The STALKER 2 team, victim of a pro-Russian back, is blackmailed
“We have experienced many things that are much more frightening”
GSC Game World, the Ukraine-based developer of STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl, has been hacked, according to a statement from the studio on Sunday. An anonymous user on Russian social media network VK has claimed responsibility for the breach, threatening to release art and story details for the upcoming game unless demands are met by March 15. The GSC confirmed the hack on social media and said it would not be alarmed.
“This is not the first attempt to hack and leak our data, including personal information,” the developer said on Twitter. “We’ve been through a lot. However, these challenges only encourage us to work even harder because we believe that the truth is on our side. Evil will never win.”
Hackers claim to have accessed around 30 gigabytes of information, including concept art, environment art and maps, and in-game screenshots and clips that reveal the game’s story. The demands include a softening of the company’s stance towards Russian and Belarusian fans, lifting of the ban on a specific account on the game’s official Discord channel, and an official Russian-language localization for the game (STALKER 2 will contain English and Ukrainian voiceover, and Russian-language subtitles). Developers at GSC Game World tell Polygon that none of these requirements will be met.
“Despite the attempts to break us, we remain strong and courageous,” the GSC said in a statement. “In the event of any leaks, we ask that you refrain from viewing or distributing information about STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl. Outdated work-in-progress materials can dilute the impression of the final idea that we put into the game.”
Ukraine-based GSC released the original STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl in 2007 and quickly followed it up with STALKER: Clear sky in 2008 and STALKER: Call of Pripyat in 2009. The series was critically acclaimed for its open world, sandbox style, and lively AI-driven opponents. But the company went out of business in 2011, scattering its many highly skilled developers to the winds. This diaspora led to the formation of several successful studios, including 4A Games, creators of the Metro series – including The subway yesterday.
In 2014, GSC came back to life, quickly releasing a sequel to the popular Cossacks series, Cossacks 3, in 2015. It then announced the next STALKER game in 2018, with an initial release date pegged to 2021. Development stalled at the start, and has been further complicated by the illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ongoing conflict has been going on for more than a year and, according to the UN, has led to the death of more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians and displaced around 14 million people.
In response, GSC has implemented several measures. First, it moved some of its development team out of the country. It later changed the name of the game to include the Ukrainian spelling, not the Russian spelling, of the eponymous nuclear reactor at the heart of the fiction. It has also made numerous posts on social media and YouTube celebrating the resilience of the Ukrainian people, and its own employees who have joined the military to fight Russian aggression.
After more delays, STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl is currently set for release in December. The game will be available on PC via Steam, and will be included as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription program.