Areal is a post-apocalyptic, open-world shooter that claims to be the "definitive spiritual successor to the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series". Another claim: that its creators, West Games, are a team mostly "composed of former senior GSC Game World staff members". It's currently on Kickstarter, and it's looking for $50,000.
That's the basic starting point, but things get a lot more complicated. Vostok Games a band of former GSC Game World staff and creators of the STALKER-inspired MMO Survarium have taken umbrage to these statements, saying that West Games are fraudulently promoting themselves as core STALKER developers.
"We have contacted GSC s lawyers regarding this fraudulent claim of being the developers of Stalker and Metro Last Light," wrote Vostok's Joe Mullin on a now-deleted forum thread. "Please do all you can do ensure people know these claims are false."
Vostok marketing manager Oleg Yavorsky further expanded on their objections in a statement made to VG247.
"So that you understand, over the years of development of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and then Metro series, there have been literally hundreds of people involved in working on various bits and pieces, starting from beta-testers up to modellers responsible for certain weapon models.
"Many people came to the studio to work for a few months just for the sake of adding 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R. development' to their portfolio. Frequently they claimed afterwards to be the core developers behind the game (you wouldn t know anyway, right?).
"Yet, my biggest concern is that West Games are using the footage and assets of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and representing them as their own, which is not only illegal, but simply just not right. I guess it s all made for the sake of getting extra publicity (which unfortunately works), but guys on Kickstarter should probably pay attention."
West Games have published their own statement. In a Kickstarter update, founder Eugene Kim says:
"As most of you know, a studio called GSC game world existed until 2011 and they were responsible for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. After GSC dissolved, 2 new studios formed that consisted of former S.T.AL.K.E.R. employees: Vostok Games and 4A games. In 2013, a new company formed called West games, which consists of many former senior staff members from the now dissolved GSC Game World.
"Since then we've expanded (check out the Our Core Team section) and have been working on a project that you all know as Areal. Areal is based on a book of the same name written by Tarmashev (tarmashev.com). And now we're at present day and handling the launch of our Kickstarter (Ievgeniia and our PR guys have been a big help with that)."
"Now that our mini history lesson is out of the way, we can move on to other things! Regarding in-game footage, we have worked on various engines to thoroughly examine as well as learn about how different technologies and resources work. This development process is what we tried to convey in our trailer. Doing this allows us to maximize frame-rate and graphical fidelity in our game."
It's a complicated issue. Some of the concept art on the Kickstarter page appears to be from members of the West Games team, but was created specifically for STALKER. That makes it tricky to discern what the legal ramifications of their use might be.
More than that though, West Games aren't exactly clear about the footage shown in their Kickstarter video. Footage from STALKER is shown, but isn't clearly labelled as such. And much of what the team show is now suggested to be past work on "various engines". While it's not unusual for developers to turn to Kickstarter in the concept stage, it's in their interest to be honest with the people who plan to support them.