Road to Vostok: Hardcore Survival, Dedicated Development
Road to Vostok is, at first glance, a dream game for fans of the hardcore survival genre. It’s an in-development semi-open world title that’ll boast a day-night cycle, weather mechanics, vehicles, looting, lore, and trading. It promises to be a challenging but rewarding game, bursting at the seams with opportunities to explore real-world locations, wield a diverse arsenal of weapons, and fight to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment where every step is fraught with danger.
It’s being painstakingly and wonderfully constructed by a single developer whose only mission is to deliver ‘the best hardcore survival game out there.’ Through a series of indie developer masterclasses (and with years in the business), the creator of Road to Vostok is pouring passion into this project and sharing every step of the journey with an eagerly-awaiting audience.
And I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his game.
Road to Vostok: Popular Before Production
On Steam, Road to Vostok is one of the most-wanted games – and it has been so for quite some time. On social media channels – such as Twitter and YouTube – the developer, who is identified as ‘Antti’, has amassed a sizeable following simply by being so transparent with what is shaping up to be a remarkable project.
I asked Antti how his journey as a solo developer has gone so far and was met with an intriguing and detailed response.
He wrote, ‘Road to Vostok and me as a developer spent almost a full year in pre-production, which is kind of unusual for indie games since everybody nowadays wants to jump straight into production and doesn’t have the discipline to test and plan things out before actually trying to implement them.’
‘This project is indeed ambitious and not “indie-friendly” in the sense that there’s no quick or easy way to pull something like this to an enjoyable and replayable early-access state.’ He went on to explain that many titles within this niche will ultimately fail before fulfilling their promises – something he has sworn against doing.
Antti explained that he’d personally developed more than twenty engine tools and production pipelines specifically for the project. As a lone developer, he set clear goals and guidelines, making use of advanced project management tools to effectively govern his development path.
He breaks down his processes through a series of in-depth, well-produced devlogs:
Becoming Something Unique
Antti told me that his background put him in an already-advantageous position for the creation of Road to Vostok. He’s not only an enthusiast of survival games, but he’s a former army officer and a visual game design teacher with ‘over ten years of game dev experience’. He has, by his own account, taught over two hundred students how to navigate the complex journey of becoming an indie developer.
He’s aware of the pitfalls and challenges, and he fully appreciates the need to create something truly unique in order to succeed in today’s relatively saturated market. I asked him what he’s doing to guarantee that Road to Vostok will be able to stand apart from the competition, given that there’s so much of it.
‘In my mind, there hasn’t been that much innovation and passion for making high-quality, realistic survival shooter games in recent years. Most indie games that claim to bring that to the genre usually tend to fail or switch from one project to another.’ He then went on to explain how genuinely dedicated he is to focus all his attention on crafting something special in Road to Vostok by building his company solely for the creation of the game.
‘I’m not planning to make any other projects in my career anymore and my whole focus and passion are directed towards this one mission and goal, which is to make the best hardcore survival game out there.’
I also asked Antti how he feels about comparisons being made that stand his game alongside the likes of Escape From Tarkov. He admitted that there are core elements that both games share, and as they’re both built in Unity and the environments are similar on a geographic scale, there is a fair ground for comparisons to surface.
However, he explained how Road to Vostok will differ from Escape From Tarkov.
‘Road to Vostok aims to be more like STALKER Anomaly, where the progression is tied more towards the game world, and there are permadeath and survival elements like in DayZ. I also want to focus on player-driven storytelling and typical survival mechanics such as setting up a campfire, cooking food, fishing, crafting yourself makeshift gear, and so on.’
Antti did make it clear that there is still a current focus on core mechanics such as shooting and weapon handling, and that’s why comparisons are being actively drawn between the two games – there are simply no survival elements present just yet.
The Proof is in the Playtest
I took the opportunity to quiz Antti on the upcoming public demo for Road to Vostok, which will provide ‘that first gameplay loop experience’. In Antti’s words, the demo – which is scheduled to release in Q3 of 2023 – will contain:
Survival and medical mechanics
4 – 5 new maps to explore
Again, these maps are true-to-life – Antti has actually ventured to these locations to gain as deep an insight into the geography as possible, using real-world elements to flesh out his digital creations. This is one of the ways in which Antti sets himself apart from other developers, and his back-to-basics, boots-on-the-ground approach to location scouting is a callback to his core development style.
Road to Vostok – To The Future
Antti explained that he’s had plenty of time to learn how to balance life while running a company and serving as a solo developer on such an ambitious project. He’s had to manage financials, programming, art, studio design, and on occasion, the management of some contractors. He’s yet to team up with any publishers, partners, or investors, and Road to Vostok is being built entirely off his own back and his years of experience.
I wrapped up our discussion by asking Antti about the future of Road to Vostok and what he’s most eager to deliver on.
‘I think the atmosphere, environmental storytelling, and enjoyable mechanics are much more important than the story, so the emphasis will be on those once I get over this core mechanics phase. Currently, the game is not at that stage where you can truly get immersed by the environment and mechanics but it will get there eventually and I’m really excited about the near future when the game will reach that stage.’