As an open-ended post-apocalyptic action-RPG, 10tons’ upcoming Dysmantle certainly has a premise that sounds interesting right off the bat. You ascend from your underground shelter after long years and enter a dangerous world, and crafting, hunting, and surviving will be key to ensuring that you make it against the forces that threaten you. With the right execution, the ideas of Dysmantle have the potential to coalesce into something really interesting, and so, curious about the game as we are, we recently sent across some of our questions about it to its developers. You can read our interview with 10tons co-founder Sampo Töyssy below.
"It will be a happier post-apocalypse in some ways though, and we will be adding in even some fantasy-like elements to the traditional post-apocalyptic mix. The basic setting is that something has happened, and the protagonist has been living in an underground shelter for several years."
What can you tell us about the post-apocalyptic setting of Dysmantle and how players will come to find themselves in this situation?
We would like to keep this as a mystery for the most part. It will be a happier post-apocalypse in some ways though, and we will be adding in even some fantasy-like elements to the traditional post-apocalyptic mix. The basic setting is that something has happened, and the protagonist has been living in an underground shelter for several years. The player starts unraveling all this when the protagonist is finally running out of food and supplies and has to resurface. It’s not even the year 2000 yet when the game starts, so most of the tech on the island is quite old fashioned. There’s also the mentioned fantasy-like twist which has also affected the tech development of things on the island.
Dysmantle’s promises of destructible objects is an intriguing one- how much will the play into various facets of the gameplay?
This is an important part of the gameplay. The destruction yields resources which you can use to craft stuff. You can’t break all the things at start though – you must build the right tools. The destructible objects may also block your paths in some occasions, so you need to get stronger and get better tools to expand your reach.
With its post-apocalypse setting, can you tell us about Dysmantle’s approach to enemy design and variety? Can players expect to come across various different kinds of foes?
There will be an assortment of foes. They will come in different sizes and have different abilities. There will also be some boss fights. Dysmantle is not a fighting game though, so fighting is only one aspect in the game. Most of the organic (meaning non-mechanic) enemies are ex people and ex animals that have been corrupted with the root cause that led to the end of the world. It’s not as subtle as in many zombie apocalypse settings, so you will be fighting (and avoiding) all sorts of different creatures. There are also some mechanical threats, which are wielding more traditional arsenal or weapons.
How extensive are Dysmantle’s crafting and building mechanics?
There are lots of recipes to craft and upgrade as the destroy-gather-craft loop is one of the core aspects. Some of the recipes are items (tools/weapons, special items, trinkets, headgear, outfits), and some are general feature upgrades such as the sleeping bag, which allows you to sleep at campfires. Sleeping enables you to pass time, but will also give you well-rested bonuses for a few hours.
Building is still somewhat work in progress, but it’s roughly divided into two categories: useful machines (like a material refinery) and aesthetic things (like furniture). We’re still considering how far we’re going to expand this aspect though. For example, we don’t have conveyor belts which would be used to transport materials to new locations for further processing like some more building focused games. We haven’t yet solved how to make a neat interface for building whole houses (walls, floors, doors) for example, so that feature will not likely be included, and definitely not in the Early Access version. We want it to be simpler to use than the full blown level editor we’re using.
"We haven’t yet solved how to make a neat interface for building whole houses (walls, floors, doors) for example, so that feature will not likely be included, and definitely not in the Early Access version. We want it to be simpler to use than the full blown level editor we’re using."
Speaking of the building mechanics, can you talk about what role they have in the larger gameplay loop and what impact these will have on progression?
If you mean macro level building, like small buildings / machines, yes there is some. If you mean building things you carry, yes, that is a large feature with a big impact on progression. As mentioned, some of the things you can build are only for your aesthetic pleasure, like a chair or table. There are also quests and goals related to this, but the furniture doesn’t really serve any hardcore gameplay purpose at the moment. You can also build useful things such as a machine that produces some material. This way you can refine certain more common materials into rarer ones. Scrap metal can turn into iron ingots for example. This takes some time, so you can build multiple machines to multitask.
How much of an emphasis does Dysmantle place on story and storytelling? Will uncovering the mysteries of the post-apocalyptic world be a big focus?
Uncovering the mysteries of the post-apocalyptic world is definitely a big focus. The world will tell a story, but the player can fill in the gaps. We do not have dozens of talking NPCs, but rather a world with a history you can explore. There are old radio messages you can listen, and pieces of text you can read. The protagonist will also occasionally give clues about things that person knows as he has born and lived there. The apocalyptic events took place after his birth, so he still has some recollection of the world before.
What can you tell us about Dysmantle’s progression and upgrade mechanics?
You can upgrade some of the things you craft and build to make them better various ways. For example, weapons can be upgraded for increased damage, and bandages can be upgraded for increased uses. You can also level up your character by standard experience point mechanics. Leveling up gives you access to more stuff and more skills.
Cooking is also a big part of character progression, as the things you cook up and eat will give you permanent effects. For example, at simplest, increased maximum hit points. We didn’t want to have traditional repetitive hunger mechanics where you need to eat just to stay alive, but to have you drooling over the cooking recipes you find. If you have hard time surviving in the cold temperatures, that recipe which gives you increased cold resistance tastes extra delicious. You can also experiment preparing dishes yourself by just throwing random ingredients in the cooking pot, or you can use cooking recipes you find all over the place (usually in kitchen counters). There will be a few hidden dishes you can cook up as well.
What can players expect from the open world of Dysmantle in terms of size and environmental variety?
We have an island with a few different biomes like forests, arctic, and the desert. These intermingle with various human settlements. There will be also a few bigger locations, such as the prison or the mysterious Crown Station that keeps broadcasting radio messages. You can also occasionally enter underground “dungeons” … which will probably surprise you.
"We have an island with a few different biomes like forests, arctic, and the desert. These intermingle with various human settlements."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Dysmantle be?
This is hard to say at this point as we are only focused on the 1/3 island that will be available in the Early Access launch version. The full game will probably be 20 hours or so for many players. The game can be played faster or slower though. Maxing out everything will take an absurd amount of time, but that’s just for those few that absolutely want to do it. The island is divided into areas, and there’s a Collection category/tab in the menu for keeping track of all the stuff you can still do in each area. For example, you can find all the legendary fishing spots (requires keen eye or paying attention to hints). You can upgrade the link towers to transmit sort of permadeath signal that keeps all the monsters you kill from respawning when you die or rest, and then go and kill all the monsters on the island. It… takes time.
There will also be different stuff to do for different moods the player is in. You can go fishing, which isn’t very active activity at it involves some waiting. Or you can go find mushrooms or other gatherables that are hidden deeper in the forests. Or you can just decide to completely dismantle that whole town right there and collect all the materials. It’s strangely rewarding to see that happen, and it’s easy to zone out in that loop (break, collect, store). This kind of massive grinding is not actually required to complete the game, and you get materials as rewards elsewhere too, but we’re sure some players will find it bizarrely soothing.
Will the game feature Xbox One X and PS4 Pro-specific enhancements? Is 4K/60 FPS on the cards?
We will try to have as many high end features we can. 4K/60fps is on the cards too. We’re actually also targeting 120 fps modes on the next-gen consoles, but we’re not certain how much we can talk about that stuff yet as the consoles haven’t been fully fully revealed.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, in terms of frame rate and resolution?
1080/60fps is our target on base models for 90% of the frames. There are always some peak occurrences where lots of stuff is happening (explosions, new world content being streamed, etc), where you can miss a 60 fps frame, but usually that’s in a spot where you’d weirdly even sort of expect it to do so. That’s sort of why we’re using a freeze frame effect (where you slow down time for a few milliseconds) when something worthwhile happens, for example when you deal massive damage with a power attack.
What are the docked and undocked resolution and frame rate of the Switch version?
This is yet to be decided. We may need to make some adjustments for Switch, but we will make it look great and have a nice playable fps in any case. We might even give the player option to choose between higher framerate and better graphics on Switch. Also, 4k/8k option vs. framerate may be something people want. On PC you can freely adjust all the options of course.
Given that next-gen consoles are right around the corner, have you given any thought to next-gen ports for the game?
The game will support some PS5 and Series X features. The exact details are still open though. In terms of performance, the next gen consoles seem to be even faster than we anticipated.
"We will try to have as many high end features we can. 4K/60fps is on the cards too. We’re actually also targeting 120 fps modes on the next-gen consoles, but we’re not certain how much we can talk about that stuff yet as the consoles haven’t been fully fully revealed."
What are your thoughts on the PS5’s custom 3D audio engine Tempest? How much of a difference do you think tech like this will make to how immersive games can be?
Not sure yet. We imagine it can be great if it can simulate environmental effects and give developers simple tools to make a cave sound like a cave. For us the 3D positional audio isn’t that important as the game is top down.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles’ GPUs, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS – but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
That’s a good question, and we guess time will tell. Our games are not pushing the boundaries of these consoles as we want as many people as possible to enjoy the games. A lot comes down to development tools as well. But that’s not something we can comment on.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s read bandwidth. This is faster than anything that is available out there. How can developers can take advantage of this and what will it result to, and how does this compare to Series X’s 2.4GB/s read?
Everything will feel a bit snappier, but that’s already something you’ve sort of gotten used to on PCs with SSDs. But now for the first time, you can rely on that speed being available on a platform. There has been studies on how much of loading the player can wait before it starts to be annoying. Making it load faster, you can simply add more stuff in shorter time and still provide a good user experience.
Streaming world content is one of the big things that will get better. You can have a more detailed world as you can stream data faster from mass storage into the GPU. You can also move faster in the game world as the hardware can keep up better. Dysmantle has also a streaming system for the world, but we are probably not exceeding even current gen capabilities in that regard. Games with massive extremely detailed worlds will benefit the most.
Multiplatform games will probably find a suitable bandwidth or tools to scale the amount of data so that it works on all platforms. It might be that texture detail level can be varied according to available bandwidth for example.
So, there is a power difference between the two new consoles, there is no doubt about that. But do you think that power advantage of Xbox Series X will matter because of Microsoft’s cross gen policy?
We have no direct experience with them yet. We think games can adapt to power differences as before though, but it’ll be interesting to see whether a significant number of players will prefer one console over the other for this. The software architecture will also have some effects on performance, but can’t tell yet how that’ll turn out either.
"The game will support some PS5 and Series X features. The exact details are still open though. In terms of performance, the next gen consoles seem to be even faster than we anticipated."
Do you think the Xbox Series X will out-power most gaming PCs for years to come?
It will be interesting to see. PCs have been ahead for years and now they are equal for some time for the most part. It may be that next gen consoles are ahead in mass storage streaming speeds, but PCs will catch up.
There is also the aspect of diminishing returns in fidelity: The difference between generations is smaller each time. However, people seem to want new things, so that always drives demand for even higher performance computing. We really cannot say yes or no on that one. We will see.
How are you ensuring that your engines/framework/tools are up and running for PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Absolutely. Our future games will support the next gen consoles by design. We update the old ones where necessary.
There was a comment recently by a developer who stated that the PS5 is easy to code for compared to Xbox Series X. What are your thoughts on the same?
We can’t comment on the specifics (you know, NDAs), but overall, developing for consoles has gotten a lot easier over the years. The tools are better, the processes simpler, and everything is heading to right directions. Some of that is using common architectures (x64 and mobile based stuff on Switch), but it’s also a lot about better usability and better (more standard) compilers. One could also argue that mobile has inspired some of this development, as there are so many mobile developers out there that the tools and app stores need to be pretty automated and easy to use from developer perspective.