Techland’s upcoming zombie game, Dying Light, will place players in the middle of an open-world city which has been torn apart by a recent undead outbreak. The title features first-person combat which is complemented by a smooth free-running system that allows gamers to traverse the broken landscape of the fictional city of Harran by climbing over or jumping across various buildings and other set pieces.
The game won’t only feature high-adrenaline action though. Dying Light also presents players with underlying themes of horror wrapped up in a large sandbox world filled with hundreds of side missions and an RPG progression system.
In Dying Light, how the game plays will differ dramatically depending on the day/night cycle. In the daytime, focus will be placed on exploring the city in search of supplies. The undead are still dangerous during the day, but can be properly managed through combat or fleeing. When the sun goes down, however, the zombie threat increases as their numbers grow.
In an exclusive interview with Examiner, Techland Producer Tymon Smektala took the time to discuss many of the different elements which the developer is combining to create Dying Light. Smektala also spoke about developing the game across two console generations and what gamers can expect to be added to the Xbox One and PS4 versions.
Examiner: Why was Istanbul the place that inspired the city of Harran versus other cities? What sorts of characteristics of Harran differ from Istanbul itself, if any?
Smektala: All of the areas you’ll see in the game were inspired by many real world locations, including but not limited to Istanbul. But you’re right - Istanbul was one of the main sources of inspiration for our art team. This Turkish metropolis is a unique city on a global scale: it links Europe and Asia and connects West and East making it a perfect fit for a game about the fall of civilization. But, because of some of the themes we touch upon in our game, we had to place it in a fictional location – some of the things we talk about and some of the scenes we show are extremely serious, so it’s better to think that they’re happening in a place which is not real.
Examiner: Will the world be completely open and free to roam from the start?
Smektala: Dying Light is a multi-region world game which means that you’re free to explore some very huge – humongous even – maps, but there will be some loading screen between them.
Examiner: With Natural Movement, is it the speed with which you can move around the world that makes it unique or is it the fluidity?
Smektala: Even though the speed and fluidity are clear benefits of our Natural Movement system, the most important one is the freedom it provides. In Dying Light you can go nearly everywhere, so for the first time in a first person game you’re no longer confined to corridors. If you saw a building in a traditional game you could only go around it, sometimes you could peek inside, and in very few instances you could really explore the interior of that building. In Dying Light most of these limitations are removed. If you see something that looks like it is within the reach of your hands you can probably grab it, and climb on top of it. Because of that there are no set ways to travel from point A to point B, but there are hundreds of possible paths. You can go through the streets like a regular person, but you can also climb on rooftops and run on them, you can hop over fences, or break into buildings on your way to see if anyone left anything that could be useful for survival.
Examiner: Was this feature possible because of next-generation consoles and could this have been featured on a past-generation only game?
Smektala: What makes things interesting is that it was possible on the past-generation platforms, but no one really did it – that’s why we try to bring a taste of next-gen to X360 & PS3 by releasing our game on them as well.
Examiner: For a player's "sense," how can this be upgraded throughout the game? What sorts of benefits will people gain as they improve it? How does the world itself play differently as you improve your "sense"?
Smektala: Sense it’s just one of the skills that you will be able to obtain in game, but I really appreciate you’ve picked that one up because frankly speaking it’s one of my favorites. By improving it you will get a better awareness of where your enemies are, you will be able to sense valuable items in the environment or better see your way in dark areas. It really is helpful, and it strongly supports the “stealth” way of playing the game.
Examiner: What have been the biggest differences you've noticed when it comes to developing on Xbox One and PS4 versus previous systems? Have those systems allowed the team to develop Dying Light with more efficiency and speed than past generation systems have?
Smektala: We’re a cross-generational game so we had to be wary of the limitations of X360 & PS3. Thankfully we’ve came prepared – our newest Chrome Engine 6 technology is able to optimize the game for past-generation platforms while maintaining the next-level graphical sheen of the next-gen. Of course, the new consoles have a tremendous advantage of power over their predecessors, and it would be a sin not to use it. Dying Light on PC, PS4 & Xbox One will boast much higher resolution and frame rate, as well as greater graphical fidelity. We also plan to use some unique next-gen features – voice recognition, touchpad, etc. – to make the game even more attractive on new platforms.
Examiner: What are some challenges associated with the developing of a cross-generation game? How do the Xbox 360 and PS3 hold back Dying Light's potential on Xbox One and PS4?
Smektala: We planned our production having in mind that Dying Light will hit the transitional period for the whole industry, so we planned the full process accordingly. We decided early on that we’d have to invent gameplay mechanics which are fresh and original, yet achievable on both past-generation and next-gen systems, and that we need to have an engine that supports and adapts to all systems. We strongly believe that the freedom of Natural Movement offers a real next-gen experience even on PS3 & X360, but we also know that our technology takes the graphical spoils of the new toys to the maximum. In other words, we could take the cross-generational period as a burden, but we looked at it as an opportunity, to challenge ourselves both in terms of gameplay and technological design.
When Dying Light launches later this year on both next-gen platforms as well as their predecessors, Techland wants owners of any version of the game to be able to enjoy a similar experience. Rather than creating a less powerful game so that the Xbox 360 and PS3 can handle it, the developer is instead focusing on pushing the limits of the previous systems. Those looking a truly next-gen experience, however, can rest assured that they find bonus features exclusively on Xbox One, PS4, and PC such as voice recognition and touchpad support in addition to improved graphics that’s to higher resolutions and faster frame rates.
Examiner: With the freedom of the open-world, what types of side activities or missions will players be able to engage in?
Smektala: Well, there’s a whole story which you can focus on, but because we strongly believe that “gameplay comes first” there are lots of diversions you can participate in. So, there are side quests – more than a hundred of them – which allow you to get a better sense of the game world we’ve created. Then there are dynamic encounters – randomized events that you’re free to participate in if you feel like you want to. Most of these allow you to help other survivors, and if you decide to do so your reputation in the quarantine zone will rise, opening way to some quests and smaller benefits, like better prices in the shops. Then there are the challenges – “arcade” missions which require you to go from point A to B in set amount of time etc.
Examiner: When it came to making Dying Light open-world, what were some of the pillars you knew the game had to have for it to feel truly open?
Smektala: To make the world feel truly open you have to have a huge world which doesn’t limit the player’s will to explore and lots of activities you can do besides following the main story. We certainly achieved that in Dying Light.
Examiner: What are one or two water cooler moments you think players will be talking about after playing Dying Light?
Smektala: That’s easy. You’ll surely remember your first successful escape during the night – especially if you use one of the gadgets you crafted yourself or one of the environmental traps we’ll leave for you in the game world. And the second one… There are a few locations in our game (right now I’m picturing my favorite one) which really makes you go “ohhhh…..” when you see it for the first time. But there are plenty of water cooler moments, and what’s cool about it is that they’re not scripted – Dying Light gameplay is very emergent, so we’re really thankful to the next-gen console manufacturers for promoting the game sharing options.
Examiner: In your mind, why does an RPG system compliment an open-world game so well?
Smektala: RPG systems complement open world games so well because when they’re done right they give you freedom to create any character you want – so it supports the general feeling of freedom that the open world games are aiming for.
Examiner: What sorts of options and choices will players have with the RPG progression system?
Smektala: With our RPG progression system players will be choosing active skills, actual things they can do in the game world, be it very powerful attacks, clearing the whole area around them or abilities which allow them to get an almost supernatural awareness of the environment. With these skills they can specialize in one way of playing the game – e.g. focus on fighting – but they free to mix’n’match skills of different type if that better suits their style. In addition to that, they will also be able to choose perks - in our game these are more passive, boosting certain activities (e.g. perks that make you move more quietly). When you finish the game for the first time, it's very probable that your character will be vastly different from your friends' characters.
Dying Light releases later this year on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.