GSC Game World, the company behind the iconic STALKER franchise, suddenly came out of hibernation in December of last year. Polygon reached out to the Ukrainian team to find out more about the circumstances around their re-launch, and to learn more about what's next.
Today, Valentine Yeltyshev is the public relations director for GSC Game World, but in February of 2011 he was in the room when GSC terminated its work on the next STALKER game and, for all intents and purposes, closed the company down.
When the core STALKER team rallied around Vostok Games, which would go on to publish the online shooter Survarium, Yeltyshev says that he went his own way. In fact, he says that he stepped away from the games industry entirely to pursue a career on the motocross circuit.
"That was the beginning of Vostok Games," Yeltyshev told Polygon. "But I did not trust in the idea of the Survarium game. But I did not believe, at that time, that something better could be done. So that's why I stepped away from the games industry and never became part of Vostok Games."
But now he, as well as GSC Game World itself, are back. Yeltyshev says that since November of last year he's been working for GSC full time, and he's very excited to talk about their next project — when the time is right.
What he can say is that the studio is in good hands. While Sergei Grigorovich, the founder of the company, still maintains the role of CEO and supplies the company with its funding, today he enjoys his privacy and is no longer in control of the day-to-day management. That task has been handed off to his brother, Evgeniy, who has been given the role of producer on their next project.
The brother of the founder of GSC is the producer on their next title
"Evgeniy has worked with GSC Game World, as a developer and as a project lead, from the beginning," Yeltyshev said. "Since around 2000. So he's not new to the games industry."
The younger Grigorovich brother isn't the only GSC veteran on board for the next project. Yeltyshev says that there are several key members of the company still employed there, as well as many Ukrainians with experience at other games companies.
Still looming over the team at GSC is a competing STALKER game, called STALKER: Apocalypse. It's being made by West Games, which has claimed in the past to be made up of members of the original STALKER team. However, its first crowdfunding effort was mysteriously suspended by Kickstarter not long after it began. That suspension lead the team to a service called Wfunder, a crowdfunding platform that looks very much like Kickstarter but is headquartered outside the United States.
STALKER: Apocalypse is the most-funded game on Wfunder right now, but that's not saying much. It has $16,126 pledged on a $600,000 ask with 29 days left. It appears that it will keep any money pledged to the project regardless of whether the goal is met.
GSC's Yeltyshev all but dismisses West Games, saying that the team has neither the expertise, nor the permission, to make a STALKER game.
"We started to develop a Flash-based, a web-based STALKER before 2011," Yeltshev said. "An isometric, open-world STALKER. And that was these guys [that make up the core of West Games]. When we realized that this project would not be as good as we wanted it to be, we closed the project."
"They are trying to steal money from people with this crowdfunding website. With Kickstarter first ... and now they are using some weird, other platform. Who is so stupid as to give them money? These guys do not even have an adequate team to make a game half as big as the original STALKER, let alone a full game."
For the time being, Yeltyshev says that GSC is not at all concerned about West Games but will not hesitate to take action if they try to bring their STALKER game to market.
GSC's next project is nearing an alpha state, and will be announced soon.