O.L.D.E.R.: Alpha STALKER released for free

By Alec Meer on March 3rd, 2009 at 4:55 pm.

Whatever will be will be. Whatever might have been can also be, it seems. Any glimpse into the creative process behind a game, especially one of some legend, is fascinating – for instance the design documents for Planescape Torment and Grim Fandango. This, however, is some kind of alterna-history motherlode.

GSC Gameworld have released an early build (from 2004, to be precise) of their acclaimed STALKER – from back before too long struggling through development limbo saw the game enjoy a major rethink and some not insubstantial tinkering from publisher THQ. With GSC’s blessing, we now to get to find out whether this kick up the bum was entirely necessary.

The 1.2Gb build 1935 even carries STALKER’s original subtitle, Oblivion Lost – as opposed to the final game’s Shadow of Chernobyl. While none of RPS’s tired, tired men has as yet had the chance to delve deeply into this unexpected relic of the near past, word is it’s a tough old game. It’s not as if STALKER was ever a walk in the park, so presumably the difficulty is one of the rougher edges that ended up being smoothed off. On the plus side, it includes driveable vehicles and a stronger science fiction tendency.

As you’ll have seen from the above video, S:OL was also a dramatically larger game than S:SOC. While plenty of locations are familiar, there’s a distinct lack of those cocking indestructible barbed wire fences that so hobbled free-form adventuring in S:SOC. To make this huge world navigable, build 1935 includes driveable vehicles:

GTA with zombies? Oh, imagine if we’d have had this, together with S:SOC’s relative robustness and polish (I said ‘relative’, alright?). It’s also astonishing beautiful, at least in terms of its vast, ruined architecture and environments.

It’s fascinating to see all the ideas and intentions that ended up cruelly truncated. So what would have happened if Stalker had carried on in this direction? Would it have instantly bumped GSC into legendary status, the first developers to truly realise the freeform survival’n’violence masterpiece that gamers have been promised time and again to no ultimate avail? Or, given how flaky S:SOC was on its initial release, would it have been a catastrophe of over-ambition and bug-riddled execution?

What this definitely does, for me at least, is make the compromised mess that was STALKER: Clear Sky all the more disappointing. They had all this tech and content lying around, yet they settled on a poorly-balanced, depressingly artificial retread of S:OC. Perhaps Oblivion Lost will yet be put to good use – it just seems so close to the wish-dream of so many PC gamers.

Here’s what’s apparently the climactic level, which very much plays up the sci-fi horror element:

Nothing in there that’s dramatically different from S:SOC, bar the scale, but again it makes you wonder why so much content got axed from the final game. Given quite how dedicated STALKER’s modding community has proven to be, I don’t doubt that someone will knock this build into better shape, and in a few months we’ll have something that’s almost a third STALKER game. Cheers for the lovely present, GSC.

Download STALKER 1935 from here, or alternatively try this torrent.

Thanks to the many who tipped us off about this. Their name is legion. The lovely legion.

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75 Comments »

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  1. Professor says:

    I’m a big S.T.A.L.K.E.R fan, this seems like an awesome tribute.

  2. Pags says:

    I had not expected this! Needless to say, it’s probably buggy as all hell so those wanting a playable version of most things shown here would probably be best off just downloading the Oblivion Lost mod, but this is a fun glimpse into the development that went into the game that was sadly – though understandably – compromised in favour of actually releasing the game and in a relatively stable state.

  3. Tei says:

    Holy Smoke Dancing in A Tube, Jesus F* Crist!

  4. Dan says:

    Looks like a hell of a lot of poorly polished content to me. Without a large team and a hefty budget this could have suffered greatly without the final narrowing of scope.

  5. sbs says:

    Quality music by mooze in that first video.
    I recently bought stalker but it runs not very well on my PC.
    Maybe one of these days I will find the motivation to go and try tweaking it to decent fps.

  6. Cooper42 says:

    Thanks for the news, I’m gonna have to try this later.

    I’m waiting for the Oblivion Lost mod team to finish with Clear Sky, then I will be buying that.

    I can well imagine much of this content being exported into SoC, as the OL team have already done an amazing job reintroducing content and functionality coded and shipped, but cut from the game (including rudimentary driving)

  7. Markoff Chaney says:

    I remember a leaked Alpha that dropped some 5.5 years ago or so of STALKER that got me pretty excited, even if it was sloppy and un-optimized. I wonder if this is that same pig with added lipstick. The promise that Alpha held was immense…

  8. Theoban says:

    Having bought STALKER about a year ago…maybe I should actually play it….

  9. Joe Russell says:

    Brilliant news. Looks like the Oblivion Lost mod for SoC got a lot of things right…

  10. Don says:

    I’ve only looked at the last video but just in that there seems to be more terrain to go across than in the actual release. Too bad they didn’t find a way to get the initial concept to work, seems to be a lot of potential there. Though the piggy monster that took the entire supply of AR ammo and still wouldn’t drop would have been a bit much.

  11. pharago says:

    awesome, just awesome, thanks to all those involved in this

  12. DigitalSignalX says:

    Instead of releasing Clear Sky, they should have just taken their money and gone back to the drawing board with this. Clear sky sucked balls and could have benefited greatly by having all that content added back, polished up, and *then* adding the lame clear sky plot.

  13. phuzz says:

    Especially the second vid really looks like Operation Flashpoint with mutants.
    That is all Stalker will be to me now.

  14. chaves says:

    God, that finger sliding through the knife’s edge animation can get on your nerves. It’s the scariest part of the video.

    Apart from that, wahoo, etc. Great to see this released.

  15. Joseph says:

    I agree with DigitalSignalX, they should have gone back to the drawing board with this. Clear Sky was really disappointing for me.

  16. A-Scale says:

    That was bloody terrifying. I don’t think I could have played it, if it did come out. The desperation evident in trying to kill zombies and a monster, but being incapable of doing much to either is truly what survival horror is about.

    The only other game that I know that has done a dark and stormy night so well is Mafia. I pray that you guys will someday do a retrospective on that game.

  17. Lack_26 says:

    I feel sorry for the developers, to cut all that content must have broke their hearts. It would be awesome if the team and the community could work together to bring a lot of this content up to a playable state and release a new edition of STALKER, but that’s probably a pipe dream.

  18. GeddoutofheerStalker says:

    I LOVED Stalker. From start to finish a wonderfully atmospheric romp through some a-typical scenery and landscapes – one of my fav games even today. But how much better could it have been? I’m going to have to try this build, particularly if it helps the devs gauge the reception a third Stalker game made along these lines would receive….

    “Or, given how flaky S:SOC was on its initial release, would it have been a catastrophe of over-ambition and bug-riddled execution?”

    You can’t help but think of Boiling Point when you say that, can you, Alec? :)

  19. Orlin says:

    I would’ve never seen that Torment article if it hadn’t been mentioned here. It’s my favorite game, see. I’m gonna read that design document now. Thanks!

  20. Cooper42 says:

    @Lack_26

    Try one of the Oblivion Lost packs.

    The changelist is far too long, but it adds a vast amount of the lost content back in. Including sleeping and ‘dreams’. Mutants which were cut out (cats, other zombie types, weird dwarf monsters). Random blowouts. Shifting anomalies (which NPCs now avoid fairly well). Drivable vehicles. A much wider arsenal. As well as many, many other things.

    One of the best OL packs is this:
    http://www.gsc-game.com/index.php?t=community&s=forums&s_game_type=xr&thm_page=1&thm_id=16886&sec_id=17
    Although it’s apparently this pack is still a tad buggy in places, I haven’t encountered any yet. OL is truly an epic mod.

  21. skalpadda says:

    Am I the only one who’s happy vehicles got taken out of the game? Sure there was loads of running, but I had dependable weapons and a stash of equipment I enjoyed going on little expeditions, taking care to bring my trusty rifle, ammo and medkits, planning what routes to take (and always getting side tracked for some reason).

    I guess that’s the thing; what sucked me in so much was exploring the fantastic environments (limited though they were), nervously stumbling through buildings and all the while being relatively fragile. Running over mutants in a derelict Trabant would’ve just felt plain wrong.

  22. Grandstone says:

    Derelict Trabant needs to be a game.

  23. lumpi says:

    This is an awesome move by GSC Gameworld. These early alphas are worthless, commercially, yet a dream-come-true to fans.

    Now, Valve, give us those early, early TF2 builds pls.

  24. abigbat says:

    I’m so excited about this.

  25. wcaypahwat says:

    I found rps googling Torment :D

    I shall have to try this, as my copy of s:soc is halfway accross the country, and s:cs refuses to run on the windows 7 beta. I mis traipsing about the ukrainian countryside. With a shotgun.

  26. malkav11 says:

    Frankly, I’m scared to try the Oblivion Lost mods. Sure, they add in a bunch of stuff, but it looks like they also up the hardcore factor of the game tremendously and it was already nail-bitingly difficult to me.

  27. Idle Threats & Bad Poetry says:

    My budget had been tight, but part of me has really wanted to try the original Stalker. Then along comes this free big of Alpha goodness? Happy times and much rejoicing!

  28. Trousers says:

    re: Malkav11

    My feelings exactly. I tried to play Oblivion Lost and died about 15 times on the first encounter before giving up.

  29. Chis says:

    If ANYONE gets the “CLIENT: Spawning” freezing issue, where the game gets no further, and someone manages to fix this, I would really very much like to know. This build is buggy, but most people seem to be able to get it to RUN at least, with little hastle. On my gf’s Radeon-based C2D laptop… it won’t play, and I have no other system to try this on. :(

  30. Justin says:

    I think I saw a comment somewhere else that turning off the extra processor got them past the spawning crash, but I can’t substantiate that.

    A lot of the content here is available in the Oblivion Lost mod, which is very difficult, but makes the game infinitely playable; there’s no end to the game, so you can run all over the map and keep doing missions. (If Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is a world that doesn’t care if you live or die, the Oblivion Lost mod makes it hate you.)

    My goal, someday, is to put together a new game system and have a permanent game of Stalker with the Oblivion Lost mod running; go visit Agroprom whenever I like.

  31. Idle Threats & Bad Poetry says:

    Ugh, I take back my enthusiasm. As someone who never played the finished game, this is very confusing. I doubt I’ll spend much time with this alpha.

  32. Muzman says:

    I feel duty bound to say, if anyone is only now dashing off to mod Stalker, of the two ‘kitchen sink’ restoration mods AMK is the best.
    Oblivion Lost throws in everything and turns it all up to 11. It’s a great curiosity but completely fails as a game. If you want vehicles and whatever you need OL. But AMK takes a much more measured approach, expanding and working with the game as released. It’s much neater and everything works properly (while being very different and murderously hard, which I love).
    AMK, you know it makes sense.
    /pimpage

  33. Aftershock says:

    Haha. People asking for tech help on an ALPHA BUILD of STALKER. It’s gone beyond ridiculous.

    I really want to finish stalker. But its stability has gone downhill since i first met the zombies. It doesnt launch anymore.

  34. undead dolphin hacker says:

    STALKER was Fallout 3 long before Fallout 3.

  35. Bret says:

    Only even less stable.

  36. Howard says:

    Spent most of yesterday tinkering with this here Alpha build and to be sure, it’s a buggy old thing. There are, however, tantalising glimpses of “what could have been”.
    While the ALife be WAY crazy (150 pseudo-dogs spawning at once, anyone?) the sheer vastness of the landscapes and the amount of structures, mobs and stuff to explore is exhilarating! There are literally dozen of square kilometres to play around with, all filled with those delicious nooks and crannies that made STALKER so juicy. Well worth the few minutes of tinkering it takes to get this baby to work.

    In the long run it also offers some interesting options. Already the modders of STALKER are discussing how to get this build into a functional state, maybe add the DX9 renderer and make the original Oblivion Lost a viable game.

    I for one am champing at the bit!

  37. ILR says:

    I found rps googling Torment :D
    How quaint, so did I. Or maybe it was linked from somewhere else. Can’t really remember exactly.

    Less exhausting times, they were. I mean, 9 comments for a (fascinating) Torment design doc article. Phew.

  38. Scotch Mist says:

    I’d love to see what the mod community do with this. I don’t want a plot, or set missions, or some sinister monolith or whatever, I just want to live, eat, sleep and die in this beautiful world. SoC never let me do that.

  39. Heliocentric says:

    True, stalker was a place i simply wanted to be. I mean sure give me things to do. Let me build a faction, hire team mates and mourn them them they get eaten by a pack of dogs. Then let me build up small skirmishes into whole wars or negotiate non conflict agreements.

    Rather than radios being ubiquitious force players to fight over radio antenna that boost communications range.

    My dream stalker game would have starting settings like the x series games. Start off as a well funded mercenary corp who can call in a helicopter transport or a lone homeless guy with a pistol or anything inbetween.

    Oh and coop, please god coop.

  40. Requiem says:

    @malkav11 I thought the OL mod made the game way too easy, sure right at the start is more difficult but you can get hold of better guns and grenades earlier. Not forgetting that being able to use more artifacts and transforming artifacts to remove the negative effects. Or to make the positive effects more powerful can make you pratically invulnerable.

    I really want to try this, but Clear Sky killed my Stalker addicition and I haven’t played either game since, I’m worried that this will make me fall off the wagon.

  41. yogSo says:

    Some tips to get the Build 1935 running (it works for me with an AMD X2 5400 and a GeForce 7600GT):

    1.- Delete the savegame folder. Run the game with run_alife_s.bat.

    2.- Apparently, this build doesn’t like dual cores, so find a way to make it run on a single one. There are several methods to accomplish this, I personally use a little program called ForceCore (google it).

    There’s also an easier way: download the “mini-assembly of 1935” from this link and use it to play the game. There are some other patches out already (the brkbl # 423.ogf one fixes a crash when you try to enter the darkdolina [Dark Valley] level).

    And speaking of levels, you can teleport to any of them typing this code in the console menu:
    jump_to_level levelname
    where levelname is one of these:
    l01_escape
    l02_garbage
    l03_agroprom
    l04_darkdolina
    l04u_darklab
    l05_bar_rostok
    l06_yantar
    l07_military
    l08_deadcity
    l09_swamp
    l10_radar
    l10u_radar_bunker
    l10u_secret_lab
    l12_stancia
    l12u_sarcofag
    l13_generators
    l13u_warlab

  42. Chaz says:

    I originally thought that Stalker was going to be a big wide open Boiling Point style game, set in a fantastic landscape twisted by decay and radiation. There was talk of having to hunt the wildlife for food, like shooting birds etc, as you would be spending days out in the wilderness. Also that you would have to find shelter from the periodic radioactive storms or “blow outs”. They also mentioned at one point that the game would have 4 player co-op where you could all wander off on your own or team up.

    So when the game came out my expectations were severely dissapointed, despite the game still being quite good. The fantastic landscape was there, but rather than being the big Boiling Point style world I had hoped for, it was just a series of maps linked together by gate points. The maps themselves felt very artificially constrained, and they almost seemed to discourage exploration by making many areas highly radioactive. Which was a shame as it blunted the otherwise terrific atmosphere.

    So it’s nice to see them release this, but I expect it will only make me depressed if it shows glimpses of the game it could have and should have been.

    So Boiling Point still remains my favourite free roamer, despite all its flaws, and I hope Deep Shadows come up with the goods in White Gold and Precursors.

  43. hydra9 says:

    It’s an amazing gesture to release this build. Now I’m going to wait for the modders to work their magic and create the ultimate version of STALKER that I might actually finish.

  44. Chis says:

    yogSo, thankyou for posting a USEFUL comment. This may be an alpha build, but as I said, many people can get the game to run just fine. Most of the bugs are in-game. I shall try the dual-core fix.

  45. Rid says:

    In the 3rd video, when the stalker gets closer to the rock formations (at the very beginning), I just thought: “Wow, a new-generation Morrowind!”

    That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

  46. fatcat1111 says:

    Does anybody know how to switch the text to English?

  47. StalkerFan says:

    Well,when i first saw stalker (i live in argentina so i got it the preview from a magazine) i was like OMG,THAT WILL KICK ASS,when i bought the game and played it to the last meter of land (i explored EVERYTHING) it felt…like….like if something was missing,so then i checked the alpha and betas videos and i just started crying :(,i cant believe why the publishers make developers SHIT their game (FUCK YOU EA,FOR FUCKING SPORE!),omg,i cant imagine if this game was going to be like Boiling Point…..

  48. Jman33 says:

    Its basicly a waste of time. The torrent is dead and the download is going to take over a day to get every file witch is reletivley small. The only other downloads require you to sign up for the websight or is in another language. Also after hours of searching i found a good download. Here it is: http://www.gameru.net/download.html

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