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Story Mode Progress: August Update

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Dear Community,

The team’s been working hard on a ton of Story Mode features and content and here’s an update on some of what we’ve been up to since the last Story Mode update. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to really talk about Story Mode without hinting at spoilers, so consider this a warning that there are light story mode spoilers below:

 

### THERE ARE LIGHT STORY MODE SPOILERS BELOW ###

 

New Regions

We’ve added two new regions for Episode One. One is nearly finished, and the other is being updated based on some story and mission changes, and will then be getting an art beautification pass. There are several new structures across both the new regions. Part of the new world we’ve added in Episode One is meant to help set the tone for what the world was like before “the event”. We also feel it’s important that Story Mode freshens up the existing Sandbox world for you, so in addition to adding new regions, we’re also updating the rest of the existing world.

Many of the exterior updates — like more detailed rocks, better grass, trees, etc. — will be gradually released in Sandbox updates. Most of the interiors — places like the Carter Dam, the Camp Office, Pleasant Valley Farm, etc. — have been updated with much more detailed interiors. Those interiors will be released when we launch Story Mode, so even the fans who are a lot more focused on Sandbox will be get something new to enjoy.

 

TheLongDark_new_grass_rocks.thumb.jpg.6c

New grass and rocks

 

TheLongDark_NewRegion.thumb.jpg.2d72bee9

New Region

 

TheLongDark_CarterHydro_ControlRoom_Upda

Updated Carter Hydro Dam Control Room

 

TheLongDark_CarterHydro_TurbineRoom_Upda

Updated Carter Hydro Dam Turbine Room

 

Episode One Playtesting

Episode One is fully playable from start to finish and we’re now doing in-house playtesting to work on pacing, flow, and polish. It’s been really interesting to see how the core survival gameplay we’ve proven in Sandbox works within a structure of open-world narrative-driven exploration. We’ve had to do a lot of tuning of various elements to find the right balance between survival and exploration. In general though, it feels really great to explore the game world while motivated by clear narrative goals — it makes for a nice contrast to the more open-ended Sandbox gameplay you’ve become used to.

One thing that’s emerged from our playtesting is that our current Episode One is much bigger than we expected. Most of our in-house playtests have it at about 5-6 hours of playtime, which is roughly twice as long as we had originally planned each episode being. This play length is determined by what narrative beats we’re hitting with Episode One, and how we’re pacing those out with our world size and gameplay “heartbeat”. We’re trying to figure out how this impacts our plans for Season One content.

 

TheLongDark_MissionJournal_WIP.thumb.jpg

Work in progress Journal interface for Story and Side missions

 

We’ve also been working on all the Episode One narrative sequences. Some of these are 2D motion-graphics cinematics, in the same style as the Story Mode teaser we released last December. Some of these are interactive sequences with full 3D characters in the world. These 3D character sequences are a huge amount of work for us because they require building all the character assets, animating those characters to dialogue, building sets for them, etc. These are the kinds of sequences that aren’t normally built by small independent developers, as they are very time consuming and resource intensive. We’ve probably been quite over-ambitious in delivering these but we feel strongly about the importance of seeing these important story characters living and breathing in the game world as opposed to being limited to non-interactive cinematics.

 

TheLongDark_Ep1_scriptment_blackout.thum

Scriptment for The Long Dark: Episode One

 

New Clothing
We’ve recreated all the clothing assets in the game, to better match our updated character designs. We’ve also added several new clothing items. These items will replace all the equippable clothing gear items in the game, and also be the same clothing worn by characters you meet in the world. We’re also doing some work to improve the Clothing system, by adding some new gameplay features, and a better interface. Our goal is to be able to represent the clothing your character is wearing on a kind of “paper doll” interface, so you get a stronger sense of character “customization” that way. We’d like to support this with additional character customization features (for Sandbox) in the future, as suggested in our Sandbox Roadmap, but a lot of that work is aspirational at the moment. For now, we’re really happy to be able to update the clothing assets, to help the whole world feel more coherent. It’s probable that these updated clothing assets will end up being released in a Sandbox update, rather than us waiting for Story Mode to release them.

 

TheLongDark_ClothingUI_WIP.thumb.jpg.839

Work in Progress Clothing UI

 

TheLongDark_WolfskinCoat_Concept.thumb.j

Wolfskin Coat Concept Art

 

TheLongDark_WolfskinCoat_Ingame.thumb.jp

Wolfskin Coat: In-game textured 3D asset

 

First-Person Presence
The team’s been hard at work on improving the sense of first-person presence in the game. These updates aren’t technically related to Story Mode as we’ve decided to release them incrementally as part of Sandbox updates, but this is a pretty huge area of work for us as it’s meant creating a whole new animation system. Adding hands and a stronger first-person presence to the game is a huge undertaking and something we held off on for a long time out of fear of the scope of work, as The Long Dark has a large number of potential interactions compared to a lot of other games, but in the end I believe that including them strengthens the sense of your physical vulnerability in the game world and will create a more immediate feeling of connectedness to the environment, which in turn feeds into the range of emotions the game can inspire.

 

TheLongDark_FPH_Generic_Ignite_Animation

Animation logic tree for lighting Light Sources in first person

 

TheLongDark_FPH_Flare_small.thumb.jpg.11

First-Person Presence: Flare

 

Aurora
We haven’t said much about the Aurora since we’re trying not to spoil it — but here are a few images to give you an idea of some of the things you might see in the game because of it.

 

TheLongDark_Aurora_Car.thumb.jpg.d8a915e

Aurora in The Long Dark

 

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The Aurora may have unexpected effects on the environment around you

 

 

Sandbox Updates

We know that while a lot of you are anxious about Story Mode news, many of you are actually a lot more interested in Sandbox progress. We’re doing our best to balance the need to get Story Mode launched, with your desire for regular Sandbox updates. Currently, about ⅔ of the team is focused on Story Mode-specific content — so, mission scripting, environment art, characters, animation, audio, etc. — and the other ⅓ is working on Sandbox updates. Because most of our content team is focused on Story Mode, our more recent Sandbox updates have been be focused on gameplay mechanics and UI. This will likely continue to be the case until we launch Story Mode. We know that a lot of you would like us to expand Sandbox with more regions — but unfortunately every region we build for Sandbox is one we can’t build for Story, and we don’t want to release the new Story Mode regions until we launch it, so they are new when you play them!

We understand that for the people who are really waiting on Story mode, that our time spent on Sandbox updates isn’t really meaningful to you, and vice versa for the people who care more about Sandbox. We’ve been slowly adding people to the team to try to increase our development bandwidth, but hiring is a painstaking process for a small studio, as everyone you add to the team has a much greater impact to the project and the overall team dynamic. And, we’re pretty picky about who we add to the team. We’re trying to be wise about how we do this so that we don’t break things that are working well for us, and when it comes to hiring, wise usually equals slow.

 

Launch Date

We’ve announced launch dates in the past, in the hope that providing these dates would give you something concrete to look forward to. Unfortunately, all they did was create disappointment when we decided to delay beyond these dates. Last time we talked about dates I said I wouldn’t provide a new date until I was 100% sure we would hit it. To that end, I’m not going to say anything further about when we’ll ship Story Mode, except to re-iterate that the team is working very hard on it, our goal is to launch content that lives up to your expectations and lets us capitalize on the full potential of our work, and most of all, to create something that will redefine the “survival” genre as the first strongly narrative-driven exploration-survival experience. And as Hinterland’s first title, and as part of an ongoing episodic/Seasonal release plan, it’s critical that we get our launch of The Long Dark right, as it sets the bar for our studio’s future. Not only will it help determine whether we can achieve our full ambitions for The Long Dark in the future — it will also help determine what other experiences we may (or may not) be able to make in the future.

As always, we appreciate your support. We do not take it for granted.

Sincerely,

Raphael

Twitter: @raphlife

 

 

 

 

  • Upvote 21

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I noticed that there is a deadline for main missions. If you fail them will it end the entire story or can you choose to not complete it?

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All well then. I especially like the new grass and rocks, small things are always super appreciated.

The first person presence feels like hard work, I remember I wasn't super convinced about it, it reminded me of bad games that are not clean like TLD but clearly you're doing it well, the image is perfect.

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Thank you for the update. The progress on story mode looks incredible!
I also love the little technical insight of the animations. Have you thought about doing some 'blogs' about the technical perspective of several developments?
Only if it isn't going to cost you too much time that is. :)

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1 hour ago, admin said:

 

Launch Date

We’ve announced launch dates in the past, in the hope that providing these dates would give you something concrete to look forward to. Unfortunately, all they did was create disappointment when we decided to delay beyond these dates. Last time we talked about dates I said I wouldn’t provide a new date until I was 100% sure we would hit it. To that end, I’m not going to say anything further about when we’ll ship Story Mode, except to re-iterate that the team is working very hard on it, our goal is to launch content that lives up to your expectations and lets us capitalize on the full potential of our work, and most of all, to create something that will redefine the “survival” genre as the first strongly narrative-driven exploration-survival experience. And as Hinterland’s first title, and as part of an ongoing episodic/Seasonal release plan, it’s critical that we get our launch of The Long Dark right, as it sets the bar for our studio’s future. Not only will it help determine whether we can achieve our full ambitions for The Long Dark in the future — it will also help determine what other experiences we may (or may not) be able to make in the future.

As always, we appreciate your support. We do not take it for granted.

Sincerely,

Raphael

Twitter: @raphlife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

٩:D۶ ~WhOoP! 

Thanks for the update 

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Raph, I have really tried to rein in my effusive praise of you and the team so as not to cheapen its value, but I have to say this.

One thing that has always impressed me about your development updates is how much work that goes into presentation. Whether it's just a post or a post and an accompanying video (which, it seems, there is more often than there is not), there is always an abundance of care and professionalism put into a document that most developers, even the respectable ones, would reduce to a series of bullet points.

As always, kudos to you and to Hinterland all around for going above and beyond. I'm looking forward to the future, both from a gameplay and a content creation perspective.

Cheers.

-H

  • Upvote 9

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Thanks for the update!

Everything is looking neat 

Its me or the clothes in the picture have a water symbol? Could that mean that now clothes get wet somehow? Could it be due to the snow that we get wet? Maybe sweat? Interesting... :) 

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18 minutes ago, Ohbal said:

Thanks for the update!

Everything is looking neat 

Its me or the clothes in the picture have a water symbol? Could that mean that now clothes get wet somehow? Could it be due to the snow that we get wet? Maybe sweat? Interesting... :) 

Wet clothes are already in the game actually. Take a dive through some weak ice and you'll have soaking wet gear to deal with! ;)

 

  • Upvote 3

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7 minutes ago, Patrick Carlson said:

That's already in the game actually. Take a dive through some weak ice and you'll have soaking wet clothes to deal with! ;)

 

Wait, so is the test branch available for us to use yet? Or is the update already out?

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2 minutes ago, Diamondz said:

Wait, so is the test branch available for us to use yet? Or is the update already out?

This post deals mostly with updating you on Story Mode and how it's going.

But we're also working on the next Sandbox update. We'll be sure to give everyone a heads up when we're ready to bring the Sandbox update to Test Branch. 

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I really like how the aurora looks in the game! The second aurora picture with the gate looks like the hallways of the dam. Maybe you can only enter the lower part of the dam during an aurora?

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Thank you Hinterland team. I trust you're doing a great work. A big key to your success is the communication with us, with the players! Thank you! 

  • Upvote 1

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

That's funny how I recently (less than 1 week ago) asked some news about story mode, and @Patrick Carlson  said to wait patiently, and shortly after, there is a post giving us some news... That shows how, imo, you Hinterland's team, have a great sense of timing, sharing with us at the right moment. You guys really do a great job.

It seems like a real amount of work you achieving here. Can't wait to test all of it... Seeing all this makes me great not have been a crowdfunding baker, I would definitely have invested more in your game :big_smile:

 

Anyway, T H A N K S

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The little things like grass make a huge difference. I'll never forget the first time I walked across Mystery Lake after the update that changed the way the frozen lakes look, it was quite astounding. Thanks for all the little things you guys do. You all are doing a fantastic job.

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2 hours ago, admin said:

We know that a lot of you would like us to expand Sandbox with more regions — but unfortunately every region we build for Sandbox is one we can’t build for Story, and we don’t want to release the new Story Mode regions until we launch it, so they are new when you play them!

I am perfectly OK with this :winky:

2 hours ago, admin said:

To that end, I’m not going to say anything further about when we’ll ship Story Mode, except to re-iterate that the team is working very hard on it, our goal is to launch content that lives up to your expectations and lets us capitalize on the full potential of our work, and most of all, to create something that will redefine the “survival” genre as the first strongly narrative-driven exploration-survival experience.

And I'm even more OK with this :D

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2 hours ago, admin said:

TheLongDark_MissionJournal_WIP.thumb.jpg

Work in progress Journal interface for Story and Side missions

Spelling mistake on mission requirement: Says old man's bear dressings as opposed to old man's beard dressings.

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