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Prerelease:S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky/Interviews

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This is a sub-page of Prerelease:S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky.

To do:
  • Aug 2007. An interview to a fan site called stalker-portal. Mentions of some negotiation with mechanics, scientific points, and that's pretty much it. https://web.archive.org/web/20071020225746/http://stalker-portal.ru/go:csi_oleg_080807
  • Aug 2007. A combination of questions from gameru.net website, answered by same old Oleg Yavorsky. Nothing new apart from a mention of player going up in ranks during faction war, using both hands (partially implemented) and a mechanic of the weapon becoming more accurate as you use it and a promise of 20% indoor locations. https://web.archive.org/web/20070816122345/http://www.gameru.net/index.php?type=stkr&id=26
  • Aug 2007. Fan interview right from Leipzig convention. Again, Oleg Yavorsky. https://web.archive.org/web/20071211095203/http://www.gameru.net/index.php?type=stkr&id=28
  • Dec 2007. Interview from some Ukrainian fest, has some questions answered by Valentin Yeltyshev. Cars in multiplayer are no longer a thing; TOS, Martha and HPSS may be returned; new monsters are coming, cut monsters are not. https://web.archive.org/web/20080106121631/http://www.gameru.net/index.php?type=stkr&id=30

These are (mostly translated) all the known interviews mentioning S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky. The questions about the company itself and previous games have been filtered out, the rest has been thoroughly translated.

The places of interest (mainly things differing from the release version of the game) have been highlighted in bold.

E3, Jul 2007

The interview given by Oleg Yavorsky, GSC PR-Manager. First info about the game back when there were just Generators, Hospital and a quarter of Swamps.

OY: So here today we represent S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, which is a prequel to the original game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. And we're going to feature a totally different and alternative story, where you're playing a stalker mercenary, who actually plays versus Strelok, the main character of the original game. And the ending of this game will bring you to the beginning of the original for you to understand.

So the setting is the same. We are delivering 15 locations, half of those are going to be totally new ones[E3-2007 1]. Well, the rest are going to be reworked familiar locations.

The key gameplay feature is going to be global war of factions, and we're going to expand basically every game aspect, starting from technology, all the way up to gameplay ideas, A-Life, this living and breathing environment, NPCs, et cetera, et cetera.

The player has freedom of actions and movement, and he'll be able to participate in that was of factions or follow directly the storyline. And you can join factions, do missions for them, grow in their ranks[E3-2007 2], and there are plenty of opportunities to explore for the player.

Right now we're experimenting with vehicles to be introduced in multiplayer[E3-2007 3], so if things go successfully, we will introduce new, or maybe a couple interesting new multiplayer modes[E3-2007 4].

We're planning to ship it Q1 next year[E3-2007 5].

  1. The final game got twelve locations out of which only four - Great Swamps, Red Forest, Limansk, Hospital - are new. The other three Oleg is referring to are most likely Generators, Pripyat Underground and either Cartographer's Shack (mentioned in desdocs) or Arena.
  2. Not the case in release version. You join and you get rewards. That's it.
  3. Despite multiple promises, there are no engine changes for vehicles in CS whatsoever.
  4. Even though there were subtle balance improvements to multiplayer, the core stayed the same and there are no new game modes.
  5. At least 'next year' part stayed true...
(Source: SurDno (writing it down))

Game-Portal, Aug 2007

The interview between same old Oleg Yavorsky and Game-Portal web-site, now defunct. Before the interviewer starts asking about Clear Sky, there are a few unrelated questions about Shadow of Chernobyl and GSC Game World in general. They have been omitted.

GP: Your attention to the voice of the gaming community is incredibly pleasing - it's a good example for the rest of the developers who are shut off. Where does the plot train start from and in what kind of scenario maze will it bring negligent players? Will we once again face Monolith or the С-Сonsciousness? What is the name of that daredevil who will become our alter ego in these new adventures full of danger? Will we meet old acquaintances? And, if it's not a secret, how many alternate endings will the game have?

OY: The plot of Clear Sky will take us a year before the events of the original game. The original game says that Strelok made his way to the center of the Zone three times. He is the only one who succeeded in doing this. The events of Shadow of Chernobyl begin in a very mysterious way - the main character is found without memory on the edge of the Zone, next to the crashed death truck. During the events of SoC, Strelok makes his third, successful, trip to the very heart of the Exclusion Zone. What happened to him before these events, what happened during Strelok's first and second trips, how the Zone reacted, and how the main character happened to get to the truck — these questions remained unanswered. The prequel will tell us about this. In Clear Sky we will see all the groups already familiar from the first game, plus one new one[GP 1]. We'll not forget about C-Consciousness[GP 2] too. The main character is a stalker mercenary who, against his own will, will be involved in the events of the global Zone Faction War. You will play against Strelok. We want to show an alternative view on the events associated with him and make the player feel that there is no black and white. In addition to Strelok, we will meet other familiar characters, often in different outfits. For example, the leader of the SoC bandits in Clear Sky will be a sidekick, telling the player how he dreams to become the head of the gang. Speaking of the ending, in the story we must come to where the first part begins. Therefore, there is only one ending in the game.

GP: The plot is becoming way more clear and adult in our eyes, so let's talk about things less poetic. What is the famous Zone twelve months before the events of the original game? Will we manage to see with our own eyes previously-unknown locations where the stalkers have not yet set foot?

OY: When creating the prequel’s Zone, we proceeded from the desire to get away from the usual calm SoC picture in the direction of more anomalous locations. We want to create the impression that this is not the same Zone that you saw in the original game. It's shaken up, the energy boils, anomalies are very active and the landscape has changed a lot. Where we previously saw green grass, trees, ruins, etc., traces of terrifying anomalous phenomena will appear - the land torn apart or sunk inward under the influence of gravity anomalies, vegetation mutilated by the impact of Electro ... Even space is no longer clear due to new Zone phenomena called Space Bubbles, Moebius loops from which stalkers and entire expeditions cannot find a way out. Approximately half of the locations in Clear Sky will be completely new territories[GP 3] and the second half will consist of seen areas. Now that the players have mastered a bit in the Zone and become more experienced stalkers, we can allow them to go to the deep, unexplored areas of it. Due to environmental changes, passages will open, for example, to the Red Forest or the lost city of Limansk, and a number of other new locations.

GP: That sounds interesting. Our spies got information that the Fast Travel system, which gives the player the ability to instantly travel between locations, will be used for the first time in the game. How does it function? A player visits a certain part of the Zone can teleport there at any time, as was the case in the memorable Oblivion?

OY: No, we will have special characters - guides who know the ways that are inaccessible to the player. If you can find a guide and negotiate with him[GP 4], you can quickly get to the right part of the Zone. Such a concept seems to us more realistic and appropriate for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. universe.

GP:: Will new factions join the power struggle? Will there be an opportunity to swear allegiance to one, start double dealing, fulfilling the orders of several employers at once? How is the opposition of factions realized?

OY: New factions will be, or rather, there will be one new faction[GP 5]. Factions will become more organized and functionally improved - everything that happens will have a deeper meaning. Each coalition has its own leader and a well-guarded base, in which there is a bar, weaponry, mechanics room, guides and other NPCs. You can also play various mini-games there. The group has a global goal - to weaken and capture the enemy’s base, as well as such everyday tasks as capturing the transition point between levels, capturing points with artifacts and rare anomalous phenomena, and unexpected attacks on enemy troops. The player will be able to join the faction and take part in the confrontation between them. As in SoC, the storyline is placed in simulation gameplay - that same Faction War. The player can follow the plot and participate or not participate in the clash of clans, whatever he wishes for. One of the goals that we set for ourselves when creating the mechanics of the Faction War is for the player to see what his actions lead to. For example, a control point leading to a place with artifacts is controlled by bandits. Their destruction means that the path to resources is safe. The player will see how the stalkers of his group go to the place with artifacts. Another example: the more points with artifacts the faction controls, the cooler stalkers it can recruit[GP 6]And the capture of a scientific point gives access to new equipment, weapons and equipment.

GP: In order not to die in the darkness of interfactional wars, the player will have to make a lot of effort, and Madame Big Gun could become a faithful ally in this matter. Or, maybe, her niece, a pocket-sized nuclear bomb? It is included in the list of new weapons, and what does that list look like? Has our wardrobe been replenished with protective suits, and what changes have been made to the weapon upgrade system?

OY: The prequel will feature several new weapons, as well as a number of new features. In particular, repair system. In addition, a system of advanced upgrades will be introduced for unique weapons'[GP 7] and armor (repairs and improvements will be made through mechanics). Thus, players will now have everything to create truly unique weapons and armors.

GP: The new means of killing antagonists flavored with Fast Travel is definitely good. But the desire to ride with a breeze on the lovely KAMAZ is still strong in our hearts. Many were very upset that all vehicles were cut from the Shadow of Chernobyl. Will they be in Clear Sky?

OY: The decision to remove the vehicles from the game was difficult and forced: during testing we came to the conclusion that the Zone and cars are simply incompatible. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. gameplay is meant to be a slow-paced exploratory walkthrough, and a reckless car ride through invisible anomalies does not contribute to survival in the Zone. So vehicles are not planned for the Clear Sky.

GP: That's sad. We hope that the local menagerie has grown both in breadth and width. And we also hope that the virtual evolution has not spared the mental abilities of those that were in the game for a long time.

OY: We plan some new mutants. We mainly focus on the paranormal abilities of monsters in order to make them interesting opponents. The first of the new ones[GP 8] will be shown already in Leipzig - this is the Swamp Thing, a subspecies of the bloodsucker. The monster uses invisibility, moves very quickly, making prolonged high jumps, while it can grab the victim on the fly, instantly disappearing with the unfortunate one. We will share other reports from the bestiary later.

GP: The GP staff is worried whether the amount of dearly beloved among the people anomalies grow in the prequel? The original, in our humble opinion, demonstrated them too unnecessarily clearly, which impacted both gameplay and immersion in a bad way. Will this annoying flaw be corrected?

OY: We are slightly changing the concept of anomalies and artifacts, we want to bring them closer to what players like. For example, in the prequel, there will be a need for a detector - many anomalies[GP 9] and artifacts will be invisible, it is impossible to detect them without a special device (we modify the HUD so that it is possible to use 2 hands, for example, in one - a detector, in the other - a gun). There will be fewer artifacts in general, but there will be rare and expensive species that are really worth fighting for.

GP: The great and powerful A-Life, life imitation system, got in Shadow of Chernobyl in an utterly crippled form, thus becoming the main stumbling block that split the single, until that moment, public. With all our hearts we believe that the prequel will show us the real A-Life.

OY: I agree, A-life has a very big potential, which has just appeared in SoC, in Clear Sky players will see a new level of life simulation system. Our main focus here is to give meaning and depth to the actions of NPCs. Make the player see what his actions lead to. There is a real faction, there is an enemy with whom it is having a war over territory, places of artifacts and rare scientific phenomena[GP 10]. Everything that happens in the Zone takes on a logical meaning. We control more territories - our faction is getting steeper, newcomers are joining it.[GP 11] They captured a new scientific point - newcomers have a new, previously inaccessible suit or weapon. At the same time, the enemy’s faction is getting weaker. Another important goal is to make the behavior of ordinary stalkers more lively and realistic. Neutral stalkers pay attention to the passing player, turn to him. With these guys you can trade and discuss more topics (a number of idle animations have been added). In the stalker camps, day and night modes will appear. There will be many new things.

GP: Fierce confrontation between groups, the same Zone yet updated, powerful weapons and new animals - we are almost happy. For complete bliss, there just a little piece missing - we want to find out the concentration of polygons per square pixel of living space. For all its merits, the old man X-Ray did not hit our exuberant imagination in the original game. What did it become capable of after a global upgrade? Indeed, by the time Clear Sky leaves the shelves, there will already be Bioshock, Crysis and other high-tech projects. Will Clear Sky fade in their shadow?

OY: Nah, we are also preparing our own nuclear technology weapons. I will note, firstly, that we plan to support the hardware not only of the next generation, but also of the current one. Owners of video cards sharpened for DirectX 9 will not feel infringed: we will significantly modify the graphics engine, redo the lighting, introduce a number of new materials and effects. In particular, already at the Games Convention in Leipzig[GP 12], following things will be demonstrated: dynamic ambient occlusion, depth of field, volumetric light and related effects, soft particles and more. We are planning to please the owners of top systems with a prequel: at the moment, active experiments are underway to implement DirectX 10. If everything goes according to plan, then it will be possible to take a look at the Zone through the prism of the new API.

GP: Should we rush to the stores for new GPUs? Tell us about the appetites of the game.

OY: At the moment the engine is being finalized, so the exact system requirements will be known later.

GP: For how long will Clear Sky make us forget about our lives?

OY: We'd estimate 20 hours of walkthrough. Just as in SoC, the player will have enough freedom to stay in the Zone for as long as he wants.

GP: Will old man multiplayer please us with serious changes and new game modes?

OY: We are now actively introducing physics into the multiplayer. By the way, we are trying to add vehicles[GP 13]. The tests are not finished yet, but in case of successful trials, the multiplayer will get a bunch of new elements, and maybe even a new mode. We will not make promises though.

GP: And finally, the most exciting question. I hope that the insidious six years of waiting will not separate us from the release this time?

OY: We do not want this either. We think about releasing Clear Sky at the beginning of the next year.[GP 14]

GP: Looking forward to release. Thanks for the interesting answers to our questions. Good luck to you!

OY: Mutually!

  1. Seems like the idea of tutorial bandits arose late in the development.
  2. Even though we don't meet anyone from C-Con directly, Clear Sky founders (namely Suslov, Beanpolev and Lebedev) are known to be former X-lab workers and former C-Con members.
  3. As mentioned in references to the previous interview, the location count is different in release game.
  4. Apart from Ivan Trodnik refusing to guide you at the start of the game, no guides require any kind of negotiation.
  5. Again, renegades are missing from the list yet.
  6. And there the resource points are said to affect not the quantity of the squads but rather how experienced they are. In final game the equipment always depends on the rank, but originally these things were seemingly meant to be separated.
  7. Only UNIQUE weapons are mentioned to have upgrade system there. That makes the previously cut unique weapons make more sense, because with the way the final game handles upgrades they'd be absolutely useless.
  8. And the only one. However, it seems like they definitely planned to add more at that point.
  9. Seems like detectors were planned not only for artifacts but also for anomalies. Besides, the anomalies were meant to be absolutely invisible, while in release version they still have distinctive features, just as they do in SoC.
  10. That is a mention of scientific points - they were supposed to do what resource points do in release game - improve faction loadout.
  11. And that is an earlier concept of resource points - they were supposed to affect the amount of squads. In final game all factions have an unlimited respawn no matter how many point they got captured.
  12. See Build 3120.
  13. Again, this never left the promise phase and there were no code changes to vehicles.
  14. August is not exactly the beginning of a year though...
(Source: SurDno (translation))

PCGH, Sep 2007

This time it's a technical interview given by game programmer, Igor Lobanchikov, and PC Games & Hardware web-site. The interview can no longer be found there for whatever reason, but it was shared on various forums, and thus is still possible to find.

PCGH: Will the technical base of Clear Sky be a revised and enhanced version of the X-Ray Engine or do you decide to develop a new technology from scratch for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. prequel? If this is the case what where the reasons to do so?

IL: We’ve decided to improve existing X-Ray Engine in order to deliver even better game than the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was.

PCGH: If you revise or enhance your technology what were the reasons you develop a technically improved engine build for Clear Sky. What technical features could not be realized with the old build of the engine? Can you give us an overview about the technical features that will be improved, reprogrammed or even added?

IL: Developing a completely new technology for a prequel game would be an overkill. On the other hand, the existing engine is rather powerful and flexible, so we decided to polish out what was already done and to extend existing systems. For example, dynamic obstacle avoidance for NPCs was added, animation system supports IK, new eye-candy effects were added to the renderer. Our work is not about reprogramming what was already done, it’s more about evolving of what currently exists.

PCGH: First announcements promise a polished up visual presentation. Can you give concrete examples? How has the renderer to be reprogrammed to realize these improved visuals? What new rendering techniques where integrated with the new iteration of the engine?

IL: One year is quite a big time period for the game industry. Graphics technology evolves, as well as hardware becomes more powerful. New rendering techniques appear. Since our game is well known for it’s realistic picture we have chosen techniques that add even more realism to what you see on screen. Sun shafts (which are also known as “God rays”) were added. Depth of field and screen space ambient occlusion add even more depth to the picture. Particles and water were enhanced: we did our best to remove hard, unnaturally looking edges between particles/water and solid objects. Most of the changes were made to better utilize deferred shading technology benefits.

PCGH: When testing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl we found out that under DX9 Multisampling FSAA could not be activated when the renderer utilizes deferred shading to display the dynamic lighting with many light sources. Are you aware of that problem and will it be fixed with the new iteration of the engine?

IL: Multisampling FSAA that is widely used for the forward rendering, is not available for the deferred shading due to the limitations of this technology. There are techniques that can be used for DX10 to use a combination of hardware and software FSAA, however they are too expensive to use them for the current generation of hardware.

PCGH: Another thing we found out is that SLI or Crossfire didn’t increase the performance very much. Will that change with the improved build of the engine? Will you do further tests how the renderer could be optimized for multi GPU Settings?

IL: We are working closely with NVidia to optimize performance both for SLI and single-GPU configurations.

PCGH: Quad-Core-CPUs become more popular and even affordable because the prices are cut. Will the new build of the engine be optimized for this kind of hardware and can players with an Intel Core Quad or AMDs K10 expect a remarkable performance boost? If yes will there be higher amount of separate threads or how is problem solved technically?

IL: We are not planning to change overall architecture of the X-Ray engine. However, we’re trying to get everything we can from the newer hardware, including Quad-Core-CPUs[PCGH 1].

Questions concerning the DX10 support in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

PCGH: In our last interview your programmers said that the next iteration of the X-Ray Engine will fully support the new DX10 API of Microsoft vista? Is that the case? Will S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky fully utilize the possibilities of Direct X 10? What are the general advantages of that API? Can you give examples taking the games visual as well as performance into consideration?

IL: We are going to add the support of DX10 API, however, I can’t currently tell you anything specific, even if it would be supported at all. It’s massive work to be done and experiments are being carried out as we speak.

PCGH: Had you designed your engine to utilize Direct X 10 form ground up or did you patch in support for DX10 later?

IL: X-Ray was designed to support multiple renderers, however, it needs to be refactored in order to support DX10.

PCGH: Do you use advanced features of Direct X 10 like Geometry Shader, Virtual Texture Management etc.? Can you please give examples how they are utilized? In what way do these features improve or simplify the rendering process?

IL: We are in progress experimenting with DX10, and still deciding what feature should be integrated into the final version. We are going to use geometry shaders, since some really nice effects require them. Rendering to volume textures could possibly be used…

PCGH:Will the DX10 visualization differ substantially from the graphics that are rendered with DX9 hardware? What are the visuals in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear that can only be rendered with shader model 4 hardware? Will there be any significant in performance between the DX9 an DX10 version of the game?

IL: Currently it’s really hard to say anything specific about DX10 final picture/speed, since we are experimenting with it a lot.

PCGH: How much of a performance hit will the improved optics of DX10 incur? With all details maxed out is a typical first gen DX10 card already running at its limits or is it possible to play the DX10 version of Clear Sky with all details in 1.024x768 with a middleclass DX10-Card like the Geforce 8600 GTS or HD2600 XT?

IL: Well, even DX9 render path would make an advantage of faster graphics card, since some of our effects are rather resource-consuming, when they are maxed out. DX10 version would definitely need the latest hardware to allow you enjoy all the advantages of the enhanced renderer.

PCGH: Will your new game be “vista only”? If yes, do you support a fallback for Vistas DX 9 renderpath?

IL: Prequel will definitely support WinXP. It will support all previous renderers for both WinXP and Vista and support a new one for DX10 for Vista.

PCGH: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl utilized the ODE physics engine for a powerful and realistic physics engine including vehicle physics that were not applied? Will you keep the engine or did you decide to utilize a physic middleware? Will it be possible to use vehicles in Clear Sky?

IL: Currently we are going to use physics engine that was used in the original game. I can’t say if it will be possible to use vehicle physics.

PCGH: Have you thought about licensing the Novodex or Havok Engine to make use of hardware accelerated physic like Ageias PhysX card or Havok FX? Will your game in generally support a Physx card? What is your personal opinion about the topic?

IL: We are not going to use physics middleware for the prequel, we are going to continue developing our current physics solution. Since physics content is not very scalable (you can add more or less physical particles, debris and that’s all), hardware physics acceleration usage is limited and I don’t see the prequel could have any significant advantages using physics acceleration.

PCGH: Will the minimum and recommended hardware requirements be much higher compared to the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. part? What rig would you recommend to play Clear Sky in 1.280x1.024 without and with 4x FSAA/8:1 AF?

IL: You’ll be able to play prequel on the hardware that you played the original game. However, if you are going to see all new effects at their best you’ll have to use latest graphics boards.

  1. There are no changes with multithreading support since SoC - the game still hardly ever uses the second core, having all its operation on the first one.