An update pertaining to the upcoming release of L.U.R.K. 1.1, in light of the ModDB Mod of the Year Awards. As well as information regarding our development on our future plans for Call of Pripyat.
Posted by holdenmcclure on Jan 17th, 2010
First let me start off by showing you some of the things we've done recently for L.U.R.K. 1.1.
The Long Road
Ages it's been since our last update, and I apologize to those with antsy feet, but reassurance will be made time and time again, that L.U.R.K. 1.1 is still being developed.
Thousands upon thousands have played through L.U.R.K. in it's previous versions, and we're intent on making L.U.R.K. 1.1 something you can come back to with confidence. We're building 1.1 into a product that we'd be confident in calling a final version.
Why so Long? Again?
Believe it or not, L.U.R.K. wasn't always popular, and it actually took over 8 months to create the first version, 0.9, which was still long in it's infancy, despite it's premature release. Granted the development team consisted only of me for a large portion of that time, however it should be understood that making a polished product is a labor of time and love that can't be rushed.
New to The Program?
After the projects birth on September 20th, many recall the wave of traffic that ensued, and since then there's been many articles and news talking about L.U.R.K., but what is L.U.R.K. exactly? It's hardly 4chan's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Mod anymore, but not everyone was around /v/ when the project was realizing it's goals.
To understand the purpose of L.U.R.K., it's important to understand some back-story on the game itself, Shadow of Chernobyl.
Duke Nukem Disease
There's hardly a PC gamer alive who isn't familiar with the Duke, and subsequently his path to destruction with the Development of Duke Nukem Forever, but not everyone who's played Shadow of Chernobyl knows that GSC was nearly fated the same path as 3D Realms.
Believe it or not, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. we know today was almost a Half-Life clone. GSC was inspired by the popular Valve title, and planned to develop a linear shooter that would follow the same formula we're all too familiar with. However the GSC scrapped much of their work that they had created for this concept, in order to build a game similar to the game we have today.
GSC struggled to keep the game modern and ambitious. They built their own game engine, known today as X-Ray, which has gone through many revisions, even persisting with DX8 before finally rebuilding their engine to accommodate DX9, and subsequently S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s characteristic Dynamic Lighting Engine.
Years had passed, and GSC was still ever determined to build their ideal game, set in post-apocalyptic Chernobyl. Even after their initial change in direction, many concepts came and went after being developed, and just not working out. You can see from these videos, that S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s various stages of development are sometimes barely recognizable if at all, to the game that ended up on store shelves:
Hurry Up Already!
Well eventually, a publishing group known as THQ got a little tired of waiting 6 years for GSC's baby to see the light of day. Development costs money, and it was money that THQ eventually grew tired of spending. Well that's awfully unfortunate, seeing as how GSC wasn't ready yet. The giant levels you see in the unreleased development build ended up being cut and trimmed, projects like vehicles, certain mutants, whole plot points, weapons, and tons of other content ended up being scrapped in favor of a timely release.
What Does This Mean To Me?
Well the answer is evident if you've played the 1935 build, but it's no secret that Shadow of Chernobyl was born prematurely, and it wasn't just cut content that occurred because of it, as anyone can attest to.
The Dreaded 1.0000
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wasn't flying off the shelves the moment it was released, but some of us had to suffer the misfortune of playing the unpatched, packaged retail version. This version was riddled with crashes, errors, performance dips to an already taxing game at the time, and tons of smaller issues that are still prevalent to this very day, giving S.T.A.L.K.E.R. it's reputation of being buggy.
However 1.0001 came shortly afterward, giving the game some much needed stability, rather then a detour to your desktop. More patches followed, eventually leading to the latest official version we all use today, 1.0005. Not to be confused with the canceled patch, 1.0006.
Why The History Lesson?
Well it's important to understand what's happened with the game, in order to understand why it's become so notorious with modding. You can hardly find a person with Shadow of Chernobyl installed on their computer without some sort of mod attached to it, but why is this exactly?
Mods, Mods, Mods
L.U.R.K., AMK, Oblivion Lost, Super Mod Pack, Complete 2009, Priboi Story, chances are you're going to see one of these, or something else populating your average S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s gamedata folder. Just as Shadow of Chernobyl is known as being buggy, so it is synonymous with modding.
Vanilla(Unmodded) Shadow of Chernobyl, in all it's charm, is generally recognized as an incomplete game, and despite the quirkiness of the X-Ray engine, and the lack of an SDK, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. community has set itself out to build the game into their ideal image of what the game should/would have been.
Where's L.U.R.K. in All This?
You've probably seen that our summary page has been stripped of the description it had previously. I didn't think it did a proper job of articulating what L.U.R.K. really tries to be. On the outside, it's a culmination of a bunch of features both new and old. However it's much more then that. It's a labor of love that's followed a development path similar to a scaled down one of GSC's, somewhat.
4chan's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Mod
So how did L.U.R.K. start exactly? Well for one, it certainly wasn't L.U.R.K.. It was a simple merger of the great work that other determined modders had created at the time. It was 4chan's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Mod.
/v/ is one of the most active online gaming communities with a hard on for a certain Ukrainian Farming Simulator. Myself, being a denizen of said place, which you shouldn't go to by any means by the way, was a long-time fan of GSC's first title, Shadow of Chernobyl, and I was determined to shape the game in a way that would suit our fancy.
Where Do We Start?
Well, let's see what's on our plate before we get started:
Etc. etc. etc... The list continues for much longer then I have the patience to write, and it was a daunting task from our perspective to address some of these specifically. Mods didn't fix all the issues at hand, there was much work to be done, and we realized we'd have to dirty our hands ourselves before we saw our goal into fruition.
So what does S.T.A.L.K.E.R. need, but doesn't have? Well one of the most important answers is obvious. S.T.A.L.K.I.N.G.. Despite what the name would imply, and despite what the world so desperately desired in their open world game built on atmosphere, there was no stealth system incorporated into the game, and no modder had successfully accomplished building such a feature for Shadow of Chernobyl. That's the next logical step right?
You're In for a World of Hurt Boy
Well as it turns out, there was a reason S.T.A.L.K.E.R. didn't have a stealth system out of the box. The game's AI system was built under a DX8 renderer. In order to modernize the title, it was brought into DX9 architecture. Under these circumstances, as well as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s complex lighting system, there are many, many variables that play into the way a level is lit in Shadow of Chernobyl. So what does this mean exactly?
It meant to GSC, as well as many modders who had endeavored to create stealth AI, that it was impossible. When you've got bloom, high dynamic range, dynamic casted shadows, and gobs of settings pertaining to each hour of the in-game day, it becomes a chore to sync those factors, and translate them into consistent AI light vision parameters. Despite the infancy of Light Detection still moping around unused in the AI code for S.T.A.L.K.E.R., it was completely unused to being faced with such a daunting task. So what did L.U.R.K. do that others haven't?
Months and months of dedication. Eventually, the weather, the graphics, and the AI parameters alike were splayed across my desktop, and ages upon ages of tireless work was spent on building a graphical presentation that would appeal to a degree that hadn't been seen before, and to work seamlessly in tandem with AI light detection parameters. There's no secret to what we did to make our AI react to lighting conditions in an unscripted real time environment, but we're proud to say that this defining moment in our development, is the first system of it's kind, and a powerful choice among S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s for their ideal Chernobyl experience.
When we presented this system to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. community, L.U.R.K.'s presence as an overhaul ignited, and eventually we'd see new members volunteer, and bring their talents into our goal, to make the best S.T.A.L.K.E.R. experience ever. Since then, we've continued to endeavor to build L.U.R.K. into a balanced, definitive game that GSC had envisioned it to be, but our work is far from over. A designer's work is never finished, and there's always room for improvement.
That's a good question, and it's not a question that I can answer for you. At the end of the day, modding is a bunch of hobbyists endeavoring to take a production game, and broaden the audience, or simply make the game a little into their own image of what it should be. I can tell you this though, I'm a long time fan of the series, and I know exactly what I want from it, and it goes as follows. Balance, Atmosphere, and Fun. Those three adjectives are the defining staple for what we strive to achieve, and if you agree with this, then I can tell you that you've come to the right place, otherwise, there are plenty of other options at your disposal. I encourage you to vote in the ModDB Mod of The Year elections, and tell us who you think should win.
Well there's one thing for sure. Ever since having played Call of Pripyat, GSC's latest installment into the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise, we've been convinced that it's worth it to bring our efforts over to Call of Pripyat. We've started dividing our attention across both games, but rest assured that it'll be produced in a manner that won't delay the release of L.U.R.K. 1.1 for Shadow of Chernobyl. Here's a sneak preview at what you can expect: Thanks to those who took the time to read. Happy new year, and remember to vote for the Mod of The Year.
Well there's one thing for sure. Ever since having played Call of Pripyat, GSC's latest installment into the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise, we've been convinced that it's worth it to bring our efforts over to Call of Pripyat. We've started dividing our attention across both games, but rest assured that it'll be produced in a manner that won't delay the release of L.U.R.K. 1.1 for Shadow of Chernobyl. Here's a sneak preview at what you can expect:
Thanks to those who took the time to read. Happy new year, and remember to vote for the Mod of The Year.