DezOwave members’ comments with some interesting information edited into a “Q&A” form
Q: Can you give us a release date?
CrommCruac: We've set the release date once. Then a lot of things happened and we couldn't keep it. We won't make this mistake again. We WILL NOT set another release date until we are sure that the game is finished and it is ready to be released.
Dez: We can’t, it depends on many factors like we said many times before. If we finish LA, then it will be bug-tested again by a professional & paid test team, then release will be scheduled and the PR campaign will start. It's not such a simple procedure. Also take it into account that you can't really make deadlines with such an international team that we have, not to mention we are not teenagers anymore, we can't stay at home all day, we don't have seasonal holidays as we had in school. Most of us have to deal with family, work, and other things in real life and thats not even taking into consideration the different time zones, which means if we want to make a conference call, or just talk live, we need to wait 10-14hours for some guys (EU-vs-Australia etc). I never blame anyone, but have to say that during these last few years, we have had so many irresponsible members that didn't really help speed up the project, but instead slowed it down with constant disappearances for months, half finished work which others had to eventually remake after waiting too long. It's also demotivating, but we learned how to survive these incidences. A week ago my pc went wrong, since then I'm using an old laptop, and hoping to be able to fix my desktop in the following 2 months, because my salary is s*it, but that’s life I guess. So please don't think our situation is easier than yours. You just 'need to' wait, but we have to make the game somehow against all these odds. Which one is harder... heh? both.
Q: What about GSC, they are closed aren’t they?
Vintar: GSC is closed? I will have to tell that to the guys working there, seems they never heard...
Q: Did GSC affect the development?
Vintar : GSC never asked us to change anything except to add more hints for new players to the game because we develop LA from seasoned stalker players’ perspective and so forget to cater for new players.
Dez: We have to make the game less hardcore and give more hints to the players, make the story more interesting and fill the unused parts of the maps with interesting things: A-life, or collectibles, anything which makes it interesting to explore. There are many gameplay elements which have to be fixed and finetuned before we can send another test build to GSC.
Q: So, if LA is really going to become a commercial game that can be purchased, then I ask myself why there isn't a professional team behind the scenes.
I read Dezo's statement and I am aware of the problems in his team. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate the hard work in your spare time but working like this on such a huge project isn't professional. So, this makes me think that LA will be left in the MOD section of fan made content and not in the PRO section of the gaming industry.
Dez: Firstly you can't get a "pro" team to work for free. People work for living. If you don’t have a budget and you don’t get a budget from a publisher, then you can only do one of 2 things: work within the available working conditions with passion, or you stop. We chose the first.
We do have a pro team, but we cannot expect them to work on LA for 8-10hours per day for free while they need to work somewhere else for money. Our programmers are working hard chasing down the bugs in engine, if you haven't checked yet, look here for a Skyloader's dev blog: Moddb.com
Secondly, no one said that Lost Alpha will definitely be a paid product. It might be, but only if we can reach the standard that is required for a commercial product. We can only do as we did before, work in the conditions we have with passion, and mostly in our free time.
Q: I noticed some changes in LA, can you explain what happened?
Dez: LA project was started in 2008, we already had several own made maps when we got the betas for the project from GSC, but we released them to public to make it "fair-play", after we talked to GSC about it. Many lost beta-gamma remakes and other similar style mods appeared quickly on the web after we released the builds. Most of them were made by youngsters who they had only 1 goal - copy-paste maps and story from old builds to SoC or CoP engine, or fanatics who were chasing a non-existant dream. There is nothing interesting in that. We always wanted to make a unique experience, doing the same as others is nothing but a false attempt. We know we are all over that age where we can spend 8-10hrs per day on modding, so the younger people who still have more time can achieve similar tasks in shorter periods of time. So we decided to change the concept, old stalker was good, yes, but only until the illusion was destroyed with seeing all the old materials. We had to move on. I think it was obvious that we are not doing a build-merge mod for very long now. Lost Alpha could have been released in 2009 summer if we only aimed to do a remake because the maps and basic random A-life, weather, r1 render already existed back then, but we wanted more, something unique, which differed from the majority, because after we released all betas the whole essence became a little bit obsolete...
Q: So, you aren't remaking “the old, forgotten S.T.A.L.K.E.R.” any longer?
Dez: Our game has a lot in common with the old stalker, such as several story quests, remade features like PDA chat, weapon shaking/sway, cars with accessible doors and trunks, (just to mention a few) and the remade maps, which of course are based on the old ones, just updated to modern standards with high quality models and an overall better design. We have tons of new features, not only those which existed in 2003-4. We have 30 levels instead of 18. We have a nice long story which happens in the same time as SoC, like a different storyline, which sometimes overlaps with some of the old events of SoC. We have quite a lot of side quests, simple ones and also complex ones like in CoP. We can not actually say LA has nothing to do with the old stalker, but it's definitely not a rip-off. Trust me when I say we know what we are doing, even if we are slow, at least we will present a unique experience for all who care to download it.
Q: Will the military be enemies?
Dez: Military are not your friends, but sometimes you can co-operate with them, the choice is yours. We tried to make a smarter game, not a brain-dead shooter.
Q: Why do you keep the mirrored weapon models?
Dez: Mirroring had only 1 advantage. If the ejection port is on the other side as in real life, the bullet falling animation plus ejection port holder animation is not visible for the player, thus not necessary to be made. GSC made it on the left side to enhance the feeling of shooting, it has nothing to do with realism and they never wanted to make super realistic weapons. Not to mention the copyright issues, since they cannot remake the guns 1:1 with realistic names and models without paying a fee. This is the same reason why it will stay as is in LA too. Modders can change it after the release.
Q: I saw a CS artifact on one of the screenshots. Can you tell us something about artifacts?
Dez: Can't say a lot about artifacts at the moment. We have many new ones and you can even combine them using the artifact merger to get even newer types, but it’s all W.I.P. so let’s not talk about it yet.
Q: You're trying to update the LA engine graphics wise. Don't you think the graphics are good as they are? There's always room for improvement, I agree, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. never aimed to compare with Crysis (graphics wise) and from the latest screenshots we've seen, the graphics look great.
Vintar: Yes, stalker graphics were always good, but SOC graphics are too old. We just updated them a bit to look like CS or COP and I think we have exceeded it. You haven’t seen the half of the new render yet ;)
Dez: New render has many new advantages: it runs fast and smooth, but those who don’t really need the extra effects can simply disable them in the graphics options, we won’t force anyone to use them, but its 2013, so we can’t release a game without them.
Q: When Lost Alpha is released, are you going to release an extra DVD with behind the scenes videos, images, artworks?
Dez: DVD would be fun, but the production would cost a lot, so we are thinking of a mountable iso which would have a menu where you could watch old videos, screen and artworks from 2008 up to the release from various stages of development. We are also thinking of releasing the new SDK, which is, in any case, required for LA since the game currently is not compatible with the older SDK, nor the new ones (CS or CoP).
Q: From your perspective, because you've been part of this mod for 5 years now, do you think Lost Alpha will see the light (Greenlight) this year?
Vintar: It will be released as soon as it is ready and not a moment before.
Q: What about the Arena?
Dez: It was stated previously (yes years ago, so not everyone knows about it), that we won't have the arena in LA, because we never liked it, it doesn't fit in the zone in my opinion, but since we need to make the game more user-oriented, we might reconsider. Actually we are already working on something funny :)
Q: How about the side quests?
Vintar: We have added many side quests, but will need to add even more. Remember, this global area is huge compared to SOC, so it needs more filling.
Dez: Our origin plan was to leave the majority of side quests until after the player finished the main storyline and returns to the zone in free play mode, but ofcourse there are many of them available from the beginning.
Q: What are developers working on right now?
Dez: Currently programmers are working on the engine to make it more stable, fixing bugs, which SkyLoader wrote about on his dev blog. The designers are implementing new UI, which, with assistance of the coders, can now be chosen right from the game’s settings menu without restarting. This affects all GUI elements such as inventory/search/dialogue/trade screens. Currently we have 2 variants of the interface: the classic one, and a new one, which we will keep a secret for now. Widescreen support was also implemented, so there will not be UI stretch any more on 16:9 and 16:10 resolutions.
We also changed the splash and loading screens, now they look much better. The other part of the team is working in SDK, replacing trees, and compiling the maps, making final adjustments. Also some of the guys are playing the storyline, and fixing the tasks where necessary, or expanding the quests to make them more interesting. We are also working on Russian and Italian text translations.
Big thanks to KazakHD (lost-alpha.com fansite admin) for his help!
In the end, we are happy to announce that one of our former team members, Barin, has started development of a new indie project called "Rascal Rider".
An intense, arcade style, sci-fi racing game set in the future, where motorcycle racing is not only about how fast you are...
The game will feature both single player and cross-platform multiplayer modes.
Barin was responsible for AI programming, GUI modifications, new feature implementation and story line scripting for Lost Alpha until the summer of 2010.
He also worked on Priboi Story back in 2007-8.
You can visit the project and watch it's profile here: Indiedb.com
As a little insider info, we can tell you that there will be also a comic story published as a part of the project. Definitely one worth watching :)