Feature Article

Dying Light's Expansion Was Inspired by Community Feedback

Still alive.

Techland's recently announced expansion for its open-world zombie adventure Dying Light will add over 10 hours of content to its already jam-packed world. In addition to this new expansion, called The Following, Techland is releasing an Enhanced Edition of the game featuring all Dying Light's DLC and a host of upgrades. These include better graphics, improved enemy AI and new parkour moves. We sat down with lead game designer Maciej Binkowski to talk about these additions, as well as how Dying Light's community inspired them.

GameSpot: Can you describe the volume of content we can expect from The Following?

Binkowski: It's an expansion, we mean that. It's 10-plus hours just to finish the storyline and there's a ton of activities that you can just keep doing even after those 10 or so hours. It all depends how you play the game. You can focus on the storyline and just push, that's going to be 10 hours. The cool thing that we're trying out with this expansion is that in order to push the story forward, there's no single thing that you have to do to push it forward. There's a number of things that you can do and it's totally up to you why you want to do it.

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So it's still open world?

Yeah, because the way we think about open worlds is, it's about giving people choices, there should be a number of ways you can do things. We're trying to experiment with that on the story level and basically saying, "All right, you want to push the story? There's certain requirements, but how you meet them, it's up to you."

When did you decide to make the expansion? Was it while you were in development? Or was it always in the cards?

We knew ... Actually, the game was so big at certain points that we got scared that we would never finish it, years ago. There was a certain point... Let's say, in the middle of the production, we knew we had so much stuff that it would be impossible to put everything into it. You don't want to just go into quantity, we always want to go with the quality. We said, "All right, we have to make sure that what we're going to have is absolutely top notch," and even though we have the base to tell more, to give more, we're not going to be able to deliver. So we're going to put that on the shelf and after the game releases, we'll see if it's still cool. The basic idea was there, but after the game released we looked back, we looked at what the game is, what people like about it, and what we more we could bring to the experience. Then we started to develop it and here we are now. Almost there.

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How does it feel releasing a whole new upgrade of the game [in the Enhanced Edition] a year after publish? Are you tired of the game yet?

We are tired but we're also very, very excited. The support we get from community is absolutely insane. We get so much love from the fans that it gives us wings. We still have a couple of days before the release, so we're going to push the quality even further and then we'll see, we'll see. For now, all hands on board, get this thing done and then we'll see, we'll see.

And you're not just adding new stuff, you're also doing a lot of upgrades. Can you go a little more in detail about what players can expect when they open it?

We actually never stopped working on the game. The game was released and we then we just continued. There is a lot of stuff, new animations and new behaviors for the AI to make it simply better. We improved the graphics, there are cross-processes and actually a lot of that stuff. The Enhanced Edition coming out is going to contain everything from this release plus The Following expansion. Improved graphics, improved AI, improved clear animation, and we added new animations so when you're vaulting through a number of obstacles, there's actual new stuff going on there.

We actually kept working on the parkour mechanics as well, so everything is more smooth, more precise and so on. Talking about the Enhanced Edition, there's a number of cool things happening. My favorite is something that we call legendary levels. When you max out your character, there are 250 additional levels that you can unlock and these levels allow you to develop your character even further. So you can basically become an even bigger badass. There's over a hundred new looks for new weapons. And if you want to find new weapons, you have to play the legendary levels. Then, there are new outfits, like 10 of them. There are also player emblems so that you can express how good you are and it shows a kick-ass emblem in your legendary levels when you're with other people online. We're also introducing something that we call "bounties."

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Can you explain bounties?

We know that people spend hundreds of hours with our game and bounties are little tasks that we split into two categories. One is basic tasks, and you can fulfill them while you're doing other stuff. Like, let's say, cut off a number of [enemy] hands, be really precise and go for the hands or survive a chase at night for some time. We also have dailies and dailies will be one bounty a day. It's going to be really tricky. They're focused on different areas of the game, but they're really going to stress people in how they play. For an example, there's a daily that requires you to climb the highest bridge in the game. The first thing to do is, figure out which one is the highest. Then how do you get on top of it? Then, jump from it and survive. Stuff like that.

Our developers got really creative with the dailies. We've seen [playtesters] struggle for hours. I think there is a bounty that says, "Drown a Volatile [one of Dying Light's harder enemy types]." How do you even do that? We'll also host community events. This is going to be something that it's going to last for a week, maybe two weeks and it's going to be big tasks that the whole community is going to work towards. If the community is going to be able to fulfill the goal, there's going to be certain rewards for that.

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We're also introducing a new difficulty, it's call Nightmare. This is the easiest way to level up your character because you get much more experience points when you play on the hardest difficulty. Here's the catch: it's not only about the enemies being stronger and hitting harder, there are different rules for play. In Nightmare, all active skills cost stamina. In the normal game, you could ram into a group of zombies, start smashing stuff and then run away, now it's not going to be that simple. Every action you do, for example, you vault from a guy, you stab him, you smack one guy, then you jump on a car, you stomp the head of another zombie, then your stamina is gone.

What made you decide to make an already challenging game even tougher?

It's the feedback from the community. We have people asking us for more. They're all, "Now I've got the best weapons, I've got the best modes, I've got the best elemental weapons, I've got everything. I've got skills. I'm killing everything, bring me some challenges." So we said, "Alright!"

We love people that play our game. They're absolutely phenomenal. The truth is, we're only alive because of them. That's the thing we do. We want to bring as much value for our customers as possible.

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Why do you think that community is so important for a title like yours?

If you see what's going on in the market, community isn't important only for video games, it's for any product out there. It's basically, you create community first and then you release the product because it's not about what you want to say, it's about what people want to listen to. Yeah, we're a fan of zombie games, we're fans of open world games, we're a fan of brutal melee combat. Yeah, but it's business so you deliver the product to a certain group of people. If you want these people to like your product, you just talk to them. It's a matter of opening certain channels so that people can express what they like, what they don't like, what they wish for. Stay in close, and it makes wonders. I'm still surprised how big of a following--no pun intended--we have.

One of the things that we particularly liked about Dying Light are the things that you could find, little interesting things in the world. The one that comes to mind is the teddy bear that says "I love you" and if you keep talking to it, it gets annoyed with you and then eventually explodes. Can we expect more of that in The Following?

Absolutely. We're big fans of Easter eggs so yeah, they're there.

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Alexa Ray Corriea

Alexa Ray Corriea is never not covered in glitter at any given time.
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