The next generation of consoles is incoming, and, with it, comes the inevitable shambling and groaning of zombie apocalypse games. But what do these games have to offer us as we blunder into the future? We recently talked to Techland’s Tymon Smektala, producer on the upcoming current and next generation game Dying Light about next gen, single player games, and all things zombies.
OSP: For those that are just now learning about Dying Light, could you give us a quick synopsis of the game and what the main storyline is about?
Smektala: Dying Light is a first-person open world survival action game with day & night cycle. We hope it will be the most immersive zombie game out there, a real standard for the whole genre. There are a couple of things that make Dying Light stand out, most notably our realistic take on the zombie apocalypse, the natural movement system and the duality of gameplay that day & night cycle brings.
The “survival action” part summarizes the unique gameplay experience that Dying Light offers quite right. Players have to use their intelligence, agility and fighting prowess to survive and succeed, because each encounter is an unique event which requires split second decisions. It’s not only about bashing zombies on their heads – in fact bashing zombies on their heads is not even the easiest way out.
The natural movement system – basically all of the free-running moves that players are able to pull during the game – is the thing we’re most proud of. It allows you to traverse the environment with almost limitless freedom. If you see something that’s within the reach of your hands you can reach it, grab it, climb on top of it.
And on top of that we have a day-night cycle which really changes the gameplay. During the day the players will traverse the expansive environment, scavenging for supplies & weapons to defend against the growing infected population. They also have to prepare for the night, because when it falls the tables turn – the infected become much more aggressive and the most dangerous predators emerge. It’s almost like we have two games in one.
OSP: Can you tell us anything or give us any details about the main character. What about where or when the game takes place?
Smektala: Actually there are four playable characters – the whole game can be played in four player co-op after all. It’s a little too early to talk about characters in detail. What’s important is that all of our player characters start at the same base level – how they develop their skills is something that’s left for players to decide.
Dying Light takes place in the fictional city of Harran, the cultural capital of a quickly developing country with ancient history. It resides alongside modern civilization in a cultural melting pot. The look and feel of the city has been inspired by many real world locations, but it’s rather hard to point any specific main inspiration for it. Harran is quarantined by the army because of the zombie outbreak, and players take role of survivors trapped inside. At the start, they just want to survive, but what happens next… Well, gamers don’t like spoilers, right?
OSP: Any expectations for the length of time the main campaign will take to finish? Main campaign and side missions?
Smektala: It’s too early to give you an exact number, because the game grows each day, but Dying Light is a huge game that will give gamers many hours of gameplay. The main story line should take roughly 15 to 20 hours to complete, and our story missions should add another 20 or so hours to the experience.
OSP: What do you feel was successful about Dead Island that you’ll repeat in Dying Light?
Smektala: The most important aspect of Dead Island was the extremely immersive first person open world experience that caught attention of literally millions of players. We hope – and we’re quite confident in it – that Dying Light will repeat that success. The whole process of making Dead Island was a great experience for our studio – we learned a lot, and we’re using all of these lessons while working on Dying Light.
OSP: Dead Island has received quite a bit of criticism of the amount of bugs and glitches found within, how are the developers making sure this isn’t the case for Dying Light?
Smektala: Dead Island was our first open world game so as I was saying we’ve had to learn some lessons, and we’ve had to learn them the hard way. Thankfully since the release of Dead Island our studio expanded threefold and we have more people in all of our departments – including QA. Playtesting and bugsquashing have already begun, so we’re taking all steps required to avoid any such issues with the release of Dying Light. We’re also taking advantage of our partner’s experience and know-how – and if you have the Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment as a partner you know you’re in good hands.
OSP: Will there be more varied factions the player can gain favor or make enemies with? Will human enemies or friendlies play a bigger role in gameplay?
Smektala: As you’ve seen in our gameplay trailer the Infected are not the only ones roaming the streets of Harran. Players will meet different factions with different agendas – and even though it’s easier to survive when you cooperate, some of these factions will not be friendly.
OSP: The central theme of this game seems to be the dichotomy of night and day. How did this theme come about? What made you want to build a game around this theme?
Smektala: First of all we felt that it’s something that’s lacking in zombie games – nothing creates tension more than good, old fashioned darkness, right? Then we wanted to create a set up that would allow us to expand the genre, take one step further and try to imagine what’s there after zombies, what’s their next step of evolution. When we started experimenting with it, it just felt right – we knew we’re onto something that can really feel fresh to players. What’s important is that our night is not a matter of only tweaking the visuals. It’s a full on different experience, very intense, very engaging and exciting at the same time. We hope that people will remember our take on the “night” in video games for a long time.
OSP: Can you go into a little more how gameplay will change for the player between night and day in the game?
Smektala: It changes the whole dynamic of the gameplay experience. During the day players will get that traditional, regular zombie game experience – they are smarter, faster, better armed than zombies, so that gives them that advantage to just go out and scavenge for supplies. During the night the tables turn, it’s the zombies that are more aggressive, more vicious, more intelligent – they’re able to cooperate – and equally agile (so they can climb on top of roofs just as good as the player does).
OSP: Watching the initial gameplay reveal of the game, the night time segment seems like it will be quite the harrowing experience. Is Dying Light taking more of a survival horror approach than your previous work with Dead Island?
Smektala: Yes and no… It’s a survival action experience, but it’s a kind of contact that will have a huge impact on your sense of fear – in a good sense of course. Dying Light is an action survival game, so yes. It’s not only about slashing zombies, you will have to pick your fights, you will have to make decisions like “am I ready for this? do I have the right equipment? do I have enough time to handle this before sun goes down”.
OSP: How does the free running work within the game? Does it work with the environment or with other gameplay mechanics, or is it just a fun way to move around?
Smektala: Actually it is essential if you want to survive. Zombies are extremely dangerous so you don’t really want to get close to them. But of course it’s also a very fun way to travel around the world, so I’m almost sure that people will be making their own YouTube videos showing the finesse with which they move around the environment.
OSP: How will the current-gen version of the game for PS3 and 360 differ from the PS4 and Xbox One version, if at all?
Smektala: The core gameplay stays the same and because of the flexibility of our in-house Chrome Engine 6 technology we were able to sustain all of the most important gameplay mechanics and features – including the number of zombies on screen – intact on all platforms. Of course the game will look better on next-gen platforms.
OSP: What are some specific features of the next-gen version of the game that you are most excited about?
Smektala: Their processing power is something which really is a pleasure to work with. As for the rest of the features we would like to reveal more details after the consoles hit the market.
OSP: If you had to choose one console over the other for its specifications which would you prefer?
Smektala: I personally consider these consoles both quite similar and even if exact specifications differ a little, the structure of these systems and the way they make use of their subassemblies make the actual playing experience almost the same.
OSP: As a site that primarily focuses on single player experiences, where do you think it’s headed in the next-gen?
Smektala: I think the advancements in AI will allow developers to create single player experiences which are not scripted in any way, which are way more emergent. What makes people look for multiplayer modes is the fact that after a couple of hours spent on any SP mode, it’s hard to be surprised by anything that the game offers. In Dying Light we’re countering that feeling with our dynamic encounters system, which randomly generates gameplay events for each session, and I think that the next-gen will allow for more systems like that.
OSP: Thanks for your time.
Dying Light is developed by Techland and published by Warner Bros. It’s scheduled for release on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime in 2014. Stay tuned for more details as they come, and you can read our hands-on impressions of Dying Light in the coming week.