I recently received an email "announcing" a post-apocalyptic MMO called Stalker Online, which I thought was interesting because I distinctly recalled Stalker Online being announced, and then largely forgotten, many years ago. In fact, we have a reference to some video from the game from way back in 2012 (opens in new tab). So what, I wondered, is the deal?
A bit of back-and-forth with a rep revealed that the "original version" of Stalker Online was in fact announced years ago, as I thought, but then someone whipped up a "copycat version" which led to an extended legal beef with the team behind a game called sZone Online. The rep said that the current developers "would prefer not to go into the nitty-gritty of the legal battle", but this Steam discussion post (opens in new tab) from 2015 (via Blue's) suggests that the conflict began in early 2013 and at least initially went in sZone's favor, at least until a claim by Stalker studio GSC Game World forced the name to be changed from Stalker Online.
It's all rather confusing but the drama seems to have worked itself out: sZone Online is now apparently called Anomaly Zone, and Stalker Online has been "overhauled … and redesigned from the ground up," and will arrive on Steam later this year. Like its great single-player predecessor, Stalker Online will be set in a desolate landscape littered with anomalies, mutants, and Soviet-era installations and ruins, but this time around there will be other human players to deal with too, rather than just janky NPCs. Players will gain experience and develop skills, join factions, customize and upgrade weapons, and then use them to shoot at each other. Hey, it's a tough neighborhood.
The trailer looks very Stalker-like, although the game is apparently third-person rather than an FPS—a little less immersive, which is a strike against it, but a more standard perspective for an MMO. How it will actually compare to the real deal remains to be seen, but at least it's finally starting to come together. And if you're feeling impatient, you don't actually need to wait for the Steam release to dive in: You can sign up for the beta and grab the standalone installer at stalker.so.