GSC Visit Report Unfortunately, the report does not contain any screenshots. Currently, there is a number of objective reasons for this. But, do not despair! This is only a matter of time. Do not forget that Gameland Award is coming, and at it an exclusive render of the game will be demonstrated. We will try to get a quality version of it. Intro A multitude of rumours and events, statements, and scandalous presumptions given off for facts by some "respected" sites, have lead the large army of the community into the abyss of loss and uncertainty. Really, THQ's policy of silence has reinforced spread of such information. Fans, long deprived of news, have begun to believe these rumours, and trust them simply because of lack of official information, for human nature necessitates belief. The recent "Save S.T.A.L.K.E.R." action has demonstrated all the tension among the fans, tired from silence and endless delays. It is hard to tell now, but it was supported by many fans and comminity sites (www.gameru.net, stalker.myexp.de, www.repki.ccom, www.stalker-world.com.ua, www.stalker.geek.lv, stalker.playhard.ru, www.forum.stalker.pl, www.staerlk-game.se). The reality is such that the publisher, not the developer, decides when to release the game. There is nothing to be done about this. If it is good or bad, it is not for us to decide, but I cannot recall any raw or buggy games published by THQ. If they are good or bad, it is not important, but raw - never. With the goal of getting to know the state of the project and clarifying matters for the community, we set out for the capital of Ukraine - Kiev! Road to Kiev I think everyone knows that our visit was to commence a week ago, but the weather thought otherwise. In the later half of the day, for which the trip was scheduled, a heavy snowfall has begun, and in a matter of a couple of hours has snowed in our city, as well as 80 percent of the suburbs. 10.02.06, Nikolajev. We planned to take the car, so such weather did not suit us. After getting onto the highway, we have determined that it was too unsafe to go above 40 km/h, while the distance to Kiev was 600 km. With regret, we have admitted defeat before forces of nature, and went to the train station for tickets. But we were disappointed once more - there were no tickets. After contacting GSC and telling them of the impossibility of our visit, we have asked if it was possible to move the visit to the next weekend ( February 18 ), and upon receiving a confirmative reply, decided to be more careful. To avoid previous pitfalls, it was decided beforehand to go by train, which is not afraid of ice, wind, or fog. We got the tickets early, and patiently waited for the day of departure. 17.02.06 18-00, Nikolajev. After setting in the direction of the train station, we decided to visit the local supermarket, to buy some provision of real stalkers - sausage, canned food, and, of course, vodka - protection from radiation in the Zone is a must. ;) Although, the brave police force has not supported this initiative. Remembering that the military is stalker's main enemy, we have not given up, and in the end, used the "product" as it was meant to be used. ;) 17.02.06 19-12, Nikolajev. The train has gently swung, and, slowly gaining speed, has carried us towards the precious goal, which seemed so fantastic that everything else seemed like a dream. We are young and sociable people, and so quickly got to know our neighbours, and after talking for a while, went to sleep around 02-00 AM, and so had less than four hours of sleep... 18.02.05 05-25, Kiev outskirts. The conductor, like a kindergarten teacher, ran from wagon to wagon, loudly informing everyone of the closing arrival at the capital. We made an effort to come back to senses, and, noting that everything is actually real, began preparations for stepping on the capital city soil. 18.02.06 05-50, Kiev. The capital city has greeted us with an abundant snowfall, reminding us of the week before. Deciding not to linger in the fresh air, we proceeded into the building of the splendid Kiev train station, where we continued to rest, until the visit to GSC in four hours... S.T.A.L.K.E.R. play-test 18.02.06 10-00, Kiev. Burning from impatience, we come to the building, on one of the floors of which is based one of the leading East European developer teams - GSC Game World. Oleg Yavorksy met us at the doors. After tea, we were invited to carry out our main storyline quest - play-test of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl! After traversing the long corridor of the office, we get to the sacred place - the computer containing a single-player build of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, in DirectX 9.0c, dated February 2006 - the game that is the pinnacle of desires of millions of people. And so, lets go. After watching the splendidly made trailer that shows the beginning of the plot, we see the main menu. The menu was not bad - everything corresponded to the game's atmosphere. After selecting the difficulty level, we submerged into the game... We come to senses in the bunker of the trader, who gives us a quest and also a walkthrough of our PDA's features, which will help us in the game. We won't go into the particulars of the plot, since our goal is to make sure the game really exists and is at the final stages of development, to prove wrong the scandalous rumours and conjectures, as well as to verify that the delay was or was not justified. After personally touching the game, we can say with full responsibility that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. does exist! (Hello, yellow press.) GSC assures that the first quarter of 2007 is the absolute deadline. It is not worth it to judge the delay too critically - the game needs it. The build that we played was quite stable and fully playable, though there are glitches: shadows do not always display correctly, the compass arrow on the map sometimes points in the wrong direction, the game crashed 3-4 times during the test. As the developers assure, the animation was not always at the necessary level of quality, although we have not noticed any such thing. The balance required much attention - the aspect is, in our opinion, the main problem before completion of the project, since sometimes god_mode is simply necessary. Overall, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has justified all our hopes. GSC has not left out any of the promised features and distinguishing traits of the game - A-Life and Smart Terrain are 100% functional. The game did not let us relax even for a minute, keeping up constant tension. While flying across the map, we frequently encountered fights between stalkers and bandits, and between animals. In other words, the world around us lives its own life, regardless of our actions. When we loaded the same location several times and flew over a piece of it, the scene changed each time. Impressive, is it not? The graphics are amazing. All talk of screens been edited in Photoshop can be forgotten as not corresponding to reality. The AI has deeply impressed us. I assume that everyone remembers the recently released F.E.A.R., wonderful enemy AI of which having been one of its main features. So I will tell you, my friends, it is nothing in comparison to AI in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. NPCs wonderfully find their way about the map, using all its features, covering each other. It is hard to describe this. One must see it with own eyes! It feels like playing multiplayer against live people. Now we should tell you about the system of monster behaviour. In the very beginning of our journey we have encountered a pack of blind dogs (2-3 individuals). After whining and circling us for a bit, they decided that it would be too dangerous to attack us, and went away, but literally after a couple of minutes we got attacked by a huge pack, against which we were powerless. This fact shows that monsters have some sort of a behavioural model, and base their decisions on many factors, such as hunger and aggression, our ammunition, and decide whether to attack, retreat, or get support. Sound and voicing are of a high quality. I think, everyone remembers the trailers during which the enemies show deep knowledge of obscene language, which makes the fighting more realistic. :) Many characters are voiced, including the zombies. ;) In conclusion, we would like to note that the locations in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are so large that we have spent about an hour traversing an average-size location. And we did this travelling in a straight line, not deviating, only seldomly halting to chat with stalkers or to shoot monsters. 18.02.06 18-59, Kiev. Happy and tired, we loaded ourselves onto the train, and fell asleep immediately upon getting to our places. Instead of Epilogue Now is the time to sum everything up. After spending four hours in the game, we can say with certainty that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has justified our most daring hopes. And even though some defects and glitches are present, it can already be seen what we will get in the end. The genre revolution is coming! And at the very end we would like to reiterate - delay until the beginning of 2007 is necessary, and will be only good for the project. The time left until then is just enough to perfect the game. We, in turn, wish the team strength and inspiration - after all, they will have to exert a lot of effort in that last push. And so, we should put a round period here. I think that you have found this interesting, and I hope that we have succeeded in dispelling rumours. Believe us, we are very glad that they have not been confirmed, since on the background of complete silence, we were ready to believe anything. At that, let us finish the story, and wish you faith in the project and patience until S.T.AL.K.E.R.'s release. It will not disappoint you. ;) Interview with Oleg Yavorsky (will be expanded in near time): THQ's perspective on delay of STALKER until 2007. Where there talks with THQ about the delay of the project to the first quarter of 2007? What goals does GSC have in these talks, and what has been achieved? We are currently talking about the work remaining to be done on the game. As a matter of fact, the publisher is ready to release the game before 2007, if it is ready by mutual agreement. How many localizations of the game will there be? For release, 5 or 6 - all the "main" languages. What are the recommended system requirements at this time? What kind of machine is required for the picture to be like in the last DX9 trailers? Nothing has changed in this regard. For DX9, a 6800-level card should be sufficient. Will there be optimizations for dual core processors? Yes. When can we expect the SDK? It will be possible to answer more exactly when the programmers finish their main work on correction of defects in the game itself. Will there be an open test, at least for multiplayer? Yes, we are planning to. What new things does the multiplayer mode have? Some new elements, like RPG, but more about this later. More on the Firelake group. This is my musical collective, my life outside of work. We are currently updating our site, and are planning to record a new quality album in spring. I can keep you informed, if you want to know. :) A-Life system. What's new? We have not added anything new lately. It would be better to tell what new things it introduces into the game. I can say that it is implemented like we initially wanted. It organically introduces into the game an element of randomness and additional interest. Are GSC and THQ planning to make a DirectX 10 version? Not yet. More details on missions, their number, and about the map, or more exactly, the locations, sizes of the maps (map). Nothing has changed in this respect. The average map size is 2 sq. km. Will transition between locations be quick, as in GTA, or slow, as in Postal-2? The system will be like in Postal-2, but the levels are much larger, so it should not be annoying. More about the situation with micromanagement regarding transportation. After internal testing we have decided to simplify the driving system, so that the player is not bothered with superfluous micromanagement. Maybe we do not have enough racing fans, or maybe we used to have too complex and tricky a system.
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