A new STALKER’s spawn is born. Or maybe it is just being fictitious?

Even today there are lots of individuals wishing to get a piece of STALKER‘s fame. Another attempt to exploit this topic is Areal, a game developed by West Games studio.

A couple of weeks ago an announcement of a new project was made; a game allegedly developed by creators of STALKER. Great news, isn’t it? However, this announcement was accompanied by few controversial points that darkened the joy in some way.

I won’t go into details, just want to point out some key moments of this story.

GMBox tried to collect as much info they could.

So, what do we know about Areal? The project got into the spotlight of gaming press by the end of June. On June 24 it started a Kickstarter campaign. It was claimed that West Games is comprised by the key developers from GSC Game World. Moreover, Areal’s game setting is obviously inspired by its famous ancestor: post-apocalyptic world, open-world shooter mechanics, mutants, etc.

Questionable matters came to light right from the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign. Seriously, the goal to collect $50,000 looks too humble for a triple A project which Areal tries to be. This amount may be enough for making a demo for investors, but not for an entire project.

A promotional video at the Kickstarter page contained snapshots taken from Unity’s tecnhical demo and STALKER‘s early builds. In addition, many Internet users recognized one promo art being taken from the cover of the book “Areal: State within a state” [rus. “Ареал: Государство в государстве”] by Sergey Tarmashev, but no references to the book, neither to its author were made.

UPDATE. Now it is officially confirmed that the game is developed on the basis of Sergey Tarmashev’s book.

1Areal’s promo art

2Front cover of Sergey Tarmashev’s book

3A screenshot from Areal

4A screenshot from technical demo of Unity 3d game engine

Anyway, the fundraising campaign started well and West Games managed to collect over $30k during first hours since its launch.

Then the other “people behind STALKER“, Vostok Games (Survarium) accused West Games of fraud and use of someone else’s materials, exploitation of STALKER‘s and GSC‘s names and a reputation parasitism.

I’m not going to take sides in this matter, but I think this moment is quite self-explanatory:

On Vostok’s claims that West Games is not comprised of true S.T.A.L.K.E.R creators, West Games’ Igor Buryak stated, “Oleg Yavorsky says we have no former GSC employees. He points out high staff turnover in GSC. Well, this wasn’t addressed to West Games. He can’t make such a statement because it would simply be a lie. Since we’re at the very beginning of our work we can’t (and should not) make our whole team public, because as soon as we do that they’ll get caught up in gossip and accusations made by our competitors.”

Dave Cook from VG247 has been monitoring the situation from its start.

He makes a reference to the statement of Vostok’s Oleg Yavorsky made in personal correspondence “I think instead of blaming press, the Areal guys should really be grateful for all the hype the press helped them make for their yet non-existing project. If they are accusing press of non-professionalism, the best favour you could do for them is simply stop writing about them”

Only time will tell who’s right, but, honestly, I can’t remember an honest project causing such amount of informational noise (except for GTA‘s Hot Coffee, of course :-)) All I can say is that the whole situation with West Games is generating more questions than giving the answers.

Russian and Ukrainian game developers are starting to leave their countries in midst of political crisis

Kommersant writes about planned exodus of Russian game developers to Lithuania. It is actually going on for quite some time now and started right after protests on Maidan in Kyiv in December.

A lot of Russian and Ukrainian companies are seriously considering moving their teams abroad to escape political instability. At least several game companies were closed in Crimea, staff moved to mainland Ukraine or let go, so people are rightfully worried about their business and future.

Local companies moved abroad before – to US, Asia and Europe, but it usually was caused by economic reasons, not political ones.

Every single company in Kyiv has some kind of escape plane in case situation goes really bad – bigger guys are ready to relocate to Europe, smaller are ready to flee to Turkey, India or Thailand, where life is cheaper.

Lithuania looks like a nice country to start for Russian companies – it’s close to Russia, older population is Russian-speaking and prices are low compared to Moscow. So recently heads of several major companies including Wargaming, Game Insight and Nival visited Vilnius to evaluate it as city for developing games in case Russia becomes bad place to do business.

Ukrainian developers aren’t that enthusiastic about Lithuania – I’ve heard people talking to officials from Cyprus, Malta and France. Probably because Lithuania being close to Russia is seen as a disadvantage by Ukrainian developers. They’re saying main problem of Ukraine is its border with Russia.

Still, there were no high-profile relocations yet. Some small-scale companies moved abroad already, but everyone else still hopes that current political situation will somehow work out.

Somebody is making a GTA game about that cute prosecutor from Crimea

I don’t even know where to start.

Lifenews (yellow tabloid loyal to Russian government) reports that some studio in Russia is allegedly creating a Grand Theft Auto game based on Natalya Poklonskya, widely known here as “that cute prosecutor from Crimea”. Gamers are going to be able to play as Natalya, fighting crime on streets of conflicted Ukrainian peninsula.

The “game” is based on GTA: San Andreas and will, I quote, feature “less violence and perversions” and also allegedly is “compliant with Rockstar Games rules”.  They’re planning to release it for free in next four months and now registering a trademark to make sure nobody steals their brilliant idea.

Some other Russian developers are saying that GTA: Crimea is aimed at, I’m not joking, school kids.

Russia never ceases amusing me.

Crowdfunding games journalism

Anton Logvinov, one of more famous and controversial independent games journalists recently ran a crowdfunding campaign. During one month he managed to gather 565 thousands roubles ($15,800) from more than a thousand of backers. Pledges varied from 3 roubles to 18 thousand roubles.

Anton is well-known in Russian games industry, having worked for Igromania and later for Games.Mail.ru. Anton runs his own production studio and creates video content for game companies, game sites and for his own Youtube channel. He doesn’t have as many subscribers as some other Youtubers, but his videos usually get a lot of views nevertheless. For example The Useless Mouth has almost 1,5 million subscribers, Gagatun has 670 thousands, while Anton has around 200 thousands.

Anton started his Youtube channel only in November, 2012. Despite that his GTA V review managed to amass 1,4 million views. He claims his videos have 2 million views monthly.

While 565 thousands roubles might sound a lot for a person, it’s obviously not enough to fund his studio.

Anton wasn’t the first in Russian games media to try crowdfunding, but so far he is most successful, other campaigns usually end up by collecting well below 50 thousands roubles.

Right now Anton is considering implementing premium subscriptions to his blog. Sounds like another interesting experiment.

 

Welcome!

For several years straight I’ve been wondering why no one really writes about Russian gaming industry in English. Then suddenly it occurred to me: maybe because no one has ever tried to?

So I’ve decided to give it a try and polish my English along the way. Hope you’ll find this blog useful.