PC Gamer Uk E3 Preview
As promised here is the full text version of the E3 preview in the June issue of PCG UK. I have retyped the whole Preview below, -----------------
The road to success is never a straight one. Stalker, the hugely ambitous shooter that casts us as a lone mercanery in an irradiated, mutant-filled near future Chernobyl, has been in development for five years now. Its christmas 2005 release date came and went with barely a whisper of news.
Rumours began to criculate: the game had been cancelled. The game had been taken away from its ukrainian developer GSC Gameworld by THQ, the publishers. All incorrect, thankfully, but what was the real story? What broken bridges, crossroads and dead ends did Stalker encounter during its time in the wilderness? and more importantly where is it now?
"About a year ago" the refreshingly honest GSC designer Ruslan Didenko told us "once we prepared all the game's components and brought them together, we realised we had to balance it all to acheive what we wanted" Balancing? Could it really be as simple as that?
"It's not the quality of each sperate feature that matter to the gamer" explains Didenko. "They must all work together. Everything has to function in order to captivate the player from the very start, and not let him go until the final credits. Last year, (2005) we were finally able to play the game, from start to finish. We realised which ideas of our core design were working and which were not"
This delay is a good thing. its not every game that gets the time - and consequent funding -to become the best it could possibly be. It speaks volumes for THQ's faith in these relatively inexperienced Urkaine-based developers that delays have been allowed to heap upon delays in the belief that stalker will deliver the goods sooner or later. and it has graced PC Gamer's cover twice despite all these delays. Why?
Try this: Stalker is attempting to redefine what we expect from a first-person shooter. You play as a mercenary, hunting for physics-disrupting artefacts scattered around the area surrounding Chernobyl. Those artefacts are worth a pretty penny to those who find them. Consider that those same trinkets are scattered across 30 square kilometres of irradiated wasteland, and that we're being offered rare freedom in how we find them. We can travel north or south, east or west. We can go where we want, , simply because we like the look of what's over there, not because we're being ordered to.
Try this: Stalker is actively tapping into modern mythology that surrounds the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. Set in 2012, six years after further accidents. Stalker offers us a chance to explore that place, It lets us walk up and touch the reactor responsible for so many deaths to wander through the abandoned city of Pripyat that once housed the workers that kept the plant running. The Stalker team have made repeated research trips into the exclusion zone from thier offices just 80-odd miles from the site, arming themselves with a phtography record of the decaying site.
They've used that to build a near perfect recreation of the 'Zone', including the small towns, rusting vehicle dumps and subs-stations that still litter the landscape today.
Or try this: Stalker is building on a new set of technological standards - from simple graphical effects to deep thinking artificial intelligence. It's about simulating an ecosystem of mutants, woldlife and opposing factions, searching for safety, resources and riches within an open space. Or try this: its a roleplaying game where the statistical baggage has been jettisoned. There's no such thing as experience points - just your skill.
Forcing all these features to behave is what's causing delays. "We're finding intergrating a large number of featuresinto a tight game complicated", Didenko admits. The real problem is teaching the inhabitants of the Zone howe to behave, and to understand the range of thier options. "Truely great AI was a particularly difficult task. We not only have combat AI, which is responsible for the action part, but a more global AI as well that simulates the life of all living creatures in the Zone. We were striving for a qualitative step forward as opposed to scripted AI, and we achieved it"
That 'qualitative step forward' in AI, Planning. Most games fudge (botch) thier AI, through clever use of scripts that tell an NPC what to do in every situation, and phychological tricks (Half-Life marines shouting "Flank Him!" even though they would'nt know how to) This gives an illusion of intelligence. Stalker goes further: human characters are able to assess the situation and plan ahead.
Didenko uses the simple example of a situation where two human characters ultimately want to survive, but have have a knife placed bewtwwn them. "Their inner monologue would be something like, 'I have to survive but I'm confronted by an enemy. I have to get rid of him, but don't have a weapon.' That leads to the bot to think. 'I can flee, but that'll be hard. Or i could kill the opponent, but i don't have a weapon. Oh look. I can see a weapon within reach. I have to pick up the weapon.'" At that point: further behaviour emerges. The bot without the knife must flee, the agressor will give chase.
Now transplant that technology into the game "Say we have a situation where three humans with weapons see two enemies: a beast and another human. The threesome will work out how dangerous their two opponents are, and act accordingly. Two will target the himan with the gun and the third will go for the weaker monster. They know it can onl be dangerous in close combat"
Controlling this system, making sure the entire game doesnt accelerate away from the player, has caused untol pain. The original Stalker design document called for a regular 'blowout'. Every few days, a great shockwave would pulse through the Zone, killing anything that didnt find cover. There was one problem. "We gave up on the original blowout idea, as we hadn't taught rival stalkers how to avoid it. It usually killed off our important characters. The blowout still exists, but we've incoperated it into the storyline."
We point out to him that current Stalker storyline starts on April 16 this year, when something 'odd' happens in the Chernobyl reactor. Surely it's time to change the story? Didenko Jokes "2006 is the hidden begininning of our story. The world will learn what's really happening inside the Zone only be 2012, when the game is eventually released."
don't believe Didenko. Stalker is coming, and soon.
[Additional captions] From time to time, strange trucks appear, filled with dead and dying Stalkers, with thier memories erased." Your goal is to find out how you came to be one of those men, and why you have S.T.A.L.K.E.R tattoed accross your chest.
Retyped by official board member Cold-Fusion , all credit goes to him
The area i bolded really interests me..........
You can either agree with meor be wrong.
12th November 2003
Wow, reading that made me all warm and fuzzy inside.. its getting close to that time now people.
Ya, i really liked that article. The end is very dramatic, i think S.T.A.L.K.E.R. would make an awsome movie or book with the right cast/writer.
the movie would prob come out before the game does.............THQ is really pissing me (and it seems the entire community) off.........
Was not S.T.A.L.K.E.R already a book and later a movie? (see the PCG article a couple months ago "Stalking S.T.A.L.K.E.R")
the game is based of the book, and there was a movie also
I didn't make it!
hmmm that was a good read, very good makes me want to go get the game, but im still not :D
You can either agree with meor be wrong.
12th November 2003
You can't mate, even if you would want to.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.the game is based of the book, and there was a movie also http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079944/
Wow Thanks! Im definatly gonna look for that on Netflix or at a rental store.
Ah! That reminds me that I still have to watch that... I picked it up at Suncoast awhile ago, but never managed to watch it. I must have forgotten. :o