Fans Noticed That This Game Was Missing A Few Levels...So They Rebuilt Them On Their Own
It's been said that no game remains completely the same throughout its development process. Content is redesigned, reworked, or removed altogether. Characters are changed, both in appearance and in personality. In a few rare cases, entire storylines or quest chains might be scrapped. It's a common process in any creative endeavor, really; not every idea a designer comes up with will prove to be workable or suitable.
Sometimes, the cut content is...actually really good - good enough that some people wonder why it was removed in the first place. Naturally, writers, filmmakers and directors have clued into this trend, and director's cut/unabridged versions are a common sight in other forms of media. Unfortunately, where video games are concerned, that sort of thing isn't really possible. Most of the time, we don't really get the chance to experience what could have been.
Most of the time.
A group of modders last week released a mod which will allow fans to play through the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl. By that, I don't just mean the vanilla game - I mean the title as it appeared back when it was unveiled at GSC Game World in 2002. They call it S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Lost Alpha.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R was a game with a long and troubled development period. For five years, fans waited and wondered if they'd ever get a chance to play the game; many even went so far as to call it vaporware. When it finally released in 2007, it was a very different beast from what it was in 2002. The development team had redesigned almost all the old levels, cutting some of them almost entirely from the game. Although the end product was excellent - probably one of the best first person shooters to date - many agreed that the levels showcased in the original alpha were far superior.
Some of those fans decided that everyone should get a chance to experience the original content, and so set out to rebuild the game and restore it to what it once was. Drawing from screenshots, gameplay videos, and an early, leaked build of the game; modding collective Dezowave set to work on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R that could have been. Like S.T.A.L.K.E.R itself, the endeavor did not remain unchanged during its development process.
When GSC publicly released an early S.T.A.L.K.E.R build from 2004 - prompting an influx of "rebuild the lost levels" mods, the team realized they needed to change their focus a bit. Instead of doing a simple remake, the modders decided they'd build their own game on top of the lost levels. The end result is a fully-realized standalone experience, complete with new quests, new storylines, new NPC dialogue and more (on top of all the levels which were cut from the original game).
"Lost Alpha could have been released in [the summer of 2009] if we only aimed to do a remake," explained Desowave member Dezodar in 2013. "But we wanted more, something unique, which differed from the majority."
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Lost Alpha certainly accomplishes that, all while perfectly showcasing how the modding community has changed game development. Those of you who wish to experience Lost Alpha for yourselves can grab it here. Don't worry, you don't need the original game to play it - it's a standalone release. Do note, however, that this is one behemoth-sized mod: you'll need to download it in four parts, at about 2 GB a pop. Make sure you've got an Internet connection capable of handling that.