A leaked Port Stalker is a strange new front in the Ukraine war
If you’ve been browsing the Stalker subreddit lately, you’ve almost certainly come across a curious anomaly: a leaked version of a supposed console port of the original Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. Rumored to be released shortly before Stalker 2, build footage shows the familiar classic in a slightly altered state: there’s no cursor in sight, there are controller prompts everywhere, and if it’s a mouse look, I’ll eat my hat. It all seems very legit, and while GSC declined to comment when PCG asked about it, it seems like too much work for even the most determined modder.
But it’s not this alien version of Stalker that’s interesting, it’s the accompanying document. Written by a Russian streamer who goes by the names ‘Nevazhno, Kto’ and ‘Velichaishii’ (meaning ‘No Matter Who’ and ‘The Greatest’ respectively), the five-page pamphlet is part confession, part manifesto and describes the how and why of his escape from the port.
“[GSC] dismiss everyone who has supported their game for 15 years and kept it alive,” writes Nevazhno, referring to what he perceives as the mistreatment of Russian Stalker fans by GSC Game World, a Ukrainian company, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. His list of their offenses includes eight incidents, and ranges from things like “constant discrimination against Russians in [GSC’s] Discord server”, to anger the money the company has raised (opens in a new tab) for the Come Back Alive Foundation, which helps train and equip Ukrainian troops. “The purchase of weapons and military equipment is not a charitable event,” he wrote, alleging that the equipment provided by the Foundation was used during the Ukrainian strikes on Belgorod. (opens in a new tab).
Nevazhno’s first complaint, however, is that GSC attempted to solicit donations for the Ukrainian military from Russian players – a crime in the Russian Federation – without informing them of the potential legal consequences. “It was an attempt to bargain with the Russians,” he writes, “The only mention of criminality came when people started complaining about this shit to Roskomnadzor” (the Russian agency charged with monitoring mass media).
I contacted GSC Game World to ask them about it, and they told me that “we have posted pleas to help Ukraine on our social media and web resources, as have thousands of other Ukrainian companies… However, an important thing to mention is that we also added a clarification on Russian donations later. We believe that we might be in the absolute minority – if not the only ones – to do so.”
I was curious as to why Nevazhno was targeting GSC in particular – rather than any other Ukrainian gaming company that raised money for the country’s military – and hoped I could convince him to clarify where he got the leaked version of the console port of Stalker.
As for where the build came from, Nevazhno didn’t have much to say beyond what he wrote in the original document, where he implied it came from GSC employees upset by the company’s attitude towards Russian players. However, GSC strongly denied this in my correspondence with them, pointing out that an overabundance of personal employee information had been leaked by the same group of Russian bloggers who circulated this version: it seems unlikely that anyone in their office feels comfortable disclosing such material.
But Nevazhno has written at length and depth about his motives, and they reflect the feelings of isolation and brotherly betrayal that are now common among Russians when it comes to the Ukrainian conflict. ” All my [YouTube] is built on Stalker… working with audio, with video, my interest in game development – it all started with this game,” Nevazhno told me. But when he felt that Russian gamers were being unfairly mistreated – especially GSC’s attempts to solicit donations from Russian fans – he felt “it was not possible to maintain neutrality” He tells me he thinks the Western media is only presenting a one-sided view of the war in Ukraine but, even if he accepted this interpretation, he “did not take up arms, did not kill anyone and did not march into a foreign country… but [GSC] seems to have a different opinion.”
In our communication, Nevazhno presents himself more as a heartbroken fan than a foaming nationalist, but GSC’s Zakhar Bocharov reminds me that such leaks – both of Stalker’s console port and information about GSC employees – are “accompanied by calls for intimidation and death threats”. “who have been an integral part of life for the people of the GSC since the start of the war. Regardless of Nevazhno’s disappointment with the treatment of Russian Stalker fans, it is an inevitable fact that such leaks – in which he feels completely vindicated – adding to an already intense mental burden for game developers in a country at war. Whether intentional or not, Nevazhno has turned GSC’s own work into a stick to use against them in a conflict that they didn’t ask.
I asked Nevazhno if he intended to release more information to GSC, or if this would be his last act regarding the company. “I hope it all ends with this,” he wrote, “No matter how I got it, what’s important is that I didn’t lie, and that’s not not a fan mod… this leak was made out of a desire to get justice, which i saw in revenge by any means. it was a cry from the soul”.
It’s grand rhetoric, so much so that you might accidentally forget that the subject under discussion is a console port of a 2007 PC game, and that the people who will be afflicted and affected by it are not enemy combatants but a team of developers. I have no doubt that Nevazhno’s feelings of grief and betrayal are genuine, but they hardly seem to justify his subsequent actions. He concluded his email with a plea to GSC Game World to change its attitude towards Russian gamers to a more positive one: I’m not convinced this leak was the best way to do that. .
As for GSC, the developers who do not fight continue to work on Stalker 2 (opens in a new tab) in offices away from the war zone. Bocharov tells me that the strain of working in wartime and dealing with the fallout of leaks like these has become part of life for developers. Nevertheless “We always believe in the best – for our game, our country and the whole world”.