PC Gamer
Call of Pripyat thumb


It seems to be the day for companies making snide shots across the bow through official statements. In light of yesterday's rather confusing announcement from bitComposer that they had acquired the rights to "the acclaimed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand from Boris Natanovich Strygatsky ," GSC Game Worlds have posted on their website to say that actually, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. belongs to them.

Here's their statement in full:

"In view of the rumors appearing in press, we find it necessary to inform that GSC Game World and Sergey Grigorovich remain to be the sole owners of all the intellectual property rights to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game series and the brand overall, including all the trademarks, the game universe, the technology etc. This can be easily verified with the trademark services online.

"From time to time news on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand purchase by this or that company appear over the Internet. We relate such a keen interest in the brand to its exceptional popularity. Even the purchase of rights to create a “Roadside picnic” book-based game by a small publisher is presented as the continuation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise. We have doubts regarding the mentioned product by bitComposer (the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat on some territories), since the latter has significant debts in terms of fulfilling the obligations under the existing contract between our companies."

Leaving aside the dig about bitComposer's debts, what's going on? The confusion seems to have arisen from bitComposer's original press release, and their use of the annoyingly acronymised S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. That specific punctuated quirk is distinct to GSC's series, and doesn't appear in the film/book/whatever, the rights to which are presumably in possession of the estate of Boris Strugatsky.

Which would mean the following:


GSC, specifically Sergei Grigorovich, still have ownership of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. As stated, the trademark is still active in his name.
bitComposer have actually obtained the rights to make a game based on Stalker, the non-punctuated film based on Strugatsky's book, Roadside Picnic, which while also based in the Zone, would be free of any changes distinct to the GSC games.


Confusing, but it's the most sensible reading of bitComposer's obfuscating press release and GSC's counter. We've reached out to bitComposer for a comment on GSC's clarification.
Shacknews - Steve Watts

BitComposer Games, the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in the US and Europe, had claimed yesterday it had acquired the license to the franchise and was planning new games. That didn't sit well with developer GSC Game World, which claims it holds the trademark to the games.

In an email sent to Gamasutra, Eugene Kuchma of GSC Game World noted that the trademark filings still show GSC's CEO in possession of the license. "From time to time news on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand purchase by this or that company appear over the Internet," read an e-mail from Kuchma. "We have doubts regarding the mentioned product by BitComposer (the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in some territories), since the latter has significant debts in terms of fulfilling the obligations under the existing contract between our companies."

BitComposer defended its position, saying: "We hold the license for PC and video games from the Strugatsky brothers," he said. He reiterated, "The owner of the license was the Strugatsky brothers. As far as we know, GSC never had the license for S.T.A.L.K.E.R."

However, a marketing director at the Russian games company Nival may have discovered another wrinkle that complicates matters. BitComposer may have actually bought the rights to the novel universe, not the game franchise rights themselves. That would give them the ability to make something similar to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., even if they couldn't use the name.

PC Gamer
38 Stalker Call of Pripyat


For a while there, it seemed as if we'd seen the last of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and its pesky punctuation. Since STALKER 2's cancellation at GSC, with employees from the developer forming Vostok Games and turning their attentions to the similarly post-apocalyptic Survarium, the Zone seemed forever closed. Now, though, word comes through from bitComposer Games that they've obtained the STALKER license for further titles in the franchise.

"bitComposer Entertainment AG has acquired the exclusive worldwide rights for future video game adaptations of the acclaimed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand from Boris Natanovich Strygatsky," states the press release, curiously misspelling Boris Strugatsky's name.

"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a reputable brand with a long history of success. To date, the series has sold many millions of units worldwide. Naturally, we'd like to tap into the success of this series, and we see a great deal of potential for the future."

BitComposer are already familiar with the series, having handled European publishing for STALKER: Call of Pripryat. They also published this year's Jagged Alliance remake, Back in Action.

The studio claims they will be releasing further details "shortly".

UPDATE: RPS have spoken to bitComposer, who slightly clarify what's going on. The suggestion is that the rights are specifically for game adaptations of Strugatsky's Stalker, presumably meaning the film/book based on Roadside Picnic, a book also by Strugatsky. That would mean that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games were still owned by former GSC head Sergei Grigorovich, despite bitComposer specifically using those games' acronym affectation in their press release.
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled, former members of developer GSC Game World founded Vostok Games to continue the ideals of the open-world survival shooter series with Survarium. As for the actual S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand, though, it wasn't quite clear what was happening. Shady rumours said Skyrim developer Bethesda was sniffing around, but publisher bitComposer today announced that it has grabbed the games license and plans to make more S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a reputable brand with a long history of success. To date, the series has sold many millions of units worldwide," bitComposer executive Wolfgang Duhr said in today's announcement. "Naturally, we'd like to tap into the success of this series, and we see a great deal of potential for the future."

bitComposer published the third and almost final S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, Call of Pripyat (pictured above), in Europe. Who exactly it'll draft to develop the new games is a mystery for now. One might hope it'll find its way back to Vostok, who established its own new setting in Survarium after failing to secure the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game rights.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is based upon the sci-fi novel 'Roadside Picnic' by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which was also the inspiration for the 1979 Russian movie Stalker.

PC Gamer
Nosferatu


Welcome! I am your (g)host, Craig FEARSOME, beckoning you in to this eldritch gathering of... LOOK BEHIND YOU! Yes, there is NOTHING there. The very absence of fear is perhaps the greatest fear of all. No? But I used Caps Lock and italics! WhAt aBOut NOwWow? Fine, you are unafraid of typography. How about a list of the scariBOOest PC games? Hah. I saw you flinch! Now you are atmospherically prepared, ensure there are neither babies nor pets between yourself and the nearest toilet, lest your bowels react unfavourably to this mildly cursed list of possibly evil games, aka The five Scariest PC Games of alllllllll timmmmmme*.

*What? No AvP? No FEAR? No Hidden: Source? Where's Pathologic? Why not Cryostasis: Sleep of
Reason instead of Amnesia? All fine questions... that I can answer by pointing out that you might find things scarier than I do. Even though it does make you less of a man than I am, I'm contractually obliged to let you know that it's all okay, and that you're allowed to be a big baby in face of those games that I consider as scary as a kitten's hug. But please do let us know what you do find scary, and what your list would be, because fear is best shared in a big group.

System Shock 2


You awaken on a broken, quiet space ship. You're one of the few people still alive. The walls are covered in bloody graffiti and the ship's crawling with crew possessed by aliens. It's a standard set-up, but the fact that it wrings out scares from a murk of tropes is truly impressive. System Shock 2's genius lies in plain sight. If you want ink black shadows and scary violin screeches, you have come to the wrong game. This not the canned scariness of Dead Space. There are no closets with monsters. There are long sections of space corridors, punctuated by terrifying fights where you always seem on the back foot. Your weapons break. Your mind gets invaded by the ghosts of those that perished. The incongruous details really put it over the edge. Did that man just apologise for attacking me? Yup. Is that the sound of a screeching monkey? Holy fuck it is. All the while you're being guided by the voice of the ship's captain, who leads you on to one of the most guts-wrenching twists in gaming. It's a trick that worked so well that the developers pulled it off again years later, in BioShock.

Day Z


If there is one thing more terrifying than a game world that barely acknowledges your existence, it's one that's also filled with zombies and humans. The multiplayer post-apocalyptic DayZ welcomes you to its 225sqkm of zombie infested world with disdainful silence. You spawn on a beach miles from anywhere. You need supplies and weaponry. This is where most games would start telling you where you go and what you need to do to, but here all you get is a sneer and a challenge to figure it all out on your own. You are not the star of DayZ; you are meat for the beast. The elements can kill you. The zombies can kill you. But the worst thing is the players. You just don't know if someone's friendly or not. The first friend I made in-game shot me in the back. The second I had to kill because he was acting so strangely I was convinced he was leading me into an ambush. I don't like not trusting people. For weeks afterwards I'd spawn at night, avoid human contact, and pick my way across the pitch black land looking for the glow of light on the horizon, then change direction. People suck, and the guy in the video above, Surviving Solo, understands that.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.


Stalker is set in the real post-disaster area of Chernobyl and Pripyat, the perfect setting to unsettle. Layered on top of the harrowing, beautiful open-world of a post-nuclear disaster is an ecosystem of mutant animals and wandering scavengers. Day and night tumbles along as you try to survive out in a world of grim Russian fable, picking at the scabs of the story and searching for artefacts. The AI isn't out to get you, it's just trying to exist in a barren land where everything is in pain and hungry. When you're walking in the dark, in the rain and on your own, there's no telling just what will unpeel from the shadows and decide to take you on. It might be a scruffy hound, which is easy to kill but not worth the bullets, or it might be an invisible, blood-sucking hell beast. It might just be your imagination, fuelled by the pitch of night and a soundtrack that sounds like Aphex Twin making music with rust and orgasms.

Thief: Deadly Shadows


Almost any Thief game could appear on this list. They have a thin, low-tone of terror quietly running through that spikes you're inches from a patrolling guard, close enough to hear a quiet a cough and a mumble, nothing but a quirk of lighting keeping you from being spotted. You are always vulnerable, a fact your bladder keeps reminding you of. But then Thief 3 unleashes the Cradle on you. The Cradle is a place where the history is as important as the present horrors. An ancient orphanage and mental asylum (at the same time), the classic haunted house level that subverts the format of Thief and plunges you into a dark story of its own. As you stalk deeper into the place the history is revealed, coming off in chunks rather than a slow reveal of text, and when you put it together the place takes on a twisted life of its own. This is one that should be experienced first hand. If you have played it, Kieron Gillen's amazing dissection is an essential read that'll give you deeper understanding of the themes and backstory. If you haven't, you can grab the full game cheaply enough on Steam or GOG.com. Or just watch this and be glad you didn't.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent


You can see flashes of Amnesia in Penumbra and its sequel: a first-person adventure game where the world is a reactive, physical space to be poked and prodded. Penumbra nearly made it in here, but there's something about Amnesia that raises it above the others. The story is ridiculously hokey, and the setting is closer to a cheesy Hammer horror story than something you'd expect to give you sweaty palms. But in Amnesia you're not a typical game hero: when bad things happen, you don't have the power to confront it, you don't have a buff bar full of counters, and you don't have a gun in your hand. You have a lamp. You have to run and hide and hope whatever it is goes away. Your character's fear is palpable: the screen shakes and warps as the terror builds, and the monsters seem to wait for the perfect moment to strike at you, delivering the sort of scare that has you hyperventilating along with your character. Just keep telling yourself that it isn't real.
Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on this limited timebitComposer/Viva Media Bundle during this week's Midweek Madness!

Get 5 great games at one low price while this bundle is available. The bundle includes:

Grand Ages: Rome
Cargo! The Quest for Gravity
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars

Offer ends Thursday, August 23rd at 4:00PM PST.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jim Rossignol)

RussianUkrainian blogger and marketing man Sergey Galyonkin – who tipped off the closure of the STALKER 2 project earlier this year – has claimed that Bethesda now have the rights to make a publish a STALKER game. They apparently do not> have rights to the extended universe. GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich has not sold the brand, but apparently Bethesda could now make a game based on the property with their own technology. We’ll report more on this as we get it.

This follows on from the closure of STALKER 2 earlier in the year, an event which culminated in Ukrainian spin-off studios such as Survarium devs, Vostok.

We’ve contacted Bethesda for a statement. UPDATE: Currently they are saying “No comment.”

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After the cancellation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, members of the dev team at GSC Game World went on to found a new studio and start their own irradiated shooter-RPG, Survarium. Yet, according to a fresh rumour, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series may live on at Bethesda.

A strange rumour indeed, but the source has been reliable before. Nival marketing director Sergey Galyonkin was the chap who broke news of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2's woes, and now he claims a little bird whispered in his ear that Bethesda has picked up the rights to publish a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun). GSC founder Sergiy Grygorovych still owns the brand, though.

According to Galonkin's source, Bethesda will put out a multiplatform S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game built upon its own tech, though Fallout 3 and Skyrim developer Bethesda Game Studios wouldn't necessarily be the team behind it.

This isn't the first time rumours about Bethesda dabbling in S.T.A.L.K.ing have swirled. They were denied in April, but something may have changed since then. Bethesda's declining to comment on this latest report, as it usually does with rumours.

Story image from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.

Announcement - Valve
The Steam Summer Sale continues today with huge savings throughout the store!

Today's Daily Deals Include:

Don't forget to check back for a new Community Choice vote every 8 hours and new Flash sales throughout the day! You can also grab the Steam mobile app to make sure you never miss any great deals while you're on the go!

Complete information on all the savings, Flash Sales, Community Choice Votes and more may be found on www.steampowered.com.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled earlier this year, former members of developer GSC Game World went on to found Vostok Games and announce their own post-apocalyptic shooter. It's now revealed a little more of the free-to-play MMOFPS Survarium, with the first screenshots and a video developer diary going into its story, skill system, and various competitive and co-op modes.

Yes, Survarium's own apocalypse is the result of mysterious rampant floral overgrowth and a deadly herbicide wonkily deployed to stop the world from being engulfed in forest. With most of the world's population dead, things all went a bit pear-shaped, and everyone's scrabbling for survival.

Enter you, dear player, doing missions for various factions. This gets you cash and experience, which are used respectively to get cash and ammo and to improve your skills. The five skills are firearms training, physical training, medical knowledge, technical training, and knowledge of the new world, which helps you plunder artifacts and avoid anomalies.

Three modes are discussed in the dev diary. In team combat, rival factions must scavenge parts to build a device to protect against an impeding storm--which both teams can fail to do. Co-op missions will have you finding artifacts, defending convoys, researching anomalies, and more. Each misssion affects the next and ramps up in difficulty, so Vostok expects they'll take players two months to complete. Lastly, free play dumps you into a huge procedurally-generated map with 20-30 players, not to mention mutants, for you to explore and form alliances as you please.

Look, watch this, then hit up the official site and FAQ for more:

...

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