Friday, November 27, 2009

Expedition 1

A little background for the unfamiliar: The opening cinematic depicts a truck speeding through the Zone in a storm. The truck is apparently filled with corpses, even before it is struck by lightning and flips off the road. You can see where it gets the name 'Death Truck'.

The next day some lone stalker finds the truck and investigates. He gets no money or loot for his trouble. Only you, the last survivor of this mess (from a group that was mostly dead to begin with). You're taken to a crotchety old guy with poor table manners who checks your pockets for loose change (as though the other stalker wouldn't have done it already) and finds only your PDA, which you're reluctant to part with. It carries the instruction "Kill The Strelok". Presumably that's "Kill Strelok" in babelfishese. And there you/I am deposited in the game. Watch it here on youtube if you like.

Meet Sidorovich. He's the local trader and, in fact, the only trader for miles and miles. Sid here, as he explains, is the guy who saved you. So now he wants a favour: a guy by the name of Nimble is carrying some important information meant for Sid. But he's gone missing. I'm to go find him, first by talking to Wolf at the camp up top.

Sid gives me some starting gear and so, into the Zone we go.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The single step

Alone and ill equipped in a land of mutants and 'meat grinders'. What could possibly go wrong?

Welcome to this unfolding tragedy. Inspired by other play-blogs like Nondrick's non-Adventure and one analysing Far Cry 2 decision making that I can't find right now, I decided it might be a lark to do something similar with Stalker (or S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) : Shadow of Chernobyl. At least until the new game in the series, Call of Pripyat, comes out in English.

For the unfamiliar, it's a notoriously expansive and difficult first person shooter set in the Ukraine's deserted Zone of Exclusion that surrounds Chernobyl power station.

It's a science fiction story, however, with a premise inspired by Russian novel Roadside Picnic and the Tarkovsky film loosely adapted from the novel. Strange events have left the area populated with horrifying mutants and covered in gravitational anomalies that will crush anyone who wanders into them. But these conditions also leave behind precious artifacts made from new substances with remarkable properties. The people who illegally wander this new frontier looking for wealth and salvation are called stalkers for the way they must tread very carefully to get anywhere in one piece.

I propose to play the game at the hardest difficulty, without saving, and just see what happens. Not only that, I will be using the AMK mod, which activates sleep, hunger and blowouts (massive radioactive weather events) among other things, as well as a realistic weapons mod for that authentic survival experience.

There are no further gimmicks than that really. There's no particular moral directive; I don't have to be the nice guy or the bad guy. I just play as I "normally" do (more on that in a moment). I can save the game to avoid crashes and unemployment, but if I die in the game I have to start again from scratch.

I have no concrete hypothesis for what will happen. I've played the game enough to see that it's one of the few where survival planning can often be essential to moving around in the game, balancing the amount of bullets you might need on a journey with your possible need to run from something unpleasant for instance. Without saves it's obvious that the way I play will change. Exactly how I really can't say. That's something to document along the way, as well as all the bizarre events of life in the zone. Hopefully it will be entertaining though. Really, that's the idea. Join me if you will.