Monday, June 11, 2012

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Neal Stephenson Talks CLANG! The Game, The Stories That Inspired It, and Why He's Funding it With Kickstarter

Neal Stephenson crowdfunding CLANG

The maker of the metaverse is now making a video game. Last weekend Neal Stephenson launched a new Kickstarter to finish work on CLANG!, a game project he's been developing with the help of many high-end geeks including Valve's Gabe Newell, in a video (watch below) that's the funniest I've ever seen on Kickstarter. (Stephenson's deadpan delivery reminds me of Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation,  except with even more badass facial hair.) It's also a key milestone in the evolution of crowdfunding: To my knowledge, Stephenson is by far the most prominent artist who's turned to Kickstarter, as a way of financing future projects. When top talent like Neal Stephenson, who can get their projects funded by major corporations, turn to direct funding from the public instead, we all need to take notice.

"We put considerable effort into getting big companies to back it," Neal Stephenson explains me in an e-mail, "but that style of funding has been drying up due to changes in the video game business... We decided that Kickstarter was a better match for our overall philosophy, which is to avoid mortgaging our IP to big funders who will want to interfere in creative work."

(Emphasis mine, because I hope every major artist reads those words and takes them to heart.)

But how did CLANG! come out of the awesome blade fights featured in Snowcrash and his other classics, and what will fans of online worlds like about it? Stephenson shares all that with New World Notes readers, via an e-mail conversation I just had with the author:

 

New World Notes: What aspects of CLANG will appeal to fans of virtual/online worlds?

Neal Stephenson: The ability to resolve conflicts in a decisive, entertaining, and aerobically beneficial manner.

NWN: Did the blade fights in Snowcrash start the kernel of this idea?

NS: Well, I've certainly been thinking about it for at least that long (obviously) but I sort of assumed that by this time (20+ years later) someone would have come along and solved the problem. Turns out that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

NWN: Why fund this as a Kickstarter at all, when someone like you could probably get big companies to back it?

NS: We put considerable effort into getting big companies to back it, but that style of funding has been drying up due to changes in the video game business. At the same time, Kickstarter got big. We decided that Kickstarter was a better match for our overall philosophy, which is to avoid mortgaging our IP to big funders who will want to interfere in creative work.

Having said all of that, it's possible that if we can build a solid prototype using the Kickstarter money we'll be able to secure a future round of financing from a stronger negotiating position.

More on CLANG! in the video above. Go here to consider funding the CLANG! Kickstarter.

 

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Iggy

Hell, yes. And a sword-style controller?

Yessiree Bob. Nerd Night will never be the same again; I cannot get the fat guys to join me for Yoga, but I bet I can trick them into some exercise if it involves swords and killing.

Ordinal Malaprop

It's hardly as if Neal Stephenson and Gabe Newell and whoever else they have involved are going to have a lot of trouble getting investment for a project. Using Kickstarter is effectively irrelevant for them.

Emperor Norton

Oh that would be so cool

Orca Flotta

Using Kickstarter is effectively irrelevant for them.
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No, Ordinal, as Mr Stephenson explainified and Hamlet pointed out, the usual investors would try to get involved and meddle with the creators creativity.

Arcadia Codesmith

I've thought about the tactile feedback problem a lot over the years, since I took fencing and stage combat back in college (in between programming classes).

Absent force field tech or some dangerously strong magnets, the best I could come up with would be gyroscopes. It still wouldn't adequately simulate a stop block, but it could alter vectors and trajectories in interesting ways without constraining your freedom of movement.

elizabeth (16)

i think the kickstarter is more about buiding a prior audience in this case

Ann Otoole InSL

dude. i have real life scars from swords. you better have some yourself. Otherwise you are a fake.

Arcadia Codesmith

Live steel? How... suicidal.

Accidents happen, but the worst I ever got fencing or SCA fighting was some fierce bruising in some delicate regions (one reason I like full coverage armor options in my MMOs).

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