'S.T.A.L.K.E.R.' Devs are Back in Business

Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl

When GSC Game World closed its doors, the PC gaming world lost a promising studio. The Ukrainian developer created the STALKER series, and the initial game, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, gained a cult following. Set in an alternative reality where Chernobyl suffered a second nuclear disaster, STALKER was praised for its immersive game world, claustrophobic atmosphere, and gameplay that was more than a little unforgiving.

GSC followed up on Shadow of Chernobyl's success with the prequel STALKER: Clear Sky, as well as a sequel called STALKER: Call of Pripyat. The developer was in the process of creating another sequel, STALKER 2, when the studio suddenly cancelled the game and shut down operations. Some of the remnants of the studio formed Vostok Games from the ashes, but the rights to STALKER became stuck in a quagmire. Amid rumors that Bethesda would secure the rights, the license allegedly fell into the hands of publisher BitComposer.

Although more games from the Roadside Picnic-inspired series were promised from BitComposer, no more STALKER games appeared, with contradictory claims from various parties over who truly owned the STALKER rights. Now, it looks like GSC Game World is reopening. In an interview with Games Industry, GSC original team member Valentine Yeltyshev reveals that the developer is back in action with a brand new title - and sheds some light on why the studio originally closed.

Stalker Devs Back In Business

In the interview, Yeltyshev explains that the reason for the cancellation of STALKER 2 and the closure of GSC was not just a financial one. Instead, the decision was down to a number of factors - including issues with the STALKER sequel itself. Yeltyshev reveals that GSC was "not ready to complete the game at the level of quality" that was required, due to personnel restraints. Rather than Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat, STALKER 2 required building from the ground up.

Unfortunately, publishers were only interested in funding the title when an Alpha-stage prototype could be seen. As it stood, GSC was still very early in development, with "some levels, areas of the zone, some characters," and a new engine created. The sequel was also set to be released for Xbox 360, with plans to bring it to PlayStation. Could STALKER 2 still happen? Yeltyshev did state that GSC has "all the assets, materials and engine."

West Games, a developer who was working on a Flash-based STALKER game at the time of GSC's demise, has made a claim to the asset and is working on a spiritual successor called STALKER Apocalypse. Yeltyshev refutes the developer's claim to the right to use the STALKER name. "We would definitely win the legal action against them," said Yeltyshev. West Games was previously working on a Kickstarter-funded STALKER-alike called Areal, but funding was suspended after the project broke Kickstarter's terms and conditions.

It doesn't sound like the newly reopened GSC is looking back at STALKER, however. The developer is working on a brand new, unannounced game. According to Yeltyshev, the title is going to be traditional, with GSC unlikely to try a free-to-play or mobile business model any time soon. Instead, GSC is looking to appeal to their old fans. "The market we're in is quite old-fashioned," said Yeltyshev. "So we're making an old-fashioned, full price game, we think our audience will be happy about that."

Finally, Yeltyshev was asked about whether GSC would look to move its offices away from Ukraine. Fellow Ukrainian developer 4A Games, who formed out of GSC prior to the studio's demise and resurrection, opened a new headquarters in Malta, citing a need to be closer centred to the EU. Yeltyshev, however, says that GSC has no intention of relocating. "No! We're staying here," said Yeltyshev. "It's a hard time for Ukraine, but that's a good time to be proud to be Ukrainian." Here's hoping the developer creates a title that lives up to the harsh standards of the STALKER series.

Source: Games Industry

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