When the status of STALKER 2‘s development went from “wow, this is happening!” to “I dunno LOL” at the end of 2011, GSC Game World’s team was left with a hard choice: they needed to decide the fate of the brand. And thus Vostok Games was born, rising from the ashes of GSC Game World like an irradiated phoenix. Unfortunately the STALKER licence is still stuck with GSC and those few remaining staff members, but Vostok is taking everything they learnt from the development of STALKER 1 and 2 and applying it to their own take on survival in the nuclear wastes – in the form of free-to-play online MMO/FPS Survarium.
Survarium is still a ways from release (it’s currently in pre-alpha), but we thought now would be a great chance to catch up with Vostok’s community manager Joe Mullin to fill us in on a few of the game’s details.
NAG: Building an MMO-like shooter on an indie budget seems like a bold move; is this something the team wanted to do from the beginning?
Joe Mullin: Absolutely! We feel this was the best move to fully realise the concept of our game. The industry is moving towards online play more and more and we want to constantly develop the world, story and indeed the game of Survarium for years to come. Being an online game allows us to do just that.
NAG: How much of the game world will feel familiar to STALKER veterans, and, perhaps more importantly, will newcomers be able to fully appreciate Survarium without having played STALKER?
Joe: Good question. Of course, because the development team is the same as the one that developed STALKER and was working on STALKER 2 there will, of course, be similarities. We have always made atmospheric environments; immersion is important in games and we believe we can deliver this experience in Survarium. As for new players who have never played STALKER, they obviously want be reminded of it while playing but they should enjoy the surroundings just as much and be just as intrigued as a veteran player.
NAG: What sort of real-money transactions can we expect in the game?
Joe: First we want to make 100% clear that we are not fans of the dreaded pay2win structure that many players worry about. We plan to implement the system in a way that provides the buyer with a more in-depth system. For example, they can extend their character’s statistics, a larger variety in clothing, unique weapons (That will not do 10x damage of regular ones) as well as various other “perks”. This is something we are working on all the time as we want to find the best balance.
NAG: STALKER gained quite the reputation for its tech; can we expect the same level of visual fidelity in Survarium?
Joe: Survarium will fully support DX11 so the graphics will be of a very high quality. We’d just like to mention that all visuals of the game [those screenshots on this page] are from a pre-alpha build and do not represent the final visual quality of the game. The engine and the graphics are constantly being improved on a daily basis.
NAG: How much hardcore survival stuff can we expect? Will I have to scavenge for food, clean water and medicine? And what sort of non-combat skills can players learn?
Joe: We are not making a “survival simulation”. Having said that, the game will be very challenging; the need for water, food, medicine and indeed crafting items to assist in your survival will all be featured in the game. As for non-combat skills, there are various disciplines a player can choose to expand on with their character. For example, an expert in artifact hunting, medicine, setting traps and so on.
NAG: What sort of social aspects are you bringing to the table? Will survival in the wasteland be made easier by playing in groups?
Joe: Both yes and no. As the “main” story mode of Survarium is the co-op gameplay mode there will obviously be the need to participate and work with other players of different disciplines to your own as there will be times when you need to split up and solve a problem from two or three different aspects at the same time.
There is the (more normal) game mode of PvP which will be the standard team play, capture bases etc. and finally the Freeplay, where the player is alone, has one life and has to ultimately achieve the goal set for them. How they do it, is up to them.
NAG: STALKER encouraged a free-form play style that didn’t lock players into particular roles, but MMOs generally encourage players to use predefined classes; where does Survarium fit into this balance?
Joe: That is precisely why we offer the three variant game modes that will appeal to those who prefer the freedom of choice and to act alone in a freeplay environment. In this mode, it will not matter what your class of character is. The goal is to survive
NAG: How will the day/night cycle affect gameplay?
Joe: Well, there will be mutants and other dangerous aspects of the game that become more aggressive at night. But not only will the day/night cycle affect the gameplay but the weather as well. In fact, the entire environment will have an impact on the player’s abilities. The rain, the wind etc all will come into play.
NAG: What options for character customisation will be present in Survarium?
Joe: This is something we are still working on to find the best balance and offer the best options. It will be extensive as we want every player to be able to build a unique character that represents them and not essentially come across another player who is 99% the same. That would take the fun out of customising to begin with. For a more detailed look into the customisation and other aspects similar to it please visit our Youtube channel and check out the developer diary videos (which we update on a regular basis).