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GSC Game World on Challenges It Faced Developing a Game in Times of Conflict

The studio behind the upcoming S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Heart of Chornobyl spoke about the challenges it faced during the conflict in Ukraine.

GSC Game World, the Kyiv-based studio responsible for the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and its sequel, recently shared what challenges it has faced during the conflict in Ukraine, spoke about the measures it undertook to ensure the safety of its employees, and discussed the decision to relocate some of them to other European cities.

Speaking to Wired, GSC's lead producer Maria Grygorovych, who's currently working on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, shared that prior to the conflict, when there was tension in the face of a potential military engagement in Ukraine that was being reported in international headlines, the studio already had an evacuation plan in case the situation escalated.

According to Grygorovych, as the situation became direr, GSC offered to move some of its employees to Uzhhorod, a nearby town close to potential refugee rally points in Slovakia and Hungary. Two hundred workers and their families agreed to participate, while others moved to nearby Budapest or Prague. The mood, as Maria Grygorovych recalls, was both anxious and hopeful. Many believed that the situation would not escalate and that they would be able to return to Kyiv.

However, the scenario did not come to pass and the situation escalated into a full-fledged conflict. So, the studio, which has a staff of over 300 people, had to relocate to Prague, which currently serves as its primary headquarters. This has been a significant challenge for the video game studio, Grygorovych says.

According to the producer, GSC’s leadership had to evacuate 500 people, including the company’s employees and family members, which was a "logistical nightmare" filled with "chaos and mess". GSC chose Prague as its second office location thanks to the welcoming atmosphere of the city’s local gaming industry and its leasers, as Grygorovych puts it.

Around 130 GSC employees, however, remained in Ukraine – they are now working remotely from their homes. Grygorovych says that the studio is still facing challenges related to the conflict. For instance, Zoom calls with those who are still in Ukraine are constantly interrupted by air-raid sirens and if someone is AFK for too long, Grygorovych can’t help but fear the worst.

Nonetheless, despite all the challenges, GSC Game World continues to develop S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Heart of Chornobyl, which will be among the first projects reflecting Ukrainian artistic expression made under the shadow of invasion. 

"It was a game about Chornobyl, which is actually located in the Kyiv region, made by a Ukrainian team before the war, and it became something incomparably bigger after the invasion started," Grygorovych said. "It’s a national product now, aimed to show that Ukraine is not only exceptionally effective and brave on the battlefield, but also equally valuable in a sense of cultural legacy. Something to be shown to the world."

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