Neal Stephenson fans might remember CLANG, Stephenson’s attempt to make sword-fighting in video games more realistic. You know, because we care, a lot, about killing the ninjas and zombies the way somebody trained to use a sword actually would. Unsurprisingly, game publishers were similarly unimpressed.
Stephenson and his team, needless to say, are blaming the video game industry for the fact that they can’t get any more funding. Here’s what they had to say, in an update sent to backers:
Rather than invest in innovative new titles, the still-surviving publishers tend to keep their heads down, grinding out sequels and extensions to well-worn AAA franchises. The overall climate in the industry has become risk-averse to a degree that is difficult to appreciate until you’ve seen it. To a game publisher crouched in a fetal position under a blanket, CLANG seems extra worrisome because it is coupled to a new hardware controller. Not that you can’t play it with mouse and keyboard–you can–but we’ve been clear from the beginning that the swordfighting problem can’t really be solved without new hardware.
That’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that you want millions of dollars from a publisher to fund a new developer that has never delivered a game. That’s a hard sell. To make what will obviously be a cult game, which will be an even harder sell. Which will require the engineering, construction, and mass manufacturing of a customer peripheral, which is an even harder sell. And you want to do it all on the PC, which has the lowest individual game software sales of any platform.
It’s hard to fault a game development team for wanting to do something different, but by the same token, you do have to look at market realities when pitching a product. The CLANG team states that they’ll be developing the game on “nights and weekends” as they look for more funding, and that they will totally deliver, some day, on the products they promised in exchange for more than half a million freaking dollars.
In other words, throw another Kickstarter gaming failure onto the pile. Maybe Stephenson can write a book about it!