Man, I love post-apocalyptic tales. Seeing the breakdown of social order and its ramifications – and then watching ordinary people struggle to put some semblence of order back into their lives – really entertains me. And the video game industry’s full of this stuff. One game that came out last year, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadow of Cherynobyl, injected some good ‘ol Soviet pessimism into the mix to bring one of the best – albeit buggy – games of 2007. And considering that other game, that’s saying quite a bit. The bugginess is excusable simply due to the raw ambition of the AI (actually called A-Life) involved in the game.
The developers at GSC Gameworld attempted to create a living world for you to follow the story in – a ballet of mutant pigs, blind dogs, and desperate humans through which the player stumble through following his own path. Sure, it broke a lot. I’d often turn up to meet somebody, only to find them shredded by wild dogs and the quest unrealizable. But, while the story you take part in is good, watching the others around you go about their business is just as great, if not more. And the best part? Clear Sky, a kind of prequel, is slated to come out in May 2008. It’s more of a v1.5 on the original tech-wise. Clear Sky covers what happens immediately after something else goes wrong at Chernobyl, while the original (I can’t be asked to type all those full-stops) is set more than a decade past.
For a rather technical discussion of the A-Life system, read this interview. If you want to read more about the original, including how the developers’ office is an abandoned military factory in Ukraine, RPS has a good interview up. And if you haven’t read the original “Roadside Picnic,” go here now.