The past few years have been difficult for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadows of Chernobyl developer GSC World Publishing. The studio was hard at work on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 when the rights to the series went up in the air. The studio no longer had access to the franchise as rumors spread far and wide that none other than Fallout publisher Bethesda would take it over. Not to be deterred the former members of GSC reformed as Vostok Games announced it would go off and make its own massively multiplayer online shooter set in a post-environmental apocalypse wasteland, with or without the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. name. This week GSC laid out a road map for the roll out of Suvarium, its successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
“Following our tradition to be utterly open to the players, we are eager to share out development plans for Suvarium,” reads the update from the Ukraine-based Vostok, “So as the expectations of when and which game elements you can see in-game.”
The team’s imperfect syntax can be forgiven considering the ambitious schedule it’s laid out for its new game. Starting in the second quarter of 2013, Vostok will invite players to participate in an alpha build of the game. Missing many of the core features that will be in the final version, this period will hammer out any stability and basic balancing necessary in the shooter, the player-versus-player modes, four maps, two factions, and quests tested during this phase. Between late spring and fall, Vostok will introduce clans into Suvarium letting people team up, with new mechanics like melee combat introduced as well as the full world map for the game. By the end of the year, Vostok hopes to move into beta testing with a 2014 launch for version 0.8. So when will version 1.0 be ready? When it’s ready.
Vostok’s slow and steady approach is appropriate in light of its history with the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. That game was widely praised for its experimental design, trading in the sort of methodical survival play that made DayZ a surprise hit in 2012. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was also notorious for its bugs, though, a game so glitchy that many found it unplayable without heavy modification.
Suvarium is just the sort of game that builds a loyal fan base willing to help in any way with its completion. Vostok has also carried over a significant following over from its beginnings at GSC. It will be interesting to see how Suvarium grows over the coming year.