S.T.A.L.K.E.R., GSC Game World‘s Chernobyl-based FPS, has received an unofficial graphics upgrade thanks to Ars Technica user NivenhBro, who has adjusted the implementation of certain functionality in order to improve the game’s visual quality and, in many cases, the rendering speed, as well.
In a post on the Ars Technica gaming forum, NivenhBro moves through the process of anticipating S.T.A.L.K.E.R., getting S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and then tearing into S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in order to make it run better. Ultimately, his Float32 project has produced a modification that, according to the author, significantly improves parallax mapping, removes unnecessary calculations that slow the rendering process, and greatly increases the bumpmapping quality. Remarkably, the improvements come with no FPS penalty, and in many cases, can actually improve FPS rates by up to 20 percent.
The improvement in visuals and performance will vary depending on both the hardware as well as the operating system in use: users running below-maximum texture detail will see a greater improvement, and Vista users will see more of a performance boost than XP users.
Given S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s notoriously-demanding system requirements, this modification has attracted a considerable amount of attention, but as with any user-made modifications, caution is advised, especially for gamers unfamiliar with such tinkering. In all cases, back up your files – especially saved games.
Fans of the game will also be pleased to know that they can now also listen to that moody S.T.A.L.K.E.R. music anywhere, thanks to the Czech S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fansite stalker.scorpions.cz. Originally intended for some versions of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Limited Edition, GSC Game World has instead apparently decided to make it free for everyone. The soundtrack can be downloaded here, while a fan-made CD label and case inlay are also available (PDF format).