The team behind the Stalker-inspired Areal said in a recent Kickstarter update that it has worked things out with Vostok Games and cleared up all the complaints against it. But a Vostok representative says that's not really what happened at all, and that it's been forced to let the matter drop because it can't actually do anything about it.
I was excited for Areal when the Kickstarter went live a couple days ago, especially since the Kickstarter claims the game is being developed by "the core people that developed the Stalker series" and that most of the West Games team is in fact "composed of former senior GSC Game World staff members." But it didn't take long for that excitement to turn to suspicion.
Vostok Games, which emerged from the ruins of GSC Game World following the cancellation of Stalker 2 and has spent the last couple of years working on Survarium, very quickly spoke out against those claims. It suggested that West Games employees had only been peripherally involved in Stalker, and also complained that the Areal Kickstarter makes extensive use of Stalker assets and video without permission or even acknowledgement. The pitch video, for instance, is full of gameplay action lifted directly from the Stalker games, but the narrator strongly implies that it's taken from Areal.
It attracted enough negative attention that West Games posted an "Addressing Vostok Games" Kickstarter update yesterday. "We have contacted Vostok Games about their supposed claim that we are fraudulent," it says. "They say that they have no relation to that claim and have since deleted the forum topic wherein a moderator accused us of being fake." In a "mini-update" posted today, it repeated the claim that the complaints are coming from "a former Stalker modder and current creator of a similar post-apocalyptic Kickstarter" who is bent on causing grief for Areal.
But Vostok Games PR Manager Joe Mullin tells PC Gamer that while Vostok has spoken to West Games, it was to protest its claim of being "core developers of Stalker" and deceptive use of promotional materials from the game. The matter has been "sorted out," he explained, but only because there's nothing else Vostok can do.
"As Vostok Games does not own the Stalker IP we can't (ourselves) take any kind of legal action. That is up to the owner of the rights, GSC," Mullin told us. "Apart from that, if Eugene Kim from West Games decides to carry on with his false claims, that is his choice. But we feel we have made it clear that the public should think twice before donating any money."
It does look very dodgy. The Kickstarter makes big promises but comes to the table with nothing but some concept art and a pile of old Stalker assets, and the $50,000 goal is suspiciously low, especially for a multi-platform next-gen release. (West Games says Areal is being developed for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U along with the PC.) And finally, there's the question of lead game designer Peter Dushynskyi, whose photo on the Kickstarter page is actually a Shutterstock image of "a young man standing on a dark background." Yet for all that, it's also enjoying some success, having raised nearly $32,000 of its goal at the time of writing.
We've reached out to West Games for further information.