There aren’t a lot of games in the market that have received post-launch support as extensive as what Techland have provided for Dying Light. On top of turning the game around from a bumpy launch, they’ve also kept on adding new content to it with several DLCs. Now, more than five years after the base game’s release, it’s getting another new update, Hellraid, which, interestingly enough, started out as its own separate dark fantasy game. With that project on hold, the developers decided to bring over at least a taste of it in this unexpected new DLC for Dying Light.
To learn more about it and what players can expect from it, we recently conducted an interview with its developers at Techland. The questions below were answered by Tymon Smektała (producer on Dying Light and lead game designer on Dying Light 2), Agnesa Belegu (game designer on Dying Light), and Mateusz Piaskiewicz (senior level designer and level artist on both, the original Hellraid project and the upcoming DLC).
"When the original game was released it wasn’t critically received as the phenomenon it ultimately became – and it was our community that jumped on the game right from the start and started showering us with signs of support. So this is us getting back at those guys, telling them they really gave us strength, so now it’s our turn."
It’s been over five years since Dying Light came out, so seeing the announcement of a major new expansion for the game has been a very pleasant surprise for its players. It’s rare to see a game get supported with post-launch content with so long – there’s even a sequel coming out, after all – but what has driven you to keep adding to and improving the game so long after release?
Tymon Smektała: For me it’s a matter of repaying all of the energy and support we received from our community. When the original game was released it wasn’t critically received as the phenomenon it ultimately became – and it was our community that jumped on the game right from the start and started showering us with signs of support. So this is us getting back at those guys, telling them they really gave us strength, so now it’s our turn. Also having such great community is a great help for a developer – being able to listen to so much valuable feedback about your game gives you great insight just waiting to be used for improvement.
Is this sort of prolonged and beefy post-launch support something we can expect to see for Dying Light 2 as well?
Smektała: Of course, this is precisely the plan. Dying Light 2 is already full of content that we want to have delivered on the release day. But we’re also planning to support the game for a long time after that, like we did with Dying Light – we have new ideas popping up almost every day. We know that our community is used to that and, as always, we will do our best to provide them with an unforgettable experience.
Speaking about Dying Light 2, can we expect to see it this year?
Smektała: My lips are sealed. There’s a great team working on the communication about the game and I don’t want to spoil their work for them.
Hellraid was first announced all the way back in 2013 and pitched as a cross between Dying Light and The Elder Scrolls. Now, after having been put on hold, it’s coming back as an expansion for Dying Light– how did the idea to revive that project as a Dying Light DLC come about?
Mateusz Piaskiewicz: Dying Light and Hellraid were totally different games. Hellraid was envisioned as a game closer to Hexen, Diablo or Dark Souls. Our dream was to create a full-on dark fantasy game with a gothic atmosphere. Hellraid, the game, is currently on hold, but we still wanted to share with our community at least a peek of what was done with the title. We are able to do that in this DLC because both Hellraid and Dying Light are based on the same technology.
"Dying Light and Hellraid were totally different games. Hellraid was envisioned as a game closer to Hexen, Diablo or Dark Souls. Our dream was to create a full-on dark fantasy game with a gothic atmosphere. Hellraid, the game, is currently on hold, but we still wanted to share with our community at least a peek of what was done with the title."
How much DNA does this share with that project exactly? Is it a case of executing those ideas as closely to their original vision as possible, or more a case of taking those ideas and philosophies and putting a new spin on them to accommodate them in the Dying Light universe?
Piaskiewicz: Implementing a game with such different DNA into Dying Light sure is a challenge. Because of the difference in both games, we decided to use some of Dying Light’s gameplay mechanics, and implement those of Hellraid’s that won’t interfere with the overall experience, and will simply match the gameplay. The key challenge was building a whole different world within Dying Light – the dark fantasy setting, the enemies, the weapons. The DLC is full of Hellraid’s original sounds and models. Dying Light – Hellraid will let the player experience a whole different dimension.
Can you talk about the new weapons that are being added to the game with Hellraid? Will they be in keeping with its fantasy tone, or more grounded to fit in the Dying Light universe, or sort of a cross of the two?
Agnesa Belegu: A mixture of the two. We have all the gear that a medieval knight could have asked for- swords, axes, maces, you name it. Some of these weapons were designed and crafted for the original Hellraid game. We loved their medieval style, rich with details of ancient craftsmanship, or just overall refreshing silhouettes, and wanted to, after all these years, give them to players via the Hellraid DLC.
What kinds of new enemies can players expect to run into Hellraid?
Piaskiewicz: Hellraid’s flagship enemy is the skeleton, and those will definitely be present. We will reveal more enemy types soon, but I can tell you there will also be a lot of firebolts flying around.
Roughly how many hours of content will Hellraid add to the base game?
Piaskiewicz: We decided early in development that one session – starting from entering the level to finishing it – shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes. If our players decide to visit the world of Hellraid, they can be sure they will be able to accomplish something in the dungeon. For now, we plan on releasing one level, and the amount of time needed to explore it depends on how well the player knows the area. We created this level having a great amount of replayability in mind. Each time a player enters the dungeon, some spots on the map will be available while others won’t (i.e. blocked doors). This was an important part of the gameplay mechanic in the original Hellraid, and we wanted to incorporate it into the DLC. There is also one more part to the replayability – for coins you collect in the dungeon, you can unlock medieval style weapons you will be able to bring into the Dying Light universe, and slash zombies with a medieval axe!
"We decided early in development that one session – starting from entering the level to finishing it – shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes. If our players decide to visit the world of Hellraid, they can be sure they will be able to accomplish something in the dungeon."
How big is the map compared to the base game, and how different is it, design-wise?
Piaskiewicz: The added level is linear just like Hellraid, but it will be very much randomized. It’s hard to compare this level to any of those from Dying Light. Our main focus was the duration of gameplay – we’re offering at least 30 minutes of slashing skeletors and opening numerous secret portals.
Have you given any consideration to porting Dying Light to the Switch?
Smektała: Switch is a machine completely different from PCs or Playstations/Xboxes so it requires a different approach, not only in terms of technicalities, but also things like controls, etc. Never say never, but we don’t have anything to share at this time.
With the PS5 and Xbox Series X releasing in a few months, has the thought of bringing Dying Light 1 over to next-gen consoles crossed your mind?
Smektała: Crossed? Yes. But right now, the whole studio is focusing on the things we already have on the table – first and foremost Dying Light 2.