The one organized by Xbox for the evening of June 14 was supposed to be a moment of in-depth analysis. Few announcements and many behind the scenes, explanations and preview contents. And so it was, at least until the final moments of the evening. From the stage, co-host Erin Ashley Simon exchanged a few words with Sarah Bond, head of the Xbox Creator Experience project. There are many topics covered such as inclusiveness and the production of videogames by smaller and / or troubled developers. The delicacy of the topic could only refer, then, to STALKER 2 Heart of Chornobyl and to GSC Games Worldthe Ukrainian development team behind the game due out in 2023.
Bond talked in depth about the various tools and initiatives Microsoft Gaming is taking to help developers bring their vision to Xbox and PC. Shortly before the finale, Bond wanted to pause and put the accent on the importance of giving developers the opportunity to tell their own story whether through a video game or not.
And this is where the tone of voice changes. Bond tells of a touching experience and that is to have followed the events that involved GSC Games World, engaged in the development of STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl. The manager says she came into contact with the team in 2021, to have learned of what they wanted to put into their game, of their passion. The outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, says Bond, gave a further key to what he knew about the game. More visceral. “It is an honor”continues Bond, “Have the opportunity to speak out for GSC Games World instances at an important event like this Xbox Extendend Showcase”.
The word then goes directly to the developers who, through a video, they decided to tell, for short but significant fragments, what surrounds them at the moment. The lives of all those involved in the development of Stalker 2, as well as that of the entire Ukrainian population, were turned upside down by the events that began on February 24, 2022.
STALKER 2: the testimonials of GSC Games World
Anton Kukhtskyi, Lead Concept Designer, tells how, now, the working days begin with the sound of an anti-bombing siren. The voice director Andrii Maksiuta he remembers the first days, the escape to a shelter and the kitten, brought with him in a cage but which, however, did not survive the first week. Also Taras KukurianCommunity manager, tells how his working day is now marked no longer by timetables, but by the sound of the serene.
The colleague, Maxim Tkachenko shows himself sitting in a bathroom and claims that this has been his office for about three months. Also Daria Tsepkova, Narrative Designer, had to totally change workspaces. Since the outbreak of the war she has been working on Stalker 2 in a corridor that she also makes from her home and which she shares with a rescued one-eyed German shepherd in the Hostomel area (22km from Kiev). “It’s not easy to write violent stories when you have war outside the window”says Tespkova.
Not only have we continued to work. We also became volunteers. So says a sign placed in the middle of the film. Aleksey Chekalenko, 3D Artist, shows his new and improvised work station. He says he can sit at the PC in quiet moments. Not when the sirens go off or he’s volunteering, he says. Vladyslav Pryshchepa, Narrative Designer, dwells on STALKER 2 stating that he is eager to share his culture and their game with the rest of the world. The animator Alexandr Levchenko comes from Mariupol, one of the most affected places. “Since the beginning of the war I have no longer contact with my parents. It is an indescribable feeling that of not knowing if the people you love are still alive or less”.
Some members of GSC Games World are making their active contribution in the defense of Ukraine. Between them Dmitriy Iassenevchief engineer of the AI of Stalker 2. “I never imagined a war in Europe in the 21st century”. Besides him, too Oleksii IvanovCommunity Manager, e Maksym Hnatkov, Narrative Designer. All three show up in uniform and say they are ready to defend their country by giving us an appointment for the game’s release.
These were just some of the team members behind Stalker 2. Many others, the video warns, were unable to participate. Too much concern for their safety.
STALKER 2: the first minutes of the game
In order not to leave us completely dry-mouthed, however, the developers have decided to let us taste the first minutes (the first two) of Stalker 2 Heart of Chornobyl. It is just about the introduction. However, its publication is a signal that must be grasped loud and clear by all of us. The development of the game goes on. GSC Games World did not give up. All our support and solidarity goes to them.