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STALKER 2 team says it was hacked by pro-Russian group, is being blackmailed

‘We have experienced many things that are much more terrifying’

A group of STALKERs gather around a campfire with a guitar to sing through the night near Chornobyl. Image: GSC Game World
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

GSC Game World, the Ukraine-based developer of STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl, has been hacked, according to a statement from the studio on Sunday. An anonymous user on the Russian social media network VK has taken responsibility for the breach, and is threatening to release art and story details for the upcoming game unless its demands aren’t met by March 15. GSC confirmed the hack on social media, saying it would not be intimidated.

“This is not the first attempt to hack and leak our data, including personal information,” the developer said on Twitter. “We have been through a lot. However, these challenges only encourage us to work even harder because we believe that the truth is on our side. Evil will never win.”

Hackers claim to have gained access to some 30 gigabytes of information, including concept art, environmental art and maps, and in-game screenshots and cutscenes that reveal the game’s story. Demands include a softening of the company’s attitude toward Russian and Belarusian fans, the unbanning of a specific account on the game’s official Discord channel, and an official Russian-language localization for the game (STALKER 2 will feature English and Ukranian voiceover, and Russian-language subtitles). Developers at GSC Game World tell Polygon that none of those demands will be met.

“Despite the attempts to break us, we remain strong and courageous,” GSC said in a statement. “In the event of any leaks, we ask that you refrain from watching or distributing information about STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl. Outdated and work-in-progress materials may dilute the impression of the final idea that we have put into the game.”

Ukraine-based GSC released the original STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl in 2007 and quickly followed it up with STALKER: Clear Sky in 2008 and STALKER: Call of Pripyat in 2009. The series was critically acclaimed for its open world, sandbox-style gameplay, and lively AI-driven adversaries. But the company wound down its operations in 2011, scattering its many highly skilled developers to the wind. This diaspora led to the formation of several successful studios, including 4A Games, creators of the Metro series — including Metro: Last Light.

In 2014, GSC sprang back to life, quickly releasing a sequel to its popular Cossacks series, Cossacks 3, in 2015. It then announced the next STALKER game in 2018, with an initial release date pegged for 2021. Development stalled initially, and has been further complicated by the illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The ongoing conflict has raged for more than a year and, according to the United Nations, has led to the death of more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians and the displacement of some 14 million people.

In response, GSC has taken several actions. First, it moved some of its development team outside of the country. Later, it changed the name of the game so that it included the Ukrainian spelling, not the Russian spelling, of the eponymous nuclear reactor at the heart of its fiction. It has also made many posts on social media and YouTube celebrating the resilience of the Ukrainian people, and its own employees who have joined the military to fight against Russian aggression.

After several delays, STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl is currently set for a December release. The game will be available on PC via Steam, and will be included as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription program.

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