RPS Vs. Russians: The Stalin Vs. Martians Interview

By Kieron Gillen on May 7th, 2008 at 9:19 pm.

Stalin may have been a genocidal maniac who brought an Empire to its knees, but he could sure rock a mean tache
Stalin and Martians. As everyone knows, they’re natural enemies. We can only wonder at how it’s taken 50 years for videogames to get around to charting their epic conflicts. But the tardy industry has got around to it at last and we can but hope it satisfies all the serious Stalin/Martian martial conflict fans long-famished RTS appetites. Anyway, excited by the announcement, we decided it was time to talk to the development troika of Dreamlore/BWF/N-Game’s struggles and aims with Stalin Vs. Martians. And luckily for the interview, Dreamlore head honcho and Lead Designer of Stalin vs Martians Alexander Shcherbakov decided to talk back.

Go Interview!

RPS: Obvious question: How on earth did the idea come about? Was drinking involved? Generally speaking, how intensely is drinking involved in the development of Stalin Vs Martians?

Alexander: Sorry to destroy the stereotype, but we’re not drinking all the time, despite the fact that we are Russians. It is true that the initial concept of the game (which differed from what we have now) was born out the talk I had with CEO of Black Wing Foundation during the Christmas/New Year holidays. So obviously we were drunk a little bit and that’s how it all started. No vodka was involved though. Only rakia. We were drinking beer and at the certain point imagined that we are Serbs and continued our conversation after buying a bottle of the magical South Slavic drink. Perhaps it had some impact on the further discussion, so actually right now I’m starting to think of Stalin vs Martians as a Russian-Serbian co-production. Sort of. The final shape of things and the final version of the concept came later, when we were 100% sober (believe us or not), but at the very beginning alcohol had its part. And was an important tool for the breakthrough of the Serbian game development industry, since Stain vs Martians is perhaps the most groundbreaking Serbian computer game ever.

RPS: Why Stalin, particularly? Did you weigh up the potential of other Soviet leaders? Or are you saving them for sequels?

Alexander: Most of the post-Stalin Soviet leaders are nothing compared to our beloved Generalissimus. So it was the obvious choice. We could pick Lenin, but he will appear in one of our next titles, not now.
Bloody martians
RPS: Reading Evo PC’s interview, I was interested in the three-team development system. Is it difficult to co-ordinate three teams? How do you do it? Do the different personalities of the teams come across?

Alexander: No, not that difficult. As you might know, most of the tech stuff is done by N-Game, and most of the producing and game design by BWF and Dreamlore. So that scheme gives us situation when coordination becomes pretty simple, since everyone’s doing their job in certain fields. BWF and N-Game also cooperate on Salvation project and both companies are located at Dnepropetrovsk and partly kind of integrated one into another, so that helps too.

RPS: You’re clearly dissatisfied with the route of that the modern RTS has taken. Where did it all go wrong?

Alexander: It’s the same old problem as always. We had “clone wars, part I” after the release of Warcraft II and C&C. Everyone decided to make their own version of C&C. All the same, just add new units and buildings. Then some time later the developers found out that you can make WWII games and don’t even bother with making different units, just make your version of T-34 and Tiger tanks and here we go.

RPS: Flipping the hate around, are there any games particularly that you admire? What inspired you?

Alexander: Well, I’ve spent about eight years in the field of computer and videogames journalism, so after all this time it’s very hard to look at the lists of absolutely monotonous releases and not to throw up. And that’s what inspires. Just the simple fact that you think your game should have something unique about it, something outstanding, something that makes people say “Wow!” And you don’t have to invent bicycle to achieve that. There are million things out there that can be interesting. Lots of original concepts, stories, just use your imagination. Still I open up the reviews section in the gaming magazine, check the latest releases and most of the time feel that I just don’t understand who’s buying all this crap. Make me say “Wow!” or go to hell. Perhaps I’m just tired of gaming. Strange enough, but most of my favorite titles are not katamaris and patapons. It’s more like, Civilizations, Street Fighters, one or two odd Game Gear titles like Defenders of Oasis, Tetris (I had to say that for patriotic reasons) and Shenmue. Actually, Shenmue is my weak spot, I speak about “original concepts”, but deep inside my heart I want to make a couple of Shenmue clones. And I will. The story will be unique though. You know, I’ll run a random word generator and get something like: Lenin, vampires, steam robots. Sounds good enough.
Bloody Stalin

RPS: Have you done much research into period Russian military technology? How about period Martian technology? How will you respond to those who take the game to task for any historical inaccuracies?

Alexander: The Russian units are 100% historically accurate (we even use the early version of T-34 tank, since it’s 1942 in the game). And that’s one of the weirdest things about the game. You have authentic Red Army units and use them to fight something absolutely inimaginable. Martian units are less historically accurate, only about 80%. There also have been some responses that our Siberia on the screenshots looks not vert much like Siberia and that’s not right. It is not quite true. When people hear “Siberia”, something clicks in their heads and they imagine snow and polar bears. But it is Summer 1942 in Stalin, no snow at all. If you want to see the snow in Siberia, you should buy the expansion pack for Stalin vs Martians, which we plan to release sometime in 2009. We think that winter campaigns is a perfect choice for add-ons. You can make a couple of new tiles, rework few textures and here’s the expansion pack that looks different. We decided not to waste the opportunity to earn couple of bucks doing almost nothing. That’s why there is summertime in Stalin vs Martians.

RPS: You find yourself at GDC in San Francisco, making an key note speech to the assembled intelligentsia of videogames. What do you tell all these developers?

Alexander: I think of specialist conferences as of mostly boring events where different companies play cock-measuring games. So if get to the stage, the only reasonable option is to show mine. The audience will laugh, since I don’t have the size that can impress anyone. Perhaps I will beak down and cry then.

No, I don’t wanna go to GDC.

RPS: I actually found myself at a conference at the weekend. They were debating development in Russia and similar, and what sort of stuff people had done which was impressive. Someone noted… has anyone over there done a funny game? And everyone was stumped, until I mentioned Stalin Versus Martians. Do you think there’s a lack of funny Russian games? And if so, why?

Alexander: Putin personally throws funny Russian people into jail. That’s why Russians are mostly dull and their take on computer games is 100% serious like they’re creating a nuclear bomb or something. The dullest people are Russian publishers, who have no sense of humour at all and invest money in serious WWII titles, worn-out IPs and cheap adventure games. It is a very hopeless situation and I think that the Jews are involved somehow.

Stalin Vs. Martians will be available in the future. A better future, positioned somewhere later in 2008.

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56 Comments »

  1. Pidesco says:

    They sound drunk. And also awesome.

  2. James T says:

    *pulls out notepad* Ra…ki…a…

    I’m sick of the whitewashing of history! LET THE MARTIANS’ ATROCITIES BE KNOWN!

    See, I’d be tempted to interrogate every developer east of Berlin at length as to whether Niko is an accurate depiction of ex-military Slavic carjackers, and, on that note, whether they preferred ‘Chelsea Girl’ or ‘The Marble Index’. One of many reasons why I am unemployed.

  3. RichPowers says:

    ahahahah. I really dig their sense of humor.

    “Martian units are less historically accurate, only about 80%.”

  4. Benjamin Barker says:

    For the record, I played a lot of Space Rangers 2 and it definitely had a sense of humor in many of the nutty text games, as well as in the silly intro & end movies.

  5. Sander says:

    Strong contender for funniest interview with game developer ever; special mentions for keeping well below allowable amount of definite article, and correct use of ironic racism.

  6. Jonathan says:

    So what will Lenin be fighting? Because there won’t be any Martians left after Stalin gets going. My hope is for a communist/socialist version of Super Smash Brothers.

    I really really hope theres a decent game in here but right now it seems worth it for the jokes alone.

  7. Dinger says:

    Okay. When I was 13, maybe 14, I had a Commodore 64 and dared dream the ideal game for me.
    Top-down perspective (I swear, Raid on Bungeling Bay profoundly influenced me in ways I cannot describe), very simple story:
    You’re walking in the park, and discover the soviets are invading. It starts out with you picking up random weapons and fighting a massive, mechanized attack, then you work your way to the back of the park and discover the tunnel under the sea….

    I never disclosed my dream to anybody, until now. Why? Because while it’d be clear to everyone that the result would be awesome, the damn thing would never be. So why waste time describing it?
    Alright, I find the choice of Rakia uninspiring, especially in view of the myriad of unorthodox analogues. But, as I understand, such matters are not to be discussed in the officer’s club.
    Outside of that, Rock on, baby. Yes, this is old school; the original school of game design.
    Just make it worth my while to play.

    Oh, and Nico’s talents pale only in comparison to those of Maureen Tucker. (shudder)

  8. spd from Russia says:

    wonder if they played Company of Heroes.
    Relic progressed RTS so much its incredible. and no one comes even close (c&c3 and sup con are nothing compared to CoH)
    Hopefully blizzard will deliver (like they always do!)

  9. James T says:

    So what will Lenin be fighting? Because there won’t be any Martians left after Stalin gets going.

    Venusians, but unless it’s Zombie Lenin, it will, of course, have to be a prequel.

  10. Meat Circus says:

    I want to play as Lavrenti Beria.

    I’ve been working on my own set of ‘extended interrogation techniques’.

  11. eyemessiah says:

    Promoting your game with ironic antisemitism.

    “Make me say wow! or go to hell.”

    Taking the piss out of “winter” expansion packs.

    Shenmue.

    Love it.

    I will buy this game.

  12. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I hope for a parralel world sequel: Trotzky vs. Andromedans.

  13. nihohit says:

    Them venusians – sexy girl venusians, or martians with blue skins?

  14. Rob says:

    I don’t think this game needs more than the name to sell it

  15. Nick says:

    “We think that winter campaigns is a perfect choice for add-ons. You can make a couple of new tiles, rework few textures and here’s the expansion pack that looks different. We decided not to waste the opportunity to earn couple of bucks doing almost nothing.”

    I am buying this game on the strength of the title and this quotation.

  16. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    The Martians are only 80% historically accurate? Aw.

    It’s a shame that some things had to be fudged for game balance.

  17. Cooper says:

    This game may be worth buying, if only to support a game dev with a sense of humour.

    Roll on the Shenmue clone with Lenin, vampires and steam robots!

  18. Kommissar Nicko says:

    I think Khrushchev’s down attack would be the “we-will-bury-you.”

  19. a-scale says:

    This guy’s hilarious! I love RPS more each day. I am greatly looking forward to this game.

  20. Asif says:

    Excellent. I look forward to playing the most groundbreaking Serbian computer game ever. I hope it can live up to the hype and be better than the previous “most groundbreaking Serbian computer game ever,” Slobodan Milosevic Vs. Crates.

  21. Tunips says:

    But can it be stranger than Vangers? Only time will tell.

  22. luckystriker says:

    After reading this interview Stalins Vs. Martians is a must buy for me now. Take note, game developers. All you have to do to stop me pirating games is to win me over with alcohol-fuelled charm!

  23. mister slim says:

    How long do I have to wait for Leninmue: Vampire Vs. Steambot?

  24. Maxic says:

    Great interview :) Can’t wait till Lenin shows up

  25. James T says:

    They’re almost done, they just need to sort out the animation glitches when Lenin’s using the forklift, and there have been some hiccups implementing Super Hang-On in the Kremlin lobby.

    …According to… a blog I found, that’s right…

  26. Valentin Galea says:

    Alexander Shcherbakov is one very funny man!
    I want more games like this: be entertained well enough before the game even launched!

  27. Phil says:

    I’ll only buy the game if they are a training level were you control ‘koba’ and his bank robbing pre-revolutionary cohorts while late game, it features a Red Alert-style Iron Curtain device called the ‘grey smear.’

    BA’s in history, not UTTERLY useless after all.

  28. PetitPiteux says:

    >Game Gear titles like Defenders of Oasis
    holy shit, i always thought that i was the only one to ever have played that game (an arabic themed Japanese rpg) and loved it… Even if it crashed before the end and i never could finish it.

    Weird how nostalgia work; well you just made my day, thks RPS…

  29. KBKarma says:

    A developer with a sense of humour. Only ever heard of two of those (Team17 and Double Fine).

    This looks shinier and shinier each day…

  30. Down Rodeo says:

    This has to be the best of good ideas for a game ever. Just… wow. And the guy’s really hilarious too. Definite purchase.

  31. Okami says:

    Great interview, guy’s really funnfy, great premise for a game, yadayadayada..

    BUT

    Any word on how the game plays? What innovations apart from Stalin Vs Martians does this game have to offer? Or ist it just C&C with different skins for the units?

    I feel a little bad for asking this, since I really enjoyed reading the interview, have a soft spot for east european developers and really look forward to the game. But the questions had to be asked!

  32. Kieron Gillen says:

    Click through to Evo PC’s interview with Alexander – he talks a bit about the approach. It’s going for much more arcade vibe, it seems.

    KG

  33. Okami says:

    Singleplayer Only RTs?

    I’m so sold!

  34. gnome says:

    And those lovable demi-gods even promised us a Lenin game… Brilliant!

  35. Nallen says:

    Hilarious. Do want.

  36. phuzz says:

    Sorry to destroy the stereotype, but we’re not drinking all the time

    Blatant Lies.

  37. Matthew says:

    I remember PC Gamer (or possibly Zone) pushing an amusing little Russian game at one point – some sort of puzzler, but I’ll be buggered if I can remember it.

  38. James T says:

    Oh, I know what you mean, started with a ‘K’, or a ‘T’ or something… Ket… Tet…

    Tactics Ogre, that’s the one!

  39. cHeal says:

    I’m sold, I don’t care if the game turns out to be crap (hopefully not). I just want to read more interviews featuring Alexander.

  40. TheDiscordian says:

    Rakia = Yay!
    Lion’s Milk, FTW!

  41. Heliocentric says:

    Stalin vs Alien vs Predator

  42. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Stalin vs Alien vs Predator

    vs Space Nazis?

    Great interview, I don’t think I can ever view GDC in quite the same way ever again.

  43. madaimer says:

    Oh man Rakia is the shit, so nice………Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    Hurah for the guy praising serbs.
    Serbs, Loved by few, Hated by most, Feared by All

  44. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’ve never drank Rakia, but I’m so getting some of it now.

    KG

  45. The LxR says:

    Wow, haven’t seen such promissing concepts in a while. :)
    +1 for mentioning Vangers in the comments!

  46. Trousers says:

    ” In 1945 the Nazis went to the moon. In 2018, theyre coming back”

    That’s the tagline for some new movie, Iron Sky ( I think that’s the name, does it matter?)

    I feel like this game and that movie are an elaborate April Fool’s joke.

  47. DiscordianPunk says:

    Kieron, drink in moderat…. nevermind. Just be careful, that stuff is wicked strong.

  48. Don Reba says:

    Please, somebody give him $100 000 000 for that Shenmue clone!

  49. Erlam says:

    Jesus Christ, this sounds goddamn fantastic. Someone with a sense of humour like this HAS to make a good game. They just have to!

  50. Mr. President says:

    Alexander: Putin personally throws funny Russian people into jail.

    Yeah I was beginning to think so myself. I mean, last time Russian developers tried to come up with a humorous game, we got Dungeon Cleaners, and it was extremely, painfully lame.
    But suddenly there’s Tom Kranis out of nowhere, and now this game… The concept is sort of “ninja pirate” random goofy thing, but this Shcherbakov guy seems capable of making a decent joke or two. I’m not expecting a good game, but at least it’ll be amusing. You know what that poster says? Stalin commands everyone to dance.