The Big Dying Light 2 Q&A – Techland Opens Up on C-Engine Tech, Delays, Game Length & Much More
The hype surrounding Dying Light 2 should come as no surprise to anyone who played the first installment, really, given how well that game fared both critically and commercially.
While Polish developer Techland made hit games before, such as Dead Island and the Call of Juarez series, Dying Light was on another scale entirely with its over 18 million unique players across all platforms. The fan base is so huge that Techland still holds in-game events, such as the Zombie Hunt Event that took place last month as part of the celebrations for the game's sixth anniversary.
Of course, fans also very much long for Dying Light 2 at this point. First announced at E3 2018, the sequel aims to be much more ambitious than the original as it adds a whole underlying RPG system based on choices and consequences.
Dying Light 2 was slated to launch in early 2020, but it wasn't the best sign when Techland delayed it indefinitely. Then rumors of development troubles ensued, and the outlook on this highly anticipated game got even hazier.
Today, at last, after a long silence (broken only by a brief video update released earlier this month and embedded below), we can offer a lengthy interview with the game's developers as they go over pretty much every aspect of the game, from the technology used to build Dying Light 2 to the open world itself, from the RPG elements to the game length, and more still. Enjoy!
What are the main technical improvements of the C-Engine over Dying Light's Chrome Engine 6?
Tomasz Szałkowski, Rendering Director: From my perspective, it is support for the new generation of consoles. And new technologies like ray tracing. Also worth mentioning are the very extensive AI systems compared to CE6 and many other game systems. Everything is held together by the new component-based welding system. We also have a new game world editor. C-Engine makes even better use of multi-core processors.
Łukasz Burdka, Senior Technology Programmer: We’ve upgraded almost every core system of the engine. The new Game Components system allows us to pack a magnitude of objects into the levels. The World Streaming technology lets players explore our vast city without loading screens. We’ve upgraded our physics engine to the Bullet Physics featured in some of the most popular open world blockbusters. The brand-new animation and facial expressions system allow us to present lifelike characters. Thanks to the new Artificial Intelligence system, they not only look but also behave realistically. The Audio system has been upgraded to WWise, which led to more immersive sound design and support for interactive music. The new Story System allows for branching narratives and large-scale changes in the world that players can shape through their choices.
How many Infected can be displayed at once in Dying Light 2? Will there be veritable hordes, like in Days Gone, for example?
Andrzej Płaczek, Game Engine Director: We have a different opponent design than in Days Gone. Our AI has more diverse and complex behaviours, and their distribution is also different. Thanks to the new Crowd system, we can display more infected than in DL1, and by using a more extensive LOD system, we have also increased the number of simulated AI.
A recent report mentioned that the C-Engine's complexity of use was partly to blame for the game's delays. Can you comment on this?
Łukasz: The transition to C-Engine overlapped with the pre-production stage of Dying Light 2. These changes were unavoidable in order to create the detailed world of Dying Light 2. Our developers needed time to adapt to the technology, and our Engine department needed time to improve the user experience of the new editor. The early stage of C-Engine’s deployment was a difficult period for our production, but it was necessary to fulfill the ambitions of Dying Light 2.
Dying Light 2's map was said to be four times bigger than that of the original game. Is that still true? Has there been any downsizing at all from a technical standpoint?
Łukasz: C-Engine does a great job supporting large-scale open worlds. Thanks to the World Streaming technology, it’s not the technology that limits the map's size. Tools such as CityBuilder allow us to quickly cover huge areas with a realistic urban environment that can be rendered efficiently in the game.
What actually limits the map's size is the time needed to fill the city with unique gameplay challenges, memorable stories, and interesting exploration possibilities. There was no downsizing due to technical reasons. The estimate that the map in Dying Light 2 is four times bigger than that of the original game is the most precise estimate that we can provide. The map of Dying Light 2 is much more vertical and gives many more exploration opportunities, so the city feels even bigger than it is.
How did the CityBuilder tool help you craft The City? Did it enable you to create a more varied environment than we're used to in open world games?
Łukasz: The main reason we invested in creating CityBuilder was giving C-Engine users a tool to efficiently build large-scale urban environments. CityBuilder implements a top-down approach to crafting the game world. The user can draw a city plan just like an urban architect would. There is no longer a need to place every wall manually on the map. CityBuilder automates the tedious repeatable parts of the map building process and lets Level Artists and Level Designers focus on the more creative parts. It also boosts iteration times. Changes to visual styles or geometry of buildings can be easily propagated across the city.
Users retain full control over the look and feel of the city and they can invest their time into crafting memorable, unique locations and gameplay opportunities while CityBuilder takes care of the rest. This way, we can craft a more detailed, varied, and unique environment in a regular production schedule.
You previously confirmed ray tracing (and NVIDIA DLSS) for the PC version of Dying Light 2. Which effects will be ray traced, specifically? Do you plan to use any other DirectX 12 Ultimate features (VRS, Mesh Shaders, Sampler Feedback) in Dying Light 2?
Tomasz: All the effects mentioned, i.e., shadows, AO, and light reflections, e.g., from the player's flashlight. We're also experimenting with Nvidia to expand the effects base.
Ray tracing is a great technology. We are exploring new possibilities related to DX12 Ultimate, such as VRS. Mesh shaders are rather a matter for the next project. DL2 will continue to be developed for a long time, so the results of our research will also be visible after the game's release if they significantly affect the quality of the game.
The first Dying Light game was originally scheduled to hit PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 before you decided to make it next-gen only. Will this be the case for Dying Light 2 as well, or are you keeping the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions this time around? If so, can you assure fans that you've tested the game extensively on the older consoles?
Tomasz: The “main” consoles have long been our priority. We make every effort to ensure that the game's quality on PS4 or XBO is at the highest level. We started testing on the older generation consoles much earlier than in other projects. This was related to the scale of changes to the engine and ambitious plans to create an even larger and more complex game than DL1.
What do you think of the capabilities of Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, having worked on them for a while now?
Tomasz: The new consoles are great equipment. A lot of progress has been made in the area of CPU performance and IO bandwidth. The new capabilities and GPU speed are also impressive. I think, like any new generation, it takes a while before we learn to get the most out of the hardware.
Will Dying Light 2 feature a '60 FPS' or 'Performance' mode option on XSX and PS5? Also, will there be a mode that supports ray tracing on these next-gen consoles?
Tomasz: Yes. We plan to allow you to choose: Quality (including ray tracing), Performance (60+ FPS), and 4K. As we are working hard on performance, I cannot provide more details at this point. We try to cram as much as possible onto the next- gens.
How does the open world of Dying Light 2 stand out from the myriad of open world games now available on the market?
Tymon Smektała, Lead Game Designer: We have a lot of respect for other developers working on open world games and the games they’ve made - each one of them brings something new to the table, some unique twist or mechanic. For me, the most important aspect of Dying Light as a series is how vertical and truly open our world is. Of course, there are great open world games that offer players similar freedom, but ours is unique in that it’s all seen from a first-person perspective, which really brings the immersion up a notch. With Dying Light 2, we introduce an additional element - the ability to change the open world, the gameplay space, through your choices. By making different decisions, you introduce different gameplay mechanics to the game - e.g., exploding car traps or other crazy contraptions. This way, you really shape the world around you, and this is truly an empowering feeling.
Are there any random, dynamic encounters or events, as in titles like Red Dead Redemption 2?
Tymon: Absolutely! There are a lot of stories in Dying Light 2’s world. We were holding back with this aspect of the game, as we wanted to use it as icing on the main story's narrative cake. We have introduced them relatively recently, roughly in the second half of last year, and they’ve added a lot of life and vibrancy to our world.
Is Dying Light 2 still heavily structured around the RPG-like choice and consequence system, or have there been any changes?
Tymon: Absolutely, it’s another cornerstone of the project. But as we explained a few times already, narrative-based choices are just one of the ways players can express their agency. Another one is the City Alignment system, which is the main system that allows players to make changes to the City.
Can you talk about protagonist Aiden Caldwell a bit since we know so little of his background?
Tymon: The thing about Aiden is that it’s hard to talk about him without any spoilers, and when it comes to his storm, we still want to hold the cards close to our chests, for just a little tiny bit more. He’s a good guy who knows his stuff and is looking for someone (or something?) in the City. He enters this place with one goal in sight, but of course, everything gets complicated when he encounters some untoward individuals fighting for control over the City. The story is quite important to us and we don’t want to spoil too much about it too soon.
Will there be any companion NPCs who can be recruited in Dying Light 2? What about romancing certain NPCs?
Tymon: You’ll meet plenty of interesting characters and some of them will accompany you during various missions. There are also moments where NPCs join your side during gameplay in an emergent, systemic manner, but there’s no mechanic of recruiting any NPCs to your crew. But it’s an idea which I very much like, so maybe in one of the DLCs? Who knows?
Overall, how many gameplay hours can players expect to find in the game between the main campaign and side content?
Tymon: If you rush it, you should be able to finish the story in roughly 20 hours. But to see it all, you’d have to spend 2-3 times more time than that. Our opening area alone can last for over 7-8 hours if you want to explore every nook and cranny, so there’s absolutely a lot to play here.
There have been many personnel changes at Techland lately, which had fans worried about the development progress of Dying Light 2. Can you assuage those fears?
Tymon: I can fully understand why players would be feeling curious or impatient, but it’s rather a norm in the game dev industry that highly talented specialists are constantly on the lookout for new creative adventures. We lose some people, we miss them, but at the same time a lot of new energy is joining our team, and it’s an opportunity for the whole company to learn new methods and approaches. Actually, for us, it’s more stressful to read reports like that - not many people understand that, but these reports are crushing for the team at the studio, for the hundreds of people that put in all of their hearts to deliver players the best game they can.
When will we see some new gameplay? Is the release really coming 'soon' as mentioned on the Steam page?
Tymon: We plan to restart our communications very, very soon, but some gameplay has already been released. We’ve shared a small snippet of the game with the community already in honour of their interest and devotion. We understand that players want to learn more about Dying Light 2 (it’s the number one game on Steam’s Wishlist after all), but we really needed time to make sure we wouldn’t start talking about the game too early. Let me assure you that we also felt the community’s pressure very strongly, so I hope it will be easier for everyone.
Thank you for your time.
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