which promised us two things: A state-of-the-art motion controller and an online arena fighter built around it, all for the low, low price of $500,000. They were planning on releasing development kits as well, meaning that this could one day be much more than a swordfighting game. Neil Stephenson didn’t just want to make a game, as he clearly expressed in his Kickstarter video. He wanted to completely revolutionize the way swordfighting is done in video games, aspiring to so much more than pressing buttons and pulling triggers.
So many people were so excited about this, and for very good reason. I mean we have all the components for greatness here: Badass swordfighting? Check. Trained professionals at the helm? Extra check. Someone with a goatee at the helm? Ultra check. There were even quite a few people who just poured money into this project. Anyone familiar with Kickstarter knows what I’m talking about when I mention the “super high-flown donation amounts with silly rewards”, right? Well CLANG had its high-flown and ridiculous rewards. How many people do you think bought into that? How many people do you think donated, say, $1,000 all by themselves? Forty-nine people. There were forty-nine people on this very planet so excited about CLANG that they shoveled $1,000 out of their Scrooge McDuck vault to throw at a swordfighting game that might not ever come out. That, to me, is incredible, and not just because I’ve never actually even seen that much money. Wait… I’m being told that there were nine people who donated over $10,000 each. I need to go sit down and think about that.
Now, before we talk about why the developers failed to produce a product after having reached their Kickstarter goal, we need to look into what they were promising in the Kickstarter. Now, for all intents and purposes, it looks like they’re saying, “Hey! Help us raise $500,000 and we’ll make a super coolio swordfighting game for you!”, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice one little bitty line of text that changes absolutely everything.
“The next step is to build a functional proof of concept in the form
of an exciting prototype we can share with you and use to achieve our next level of funding”
That’s right, ladies and menfolk, on their Kickstarter page, they were careful to throw in a little bit of fine print stating that they were not, in fact, making a full game with this money right away. They were raising $500,000 to put together a motion-controlled sword and a demo so they could ask for more money. Go ahead and read that sentence a couple times to let it really sink in. Now think about how they couldn’t even pull that off in time. Is this starting to smell like a scam yet?
Now, saying that this was a scam may be a little harsh, but at this point I don’t know what else to believe. They met their goal and overshot it by $26,000, with a considerable number of people donating enough to buy a really nice used car and the contributors to the Kickstarter didn’t get a damn thing for weeks. They didn’t get the full game many of them were expecting, they barely got a demo, they didn’t get posters or signed books or t-shirts, and they didn’t get an explanation as to where all their money went, all they got was a “Well, guys, the money’s gone, and we can’t keep going until there’s more,” until they eventually released the alpha. Obviously, this incited all kinds of rage from supporters and hopeful players alike, many people feeling cheated, lied to, and robbed, and I can’t tell them they’re wrong. Yes, they should’ve read the Kickstarter page all the way through before they started throwing money at this, but so little of the page even insinuates that this isn’t meant to fund a full game that I can’t blame them for missing that one sentence. There’s even a large outcry from the fanbase to file a class action lawsuit, but since the Kickstarter page did actually mention their true intentions, I don’t think it’ll work out.
It turns out that they did eventually release an alpha video onto YouTube alongside plans to ship it out to backers of $25 or more. It is literally a motion-controlled swordfighting game, and as you can probably guess, it looks completely terrible. It’s jumpy as all hell, with character’s arms flailing about as the motion controls try to figure out what’s going on in the real world, there’s a huge game-breaking latency issue, and there’s a 0% chance that playing this game is anything at all like fighting someone with a sword or, in my case, a lightsaber. The person wasn’t even moving in a way that looks like swordfighting. He was sitting in a chair, slowing moving his hands back and forth like he was steering a bumper car. Let’s look at the Wii. Let’s look at the Kinect, for crying out loud. Motion controls are an unready technology that have absolutely no place in someone’s home aside from on the shelf gathering dust a week after you get it, and this game’s promise to revolutionize motion controls was completely empty.
This entire debacle is a cautionary tale of sorts about the dangers of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is an amazing place. It’s the last bastion of ingenuity in a world built for mass profitability, and an overwhelming number of the ideas and projects on Kickstarter are, in fact, revolutionary in their own way, but it’s the Wild West. People can promise whatever they want, and they can do whatever they want with the money they raise as long as they word their Kickstarter page just right, and I think Neil Stephenson and his team did just that. Support ideas you like on Kickstarter. A lot of time, if not most of the time, it’s the only way that those ideas can ever be a reality, but make sure you completely understand what you’re putting your money into, and, most importantly, don’t donate an amount of money that you can’t stand to lose, because it might just happen.