Neal Stephenson's CLANG Shuts Down

Neal Stephenson's CLANG Shuts Down

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It wasn't very fun to play, says Stephenson.

Precisely one year ago, author Neal Stephenson's Kickstarted swordfighting game CLANG hit the pause button and marinated in its own juices, hoping for improvement. That didn't happen; in fact, as Stephenson admits, "the prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn't very fun to play." So CLANG is no more, two years after raising more than half a million dollars to make it.

CLANG aimed to capture the life-and-death of an actual sword fight, but the problem, Stephenson admits, was that obsession with historical accuracy didn't make for a fun sword sim. It didn't help that motion control really wasn't up to the task of bringing CLANG to life. The CLANG team delivered a functional, but flawed prototype, then ran out of money and couldn't persuade a publisher to fund it further.

The Kickstarter rewards have all gone out, and refunds have been processed, says Stephenson. There have been some complaints that the $150 print fighting manual backer reward didn't go out, but Stephenson categorically denies this.

"I just went and looked at stamps.com to see if they still had historical data from when we shipped all the rewards, and they do," says Stephenson. A post office error, he says, is the most likely explanation, if you still happen to be waiting for that fighting manual. "We still have some of the physical items which we'll be happy to send out to backers once we have had an opportunity to follow up with them. Multiple comments aside, statements that the hard-copy fighting guide wasn't distributed is incorrect."

CLANG backers can sign up to a list called REVERB, essentially a newsletter with future announcements about upcoming projects. One day CLANG backers may even see a bonus reward from some of these projects, but Stephenson doesn't want to promise anything since it's very early days and those projects aren't his to control.

"Thanks for backing the CLANG project," Stephenson concludes. "I am sorry that we were unable to advance it beyond the phase that you funded."

Source: Kickstarter

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Really good of him to issue refunds and still do backer rewards. I'm pretty sure with Kickstarter you're not really under any obligation to do either if things don't work out (Isn't it that you just have to prove you tried?), so it says a lot about this guy and his team that they did. I hope their future endeavors work out better.

Looks like quite a few of the 2012/2013 Kickstarter honeymoons are over.

Molyneux Syndrome. Wherein the devs get incredibly high concept ideas and then realize there is no way they can deliver on it.

Might've had better luck marketing it as a fitness game. "Burn calories while you master a medieval art-form! Shed pounds while you swordfight!"
Likely, the result wouldn't have been much more fun that way, but they might have been able to find a publisher at least.

I think the title of the game itself betrays the most difficult limitation of a sword simulation - if your virtual sword crosses with another virtual sword or shield there will be no "CLANG". Your actual sword will keep swinging while your virtual sword stops. And that pretty much ruins the whole thing.

at least he managed to either refund people or give them their rewards unlike some Kickstarters.

Aiddon:
at least he managed to either refund people or give them their rewards unlike some Kickstarters.

he didnt refund most people, only a very small amount

if you dont know how to manage a budget, you have no business making a kickstarter

Mcoffey:
Really good of him to issue refunds and still do backer rewards. I'm pretty sure with Kickstarter you're not really under any obligation to do either if things don't work out (Isn't it that you just have to prove you tried?), so it says a lot about this guy and his team that they did. I hope their future endeavors work out better.

I'm not positive, but I think that you're required to send out physical backer rewards.

Failure is entirely a possibility with Kickstarter, its acts like angel investing, and sometimes you don't get anything for your money. It's essentially a form of gambling. I understand some people don't like it, and that's fine, don't participate then.

People have been doing this sort of investment stuff for a long time. A lot of what gets started does not pan out. Most of our large industries revolve around safe investments, things they have lots of data about and they know will usually work, hence you see what most people consider iterative stagnation, especially in video games. The point of Kickstarter is to gauge the desire for something 'unknown' and allow the target audience to pitch in via much smaller numbers than what a traditional investor would do.

This spreads the risk out and reduces the overall impact of a failure. Burn a single investor of the full amounts that are usually being talked about and you will decrease their desire to take risks and reduce their ability for future investing, or sometimes even bankrupt them. Burn 100,000 investors the cost of a nice dinner each, not as bad, most would barely even care. If personally that's too much for you to possibly lose, then don't participate or participate at level that you are okay with losing.

If all these Kickstarters were sure things they wouldn't need Kickstarters, regular investors would be lining up for the free money.

That's so sad. Has he tried viagra to get it working again?

Saw that coming from a mile away. The concept alone didn't sound like it could be a fun game.

Mcoffey:
Really good of him to issue refunds and still do backer rewards. I'm pretty sure with Kickstarter you're not really under any obligation to do either if things don't work out (Isn't it that you just have to prove you tried?), so it says a lot about this guy and his team that they did. I hope their future endeavors work out better.

Theoretically, you are obliged to fulfill EVERY promise that you make regarding a financial transaction, and since Kickstarter's TOS claims that backers are entitled to rewards, making a pitch there does count as a promise.

Contract law is NOT phrased as a list of the cases where agreements are binding, it's a list of exceptions from the general principle that agreements must must be kept.

Some older non-gaming Kickstarters already did take successful legal action for missing rewards.

That being said, Stephenson could have just labeled that un-fun prototype to be "the finished game", and argued that legally the backers are not entitled to a particularly good or polished reward, just to a game. Then they could have arguably sued him for the Bad Faith behavior of calling such a prottype a game, with results that are hard to guess.

But Stephenson is a public figure with a fanbase and a continued commercial interest in the geek community's goodwill, and with sources of revenue, so wrangling over $20 with his fandom was never realistic option for him unlike for some basement-dwelling programmer with a get rich quick scheme.

 

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