Cash sought to improve online sword fights

Still from Kickstarter pitch Mr Stephenson's Subutai Corp has been studying sword fighting styles for years

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Sword fighting fans could soon be digitally duelling online thanks to the efforts of US author Neal Stephenson.

Mr Stephenson is seeking funds via the Kickstarter website to create a game that will accurately portray hand-to-hand combat with swords.

The game will build on years of research he has funded into different weapon types and fighting styles.

He hopes the move could grow into a larger project that turns his sci-fi novels into an open online environment.

Hands-on hero

The pitch for the game, tentatively called Clang, has been put on Kickstarter, with Mr Stephenson seeking $500,000 (£322,000) by 9 July to get development started.

Kickstarter works by letting members of the public put funds into ideas and projects they want to succeed.

In a video accompanying the pitch page, Mr Stephenson said players of fantasy and historical games that centre on hand-to-hand combat were poorly served by the controls they used.

By contrast, he said, players of first person shooters had a vast amount of customisation options at their fingertips that they could use to find their own way to play.

A similar suite of options was "glaringly absent" from most hand-to hand games, he said.

Start Quote

We've got geeks in suits of armour, we've got geeks in front of computer workstations”

End Quote Neal Stephenson

It is hoped Clang would free gamers from the "prison" of repetitive button mashing currently used to represent duelling with a blade. The result, he said, could be described as "guitar hero with swords".

In the video, Mr Stephenson said he set up the Subutai Corporation a few years ago to start the detailed work needed to make computerised combat more realistic.

"There's a galaxy of real weapon styles and variations just waiting to be incorporated into games," he said. "It's the same story with fighting styles."

Using in-house sword makers and martial arts experts Subutai has built up a huge corpus of data about how to translate different weapons and combat moves into digital equivalents.

Mr Stephenson is seeking funds to pay developers to create a simple arena-style multi-player game in which people take each other on in sword fights.

Early trials have used Razer's Hydra controller to more realistically mimic sword fighting.

"We're ready, we've got geeks in suits of armour, we've got geeks in front of computer workstations," said Mr Stephenson.

"We've got a lot of people out there who like to play games with sword fighting in them who might be ready to step it up to something a little bit more interesting."

If Clang is a success, Mr Stephenson hopes it will help to turn his latest series of novels, The Mongoliad, into an open online world.

This, he said, was part of his attempt to find out what will happen to the craft of novel writing in the modern world.

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