Motion controllers (such as the Wii, Kinect, and the PlayStation Move) have created an entirely new way to interact with video games. But somehow, they've all failed at what we really want them for: virtual sword fighting. Neal Stephenson is going to fix that with a new video game called CLANG, and it's on Kickstarter right now.
Neal Stephenson, of course, is the guy who wrote Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, and most recently, Reamde. We featured him on our panel at CES back in 2008, and since then, it seems that he's developed an interest in swords. Not in an abstract sense, but rather, in a "let's figure out how we can make a sword-fighting video game that doesn't totally suck" sense.
There was, in fact, an old PC game that tried something similar. Die by the Sword, a 1998 fantasy sword combat sim that was the first game put out by Treyarch — the folks behind Call of Duty: Black Ops II — featured combat controls that mapped keyboard buttons to different sword positions. Instead of hitting one key to swing, for instance, the player would hold down a key to lift the sword, and then hit another key to swing it in that direction. CLANG takes a big step beyond.
This is the concept behind CLANG, a Kickstarter project that aims to make it possible for you to do this, except with your friends inside a video game. The key difference between CLANG and everything else, as Stephenson sums up in one sentence, is that "it's not a sword game if you have to pull a trigger, or push a button, to swing your sword."
Instead of triggers and buttons, CLANG will involve the swinging of a real sword. The controller (attached to said sword) will probably be the Razer Hydra, a PC-based motion controller that's similar to the Wiimote or the PlayStation Move. To start, you'll have to buy this yourself. Eventually, if the game is a success, custom controllers that emulate different varieties of swords are a possibility, but the first generation of the game will focus on combat with a two-handed longsword.
Okay, so if there isn't a custom controller involved, then what's the KickStarter all about? Well, a big part of it (the biggest part) is going to be creating a framework that can take inputs from a motion controller and feed it into a realistic (big emphasis on that realistic) Internet-based multiplayer swordfighting game. It's not going to just be a slash n' parry type of thing: you'll be able to make realistic motions that emulate multiple attacks delivered from different stances, pommel strikes, grappling, feints, and parries. Eventually, you'll be able to equip one of any number of painstakingly physically modeled weapons and use it in-game with an appropriate style, meaning that you'll be able to see what happens if a samurai with a katana takes on a pirate with a cutlass: the outcome will be largely based on your physical skill, of course, but how the weapons interact in-game will be as close as possible as to how they'd interact in the real world.
Once this motion combat framework is in place, CLANG could possibly evolve into some sort of story-based MMORPG, but that's still a ways away. The Kickstarter project is looking for $500k to put out the first version of the game: $25 gets you a copy, but you'll still need to pick up your own controller for about $100. Check out the Kickstarter video below, and for those who want even more details, there's another video (with what looks to be some gameplay footage here.