development in Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl (opens in new tab) he was recently postponed to 2023 (opens in new tab). Its developer GSC Game World was based in Kyiv, but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it has faced the worst of circumstances. He had to temporarily halt development while helping some staff to flee the conflict and evacuate his former office, while other staff are volunteers or enlisting in the Ukrainian armed forces.
The Xbox and Bethesda extended screening included a video about what’s been going on with the GSC Game World team. It starts with a few clips from the studio in happier times before cutting to footage from Kyiv on February 24th. We showed some of the bombed-out buildings around the GSC offices and the evacuation of some studio employees. There’s a melancholy photo of the nearly empty Kyiv office afterwards, a place where these people dreamed up their ideas and were making them come true: now just rows of empty chairs, desks littered with abandoned monitors and chintz that no one wanted.
We see a black cat. “The working day starts with a siren,” says Anton Kukhtytski. “During the bombing, we ran to the bomb shelter. This is my cat’s bag. My cat died in the bombing in the first week of the war.”
Not all employees left or were able to leave Kyiv. We see a community manager, Maxim Tkachenko, whose office is now a toilet. Daria Tsepkova, narrative designer for the game, says, “For 3 months I live and work in this hallway. A one-eyed dog rescued from Hostomel lives with me. It’s not easy writing violent quests when there’s a war outside your window.”
The GSC continues to show how some of its employees are volunteering in the war effort, reconciling their ‘daily work’ with the reality of what is happening.
“I’m from Mariupol,” says animator Alexandr Levchenko. Mariupol is one of the hardest hit regions in the war. “Since the beginning of the war I haven’t had contact with my parents. It’s an indescribable feeling, not knowing if your loved ones are alive.”
Many GSC officials enlisted in the Ukrainian army. Dmitriy Iassenev, the game’s lead AI developer, speaks to the camera while holding a mounted weapon. “I never imagined a war in Europe in the 21st century,” says Yassenev.
“My name is Max,” says Maksym Hnatkov, dressed in military uniform and holding a rifle. “I’m a narrative designer on Stalker 2. After our victory, we’ll be back in the game.”
“See you at launch,” adds Iassenev. “Slava Ukraine!”
This phrase means ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ and it is a Ukrainian national salute: it is a symbol of Ukrainian sovereignty, resistance and the official salute of the country’s armed forces.
A text note later reads: “This is just a small fraction of our story. Many of our colleagues are unable to publicly share their experiences due to security concerns.”
GSC Game World is currently in the process of moving to Prague. The studio had previously condemned the “inhuman cruelty” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.