En garde! Clang goes medieval with realistic sword controllers

Hand-to-hand combat in Clang by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson is probably best known for his novels like Snow Crash, The Cryptonomicon, his Baroque Cycle, and his piece In the Beginning was the Command Line tracing the development of modern computing technology. But Stephenson has always been a man of eclectic tastes, and now some of that is on display in his new project from Subutai Corporation: Clang. Clang is a game — it’s an arena-style combat game with swords. But instead of players pulling plastic triggers and manipulating D-pads, players will swing controllers built to respond long two-handed longswords — and the game will be based on the actual techniques and physics of real sword combat. Sound intriguing? You can buy your way in: Subutai has turned to Kickstarter to help fund the project. And Stephenson has gotten in front of the camera to make his pitch.

Clang proposes to use motion-capture technology combined with computer modeling, physics, and custom game controllers that capture some of the real feel and technique of sword combat, providing a much more realistic (and engrossing) play experience than waving a Wii remote or using a conventional game controller. Clang apparently started out as an idea for an immersive world game, packed with adventures for games to hack, slash, and puzzle their way through. But Subutai figured that sword-fighting in traditional video games is, well, pretty pitiful, so it set out to develop technology to bring more-realistic swordfighting to gaming.

Ironically, that has has the effect of putting off the whole immersive-world concept. Subutai doesn’t want to bite off more than it can chew, so the initial goal of Clang is basically an arena combat game where players face off one-on-one with European two-handed longswords. Eventually, Subutai plans to add additional weapon types and, when Clang is up and running, then start weaving that world of stories and adventures around the technology. But the developer wants to get the fighting part done first — and done right.

Subutai is looking to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter to fund further development, and hopes to have its first version out the door in February 2013. The minimum contribution is $1, and (of course) larger contributions bring more benefits — up to and including your very own longsword.