What’s Next For Dying Light 2: An Interview With Its Lead Game Designer
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release: (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), TBA (Switch)
Dying Light 2 Stay Human was released on February 4 to largely positive reviews and massive player count numbers, especially compared to that of the first Dying Light. It remains one of the highest-scoring games Game Informer has reviewed this year, receiving a 9.5 out of 10, and in less than 24 hours after release, Dying Light 2’s PC player count peak surpassed Dying Light’s all-time high peak.
By all accounts, Dying Light 2 was a massive success for Techland, which had been working on the sequel for years. Getting to that success wasn’t easy, though. After its indefinite delay back in 2020, The Gamer released a new report that painted a picture of a lack of leadership, a lack of direction, and a demoralizing atmosphere at the studio. Less than a year prior, the studio released a statement announcing it had parted ways with narrative designer Chris Avellone after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.
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With the game now out and in the hands of players who will, ideally for Techland, continue to play the game for at least the five years the studio has content planned for the zombie parkour title, the team has crossed over from the nervous excitement and anticipation felt pre-launch into a state of elation.
“I think everyone is really, really happy that we were able to release the game,” Dying Light 2 lead game designer Tymon Smektała tells Game Informer. “The game has been received very well. We announced that during the first weekend, it reached more than 3 million players and that was an astonishing number. As you can imagine, the number is only growing and it has been a long journey.”
Smektała said Dying Light 2 was a difficult project due to its sheer size and complexity. Not only was it a follow-up to the surprise 2015 hit Dying Light, which has received support from Techland for more than seven years, but it needed to up the ante in every way.
“It really took the best of us, but we are happy it’s out there and we are feeding on the positive feedback that the community is giving us,” Smektała says.
He said the team took its break following the launch but is now back to work on post-launch content. As mentioned above, Techland has a five-year post-launch DLC plan for Dying Light 2, but Smektała tells Game Informer that the team already has plans to create and add more content to that timeline than what’s been announced. It was never a question for Techland to support this game for many years after its launch, but the “five-year” number wasn’t locked in until the end of last year.
“There are a lot of reasons why we feel [supporting the game extensively after launch] is important,” Smektała says. “One of the reasons is that I think we have realized we have invented, or maybe discovered, a formula that actually being on good terms with your community and working with your community and supporting your community…is extremely beneficial to you as a game developer. And as a publisher, we are very lucky to be able to own Dying Light and develop Dying Light as our own [intellectual property]. So…both sides of our organization are supported and get benefits from us supporting the game for so long.”
When the team decided it would support Dying Light 2 heavily after launch, they felt frozen at times, Smektała says. But it was equally as encouraging because the team knew that if the content was there, the community would show up, just as they did with Dying Light. It also encouraged Techland to staff up, which ultimately created a studio better prepared for the long, Viral-ridden road ahead of it.
“We have grown a lot as an organization and as a studio,” Smektała says. “We understand our craft better, as a result, but we have also invited a lot of new people to join our ranks – people with expertise in experiences from different studios and different projects – so I think we were and are better prepared to handle a bigger project like this.”
With launch day behind them, Smektała says the biggest surprise for Techland was how quickly some players were able to put in 100, 200, and even 300 hours of time into the game. Perhaps just as surprising were the requests for new content from those that played so much of Dying Light 2 so quickly. Some of the biggest requests the team has heard include a New Game Plus mode, a Photo Mode, and additional tiers of difficulty.
“Those are definitely things that are on the table currently and that are being worked on,” he says. “I don’t want to go into too many specifics here…but very soon, people will start seeing those things being added in one form or another into the game.”
One challenge Techland, and ultimately every studio that finds success, is facing with post-launch plans is finding a way to satisfy not just this section of the player base or that, but ideally, every part of it. Smektała says you have to think of everything, and types of content that will satisfy the different needs of the entire “very varied” community. That’s what the next five years of Dying Light 2 are about, but right now, Techland is very focused on Year One.
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“We have already revealed a very high-level roadmap for the first year, but as players will soon discover, we will add more to that first-year roadmap..and we will invite them to actually discover more content that will drop within the first year,” Smektała says.
Speaking in broad strokes, he says the first year of content will include some focus on online play, some focus on single-player content, and some on the game’s narrative. Other drops will be related to the game’s platforming elements, like the new parkour trials recently added to the game in an update, while others will be about the melee-focused combat. Smektała hopes all of this and everything else planned for Dying Light 2 is, above all else, surprising. He likens the team’s hopes for DLC to Forrest Gump’s famous “box of chocolates” line in that ideally, with Dying Light 2’s DLC, you never know what you’re going to get.
“We don’t want to fall into this repeating pattern where players will kind of know what to expect from us,” he says. “Having said that, for example, the first story DLC that we have promised, I’ve seen a lot of speculation online about what it will be and I can say confidently that they…weren’t close to the mark.”
Anyone that’s completed Dying Light 2 knows that its story concludes with some definitive choices. Those choices are up to the player, of course, but it leaves protagonist Aiden and his allies and enemies in some interesting places, especially when you consider where to go with story DLC. The team is sidestepping that challenge for now by developing narrative content that happens “sideways to the main events.”
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“At some point, we will actually start adding to the events that happened at the end of the game,” Smektała says. “We have some ideas. On paper, as they are implemented right now, it seems promising, but definitely, this will be a challenge.”
Despite the challenges facing the team, Smektała says the word he’d use to describe what everyone’s feeling is “excitement.” Excitement that the game is out, excitement that it’s resonated with fans, and excitement about what’s to come in Dying Light 2.
“We really just can’t wait to see people that are interacting with this stuff and some of the ideas that we have because some of the things we are adding is, simply put, quite unique,” Smektała says. “Some of it is us betting on ideas that are maybe a little out of the box. We’ll see what the community thinks, but I’m feeling really positive about it. All of this will unfold within the next, as I said, few weeks and will be in player hands within the next one to three months.”