Alongside our recent four-hour media hands-on preview for Dying Light 2: Stay Human, we managed to fit in twenty minutes to sit down with Tymon Smektala, Lead Game Designer working on the game at Techland. With less than three months separating us from the sequel’s debut after many delays, we checked in to get an update on the final development phase.
It’s been quite some time since Dying Light 2 was originally revealed. Can you talk a little bit more about what’s changed over the years?
We changed the engine at the very beginning of the project. All of the previous Techland games were made using our own in-house tech called Chrome Engine. And we were working on subsequent iterations of the engine up to iteration number 6. Dying Light 1 was created using Chrome Engine 6. When we looked at the other stuff we had, we realized that Dying Light 2 actually has a lot of technical depth and the engine would not be able to support us moving forward. It actually happened at the same time, when we as a company decided that we want to focus on open-world first-person games. So we used the luxury, to be honest, to create the engine, an engine that is our own, and that would suit that particular use, that particular goal of creating high fidelity graphics [and] open-world games.
We made a new thing. Maybe we weren’t that creative with the name because it’s C-Engine but it is a completely new thing. Yes, it was kind of difficult for us at the start of the project, because the engine was ready, but as always, when you start using a tool, you start discovering that you would like this to work differently. First of all, you need to learn the tool, and then you need to incorporate all the improvements to it or changes to it for a better workflow. So at the initial stages of the project, we had some improvements to do. But I think now the technology has matured, actually, it matured quite some time ago. It is a stable engine our own in-house staff created especially for first-person open-world games like Dying Light 2: Stay Human.
This will be the first big project that Techland has used with C-Engine with the new, or should we say the current, generation of consoles. How are you seeing the Xbox series X or PlayStation 5 starting to take advantage of the C-Engine?
The idea for us was to focus on, I used this expression before, high fidelity graphics open worlds. The idea is that we are creating worlds where when you look around, it’s actually quite dense with details. Dying Light, and maybe some other games that will be in the future, will focus more on urban environments, on environments, which are full of those details. It’s not open spaces; you have to look at a scene and understand that this is a dense, real place. Of course, PS5 and Xbox Series X with the CPU capabilities and GPU capabilities support that. The thing about C-Engine is that it has a very powerful streaming solution, which allows us to load a lot of data, a lot of textures, a lot of geometry, as the player moves through the city. When you have a lot of memory and when you have a powerful CPU, it helps you to achieve that. As I said, we have created this technology looking into the future. We were aware of what would happen with PS5, Xbox Series X, and the direction for consoles. The engine is built to support that 100%.
How well does the C-Engine support SSDs to accommodate for that faster streaming?
Exactly, the whole idea is to stream a lot of data quickly. Of course, that’s the philosophy of the engine and that’s the philosophy of modern gaming. That’s the philosophy of current/modern gen. As I said before, that technology was built, especially for that kind of environment, so I hope it will serve us very well moving into the future for PS5, Xbox series X, and whatever happens later for the consoles, because I think the general direction of computer graphics, of console graphics, will not change significantly within the next few years.
Taking a step back to look at the previous generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One: how does C-Engine fit in with those older consoles?
The C-Engine is very scalable. We were aware that with Dying Light 2, we had to prepare the technology, so at least for this one title, it will be able to support that [console generation]. And you could say, okay, that’s just one title, maybe you don’t need to bother about it that much, but Dying Light is our own IP. It’s an extremely important third project for the whole company. [It’s] not the only one that we have in the pipeline but this is the biggest thing we have made so far. So yes, the engine was prepared to handle that.I don’t know about our engineers, I’m a gameplay designer, so I’m not really a tech guy so maybe I’m not giving you the most precise and the most detail-rich answers.
What I’m experiencing right now, even as a gamer playing the game, I’m really amazed about what the guys are able to pull off on PS4 and Xbox One because now the game is stable, now the game is basically content complete, very stable, we are just polishing it. Now it’s the time when the guys are responsible for optimization can step in and do their magic. And for me, it is magic, because I don’t understand half of it but you can really feel it as a gamer, how suddenly how more fluid it will become, how good the graphics are. I hope you will be able to see it when you play the PS4 version. Of course, when you compare it like resolution to resolution or texture to texture, you will see differences. The most important thing for me as a gameplay designer, I think the experience stays the same like you feel the same way when you play the game. When you dim your lights, when you just lay on your couch and you start playing the game, you get the same experience on both console generations.
I did want to talk a little bit about the combat experience. With Dying Light, there were some immersive sim elements; if you splash zombies with water and then use an electrical attack on them, that would shock them. How are you expanding those elements in Dying Light 2: Stay Human?
First of all, all of that stuff that you are able to experience in the first game is in Dying Light 2 as well. One thing that we are doing specifically is that we have expanded our modding system for weapons. In the first game, the modifications for weapons were kind of scripted. You could just put specific modifications on different types of weapons; now you have complete freedom to put any elemental effects on any weapon that’s moddable. You can also combine those two. I think the most important new thing is that not only you will be able to achieve those environmental effects but also achieve them through modding your weapons. For example, you can put double fire modifications on your weapon and this creates this huge fire explosion that covers a bigger area. The other thing is that when you put freezing modification and fire modification on the weapon, then the game tells you ‘Hey, you did something quite stupid’ because when you combine freeze and fire, this basically overrides each other so there will be no effect. I think the biggest improvement or biggest addition is your ability to combine those elemental effects on one single weapon through your modding.
Now, multiplayer has been a huge part of these types of games whether it’s Dead Island, Dying Light, now Dying Light 2: Stay Human. With the multiplayer, are you planning any sort of cross-play, whether it’s cross-platform or cross-generation?
So, no, this will not be implemented at the start but we are looking very closely at it and we hopefully will be able to activate/introduce it later during the life of the game.
Looking at the life of Dying Light 2, if you look at Dying Light 1, you supported that particular title with DLC content for years, even more than half a decade later. What’s the lifespan you’re looking at for Dying Light 2: Stay Human?
I think similar, that’s our expectation. The thing is that right now, we need to do the first thing right. If we release a game, and for some reason, it’s lacking [or] it doesn’t get as much popularity as much success as the first game, then I think it’s it’s meaningless to make any plans moving into the future. So yes, we have quite detailed plans of what we want to do in the future for the next few years. The most important thing for us right now is the release of the game. It’s February, we have to focus on this and I hope the players and media will enjoy it.
Do you have any plans for paid DLC down the line, or will it be free DLC?
I think it would be a mix of both; it will be the stuff you expect from a modern game. So of course, there will be some paid additions, but there will be a ton of free additional DLCs: small things like new weapons, new customization items, that we will be providing after the game is going to be released.
As far as the performance goes, in terms of the frame rate for Dying Light 2: Stay Human, are you targeting 30 FPS or 60 FPS?
When you play it on the next-gen consoles on Xbox Series X and PS5, you will be able to choose between performance and quality. So yes, you will be able to choose the game to run in 60 fps or you will be able to opt for a higher resolution and high-resolution textures.
Will Dying Light 2: Stay Human have any support for ray tracing?
Yes, ray tracing also is supported on next-gen consoles.
Do you have any plans to implement directional melee combat once again?
Not at this stage. No, this is not planned. I think you mentioned the system we had in Dead Island. We experimented with this on the first game already, and it’s really different than in Dead Island because, in Dead Island, you were moving on a flat plane, basically just strafing, moving forward, moving backward. It gave you more space to have fun with the directional melee combat. With Dying Light, when you have to move so much when you have to cross over obstacles and keep mobile on the battlefield when you have a contest with enemies, it’s too much, it’s like it blows your mind. It doesn’t make sense in the context of this particular game.
As far enemy diversity goes, are we going to see beyond humans, zombies, volatiles, etc? Are there any other enemy types that you wanted to mention?
I think that the most important thing is that there will be encounters with humans. This is quite a new thing. I know there were some encounters with humans in the first game, but they were kept to a minimum. This game is basically half and half; you will fight with humans just as you will fight with the infected. So on both sides of those groups, we have quite a few variations. I would say on the infected we have about 10 to 12 variations of different infected types with different behaviors, different visuals. And on the human side, we have about, I think six, different unit types. And all of those types have some variance in terms of behavior. Another thing is that as you play the game, also the behaviors of both the infected and the humans, upgrade improve. So when you start the game, you will just see some of those behaviors. But as you progress, you will see them doing more sophisticated stuff: humans using group tactics more and it scales. I hope you notice that when you play the game there’s like this meter that says which player rank you are on. So the enemy scales with that trying to follow your progress.
When you play the game, I think you will finish the main story with side quests at around the player rank six, but it goes higher. So we kept adding new behaviors even when you start to keep playing after the story finishes to give something to players that want to invest more time and maybe have another go at it or just have fun with the open world. The important difference also is that with the infected they don’t use advanced tactics so you can use brute force against them. The important thing to look at is the group constitution if there is a lot of biters and maybe some virals, you fight differently than if the virals, the fast-moving units, and a spitter.
That’s a completely different group because that group constitution communicates what kind of tactic you should use. When it comes to humans, they are more intelligent, they learn your moves. When you try to, for example, spam one attack, they will realize that and change the tactics during the encounter and also they use more group tactics. So they try to cooperate together, maybe some of the guys when you’re focusing on one guy, or maybe one guy is trying to draw your attention. And then another guy tries to find a position far away from you and starts throwing some knives at you. So there are more intelligent behaviors on their side.
One mode that was added into Dying Light 1 very early on was that the Be The Zombie mode. Will Dying Light 2: Stay Human feature something similar?
Not on the release, no, but what will be released in terms of online play is a four-player co-op. So you will be able to play the game with three friends in a four-player group basically from start to finish. There is a short section at the start of the game, kind of like a prologue tutorial, where you have to play it by yourself to get into the story, to understand what the story is about, and also learn the mechanics. But when it ends, you play with your friends.
Also, another thing that’s worth mentioning regarding the co-op experience is that because it’s a game about choices, and your choices change the world around you, change the city and have some impact on how the city looks and what gameplay opportunities are available there. It’s always the host of the session that makes the decisions. But then, if I invite you, you play with me and I make the decisions. You can tell me through headsets or through some in-game UI, that you would recommend me to make this choice or the other choice, but I make the choices. But then you play your game, and you make different choices, and I join you as a co-op player. This is my opportunity to learn the other versions of this story, other versions of what can happen, or other versions of how the city can look. So we do believe that this will support co-op gameplay and playing the game with your friends a lot after the release.
How long do you expect the main campaign to last in Dying Light 2: Stay Human?
It’s a very hard question to answer because it’s an open-world game like we have created this build to last for about three hours and we give the journalists like four hours to play so they have some free time. But the thing is, I think you will notice that it’s very hard to see everything that we have contained. So for us, it might be quicker, but if an actual gamer plays it, they can squeeze more out of it. I think that the main story can be finished in around 20 hours. But of course, there are hundreds of hours of extra content, additional stuff: side quests, open-world activities, challenges. So it is a huge game. But if you want to just focus on the story, I think you’ll be able to finish it because this was our goal, like there are a lot of games where you start playing them and it’s really very hard to find those 50 hours to finish them. So we wanted everyone to experience the story from start to finish, and then maybe replay it and see other versions of it.
Thank you very much for your time.
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