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Dev Diary - March 2019

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Hello community,

The team’s been hard at work since the holidays, which we used to recover from finaling the massive December “Redux” release, and it’s time to update you on some of the things we’ve been doing in the meantime.

 

EPISODE THREE

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The team’s been working hard on Episode Three this year. We’d started work on it in 2018 and then put it aside to finish up Redux and work through all the tech and pipeline improvements we wanted to use for the remaining Episodes of WINTERMUTE. One of the first things we did after coming back from the holidays was re-evaluate our plans for Episode Three scope based on the lessons we’d learned from building and shipping Redux. 

A key lesson there was the importance of having enough gameplay and narrative content to “fill the space” of the game, to avoid the feeling of senseless backtracking or the world just feeling too empty, as it sometimes did in the 2017 Episode One and Two release. Building Redux provided a fresh perspective on how to better balance our narrative and survival experiences, as well as how to better write for narrative flow in our open-world survival experience. These key learnings let us review our plans for Episode Three to ensure we would hopefully avoid making some of the same mistakes we’d made in the original 2017 releases, which we weren’t super happy with (and nor were many of you). Based on how we feel Redux turned out, and how you also seem to feel about the improvements, we’re confident we’re on a much stronger path now.

Building Redux also showed us that the “ideal length” for a WINTERMUTE episode is about 5-7 hours. This gives us enough time to present a few interesting story threads, some compelling open-world survival gameplay, and enough narrative momentum to keep the story moving. It’s also an amount of content that feels substantial -- these aren’t throw-away one or two-hour experiences -- but they are compact enough that you can finish them in a weekend if you like. 

In our original planning, we had considered building the episode around three major story “hubs”, each in a different region, but that episode would have ended up being larger than Episodes One and Two combined, and amount of content that just isn’t sustainable for our team size. Just the testing on an episode that big would be a hugely daunting task, nevermind populating it with enough interesting narrative and mission content to “fill the space”. The Redux knowledge has helped us focus Episode Three down to a tighter experience that takes place in a single region.

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Therefore, Episode Three is the story of Astrid’s survival after escaping Milton, and takes place entirely in Pleasant Valley. As you probably know, Pleasant Valley is a *huge* region, with a lot of scope for interesting environments and some great story moments. We’ve been updating the region to freshen it up for the story, while adding some new landmarks and locations that are introduced in Episode Three. I’m really excited about how it’s all coming together, particularly in how true to Astrid’s character and background the episode is.


COMMUNICATING FUTURE RELEASE DATES

As you know, hitting publicly announced release dates has never been our strong suit. 

As an independent studio without a huge marketing machine behind us, we count on our relationship with our community to be positive so that you’ll help us spread the word about the work we’re doing. We know we harm this relationship when we promise to deliver things to you and then, for whatever reason, they fail to happen.

Unfortunately, project planning and game development as a whole is not an exact science, and while we are ready to work really hard to hit our goals, I’m not willing to crunch my team to do so. In order to be more fair to the community, and also more fair to the development team, I think the best approach for us is to refrain from offering any more public release dates. 

So, moving forward, we won’t publish release dates around any of our content, whether that be full Episodes or Survival Mode updates. We’ll keep working towards internal deadlines, of course, but we won’t share news on when we plan to ship updates until those updates are essentially finished. That way, when you hear a release date from us, you know it will happen. 

 

SPLITTING THE TEAM

One of the things we’ve been working towards this year, with the development team, is hiring enough people with the right skills to be able to create two separate teams -- one to focus on Survival, and the other to focus on Story. We’ve made some great progress towards that goal and we’re getting very close to having all the people we need to accomplish that. Once we’re there, it’ll become easier for us to make consistent progress in both areas of the game, so that we can ensure a more steady supply of free Survival updates, as well as ensuring the Episodes get the resources they need. We still have a few positions to hire for to have full redundancy across both teams, but I’m hopeful we’ll get there within the next few months. If you know any great developers with experience crafting memorable and award-winning interactive experiences, please send them to our careers page!

 

SURVIVAL MODE UPDATE

Last year, we put a ton of effort into Redux and solidifying our foundation for the future Episodes, so this year we’re working to get back on track with producing more frequent Survival Mode updates. To that end, we’re working on a bunch of new features and content for the 2019 Survival releases. As per my earlier point about release dates, we won’t be sharing any tentative release windows for the next Survival release, but I will say that we’ve already done a fair bit of work on the new systems and content that will comprise the core of the next free update.

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A few things we’re working on for the next Survival update include:

  • Adding the Revolver to Survival Mode.
  • Overhaul of the aiming mechanics for the Rifle, Bow, etc., to do a better job of integrating Fatigue and the breathing cycle, and making aiming less frustrating.
  • Adding a new Food item.
  • Adding a new Clothing item.
  • Fixing the Sprains system.
  • ...and more!

One feature I can confidently say *will not* be added in the next Survival update is the Bear Spear. This has turned out to be much more challenging to integrate well into the core Survival experience, so we’re taking a bit more time with it to make sure it’s a solid and promising addition to the Survival toolbox. It will eventually make its way into Survival mode, but it won’t be ready for the next update. And speaking of the Spear, we know that some of you [SPOILERS!] have been finding the Spear gameplay in Episode Two to be quite frustrating, particularly the last section in the Bear Cave, so we’re working on improving that. We’re also hard at work on a new Survival region, but that won’t be ready until (most likely) the update *after* the next one. 

As you know we always like to keep a few surprises in our back pocket, but everything will be outlined in detail in the traditional Update Video we launch on update day. If you aren’t already doing so, it’s not a bad idea to subscribe to the Hinterland YouTube channel so you get notified when the update video goes live.

 

MOTION-CAPTURE SPACE

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In a previous dev diary I mentioned that we’d been able to get our hands on the motion-capture gear from Capcom Vancouver’s now closed dev studio. We’ve been using the equipment and we thought you might like to catch a glimpse of the current set-up; this image is from the camera test we did to check out 18 of the 36 cameras. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space in our current studio to set up all the cameras, but we’re looking for some overflow space so that we can set up all 36. In the short term, we’re going to remove the built-in desks and set up the gear in-house so that the animation team can very quickly and easily iterate on narrative scenes or gameplay animation in support of our Survival and Story goals. The animators whipped up this simple little animation to show you how well it works -- all told this took about an hour or so to shoot and integrate. It’s only a quick test and obviously not something we’d ever ship, but it’s fun as a proof of concept and, let’s face it, Jeremiah has some sweet moves worth sharing.

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NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION

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We get a lot of questions about when The Long Dark will be brought to the Nintendo Switch. As you may know, we spent some time last year trying to get the game up and running on Switch devkits and ran into a lot of performance issues. 

The latest version of Unity -- which we’ll be rolling out as part of our next Survival update -- does offer some performance improvements (which should also make the Xbox and PlayStation versions of the game run more smoothly), but we still don’t find the Switch performance to be at an acceptable level yet. We’re going to keep working on it alongside our other priorities, but I want to set reasonable expectations around this -- not every game can run well on the Switch, and if we’re not able to get The Long Dark running at a level of performance and visual quality that I’m happy with, we won’t be shipping it. All that said, I’m still hopeful that we can find solutions to the current issues, and we think The Long Dark would be really compelling on this portable platform, so we’re not giving up!

***** 

Thanks for reading this update, and if you’d like to share your thoughts about the contents of this developer diary, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to join the official The Long Dark community, as well as following us on Twitter. If you haven’t already done so, and you’d like to be kept up to date on project announcements outside of general development updates -- for example, sale events, new merchandise, and information about the studio -- please consider signing up for the Hinterland Newsletter. And if you’re interested in more regular, bite-sized responses to community questions, make sure to check out the (almost) weekly Milton Mailbag

See you where we see you!

- Raph

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I hope it's not Will on the first pic :S

Looking forward to EP3 & any survival mode updates! Cheers!

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Glad to see that Jeremiah is recovering quickly from the last bear encounter.

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That's great news, thanks for sharing, Raphael. :-)

I really hope that first-person clothing is still planned. I know that from a gameplay perspective, it's not so important, but I think it would really improve the game a lot.

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Posted (edited)

Great work Raph!! I'm sure it will be amazing. You are building such an epic game! :hatchet:

Edited by muoz
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Just a single food item? Kind of strange and lacking, if I must say....There should be more variety.

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, JaySovereign said:

Just a single food item? Kind of strange and lacking, if I must say....There should be more variety.

Remember when the last update's preview had an ambiguous description for what turned out to be the Well Fed buff? If their plan was to add variety, that's what they'd say. The fact that it's just one item implies it's something special or unique compared to existing food items.

-H

Edited by Hadrian
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2 Things:

Please don't tell me that dead guy is supposed to be Will.

I laughed for like 5 minutes at that clip of Jeremiah dancing.

 

 

 

 

what am i doing

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32 minutes ago, Adeveth said:

2 Things:

Please don't tell me that dead guy is supposed to be Will.

I laughed for like 5 minutes at that clip of Jeremiah dancing.

 

 

 

 

what am i doing

that would be Astrid in the snow and hopefully that shadow is not Will.

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Pretty excited for all this. Wonder what they mean by "fixing sprain system". Very unspecific but I guess we'll learn more as time passes.

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Love the look of that new building! A little extra variety in things like that make a huge difference. And finally a handgun! Watch out wolves, shit just got real!

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I hope the new food item is jerky or dried meat or some sort of meat soup, the new clothing item will probably be Astrid's poncho. cant wait for the new pistol.

 

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I love reading those updates, keep 'em coming! 

The Long Dark is such an amazing game, unlike any other I've ever played.

Your love for the game really shows, keep up the great work Hinterland & take as much time as you need!

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6 hours ago, admin said:

as it sometimes did in the 2017 Episode Two and Three release

I don't know if it's the sentence that is wrong of my understanding of it (we agree Rpisode 3 wasn't realeased in 2017, right?)

6 hours ago, admin said:

“ideal length” for a WINTERMUTE episode is about 5-7 hours

That made me think that this morning, I finished Portal in 4h. I actually thought the endgame boss was just the end of the tutorial... Until I saw the credits rolling in... I f I had to pay a Portal price for every episode, TLD would be much more expensive!

Also, on a personal level, I'd rather see more survival bushcraft than firearms. We already have tons of shooting games.

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5 hours ago, admin said:

Hello community,

Hi there

Quote

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pretty !

 

Quote

A few things we’re working on for the next Survival update include:

  • Adding the Revolver to Survival Mode.

hmm, ok, I guess it was needed for Wintermute and some players were asking about it. But with all these cars rusting around and with all these crazy wolves (and crows), I would definitively go for slingshots as a survival weapon.

 

Quote
  • Overhaul of the aiming mechanics for the Rifle, Bow, etc., to do a better job of integrating Fatigue and the breathing cycle, and making aiming less frustrating.
  • Adding a new Food item.
  • Adding a new Clothing item.

cool !

 

Quote
  • Fixing the Sprains system.

 

yeeepa ! *throwing pills like confettis*
I jump on this opportunity to say something that bothers me a bit : painkillers do not heal sprains. It often makes it worse by hiding the pain, allowing people to keep damaging the joint (yet it can help for the recovery, since you sleep better when not in pain). So I'm not fond of the current system : too much sprains, way too much, too easily cured with magic candy pills.

 

Quote

The latest version of Unity -- which we’ll be rolling out as part of our next Survival update -- does offer some performance improvements

yeeepa ! *throwing penguins*

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2 hours ago, DerpyLemon115 said:

Pretty excited for all this. Wonder what they mean by "fixing sprain system". Very unspecific but I guess we'll learn more as time passes.

I'm hoping it means that you won't sprain your ankle anymore just from walking along horizontally with no reason to "fall". Inclines, declines, and tripping over a branch I can get behind. Walking down a road I cannot.

 

1 hour ago, Coleman H. said:

I hope the new food item is jerky or dried meat or some sort of meat soup

 

JERKY. Would be an interesting mechanic that has to differentiate from just putting a steak on a table. Take a raw slab of meat (fish can be cured too) and cut it into strips and set it out to cure like any other item that cures in -game. Or more accurate, has to be near a fire/smoke. Could also cure under the sun... but smoke is better. I don't know how they'd work that. They'd have to come up with a rack you'd place near a fire. But... it would probably just be "slice up, drop inside, wait" lol.

Soup would be another interesting addition. The mechanic is already there (cooking pots). Any kind of meat + water could be a soup. A very bland soup....

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Thank-you for the update.

- good move to keep deadlines internal for better mental health for all

- I was hoping for a  .357 Magnum Snub Nose, but I'll take a Colt .45.

- I hope overhauling of the aiming mechanics does not mean you are making things easier. The bow is already a powerful weapon and hunting is not very challenging.

- Any consideration to make a difficulty level above Loper?

- Always looking forward to (and grateful for) the continuing free updates. Thanks Hinterland. Cheers.

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7 hours ago, DerpyLemon115 said:

Pretty excited for all this. Wonder what they mean by "fixing sprain system". Very unspecific but I guess we'll learn more as time passes.

I suspect that is a response to feedback about how you can sprain a wrist or ankle (or often both) on the most gentle of slopes. Seems to happen with ridiculous ease sometimes.

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Excellent update.   My wishlist at the moment:

Wolfskin cap - pretty please? cherry on top?

Craftable snowshoes to reduce sprains - you said you're doing something about sprains but they would be good anyway imo.

Avalanches? - probably not doable but it would be so cool to experience and to increase the dread level.

Polar bears - a big scary white one.  Anyone else hear about the town in Siberia invaded by dozens of polar bears?  Probably due to global warming and loss of habitat, sadly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is, by far, the best money I've spent on a game... Ever. Thanks for the update and good to see Jeremiah letting his hair down (Christmas party video?) 

Pleasant valley is a great EP3 location. I need the "why did Astrid abandon Will?" Question resolved (among other questions).

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56 minutes ago, Captcavey said:

This is, by far, the best money I've spent on a game... Ever. Thanks for the update and good to see Jeremiah letting his hair down (Christmas party video?) 

Pleasant valley is a great EP3 location. I need the "why did Astrid abandon Will?" Question resolved (among other questions).

 

But where is Perseverance?

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11 hours ago, Fuarian said:

that would be Astrid in the snow and hopefully that shadow is not Will.

 

Oh God, i just downloaded the Image and it's called: ASTRID_in_snow_ep3-2.thumb.png.456407dce55ca63faf4248e55972b2fb.

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