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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Former Stalker, Survarium lead designer joins Areal development team">Areal

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.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Areal studio claims Kickstarter complaints are “addressed,” but Vostok Games says otherwise">4e36a15c5b98084c6fb813c0ce02c474_large

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.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Vostok Games claim Areal Kickstarter campaign’s use of STALKER assets is “not right”">Areal

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.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The week’s highs and lows in PC gaming">hightop

Every Friday the PC Gamer stares the previous seven days in the face and refuses to blink. Find out what we loved, and what we ve tried (but failed) to blank out


Wes Fenlon: About to wade into Witcher lore

The best news of the week, for me, is that The Witcher 3 is coming out in early 2015. Not spring or summer. February 24, 2015. And, no surprise, the game looks stunning. It has an almost impossibly high bar to live up to, at this point: a vast, beautiful open world, 100 hours of story and sidequests, and the Witcher's traditionally excellent morally grey choices. I'm pumped to go after the Wild Hunt, the horsemen of death we've mostly only seen in Witcher backstory. I'm almost excited enough to start reading the Witcher novels. Dangerous territory.

Tim Clark: FIFA finally gets with the programme

It s fashionable to beat up on EA, and this year the company will have been pleased to have avoided completing a hattrick of consecutive worst company in America awards. I ve always thought that level of hatred was ludicrously hyperbolic, though. EA makes some pretty good games and, notable exceptions like the Sim City launch apart, does a decent of bringing them to PC. However The decision last year not to bother using the new Ignite engine for the PC version of FIFA 14 was pretty contemptuous of our audience. So I m delighted that it s now been confirmed that this year s game will be on par with the next-gen consoles. Expect more info very soon, but I m confident you won t be disappointed.

Phil Savage: It's a Wild world

The only thing I've played this week is Wildstar. Sure, I probably had time to squeeze in a quick game of Minesweeper, but why would I want to? It's Minesweeper. At this point, it's a definite high Wildstar, not Minesweeper but I've written loads about it already, so let's pick something else. My other highlight of the week was this Source Filmmaker short. It's the Hotline Miami 2 trailer, only done with the cast of Team Fortress 2. It's everything that's great about the Source Filmmaker's flexibility: exciting, fluid and of an unbelievably professional quality. It's just a shame TF2 isn't really like this.

Cory Banks: The One pad to rule them all?

I love gadgets. I love to hook up a whole mess of peripherals and see how they work with my PC games. Yes, the keyboard and mouse is great, but so are joysticks, keypads, and even controllers. So I m thrilled that Microsoft finally released PC drivers for the Xbox One controller. It feels pretty good in my hands, and the idea that we ll have PC games using the controller s trigger rumble is pretty cool. More gadgets on my PC is a good thing here s hoping Sony releases an official solution for its stellar controller next (though you can make the DualShock 4 work on PC now with some tinkering).

Sam Roberts: Cops and robbers make a comeback

I can t say Battlefield has traditionally captured my imagination, but I ll play the absolute shit outta Hardline, which this week got its first trailer after a number of extraordinary leaks. Say the word heist to me and I think of three things: Heat, Payday and GTA V (still not on PC, boo!). Hardline is the Battlefield interpretation of a multiplayer cops vs robbers game, and it looks like big, stupid fun, and looks like it features the kind of ludicrous crime scenarios that have never been documented in the history of man. Can t wait to learn more about it next week when someone awkwardly plays it on stage at E3.

Tom Senior: I want to hack into a wolf

I was peering over Sam's shoulder as he played through Jordan Thomas and Stephen Alexander's indie project, The Magic Circle. It buries its lede behind a series of in-jokes laser targeted at experienced gamers and game designers, which is all good fun, but I'm really excited to play it for the AI manipulation. You can tunnel into NPCs and objects and give them items or change their behaviour, which lets you roll through the world with a posse of sentient bricks and vicious wolves. There are some very neat moments that take a sledgehammer to the fourth wall, but to mention them would only spoil things. It's clever, it's funny, and worth getting excited about.

Andy Kelly: Vanishing's potential is easy to spot

The first proper trailer for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was released this week. I ve already seen a bit of the game you can read my preview here but this looks way more polished. Their photogrammetry tech has created some really impressive environments, and I m a sucker for anything set in American forests (Alan Wake, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, etc.) Who could have imagined that the minds behind Bulletstorm, a game whose hero says things like Son of a dick! as he blows peoples heads off, would create something so seemingly subtle and thoughtful.


Phil Savage: Falling behind in the space race

Star Citizen released its dogfighting module this week, and already I'm worried. I've not played it, but I've seen the response, and it's not been overwhelmingly positive. I have played Elite: Dangerous, and its absurd beta entry price aside it's shaping up to be something extremely special. The look, the feel, and especially the sound all sell the fantasy of an exciting space adventure. It's even exciting when it's boring, as Andy revealed in his trading video.

The difference is that Elite feels like a whole project, while Star Citizen seems fragmented. The Cloud Imperium team are doing amazing things with the small details, but it's hard to discern how it'll all translate into a full project. It's almost like they can't see the universe for the trees, and, even with nearly $45 million raised, I'm yet to be convinced that they can deliver on the big picture.

Wes Fenlon: The past can be an annoying place to visit

The low point of my week was trying to get a 10-year-old game to run on the Large Pixel Collider for my next Pixel Boost. It wouldn't work, and it took me about half an hour of tinkering to discover some old hardware acceleration simply doesn't work with three monitors hooked up via Nvidia Surround. When I was Googling around for a solution, I found lots of doom and gloom message board posts claiming Nvidia had abandoned development of Surround and left it with lots of issues.

Thankfully that's not true, judging by recent Nvidia drivers, but it's still tricky to get running. On the bright side, Nvidia just updated the GeForce Experience to support Shadowplay capture up to 2560x1440. I just used it to capture Watch Dogs footage, and it's so nice not to deal with the framerate hit of FRAPS.

Tim Clark: Craving cards

I m getting pretty antsy waiting for Hearthstone s Curse of Naraxxmus expansion, which has still only got a vague release date of summer . I suppose I should just be grateful the date isn t listed as when the blood moon rises over Blackrock Mountain . And I get that the drip drip of new cards oh hai, Void Caller is designed to build anticipation, (and give deck-building savants a chance to dream up evil new constructions), but look I m ready to go now, Blizzard. You ve already had quite a bit of my money. Prepare to receive some more. Please?

Cory Banks: Doing VR a disservice

It s okay if you don t think the Oculus Rift is a huge deal the first development kit made me actually vomit but it s another thing to think the technology behind it is actually negative. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told Bloomberg this week that the virtual reality headset is anti-social technology, which just feels too dismissive for my taste. Will I want to use the Rift in a crowded room? Probably not, unless my friends are willing to do the same. But virtual reality has the potential to keep people close when they re not in the same place, just like social media does now. Maybe that s why Facebook purchased the company in the first place.

Andy Kelly: All about EVE

CCP losing staff is bad news. They say it s on the publishing side of things, and the games won t be affected, but I wonder if there are deeper problems at the company. World of Darkness being canned must have cost them a pretty penny you can read the details of its demise here and I hope it won t affect their grand vision for the EVE universe, which is the subject of my cover feature in this month s issue of the magazine. Valkyrie is one of the most impressive VR games I ve played, and Project Legion is an intriguing sandbox shooter with elements of Borderlands and DayZ (you can read about all this in the mag).

Sam Roberts: Nah nah nah nah, no BATMAN!

Arkham Knight being delayed until 2015 is pretty disappointing, meaning this year is left a little thin on big games as they all get pushed back to next year (The Witcher 3, The Division). This is a bigger loss for me, though I m a huge fan of the Arkham series and I was looking forward to titting about in a Batmobile that is blatantly too deadly to adhere to the Caped Crusader s moral code about killing people. That still leaves Dragon Age: The Inquisition and Assassin s Creed Unity for this year, along with Battlefield Hardline but not an awful lot else.

Tom Senior: In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only mild disappointment

Every now and then I revisit Relic's Space Marine. It's a simplistic brawler with an essential twist it's set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. An adolescent obsession with that fiction has left me with a vivid impression of the neverending wars of the 41st millennium, and it's something games have never come close to capturing. Take Space Marine: Relic nailed the blood-spattered livery of Ultramarine power armour, and the satisfying squelch of an Ork collapsing under a commander's big blue boot, but missed the dark tone and scale that make the universe compelling.

The first mistake is to think of Space Marines as good guys. They're genetically altered interstellar fascists who worship an emperor entombed inside a Giger-esque machine sarcophagus, tended to day and night by an army of half-man, half-machine fanatics who brand their own flesh with litanies to their possibly-dead ruler. Space Marines are monsters bred by humanity to fight the bigger monsters amassing in the dark corners of the universe. I hope to explore that version of the 40k universe, one rendered with the extremes of the fiction intact. I have visions of fighting on a battlefield with thousands of enemies swarming around the feet of walking war machines the size of skyscrapers. Sadly, Space Marine can't deliver. I live in hope that a game will one day, I just don't want to wait until the 41st millenium to play it.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Homefront: The Revolution announced, promises open-world guerilla warfare">Homefront The Revolution

The words "there is a new Homefront game coming," are, based on previous evidence, something you'd be forgiven for not caring about. But don't scroll on by just yet, because there are reasons Homefront: The Revolution could resuscitate the ill-fated shooter series. Not least is the fact that it's being developed by Crytek UK. That studio were once called Free Radical, and were responsible for the excellent Timesplitters series. Also for the ropey PS3-exclusive Haze, so maybe we're not entirely in the clear just yet.

More significant is what the game might offer over its troubled predecessor. Set four years after the North Korean invasion of America depicted in the first Homefront, the Korean People's Army have established a totalitarian regime in Philadelphia. It's as good an excuse as any for some rough-and-ready guerilla tactics around an open-world area.

"The city of Philadelphia is an asymmetric battlefield," said game designer Fasaha Salim in an interview with CVG. "The KPA have far superior technology and they can take out anyone they want to if you go up against them. The answer is you must use guerilla tactics."

It's enough of a shift to re-spark my interest in the series. While there's no suggestion of any squad element, it nevertheless sounds somewhat reminiscent of Io Interactive's Freedom Fighters, which is no bad thing.

You can find more details over at CVG.

Homefront: The Revolution is planned for PC, PS4 and Xbone, and is due out next year.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Stalker series saved from GameSpy oblivion via new patch">Stalker

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.

Ta, PCGamesN.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dawn of War moving to Steamworks to avoid GameSpy and GfW Live shutdowns">Dawn of War 2

I recently strapped on my bulkiest, most improbable armour in order to again attempt the vast campaigns of the Dawns of War 2. The reason being that I wanted to play them in co-op, and, with Games for Windows Live potentially shutting down in July, wasn't sure if that was a thing I'd be able to do. It looks like I can rest easy on my seemingly unending Tyranid defence, as Relic have announced that Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2, and both games' various expansions will all be transitioned over to Steamworks. In doing so, the Warhammer 40K series can dodge whatever ill fate is in store for GameSpy and GfW Live.

"On May 22nd, the original Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and its expansions underwent a major update in order to preserve multiplayer gameplay for all these titles," writes Dawn of War design lead Philippe Boulle.

"Since their launch, Dawn of War and its expansions (Winter Assault, Dark Crusade and Soulstorm) have relied on the GameSpy service for multiplayer matchmaking. Since they are about to shut down their services for good it would otherwise leave these games without any way to play multiplayer. That is not an outcome anyone at Relic would want to see."

Dawn of War 2 and the Chaos Rising expansion, meanwhile, are slightly more complex beasts. According to Boulle, the migration is currently in progress, with Relic planning to reveal more details in the near future. The second DoW2 expansion, Retribution, is already a Steamworks-only title.

"In the short term, there are likely to be some technical issues with the new setup," Boulle writes. "Recreating the multiplayer infrastructure for seven titles is no small feat, and there will be bugs. Ultimately, we felt that it would be better to get the update out in a slightly imperfect state in time to prevent an outright interruption in multiplayer play. So, bugs."
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Metro Redux officially announced, first trailer released">Metro

First it was rumoured, then that rumour was confirmed, and now it's been officially announced. Metro Redux is a real thing and, for us PC gamers, it's also a bit of an odd one. It takes the two Metro games and bundles them into a re-released and upgraded package. We're no strangers to HD reboots, but neither game is particularly old. In fact, Last Light still looks rather good.

Were I a cynical jerkface, I might suspect that this package was created as a response to the PS4 and Xbone's lack of backwards compatibility. Fair enough, but it does make it a stranger prospect on the more timeless PC. That's doubly the case when one of the big features is "silky smooth 60fps". Er, yeah, just like the originals, then?

There are still reasons to be interested, not least that transferring Metro 2033 into Last Light's engine will make a fairly big difference to the way it looks and feels. In their press release, Deep Silver promise the following features: "advanced enemy AI, improved combat and stealth mechanics, superior weapon handling and more responsive, intuitive controls plus signature features from Last Light such as the atmospheric mask wipe mechanic, weapon customisation, and silent kills and take-downs."

Last Light will be less dramatically upgraded, but will still get new features, better graphics, and will be released with its DLC packs bundled in.

Expected to release this Summer, each reduxed game will be available individually for 16 / $25, or as a bundle of both for 35 / $50.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Humble Daily Bundles give you 14 days of deals">deadisland

Uh oh. Humble Bundle is already in the midst of a tempting Spring Sale (Saint Row IV is currently $10!) at the same time as GOG s Spring Insomnia Sale, and your wallet cowers in fear of Steam s next seasonal sale. The last thing it needs is another opportunity for amazing savings, but that s just what Humble Bundle announced with its new Humble Daily Bundle.

For the next two weeks, Humble Bundle will put up a new bundle every day. For the next 24 hours it s offering the Humble Deep Silver Re-Bundle, which includes Saints Row: The Third, Risen 2, Metro 2033, Dead Island, and others. You can get all the games including their soundtracks if you pay $9 or more. As usual, a designated portion of your purchase will go toward the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Child s Play.

This first daily sale looks just as good as Humble Bundle s usual offerings, so it s definitely worth checking in regularly over the next two weeks to see what games pop up there. It s okay. You weren't using that money anyway.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Darksiders series “not dead,” but creative director says future remains uncertain">Darksiders2

Darksiders lives, but what that means for the series is anything but clear, according to the action RPG's creative director Joe Madureira. In a followup post on Facebook today, Madureira writes that his comment yesterday about how the Darksiders series "is not dead" doesn't mean its future has been secured.

A remnant of publisher THQ's collapse, the rights to Darksiders were bought by Nordic Games last year. And as Madureira points out, Nordic is ultimately responsible for determining the fate of the series.

"My enthusiastic outlook on the future of the series is in no way a confirmation that it's happening!! (Sorry guys, I hate being a wet blanket!)" Madureira writes. "My post was in response to the countless messages I get from DS fans that are mourning the 'death' of the series or asking me to 'bring it back' (which it's not in my power to do!). Many fans still do not seem to know that the series didn't end with THQ's demise, and that the rights were picked up by Nordic Games. What that means is that a 3rd game is still *possible*. ie. 'It's not DEAD!' And that Nordic seems committed to continuing the series. Again, this isn't a confirmation just my own positive outlook based on what I gathered from speaking with them."

We liked both Darksiders 1 and 2 for their satisfying approach to hack and slash combat. And while Madureira seems intent to walk back his Monday statement about the still-beating heart of Darksiders, he also sounds pleased with the response to his comments.

"Only Nordic, as the owner of the franchise can make any official decision or announcement, about the future of Darksiders," Madureira writes. "Not me! So I probably should've chosen my words more carefully. That said, I can't help but see the feverish excitement and support from both gamers and press as an encouraging sign that DS is indeed a beloved series, and that the demand is obviously still there!"

Hat tip, Gamespot.

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