After an abrupt collapse in 2010, it would seem that STALKER developer GSC Game World is back. At least, there are people saying it’s back, and doing interviews to that effect. But I’ve long since abandoned any illusions that reality will influence the state of things in Ukrainian game development.
2007 seems so long ago. That was the year THQ and GSC Game World finally released the absurdly ambitious open-world shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. It surprised us by being phenomenal. Broken, incoherent, and phenomenal. Released after six years of troubled development, it was a heavily redacted copy of the original vision – more than 50% of the game was cut – but even in its mangled state it was a landmark in the “future of shooters is RPGs” concept. To this day nothing has quite replicated the feel of your first time. And throughout it all rumors persisted, about the STALKER that they’d intended.
Welcome to the Zone that was. Welcome back, to a place you’ve never quite been.
Here’s the first article in a planned few-parter on shooters. Think of it as a preamble. To keep my ambition in check for this first installment, I’ll just talk about two shooters in particular that have piqued my interest.
So, last I heard, STALKER developer GSC Game World had shut down. Most employees moved on to create a new studio, Vostok Games, which is working on a STALKER-like online shooter called Survarium. GSC had been developing STALKER 2 when the company’s owner, Sergey Grigorovich, abruptly shut the place down. No official reason was ever given.
Then, what appears in my inbox yesterday? A curt, almost bitchy press release about the STALKER intellectual property.
Former GSC Game World marketing director and rumor-guy Sergey Galyonkin, the fellow who broke the news of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developer’s collapse a few months ago, has a new juicy rumor for us: that Bethesda Softworks, of Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3 fame, has acquired rights to publish another game in the STALKER franchise. Assuming the rumor’s true at all, it should be noted that Bethsoft hasn’t picked up ownership of STALKER IP. That, apparently, still belongs to former GSC honcho Sergei Grigorovich, the fellow who abruptly shut down the Ukrainian developer in the first place.
Franchise or publication rights, it still seems like an odd choice for Bethsoft to pick up, y’know?
GSC Game World is closed, officially. 1C’s Sergey Galyonkin offers more info here, if you can stand the piteous Google translation. Truly a sad day. Good luck to all of GSC’s former employees.
The article below represents months of work and appears in Well Played 2.0, a game studies textbook published by Carnegie-Mellon University under the guidance of Professor (and Celebrity Guest Editor) Drew Davidson.
Each chapter of Well Played discusses a single game or franchise, with both meanings of the well-played phrase in mind: the game must be well played as a book is well-read, and it must provide something to better the medium as a whole. Beyond that, the analytical expectations are dependent on the writer. My chapter was about the STALKER franchise, which I know and love well.
I really wanted to do a “director’s cut” version of the article for Tap, including self-made, narrated gameplay videos and the like, but a recent computer crash has eaten up all my STALKER saves. It’d just take too much time to put a project like that together. Instead please accept the odd embedded YouTube video, plus some additional pix and multimedia that don’t appear in the book.
This is a textbook chapter, not a blog post. As such it’s even longer, boringer, and more pedantic than I usually write. It even has footnotes. Enjoy!
There’s, uh… There’s gonna be a STALKER TV show.
I certainly doubt that GSC will attempt to develop another proprietary engine. — Me, April 5, 2010 That’s the kind of wisdoms you can expect from yours truly, my friends: completely inaccurate ones. Word comes across the vines of grapes that Ukrainian developer GSC Game World is hard at work on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 with plans for a 2012 release, and will – contrary to all sanity, logic, and sense – be developing a new engine …
During a conversation over one particular weekend, our beloved fellow columnist Gregg B announced to me that he had, during one particular Demon’s Souls boss encounter, utilized an artificial intelligence (A.I.) glitch to his advantage. Shame on you brother I said, without inquiring for the full story. However, it did get me thinking about A.I. within videogames…
Review by Steerpike S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat Developer GSC Game World Publisher BitComposer (U.S.); Cenega (Europe) Released Feb 3, 2010 (U.S.); Oct 2, 2009 (CIS) Available for Windows Time Played Finished Verdict: 5/5 Gold Star “Call of Pripyat isn’t perfect either; but as a third-generation evolution of an idea so blindingly ambitious, it sure as hell doesn’t disappoint.“
So Oles Shishkovtsov, CTO of 4A Games – the new Ukrainian developer behind the upcoming Metro 2033 – has reiterated his insistence that S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s (proprietary) X-Ray engine is not being used, in whole or in part, on Metro 2033. Of course, Shishkovtsov created the X-Ray engine, and left GSC Game World just before the first STALKER game shipped. And I hate to say it, but Metro 2033 looks a lot like STALKER. A lot. Not …
Meet our new mascot. This Snork is now officially owned and branded by Tap-Repeatedly, and will represent us at several major functions in the coming months. It was a rigorous interview process, but ultimately this Snork – Edgar – won out over Zombie #14 from Deadly Shadows’ Shalebridge Cradle mission. None of the above is true. Actually, this Snork graces our front page because today is a day of days, my friends: it is STALKER: …
1UP illuminates us this morning with a review of Borderlands, Gearbox’s anticipated open-world shooter whose chief claim to fame is the procedurally generated weaponry that literally allows for something like twelve million firearm variants. I bet you can’t guess what score they gave it.
I know, I know, I am perhaps a little over-enthusiastic about STALKER and its follow-up. Flawed though they were, both games captured atmosphere like essentially no other, and as such I am enthusiastic over the looming release of GSC Game World’s latest Chernobyl-drivern installment, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat. According to GSC, the team listened carefully to the complaints about Clear Sky, and have put some degree of effort into correcting them.