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Neal Stephenson wants your help funding a new sword game

Science fiction writer makes pitch for donations on Kickstarter for a new game that features more realistic steel-on-steel swordfighting.

Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson on swordfighting.
Screen shot by Steven Musil/CNET

Eminent science fiction writer Neal Stephenson wants to get real about swordsmanship, and he's passing the helmet to get it done.

The author, perhaps best known for his novels "Cryptonomicon" and "Snow Crash," is seeking donations on Kickstarter for a new video game called Clang that promises to provide a more realistic representation of steel-on-steel swordfighting. Working with Subutai, the goal is to create a game based on two-handed longsword combat that will play on game controllers already on the market, he writers in a blog explaining the project:

In the last couple of years, affordable new gear has come on the market that makes it possible to move, and control a swordfighter's actions, in a much more intuitive way than pulling a plastic trigger or pounding a key on a keyboard. So it's time to step back, dump the tired conventions that have grown up around trigger-based sword games, and build something that will enable players to inhabit the mind, body, and world of a real swordfighter.

Instead of the wild hacking and flailing of days of yore, Stephenson wants to create a more realistic game that employs different stances, pommel strikes, grappling, feints, and parries. To go along with the game, a collection of adventure tales is being published by 47 North, Amazon's new science fiction publishing house. The project will feature an open toolkit called MASE (Martial Arts System Embodiments) that will allow for the creation of additional environments and fighting styles.

In a lively, comedic video soliciting funds (see below), Stephenson takes viewers on a "tour" of the game project's "top secret sword lab" where game artists shown sharpening their battle skills.

"It take a lot of people to make a sword game that doesn't suck," he says in the video.

Clang is seeking to raise $500,000, but with 28 days to go in the fundraising drive, the game is already 20 percent funded. There are varying levels of rewards for donations: a $10 contribution will earn a thank-you and game credits, while donors of $10,000 or more will receive a real steel longsword.