admin

Dev Diary - February 2018

99 posts in this topic

*UPDATE*: The Test Branch mentioned below in the Diary is now live on Steam -- to get started, go here: http://www.hinterlandforums.com/announcement/12-the-long-dark-test-branch-february-2018-opt-in-forum-password-spoilers/

---

Hello everyone,

The team’s been hard at work on a variety of projects since we released the Rugged Sentinel update in December, and I thought you might like a general development status update.

Episode One and Two “Redux” & Episode Three

5a8ce4ad72e5f_TheLongDark_awaits_Astrid_Final_Feb16_3(2).thumb.jpg.f0507e58754046e7039a85adec0379b4.jpg

The main thing that has been occupying our time is work on Episode Three, but perhaps more importantly, a lot of reworking of Episode One and Two, in anticipation of Episode Three.

As you know from some of my previous developer diaries, there were several consistent pieces of negative feedback in user and critic reviews, around the forced linearity of our mission structure (as compared to the openness of Survival Mode), the lack of fully voiced dialogue sequences (outside of cinematics), some glitches in the Bear Hunt mission, and issues with the opening tutorial.

In terms of the openness of our mission structure -- it was always our intention that things would open up and become less linear in Episode Three, and beyond, but after considering the feedback about Episodes One and Two, I felt that making the player go through 15-20 hours of fairly linear missions so that they could get to Episode Three’s more open structure, was asking too much of them. So, one of the things we’ve done is go back to the Episode One and Two mission structures and work on opening them up, so that most missions can be done in any order, and some missions -- like Jeremiah’s Survival School -- will become optional.

Since our cinematics in Episodes One and Two depend on knowing what order the player is progressing through the game, opening up the mission structure means the cinematics are too restrictive for the player’s experience of the game’s narrative. Therefore, we’ve had to come up with a new way to present those moments to the player -- and that means shifting most of the dialogue content into a first-person dialogue mode. We’ll lose out on some of the cinematic cameras and lighting we used in Episodes One and Two, but this new presentation style will give us enormous flexibility in how we present missions and story content in Episode Three and beyond, so it’s the right thing for the game as a whole. This approach also means we can put all the Trust and secondary dialogue threads into the same presentation style, which will make the overall experience of interacting with characters in the world feel a lot more consistent, as well as giving us a much more flexible system to support our mission goals in Episode Three, and beyond.

 

WIP videos showing experiments with “look ats” which allow NPCs to react to the player’s presence and reposition themselves to face the player during first-person conversations.

This is a ton of rework of Episode One and Two, but we believe it’s important that players have a smooth-flowing experience between the episodes, and that it doesn’t feel like Episodes One and Two feel like they are from a different game. It’s also helping us prove out the improved direction for Episode Three content, and solidify our game structure and foundation for Episodes Four and Five as well.

We’re also doing some rework on the opening sections of the game -- not just revising the Survival Bowl “tutorial”, but adding some new narrative content to set up the story a bit better, so we hope that with all these improvements, you’ll consider replaying Episodes One and Two before heading in to Episode Three.

In terms of Episode Three itself -- this more open mission structure and new approach to dialogue and story presentation allows us to present an experience that’s more familiar to the Survival Mode experience. The structure is still very narrative-driven -- you meet NPCs in the world, they each have their own story, and you can decide whether to engage in that story, or not. You can, generally, approach it in any order, apart from a few places where we have to be a bit more heavy-handed about linearity for the sake of storytelling. In Episode Three you play as Astrid, so you’ll get to experience the post-crash events from her point of view. In terms of size and play time -- it’s too early to comment on the latter, but the size of world you’ll play in is roughly the same size as Episode Two, and a large part of the Episode Three world will be entirely new for the game.

I’m sure you’d all like to get an update on when we expect to launch Episode Three. At the moment, I don’t have a date to give you. Hopefully the above gives you a sense of how much work we’re putting in to getting it right. We see our Episode Three launch as an opportunity to “re-launch” our Episodes One and Two as well, so this means it’s going to take some extra time. We’ll keep you posted on progress, while also doing our best to avoid spoilers.
 

Survival Mode & Technology Update

As some of you may know, we use a foundation of technology -- an “engine” -- called Unity, to make The Long Dark. We’ve just completed a massive overhaul of our core engine technology by incorporating an updated version of Unity, which provides several new features that are critical to our work on Episode Three and beyond. Similarly, we use an audio engine called Wwise, which we’ve also just recently updated to get the latest version. This is what we’d consider “core tech”, and it’s fundamental to the work we do in creating the game, but these major overhauls can be quite disruptive to our development.

So, in order to do some testing and insulate you as much as possible from these changes, we’re releasing an updated version of The Long Dark to our test branch in Steam. This new version will be running on the latest version of Unity, and will also be using the latest version of Wwise, and beyond that, it has about 200 bug fixes in it, including (finally!) a proper fix for the Faithful Cartographer achievement (a fix which will carry over to the Main game if you unlock it in the Test Branch). We’re hopeful that some of you will jump into the Test Branch and check out some of these fixes, as well as help us identify any issues you encounter due to the new version of Unity -- for example, any crashes, compatibility issues, or performance issues (unexpected slowness or hitching, for example). Once we’ve managed to get some data from the test branch, and we feel confident the new version is safe, we’ll push it into the Main Branch as a hotfix that everyone can get.

Besides that, we’re working on some new content and features for our next Survival Mode update. It’s a bit early to share too much information about that, but one of the things we’re building for it is a new region. This region will use a new workflow and pipeline we’re testing internally, a new approach to region creation that we hope will allow us to create areas with a lot more interesting variety, and to build them much more quickly, so that we can release new regions more frequently in the future. We’re also working on some new kinds of environmental obstacles that we hope to use in future region work. We’ll share some more details about that as the region firms up.

Tools_001_small.gif.9d6619ab7ac0c01f1d0a04b3a6297f59.gif

Workflow improvements for region building, allowing us to iterate our terrain design and beautify much more quickly.

modern_display_v01_1mb.gif.4b46b39e44cc596ba6870e44e0ac57b8.gif

“Buffer Memories”: The aurora reveals secrets hidden within the depths of otherwise dead computers, relics of the world before “the long dark”. Could this make it into the next update?

Character Presentation

We’ve been doing some work on improving the presentation of characters in the game -- not just NPCs, but also the player. One of the things we’ve been wanting to get in the game for a while, is a better representation of the clothing items you’ve selected for your character. Our first approach to that has been to add things like mittens and sleeves to the first-person hands. But, we’ve been exploring with taking this even further by creating a full-body simulation. If we can pull this off, it would allow us to reflect not just choices about what you’re wearing on your hands and arms, but what you’re wearing on your entire body. It would also give us a good foundation for improving your sense of presence in the world as a whole -- we could use more of the body to communicate your state in the world, animated interactions as you deal with injuries, moving over obstacles, using legs and kicking in the struggles, etc. It’s a big change and will require a lot of work -- and frankly, we’re not 100% sure we can pull it off -- but we’re working on it and we’ll see how far we can push it. I don’t want you to expect to see this in the game any time soon -- this full-body presence will not be in the next update -- and we don’t currently have an ETA on when we think the work will be complete. We'll share more information about this feature as our experimentation continues.

So, that’s an update on some of the work the team’s been doing “behind the scenes”. If you’re interested in participating in the Test Branch, please look for information at http://www.hinterlandforums.com or in the Test Branch subforums on Steam. Please keep in mind that the Test Branch is for Steam-users only. The Test Branch update should go live within the next 24 hours! You can also follow us on social media, or sign up to our mailing list, to be notified of additional updates.

Thanks for reading! See you in the Quiet Apocalypse.

- Raphael

 

  • Upvote 6
  • Like 13

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the look of Astrid at the top next to what seems like the tunnel collapse next to the Prison Bus, will we perhaps have the opportunity to make our character crawl through the bus in order to get through the other side? 

  • Upvote 3
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like some really great updates coming soon. Can't wait. The workflow region building looks cool, wonder if that can help with different seasons/weather effects, anyway will be good to see more regions in future.  What else will come alive during an Aurora?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OMG, if you succeed to make Jeremiah moving in interacting presence with the character, I already imagine a NPC walking with us, or maybe hunting with us, collecting branches, fishing, etc...alive NPCs.

I really appreciate all the work you make guys, it's everytime well thought, it's everytime a huge gift and it's make me happy.

I was thinking about the real time cooking project to improving the sense of presence in the same way as the full body simulation. What about ?

Glad to know you are actually making all these improvements, I wish you all the best. Audaces fortuna juvat !

Edited by Vinceofpyrenees
  • Upvote 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the update and Good luck with the core tech improvements and your work on full-body simulation, you can do it! 

Just remember that giving the players everything they want will KILL the game (see Star Wars Galaxies). The Long Dark is a masterpiece IMO, Hinterland Rocks!

  • Upvote 4
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mittens!!! Whoo! Hoo!  *notes to self - remember the outside world will not understand your excitement about mittens.*

  • Upvote 2
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for the update... nothing better than improvements to what is already my favourite game...

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dominik89 said:

the nearest update is likely next year


 

Yes the story update might be some time away but... soon will be the Hotfix which will update the Survival Mode once it's been tested.

 

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the news update Raphael and team. Sounds very promising.
I'm definitely going to replay the first 2 episodes (luckily I never finished ep2. :P ).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is the password that gives access to the Test branch Forum on this site (not on steam) ? The Steam posts don't tell it.

Edited by Vinceofpyrenees

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey everyone, just to update you in this space -- the test branch is now live on Steam. 

You can of course participate here as well. This should get you started:

http://www.hinterlandforums.com/announcement/12-the-long-dark-test-branch-february-2018-opt-in-forum-password-spoilers/

If you run into any access issues with the subforum, please let me know. 

Happy testing and thank you!

  • Upvote 2
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, Patrick Carlson said:

Hey everyone, just to update you in this space -- the test branch is now live on Steam. 

You can of course participate here as well. This should get you started:

http://www.hinterlandforums.com/announcement/12-the-long-dark-test-branch-february-2018-opt-in-forum-password-spoilers/

If you run into any access issues with the subforum, please let me know. 

Happy testing and thank you!

You're welcome.

Providing Testing on the i3...we'll see how it goes!

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, admin said:

Since our cinematics in Episodes One and Two depend on knowing what order the player is progressing through the game, opening up the mission structure means the cinematics are too restrictive for the player’s experience of the game’s narrative. Therefore, we’ve had to come up with a new way to present those moments to the player -- and that means shifting most of the dialogue content into a first-person dialogue mode. We’ll lose out on some of the cinematic cameras and lighting we used in Episodes One and Two, but this new presentation style will give us enormous flexibility in how we present missions and story content in Episode Three and beyond, so it’s the right thing for the game as a whole. This approach also means we can put all the Trust and secondary dialogue threads into the same presentation style, which will make the overall experience of interacting with characters in the world feel a lot more consistent, as well as giving us a much more flexible system to support our mission goals in Episode Three, and beyond.

16 hours ago, admin said:

In terms of Episode Three itself -- this more open mission structure and new approach to dialogue and story presentation allows us to present an experience that’s more familiar to the Survival Mode experience. The structure is still very narrative-driven -- you meet NPCs in the world, they each have their own story, and you can decide whether to engage in that story, or not.

The cinematics are already too restrictive in the current version to handle minor deviations that the player might make from what the narrative expects them to do and in what order, making many of the cutscenes feel out of sync, contradictory, and in some cases very jarring. Plus there is the fact that Will's clothing in the cinematics doesn't match what the player has chosen to wear, or the equipment they might be using (such as when you trip over the body and bang your head in the darkness of the workshop, the cinematics don't reflect that the player might be carrying a lantern or other lightsource, and is deliberately approaching the body in order to investigate it! Or when you first enter the Dam and are suddenly teleported over to the elevators) - again this is very jarring and breaks the player's immersion in the character.

For me this will be the biggest improvement, if the team can pull it off - both allowing the player to choose whether or not to tackle the missions, and keeping them in-character more with the cinematics. It was mentioned in a previous dev diary (or perhaps in one of the "radio" interviews with Patrick Carlson + RvL) that Half-Life's cinematic style of first-person, in-game cutscenes was something they'd like to replicate: I couldn't agree more. The current cinematics look nice, but they do take the player out of character and break immersion as well - and the game is better off without them.

Giving the player more freedom to make meaningful decisions about how to react to the NPCs and the tasks they give out is also an absolute must, in my view - otherwise we're merely passive observers to a prescribed narrative, rather than active participants who can affect events. After all, that is surely what playing a game (as opposed to watching a movie or reading a novel) is all about!

So, I'm really, really happy with the way the game looks to be evolving according to this Dev Diary - exactly what I wanted to hear!

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, Vinceofpyrenees said:

What is the password that gives access to the Test branch Forum on this site (not on steam) ? The Steam posts don't tell it.

Password: test_branch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know to what extend you want to free up the quests but could you please make it so things like "hidden caches" or "keys" spawn right away? Now, caches only spawn if you find the note for that first and the key inside the vase also only after Grey Mother sends you there. These restrictions make it impossible to explore because the player doesn't want to go to a place over and over again just to discover something miteriously spawned from gods hands in a place he already checked before. So you stop exploring and just stay close to the questgiver to everything in that order (bad gameplay).

It also makes no sense to get Antibiotics for Jeremiah from the dam and later have to harvest plants. It would be easier and more logic to let Jeremiah ask the player for reshi+rosehip tee + old man's bandage. (let the player use the working bench and craft the medicine).

The third point is the bear. Right now, you stay a few days/weeks at Trapper's Cabin and after all this time Jeremiah tells you that you can't leave because of the bear. But in all that time there is no bear. Could you make it, so the bear spawns (attacks you) at some point on the way back from the rifle mission and maybe a few times more after that mission (if the bear-kill-mission hasn't started yet)? Like the wolf attack at the barn in Milton. If you shoot him, he will just run off, if he gets you, the usual thing is happening. This would make it plausible that you have to kill the bear first before you can leave ML.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the Dev Diary, this all sounds promising. Good move to revisit Episodes 1 & 2, there is much to improve there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 21/2/2018 at 4:28 AM, admin said:

Tools_001_small.gif.9d6619ab7ac0c01f1d0a04b3a6297f59.gif

Loving this. Don't want to get too hyped, but if that doesn't look like seasons... it gets very close :)

Anyway just finding efficiencies in the way you can produce new regions means great news. 

Thanks for the update! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Still waiting on those bear saddles to be added to the game Raph. lol. The future of the Long Dark is looking bright! Good luck.

Edited by DogFoodEaterPs4
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like how Astrid's bow is unstrung in the illustration. Anyone who's worn a strung 30 lb. bow or heavier around their torso will know just how uncomfortable it is. A bow bag would have been better but given the setting of the game, this is fitting.

Looking forward to the revisions in story mode. Haven't played since it first came out but once the revisions are implemented, I'm hoping to dive right in.

The full body presence seems really cool. I know it's been on the workbench for quite a while now but I'm hopeful that Hinterland will be able to pull it off.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/21/2018 at 1:09 PM, Vinceofpyrenees said:

What is the password that gives access to the Test branch Forum on this site (not on steam) ? The Steam posts don't tell it.

The Steam post has a link that gives you directions on how to do it. Then your game has to update to the test branch. Took mine 45 minutes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL... It's been almost 7 months and you say it will still take long time, and you can't still give a date about only 1 episode which should be already done 3 months ago at the end of 2017. I don't know what others think but i think this news are nothing but tragedy. I'm not very into survival games but i really liked the story mode, and i finished it in only 24 hours and waiting for 7 months... I wish it wasn't too late to refund this piece of trash...

So you changed some actions of NPCs on previous episodes on 7 months? CONGRATULATIONS...

I hope you make this character be able to jump, so that this "THE LONG TIME" waiting worth it at least a little bit.

Sorry guys, i know everyone's gonna attack me on comments, but hey! You all know what you have just read are truths.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now