S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 development collapsed unexpectedly in 2011 and it led to the formation of Vostok Games, developers of incoming MMOFPS Survarium. Team member Oleg Yavorsky has discussed with VG247 the nature of the game's cancellation and the demise of developer GSC Game World, calling it a 'forced move'. He also revealed that the team tried to save the S.T.A.L.K.E.R IP by making a free-to-play spin-off, but explained that an agreement couldn't be reached. Get the full scoop below.
We asked Vostok's PR & marketing director Yavorsky for his thoughts on the matter during our incoming Survarium interview - check out the game's site here. He painted an unfortunate picture of the situation and regretted that the game may never see the light of day, despite the team's best efforts to save the IP.
"That unfortunately, was a forced move. Back in December 2011, after GSC Game World was unexpectedly closed down by its owner and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 development was ‘frozen’. The team had two choices – scatter and start seeking employment elsewhere or stick together and try to secure some type of investment to continue developing the project we’re all so passionate about.
"We opted for the latter. After several months of escapades and negotiations we secured the necessary funding. Then the problem with IP rights occurred as we couldn’t come to an agreement about using the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand.
"The investors though, believed in the team’s ability to create cool games, even if we’d have to start everything from scratch. So this is what we did. In March 2012 we founded Vostok Games and started with the development of our first project – Survarium."
Survarium's locales definitely have a S.T.A.L.K.E.R vibe to them.
We also asked Yavorsky to describe the state of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 project at the time of its cancellation, and how he and his team founded Vostok Games from its ashes.
"Well, it definitely wasn’t an easy road," he admitted, "on the one hand, none of us had experience in fund raising before, on the other – we needed to meet the interests of three parties – the investor, the team and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. IP owner.
"Unless we arranged it all quickly, we ran the risk of losing the team too. So we all started looking up our old contacts and acquaintances trying to locate potential investment partners. We spoke to publishers we worked with before, we asked friends and friends of their friends, we asked people in the community.
"Given that everything collapsed right before the December Holiday Season, we couldn’t really start negotiations until mid-January. By that time we had put together a business plan and were ready to pitch S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 to potential investors.
Yavorsky revealed that while the team struggled to find investment to save S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, eventual meetings failed to bear fruit, "We had a few meetings with venture funds and private investors in Kiev; we were on phone with Western publishers and we went to Moscow to talk about prospects. After a month or so into talks we could not get any real offer about backing up the project.
"The game, with its multiplatform nature and huge volume of content required not only solid funding, but also an extensive production time period too. So the investors wanted to take their time, which the team obviously could not afford and which made us nervous, of course.
"We started hurriedly thinking about an alternative project which would be cheaper and faster to produce and it was at this point when we considered the direction of the free-to-play online shooter. [We] dubbed it S.T.A.L.K.E.R-Online, we wrote up another business plan and started pitching it as our plan B.
And just like S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Survarium is set in a wilderness, but this time with a post apocalyptic slant.
"The negotiations livened up and the team held its breath in anticipation. In February we realized that despite all efforts, we won’t be able to secure the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. IP rights. This was a tough moment – with the prospects to continue the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. becoming vague the team was really on the verge of collapse.
But although S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 couldn't be saved, Yavorsky was offered a lifeline and a chance at making something new and potentially more ambitious than the game he and his team were trying so hard to save.
"At this point we got acquainted with Vostok Ventures, an investment company with interest in IT sector. They quickly understood our situation and it took us a mere two weeks of constructive talks to reach the basic agreement.
"Thus, by beginning of March we celebrated the birth of Vostok Games. Those months of uncertainty were tough and challenging, but ultimately very much worth it. That experience made us stronger as the team and we also grew as individuals."
We asked Yavorsky to relay the point at which GSC Game World decided to shutter its doors and can the project, "On the day of GSC’s closure we planned an internal team presentation of the game’s scenario. Before that happened though, the CEO called a general meeting to announce he decided to close down the project and the studio, which left development team dumbstruck.
"At the time S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was at the initial stage of development scaling, we completed the graphical prototype, accomplished several level segments, to make sure everything worked as required and to eliminate the technical risks. By our internal estimation, the project would have needed about two more years of work to complete all the planned content."
Check back for our full Survarium interview with Oleg Yavorsky soon.