After being in development for several years, GSC GameWorld and THQ finally have their first person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernoby set for release in March. Last summer we did a Q&A with GSC GameWorld's PR head Oleg Yavorsky and now with the game close to completion we decided to get an update from him about S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
FiringSquad: First, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is finally in the closing stages. There were some rumors of some problems during the game's development. Can you shed some light as to the issues that crept up in the years since the game was first announced?
Oleg Yavorsky: It isnít easy to single out specific issues, and a lot is tough to implement in such a massive project. It would be just to say that the toughest feature to do was AI, but despite the difficulties, we managed to make it lively and dynamic.
I believe many players will be impressed, primarily by the lively AI. On top of that, it was far from trivial to implement the A-life. This particular system had never been done in any game before, which meant that we had to take the path of inventors, and such a path is never easy. Now and then it seemed to us the task is simply unsolvable. Nevertheless, we coped with it.
The A-life controls a large number of characters in the zone, their moving around, and their life cycle: Stalkers go accomplishing tasks; Factions will war with each other. The A-life creates both background events and multitude of secondary quests.
Another tough task was to combine the story content and the A-life. The story events are necessarily the part of the game the player needs to see, while the A-life is a dynamic system which is constantly on the move, both visible and invisible. In the long run, we found a comfortable solution when the story events are placed within the A-life, but these places are inaccessible to the A-life until the player has interacted with it. As soon as the player has passed the story event the area opens up to the A-life. Hence, when you are back on the level for the next time, every time there will be new A-life content and new secondary tasks.
FiringSquad: Some people still might feel that setting a game around the city Chernobyl is risky due to the real nuclear disaster. Why use the real city as the setting for the game rather than make it a fictional setting?
Oleg Yavorsky: We treat the Chernobyl tragedy very carefully and we went back and forth for a long time before setting the game there, as many may be offended by carelessly playing with othersí tragedies. It was only after we made sure that we were able to deliver the right mood of the Chernobyl tragedy, without hurting someone, after we understood that we can make a warning game, a game bearing traces of the true accident which consequences we all observe, that we cautiously used the Chernobyl zone in the game.
FiringSquad: With Vista and DirectX10 now launched, some people are wondering if the game will have a Vista DirectX10 upgrade. Can you give us any specific word on any plans for an DirectX10 version and if so what will be included?
Oleg Yavorsky: At the point when the DX10 software and hardware tools became available we already had our feature list closed. Itís impossible to keep working on the code until the very last moment. At some point you have to stop to do only testing and optimization.
We certainly plan the full DX10 support in our next products. I canít tell at this point whether thereís going to be a DX10 patch for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. We havenít decided yet. Even if we do the direct porting of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.ís code, without supporting the new features, the boost will equal about 10%. The question of DX10 hardware install base remains open too at this point.
FiringSquad: There hasn't been much word on a demo for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. yet. Are there any plans to release one and if so what will it contain?
Oleg Yavorsky: We plan to launch a multiplayer demo of the game shortly before the release. Details will be known a bit later. At the moment weíre holding the beta trial of the game. Please, keep your eye on the gameís web-site for further announcements.