S.T.A.L.K.E.R., part two

Our venture into the Zone continues as we chat with GSC about weapons, A-Life and storyline

Last Saturday we brought you the first instalment of our chat with GSC on S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which finally releases on March 23.

Today the interview continues in part two, with GSC's Oleg Yavorsky talking to us about weapons, A-Life and storyline. There's more too, and the third part will be coming shortly.

Over to Oleg...

Are day/night cycles in real-time, and also, what can you tell us about weather/climate in the game?

Yavorsky: Day & night shifts in real-time, which is one of the features that makes S.T.A.L.K.E.R. stand out. Players will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy beautiful dawns, mid-day heat, sunsets, starry nights, with weather effects (wind, fog, rain, thunder etc) all shifting dynamically. Interestingly, the time of the day affects your gameplay in several ways.

Firstly, all stalkers see worse at night, which is pretty normal. At the same time, most of the animals can see perfectly well at night. On top of that, some monsters who prefer to sit underground at daytime, crawl out in darkness. On the other hand, some of the artefacts are visible at night only. So ultimately, it's all up to the player whether to take the risk of the dangerous night travelling or sit in wait until dawn in a safe place.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s game world is pretty much an ecosystem. What motivates or drives the "residents" of the game world, and how do they interact?

Yavorsky: The idea of creating a huge and dangerous Zone with the player being a mere element of the whole system brought us to the need to develop an innovative AI system. We wouldn't be able to solve the task with traditional scripts and triggers as we needed the player to believe in what's happening around him in the Zone. Hence, it was a matter of creating a living and breathing world, in a way MMORPG games do it, but in single-player.

This is the way the concept of life simulation was born. Life simulation (or A-life) is the environment where the game characters live. It provides the NPCs with information on the Zone. Driven by A-life, the NPCs live in accordance with their life cycles: stalkers traverse the Zone, accomplish individual tasks, take rest, eat and sleep. Monsters are preoccupied with hunting for prey, feeding, sleeping, taking rest, migrating the areas and fighting for their lives.

The A-life provides for two detailing levels of the NPCs vital activity (LOD): the first one, when the characters live in the real time of the player, the second one - when characters process their actions in less detail, but do it all the time. The A-life has groups of characters who behave as separate beings. As a result factions fight with each other for spheres of influence and monsters arrange assaults on stalker camps.

Is there any scripting at all in the game, is it all left to artificial intelligence?

Yavorsky:Let's talk about the storyline content, combat AI, A-life and how they interact with each other. The storyline content is the events the player must see to get the understanding of what he's doing in the game, what occurs around him, what is the Zone and what's his goal. The basic logic of the storyline content is pretty much predesigned - the starting conditions, key spots and the ending conditions. In terms of classic level, these scenes may not be called scripted, though. What's fixed is only the beginning, the end, and the condition at which the scene is considered accomplished.

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