Staff at STALKER 2 developer GSC Game World have set up a new studio, Vostok Games, confirming that development of the planned sequel to GSC's 2007 PC FPS was "frozen" when the studio was shut down last December.
At the time, GSC said it was still in business, and that STALKER 2 hadn't been cancelled, but admitted it faced an uphill battle, saying: "We will do our best to continue." In January, the studio said it was still open, and working on the game, but needed funding; now, Vostok Games' website confirms that the game is frozen, and GSC is no more.
"Our company was born in March 2012 in Kiev," reads a post on the new studio's website. "Ten years earlier, at GSC Game World, we started developing the renowned STALKER series, and continued work on it until December 2011 when the studio was unexpectedly shut down and the STALKER 2 project frozen.
"We did not reach agreement with the rights owner regarding the use of the STALKER brand, [so] we made the decision to move forward as an independent studio with a new project."
The studio is named after Vostok 1, the spaceflight which saw Yuri Gagarin become the first human to enter outer space, and says its mission is to "create games that broaden the limits of human experience, raising important issues of our time. These are questions of science, ecology and man's relationship with nature, the severity and ingenuity of modern civilisation, and of course, spirituality."
Vostok's first game is Survarium, a free-to-play MMOFPS due for PC in 2013, set in the near future in the aftermath of an unexplained worldwide ecological disaster. Towns are cut off from each other; there is no communication, no supply of water, electricity or gas. New animal and plant species "purposely destroy human civilisation."
Project lead Ruslan Didenko said the game was "the next evolutionary step" for the STALKER concept, saying it will "go way further, forcing mankind to fight for survival not only within the closed area of the Chernobyl zone, but also far beyond."
All of which sounds very much like a natural evolution of STALKER: staying true to the original's bleak atmosphere, expanding the size of its open world, replacing its RPG elements with MMOG mechanics and the AI STALKERs with human players, all underpinned by a rapidly growing business model with clear revenue potential.
While the lack of a true sequel is of course a disappointment – our STALKER review urged PC gamers "to venture in and scavenge for all the brilliance they can find" – Survarium sounds like the next best thing, staying true to STALKER's roots with a better chance of success. It's certainly to be welcomed, coming a few short months after a Ukranian news site claimed founder and CEO Sergei Grigorovich had grown dissatisfied with the progress made on STALKER 2 and was looking to offload the studio. Bizarrely, Ukranian security forces were reportedly interested in picking it up.