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Alan Lawrance

A Peek Inside Hinterland's Daily Conversations

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Hey everyone -- I'm the technical director at Hinterland, and I've been absent from the forums for far too long. I've had my head down and writing lots of code, but I'd like to get more involved with the backer community.

We use a tool called Basecamp at Hinterland, which is basically a chat-room. We use it to facilitate communication between the team, and it's the hub of our day-to-day work. I thought it would be cool to post some choice bits of text from this each day, to give you some insight into the culture at Hinterland and what is going on with development.

I'll start things off with a conversation we had today about corpses:

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Love it -- and great to see some behind-the-scenes stuff just for the backers right now...

I want to use my corpses to hide my fava beans and a nice Chianti :twisted:

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Very cool and I like where Raph's brain is going on this one. The idea that corpses of all kinds attract scavengers is a realistic and interesting game play model that could add some danger to looting some unfortunate soul. In most games a corpse is easy money and is sprinted too. However, if a corpse could mean meeting a desperate lone wolf, a wolf pack, a bear, or even a big crow that has learned to use a knife, it may change the users choices.

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Absolutely loving the conversation snippets -- thanks Alan!

It's great seeing that even the developers get excited when they see unexpected game play happening... proves it's not just a "follow these exact steps and you will win without even trying"...

It's giving such a great example of the gameplay feel, and all the work and planning you're all putting into the game... talk about building up our anticipation for our turn to try! *lol*

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I suppose sleep could be interpreted as a kind of death, in about the same way that it makes sense to stash gear on a corpse...

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It is possible to die when sleeping -- if you are in bad shape to begin with and are severely dehydrated or starving. The simulation still runs when you sleep (accounting for accelerated time), and your condition may deteriorate during sleep to the point of death. Not a bad way to go in The Long Dark, all things considered.

Also, if the place you are sleeping happens to not be warm (or ceases to be warm part way through your sleep), you can very well freeze to death too.

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It is possible to die when sleeping -- if you are in bad shape to begin with and are severely dehydrated or starving. The simulation still runs when you sleep (accounting for accelerated time), and your condition may deteriorate during sleep to the point of death. Not a bad way to go in The Long Dark, all things considered. Also, if the place you are sleeping happens to not be warm (or ceases to be warm part way through your sleep), you can very well freeze to death too.

I love the idea of being able to die in your sleep -- it really adds to the importance of finding "safe & warm" places to stop, rather than the usual "sleep anywhere and you'll be fine and fully healed by morning" type scenarios most games tend to use.

Question:

Since time continues while you're sleeping [which most of us will use accelerated time] -- will there be audio clues if something comes near while we sleep?

I'm thinking along the lines of the time acceleration slowing down when something is near and hearing either rustling, twig snaps, growls, etc. At first time shouldn't completely slow to normal [this makes it like being slightly groggy when first waking]. If we don't react [perhaps manually switching to normal time or stop sleep/wake command], accelerated time increases again.

If it was an NPC, we may find some of our supplies moved or gone when we wake [noticeably or less obvious depending on how soundly we slept or how quiet the NPC would have been with time -- groups/bands of NPC would have been nosier].

If it was an animal, they might either leave us alone, or might bite/attack while we sleep [which would then wake us up and immediately set time acceleration to normal]... or, if we were already weak and the animal started with a fatal wound we might just hear crunch munch munch as we die.

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Also, if the place you are sleeping happens to not be warm (or ceases to be warm part way through your sleep), you can very well freeze to death too.

I've been living somewhere warm for a while now, so this didn't even cross my mind.

Will there some way to evaluate your condition and the ambient conditions before sleeping ("I'm tired, but I should probably rehydrate first.") or will you just go to sleep and hope for the best?

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Question:

Since time continues while you're sleeping [which most of us will use accelerated time] -- will there be audio clues if something comes near while we sleep?

I'm thinking along the lines of the time acceleration slowing down when something is near and hearing either rustling, twig snaps, growls, etc. At first time shouldn't completely slow to normal [this makes it like being slightly groggy when first waking]. If we don't react [perhaps manually switching to normal time or stop sleep/wake command], accelerated time increases again.

If it was an NPC, we may find some of our supplies moved or gone when we wake [noticeably or less obvious depending on how soundly we slept or how quiet the NPC would have been with time -- groups/bands of NPC would have been nosier].

If it was an animal, they might either leave us alone, or might bite/attack while we sleep [which would then wake us up and immediately set time acceleration to normal]... or, if we were already weak and the animal started with a fatal wound we might just hear crunch munch munch as we die.

Currently we don't accelerate the simulation of NPCs when time accelerates. There are some non-trivial problems to solve there relating to pathfinding and audio. We do accurately simulate everything directly related to your vitals -- hunger, thirst, fatigue and warmth. We also accelerate the time of day, which also accounts for weather changes.

One thing we do (which is partially implemented) is interrupt sleep based on random factors. If you are interrupted, you may have to deal with an unwelcome NPC or animal. Of course the relative safety of your rest location is the main factor in determining how likely your sleep will be interrupted.

Love the idea about item theft. It makes total sense that a desperate survivor would rather steal what they can, rather than risk a confrontation. This is something we could add pretty easily, and perhaps also give the player to use locked containers for particularly valuable items.

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Will there some way to evaluate your condition and the ambient conditions before sleeping ("I'm tired, but I should probably rehydrate first.") or will you just go to sleep and hope for the best?

Yes, you will have the cues (and tools) to properly gauge your condition and the condition of the environment before sleeping.

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You'll definitely have to consider the likelihood of your sleep being interrupted, and this feeds back into things like the decision of where your'e going to rest for the night. Obviously, interior locations in good shape will offer more "protection" than simply setting up camp in the outdoors. You may not always have a choice, of course.

Will there some way to evaluate your condition and the ambient conditions before sleeping ("I'm tired, but I should probably rehydrate first.") or will you just go to sleep and hope for the best?

Absolutely. The snippet from our chatlog that Alan posted above, where I said I died in my sleep -- this has been (so far) a pretty rare situation. Partly my death was due to some tuning changes I'd made to how various attributes are restored (or decay) during sleep. Aside from "random" elements that might interrupt your sleep and/or kill you, it's not our intention to turn every sleep cycle into a random death generator.

It is our intention, however, to make you think about where and when you choose to rest, and what sorts of things you might want to prepare before doing so.

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Here is an example of the on-the-spot bug-fixing that happens every day. One of my technical goals for The Long Dark is to fix bugs as soon as they are noticed. The longer a bug sits, the more entrenched it can become.

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I find it really cool that you let us take these sneak peeks. Love 'em!

Also stashing loot to a corpse sounds good, but imho it should affect the said items. Blood and guts tend to block hammer and trigger on guns (am I right?).

Btw, can't wait to be the Bugmaster²! :P

PS. It's really good to see you again Alan. :)

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Frankly, I expected more trash talk about Bill and I. ;-)

Thanks for the peek behind the glass Alan.

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It is our intention, however, to make you think about where and when you choose to rest, and what sorts of things you might want to prepare before doing so.[/glow]

Its reading things like this that really does excite me, knowing your putting your blood, sweat and tears into this game.

Love the insight into the in-house conversations Alan, and also give us a idea on how the gameplay will go. Just be careful not to drop any spoilers into this thread, because that would be rather disappointing ;P

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This is an awesome thread, makes me want to get into the designing games

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Just be careful not to drop any spoilers into this thread, because that would be rather disappointing ;P

Yes. Yes it would.

(We'll be careful.)

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One small detail with the Metric/Imperial unit support was how to deal with Calories. A short discussion and we had our answer.

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Absolutely absurd and I EXPECT it too be KJ being a Aussie . . . . :P

What a laugh, but as I said before, s=reading this, we know how much effort is going into the game, and that can only be a good thing . . .

Keep it up all :) kCal, kj, joules, Cal,

Oh yea, forgot to mention, we count Calories here Down Under ;P

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That's it, we're creating a new unit of food energy called a KiloRaph. Or kR. It measures how long I can last between cups of coffee.

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It's interesting how capitalization can make such a difference... 1000 cal = 1 kcal = 1 Cal. (Because some how it made sense to use the same name?)

Then there is the whole ton vs. tonne thing...

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