We recently caught up with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. dev GSC Game World to grill it about Clear Sky, and below is the second and concluding part of the interview (part one can be found here).
Answering questions, project manager Anton Bolshakov. WARNING: Potential plot spoilers ahead...
You had ideas for Shadow of Chernobyl that didn't make it in. Are you including any of these in Clear Sky?
Anton Bolshakov: Some of the features planned for the original game were indeed left out of the release. This happened due to two main reasons - either the feature was too complex/resource-consuming to implement or was not much value/didn't fit for the main gameplay.
Vehicles were cut off because of the latter reason - with all the anomalies and complex level environment in place there was simply no enjoyable way of driving them. My personal regret too, by the way - I loved driving Lada Niva and Kamaz in those old builds.
For Clear Sky the plan is pretty much the same - no driveable vehicles to get in, at least in single-player. We are aware of the problem of having to cross vast distances in the game.
To cope with it, we're introducing special 'guides' characters who know secret routes through the Zone unavailable to the player: they'll be taking you to remote corners of the Zone (provided you found such a guy and made agreement with him, of course).
Some other things which were not polished at the time of release, such as AI throwing grenades, NPCs skirting around dynamic obstacles and more, will find their implementation in the prequel now.
We know that the Zone in Clear Sky is different from the Zone in Shadow of Chernobyl. How does this affect the gameplay experience?
Bolshakov: When getting down to develop Clear Sky we asked our artists to step away from the common serene picture of SoC towards more anomalism of the locations. We want to create an impression of the players that it is no more the Zone they saw in SoC.
The Zone is agitated, energy seething, the anomalies extremely active and the landscape hugely changed. Instead of the serene-looking picture of the Zone - green grass, trees, ruins of buildings and so on there will come traces of horrifying anomalous phenomena: ground distorted outwards or inwards by gravity concentrate, greenery defaced by strokes of 'electra'...
Even the air is no longer that plain and the Zone frequents such phenomena as 'spatial bubbles', certain spatial Mebius rings where stalkers and whole expeditions can't find the way out from.
Can you tell us more about the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Factions War in Clear Sky and how it ties in with the main storyline?
Bolshakov: The prequel events develop with the conflict of factions in the background. It happened as follows. Strelok sneaked too close to the Zone centre. The Zone reacted with a grand Blowout in hope of eliminating the s.t.a.l.k.e.r.s to have come up so close.
The Blowout caused the map of the Zone change. The passes to some territories were blocked by anomalies, however access to new areas opened up. The changes in the Zone led to the shake-up of balance (built up through years) between the s.t.a.l.k.e.r. factions.
Each faction controlled its crosses, anomalous places and locations - it was beneficial to co-exist, as opposed to conflicting. But now in the blink of an eye everything changed - there flared up fights for the new territories, the War of Factions started.