Chernobyl and its devastating history is something that has inspired media for years, and that’s true for video games as well. Later this year, The Farm 51 are taking us to the Exclusion Zone with their survival horror title Chernobylite, which sees us venturing into a radioactive wasteland ridden with all manner of horrors to search for our loved one. Both mechanically and tonally, it’s looking like an ambitious experience- curious as we have been to see how it shapes up, we recently sent across a few of our questions to the development team. The following questions were answered by game director Artur Fojcik.
"In our previous game, Get Even, we put a lot of emphasis on narration and the bar has been set up pretty high. Nevertheless, with Chernobylite, we have an ambition to push it even higher."
From what we’ve read of Chernobylite so far, it seems the story is a pretty big focus in the game- is that an accurate assertion?
Exactly! In our previous game, Get Even, we put a lot of emphasis on narration and the bar has been set up pretty high. Nevertheless, with Chernobylite, we have an ambition to push it even higher.
How much are player decisions going to affect the game and its story? How divergent can we expect the branching paths to be?
It’s very difficult to answer this question without going into too many details. In our branching system we don’t allow the player to make choices only in specific places planned in the script. In our game each character may die, each task may be a success or a failure. Everything will have their consequences both in the story and in the gameplay.
How does collaborating or competing with other characters in the Exclusion Zone work in the game as a mechanic?
Very often in RPGs we encounter different fractions which we can ally with in various ways and antagonize the other ones at the same time. In Chernobylite each stalker is like a fraction. It’s mostly visible in members of your crew – everyone has a different agenda, goals or sympathies. It’s bread and butter.
Following on from the previous question, how much of an impact does it have on both story and how the game is played itself?
It’s crucial. Every decision and every new member of the team unlocks a path to new tasks and information, but also modifies or closes other paths at the same time. Our goal is that two players would see a completely different Chernobyl landscape after playing the game for a few hours with a different team and different tasks achieved. It’s hard to say to what extend we will implement this vision, but we’re doing well so far!
"It’s definitely more a psychological horror. We do make some jumpscares from time to time but this is not the soul of our game. The fear of losing your beloved ones, fear of failure or wrong decisions – this is what terrifies us the most."
Horror is the kind of genre where one can adopt various styles and tones while still being classified as a horror experience- what kind of a horror experience is Chernobylite going to be? Is it psychological horror, a little more in-your-face, or is it doing its own thing entirely?
It’s definitely more a psychological horror. We do make some jumpscares from time to time but this is not the soul of our game. The fear of losing your beloved ones, fear of failure or wrong decisions – this is what terrifies us the most.
When you say each day in Chernobylite “brings new challenges”, what exactly do you mean by that?
Each day brings new opportunities or problems which have to be solved. The military has just thrown some food supplies? One of your mates was captured by the soldiers? A mysterious informant wants to meet? You will never be able to do everything yourself and the clock is ticking. What do we need any information for if we all starve to death? What is more important – to help your friend or your personal goals? These are the choices the player will have to face every day.
How’s the game going to be structured in terms of level design? Can players expect to see wide-linear or open ended areas ripe for exploration?
There will be a couple of huge, open locations which we will be able to re-visit multiple times. All these locations will be connected to the player’s base which he can modify and expand.
How deep are the crafting mechanics going to go in Chernobylite?
The players will be able to craft items and weapons, build inside their base and, thanks to Kickstarter, modify their weapons. I think there will be a lot of deep mechanics.
The little footage we’ve seen of Chernobylite so far has looked very, very impressive, from a tech standpoint- is that the kind of visual fidelity we can expect the final product to maintain as well, or is that more of a “this is what we’re expecting the game to look like” kind of deal?
To be honest, we hope our game will look and work even better than today. We’re very satisfied with the effects so far but we haven’t said our last word in terms of lightning or materials. Moreover, according to our Kickstarter backers, the game performs really well despite the pre-alpha stage, so we believe we can push these aspects of the game even more.
"We’re a very small team but we are all gamers. Each person is inspired by something else, things more related to his or her field of expertise. As far as the world inspirations are concerned these are STALKER or Metro, but when it comes to mechanics, it’s definitely games like Fallout or This War of Mine. "
There have been plenty of comparisons being made with STALKER, which I suppose was inevitable. Are there any particular games, books, or films you’re drawing inspiration from?
We’re a very small team but we are all gamers. Each person is inspired by something else, things more related to his or her field of expertise. As far as the world inspirations are concerned these are STALKER or Metro, but when it comes to mechanics, it’s definitely games like Fallout or This War of Mine.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements. What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
We haven’t started working on Xbox One version, so I cannot answer this question. But definitely 4k resolution support and 60 FPS will be our goal.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
It’s too soon to declare anything since we haven’t started working on the PS4 version.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Currently, we were able to test drive the game on PS4 and it works in 720p with 20FPS, which is very good for this stage of development. I think it should run without any problems in 1080p and 30 FPS on both consoles, but please don’t take this as a declaration. Game development can be full of surprises.
Any plans to bring the game to the Switch?
We don’t have such plans at the moment. It all depends of how Chernobylite will perform on PC.
"We are in a place, where we really do not know how the cloud would affect consoles and gaming PCs. I used to laugh at people who claimed they knew what the industry would look like in 10 years. Today I am laughing at those who are trying to predict its shape in 5."
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
As a player, I could write about it for a long time here, but as a developer… I would just like to get the device that will have so much power that nothing will need to be cut out or optimized in comparison for the most brilliant version of Chernobylite on PC. And I’m almost convinced that I will get it.
Do you think cross platform will be one of the defining features of next-gen consoles?
We are in a place, where we really do not know how the cloud would affect consoles and gaming PCs. I used to laugh at people who claimed they knew what the industry would look like in 10 years. Today I am laughing at those who are trying to predict its shape in 5. The truth is, that everything or absolutely nothing could happen. This will be verified by the market.
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
We express our opinion about loot boxes in the plot in our game. I do not want to spoil anything here, so let me just say – play it and see for yourself!