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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - the myth and reality #2

Poring over the history of GSC Game World's first-person shooter

Below is part two of a three-part feature on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Part one can be read here if you missed it.

For example, it is still not determined what exactly caused the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Power Plant. The official version claims the regular testing went out of control, however some say CNPP served as a battery for secret laboratories, so what happened is an overload during one of the experiments being held.

Another example is an existing gigantic antenna located within the Chernobyl exclusion zone. On some of our photos taken during the trip to Chernobyl, the body of the antenna is seen on the horizon spanning several hundred meters across. As some unofficial sources claim, the waves emitted by the antenna were psycho-active. The antenna was directed onto Western Europe and preoccupied with a long-lasting military experiment on psychotropic influence onto human psyche.

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It was around this sort of experiment and theories that the Stalker story was evolving. We've got room for both conspiracy theory and the opposition of special services. Our game sort of expands into what could have happened in reality."

It was this antenna that acted as one of the central fictions of the game, as veterans of the game will recognise.

Furthermore, as Ukrainian developers, GSC feel the need to highlight a uniquely Ukrainian problem. "The accident in Chernobyl of 1986 is one of the black pages in the history of Ukraine. When it happened, the entire world was alarmed of the radioactive contamination danger. Unfortunately, many facts about the accident and its consequences were concealed by the USSR government.

As time passes, people start forgetting about the accident and the related problems that Ukraine has to cope with now virtually independently. So, for several reasons Chernobyl has been a very unique and an amazing game concept: global public awareness of the setting, mysteriousness of the place, radioactivity dangers, talk about mutations - all combines into a solid concept of a horror-filled atmospheric shooter. The motif behind Stalker was to create a game to remind people of the Chernobyl accident and at the same time warn mankind against any possible fatal mistakes in the future."

However, the root of Stalker and the Zone of Alienation had found its inception even earlier than this.

THE ONE PERCENT
The novella 'Roadside Picnic' by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky is an instance of a tradition of 'hard' science fiction written in the Soviet Union. Such stories posit scientifically plausible scenarios and play them out to the best-understood science of the time. Roadside Picnic's scenario is of a mysterious event where something strikes the Earth from space.

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As I've already suggested, this idea is rather like the actual events in Siberia in 1908, where an explosion flattened vast tracts of (thankfully uninhabited) forest. The book's alien collision leaves various contaminated zones across the world, with the focus of the book being one in Canada.

These contaminated zones are filled with unusual dangers such as gravity traps and illusions, but are valuable because they also produce artefacts with unusual properties. These objects are retrieved by certain brave and foolish individuals, known as the Stalkers. These artifacts are among numerous motifs from the book that have managed to make their way into the game - the anomalies, the bolts thrown to set off the anomalies, and even the dress code followed by the stalkers themselves.

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