Green Hell Zone: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lost Alpha Out Now

By Adam Smith on April 28th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

Although Survarium shares some DNA with the magnificent, terrifying ecosystem of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Lost Alpha standalone mod is the closest thing to a new game in the series we’re probably going to see for a good while. What began as an attempt to restore content cut from the original release of Shadow of Chernobyl has become a total overhaul of the game, with sections redesigned and reintegrated, and changes to elements other than maps. It’s been in development for five years and is now available, slightly earlier than originally planned. There are download links (including an official torrent) over at Moddb and you won’t need to have the original game installed to play. I want to spend my day in the Zone.

The team announced the release a couple of days ago:

We started to develop Lost Alpha in the summer of 2008. The project first started out as a modification to add back the cut levels which all Stalker fans knew of. After a while, it became more than just a modification, it became our dream game, how we saw S.T.A.L.K.E.R. We hope to give you the same feeling when you first played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. A new chapter with familiar elements without which S.T.A.L.K.E.R. would not be the game we all grew to love. Lost Alpha was a labour of love. We are passionate about it and we hope you all will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it!

While the bulk of the work is done, updates are likely:

So what now? It was a hard decision to release the game in such a quick, and unplanned way.

I have to say, I’m very proud to our active team members, because we created something which is beyond our imagination. It looks awesome, it plays just fine, but somehow its still not perfect. However this is subjective to what we call perfect. We learned that if we only polish one part of the game, the rest will never fit. It was hard for us to find the golden way, because this is our first big project, but overall I would say we did a good job. On top of that, we will try to update the game whenever we can to make it even better than it is now.

I love S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and in a strange way I think it played a big part in weaning me off first-person shooters. I don’t think any game other than Thief: The Dark Project and Ultima Underworld has influenced my thinking about the kind of world-building and immersion possible from that most immediately immersive of perspectives.

As I’m spending my time in another hell entirely, my dream of revisiting the Zone is on hold. We’re sending Craig in to take a look though and he’ll return with thoughts and fears later this week.

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44 Comments »

  1. Ravenholme says:

    I’d actually hold off on sending Craig in just yet – wait for them to release a couple of patches first, as there are some pretty fatal errors that exist in the game as of just now. You can persevere through them, but you’ll be seeing the crashlog generator A LOT if you try.

    However, having spent a few hours last night swanning around the Cordon (because I crash when I try to go to Garbage), it really does change the feel of the game. The zone feels more alien than it has ever done before, in my opinion. (Also, there are a few cool new interior spaces which I won’t spoil, but had me sufficiently on edge because they were unexpected)

    • Lord_Santa says:

      was just ’bout to say the same thing; there’ll be a patch coming in the near future and if you want to give this iteration the review it deserves, then you’re better off at least letting it patch (keeping in mind that it was released prematurely and thus hasn’t gotten as extensive testing as it would need to.)

    • Craig Pearson says:

      Screw you people. I’m going in.

      (Yeah, I’m aware of the issues. If it’s too buggy I’ll leave off, but I’d plan on giving it a couple of hours anyway)

      • Ravenholme says:

        Alas Craig, we hardly knew ye!

        Okay, well, do this at the very least then, as it should stop one of the more irritating bugs. In the Game Options I believe it is, click one of the buttons until it’s light is off and it says “Show Player Shadow” or something similar. The full body awareness mode kills your footstep sounds, causes some sound bugs, and causes a consistent CTD when you kill the rat mutants, due to a physics animation bug (Yeah, I’ve no idea why it is linked to rats but it is)

        • Lord_Santa says:

          and remember to run the game as administrator and preferably use 64-bit Windows… and GSC Game World Forums have opened a specific section for Lost Alpha (under the Shadow of Chernobyl thread) and last, but not least: check out the ‘most common problems’ on Moddb, or similar, to resolve any issues

          also, don’t even try to rebind keys, etc. until you have started a new game, else things will go bad and you can’t rebind quikcload/quicksave, so don’t bother (they’re F6/F7 by default and cannot be changed atm)

      • TimePointFive says:

        When it crashes and doesn’t launch anymore, delete the user.ltx file. Don’t rebind the quicksave/load keys. Keep ssao off for now. check here for community bugfixes and some mods

        http://www.gsc-game.com/index.php?t=community&s=forums&offset=240

    • The Random One says:

      It’s not a bug, it’s an anomaly.

    • w0bbl3r says:

      Played for an hour or so, not a single crash. Just a framerate issue every now and then.

  2. trout says:

    i don’t have a source, but i’m pretty (mildly) sure that stalker 2 was estimated to be 70%-ish complete when it was cancelled – it would be wonderful if a similar process could happen to that, it’s a shame to think of all that amazing work just languishing on some hard drive in some mysterious place. at any rate, looking forward to returning to the zone!

  3. Darth Gangrel says:

    “you won’t need to have the original game installed to play” That usually invokes the wrath of gaming companies (perhaps mostly the publishers), making them send a “cease and desist” letter to the modders, but if they’ve been able to work on it for five years without anyone saying they can’t go on, then I guess the IP holders are cool with it.

    • Ravenholme says:

      It was actually going to be an official release with GSC’s blessing (as in, sold and everything) but the leak last year seems to have squashed that. It still has GSC’s blessing, but just is no longer an official release.

  4. Cytrom says:

    I have great respect for these guys, but tbh if they put in so much effort, they might have as well done it on a stable and better optimised engine.

    • Talksintext says:

      +1. These guys have been around the modding community for this series for ages, and they’ve put out lots of good stuff before. I have high hopes, but I’m waiting for them to “gold” this one. I’m tired of half-finished alphas at this point. I want to give them a fair shake and play the game they set out to make, rather than the one they were rushed into releasing early.

  5. Terragot says:

    What’s the RPS consensus on MISERY? Should I play through that or wait for lost alpha to become stable?

    • Keyrock says:

      I played Misery 2.0 when it came out. While I appreciate the work these folks put in, and some of the changes were really great, I thought there were changes that were borderline game breaking. There were also serious stability and save corruption issues, but those may have been solved by now.

      • Talksintext says:

        2.1:
        Still borderline game-breaking changes that you’ll have to personally mod out probably (like you constantly slowly lose health). When they say “misery”, it’s very apt: a lot has been done to make the game utterly miserable to play (laser-accurate AI, brutal economy, lots of nickels and dimes that keep you constantly hand to mouth). That makes it challenging. That makes it very slow to level up. That makes grinding a total requirement to progress the story. That makes a play-through probably 75 hours or more if you don’t totally rush it (I’m like most of the way through Zaton-Jupiter after maybe 50 hours). I think it’s been way overdone, and I’m someone who years ago modded the game to be brutal for personal fun, so yeah, it’s insanely rough going for a newb, and no one new to the series should try the mod first.

        Still bug-ridden and highly crash-prone. About one crash per 45min I’ve gotten on average. Save very, very often, both with quicksave (which can be bugged, but not very often) and normal saves.

        Oh, and performance is miserable too. Makes Arma III look like BF4 in that sense. I’m someone with very little stutter in A3, but Misery at medium+ settings is a constant, constant pain of micro and macro stutters. Like A3, it’s basically a 32-bit app, plus it’s truly mono-core with no further core usage. Can’t blame the modders for that too much, but they have added a LOT to the AI, AI draw distance, and geometry. 2GB of RAM and one core just doesn’t cut it at all (which has me worried for Lost Alpha given it’s on an even older, Stalker 1 engine).

        Once you mod it to taste, it’s extremely engrossing and challenging after that. There’s a ton of added content, a much cleaner UI, and vastly improved graphics (which cause all those stutters and issues). It’s saying something that DESPITE all the above issues, I’ve put 50 hours into it and will eagerly put another 20-30 to finish it.

        I’d place it around 0.65 alpha in its current state. The features are mostly there, but good god the implementation, bugs, and balance are all a misery.

  6. soopytwist says:

    Hmm, I’ll stick with the mod I made of the Oblivion Mod thanks.

  7. cHeal says:

    Stalker had a similar effect on me regards other FPS games. After Stalker they all feel so terribly stale.

    • Keyrock says:

      Ironically, for me, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. affected another genre every bit as much as FPS, if not more. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a heck of a lot better role playing game than 98% of cRPGs.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I’ll be honest, when STALKER first came out, it basically just ruined gaming for me altogether.
        Idk, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but the sense of scale and depth and wonder that STALKER had just pretty much blew everything else out of the water. I think there’s only a handful of games that have ever raised my expectations the way it did.

        /fanboy rant

  8. Keyrock says:

    I’m currently in the midst of a Call of Pripyat playthrough, mostly vanilla, with just AtmosFear, Pixel Paradise, and Absolute Nature mods (mostly graphical mods). I’m assembling a team right now to go through the underground into Pripyat. The journey through the underground is my favorite part of the game.

    Hopefully by the time I finish CoP Lost Alpha will be in a much more stable state, because a man can never play too much S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

  9. UpsilonCrux says:

    Yeah, hopped on for a little bit, also midway through DaS2.

    I have to agree, it’s the first time in many years where the Zone has felt new and strange again.

    I was always of the opinion that SoC was the best of the three, but I had left it behind for modded CoP, I’m a sucker for the extra graphic fancies, as well as stuff like the weapon upgrading etc.
    Well, I’m delighted to say that Lost Alpha has all the extra graphical features from CoP; soft water, dynamic wet surfaces, HBAO, sunshafts etc, as well as, for the first time in STALKER, you can see your character’s shadow in first-person mode (provided you tun off the viewable leg / torso option – type in “g_actor” in the console and the relevant entry will pop up, and change it to off or zero. Its a shame we can’t have both, but currently the visible legs are causing issues).

    It also has the weapon upgrade system, currently bugged too I think, with a patch on the way, as well as a simple food/drink system, and a completely overhauled PDA system including trading with npc’s and mission creation. And vehicles. With trunk inventories. If it has artifact activation, I will be so happy. I’m not sure if it does yet though, if anyone knows whether it is or not, please let me know.

    I’m really stoked to play this in a week or so, when the kinks have been ironed out. Under the circumstances dezowave have found themselves in, it’s only natural that there’s a few nasties lying around in the build.

    TL;DR
    This might be the definitive STALKER experience IMHO

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Are you finding that the dynamic lighting hits your framerate hard outdoors,? That plus the grass. My rig ran SHOC and CoP fine at max but struggles with this until I dial it back to static lighting and reduce grass density

  10. newprince says:

    This would be pretty interesting for me as I was a QA tester for the original game in 2006-ish. I was painfully aware of what features were just not going to make it as THQ was really laying the hammer down to get the game out.

    • El_Emmental says:

      I guess you’re still under the NDA ? I’m sure all the fans of the series would LOVE to hear about the development of Stalker (even if you need to skip on the worst devspublishers moments).

  11. XhomeB says:

    Does it feel less linear or larger than SoC? I followed every bit of news until its release and even though I loved the game as a whole, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the Zone was much smaller, somewhat constrained what it comes to progression and definitely overpopulated compared to what I’d anticipated.
    The mod sounds like it’s bringing everything originally promised back, have the aformentioned issues been remedied?

  12. EBass says:

    So this is a really wierd install method, and no readme, anyone know how to do it?

    • derf says:

      +1. Setup seems to freeze at “Installing Main Game Files”… is the install process broken?

    • Necroscope says:

      All I did was download the 4 separate compressed files into one directory, double-clicked the 1st one (winrar or whatever extractor you use) and extracted it to a place of my choosing, something like lostalphatemp, I then went to lostalphatemp and ran the setup. You don’t need to extract the other 3. It did take a while to install, seemed like it was hanging/frozen but I left it as I was in a rush. When I had returned from shopping the process was a step further along, prompting me to install some microsoft thingy. I think be patient and it will run…

  13. w0bbl3r says:

    Just had an hour. Cordon feels completely new, I don’t believe it.
    However, I don’t know whether there is a compatibility issue with some drivers or hardware I have, but framerate isn’t great.
    Running a 3Ghz quad core CPU, 8GB RAM and a GTX670 2GB card the game should blister. But it just seems a bit slow at times.
    I remember the stuttering in the game when I first got it, and that is still there (It’s still there in CoP though to be honest), but this framerate issue is something I never experienced before, and I have upgraded my system at least 2 or 3 times since then.
    But the game is fantastic. I can’t believe the awesome job they have done. It seems familiar and yet totally new to me.
    I must have played the game through at least 5 times (except the final trek through the CPP, you know why) when it came out, and it had a similar effect on me as a few people have stated, it ruined FPS games in a lot of ways.
    I can’t wait to get out of cordon and see what else is new/old.

    • TheRealHankHill says:

      i52500k gtx570 blah blah here and also having AWFUL frame rate outside. Turned off sun shadows and the game is instantly playable (but looks a lot less nice :/)

      • w0bbl3r says:

        My framerate seems to get worse as I transition from outdoors to indoors or vice versa. Especially if I am transitioning from dark to light or light to dark. Like if I am in a dark room, and go out into bright sunlight, it is bad.

      • UpsilonCrux says:

        Yeah…. That’s the X-Ray engine for you I guess.

        Turn off grass shadows and turn AO and sunshafts to Low, you won’t notice the visual difference but you should get a load more fps.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      There are people who didn’t like the final level of SoC? What, seriously?

      • w0bbl3r says:

        You mean there are people who DID like it?
        Once you got past Pripyat it was pretty crap. Turned into a dull corridor shooter, with a horrible loud voice in the background that was atmospheric for about half a second and then just gave me a headache

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          The Voice of The Monolith cannot be tolerated by … lesser minds.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          OH no see
          I thought we were talking about the LAST last level.

          I didn’t much care for the indoor bit either. But the bits on either side of it were great.The trek through Pripyat, alongside all those other legendary Stalkers you’d undoubtedly seen on your PDA’s ranking system, fighting through some really effing wonderful open levels, that was fantastic.
          The quality dipped immensely once you got inside, I totally agree. But the bit AFTER that was a serious high-point for me.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Good point, the “extra level” was a touch of genius. I still loved the inside bit though, I just modded out that bloke rabbiting on and made sure i had several anti-rad artifacts :)

  14. w0bbl3r says:

    Anyone else having a ton of fun until STOPORIOPENFIRESTOPORIOPENFIRESTOPORIFIRESROPORFIRESOPENFIRESTOIRESTIRESTOPORISTOPORISTOPENFIRESTOPENFIRESTOPORIOPENFIRE STOP OR I OPEN FIRE?
    Can’t get rid of it now. Every time I get within 200 yards of the bridge, it starts, and I have to sprint away from the bridge a LONG way to stop it

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