Do you remember Clang? It was the name that much-loved science fiction writer Neal Stephenson gave to his realistic swordfighting game, when he launched a crowdfunding project for it. That was two years ago, and – after spending most of that time in radio silence – we’ve now been told the project’s simply not happening.
The original plans were to revolutionise swordfighting in video games, as Stephenson explained he was “dissatisfied” with how the combat was portrayed. “These could be so much more fun than they are,” the Snow Crash author said.
Fans, it seemed, agreed with him, pledging more than $526,000 on Kickstarter. Now, those same fans are getting their money back.
Problems became obvious in Clang development. 12 months ago, the team had reportedly spent the $500,000 it had received, and was looking for more funding to finish the project. That never eventuated, and the task fell to Stephenson to update the game’s 9,000 backers.
According to the author, Clang did get to a prototype stage – which was delivered to backers – but it simply “wasn’t very fun to play”.
Members of the team made large personal contributions of time and money to the project before, during, and after the Kickstarter phase. Some members, when all is said and done, absorbed significant financial losses. I am one of them; that has been my way of taking responsibility for this. The team had considerable incentives—emotional and financial—to see CLANG move on to the next round of funding. They showed intense dedication and dogged focus that I think most of our backers would find moving if the whole story were told. I will forever be grateful to them. In the end, however, additional fundraising efforts failed and forced the team to cut their losses and disband in search of steady work.
In an appropriately-titled “Final Update for Kickstarter backers, Stephenson also explains why it has taken so long for the studio to speak out about development – and why it’s come forward now with such bad news:
I have delayed talking publicly about these projects for a long time because I kept thinking that at least one of them would reach a point where I could describe it in something other than generalities. I apologize for that delay. But now a year has passed since the last update and I’ve decided that it’s cleaner and simpler to cut the cord, and announce the termination of CLANG. Future announcements can then happen in their own good time, giving any new projects a fresh start.
Stephenson explains that part of the reason the game failed is that the games industry at the moment is shying away from taking risks. Eventually he and the team realised that a quasi-live action realistic sword-fighting epic, even with a name like his behind it, wasn’t something that would guarantee sales.
If you would like to keep updated on Stephenson’s upcoming/gaming projects, he invites you to sign up to the REVERB mailing list.