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What Happened To RAW, The GTA Clone That Had Everyone Talking?

Back in 2019, an independent developer calling itself Killerwhale Games had the industry in a tizzy when it announced a Grand Theft Auto clone called RAW. The game's Kickstarter Announcement Teaser came out on June 10, 2019. The uploader, "ultraviolet production," claimed in the video's description they were making a game with a friend.

To fund RAW, Killerwhale Games put together a Kickstarter campaign and released a Kickstarter Trailer on June 17, 2019. It hinted at RPG-style gameplay in a massively multiplayer online open-world environment that encompassed deserts, tropical islands, forests, and other detailed environments. Players would reportedly be able to craft items, engage in contracts, start a business, enter politics, drive different vehicles, trade with others and complete a wide variety of additional actions. So, basically Grand Theft Auto Online.

Within a month, the campaign received $202,928 pledged from 3,983 backers, which meant it had overshot its target. But at that point, Kickstarter stepped in and shut the whole thing down. Beyond an October 2019 tweet asking fans to join the RAW Discord channel, Killerwhale Games appears to have vanished into thin air. So, what exactly happened?

Kickstarter claims RAW didn't follow its rules

RAW's $82,731 funding goal seemed low for such a major project. In the Kickstarter's FAQ, the creators acknowledged the disparity, saying, "Yes, our game can not be made for 70K, but nobody said that this money is all that we have. We have other sources of funding too." Without any advertising, and in their rush to get the word out, they didn't feel like they could ask for the whole $300,000 estimated as the final cost of RAW.

The developers also confessed to a lack of preparation due to "delays, timing forecasts mistakes and several serious life circumstances." They reportedly had hoped to create some gameplay videos to gain the trust of the gaming community, but had no time. This set off alarm bells for many people.

When Killerwhale Games bypassed its goal, it encountered another obstacle: Kickstarter shut the project down a day before the end of the campaign. A Kickstarter representative told PCGamesN that its guidelines require creators to raise the amount of money needed for the entire project and to fulfill all the rewards. In Kickstarter's view, Killerwhale Games's project was not "honest and clearly presented."

Killerwhale Games later tweeted showing Kickstarter's message, which verified PCGamesN's report. The tweet indicated the company hoped to start an Indiegogo campaign, one that has yet to materialize.

Was RAW a scam?

RAW seemed incredibly ambitious, to the point that Shroud, upon viewing the trailer, declared, "This can't be possible yet. We can't do it, okay? Don't fall for it, okay?" According to Shroud, if something like RAW were possible, a major developer would have already put out a similar product. The idea that a random pair of developers could pull off a project of this scope seemed ludicrous to him.

Commenters have pointed out that some of the existing footage looks like it was taken from the Unity Asset Store, which provides animations, models, and other assets for projects like this. This isn't in itself proof of a scam, but it may show that the developers were in over their heads.

In order to stem some of the criticism, Killerwhale Games did eventually put out what it called a gameplay video, which showed vehicle controls. The developers promised another video featuring some player interactions before the end of the Kickstarter campaign, but that never showed up, even though the developers continued to talk to the media for a few weeks longer.

While none of this is definitive, RAW definitely could have been a scam — but it also could have been great. Without any funding, the group calling itself Killerwhale Games — if it was legit — has probably moved on to other things, and the world may never know exactly why it chose to end RAW by ghosting its potential fan base.