Kickstander: CLANG Loses Its Edge

In other case of a fully funded Kickstarter success running out of money, CLANG – a project that aimed to make a more realistic sword fighting system and fronted by respected sci-fi author Neal Stephenson – has announced it is going into “weekends and evenings” mode after failing to find further sources of finance. It should be noted that the original Kickstarter indicated that the funding was to create a prototype of CLANG, but it isn’t clear how much progress has been made on that prototype. A tech demo does exist of CLANG online:

I saw the irony in part of the reason for CLANG’s failure to find investors being placed around the idea of “the Neal Stephenson fan obfuscation hypothesis” where investors are only approaching the CLANG project to get some time with Stephenson: CLANG wouldn’t have had that successful Kickstarter without the fans of Stephenson getting behind the project.

It also sounds like a convenient dodge about why investors have been thin on the ground – the blame is placed on those time-wasting investors, not with the product or the pitch. CLANG also blames the overly conservative nature of games development, that its easier to “grind[] out sequels and extensions to well-worn AAA franchises” than back something new. Which is completely true and something that CLANG needs to be able to overcome if it wants to survive.

After all, CLANG isn’t just making a game – it is a software and hardware approach that is being developed simultaneously. Although there are a group of people out there who want a ‘realistic’ sword fighting experience in video games, there are a lot more who are happy to triple-press the A button in order to perform a double overhead swing plus in-ground smash. “[T]he swordfighting problem” that CLANG deals with isn’t a problem to those gamers.

A screenshot of Die By The Sword, with your knight versus a kobold.

I remember playing Die By The Sword, another title with a ‘realistic’ sword fighting system, years ago. I won most fights by running in a circle, swinging wildly. (Image Source: softWreper)

Those investors who CLANG wishes to attract would also have some awareness about the online resistance to any kind of motion control systems (e.g. Kinect) or extra hardware requirements just to play games. Sure, the hardware issue can be overcome – Guitar Hero and Skylanders come to mind – but they had big companies take risks in packaging and distributing that hardware. Unless CLANG became an industry standard and is included in a number of games, it just isn’t cost-effective to have to buy a new peripheral for one title.

There’s more than a hint of “our idea is super-awesome and it’s everyone else’s fault for not seeing it” in the update, but how many sword fighting games (or even games featuring sword fighting) get released each year? And how many of those need to be a realistic sword fighting simulation? The answer is not many. Sure, titles like Bushido Blade exist, but how many of those titles have there been compared to the more ‘game-y’ take on sword fighting such as in Assassin’s Creed? If CLANG can’t come up with good answers to those questions, they will always have trouble in finding new sources of finance.

Although CLANG is out of money, they have said they’ll keep looking for investors and top quality talent. So if you have a lot of capital to invest in a stalled project with limited market potential or are a high quality game developer that is willing to work for free (because CLANG doesn’t have the money to pay you anything right now) consider dropping them a line.

Finally, this is another case to remember about how a successful Kickstarter actually doesn’t mean that a project will come to fruition. Raising money is one thing; managing that money until you deliver what you’ve promised is something else entirely.

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