I think there's no need to introduce STALKER. We've been following this baby with attention since its birth, and the continous - punishing - screens and movies always made us scream in joy and compel us to run through the office to share the phenomenon with everyone. So we've decided to make an interview with Oleg V. Javorsky, GSC-GameWorld's PR maistro.
We would like to thank him for the exhaustive interview!
HARDWiRED: We have seen lots of weapons so far. For example, RG-6 grenade launcher, Dragunov (SVD), SVU, FN F2000, Groza, AK47, AK47+GP25, modified M16, Browning Hi-Power, Makarov and other nifty guns, but what about the classic Stechkin pistol, AK-74 and the experimental AN94 Abakan? What other kind of weapons and extensions can we expect, will there be any futuristic ones?
GSC: We are planning a weaponry stack of 30 items total. There will be conventional guns used by many countries for law enforcement bodies and armed forces like PMM (Makarov pistol), Browning Hi-Power pistol, well-known and wide-spread AK-47 submachine-gun; weapons of recent design like FN 2000 and Fort pistol; but the game will also feature some special guns with psychotropic effects, artifact weaponry etc. It's worthwhile mentioning that most of the weapons are going to be modifiable. For instance, you can buy optics or barrel-attached grenade launcher for your rifle to make it a super gun.
The weapon models are great in detail and the designs are accurate. Is there a weapon specialist in the group or you just brought some real life examples for the graphics department?
GSC: One quick fact to start with: our team's hobby is playing paintball, so guns is generally one of our favourite topics. Since we are very much fanatic about making this game a life-time experience we pay the most meticulous attention to all of the details and weapons are certainly among them. We do have a specialist among the development team who makes sure that the models are most accurate, physics is balanced based on what this weapon can do in real life; additionally, we have a guy who supplies the real sounds each of the guns used in the game produces.
HW: Certain weapons - and ammunition - have different characteristics in games like Counter Strike. For example, the AK47 strike through wood or thin plate. Aything related implemented in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.?
GSC: Like I said most of the guns will posses real life qualities i.e. physics and ballistics. If real AK-47 can strike through the wood, it's most likely that this STALKER counterpart will do the same. At the same time we are not pursuing a goal of making STALKER a training ground for the French Legion, for instance.
HW: Regarding physics: The whole world relies on the physics engine or just some of the objects? Can we expect impact orientated damage, flying limbs or other gory elements?
GSC: The Zone will be outstandingly interactive ground. The player as well as many of the NPC will interact with it and each other in an impressive number of ways. The Dwarfs, for instance, due to their telekinesis powers will be able to lift certain objects like bricks, stones, metal rails off the ground with the power of their minds and fling them at the players. The player will be able to interact with certain objects by lifting them and probing anomalies by throwing the items inside of them etc. The physics programmer on the team is very busy with making this aspect of the game especially appealing. We promise a plenty of other entertaining activities to keep the most demanding gamer drooling over this game like a nursing baby.
Hits into different body parts for characters will produce different reaction of the body. That is possible due to use of skeleton animation, and, of course, powerful physics library the engine incorporates. No flying limbs are planned. We'll most likely implement a special option to enable/disable blood in the game.
HW: The game looks astonishing, the environments are rich in detail, everything is well placed and the engine's feature list is way too long . Are there any plans to make the XRAY engine and/or it's parts licensable?
GSC: Thanks, we have been receiving most positive feedback on the outstanding performance of the XRAY. We do have plans about making the engine licensable, but talks of that will start once the game is released.
HW: We have seen the impressive Lada Niva in the engine video, but can we jump into one of the APCs, maybe other, heavy vehicles?
GSC: The player will be able to interact, i.e. drive a number of soviet cars like Niva, Moskvich. Vehicles like military choppers will not be available for driving, we'll see how it works out with APCs, still they will be no fun running over you with either their wheels or fire.
HW: The maps are great in detail and looks huge, but how can we reach the different areas (levels)? Everything will be accessible in the initial stage of the game or continuous progressing unlocks new, yet unfold levels?
GSC: STALKER is a complete freedom of movements and actions. When the game starts the player is free to go where his eyes are directed. The zone is a huge 30 km area available for exploration at any stage of the game. Some parts of the zone are extremely dangerous and Stalker can only travel them if he possesses special equipment. The more dangerous these parts of the zone are the more sophisticated equipment a player will need to travel and stay alive. This is only through his personal experience of traversing the Zone and communication with NPC stalkers and other characters that the player finds out which areas are more or less safe for him to stay in. This being said, there are other residents of the zone that will have their own perception of the meaning of your life.
HW: The pictures are simply beautiful, but not so action packed, lacking of enemies. How would you assure our readers, that STALKER will be vivid and ready for action?
GSC: What you see now is a game that is being developed. The game is a combination of various forms of lives, creatures, events and many more. Your life in the zone that lives it's own life despite what you do will be filled with a massive number of not only intensive firing, but communication with other stalkers and NPC, trading stuff you manage to snatch off the hands of the mostly hostile zone, other NPCs and the like. You will be able to involve other stalkers to accompany you on a mission, but they could turn out to have their own interest and try to get rid of you once the trophy is obtained. The zone and its inhabitants are guaranteed to keep you on your toes all the time. Should you desire to see it with your own eyes, come to see us at E3 in mid-May, we'll be happy to show you some of the action in there.
HW: It was mentioned, that STALKER uses some of the latest graphics technology. Does the other high-end card owners benefit from this move or you just plan GFFX only improvements? What are these specifically?
GSC: Nvidia is a technical partner for STALKER and we do an optimization for their FX card generation. Geforce FX offers excellent shader possibilities, and we are going to make an extensive use of that. At the same time, we will do our best to ensure owners of other brands of high-end graphic hardware are not deprived of state-of-the-art effects their cards can offer, so no worries there.
HW: What's the planned gameplay time?
GSC: Due to constantly changing world of the Zone, non-sсripted Zone inhabitants acting independently of player's actions, new anomalies and artifacts showing up even at spots already explored etc, the game will be great fun to keep playing for an extended stretch of time. To play it through, it will take rush-style players approximately 40-50 hours. Under a more exploratory approach, the game can be enjoyed for 100 hours and more.
HW: What the STALKER team is currently doing on the project?
GSC: At the time being we are preoccupied with a rather hefty chunk - AI and Zone life simulation system, interactive world physics, level and gameplay creation and more. On a more technical side, we design a dedicated renderer for DX9 class hardware with fully real-time dynamic lighting, soft, physically correct shadows, cast from everything onto everything, true per-pixel lighting, 1-3 millions of polys per frame, etc.
HW: We could've seen wondrous pics, showcasing Chernobyl. Will we be able to go inside to take a look?
GSC: In fact, it's very dangerous to sneak inside the station, the radiation is still pretty high there and could be a serious problem for the curious explorer. During our two research trips to the area, some of the areas were inaccessible due to high radioactivity. Though we recreate a similarly dangerous area (btw, about 50% of the game architecture is going to be from real Chernobyl), in the game you'll have a chance to even enter the notorious power plant.
HW: Is the development going as planned, can you keep up the appointed Q4 2003 release date?
GSC: Yes, so far everything is going as planned. Q4 2003 is the time we are all looking forward to.
HW: Our readers are itching after they have seen the STALKER engine movie. When shall we expect some extra sneak-peak, maybe a demo?
GSC: You can take an extra sneak-peak at STALKER at the time of E3 this May in LA (am I a poet ) Everybody is most welcome to see us at booth 6521 in Kentia hall.
Thanks for taking time to answer our questions! Wish you the best and keep up the good work!
Thank you for the interesting questions. Good luck to everybody and thanks for your support!