Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alec Meer)
Discounts on the STALKER trilogy (which seems like the wrong way to categorise the series somehow, but never mind) tend to wheel around pretty often, but this is particularly good deal for the whole set. There a certain games which are buried deep in RPS’ DNA, and the semi-open world, post apocalyptic survival/horror/action STALKER is one of them. If you haven’t played them, you are
everything that’s wrong with humanity missing out some of the most ambitious and atmospheric shooters of all time. … [visit site to read more]
Dec 22, 2014
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alice O'Connor)
Y’know GSC Game World? Oh, you do! The Ukrainian studio behind spookyhard FPS series S.T.A.L.K.E.R.? Oh, you must! You remember – they seemed to close in 2011 but held on a bit longer, still working on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 for a few months then cancelling it, and since only resurfaced to weigh in on confusing brand rights issues. See, I knew you knew them. Well, they’re back, baby! Boom! And other exciting onomatopoeia. They’ve announced a return to active game-making, and chatted a little about what went down, including about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s fate.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alec Meer)
See this here? This is a bargepole. It is, I would say, approximately ten feet long. What I’m doing with this bargepole is very deliberately not touching something with it. Even if said bargepole were a hundred feet long, I would still be very deliberately not touching something with it. That something is a crowdfunding attempt for a game called ‘STALKER Apocalypse.’ The people making it previously tried to make a game called Areal.
Yeah, the Areal that got abruptly pulled down from Kickstarter because it made all kinds of dodgy promises about being a spiritual S.T.A.L.K.E.R. sequel. “Stalker is just a word”, apparently. Uh. … [visit site to read more]
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alec Meer)
I don’t want to get into any speculation of my own about what’s genuine and who has the right to do what in terms of STALKER’s heritage right now. Let’s just look at the brief in-game footage devs West-Games have finally pumped out to support their slow-moving Kickstarter, and see how we feel then.
The Kickstarter for the Stalker "spiritual successor" Areal looked like a sure-fire train wreck after it launched, as serious questions about its legitimacy and the bona fides of the team behind it seemed almost certain to bring it down. Yet it continues to persevere, and today the former lead designer of Vostok Games' Survarium, who also worked as a designer on the original Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, posted a video message confirming that he's joined the West Games development team.
Alexey Sytyanov actually hooked up with West Games as a consultant last week, but today the studio announced that he's now joined up full time as a producer. In a Kickstarter update, Sytyanov compared the negativity surrounding Areal to the early days of Stalker, when GSC Game World faced criticism for its lack of experience. "What happened was that we pushed through that and made an awesome cult hit video game series," he wrote.
Sytyanov hasn't been involved in the Survarium project for about a year, according to Vostok Games, which said he and the studio parted ways over creative differences. But his presence nonetheless brings some much-needed credibility to Areal and West Games, whose claims of being composed of the "core people" behind Stalker were called into question by Vostok and others. West Games hasn't responded to requests for comment and the whole thing still looks a little bit dicey, but it's also seems increasingly possible that much of the furor over Areal was simply the result of extremely poor communication.
Sadly, Sytyanov's video message doesn't show us anything new; it's just him talking for a few minutes and then a few shots of concept art we've already seen. Meanwhile, the Areal Kickstarter continues to slowly grind toward success: With 15 days left on the clock, it stands at just shy of $35,000 on a $50,000 goal.
Jun 26, 2014
The team behind the Stalker-inspired Areal said in a recent Kickstarter update that it has worked things out with Vostok Games and cleared up all the complaints against it. But a Vostok representative says that's not really what happened at all, and that it's been forced to let the matter drop because it can't actually do anything about it.
I was excited for Areal when the Kickstarter went live a couple days ago, especially since the Kickstarter claims the game is being developed by "the core people that developed the Stalker series" and that most of the West Games team is in fact "composed of former senior GSC Game World staff members." But it didn't take long for that excitement to turn to suspicion.
Vostok Games, which emerged from the ruins of GSC Game World following the cancellation of Stalker 2 and has spent the last couple of years working on Survarium, very quickly spoke out against those claims. It suggested that West Games employees had only been peripherally involved in Stalker, and also complained that the Areal Kickstarter makes extensive use of Stalker assets and video without permission or even acknowledgement. The pitch video, for instance, is full of gameplay action lifted directly from the Stalker games, but the narrator strongly implies that it's taken from Areal.
It attracted enough negative attention that West Games posted an "Addressing Vostok Games" Kickstarter update yesterday. "We have contacted Vostok Games about their supposed claim that we are fraudulent," it says. "They say that they have no relation to that claim and have since deleted the forum topic wherein a moderator accused us of being fake." In a "mini-update" posted today, it repeated the claim that the complaints are coming from "a former Stalker modder and current creator of a similar post-apocalyptic Kickstarter" who is bent on causing grief for Areal.
But Vostok Games PR Manager Joe Mullin tells PC Gamer that while Vostok has spoken to West Games, it was to protest its claim of being "core developers of Stalker" and deceptive use of promotional materials from the game. The matter has been "sorted out," he explained, but only because there's nothing else Vostok can do.
"As Vostok Games does not own the Stalker IP we can't (ourselves) take any kind of legal action. That is up to the owner of the rights, GSC," Mullin told us. "Apart from that, if Eugene Kim from West Games decides to carry on with his false claims, that is his choice. But we feel we have made it clear that the public should think twice before donating any money."
It does look very dodgy. The Kickstarter makes big promises but comes to the table with nothing but some concept art and a pile of old Stalker assets, and the $50,000 goal is suspiciously low, especially for a multi-platform next-gen release. (West Games says Areal is being developed for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U along with the PC.) And finally, there's the question of lead game designer Peter Dushynskyi, whose photo on the Kickstarter page is actually a Shutterstock image of "a young man standing on a dark background." Yet for all that, it's also enjoying some success, having raised nearly $32,000 of its goal at the time of writing.
We've reached out to West Games for further information.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alice O'Connor)
If you took a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. design document and replaced the words “Chernobyl disaster” with “weird meteorite,” you wouldn’t be far off from Areal. Think post-apocalyptic open world survival FPS with non-linear missions, populated by simulated life and mutants, and fizzing with dangerous anomalies. That sounds pretty enticing in itself, but developers West Games also have a few former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. folks working on the game, including the series’ lead designer.
As you might guess, it’s on Kickstarter. However, West Games don’t have much to show of Areal at this point. Their pitch relies heavily upon S.T.A.L.K.E.R. footage and pre-existing artwork not made for the game (some even made for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.). Given that they’re only looking for $50,000 ( 30,000)–nowhere near enough to realise such ambitious ideas–it’s a mite concerning.
Areal is a post-apocalyptic, open-world shooter that claims to be the "definitive spiritual successor to the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series". Another claim: that its creators, West Games, are a team mostly "composed of former senior GSC Game World staff members". It's currently on Kickstarter, and it's looking for $50,000.
That's the basic starting point, but things get a lot more complicated. Vostok Games a band of former GSC Game World staff and creators of the STALKER-inspired MMO Survarium have taken umbrage to these statements, saying that West Games are fraudulently promoting themselves as core STALKER developers.
"We have contacted GSC s lawyers regarding this fraudulent claim of being the developers of Stalker and Metro Last Light," wrote Vostok's Joe Mullin on a now-deleted forum thread. "Please do all you can do ensure people know these claims are false."
Vostok marketing manager Oleg Yavorsky further expanded on their objections in a statement made to VG247.
"So that you understand, over the years of development of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and then Metro series, there have been literally hundreds of people involved in working on various bits and pieces, starting from beta-testers up to modellers responsible for certain weapon models.
"Many people came to the studio to work for a few months just for the sake of adding 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R. development' to their portfolio. Frequently they claimed afterwards to be the core developers behind the game (you wouldn t know anyway, right?).
"Yet, my biggest concern is that West Games are using the footage and assets of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and representing them as their own, which is not only illegal, but simply just not right. I guess it s all made for the sake of getting extra publicity (which unfortunately works), but guys on Kickstarter should probably pay attention."
West Games have published their own statement. In a Kickstarter update, founder Eugene Kim says:
"As most of you know, a studio called GSC game world existed until 2011 and they were responsible for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. After GSC dissolved, 2 new studios formed that consisted of former S.T.AL.K.E.R. employees: Vostok Games and 4A games. In 2013, a new company formed called West games, which consists of many former senior staff members from the now dissolved GSC Game World.
"Since then we've expanded (check out the Our Core Team section) and have been working on a project that you all know as Areal. Areal is based on a book of the same name written by Tarmashev (tarmashev.com). And now we're at present day and handling the launch of our Kickstarter (Ievgeniia and our PR guys have been a big help with that)."
"Now that our mini history lesson is out of the way, we can move on to other things! Regarding in-game footage, we have worked on various engines to thoroughly examine as well as learn about how different technologies and resources work. This development process is what we tried to convey in our trailer. Doing this allows us to maximize frame-rate and graphical fidelity in our game."
It's a complicated issue. Some of the concept art on the Kickstarter page appears to be from members of the West Games team, but was created specifically for STALKER. That makes it tricky to discern what the legal ramifications of their use might be.
More than that though, West Games aren't exactly clear about the footage shown in their Kickstarter video. Footage from STALKER is shown, but isn't clearly labelled as such. And much of what the team show is now suggested to be past work on "various engines". While it's not unusual for developers to turn to Kickstarter in the concept stage, it's in their interest to be honest with the people who plan to support them.
Like a lot of you (I'm guessing), I've never even tried the multiplayer modes in the terrific Stalker series, but it's good to know that I'll be able to if I ever get the itch. GSC Gameworld's post-apocalyptic horror shooter games are the latest to be rescued from GameSpy oblivion, via automagical Steam patches, or if you don't own the games on Steam, one equally magical manual multi-patch for all three games. This will switch the multiplayer servers over from GameSpy to GSC Gameworld's own, slightly less risky ones (it's not entirely clear who's running them, as GSC was dissolved in 2011).
If you've accrued an impressive set of statistics in Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky or Call of Pripyat, those won't be saved, but if the post-apocalypse (and more destructively, the decline of GameSpy) has taught us anything, it's that nothing lasts forever, not even your kill-death ratio.
Previously on GameSpyWatch: Dawn of War, Battlefield 2/1942, Halo: Combat Evolved, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and various Civs and Borderlandses' multiplayer modes have all been saved. Crysis and Crysis 2's multiplayer shenanigans have not.
Have a read of Ian Birnbaum's recent GameSpy article to see the full scale of the problem, and to meet the players fighting to keep the games alive.
The GameSpy servers were shut down yesterday.
One of the pleasant parts of writing about games is just meeting the people who share your weird career. I went to a media dinner at PAX East this year and had the chance to get to know some editors that I hadn t met before. The guy sitting next to me happened to be primarily a console gamer, but that actually ended up being a neat opportunity for us to have a kind of cultural exchange. I got to learn about the state of Kinect games and Halo, and he got to hear me explain the appeal of Arma, a game that inspired me to memorize the NATO alphabet.
I took his business card and emailed him a few of my favorite Arma videos by Dslyecxi and CHKilroy later that night, hoping they would give him a sense of the beautiful coordination that s possible in a systems-driven, moddable, massive-scale multiplayer game. A few days after PAX East, I got a wonderful reply our conversation and the videos I d passed along had inspired him to build his first PC in 15 years.
I love being a PC evangelist. With my colleague s note, though, came a tough question: What are the three PC-only games I missed in the last 15 years that I absolutely have to play?
Daunting, right? These are the games I recommended, pasted verbatim from our email exchange:
From: Evan Lahti
Sent: Tuesday, May 5, 2014 4:01 PM
To: James Videogames
Subject: Re: ARMA WONDERS
Late follow-up here, but whoa, how exciting! Let me know if you need a hand with the build. Happy to pitch in or mail along one of our PC building issues.
Glad to hear you re willing to dig through some of PC gaming s wondrous past. Give GOG.com a gander for most of that. Fallout 2 is a must; building a grounded, variously amoral character in that setting holds up well. Deus Ex demands a bit of modding to make comfortably modern, though there are some great guides out there. TLJ is a wonder.
But man, this is a dream question. It s the gaming editor s equivalent of being visited by an alien, then asked to provide the three products of humanity they re most proud of. The approach I ve taken here is to suggest three games that are deeply representative of what there is to love about PC gaming as it exists right now. I don t know if I can say that these are absolutely, individually the best games ever made and I remember you mentioning not being particularly interested in MOBAs, so I ll omit those but as a group I think that these games form some good kindling for what ll hopefully be a passionate relationship with PC gaming going forward.
Play these games:
Civ is two things to me: the best board game in the world (that you can happen to play alone) and history, reverently presented in an elegant, entertaining form. The care with which Firaxis animates its tiny, tiled Earth and digital figurines does so much to make its subject matter vibrant. Beyond that, it s a wonderfully arranged set of rules that sets up meaningful decisions around how you develop your civilization. You have to zero-in on short-term and long-term goals while bumping up against the cultural, political, and territorial ambitions of the other civs in your world; it s one of the few experiences where I can drop a dozen-some hours into a game, lose, and enthusiastically start a new game the next second, certain in my new, improved plan to achieve a science victory.
My best advice, if you aren t big on history, would be to dig up a mod for whatever your favorite fandom might be LOTR, Game of Thrones, The Elder Scrolls Avatar: The Last Airbender? A weird amalgamation of Blizzard properties? My Little Pony? I don t know what you want. Perhaps your lifelong dream was to found a civilization dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Play as the Geth for all I care.
A lot of the publishing friction that used to exist for individual and small game creators has been removed over the past few years, and it s a trend that s invited more weird, thoughtful, emotional narrative and systems-driven games. Papers, Please is my favorite from the past year; Lucas Pope takes a depressing setting (a fictionalized stand-in for a post-USSR Europe) and an uncomfortable subject (poverty and totalitarianism) and molds it into dystopian Oregon Trail told through rubber stamps and passport photos.
You play an immigration checkpoint officer, reporting into work each day to check over documents for errors. Each person processed correctly earns you money that goes towards maintaining the survival of your family (expressed as an end-of-day score screen where you pay to heat your squalid apartment, for example), but there s only so much time in each day to earn this money, so there s a real pressure to analyze quickly. Without spoiling anything the mundanity of all that is undercut by a series of moral decisions you have to make; in my review, I described it as the intersection of efficiency and intrigue. The need to focus on paperwork to detect forgeries while weighing your conscience and the need to collect your meager paycheck to support your family. The confluence of all that is brilliant. Another quote: A paperwork sim might sound mundane, but spotting a mislabeled gender or a forged stamp produces real pride, and Papers, Please keeps boredom at bay by gradually introducing incentives for bending or breaking the rules.
When you re done, do Kentucky Route Zero, The Castle Doctrine, The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and The Swapper.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat + the CoP Complete mod
Despite being our designated shooter guy, I made the mistake of waiting years to try STALKER. Pripyat is the third expansion, and the Complete mod dials up the production quality of the game s skyboxes, textures, and other assets to modern standards without altering the story or gameplay. Complete is what I d recommend for a first playthrough, but feel free to give Misery a look if you re feeling especially masochistic.
Other than Arma, and with FEAR as a close second, the most memorable firefights I ve had in video games have been in STALKER. Imagine fighting on open terrain, in the dark, with limited ammo, against an unknown number of bandits that are crawling around in some beat-up, abandoned factory. Pripyat prompts you to play with a ton of spontaneity, and that scrappy quality of its firefights distinguishes it from anything else in gaming. The closest approximation might be clearing out a dangerous, random bandit camp in Skyrim, but that s always felt more like an exercise in picking apart an outpost at my own pace rather than being forced to fight on the fly.
STALKER isn't afraid to leave itself unexplained, and you realize how rare the experience of encountering enemies with zero introduction to how they operate is in modern gaming. In other words, without the heavy-handed explanation and focus-tested tutorialization you d get from many Western shooters. That doesn t mean STALKER is tough per se I d describe it more as a game that trusts you enough to feel around in its (haunted, radioactive) world with your arms extended, make mistakes, and learn through that experience. This approach to design is also part of the DNA of DayZ and Arma. Have fun fighting invisible radioactive monstrosities in swamps during a lightning storm!
Mechanically, too, STALKER mixes fidelity with playability in some nice ways; guns degrade and require specific types of ammunition, but every rifle and pistol feels as comfortable as a Call of Duty weapon.
FTL, the pinnacle of the current roguelike craze. I suppose it s out on iPad, too.
Skyrim + mods, most of which are single-click installs these days through Steam Workshop (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/browse/?appid=72850&browsesort=toprated)
Something like Skyrim Unbound is especially good for a second playthrough, as it makes how you enter the world selectable from the outset. You can cut the Dragonborn aspect of the game out completely I wanted to play as a completely martial, magicless atheist, so this was especially helpful.
Editor-in-Chief, PC GAMER
From: James Videogames
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:01 AM
To: Evan Lahti
Subject: Re: ARMA WONDERS
Great catching dinner with you too, man. It's a rare treat to pick someone's brain who's deeply ensconced in granular PC gaming. I know folks who experiment with ArmA and EVE Online, etc. but no one who plays seriously. These videos are fascinating especially the half hour one. I don't necessarily know if I'm tempted to play now, but it's certainly reinforced my fascination.
Your selection of highlights did, however, inspire me to purchase components to build my very first PC since ye olde Packard Bell I had back in '97. Pretty excited about it to be honest. My question for you: What are the three PC-only games I missed in the last 15 years that I absolutely have to play? Archaic mechanics and aesthetics don't frighten me, so don't hold back. Fallout 2, The Longest Journey, and Deus Ex are already at the top of my list.
On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 10:55 PM, Evan Lahti wrote:
Hey! Great having dinner with you. Here's a few Arma videos that'll give you a sense of why folks get into it:
Some gritty, tough, guerrilla-style PvP
A sizzle reel of moments
A longer video that shows a large-scale infantry battle with a bunch of new (but relatively experienced) players, basically like a training mission for recruits against AI