Tymon Smektała Producer: Speak About The Game Dying Light

An open world, first person zombie slaying game from the team behind Dead Island, you’d have thought the development process would have been pretty damn smooth, but the delay and the decision to drop last-gen comes from a desire to innovate. Producer Tymon Smektała explains the game’s lifespan so far…


How did you plan on separating Dying Light from the competition (Dead Island 2 , Sunset Overdrive) when you began development?

Well, for me, Dying Light isn't a zombie game of course it has zombies in it, and shares a lot of elements with our previous games, but the defining element of Dying Light lies in the empowered mobility that we give to our players. Not only is that new in the zombie genre, but in the first-person games scene in general. The system we call ‘natural movement’ is a mechanic that allows you to traverse the game environment freely without any limits or any invisible barriers. That’s the thing that sets us apart from other FPS games, other zombie games.

So would you say Dying Light is more like a platformer,a bit like Mirror’s Edge ?

Of course, Dying Light is similar to Mirror’s Edge, but in the way that Mirror’s Edge was the first game that’s tried to do something new in the first-person movement are a. It was released [over five years ago], and nothing’s really been done on the back of it since.I fell in love with that game, though even when I first saw the screenshots,I fell in love. But now I think it’s time to do something different, to take that idea to a completely new level.

[Mirror’s Edge] worked in a very specific way: there were certain objects in the environment, and it was only those you could interact with. So you could only climb where the developers wanted you to climb, or you could only slide under what the developers wanted you to side under… In Dying Light, you’re in an open world: you can climb over any fence, jump from any building, go anywhere you like. I don’t think it’s fair to say we’re making ‘ Mirror’s Edge with zombies’ we are extremely respectful to DICE, and it made a breakthrough game but we’re taking advantage of the power of [the Xbox One] and the talent of our developers.

So what other games would you compare Dying Light to, then ?

We're making something completely fresh, completely new we've got more in common with Titanfall or the new Call Of Duty than Mirror’s Edge,I guess they try to make players move with greater freedom,and so do we.We don't have jetpacks, but we're still letting players go where they want, do what they want, be able to explore the world without any effort. The open-world aspect of it and the ability to interact with everything makes Dying Light the next step in the revolution that Mirror’s Edge started.

Techland says it delayed the game ‘because it had a desire to innovate’.

I think I speak for the whole company when I say Dying Light is the biggest game for the company and we want the title to show the world Techland is a triple-A developer, and that we’re a studio that can play with the biggest names in the business. It is my personal belief that Dying Light is a fantastic product, and we took a lot of risks in pushing the game back and dropping the release on [Xbox 360 and PS3], but we knew it needed more polish if we wanted to prove to the world that we’re as good as the big [triple-A] developers. We want people to notice that we’ve done something great.

You've certainly got a lot of faith in it! 

You know, before coming to Techland, I did a lot of other stuff, I published three rap albums, I got a degree in economics, I worked for books and publications a games journalist for more than a decade but Dying Light is the product that I’m most proud of.

Has that approach to design changed at all since development started ?

At the beginning we started with the Mirror’s Edge approach where there were only certain objects you could interact with, and of course we then kept adding more and more… In a single Mirror’s Edge level, off the top of my head, you  have about 100 items you can interact with. At one point, in Dying Light, you had at least 50,000. It was impossible to manage: you had 1,000 objects and thought ‘Hey, I want to climb up there, too!’ and then you add another 1,000, then another 1,000 and it’s still not enough. So when we hit 50,000, we realised that if we kept going, we would
not be able to deliver the freedom we had in mind.

So how did it change?

Either we had to scrap the idea altogether or we had to do something new. After lots of trials and errors, our gameplay engineers who are an incredibly important part of our company decided the player should be able to track the environment in front of them and immediately understand what ‘shapes’ can be interacted with. After a few weeks, they had a prototype. It didn't work as well as the game in its current  state  does, but we knew this new setup would solve all the problems. It took us about two years, but we got toastage where we saw a functional, fun game taking shape.

What happened in those two years between prototype build and now ?

We had to look at things like motion sickness, movement speed, camera speed, how the camera moves when you’re moving in the environment, how you’re supposed to see things from the first person view. I’m proud to have been a part of this development team because I think we’re doing something new here I think Dying Light will be a game synonymous with next-gen gameplay and a benchmark for what this hardware can achieve.

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