When the Polish game developer Techland released the original “Dying Light” in 2015, some game critics were, well, critical of the post-apocalyptic virtual world. The game received an aggregate 74 out of 100 from critic reviews on Metacritic — a solid “C” in the world of gaming.
Tymon Smektała, the lead designer for “Dying Light 2,” said it was disappointing for the team at Techland after spending years in development. But the studio took comfort in comments left by fans who loved the game’s core mechanics, like the ability to parkour across “Dying Light’s” virtual rooftops. Smektała said those players “kept our spirits alive.” And, to say thank you, the studio released 10 free updates three years after “Dying Light” first released.
“We just wanted to give back to the community,” Smektała said. “Give those guys who supported us and gave us confidence something so they could feel the love and the energy from us.”
Techland continued to update the original “Dying Light” for six and a half years after its release. In preparation for the sequel, “Dying Light 2,” which released on Feb. 4, the studio already announced a five-year promise to add to the new game’s zombie bashing and parkour.
The first time around, Techland didn’t plan to keep publishing regular updates. But, by doing so, the studio steadily grew the game’s fan base; Techland sold more copies of “Dying Light” in its fifth year than in its fourth, Smektała said. To date, the game has sold more than 18 million copies. Now, they’re attempting to re-create the original’s commercial success.
“If we add new content to the game and if we add it in the way we did it with the first game … we are able to keep the sales steady for a very long period of time,” Smektała said. “We just see that, if we do that, then you can find new customers and broaden the base of customers, of community.”
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Techland’s five-year road map is yet another iteration of the gaming industry’s live-service model — in which developers promise to build on games for years after the titles’ releases. The updates keep the wheel turning, Smektała said. Fans come back to play and, in turn, invite their friends to join them.
It’s been more than a month since “Dying Light 2” first released. Smektała said Techland has been collecting feedback from fans — what he calls “a trove of treasure” — for the development team to figure out where to take the game next. The studio has already released a patch to the sequel that will, among other things, dial up the brutality in the game. The update makes it more likely that, for example, when swinging a weapon, a player might chop a limb clean off the zombie they’re fighting. It’s exactly the type of thing players have been asking for, Smektała said.
“It was just a matter of increasing the probability,” Smektała said. “So, this was simple.”
The five-year plan by Techland includes a promised assortment of new weapons, enemies, events and paid storylines. But the particulars are only mapped out through June of this year. Smektała said the studio wants to try out a wide range of updates in the first year to see what players do or don’t like to play. From there, Smektała said, they can use the data to inform how to further evolve the game.
“We know where we want the game to be in those five years,” Smektała said. “But, of course, in those later years we still have free slots for things we are sure we’ll develop along the way.”
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The biggest challenge right now is finding the room for all the content the studio is planning to add, Smektała said. In January, Techland boasted on Twitter that it would take players approximately 500 hours to accomplish every task in the game. (It later clarified the storyline will only take 20 hours to complete.) Smektała compared adding the new updates to pouring Coke in a glass that’s already close to full; pour too much and the soda will end up on the table.
“The thing is that, the memory limits for the number of objects we can have in our world are already almost full,” Smektała said. “But, on the other hand, we can also do more optimization right now. So, this is also easier.”
When asked why Techland decided to promise the studio will support “Dying Light for the next five years,” Smektała said the team wanted to show potential fans they’re serious about supporting the game. He knows you can’t take back a promise like this — especially with how the Internet is nowadays. Their only option is to make good.
“This is not just one date that we go on,” Smektała said. “It’s like a marriage for us.”
’Dying Light 2’ developer Techland has a 5-year plan of dismemberment, new story DLC and more – The Washington Post