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Project Areal Kickstarter is likely a scam, here’s why

kickstarter-scam

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.

west-games-fraud

Here’s a look at some of the other assets used by this Kickstarter campaign that have obviously been lifted from other sources.

areal-2

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
Eugene Kim
President of the West Games Company
Kiev, Ukraine

Dear Eugene,

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.

Best regards,

[Signed]

V. Putin

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.

Areal Kicktraq Chart
areal-backer-chart

Now, lets compare that chart to a grassroots Kickstarter that was successful and has actually released their game.

FTL Kicktraq Chart
ftl-kickstarter-chart

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.

Continue reading:




  • Devesh

    Ashley, HOW DID YOU GATHER THE EVIDENCE. Plus, can I apply for a job. I would like to write articles about games that would be fun if they exsisted, like an open world mario kart meets need for speed. or super mario with assassins’ creed

    • Christian Schoff

      So you want to write articles about completely hypothetical, made up games?

      • 00EpicGamer00

        It sounds bad when you put it like that, lol. I think they meant that they want to write articles about game “ideas.” But…..You’re basically right.

        • http://facebook.com/validgraphics val berger

          yeah,but as Virus6 already said, that’s what a blog is for. If he manages to write one story per week on a regular basis and he has somehow good ideas, this could work out far better then posting it here as no one really wants to visit a Newspage for reading made up stories. Especially in this case, stuff that’s just being received very subjectively. You write about Mario Kart meets Need for Speed and 80% of your readers might be more into a MK meets Gran Turismo. Just an example, but chances are just very high that most readers will just think of that stuff as ‘yah … nice…. but …. meh.’

    • Virus6

      That’s what a blog is for buddy.

  • Sdudyoy

    Although I never have the money to support Kickstarters, thanks for the update, why would anyone say Putin supports them on a video games, why would any president support a video game? that makes it seem like a scam more than anything.

    • Lily AJ Page

      Also Putin is a fascist tyrant.

      • Archiq09

        Putin is more Totalist to fascist…

        • Nick Ruozzi

          exactly, he’s not really fascist at all.

        • Magnus Eriksson

          Putin is a neo-liberal, authoritarian right winger. Although he might not be a fascist himself some of his closest advisors are. Alexandr Dugin is an important figure in the ideological putinism today, and he is the writer of Fourth political theory – a neo-fascist concept per exellance. So in a sense you could say that Putin is heading that direction too. Rebirth of the nation, expansionistic lebensraum philosophy (in Dugin its called Eurasianism, while in practice the annexion of Georgia and eastern Ukraine/Kimera is how its done) and there is also a leaders cult around Putin himself, no doubt.

        • seröga

          Obama ist Nazi and terrorist

      • seröga

        No Obama ist a Terrorist, back of

    • Phoenix Maybe

      It’s like Activision saying that Obama supports CoD because it shows true patriotism or some other made up nonsense.

  • Epicstuf

    This is the shit that will destroy Kickstarter.

    • Virus6

      The problem is that people who back projects on Kickstarter don’t bother looking into the project before blindly throwing money at it.

      • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

        That’s why I posted this. People don’t do their research, but I hope at this point there’s enough negative attention to the Kickstarter that people will search around and find this instead of commiting money to what’s a known scam.

        • darkcreap

          Unfortunately, I think you cannot take the money out of the pledge when only 48 hours remain and withdrawing your pledge would cause the pledge to fail.

          I hope that Kickstarter pays attention to this and stops this. Is no one has written to Kickstarter to notice them of this?

          • http://gameknights-uk.blogspot.co.uk/ abe

            bizarrely kick starter has made it easier to pull this crap, before you had to have a working prototype, whether its was a physical thing or a working heap of game but now you basically nothing

          • Wolvern

            I think people are more so like… SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY…

            that’s how i do kickstarter sometimes :3

          • darkcreap

            Hmmm. Not a good idea, in my honest opinion. Kickstarter is about investing. There is a risk of losing your money because either the project is a scam or unexpected problems come that make the project fail.

        • Shaise

          So do they just want to take 50k for themselves?

      • GmailIsDown

        i’ve backed several projects on kickstarter and it is always positive. it is not as important as investing in a company but i did do a lot of research before i decided to back any project.

    • Dáibhí wotshissurname

      Ypur profile pic would bmake a great meme for this article!

  • Petri

    I thought the humble goal was mostly because they were just going to rip all the assets from stalker, glue it together and call it a game.
    But I lost my interest about the (original) article and the game at the word “kickstarter”

  • Magnus Eriksson

    Impressed by Ashleys digging skills. :)

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      Just doing my job!

      • Alexander Kleinwechter

        or snatching things from nintendolife or something like that xD nahh jk keep up

      • kevin nun—-

        I don’t know Ashley, they are making it look pretty legit

        • Dylan

          Here is evidence that the entire video has Unity assets, despite them repeatedly saying their game does not use Unity and that it is their own proprietary engine. (I suppose they used the 2 1/2 weeks to whip up this video).

          http://imgur com/a/4Yd5C#0

        • Nick Ruozzi

          i could make a better video than that if I were drunk and used random strangers!

      • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9G6ZuDb0PaYUoYllW2ypNA Brandon Burce

        nice one!

  • Nintendo Of North Korea

    This article was great, wasn’t going to support the game anyways but I do use kickstarter so this is useful information to me. It’ll help me watch out next time!

  • FutureFox

    I guess the project is a real pos.

    • Lorrell

      Noooice!

  • http://facebook.com/validgraphics val berger

    Is Kickstarter really such a stupid system? Can you just throw fake-campaigns in there and wait for the money to get collected? In this case, I might start a campaign, claiming I need 730k for finishing my cure against AIDS and then I’ll just lean back and collect my money afterwards? Kickstarter won’t be controlling anything if I really use the pledged money for the right purpose (like things usually work with funding projects)
    If so, then these guys aren’t the real problem, kickstarter is. These AREAL-scamheads are more a natural cause of a seemingly huge fail of a system that’s about collecting HUGE amounts of money. If you can fool KS that easily (I mean, c’mon….photoshop noobs and stolen contents from other games? really? just like that??? ) then KS might need some major punch in its face to fix some of their rules.

    • Arthur Jarret

      Not even fake ones… a guy got 61K (with 11 days still to go) for making… wait for it… potato salad.

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/324283889/potato-salad

      Gosh, I love the world when they’re financially supporting a joke like this.

      • rp17

        And i thought this was the worst kickstarter…

        https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bobsgame/bobs-game?ref=nav_search

        “bob’s game” is the ultimate cult game. It is a new religion for the modern world, inspired by and intended as a natural spiritual successor to previous disguised religion games such as Earthbound and Zelda and movie retellings of an ancient spellbook (The Old Testament) such as “The Matrix.”

      • http://facebook.com/validgraphics val berger

        that’s different. he said he would do potatoe salad and people paid him to. even if he got too much money, he still earned it somehow. It’s somethig different when you say you’d do something you aren’t. The potatoe salad guy isn’t tricking anyone into believing he’s investing into something that won’t ever be completed, so I don’t care. People will try this potato-salad routine a few times until no one’s gonna pledge them anymore so that only works one in a blue moon.

        But scamming like showed off here is just criminal and could easily be prevented by KS by only paying for reached milestones in project completion. As I said, we’re talking about a funding system that’s handling not just thousands, but millions of $. Shit like this one shouldn’t be possible and if it really is, then it’s actually a good thing to write about those scammers ad spread the word. Not to destroy those evil bitches, but to show KS that there’s a leak they NEED to fix.

        But actually, I can’t really believe KS is actually making this possible, so maybe they are just trying it out and won’t get anything back.

      • Guest

        Trye, but I guess people thought it would be funny, and th

      • Dáibhí wotshissurname

        True, but the prices of each pledge were cheap, and I guess people thought it was funny.

        It’s stupid, but the guy did make his money fair and square.

        • Arthur Jarret

          True – although an average 10 dollar pledge from each person is not what I would call cheap.

          Still hilarious.

          I love what he put under ‘Risks’ too:
          (It might not be good, it’s my first potato salad)
          I wonder what his reaction was when he hit 10K

          • Sylvers

            “I wonder what his reaction was when he hit 10K”
            God.. I’ll never work hard for another cent again!

  • Dáibhí wotshissurname

    Honestly, this is an excllent article, I’m glad it was written and I hope this one goes round th Inernet. I really hope the police or whatever division brings the hamme down on this Kickstarter (FYI I don’t know if that is possible as I do not live in th US)

    • 00EpicGamer00

      I think it is possible, because (for starters) these people stole money from allot of people. Second of all, the kickstarter isn’t a real game so, it could be classified as false advertising. Third of all, there’s a bit of plagiarism. As, they are using images from someone else but just “changing them slightly” to make it look like their own. There’s many things these people are doing that are illegal. They might even get arrested for doing something like this.

      • Nick Ruozzi

        yeah but who would look out for peoples interests from over here, if they got scammed by some random russians?

  • nonscpo

    I salute you on some fine journalism. With so may Kickstarters trying to rob people who genuinly want to make this world a better place of their money, its most important that we as a community continue to ask the difficult questions and hold people accountable.

  • rp17

    I have heard more evidence like:

    “Putin’s letter http://nintendoeverything.com/wp-content/uploads/1405937912.jpg is clearly a fake. I am Russian, and I can say that the text is stylistically unprofessional and contains a lot of punctuational and orphographical errors (“проэкт” instead of “проект”, this is grade school error). Besides, fonts look messed up too.” (I’m not Russian so idk if this is true…)

    “The company that developed S.T.A.L.K.E.R have since broken up and formed Vostok Games. When they were asked about West Games they said they had no knowledge of them and that they had never worked with them before and warned backers that this was a scam.”

    Also the Kickstarter has over 14,000 comments but it is almost all spam. So it seems that they may have opened new accounts to spam the comment section so none of the comments questioning its validity can be found.

    • rp17

      This was the original letter…

  • Pablo Lavín

    This post is full of evidency. Is there a way to contact Kickstarter?

  • steveb944

    It took you nearly a month to post this? There were comments in your first post that brought up the issue, that’s why I held off.

    There may have been some readers that blindly went to support and are now stuck. Before posting a Kickstarter it’s best to check its legitimacy.

    / my 2¢

  • PS4WiiURocks

    @overlordror:disqus Thank you for doing this..It’s sad we have people in this world that would try to scam people..Again well done!

  • TheBoldman67

    I don’t get it, how come this is on Wii U Daily? Is it for Wii U or something?

    • fireheartis1

      Duh dude that’s why she wrote the article to warn us not to support the fake game and fake Wii U stretch goal.

  • James Kensel

    This is unfortunate. First Bob’s game and now this? Two Trojan horses for sucking up money.

    • Dáibhí wotshissurname

      Could you please show me a link to “Bob’s Game”?

      • James Kensel

        https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bobsgame/bobs-game

        It’s set up like a kickstarter for a game in development, but as you read on it becomes clear that the developer will be using the money for his lifestyle which will ‘enable’ him to make the game.
        In short, it’s a ‘fund my life’ project in disguise, which shouldn’t be allowed.

  • Assassinated23

    They seriously called their scam Areal kick starter? As in A Real kick starter? Could they be any more obvious? No come on guys you have to believe us Areal game is a real game, we swear! Yeah right.

    • Merry_Blind

      LOL didn’t even notive that! This is both superbly brilliant and utterly stupid at the same time! hahaha

    • J_Joestar

      *mind blown*

  • Zanzama

    A kickstarter project has to be legally completed. Otherwise the money is refunded.

  • Enumerating Wishes

    Well the funding was suspended so it certainly looks like an investigation is being done.

  • Chai Chien Liang

    Kickstarter just suspended the project, what will happen now I wonder…

  • allvalve

    Didn’t this developer used to be called Nibris?

  • http://macromanjr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

    Seems like Russians game developers are becoming the new Nigerian princes. lol

    • http://macromanjr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

      I don’t think I can go a day or two without seeing a shady Russian-based Unity-developed Browser-Based Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing game banner ad somewhere. And now stuff like this? lol

    • http://macromanjr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

      Oh, hey Ashley, here’s some new update about the Areal Kickstarter. It’s been suspended by Kickstarter:

      http://www.polygon.com/2014/7/22/5927175/areal-kickstarter-suspended-stalker-west-games