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[Interview] ‘Dying Light 2’ Lead Designer Tymon Smektala on Overcoming the Monsters and Horrors of Night

[Interview] 'Dying Light 2' Lead Designer Tymon Smektala on Overcoming the Monsters and Horrors of Night

All through my time enjoying Dying Mild 2 Keep Human, I felt drawn into the world. All the pieces from the monsters I confronted to the NPCs I interacted with all got here collectively to create this genuine apocalyptic setting. Humanity’s wrestle to outlive towards these horrific creatures and one another moved me, particularly contemplating the extra emotional writing and element supplied to the narrative. 

When it got here to gameplay, the parkour was invigorating. I liked the liberty in motion and the depth the animations gave off. Once I fought towards contaminated and different people, it felt difficult and immersive; having to assume on my toes, the optimistic stress of such engagements caused a whole lot of range in my preventing. And the contaminated at night time present such an exhilarating air of badass and creepy.  

After enjoying the sport, I sat down with its Lead Designer Tymon Smektala to be taught extra. I requested him about Dying Mild 2’s method to issue, the brand new focus positioned on designing the contaminated, what horror influences he introduced into the sport, the parkour animations, and his philosophy in creating horror. 

Please observe that this interview has been edited and condensed for size and readability.

Michael Pementel: Dying Mild 2 may be very a lot an motion sport, however with a basis in horror. What’s the problem in ensuring suspense is all the time current all through gameplay, whereas additionally ensuring the participant feels empowered? 

Tymon Smektala: That was really a problem; that was one of many founding issues we needed to beat with the second sport. With the primary sport, we began trying on the information [regarding how] individuals have been enjoying. We realized that a whole lot of them – I’d say perhaps 80% of our gamers – began skipping the night time. They simply principally weren’t enjoying the night time a part of the sport at all; which is an issue whenever you make a sport the place the day/night time cycle is among the most essential issues within the sport – then immediately nobody is enjoying the night time half. So we felt that we overdid it, we made it too scary, too overwhelming for gamers, and principally they didn’t really feel they have something to say in the case of night time; they felt they have been principally being punished by all of the contaminated. 

We needed to maintain that depth, and what we’re doing within the second sport is slowly introducing it. When the sport begins it’s not that scary, however it will get scarier, extra ugly, and extra contaminated seem [as the game progresses]. One other factor is that the crowds get extra intense, they see you faster. It actually begins getting extra in your nerves. One other factor we did is give gamers new instruments to beat that problem. I believe that is what was missing within the first sport; it was simply scary night time and the one factor you might do is strive to not get seen by the Unstable. After they noticed you, you might simply run to a secure zone, however proper now, we’re giving gamers extra instruments to play with the horrors of the night time. Issues like a UV flashlight, which type of works like [what you see] within the Alan Wake video games. 

MP: What was the crew’s method to issue in Dying Mild 2? Earlier than you’ll be able to even begin creating a sport, you form of want to consider issue – notably fascinated about the type of expertise the participant is to have, so you’ll be able to construct in line with that. Was the problem the very first thing the crew wanted to deal with? 

TS: No I don’t assume so, however it’s a must to begin [considering it] at one level or one other. After all, the factor you do as a sport designer is a whole lot of playtesting; me personally, I have about 5000 hours performed in Dying Mild 2, the whole lot is type of simpler for me. It’s not the identical expertise – I don’t get scared that a lot, I don’t really feel the identical feelings {that a} participant would really feel if he have been to run the sport for the primary time and see the whole lot that occurs. We do a whole lot of playtesting, see what different persons are doing and get information from that, then polish [as need be].  

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In the case of issue, I’d say that Dying Mild 2 is a bit bit simpler than the primary sport. Dying Mild one was fairly well-known for it being fairly overwhelming in the beginning; you have been feeling helpless perhaps a bit an excessive amount of in the beginning. On the common issue, we tried to maintain the identical expertise, however perhaps make it a bit bit extra accessible. Perhaps a bit more room to make errors. Then there may be one other issue mode which is stylized particularly for the veterans of the primary sport. In the event you performed the primary sport – and I counsel any participant who has spent a whole lot of time within the first sport to decide on that issue – you’re going to get the actual Dying Mild expertise. The place it is rather arduous at first, however then you definately get to earn that empowerment – you get to earn higher weapons, you begin feeling extra highly effective. It’s actually probably the most satisfying solution to play the sport for me, personally.  

MP: Coming into Dying Mild 2, what adjustments/enhancements did the crew wish to make when it got here to the contaminated? Particularly, what adjustments did you all wish to make to their habits and the way they work together with and assault the participant? Additionally, what number of sorts of contaminated can we anticipate all through the sport? 

TS: There are round 10-12 sorts of contaminated within the sport. We needed to make the contaminated completely different from people. The people are principally these good guys; they’re clever, they’ll even be taught from what you’re doing. In the event you attempt to overuse one assault on people, they may be taught from that and finally they may begin avoiding that transfer and you will be pressured to begin doing one thing else. The contaminated can’t do that, they don’t have that type of intelligence. What they do is figure in teams. They could use brute power, however in the case of teams – when completely different group constitutions – you begin seeing completely different synergies taking place between them. So, it’s completely different when say, you have got a Spitter – who has these poisonous vary assaults – and also you encompass him with Biters. It now turns into like a puzzle for you to determine out get to this man, as a result of it’s arduous to get to him straight since he’s surrounded by Biters. So you begin utilizing parkour to perhaps climb on a lamppost and bounce on the Spitter from the lamppost.  

We now have created completely different tactical challenges utilizing completely different group constitutions. […] One other factor that occurs is that, as you play the sport, the contaminated be taught new behaviors. All of them have three very completely different tiers of behaviors. As you get higher all through the sport, they evolve with you and begin sporting completely different behaviors and visuals. So even when you have a man just like the Demolisher – when the sport begins, and the Demolisher type of seems to be just like the one you keep in mind from the primary sport – however as the sport develops, you begin seeing larger and extra highly effective Demolishers, perhaps some with some spikes. It actually will get scarier as you play the sport. 

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MP: What horror influences have been utilized in shaping the contaminated (or the sport generally)? 

TS: For myself… I’m unsure in case you depend District 9, the sci-fi film, as a horror film, it type of isn’t. However some of the memorable scenes from that film that actually retains popping in my head once in a while is the second after they have been opening the alien spaceship. The [characters] have been getting into it and seeing all these completely different life kinds at the hours of darkness; they have been doing one thing loopy like standing in a really creepy method. Variety of jogged my memory of the ultimate scene from The Blair Witch Challenge. We needed to seize that feeling with our Darkish Locations. When you enter the Darkish Locations, particularly in case you enter through the day when they’re filled with contaminated, you actually get that feeling that a few of them are bending, a few of them are standing and shaking. One of many inspirations I can name out for certain, inspiring me for the sport, is that scene from District 9 and the way it related in my head with that Blair Witch Challenge second; the place they have been operating by way of the constructing and immediately there was this man standing within the nook. Nothing particular [about that scene], however it was so scary. It actually made you creep out. 

MP: What was the dialog round creating Darkish Hollows? What kind of selection can gamers anticipate from these? Are there various levels of issue? 

TS: Sure in fact. The areas differ by way of what you may get out of these locations. You go into Darkish Hollows to get valuables – briefly, cash, in an effort to go to outlets and perhaps purchase some weapons. You go to Forsaken Shops to get craft assets […]. By way of the feeling you get from these locations, a few of them are a bit emptier, however could also be filled with that chemical stuff that type of works like radiation. A few of them are filled with Volatiles; in case you make a mistake within the Darkish Place, which is patrolled by the Volatiles, the final word predator, it’s certain you’re going to die. We now have tried to make, perhaps not everybody completely different, however embody some variations and variety inside them.  

MP: Between each Dying Mild video games, the philosophy of the contaminated is tremendous intriguing. These monsters have an interior turmoil with their humanity – you don’t get a whole lot of that in media. The place did that concept come from? 

TS: That is one thing we’ve needed to have for the reason that starting of the primary sport. It was crucial for us to create one thing distinctive. It began with the Virals from the primary sport – the Virals had this habits we known as “Humanity,” which you might set off out of them randomly sooner or later whereas preventing them. Perhaps you hit certainly one of them arduous and immediately he begins displaying a human aspect of him – [displaying a reaction that’s along the lines of], “Don’t hit me!” It actually felt emotional, and we tried to maintain the emotion [and hope that presence] may be highly effective, and discover alternative ways of expressing that with the contaminated within the second sport. 

MP: Dying Mild 2 includes much more participant alternative. What vary can we anticipate in phrases of complexity? As a designer, how do you craft an expertise the place selections convey a way of rigidity and significance? 

TS: That’s a heavy one. I believe for each alternative, you must construct it up first. Gamers want to know the stakes that include selections; that’s apparent, however it isn’t that straightforward to make. All of the alternatives that we now have within the sport have some kind of exposition, some kind of factor the place the characters which are concerned within the alternative present their humanity to you. After all, these are NPCs – you could be impassive about them and say, “These are simply pixels on the display.” However as a result of we present them first as these characters, that perhaps they’ve some human flaws, hopes, some fears, we instill a bit little bit of humanity in them. Once you make a alternative – once more, you could be a chilly bastard and say, “I don’t care, I’ll get what I would like in my sport as a participant,” – due to these components of humanity that we’re displaying, we’re not solely referring to the Keep Human title [of the game], however we’re additionally making the selection a little bit harder for you.  

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In the case of how impactful the alternatives could be – the alternatives work on three completely different ranges. The primary degree includes the principle story missions, the place you make the most important selections. There are fairly a number of of them and they help you do loopy issues. […] Then there are little bit smaller ones in aspect missions. […] After which there may be the third degree – the Metropolis alignment system – which lets you form the town round you by introducing numerous gameplay components like: ziplines, trampolines, automotive traps, enormous UV mild lamps, and many others.  

You get complexity as a result of you have got three completely different layers of selections; whenever you mix them, you principally find yourself with lots of of combos this world can have.  

Once you play co-op, it’s all the time the host who makes the choice. Once you play the sport and open it for outsiders or buddies, you make the alternatives. You form the world round you, you determine what the story is. […] Then whenever you end that sport, you begin questioning, “Okay, what would have occurred if I made completely different selections?” You’ll be able to then go browsing and begin visiting different individuals’s video games and see completely different variations of the story – what different selections persons are making and expertise these. […] Perhaps you might say nonlinear narrative and co-op don’t work collectively that properly, however really they do. I do imagine that – that’s my private wager – that the nonlinear construction of Dying Mild 2 will assist enjoying in co-op for lots of for hours. 

MP: What’s the problem in animating all of the parkour animations? Is all of it completed by way of mocap? 

TS: It’s partially mocap. All of these animations are captured utilizing mocap, however there are two caveats to that. The primary one is that it isn’t simply random mocap, we’re working with David Belle – the inventor of parkour, the man who made parkour in style by way of a few his film appearances. It’s not simply mocap, it’s mocap of probably the greatest guys who’s doing parkour on the planet. The opposite factor is that, we get that mocap information, and we tweak it, enhance it, and make it work within the sport. Principally, we must tune each side of it – each hand motion we now have to appropriate and make it a bit bit higher utilizing the mocap information. Not [changing things] nonetheless you need, however in utilizing the POV digicam from David Belle and different parkour guys we requested to assist us with this. So it’s like a mix of recent expertise, the expertise of our animators, and the assistance from one of the best parkour guys on the planet. By means of all of that, you get to expertise what we now have right here. 

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MP: What was your philosophy in creating horror in Dying Mild 2 and what kind of presence do you need your world to provide off emotionally? 

TS: Emotionally, I’d return to the subtitle of the sport – Keep Human. Once you end the sport, [that sentiment] makes a whole lot of sense. I hope that reflection, that thought… simply give it some thought whenever you end the sport.  

In the case of creating horror, for me personally, I believe one of many issues that provides to it quite a bit is music. Relating to the sport’s music, we’re working with Olivier Deriviere; he has completed various horror, or no less than very emotional soundtracks like A Plague Story: Innocence and Vampyr. He’s working with us, and it isn’t like he’s simply sending us his music saying, “Use it nonetheless you need,” he’s very deeply concerned within the course of of constructing the sport. The very best factor about him is that he’s not only a music composer, he’s a man who understands video games and that video games are interactive. He creates music that makes use of that interactivity; there are a whole lot of hidden mechanics within the sport that change the music relying on how properly you run, how surrounded you’re [by enemies], how properly you combat, and the place precisely on the planet you’re. All of these components change and add little components to the music. I believe, primarily based on his earlier expertise with different video games, he understands emotion constructing and horror very properly.  

He’s additionally a loopy man; he created a singular instrument only for our sport. He needed to specific the sensation of recent darkish ages, so he created a medieval instrument that performs in a really conventional method however makes use of fashionable supplies. One thing utterly loopy. I believe we now have some movies about it yow will discover on YouTube.  

I believe he actually captured the seriousness of a few of the issues we contact on in our sport and emotions of being overwhelmed, perhaps a bit helpless, and overcoming all that by way of your actions.

Dying Mild 2: Keep Human is out February 4, 2022 on all main consoles and PC.  

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