Posts Tagged ‘S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl’

Areal Kickstarting S.T.A.L.K.E.R. “Spiritual Successor”

When we first saw the announcement, I had no idea someone making a 'spiritual successor' to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. would cause such a mess.

If you took a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. design document and replaced the words “Chernobyl disaster” with “weird meteorite,” you wouldn’t be far off from Areal. Think post-apocalyptic open world survival FPS with non-linear missions, populated by simulated life and mutants, and fizzing with dangerous anomalies. That sounds pretty enticing in itself, but developers West Games also have a few former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. folks working on the game, including the series’ lead designer.

As you might guess, it’s on Kickstarter. However, West Games don’t have much to show of Areal at this point. Their pitch relies heavily upon S.T.A.L.K.E.R. footage and pre-existing artwork not made for the game (some even made for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.). Given that they’re only looking for $50,000 (£30,000)–nowhere near enough to realise such ambitious ideas–it’s a mite concerning.

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All STALKER Games Saved From GameSpy Server Meltdown

GameSpy has officially exploded, and games are still fleeing from ground zero while green smoke and shrapnel billows every which way. It’s been a messy process, to say the least, with some games finding happy new homes while others collapsed on the street side, never to rise again. STALKER, thankfully, has made it out at the last second, with whatever remains of GSC releasing a patch for STALKER, STALKER: Clear Sky, and STALKER: Call of Pripyat to migrate online functionality onto their own servers.

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In the Zone: How Gamers Experience The Real Chernobyl

I am standing in the middle of Pripyat in what was intended to be the site of the 1986 May Day festivities. Now an expanse of cracked concrete, the iconic rusting ferris wheel stands behind me. No one else is in sight, as I’ve been left here alone to get on with some measurements. Looking down at the Geiger counter in my hand I slowly make my way back and forth across the area, taking readings at regular intervals. This is my last research trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the end of six months spent tagging along with tour groups and later helping as a tour guide.

I should be used to this space now, but I feel uneasy. Occasionally I anxiously look up and scan the thick line of trees and shrubs that border this area and break line of sight with the nearby ruined buildings. I try to rationalise my way out of this fear – I tell myself the worst thing that’s likely to happen is the embarrassment of trying to cobble together an explanation in Russian for what I’m doing if Pripyat’s police guard wanders by.

But there’s more to my unease than this. It’s not that I’m alone, it’s that I’ve been alone here before. Only the last time was whilst playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

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Impressions: Stalker: Lost Alpha

Stalker: Lost Alpha is out, but it’s not finished. Typical Stalker, really. The game, a fan-fronted effort to reconnect all the elements that were cut from Shadow of Chernobyl, was leaked during development. The developers have chosen to release it earlier than planned, and I decided to try it out. It’s still Stalker, still based on the first game, but at the same time it’s not. It’s as close to a remix as I’ve ever come across in gaming, bringing in new elements, but still reminding me of the original. It’s all different, but if you loved the first Stalker, instead of reinstalling the original and modding it, when this is fixed it’ll be your next install. I guarantee it.

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

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.

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Found: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lost Alpha Mod Coming This Month

Who hasn't longed to see this little chap waddling around?

Like old Stalker tales told around the campfire, a lot of strange and wonderful things were once said to be in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, from naked green dwarves to driveable vehicles and a whole extra city. Several mods have restored various bits of cut content, based on leftover files and leaked dev builds, but Lost Alpha is one of the more ambitious. What began as a project to remake and reintegrate these leftovers has blown up into a new parallel story which includes (new) old content and a bits of the creators’ own design too.

In response to some ruffian leaking a scrappy old build from November, developers Dezowave Group have decided to release Lost Alpha earlier than planned then keep working on it. It’ll arrive on April 26, the 28th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster which started all this.

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I Am Overencumbered: Why Game Inventories Matter

Rob Sherman, author of interactive fiction project Black Crown, asked if he could write about videogame inventories. We were powerless against the result, which pairs a personal journey through the English countryside with the a treatise on the power of possessions and the reasons videogames must do better in representing them.

There was once, and still is, a boy and a man called me, and one summer, two summers ago, I could be found tiptoeing along a main road in southern England, my boots full of dusty blood.

I had only taken them off once in the last day, and at that point I had nearly wilted from the sight and smell. I took my diagnosis on top of a chalk escarpment, a widow’s peak, a combover of woodland. The couple on the bench next to me were after-work drinking from cans, and looking at the wealds rolling away from them. They must have thought that some medieval leper had staggered out of the local hospitalers, holidaying on his stumps.

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Cloned Zone: Survarium Footage

Pretty. So very pretty.
My conflict-o-tron is clicking like that time I discovered a ‘free kitten, smoosh child’ lever. I could have had a free kitten, but then there’s that child. Not even imagining the cutest kittens and the worst children could get me to pull it. Believe me, I tried. Survarium has me in that same sort of headspace: a game from a lot of the Stalker devs set in a zone of alienation! Hooray! But it’ll start out as a free-to-play shooter. There is some footage of a match below, and it looks lovely and lush, but doesn’t play anything like Stalker.
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A Stalk In The Park: Survarium’s Big Map, Plantiest Faction

Good to see the Weirwoods at least made it through the Russian apocalypse. The First Men will be pleased.

If various apocalyptic games, books, and movies have taught me anything, it’s that you always side with the trees. Humans? Nah, they’re old hat. On the way out. This is largely evidenced by the fact that they always find some way to bomb, globally warm, or pandemic themselves to the brink of extinction. That’s not exactly the stuff of a winning team. Trees, though, they wither but never waver. Just a few stray seeds and they’re back in the game. So naturally, Survarium‘s Fringe faction worships them, because what else do you do with an unfeeling entity that doesn’t care if you live or die? See them in action – along with a new, impressively colossal map called Chemical Plant – below.

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Cluck You: Humans Must Answer Out Now

Fly like a robot eagle, through space. Fly right into the futuuuuuuuuure

This career affords me the option to write about space chickens more often than you’d think, but still not as much as I’d like. It’s a real shame, but this – this right now – is a most eggcellent moment. And getting to namedrop STALKER in the same article? Well that’s just the finger lickin’ chicken’s most prized pickins’ (I’m from Texas, so I’m allowed to talk like that). But yes: Humans Must Answer, a shmup by former STALKER devs where you play as genocidal intergalactic avians, is now officially out. There’s a celebratory trailer that tastes remarkably like chicken right after the break.

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Survarium Enters Alpha, Will Expand Over Time

Two men enter, one man leaves. WHO WILL SURVARVE?

To this very day, I continue to be followed around by a gray little rain cloud that weeps heaving droplets over STALKER 2’s demise. I have named it Probably Clinical Depression – after my great grandfather, of course. But one can only linger on the past for so long. I know this. I am a mature adult with grownup feelings, coping mechanisms, and tastes in colorful breakfast cereals. So naturally, I’ve decided to pile all my hopes and desires on a thing that only vaguely resembles my loss, like any well-adjusted person would. Survarium‘s been unabashedly multiplayer since day one, and now it’s officially entered invite-only alpha. Does it at least capture STALKER’s spirit? I can only hope.

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GSC: We Remain The Owner Of The STALKER Brand

Update: GSC responded to our queries, pointing out two rather major items: 1) “BitComposer doesn’t have any rights as to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., except for distributing our game Call of Pripyat on some territories,” a rep clarified. “They may have purchased the rights for the game based on Roadside Picnic, but it has nothing to do with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or its universe.” 2) “GSC is seeking ways to continue the series, and we’re also considering selling out the brand to a decent developer or publisher.” Hear that? Somebody amazing, BUY STALKER.

Original: I always wanted to be able to tell people STALKER will never die, but I’m not sure I wanted it to be like this. First, German publisher bitComposer claimed to have obtained the rights to develop games about Chernobyl’s implausibly bad luck with nuclear power via a book-series-shaped backdoor. When doubt was cast upon the validity of their claim, they confirmed to Jim that the rights are theirs, but hesitated to comment any further as to what that could mean for the series or the sadly defunct STALKER 2. Now, though, the thought-to-be-corpsified remains of original STALKER dev GSC Game World have caught wind of the controversy, and they’re returning fire with fighting words.

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Of Space Chickens And Men: Humans Must Answer

Looks just like STALKER, right?

Was my decision to write this story influenced strongly by the fact that I’d get to include the phrase “space chickens” in a headline? Future scholars will argue over the answer to that very question for generations, and they’ll be wasting their time because duh. But eggstraterrestrials galaxy-faring coop-flyers are – believe it or not – only part of what makes Humans Must Answer intriguing. The other half of that equation, then, is the oh-so-silly shmup’s pedigree. Developer Sumom Games, you see, rose from STALKER 2’s irradiated ashes when GSC Game World ceased to be. So now the team’s making shmups starring “intelligent and dangerous chickens,” naturally. Apparently, though, the storyline – which sees said chickens encounter hostile humans – is “subtle and surprising.” I honestly can’t tell if they’re joking.

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Bethesda Have Rights To STALKER, Claims Galyonkin


RussianUkrainian blogger and marketing man Sergey Galyonkin – who tipped off the closure of the STALKER 2 project earlier this year – has claimed that Bethesda now have the rights to make a publish a STALKER game. They apparently do not have rights to the extended universe. GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich has not sold the brand, but apparently Bethesda could now make a game based on the property with their own technology. We’ll report more on this as we get it.

This follows on from the closure of STALKER 2 earlier in the year, an event which culminated in Ukrainian spin-off studios such as Survarium devs, Vostok.

We’ve contacted Bethesda for a statement. UPDATE: Currently they are saying “No comment.”

Stop Making Scenes: Against Cinema In Games

A game

‘Cinematic’ should rightfully be a dirty word when discussing games and yet Max Payne 3’s marketing wears it proudly, like a sweat-stained vest or an inappropriately jaunty tie. A cutscene is cinematic, every detail and angle just so, no room for accident or deviation, but to aspire to a ‘cinematic’ experience during play is to ignore so much of what makes experiences within a game unique to the form. We run, gun and react in worlds that rely, for the enjoyment they bring, on the accidental and the curious as much as they require adherence to a plan. Here’s to the unexpected, the unplanned and the unforgettable.

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Crysis, Meet STALKER: CryZone – Sector 23


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.

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Idle Musing: Watching The AI Fight

Dead!

Over Christmas I drew up a list of little things about games that have always intrigued, interested, or appealed to me. I’ve been adding to it over the past couple of weeks, and I’ll be writing about these little nuances of gaming in the coming months. These are just idle musings, but I hope you’ll find them to be food for thought. Today’s is about the odd joy in seeing AI entities getting into a fight.

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GSC Enter The Good Old Games Zone

That's no Zone

GSC have announced their arrival at Good Old Games with a bundled package of some of their most fondly remembered titles. Yes, it’s the Cossacks Anthology, containing Cossacks: European Wars and its two expansion packs. Now, I do have very fond memories of Cossacks’ take on the historical RTS, throwing around thousands of units at once, but of course it’s the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games that most people know GSC for. Further titles will be appearing but I’m not even sure S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is old enough to be considered anything other than a GG. The Cossacks Anthology is available here, priced at $5.99. Maybe if everyone in the world buys it twice, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 appears immediately?

Premature Irradiation: STALKER Lost Alpha

A brown place in the zone

Lost Alpha is an ambitious mod for Shadow of Chernobyl that aims to recreate all the content that was cut from the game between alpha and release. New (old) areas and new (old) mutants are the main additions, with the bulk of the mod being recreations of the cut locations. The team are aiming to stick as close to the original versions of the cut content as they can based on known info and it’s all looking mighty impressive. After a long time in development, release is closer than ever, which has of course been true every minute since it was first announced. We should have a date in February. In the meantime, here’s a trailer and a FAQ.

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The Skies Clear for STALKER 2

The screenshot-based 'light in the darkness' metaphors will continue unabated

The Stalker team is extremely happy! Why? Because we are continuing work on Stalker 2 after the holidays.” That makes me extremely happy too. That’s the official line from GSC, although it’s not quite as simple as that. Speaking to Edge, the studio’s Oleg Yavorsky reveals that “We are still in the process of seeking funding to back up the project. We are hopeful things turn out well eventually.” Which still sounds pretty precarious, but given the situation last month was that the studio and the game were flat-out closing down, it’s still a good day for Stalker fans.

Let’s hope they find a funder in time. Anyone got a few million bucks to spare? Notch, are you reading this? Alternatively, have I got any long-lost billionaire uncles who’ve been waiting for an excuse to get in touch with me?