The team behind the STALKER video game series has announced that its latest installment will be delayed due to the Russian invasion.
Formerly based in Kyiv, GSC Game World has managed to move some of its staff to new offices in Prague, but many remain in Ukraine.
In a new video diary, the company showed how its staff live and work in particularly cramped quarters.
Some of them say they’ve been sleeping in hallways for months, while others say their office space is a square meter squeezed between bathtubs and washing machines.
All rest far from the windows which could break under the strikes of the Russian artillery.
The STALKER video game series is a first-person shooter set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where paranormal events take place.
• A senior US defense official told Foreign Policy magazine that Russia’s options are limited as Vladimir Putin refuses to officially declare war on Ukraine. The Russian president still describes the invasion as a ‘special military operation’, which means he cannot draw troops from the general population
• Farmers in Odessa have started their grain harvest, but Russia’s invasion will lead to a global shortage of wheat for at least three seasons, Ukraine’s agriculture minister said.
• Nighttime shelling was reported in the Kharkiv region and the British Ministry of Defense said Russian forces appeared to have made small gains there for the first time in many weeks.
The game was inspired by the novel Roadside Picnic and the classic film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky – with its title a nod to the cinematic masterpiece and a backronym for “Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers and Robbers”.
Development of the game is ongoing, but the staff are trying to manage their work alongside volunteering, military service, and Russian strikes against civilian properties and residences.
“We have 24-hour air raid sirens,” said Tara Kukurian, one of the game’s community managers.
During the video diary, the voice of Anton Kukhtytskyi, the game’s lead concept artist, can be heard saying, “So, cat, the working day starts with a siren?”.
“During the bombardment, we ran towards the bomb shelter,” says Andrei Maksiuta, the game’s voice director, over smartphone footage showing someone running down a flight of stairs.
Oleksandr Levchenko, one of the game’s animators, is from Mariupol, where a months-long siege on the Azovstal steel plant bought crucial moment for Ukrainian forces elsewhere to organize and secure Western weapons.
He said: “Since the start of the war, I have had no contact with my parents. It is a horrible and indescribable feeling not knowing if your loved ones are alive.”
Makysym Tkachenko recorded a video of himself stuck between a bathtub and a washing machine: “It’s my office now.”
Dariia Tsepkova, one of the game’s narrative designers, said she lived and worked in a hallway for three months with a one-eyed dog rescued from Hostomel.
“It’s not easy to write violent quests when there’s a war outside your window,” she said.
Read more: Defy Russian missile bombardment to treat 600 dogs and 100 cats in Hostomel
Dmytro Iassenev, the game’s lead AI developer, is among the team members who joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“I never imagined a war in Europe in the 21st century,” he said.
Oleksii Ivanov, another game community manager, said he was “defending my country against Russian aggressors” in a recorded video message for the newspaper.
In another recording, Maksym Hnatkov, a narrative designer for the game, said he would return to work on it after a Ukrainian victory.
The conflict is now at a critical juncture that could determine the course of the rest of the war, US officials said.
“I think you’re about to get to the point where one side or the other will succeed,” a senior NATO official told CNN.
“Either the Russians will reach Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, or the Ukrainians will stop them here. And if the Ukrainians are able to hold the line here, against this number of forces, it will count.”
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