A few weeks ago we briefly wrote about the announcement of a new Kickstarter from supposed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers. Eugene Kim of West Games contacted us to write about the game because of the Wii U stretch goal, which we did. I noted in my write-up of the Kickstarter that the $50k goal was likely not enough to complete the game and since then, evidence has surfaced that this Kickstarter is nothing more than a scam.
1. Assets shown off are clearly photoshopped and stolen from other sources.
Some of the assets that have been shown off by the Project Areal Kickstarter have been stolen from other sources. The most glaring example has been removed from West Games’ Facebook page, but here’s a screenshot of what happened. As you can see the example image has clearly been lifted from a Unity Medieval Utility screenshot, with extensive photoshop work done to make the scene appear different.
Here’s a look at some of the other assets used by this Kickstarter campaign that have obviously been lifted from other sources.
Even if the project is using placeholder assets from the Unity development kit, it would be possible to take screenshots at different angles, should the developer actually plan on showcasing the game. The truth here is that there’s absolutely nothing to show and what has been shown is thin enough to hopefully convince enough people to part with their money.
2. West Games claims that Russian president Vladimir Putin supports them.
Considering the amount of trouble Putin finds himself in over the current Ukranian crisis, MH17 disaster, and the amount of fighting that has occurred, I highly doubt Putin personally wrote Eugene Kim to discuss his upcoming game. Nevertheless, West Games is stating that Putin wrote them in congratulations of their project. Here’s the full “letter” that Kim presented to me.
President of the Russian Federation
President of the West Games Company
My daughter told me about your game called Areal, which is the spiritual successor to STALKER, and told me that she payed money to support your project on Kickstarter. I also love video games as well as shooters, and I like this idea. It’s important that our people do not shoot at each other, but instead, play games like this.
The first part of STALKER took place in Ukraine, and in the second game Areal, you put all events in the center of Russia – and if this is a war with mutants in a video game, then that is very interesting. I attentively familiarized myself with your idea and I really like it.
If you give me the chance to play the alpha version of the game, when it is ready, then I invite you in advance to the Kremlin, to meet personally, be ready to play a little bit and talk about the interests of young people, the gamers of our country.
This is more hilarious than anything, considering the letter was not delivered in .pdf format with Putin’s actual signature. The letter was provided to me in the form of an email body and was probably written by Eugene Kim himself.
3. Major backers for the project to push it over the edge are all the same person.
Perhaps the most glaring evidence of fraud is a look at the Kicktraq charts to showcase what the project has done so far. As you can see, major donations came in during the start of the Kickstarter, and again toward the end. Despite this, the Kickstarter did not see an increase in backers after these initial donations. It’s obvious that West Games is inflating the amount donated by donating to their own Kickstarter, likely with fraudulent cards in order to fleece what money they can from backers.
Now, lets compare that chart to a grassroots Kickstarter that was successful and has actually released their game.
Notice how the amount of funding is directly proportional to the amount of backers?
4. West Games did not answer questions about the game and these discrepancies during their Ask Me Anything.
Over the weekend, West Games held an Ask Me Anything on reddit where members of the reddit community are invited to ask the developers about their upcoming project. Instead of answering the questions, West Games dodged them and refused to answer anything that would shed more light on the situation. Here’s a small selection of legitimate questions that were asked, that West Games refused to answer.
How large is the entirety of your staff? How many developers do you really have?
Developers in this context refers to the members of the team working on the physical game itself (for example, AI, UI, models, environment, coding).
-What is the complete breakdown of the budget? What would the total budget be if you include personal investments combined with the $50k goal? Approximately how much money has already been spent on the project? How do you intend to fulfill backer rewards and complete the game with the $50,000 needed?
-What are your plans for manufacturing physical disks?
-Where and what is the proof that shows us the project has been worked on prior to it being placed on Kickstarter?
-Have you acquired licence from Microsoft, prior to announcing your plan to develop for their platform?
-Are you already registered developers at Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo?
-Have you already bought developer kits? Can you show them to us?
-Do any team members have experiences with a Playstation or XBox?
-How many are Mac or Linux programmers?
-Who is responsible for the translations?
-What happened to the Areal:Origins video, and why was it removed? If the video was added on May 8th, what have you accomplished on the project between then and posting the KickStarter?
-Why did you claim you ‘had used up all your savings on the game’, when you went on to say otherwise on your Official Areal Facebook page?
As you can see, this team is working very hard to scam money from backers on Kickstarter. If the low $50,000 funding amount with all consoles being targeted wasn’t enough to indicate this is a scam, this evidence should be proof enough.