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The Home Stretch

20 July, 2007

We’re heading into the home stretch now at work. Only a few more weeks to go before we submit the game to the publisher, so the pressure is really on. To top it off, we’ve been losing AI programmers left and right. There were 3 others on the team when I started 6 months ago, and as of today, it’s down to just me. That makes me the go-to guy for any AI issues, which is cool in a way, but it’s also a lot of responsibility at a critical time. If something is broken with the AI, there’s nobody but me to fix it.

Actually, I don’t mind. It is a lot of pressure, but I knew that was part of the deal when I got into the game industry. And it’s certainly good experience. I just hope I can have everything in good shape by the time we ship the game.

… Most boring post ever? No, I’m sure I’ve done ones worse than this. Anyway, I rewrote the rest of yesterday’s post, outlining one evening’s experience in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. For those that want to continue the tale, just hit the link below.

I peer around again. The other guy is in cover behind a tree, and to make things worse, there’s a hummock of ground midway between us that hides him even more. I’m going to have to move up.

I sprint for a tree up ahead and to my left. Bullets thud into the tree trunk. When he pauses, I lean out and fire. I have a much better line of sight this time, and after a couple bursts, I drop him. I note that I’ve used up 19 rounds in this firefight. Less than two mags left for the AKS now.

I start moving forward to loot the dead bandits, when shots ring out to my right. I spin around and there’s one more bandit approaching, firing from the hip less than 30m away. I drop into a crouch and spray like mad until he falls. Never mind how many rounds I wasted on that one… at least I lived.

I loot the bandits, but it’s no haul. Just a couple shotguns in worse shape than my own, and another handgun, some food. No medkit. Is my contact even still alive? I’ve got to keep moving. Plus it has started raining on me, hard. Wonderful.

I head for the buildings. As I get closer I see they’re a pair of long barns or stables. There’s movement by the door of the near one. What is that? Some kind of animal ducks inside. I put the AKS away and get out the shotgun again. I enter cautiously. There at the far end I can see some sort of creature. It’s about the size of a pig, but longer legged and with a humped profile like a bison. There legs look unnatural, like they don’t end in feet or hooves, just stumps.

Another mutant steps out of the shadows to join the first. When they start to approach me, I raise the shotgun and fire. One of them drops with a tired wheeze and the other flees out the door at the far end of the stable. I move up to the dead mutant and prod it with my toe. What was it? Pig? Dog? Who knows?

I search the stable, but there’s nothing here at all. I go to the next one… someone’s here! It’s another stalker, it’s cool. We greet each other cautiously, and I see if he has anything to trade. Jackpot, he has a medkit. I trade him some food and some rubles for it. Pleasure doing business with you, comrade.

I hurry back to where I left my contact, hoping he hasn’t already died on me. I see movement up ahead and duck into the cover of some bushes. It’s a fair ways off, and hard to see through the rain, so I get out my binoculars for a better look.

There’s a bandit sauntering down the road. He’s got his hands in his pockets, and not a weapon in sight. Cheeky bastard. I dig out the AKS and keep the sights on him as he walks by, but he never sees me and never gets closer than 100m. I wait till he’s well past me, then scamper across the road.

My contact is still alive when I get back to him. Thank goodness! I patch him up with the medkit and get him back on his feet. So, man, what’s all this about Strelok? He tells me that he knows the guy, but they’re not friendly. His brother, Seliy, could tell me more, but he’s holed up in a hangar even farther north. Great.

I’m about to ask for details when the guy pulls out a pistol and starts shooting! Not at me, but at the open wall of the building, where one, two, three feral dogs are streaming in. I fumble for my shotgun, but they’re already on him. One dog charges me and I drop it with a blast. My contact goes down with four dogs on him. I try to line up a shot that won’t hit him too, and pick off one more dog. The rest scatter… but I’m sure they’ll be back.

My contact is dead. Stalin’s balls, that was a lot of work for nothing! What now? I could head farther north and look for this Seliy… but it’s getting dark, those feral dogs are still out there, I’ve been shot, it’s still pissing down rain, and to top it all off, I’m getting hungry. So enough of this, I’m heading back.

When I walk back into the village, the sentry gives me a knowing look. Another battered stalker slinking in out of the rain. Well, at least I made it back in one piece… there may be some that didn’t. I notice that the stalker I gave my medkit has made it back ok. That’s good, maybe he’ll return the favour some day.

I head down into the cellar where Sidorovich runs his seedy little business. I show him the weapons I took off the dead bandits, and he offers me a few rubles for them. Does he have any 5.45mm ammo for the AKS? Nyet, sorry. How about some food then? Sure, here’s some soy sausage, 20 rubles.

What I really need is that protective clothing he’s got for sale, but I’m a long way from being able to afford it. Maybe after a few more trips into the Zone.

I climb back up into my attic, out of the rain. I eat the sausage and curl up to try to get some sleep. I wonder if I’ll live through another day in the Zone. I wonder how I even got here in the first place. Who was I, before the stalkers found me, unconscious in the crashed truck? Do I have a life outside the Zone? Friends, family waiting for me? These are questions only Strelok can answer. And that’s why I have to find him.

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