What's missing from the Survarium open beta (which we found very encouraging anyway) is arguably the most important part: the Free Play mode. It's described as a PVE (player-versus-environment - you-against-the-computer) mode with exploration and missions. In other words it's as close to a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. experience as the game will get - remember that Ukrainian developer Vostok Games formed when S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developer GSC shadily fell apart, so there's plenty of shared heritage.
But Vostok hasn't said a great deal about what Free Play will be, only that it's still on the cards and in development and will be added at some point. PR & Marketing director Oleg Yavorsky was reluctant to add too much more when I spoke to him, but did share a few things.
"We made it very clear from the beginning that people should not expect Survarium to be another S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game," he pointed out for clarity. "It is all online and it is all multiplayer based, and even in Free Play we plan to have about 30 other players who will be playing alongside you on the same map.
"The idea," he went on, "is that you play along but you can, at some point, combine, join, team-up with other players ... or you can go against everyone. You go on your own mission, you have a much bigger map than what it is now, and you're trying to survive, you're trying to accomplish your own mission. And sometimes this mission actually goes against the mission of another guy, so sometimes you really have to fight other players."
So you'll be with/against 30 other people, have limited resources and also have "a totally hostile environment" to contend with. "The key idea is to survive," he says, "survival is a core concept of Survarium, as the title tries to indicate."
And you'll only get one life - that's the initial idea. "You cannot die, and the mission is over." Whether other people will be able to nick your stuff, a la DayZ, however, is "a matter of later discussion". Incidentally the character you'll be using will be the same one you use for the team-on-team player-versus-player modes.
Free Play sounds like a big idea, and sounds like it's a long way off, as does the full Survarium release. The plan is to have something added to the game this year - this year we've just started - but at the moment most people are working on PVP. "There's still a lot of stuff to do."
Understandably, then, Survarium will have a long open beta. "We're still actively developing it - it's just a desire to give players something to try without having to wait a year or two for Survarium to be completely finished," he said.
A full release probably won't happen until late 2016. "Yeah..." he verbally nods, "given the ideas we have for the game. We still have work to do, about a year, a year-and-a-half from now. I'd easily say we'll continue actively developing it for another year or so."
Vostok numbers around 65 "or so" people so Survarium has heft behind it. And in the distant future there may even be a console debut, although it's "nothing more than internal discussions" right now - "a 'possibly' - something for us to work on later probably when we have enough free hands to do that, or outsource to another team who will do a port for us."