Dying Light 2 Interview with the Lead Game Designer on the Modern Dark Ages setting, RPG Elements

Alessio Palumbo
Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2 might not be at the very top of your average gamer's most anticipated lists, but it's probably not far off either. After delivering two popular Dead Island games, Polish studio Techland garnered even greater success with the first Dying Light, released in early 2015 with Warner Bros. Interactive on publishing duties.

The game has been played by over 16 million unique players and there's a particularly active community to this day, well over four years the original launch. As CTO Pawel Rohleder told Dave in the recent tech-oriented interview we published, the developers are continually surprised by how much fans are playing to this day.

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It could perhaps be enough to simply take that established framework and make it bigger and better. But that's not what the developers have in mind, as they have brought on esteemed game designer and writer Chris Avellone to make this a bona fide action RPG with proper choices & consequences and an enticing new 'Modern Dark Ages' setting.

We had the pleasure to chat with Techland's Lead Game Designer Tymon Smektala to discuss specifically the new setting and the additional RPG elements that will make this sequel stand out from its predecessor. Look forward to our E3 2019 coverage for more information and gameplay footage on Dying Light 2.

Can you talk about the Modern Dark Ages setting, how it came to be and what makes it unique?

Dying Light 2 started a long time ago, but we typically spend a lot in the concept phase, trying to make sure that whatever we decide to move forward with is well thought-out. We had defined the meaning of the game, the design foundations, the dominant emotions we want to evoke, the lore and world setting, but we still felt that we needed something unique that would make the game really stand out. Modern Dark Ages was a concept that came to us during that stage - we discovered that juxtaposing medieval behaviors, rules and laws with a modern setting really serves as a wake-up call for us as humans. As humanity, we’ve been there (during the real Dark Ages), we’ve lost our minds for some time, we started the most cruel wars, we stopped believing in reason. When you see all of those things in the context of a modern city it makes you go “ah, so if we’re not careful with what we have we can really revert to the worst version of us”. But this is not only a narrative tool, it’s also a north star we’re using in a lot of other areas of the project.
When we design locations, we take modern buildings and add post-apocalyptic elements to them so they start looking like medieval fortresses. When you look at our weapons they’re medieval by definition - but they’re made from modern materials.

How many factions are there in the game? Is there something like a reputation system in place?

So far we’ve revealed the two most prominent ones - the Scavengers and the Peacekeepers. Both are a force to be reckoned with, you could say they basically rule the City. Both have also a different idea of how they want to survive in the future. The Peacekeepers want every Infected dead, and they try to enforce it without really taking anything else into consideration.
Scavengers think they can build a safe haven for them fenced off from the Infected… and other people. You can agree with one or the other, but both have also a lot of dirty secrets that make you look at them from a completely different perspective. And that’s just the start since in the world of Dying Light 2 there are also a lot of smaller factions that try to prosper in the shadows of the rulers. This is quite a complex political setup, almost Game of Thrones-y in its feel. And no, there’s no Reputation system in the game. We don’t want you to collect points. We want you to make real, actual decisions.

The 'World System' will be brand new to Dying Light 2. Can you discuss it how it's going to change this sequel?

In Dying Light 2 players get to shape the gameplay sandbox it all takes place in using various methods and systems. One is the narrative itself, with various branching choices and their significant consequences. The other is the World System you mentioned, where every action of the Player is being looked at, added, subtracted and accounted for, and as these actions pile up more and more elements start appear in the World - things like water fountains you can use to heal yourself, or specific encounters that allow you to get some rare items.

When it comes to the presentation of the story, do you favor cutscenes or seamless delivery of dialogue during gameplay in Dying Light 2?

We use cutscenes, but they’re introduced quite seamlessly - keeping players in the first person perspective. We strive for Dying Light 2 to be this immersive experience, where players see and feel everything the player character experiences.

Do you already have an idea of how long it could take on average to complete the main quest? Also, how many side missions are there in Dying Light 2?

This is the hardest question to answer in a game like this - a huge, interactive open-world sandbox filled with gameplay, quests, activities. Especially in DL2 where all of these elements combine with each other. The most sincere and safe answer is that it’s similar in length to other AAA open world games. The hook of DL2 is that it offers a lot of replayability - and each playthrough can be radically different. One of our fans played the first Dying Light for 4500 hours; I think he’ll squeeze a similar amount of time from the second.

Will there be multiple endings? If so, do you have an idea of how many variations you're targeting?

There’s a set, countable number of “huge” endings, and an even bigger number of their variations - but again that’s not really what’s important. The important thing here is that you can shape the City to your liking, create your own version of it. This is the real outcome of the game - how the City looks after you went through your adventure. It’s especially important in co-op - when you head out with others, in other people’s worlds, you’ll see you’re playing in a different place.

From an RPG standpoint, is there anything else making Dying Light 2 unique that you'd like to point out?

The ability to see the outcome of your choices on such a grand scale. For us, an RPG is mostly about role-playing, filling the boots of the main character - and you’ll get plenty of opportunities to do just that, be it through narrative or through gameplay.

Sounds very promising. Thank you for your time!

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