While it’s been spending quite some time in the kitchen, Techland is finally releasing Dying Light 2 later this year! Given how much support the first Dying Light has gotten since its release, we here at MP1st are excited to see what the future holds for Dying Light 2.
Thankfully, the fine folks at Techland have set aside some time outside of their busy schedule to talk to us about Easter eggs, next-gen, DualSense, and loads more. Read on for our interview with Lead Level Designer at Techland, Piotr “SiCK” Pawlaczyk.
MP1st: Was there always intentions for a sequel? Or was the success of the first game kind of a big shock for everyone?
Pawlaczyk: I’ve been here at Techland a long time, and we always wanted to deep dive into a “zombie theme” and add something new to this area – this is how Dead Island began. And this vision of Dead Island hit players on a big scale, showing us that this direction was a good path. But even then, we were always thinking, what more can we do? How to give players a bigger freedom and break the rules known from other titles. Dead Island wasn’t a hundred percent our IP so we couldn’t jump over a few obstacles. This independence we were missing by this time escalated in a new project – Dying Light.
It started a new period in our life as developers. Now the only limitations we faced were time and our creativity. Nobody imposed anything on us and it was the most creative time for us, full of challenges – this is how I think about those days.
Was it a shock? Somehow yes. We of course enjoyed Dying Light a lot, not only as developers but also as players, we had a great time playing and doing it. We had that feeling that maybe… players would love it too? But looking today, how many people bought this game and how many of them are still playing – this is a really shocking thing!
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a natural evolution of Dying Light. We came up with some new ideas, improvements and new elements we wanted to add to this world. And you know what? Today, while we are playing DL2 and waiting for the release with you, we have even more fun than a few years ago waiting for the first game!
MP1st: The parkour in the first game was probably the feature that most directly affects the moment to moment gameplay and fans really loved how easy it was to perform and how good it felt to be executing these moves while navigating the environment. It was intuitive and made perfect sense in that world. Then by the end of the game you had the grappling hook and other gadgets that made the movement nearly perfect for what it was trying to do.
The question then is how are you intending to improve on a system that so many people thought so highly of? What can you tell us about trying to improve a system that’s so good already? Or is it just a matter of keeping it intact and not messing it up?
Pawlaczyk: Starting our work on Dying Light 2 we set up 4 main game pillars, which should define it and be the biggest highlights of the game. Vast open world in modern dark ages, creative & brutal combat, day & night cycle and of course our new element of choices & consequences. The first three of them were present in Dying Light, and our main goal was to make not only one step, but many steps forward. To make these well-known mechanics new and satisfying for everyone, both old franchise fans, and new players.
Parkour has many improvements. New moves, new skills and new tools like paraglider or reworked grappling hook, which is more satisfying, but also takes more time to master. Even slightly but meaningfully improved protagonist animations are really important to increase gameplay fluency and to give you the feeling of natural movement.
We also needed to improve our world building approach by thinking about something we call “Parkour Flow”, something we build that way, to give skilled players the ability to move smoothly and quickly while using all parkour combinations and moves combos with great timing. Geometry played a big role and started to be really complicated, but also full of opportunities for us. And the top of the tree is a new possibility of evolving the gameplay space using the parkour helpers, added into the game by our choices.
MP1st: Based on your character’s progression. At the beginning you were having to use the parkour for stealth and to run away since you were very vulnerable. And night time was genuinely dangerous so you had to get to cover as quickly as possible. But by the end of the game it shifted into much more of an action game and killing zombies mostly became a fun hack and slash with increasingly cool combo weapons.
How intentional was that in the first one and how has that dramatic shift in gameplay based on progression affected your design for this sequel? We’ve seen the way the world will change in some of your previous announcements but what can you tell us about how your character and the gameplay will change and progress?
Pawlaczyk: What you described, In Dying Light, was deliberate. We wanted to throw in a pinch of horror in this action-packed game. In DL2, we put much more emphasis on the distinction between day and night gameplay. These are almost two separate worlds, differing from each other in the style of the game, opponents and mechanics that players will use most often. Speaking of, during the day we will meet more human enemies, fighting differently and more organized than infected, and you need a specific approach to fight them effectively. You can of course meet infected during the day (even a few of the special ones), but mostly sunlight makes them weaker and slower, so they are not as big a threat as bandits or other groups.
But within the night, everything changes. People are hiding in their safe zones, infected – especially the new types – come out from their lair to feed, it gets really dense and dangerous.
Still, the night is the best way to freely explore those lairs. Hordes of infected are outside now, and you can try to dive into dark places to gain priceless loot. Visiting the lairs at night will also be necessary to complete some missions. An attempt to execute them during the day will result in almost certain death.
MP1st: Since the release of the first game there have been some really exceptional open world games released. Red Dead Redemption 2, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War to name a few. The expectations for the depth of world building, interlocking mechanics, and meaningful impact of player choice have all been raised. How will Dying Light 2‘s open world compare and contrast some of these other heavy hitters in the space and how is new tech and the lessons from the last game affecting the world design?
Pawlaczyk: Each developer always keeps an eye on the games market – so that they can learn not only from their own failures and successes, but also learn from the mistakes and successes of others. We are all players as well as developers so we sink into worlds created by others, only in open world games – everything that shows up on the market, everything that can give us a short break – sometimes these titles can inspire us at work.
But what affected the world design the most in DL2 were the main game pillars that I brought up earlier: vast open world, combat, day & night, choices & consequences, and their evolution had a big impact on our open world. We also wanted to highlight all of the possibilities of movement that we gave to Aiden. So we started to build the city space to make it always absorbing and satisfying. Running across the roofs of buildings should always be a journey itself. During their exploration of the open world, players can use additional tools, such as a paraglider or a grappling hook, which further diversify their movement in open spaces and discover the world, regardless of whether they follow the main storyline or complete all side missions. Every flat space should make you feel like “dancing on controllers”, thanks to all the geometry we put on your way. Also you can creatively use parkour in your combat and when we add to those two the next one – choices & consequences – when you can unlock new facilities, it changes your gameplay, supporting your parkour fighting skills and giving you new activities – specific for the chosen faction.
We always tried to avoid counting our world in square kilometers of empty space, instead we wanted to give players a reach, full of layers of exploration which is evolving on different levels. Different gameplay in the day and different in the night – full of diverse activities influencing not only Aiden’s but also the whole City.
MP1st: Here’s something that blows my mind; Six years and counting and the team is still releasing updates and fresh content for Dying Light 1. You don’t see that kind of support unless you are a major multiplayer game, and to me, as a fan it’s incredibly amazing that I can go back and play one of my favorite games with all new content. Safe to assume we will see that level of support long after Dying Light 2 has been out? Are there perhaps certain aspects that were doubled down on, not to say it’s a live service, but to keep a steady flow of content dropping for players in the future?
Pawlaczyk: After the release of Dying Light, we realized that what we wanted the most is to always listen closely to our community. Watching how people are playing in our game, observing their behaviors and listening to their voice by reading all of those comments in different places, we kept updating Dying Light. Every DLC, bundle and event was somehow related to our community expectations or just predicted by our passion about this game. Thanks to our fans, Dying Light is still alive and we constantly improve this title. Just like we want to do it with Dying Light 2 Stay Human and every future project.
MP1st: Speaking of the first game, next-gen consoles are here so are there any plans at releasing a possible 60fps update or even a native next-gen port of the original?
Pawlaczyk: Right now we are focusing on the release of Dying Light 2 Stay Human and other projects. So nothing to say at this time but we hear our fans and we know they are waiting for this kind of information.
MP1st: Having worked on the next-gen platforms, what kind of technical benefits are you guys seeing in the beefier consoles that the team is excited about? Can we expect Dying Light 2 to take advantage of the hardware, within the game’s design of course.
Pawlaczyk: We are excited about every effect that uses Ray-Tracing – and the list of those effects is not close yet! We are working closely with our partner on developing them. We have a Quality and Performance mode, experimenting with DualSense features. New consoles are great equipment and to be honest, the list of features we are excited about is very, very long!
MP1st: Past interviews mentioned how frames-per-second was more important than resolution. I completely stand by that myself and have always preferred that. Any chance we can expect to see a full performance mode (strips visuals a bit and resolution) dedicated to that in next-gen consoles? What about 120fps? What if players want a 4K dedicated mode, are there plans for a visual mode at 30fps with 4K? Options never hurt right!
Pawlaczyk: We are developing several options for new generations. For players who prefer visual experiences, we have prepared the Quality mode which, thanks to the use of ray-tracing, has significantly improved the quality of the scene, with an emphasis on environment lighting. In quality mode players will observe greater accuracy of e.g. volumetric effects and many other frame post-processing elements. The ray-tracing itself is then the basis for generating, for example, physically correct shadows. For those who, as you, appreciate smooth gameplay, we have prepared the Performance mode, which focuses on a high frame-rate (60FPS + optionally with VRR), making the experience of fast gameplay elements such as a course or combat even more smooth.
MP1st: What about DualSense features, what can you say about them? How does Dying Light 2 take advantage of those features?
At the moment when we heard about the brand new features of the DualSense controllers, we liked their capabilities very much and we started working on the implementation of these features in Dying Light 2. For example, adaptive triggers gave us a lot of room for experimentation. For the equal experience of the players, we try to balance the use of new controller capabilities so that they are an addition, not the main feature that players using previous generations of controllers connected to PC would miss. The new audio capabilities in the DualSense are also of interest to us. We are analyzing the possibilities of new devices, but remembering equally strongly about the owners of previous generations. We want Dying Light 2 to provide gameplay at the highest level, regardless of the platform you have.
MP1st: Cross-play, I believe we saw an ESRB rating indicating it’s there, care to comment?
Pawlaczyk: Nothing is confirmed until we officially confirm it, and unfortunately, I’m not the guy to confirm these revelations. Maybe during the next interview! Who knows?
MP1st: Easter Eggs, the first game had a ton of them, and some cool ones like the Super Mario World 1-1 level, and plenty of other games and pop culture references. We suspect Dying Light 2 will have plenty, can you share one without spoiling exactly what it is? Also, does Dying Light 1 have any hidden ones yet to be found (as far as you know)?
Pawlaczyk: Of course! Dying Light 2 will be full of Easter eggs – how could it be different? We will reach some fresh and classic movie hits. We will blink an eye on many games, but the biggest amount of references will be found deeply in our hearts – with Dying Light.
Speaking of Dying Light Easter eggs, they were almost all found, but I can share some small, but pretty interesting info with you. One of our graffiti on walls next to The Tower is a graffiti from our Level Design team with team tags. And the other one, “NoMesh” is related to our world editor. Every time when some object is rejected from the data, “NoMesh” shows up to let us know we have to take care of something. While we were working on The Following, a few developers created a music band called, don’t be surprised! – “NoMesh”!
MP1st: Anything you guys would like to add to let your fans know?
Pawlaczyk: After so many years of working here I would like to say thank you, to all of the DL fans! Developing Dying Light for as long, or creating Dying Light 2 in which we put a lot of our hearts, would not be possible without you. Don’t be afraid to write to us – we are watching all the time. We cannot wait to see your reactions for this next chapter of a long journey for us – and a new journey for you. Stay tuned, stay healthy, and most of all… Stay Human!
Thanks Piotr, and everyone over at Techland (and the PR team!) for taking the time to talk to us. Dying Light 2: Stay Human is set for release this December 7 on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.