The Needles

The Needles
Stalin vs.Martians: The Alexander Shcherbakov Interview

Andy Chalk | 20 May 2008 21:00
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"We started production in late January," he added, "Right now, we already have something that we can show to the public, about six months more and we'll be ready to release the game and it won't be a piece of junk, 'cause our pipeline allows us to make production effective."

It's fun to think of the Russian videogame industry as a wild and crazy place with an unfettered development environment that can lead to uniquely brilliant gaming experiences, but when I asked him if this sort of off-beat game design was a common thing on his side of the world, Shcherbakov assured me it was not. "Stalin vs.Martians is a big exception," he said. "The Russian market rarely produces something like that. The developers are trying to be as "serious" as possible, but most of the time they're exploring the same old clich├ęs and make games that are simply dull."

He explained that while the PC market in Russia is huge and there are hundreds of developers in the country, there's only a small handful of publishers and just a few "AAA titles" produced each year. The majority of games produced in Russia are released exclusively to the domestic market at very low prices, and while increasingly these games do reach international audiences, it's typically via quick-and-dirty deals with other publishers that result in low-profile shovelware releases of games that weren't terribly good to begin with.

Describing one such deal, Shcherbakov said, "[It was] a cheap and ugly adventure game based on a stupid Russian movie that makes everyone throw up, even in the domestic market. It happened because of the barter deal between Atari and Akella, when Atari gave publishing rights for ex-U.S.S.R. for one of its games to Akella, and Akella gave Atari rights for a few crappy local titles."

So whether American audiences get to sample this "brainscrewing" real-time strategy game in their native language remains an open question. Shcherbakov said the Asian market is the company's priority, but added that the impact of rampant piracy in China on Dreamlore's bottom line is becoming an incentive for increased focus on Europe and North America. Interestingly, he also indicated that the most positive feedback he has received about the game has come from outside Russia. "It's a little bit weird, 'cause theoretically Stalin vs. Martians should capture maximum interest in the former Soviet Union," he said. "But after the announcement we learned that most positive responses came from the E.U. and U.S.. So we're kinda betraying our Motherland right now."

"Stalin vs. Martians is different because we're different," Shcherbakov said. "We have a flawless sense of humor and we're smart. Actually, I'm so smart and my brain is so colossal that when I enter the room my head sometimes sticks in the doorway."

You don't see that kind of intellectual credibility every day, and from where I sit, it makes this a game worth watching. If all goes according to the Dreamlore plan, our Russian gamer brethren will get their hands on Stalin vs. Martians by the end of the year. For now, at least, the rest of us can only cross our fingers and wait.

Andy Chalk secretly wishes his parents had named him Andrei. To get in touch with your own secret inner Russian and learn more about Stalin vs. Martians, check out dreamloregames.com/stalin.

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