The last time The Spy was in Ukraine, it was August 1991 and the country had just signed its
Declaration of Independence. The Spy awoke
surrounded by empty bottles of vodka with three
Djungarian hamsters frozen to his face. The Spy doesn’t
like to talk about that time.
The Spy’s last mission was to revisit Ukraine to see
how it’s doing, with the implicit instruction to avoid
vodka and small Soviet rodents. Alas, The Spy awoke in
wisdom. “It’ll all be better in a Fortnite,” he said.
“Fortnight,” The Spy corrected, slamming down the
phone. Then it hit him: like The Spy, Cliffy has the
ability to imply spelling and capitalization in speech,
and those kind words were more than just a platitude.
They were a new mission.
The Spy snatched up the receiver and hit redial.
“What is Fortnite!?” he demanded. Cliff hung up.
Fortunately, by replaying Cliff’s phone call and
extracting the first and third letters from every ninth
word, a message became clear: hunt down one of the
frozen face-hamsters, now thawed and living in Paris.
At a small cafe on the Seine, the sophisticated furry
handed The Spy a microfilm containing footage of
Epic’s latest game, revealing it to be a post-apocalyptic
co-op construction romp involving barricades and
monsters who are very disrespectful toward barricades.
There was something else, though: this
game didn’t yet exist. This was a trailer
built to attract publisher interest. Even
the biggest developers need a helping
The Spy thought he was just about done
for the month, but a message from Firefall
developers Red 5 meant he had to change
flights and head to California. The
message was brief: “URY ZHILINSK Y
HIRED TO WORK ON S TAGE 5.”
The Spy knows two people by the name
Ury Zhilinsky. He’s either the ex-KGB
assassin who engaged The Spy in a deadly
game of cat-and-mouse across central Europe in the
1980s, or one of the developers behind Crysis 2. Little is
known about Stage 5, other than that it’s a cloud-based
project. If it’s Ury the games developer, it’s sure to look
gorgeous. If it’s Ury the assassin, expect a cold game
about smoking, drinking and wearing mustard-colored
slacks. Spy out. The Spy
Little is known
about Stage 5, except
that it’s cloud-based.
his Kiev hotel room surrounded by bottles of vodka, but
there were no hamsters to be seen.
Ukraine isn’t overflowing with PC game developers,
but it is home to a special few. One of those developers is
GSC Game World, creator of Stalker and its numerous
expansions. The team announced in 2011 that it had
started work on Stalker 2, but The Spy has subsequently
heard that there’s trouble afoot in the radioactive
wastes of Chernobyl.
The Spy put on his spare pair of trousers, kicked away
the piles of empty vodka bottles and headed into the
freezing Kiev streets. Among the rabble of a public
square, The Spy met his contact and learned the facts:
Stalker 2 was initially being developed exclusively for the
PC, but GSC needed more money to complete the
game. In an effort to attract more publishers, it began
work on a console version, but to no avail.
With no publisher money, the team has closed shop.
There’s still hope—the dedication of GSC is well
documented, and it has crawled through hard times to
deliver a Stalker game in the past. But for now, The Spy’s
contact reminds him that the first Stalker would never
have been released if not for publisher THQ boot-strapping the developers.
Saddened, The Spy hit the bottle pretty hard. If
there’s no room in this world for the uncompromising vision of Ukrainian depressives, then
what’s the point of going on? You may as well let
the cold winter take you.
Only an old friend could cheer The Spy up at a
time like this. Epic Games’ Cliff “Cliffy ‘Cliffy B’ B”
Bleszinski has always been around to offer a kind
word when The Spy has needed it. Over the course of
a long, rambling monolog Cliff did impart one piece of
The Spy calls