Lead producer Tymon Smektala talks about the upcoming expansion and hints at future plans.
A year later and it’s still amazing to see the reception to Techland’s Dying Light. The game had a novel concept – an open world, first person survival horror game that implemented parkour mechanics with its hack and slash gameplay. Critics were a bit mixed at launch but the Dying Light still built up a faithful cult of players. This isn’t to discount the support that Techland offered, ranging from free DLC and additions to the gameplay along with bug fixes, tweaks and more. With The Following, Dying Light’s first expansion, Techland will be thanking fans for their support and updating the base game in many ways.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to lead producer Tymon Smektala about Dying Light, The Following, upcoming trends like cloud computing for games and even if the team will visit Hellraid at some point.
"Once we went live and responses and numbers of players online started coming in we were totally floored. Even today new players are getting into the game regularly while the existing fan base continues to come back in droves."
What are your thoughts on the success of Dying Light?
Tymon Smektala: We’re still getting to grips with at times it to be honest. As a studio, this is our biggest independent success so the number of players is immense. The other day we reached around 7million+ registered users. I think the surprise comes from the fact that at launch we felt we had something good, but we were never 100% certain since you never know in the world of videogames. Some amazing games go on to flop while something that is the same thing over and over can end up selling millions and millions. We had an untested formula mixed with some sure bets so nobody could feel certain about anything. But once we went live and responses and numbers of players online started coming in we were totally floored. Even today new players are getting into the game regularly while the existing fan base continues to come back in droves.
What inspired the storyline for Dying Light: The Following?
Tymon Smektala: There are multiple sources of inspiration for the storyline, but if we had to narrow it down I’d say The X-Files and Twin Peaks are closest to the vibe we are going for. We created this ominous mystery where you often find yourself wondering if what you are dealing with is genuine or even “supernatural” or is it all just big deception created by those using the outbreak to their advantage.
What can you tell us about the world outside of Harran? Which memorable location will players come across?
Tymon Smektala: The countryside map is extremely big (Slums + Old Town maps from Dying Light fit into the new map twice) so there are a lot of cool new places we added in. Scenic but infested towns and farms. Giant monuments built into the mountains. There’s a graveyard plus abandoned trains and military checkpoints throughout the place. There is also a massive hydroelectric dam where a lot happens. The list goes on and on. Personally, one of my favourite places though is the buggy dirt track. The locals used to be big petrol heads so a lot of their infrastructure is still in place, only now it’s filled with the dead. Add a zombie smashing buggy into the mix and you’ve got heaps of fun.
What kind of new weapons can players acquire in their quest? Will there be anything we haven’t seen before?
Tymon Smektala: There’s plenty! Last I checked, we’ve added around 100+ new weapons or blueprints be it to The Following or through the Legend Levels rewards. For The Following, a lot of the new melee weapons are in-line with what you’d expect to find in a rural, countryside environment. Tools of trade that are now tools to survive. But we’ve also added a lot more ranged weapons. Fans kept clamouring for more gunplay so we gave it a fair amount of our time. We’ve now got crossbows, pump-action shotguns, SMGs etc. The new wide open map makes ranged weapons more viable, but they still make a lot of noise so expect to be swarmed if you overdo it.
"If you come in with an elite maxed out character and plan to STRICTLY do the main storyline, focusing on tasks that’ll get you there the fastest then it’s around 10+ hours of gameplay from start to finish."
The new missions involving the dune buggy are highly anticipated. How difficult was it to implement vehicles into the game and how heavily will they feature in The Following?
Tymon Smektala: The dirt buggy is one of the key new features so it’s focused on a lot. As a weapon and as a form of movement. Putting it in was a task and a half though. We basically had to rewrite our entire AI code from scratch. Our AI is designed to deal with a target that moves at running speed. When we added the buggy they simply flipped out and didn’t know what to do. We also had to adjust their behaviours and attacks because we don’t want you to get into the buggy and be invincible. There still needs to be a threat and consequences, let alone incentives to keep upgrading your ride.
Overall, how much content will you be targeting with The Following in terms of hours players can invest?
Tymon Smektala: Well everyone’s play style is different and since the progression of the main story line is non-linear, total time is going to vary quite a lot. If you come in with an elite maxed out character and plan to STRICTLY do the main storyline, focusing on tasks that’ll get you there the fastest then it’s around 10+ hours of gameplay from start to finish. But if you’re into exploring your options, taking on the random encounters, buggy challenges and want to take on multiple side quests, get a lot of the buggy upgrades etc. then expect your playtime to ramp up by a lot, somewhere between 20 to 30 hours.
How will Legendary levels and end-game challenges tie into The Following when the game’s Enhanced Edition is out on the same day?
Tymon Smektala: Legend Levels work across all areas, modes and maps. Any XP you get at any point will go into your Legend Levels, assuming you have them unlocked – you to this by simply maxing out 1 of the base skill trees. So it’s the same is with The Following.
What kind of support will Dying Light receive after The Following has released? Are there any other similarly sized expansions planned or smaller DLC packs?
Tymon Smektala: Right now all our attention and focus is on getting Dying Light: The Following and also the Enhanced Edition out into the hands of players. From there we’ll see what players are saying and what we might improve and react accordingly. Plans for further content of this size are possible, but it all depends on where we stand after the release of our current expansion.
Is there any motivation to create a sequel to Dying Light anytime soon?
Tymon Smektala: Motivation? Well there’s plenty of that. The first game was a major success, we own the IP ourselves and so we control where it can go 100%. So if we decide to make a sequel then there is plenty of motivation to be found. As for soon, I can’t speak for the studio as a whole. One thing that is certain, if we do come out with a sequel it’ll only be when we have some great ways to really progress game in terms of mechanics and features.
"Be The Zombie has also had a big make over to work in The Following. Human players have been equipped with some intense weapons and means of movement so the Night Hunter had to get a decent overhaul to be a credible threat."
Will The Following put any interesting spins on the Be A Zombie mechanic or other co-op missions?
Tymon Smektala: The Following has 4 co-op support built into the bone. Everything you can do on your own you can also do with your buddies except the closing mission. A new spin on co-op is definitely how you’ll be using your buggies. Each player will have their own buggy but the option to get in the back you your buddy’s ride and equip ranged weapons is also there. The co-op buggy challenges also take working as a team and throw it out right the window. These are really competitive and the rewards are worth coming first. Be The Zombie has also had a big make over to work in The Following. Human players have been equipped with some intense weapons and means of movement so the Night Hunter had to get a decent overhaul to be a credible threat.
What kind of graphical improvements have you made in Dying Light: The Following?
Tymon Smektala: Our graphical improvements are across the board so they are also in Dying Light: The Following and Dying Light the base game. To name a few we’ve got enhanced facial expressions, new NPC models, HUD and video filter customizations and new parkour animations. We’ve also added some performance upgrades on all platforms to get more out the machines which allows us to play more with our lighting system, the draw distance etc.
Judging by the support you guys have given to the title, are there any plans to release a DX12 version of Dying Light in the future?
Tymon Smektala: We’ve been tinkering around with DX12 tech for a bit, there is no immediate plan for an official DX12 release before we are done with Dying Light: The Following. After that, we’ll go right back into tinkering and see what we can do
Is the game finally running at a full 1080p native resolution on the Xbox One?
Tymon Smektala: It’s still 1536×1080. We believe a smoother frame rate is more important than the exact resolution.
Are you using the 7th core CPU on the PS4 and Xbox One that were recently unlocked on both console’s SDK? If yes, how has this benefitted development?
Tymon Smektala: Dying Light was made and optimized to work on 6 cores since that’s what was available when we made the game. So the opening up of the 7th core CPUs on both platforms simply gave us a good reserve of processing power. It essentially gave us a helping hand in dealing with more processor intensive situations, but given when Dying Light was developed, it simply means we use the additional CPU power as a nice to have and not something we need have to rely on.
"We got teams looking at the potential of new IP ideas, a dedicated VR R&D team and then teams looking at what we already have and where we could possibly go next, but nothing is set in stone."
What is your take on cloud based graphics processing? Do you think you will be interested in using Microsoft’s cloud services in the future? I mean, a game like Dying Light can certainly use it to render more and more zombies and other effects on the screen?
Tymon Smektala: New tech is always welcome and whenever stuff like this comes out our engine and R&D teams are on it right from the start to see what can be done. I can’t say how much we could using the tech now for Dying Light since it’s an existing game that runs on multiple platforms. But in the future, we’d definitely consider its potential. You can already see examples of upcoming games using the tech and it just opens up so many possibilities.
What is Techland going to work on next? Perhaps revisit Hellraid?
Tymon Smektala: Right now it’s mostly all hands on Dying Light: The Following + the Enhanced Edition. We do however have a few small teams tinkering behind closed doors. We got teams looking at the potential of new IP ideas, a dedicated VR R&D team and then teams looking at what we already have and where we could possibly go next, but nothing is set in stone. The success of Dying Light means we can really let these people explore and take their time with no immediate pressure to deliver a game like every 4thquarter for example. Other than that, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game before we let you go?
Tymon Smektala: Dying Light: The Following plus Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition is about a year’s worth of work that was only made possible by our fans support. This was never on the cards when we sat down to design and work on the original. So I just want to thank everyone who has supported us and we hope you enjoy this expansion. Without you guys this wouldn’t be happening!