Crysis, Meet STALKER: CryZone – Sector 23

By Adam Smith on May 17th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.


I had a jolly good time with Crysis, mostly just watching things fall over and cooing with delight, but if I could have changed one thing about it I would have made it less about wearing a nanosuit and punching people through buildings and more about being STALKER. Nothing against Crysis, it’s just my way of looking at things. In my least impressive moments I’ll rabidly argue that Peggle should be more like STALKER. Turns out I’m not alone, on the Crysis front at least, as a group of Russian modders by the name OWL Game Studio have been working on a Zone-based anomaly-ridden bleakness of an experience called CryZone: Sector 23. The stabilisers are coming off and it’s going to be a standalone game.

The stabiliser analogy doesn’t quite work actually because the stability, the struts that support the structure, undoubtedly comes from the engine and the setting. It’s already moved from CryEngine 2 to CryEngine 3 but if the game is going to be sold for real cash money (EDIT: it’s going to be free to play), it’ll be rather important to stop claiming that its atmosphere is achieved “through the use of resources and the setting of the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. by GSC”. Go with “vaguely inspired by that one game with the snorks and the whatsits.”

Planned features include stalkers with “unpredictable…freedom of action”, Far Cry 2 styled wounds and healing, destructible everything, and new everything else. Despite the inclusion of post-narrative freeplay there’s also an emphasis on plot, which involves a man gone mad with grief over the death of his son. This naturally leads him to venture into the Zone’s ‘blind spot’, where electrical equipment refuses to function and unknown mutants lean on piles of debris, whistling nonchalantly and waiting for their prey to arrive.

In the reasoning behind the creation of the no-longer-a-mod, there’s a slightly troublesome tendency to harp on about how technically superior CryEngine is in comparison to STALKER’s X-Ray engine. Of all the things I think when playing STALKER, ‘I wish the rendering was more impressive’ is way down the list. In fact, it’s not even on the list because the list is mostly made up of ‘there’s a strange beauty to this, that’s for sure’, my serenity shall soon be shattered but right now, I could happily live here watching the world go by’ and ‘oh please no, it’s horrible, why is this happening to me’.

There has been a playable beta of the CryEngine 2 version, back when it was still a mod, but the move to make it a game in its own right may mean there’s a long wait before Sector 23 is available. While we’re waiting, why doesn’t someone smarter than me make a mod of that DayZ mod to insert anomalies and mutants into it. Thanks!

Let’s see how lovely all the unloveliness looks.

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55 Comments »

  1. DevilSShadoW says:

    Cryker?

  2. golem09 says:

    Gasping is the only appropriate response to this.

  3. Tyshalle says:

    I do vaguely remember seeing the mod a long time ago, and similarly thinking that they didn’t quite get what made Stalker so great. There seemed to be a focus on more mainstream shootemup qualities like total destructibility and better graphics that I thought sort of missed the point, and I felt like the mod looked aesthetically inferior to Stalker.

    That said, with Stalker 2 dead in the water, I suppose I’ll probably be keeping an eye on this.

  4. poetfoxpaul says:

    Anyone else notice an upsurge in survival-focused FPS’s? With that new Stalker MMOFPS, DayZ (utterly fantastic), and this, we might be seeing the birth of a trend.

    I can’t get enough! While Stalker did feel amazing, the occasionally poor graphics took me out of the experience. Also, a smooth engine would do loads to the feel of the game.

    • Tyshalle says:

      I don’t think it’s a trend. The Stalker-esque MMO is just the Stalker team doing what they do, and this mod has been in production forever, and is based on Stalker. DayZ is really the only new contender. That said, I would love for it to become a trend. We need more games that have more to offer than pretty explosions and movie-esque cutscenes.

      • poetfoxpaul says:

        I suppose you’re right. And I wholeheartedly echo your sentiments.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      While Stalker did feel amazing, the occasionally poor graphics took me out of the experience. Also, a smooth engine would do loads to the feel of the game.

      This is why Stalker Complete Mod should be a requirement for playing Stalker.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        Yeah, agree. I hear complaints about the xray engine, but the complete mods make it look gorgeous. It’s a very different aesthetic from the contrasty colour-correctedness and shine that UEng3 and Cryeng offer, and it looks fantastic.

        • aethereal says:

          I agree, for the same reason I still think source looks amazing compared to modern engines. The lighting plays a huge role and UE3 and etc are all too…..shiny. Source and XRay, both look more…realistic, more gritty.

    • Asyne says:

      Don’t forget Rossigames’ “You, Sir.”

      Still, I doubt any of these games will fulfill my heart’s desire of having bullets and magazines being treated as separate items, and reloading being a choice between “fill mag,” “swap mag,” and “drop mag.”

  5. wodin says:

    If always on had been going from the start of gaming there would be no good old games. No old classics to play. Nowt.

    If it catches on everygame will have a timelimit. the limit will vary depending on popularity and solvency.

  6. Orija says:

    Will A-Life be possible to implement in the CryEngine?
    And, it’s a shame that the STALKER games have not been more influential in the games industry.

  7. sinisterralphy says:

    Needs more post apocalyptic unicorns

  8. mcnostril says:

    +1 to stalker dayz.
    !@#
    This is a thing that needs to happen and yet will not.
    It makes me sad.

  9. Hodge says:

    Oh my.

  10. Lord_Mordja says:

    “but if the game is going to be sold for real cash money”
    Correction! The game’s going to be standalone but still completely free. They don’t have the license for the STALKER IP after all.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Aha. I figured they would just be making changes to avoid licensing issues but retaining all the thematic stuff. Thanks for the correction!

  11. Salix says:

    If this gives me even half as much enjoyment as stalker, I shall be happy.

  12. agitatedclimax says:

    Looks like a load of old pylons to me.

  13. jonfitt says:

    He clearly can’t get phone reception in the zone, because his google map is broken.

  14. Stevostin says:

    Ah, don’t be complicated. Here comes a STALKER like game. In those Survivarium day, that is something. The game obviously need the sick places from STALKER, a few old pylon won’t cut it.

    Ah damn you, I want to play STALKER again !

  15. gshauger says:

    I’ll definitely keep an eye on this…it will be interesting to see if they can capture the atmosphere of the zone which is what makes STALKER so amazing

  16. povu says:

    It’s free, it’s single player… How is this going to be a game rather than a mod? Simply by being standalone? How does that work?

  17. Chaku01 says:

    Not impressed by graphics

  18. MegaAndy says:

    How the hell does this work legally ?

    • Shooop says:

      If you’re not profiting from it or exploring the official license I’m sure it’s legal.

    • ArgonautPollux says:

      GSC is (was) one of the few developers that gave free usage of their game assets for mods of other games or anything else. They don’t care where you use it in anything as long as it’s not for money.

  19. Jabberslops says:

    All the mod/development teams making zombie games/mods on Cryengine 3 should join together and start making a DayZ clone, because honestly, Arma2 has an awful UI and awful controls (also mouse controls that require config file tweaking to fix the mouse lag).

    It should have server options for “official” and user created mutators like the Unreal Tournament series, such that you would be able to choose what options you want the server to run to add a different atmosphere to the world. You could have mutators that add anomalies and artifacts like the stalker series or mutant animals and other types of zombies.

    A DayZ clone built on GTA IV or GTA SA using Multi Theft Auto could be awesome too.

    • LostViking says:

      The multi player component of STALKER should have been something like DayZ, maybe reusing the same game world but without the single player story elements.

  20. jrod says:

    No click to embiggen? wtf!

  21. Asyne says:

    On the subject of STALKER’s engine, Xray was ambitious but unpolished. It was one of the first big engines to get SSAO, include variable textures for weather effects, and use volumetric smoke. It used projectiles-as-objects rather than ray-tracing rounds, allowing velocity and distance to become relevant factors, and create complex ricochets and exit angles. It had hitzones as specific as left and right clavicles, individual fingers, and even eyeballs. Bullets were given independent damage and physics values, allowing a penetrating round to kill without much impact, and buckshot to knock down an armored foe without damaging them. Not to mention the openness of resources that allowed modding to take off so easily. STALKER on Cryengine will be quaint, but IMHO not a true STALKER experience.

    • squareking says:

      I did not know this about the xray engine. Awesome.

    • IckyThump says:

      That really is fascinating. I hope they will be able to do the same in Survarium.

    • scatterbrainless says:

      I did love the ballistics of stalker, it irritates me when difficulty mods remove this in favour of the counter-strike style spray. The different velocities of the weapons really forced you to get to know the weapon you were using.
      “Of all the things I think when playing STALKER, ‘I wish the rendering was more impressive’ is way down the list”
      True, but having an AI with more than a simple binary of detection states would be nice, STALKER desperately needs stealth.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Stalker Complete fixes a bunch of issues with the stealth aspects. Namely things like footsteps are heard across the entire map because certain values are too high by default which they fix amongst other things so you can actually sneak up on stuff.

  22. nothingfaced says:

    Want….

  23. Shooop says:

    Holy shit, yes.

    YES

  24. Navagon says:

    The world needs more Stalker. The world needs this! Hell even Call of Stalker: Modern Stalking would sound tempting right now.

  25. end0rphine says:

    lol the PDA uses google chrome. Yay!

  26. whyamihere says:

    First of all, I’ve been keeping eye on this mod for a while, and I’m fairly familiar with CryEngine and X-Ray based development, so the following rant comes from more or less educated dude, even if he sounds a bit like a dick. Sorry for the tone, but I think that the following points are objective and justified.

    1. Plans for commercial release and f2p. Are you mad?

    Let me point out something: every single object in this mod is ripped either from GSC STALKER games, 4A Metro 2033 game, Crysis 1, or CryENGINE3 Free SDK. I’ve worked with STALKER for several years, I know every object in GSC Game World geometry library, and I can say with absolute certainty that every goddamn transmission tower, every car, every lighting poll, every poplar tree and tons of other content you see on each screenshot are taken from STALKER. These guys are unable to create their own original content and rely completely on others work. Every even relatively good looking screenshot is good looking because of GSC and Crytek assets, while the work of that team is usually limited to choosing camera angle and enabling fancy sun shafts.

    Now to the best part: how about permissions from aforementioned developers? GSC Game World was a rare company that tolerated stuff like weapon ports to other engines (try that with CoD and you’ll get a takedown notice in no time), but what we see here is a whole different level. And nice guys from GSC aside, I’m not really expecting Crytek or 4A being happy about that. Tons of stuff from Crysis alien rocks to Metro 2033 gasmask sounds are scattered everywhere here.

    I really fail to understand whether they are oblivious teenagers or just nutjobs, because what they are doing basically is stealing bunch of stuff from everywhere, making a chaotic pile out of that content, light it up with fancy sun shafts and suddenly feel entitled to something. Really?

    2. Legal problems aside, it fails to deliver anything new. You see, “level design” does not stand for “getting a pile of content from elsewhere and throwing out over some hills”. They sincerely expect us to enjoy “exploring” EXACTLY THE SAME buildings you saw 10x times already over the course of Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky, and Call of Pripyat. Oh, whey are placed in a different order now? Oh, that’s wonderful, that’s so interesting, oh, I’m just craving to explore everything again, dude.

    There guys clearly can’t create any new content aside from several UI screens and pointless 4096×4096 retextures. It’s completely incompetent and amateur level. What’s there to be excited about?

    3. Okay, how about that: let’s imagine that nobody ever played original STALKER games, nobody ever spoiled any GSC content for themselves, and legal problems are nonexistent. Can I stop ranting in that case? Sorry, nope.

    Please, enjoy this album of randomly selected screenshots. http://imgur.com/a/Q6TcU#0

    What do you see here, as well in the other screenshots? Clueless, chaotic, illogical level design. Lighting setups jumping from overly contrast and overly dark to flat and monochrome. Crappy dialog text, a guy with bloodsucker head, piss poor material configuration on several buildings. Randomly placed lowpoly trees from GSC mixed with Crysis jungle vegetation. Alien cliffs from Crysis. Faithful recreation of every level design mistake GSC did, word for word, from tons of illogical construction materials to over the top use of vehicle models.

    Really, I can’t see ANYTHING of worth in the visual aspect of their work.

    The only thing I can, with a straight face in all seriousness, call nice, is their work on a technical side of things, i.e. recreation of vital STALKER features like inventory, dialogs and anomalies from scratch, on CryENGINE scripting system. That is good. And that is all that is here.

    ***

    I’m really sorry, but I have no idea how this managed to impress you, RPS. WTF, guys.

    If you’re interested in Soviet post-apocalypse themed projects on CryENGINE, there is much better stuff, like Russia 2028: http://www.polycount.com/forum/showthread.php?t=77485 No ported content, flawless work with lighting setup and vegetation, great atmosphere. Really a stark contrast with CryZone, you know.

    Best regards.

  27. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Good. Maybe this one will be able to use more than one core. Some processors have two or more now!