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.