MIA: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (preview)

game previewPUBLISHER: THQ DEVELOPER: GSC Game World GENRE: First-Person Shooter RELEASE DATE: Spring 2007

BACK IN 2003, WE DISCOVERED
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and hoped some American publisher would snap up the promising shooter. THQ became that company. The only problem is, three years later, we’re still waiting. Meanwhile, rumors circulate about major changes and the possibility that the project is on the chopping block. We had a candid conversation with Dean Sharpe, the producer
hired to help Ukrainian developer GSC Game World fi nish its forever-delayed morning-afterthe- mushroom-cloud thriller.

CGW: And so those rumors regarding S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s fate…? Dean Sharpe: The fact that THQ was willing to ship me to Kiev for a year shows the company’s commitment to the title.

CGW: So what happened? Were the original plans for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. too ambitious or too time-consuming? DS: I think that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. suffered from wanting to be too many things to too many people. Everyone on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team wants it to be perfect. It’s just that, at some point, you have to tie up the loose ends and make it as good as it can be with the time you
have available. The guys at GSC Game World could probably work on this game for another number of years and still not be satisfi ed that they did all they could.

CGW: So what exactly happened? What needed to be changed?
DS: When I fi rst came on board, I asked the team where we should focus our energy for the
time we had left in development. The tough part comes from asking what things to remove.
They came back with things they felt were not as fun or applicable to the game as they initially thought, but every feature that makes S.T.A.L.K.E.R. what it is has remained. Sleeping and eating, for example, we removed because they didn’t add to the overall experience, not because of time constraints. Then there are the vehicles. We’re making calls in the coming weeks to see if they add to the experience or [if they’re] just an excuse for us to say, “Hey, we have vehicles in the game.” Ultimately, I think you always shoot for the sky and then pull back as needed.

CGW: Early in development, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was a showcase for DirectX 9’s capabilities. Now that DirectX 10 is just around the corner, are you concerned that it may not hold up? DS: We will ship with DX8 and DX9. With that said, I believe that the DX9 renderer holds up very well with other titles releasing with DX10. I didn’t see anything at E3 this year any more graphically impressive than S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

CGW: Seriously? Not even Crysis? What about S.T.A.L.K.E.R.—aside from its appearance— stands out so much?
DS: No question, the feel of the game. When I first played S.T.A.L.K.E.R., it took me to a place that I had never been before. If you can make someone feel like they are actually there, then I think you’ve really accomplished something.

CGW: Here’s the most important question: Vodka serves as a medkit in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Is it really the cure-all for a postmeltdown Chernobyl?
DS: Are you kidding? They think that right now! People here believe that vodka can truly heal just about any ailment. I have a really bad head cold right now, and my team swears a shot of peppered vodka would cure me. If I don’t get better in a few days, then it’s bottoms up.

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