Eurogamer: Is the PC market robust enough for you to be single-platform with Clear Sky?
Oleg Yavorsky: It is if you focus on the heavy PC markets. Russia is 98 percent PC still; Germany has a big piece of the market. There is a lot of piracy, but people are still buying games: with our game, they really were. I've seen people on the internet, and someone is saying, "I've just downloaded S.T.A.L.K.E.R.!" Someone else will say, "Hey, these are local guys - support them and buy it." Then the first person will say, "I just wanted to take a look - I will buy it! I will buy it!"
Eurogamer: Like CD Projekt's The Witcher, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was based on a book - in this case, Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Does a basis in literature give you a different perspective when making a game?
Oleg Yavorsky: The book was an inspiration for us, but we intentionally tried to not copy all of it. We have our own unique setting with Chernobyl and we don't want to bring in any of the alien stuff from the novel - we just want to face grim reality.
As for a unique perspective, it's probably easier to come up with new gameplay ideas and mechanics if you have inspirations from elsewhere than the usual places. It helps to build up the gameplay meat around these bones quicker. In this way, it was definitely helpful to have this kind of source. But there's obviously a huge difference between a book and a game. Creating a game story is very different. You don't get to control everything as you do in a book, and we didn't always know the kind of solutions the player would come up with, which meant the story had to be looser.
Eurogamer: In the past, GSC GameWorld has said it makes games for a very specific middle- and eastern-European market. Is that still true? Does it affect the way you design games?
Oleg Yavorsky: It's always our intention to make games for as broad an audience as possible, but we've never had problems with getting Europeans to understand our games, and we have had problems with North America and Asia. It's just a different cultural mindset that makes our local topics less interesting.
Eurogamer: What kind of problems have you had?
Oleg Yavorsky: Just that the basic gist of the game would not be properly understood. We've always tried to find local topics that will be relevant and interesting to people all over the world.
Also, we've always created hardcore games, and the mass-market audience is now pretty much casual. Most of our successful games were based on big historical elements, such as with Cossacks. Cossacks were pretty well known in Europe, so ultimately that game was more appealing to a European audience than to other audiences. I hear it discussed a lot that European games struggle to find an appeal in North America, for example, just because they're based on different settings and characters, with different stories being told.
Eurogamer: Do you think there's a different approach to gameplay, too?
Oleg Yavorsky: Yes. There is. Our games have always been hardcore, which has always been a struggle with publishers. Big companies always want you to make your game as easy as possible, so that any really non-intellectual person can play it. They want all sorts of tutorials to guide the player through, and this is something we've always been very resistant to. In our market we're used to having cheap games. That means all our audience play a lot of games and hence they're really hardcore about them - they want really challenging games, and they don't need to be guided through with basic explanations like, "This is your gun; this is how you move."
But then, everything, even up to the colour spectrum and how bright your game is, can be an issue. It seems that to appeal to North America you need really flashy, bright games, and you can see that every eastern European game is very dark.
In the end, I guess this just comes down to our culture and history - we're just different people, and that's that.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is due out on PC on 29th August. Check out our preview for more.