Narrative designer Chris Avellone also talks about “challenging a lot of tropes” as a storyteller.
When Chris Avellone took the stage at Microsoft’s E3 2018 presser to showcase Dying Light 2, we knew it would be something special. What could he, better known for his role in projects like Fallout: New Vegas and Prey, offer the game in terms of choice and world-building? As it turns, quite a lot. VG247 had a chance to speak to Avellone, who serves as Narrative Designer, and Techland creative director Adrian Ciszewski, to learn more.
The E3 2018 showcase exhibited one simple fact in Dying Light 2 – your choices will shape the world around you. To that effect, the sequel is looking to create “an open story that complements an open-world game.” Avellone has been involved with the project since its planning stage, creating the lore and co-creating the storyline with other writers. The overall responsiveness of the “World System” was also created partly by Avellone. As the demo showcased, the player could benefit the Peacekeepers and increase their stranglehold on the city or weaken it, thus inviting unwelcome bandits from outside.
However, as Ciszewski notes, it’s not that there are just good or bad choices running through the game. “What’s interesting about what we showed at E3 is that neither choice is a ‘good’ one,” he said. “The Peacekeepers brutally punish any trivial misdemeanour, while the bandits use people for their own gain, but they have a different approach to punishing people.
“You could choose to do nothing and walk away, and that itself is going to have a different outcome, because the bandits are not going to be able to build their empire without your help. Or you could try and actually change those factions’ beliefs. For example, a new leader for the Peacekeepers may fundamentally change their entire legal system.
“Of course, what we’ve shown you is just one way this entire scenario could have played out – the protagonist enters the water tower with information about a Peacekeeper emissary. If the player had entered the tower with different information, the whole scenario could’ve taken a completely different course.”
Describing its choices as “shades of grey”, is there an underlying message that Dying Light 2 is trying to convey? What if players take no sides in this ensuing mess? Ciszewksi stated that, “There is a stream that runs through Dying Light 2; a common thread that ties together everything that we do. But I don’t want to spell it out. I’d prefer players to experience it at a subconscious level.”
Avellone looks at the game as another way to challenge pre-established notions and empower players to dismantle a foe’s entire philosophy rather than physically beating them. “I’m addicted to challenging a lot of tropes, and trying to flip them on their head and see what shakes out story-wise.
“I also tend to favor antagonists and rivals that have a higher agenda – not because it makes them superior, but because ideally players don’t just want to prove themselves physically superior, but they also want to challenge your enemy’s philosophy to the point where it breaks down…which I see as a far superior victory to simply punching an enemy’s lights out.”
Dying Light 2 will be releasing in 2019 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. What are your thoughts on the approach of Avellone and Techland to the story and world? Let us know below.