Raphael van Lierop

Milton Mailbag -- Dispatch #36

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Hey community!

You may have noticed I missed the Mailbag last week due to being at E3. I'm back now and ready to dive into the open questions. Hope you had a great week yourselves.

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Question from @GudJob:

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My question is: Have you ever considered adding chainsaw as a rare tool, that provides the fastest way to cut brances or to quarter carcasses of big animals, but at the cost of some fuel?

Hey! In general we don't have any gas-powered or electronic tools because one of the effects of the Aurora and the geomagnetic disaster underpinning the game and its fiction is that electrical/electronic stuff doesn't work...at least unless it's "animated" by the Aurora on some nights, and even then that is very unpredictable. This is part of why, for example, none of the cars in the game work, why there's no snowmobile, etc.

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Question from @RaukGorth:

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In a previous Dispatch (#2) there was a question about being well fed over long periods of time resulting in a buff to strength and hitpoints.

While the design of the buff is the best I have seen in games in many years (see this post) :
1. Mechanically perfectly clear, it did not change (nerf) the previous game mechanics
2. Gives a small advantage, not a game changer. The 5kg does not impact the game that much
3. It is still challenging to maintain being fed constantly for 72h,

However for Interloper players this buff changed the game. Previously the "cookie cutter strat" was starving to death during the day and eating before sleep to regenerate health. Now the strategy it is just hunting and eating 3 kgs of meat per day, while enjoying +5 kg carrying capacity and hitpoints buff, with no drawbacks.

Introduction of fat to the game would change that. There would not be a very easy choice of "just eat everytime you can", as the fat would reduce the carrying capacity, or even add more red area to spriting/climbing meter. To make this even more interesting, humans usually do not heal a lot while pumped with insulin (hormone which is produced when you eat). So eating before sleep would prevent healing.

So do you think that the Well Fed buff achieved its goals for Interloper players, or is there still some area for improvement?

 

I think there is always area for improvement in the game. :) Also, when we add something to the game, while we don't intentionally try to break Experience Modes, we also don't necessarily focus on trying to avoid or promote certain common player strategies. All things being equal, it's already pretty challenging to maintain 72-hours without ever beginning the Starving process, and on Interloper this is even harder than anywhere else, so I would argue that if you can manage to secure and maintain the Well Fed buff in Interloper, you probably deserve to have it. If nerfing Well Fed specifically for Interloper players becomes a goal, we'll try to find a way to do that which is true to the core game.

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Question from @Someone:

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So I noticed that for the survival bow, the arrows are called simple arrows. Does this imply you plan to add another type of arrow in the future, or does the name have no meaning? Also, about my last post with the flashlight, I think if it could be used in a struggle it would be more useful, or if the battery you got from an aurora was still there after the aurora, so even though you can’t recharge it until the next aurora it would still be more usable.

Yes, when we added Simple Arrows it's because we had other arrows in mind. We may still have other arrows in mind. :) Re: the flashlight in struggles -- every item we add to the Struggle system creates a ton of extra work and testing effort so it'd have to be something really special, like we recently did with the Revolver. As for the Flashlight -- I think the Battery continues to work once the aurora ends but it will gradually deplete on its own. I don't think the idea is that batteries can "store" a charge from the aurora. The batteries are working because the aurora is active.

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Question from @GothSkunk:

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We currently have the ability to kill rabbits with our bare hands. In the context of The Long Dark it's understandable that such an option is available to us. The decision is not an easy one for new players to make, because a) its gruesome despite its necessity, and b) rabbits are just so darn cute!

Is it by design, or due to a lack of resources that we are not compelled to kill other animals in a similar fashion? Particularly when it comes to hunting with the bow or rifle and relying on our quarry to bleed out rather than scoring a clean killshot.

 

Tracking a wounded deer/wolf/bear slowly bleeding out, finally come across it keeled over, too weak to move but still alive, struggling to breathe. To me it seems like a missed opportunity to compound on the dilemma presented by the option of breaking a rabbits neck, wherein before we can harvest a hunted animal, we'd have to first end its suffering. Either by hunting/improvised knife, by revolver/rifle, or by hand if the aforementioned tools are not at our disposal. Which could present additional challenges particularly with bears and wolves, as even in their weakened state, they might still put up a fight if you try to finish them off.

 

If it's by design, that's fine. If not, I could always forward this to the suggestion box as well. I just thought I'd ask first if the lack of such a feature is by design first.

 

We didn't intentionally pick the Rabbit to be the hardest animal to kill, but I do think the choice to take a life to extend your own should be one nobody makes lightly and if we can do so in a respectful way, we may introduce other situations like the Rabbit choice but they are not a core part of those systems at this point. (Some players feel the Rabbit kill already crosses a line.)

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Question from @Torqen:

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Whats up with having to use 2 x to heal each sprained limb? Instead of just using 2x to heal all? And why is it that only my arms get sprained while walking in elevated terrain? Would it not be more sensible if the sprain would occur in the legs/ankles? 

1) game tuning, that's "what's up"

2) you should also get ankle sprains; if you aren't that's a bug. Feel free to report here: hinterlandgames.com/support

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Question from @PlayerPawn:

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Over the last few years, a spotlight is ever growing on the practices by big triple A companies around, among other things, crunch time.  As a studio that is more independent, what are your views on crunch and mandatory overtime to meet a deadline?

Regarding the industry practice -- it's a complex question that deserves a more complex answer than I have time to provide here.

As far as how Hinterland approaches crunch, we are trying to avoid it and one way we're doing that is being deliberate about planning and working towards internal deadlines but not broadcasting those publicly anymore. Typically the "pressure" to crunch comes from trying to meet external deadlines that you fear to miss, and mostly you fear to miss them because you either don't want to miss a financial quarter that will affect a stock price (public companies), or you don't want to disappoint your customers and/or have them turn into an angry mob (public or private companies). Hinterland is private so we don't care about stock performance, but we can do without the angry mob.

In general, also, people tend to forgive a late game if it's good.

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Question from @Vagabond:

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I've been reading William Gibson's Neuromancer recently, and couldn't help wondering if there was any connection between the title of your game's storymode- 'WINTERMUTE' - and his character with the same name. On the surface, it's hard to correlate the wilderness setting of The Long Dark with the neon lights of Chiba City or the themes that define the wider cyberpunk genre, but the more I thought about the two settings, the more I realised that the two share more in common than I initially thought.
For instance, both worlds explore our relationship with technology, albeit in different ways. For me, The Long Dark is a tale of how our over-reliance on modern devices and infrastructure, even at the most basic level, cripples us in the wake of catastrophe. Gibson's novel seems to explore themes of identity, humanity and the extent to which technology can both bring people together and tear them apart.
I was surprised and amused to learn that Gibson is an American-Canadian, and washed up in Toronto in an effort to avoid the drafting in the 1960's. As I recall, 'Draft Dodger's Cabin' is a location in Pleasant Valley, so I was wondering if there was possibly a link there?
Regardless, I had a lot of fun reading up about his life, and drawing connections with one of my favourite games. I'm looking forward to the next installment of the story. :)

I'm a big Gibson fan. Maybe some of his work is lurking in my subconscious. Have fun with it. :) 

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Question from @ajb1978:

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Seeing as how it's irrelevant now that Redux is released...what were the contents of Jeremiah's Letters, back when that was still a side quest?

Will joked that it was old romantic correspondence letters, but seriously...what was it?  Surely it can't have been anything deeply confidential, or Jeremiah wouldn't have trusted them with some rando that gave him a handful of deer hides he'd ripped off ravaged carcasses.  The curiosity is killing me.

 

How do you know that it's irrelevant?

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Question from @Snowtippedwolf:

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Hey, guess it's my first time asking here. Hope all is well with the team.

I guess I'll start with the schmoozing first. Thanks for all the hard work creating, in my opinion, the greatest survival game out there right now. I'm stoked you guys keep working on refining the game. I look forward to each and every update. 

Now on to my question. As with everything in Survival mode, it's about a mixture of game balance and realism, and your goal of surviving for survival's sake. One thing that currently strikes me as 'missing' from this mode is, in mine and many other's opinions is the lack of a 'late game.' (Sorry if this has been addressed before, I searched and did not find anything addressing my specific concern.)

For a brief example, we have the early game where you have nothing and are struggling to make it by day by day, and you have the mid-game where you've collected all the tools and clothing necessary and are fully self-sustainable, or have the means to craft or hunt or fish or gather whatever it may be that you need to continue surviving. But there's no late game. Yes, the temperature decays globally to a certain point, and decay rates are a continual march to death, but the path to that end is in the thousands of days. For as long as I've been playing and as long as I've been interacting with the community on Steam and elsewhere, I've yet to see a meaningful challenge later on in the game. The challenge early on is collecting gear just to make it a few more hours. The challenge in the mid game is getting used to managing your time and resources carefully to survive off of what is available in the world now that the processed goods are running out. But there's no further challenge from that, nothing else that changes or tips the balance in any way that would create an immersive or meaningful challenge to continue to engage players in risk/reward and survival aspects. 

Obviously, we all have our own ideas of what would begin to create a meaningful, balanced, and immersive late game challenge or set of changes to the world to create more variability and risk, but I wanted to hear from you on your thoughts on the subject. Do you currently feel across all stock survival modes that the later portions of a run (100-200 days and beyond) are well balanced and MEANINGFULLY challenging? This may be anecdotal, but I know a lot of people who finish or end a run after getting self-sustainable because that's the 'engaging' or 'immersive' part of the run, and there's no more fun to be had after that as it's too easy (regardless of experience mode.) Do you have any thoughts on changing up how the world handles having the player in it, things that could be adjusted and tuned to start to turn those longer runs more dangerous, more progressively difficult, to a point it's still possible to survive but not skating on thick ice with ease? Do you currently feel that there is no point to a later game challenge or think that it is challenging enough from self-sustainability forward?

If you do think that more work needs to be done there, (it may be too early to ask,) do you or the team have any ideas and mechanic introductions or re-tuning in mind to pursue towards achieving a more equally balanced gameplay that's engaging and immersive and 'surviving for the sake of surviving' at all points in a run?

Thanks for all consideration, and sorry for the wall of text. Cheers Raph!

-Lonelywolf

Welcome to the community! I think I've answered questions about the Late Game "problem" elsewhere -- someone might be able to point you to some of them in the Index. The short answer is (a) yes I do think there's more work to be done there (b) yes we have ideas for how to address it, and (c) I have no idea when we'll get around to it as our plate is very full right now. But it's definitely something I have in mind (Keeping in mind also that the % of players for whom survival past 100 days is a real concern is pretty small). I also think it's possible that it's just TOO EASY to survive in the game since the best part of the experience is the first 0-50 days in my opinion. We recently had an Interloper player survive 1500 days or something which to me means we have work to do.)

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Question from @Skelegutplays:

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Is it intentional to be so that you can take your arrow back from a live animal? I managed to do that on a fleeing wolf today!

We don't try to prevent it. Good reflexes!

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Question from @hozz1235:

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4DON:  Can we expect one this year?

We're hoping to do it, yes!

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Question from @CalNieDaGtarGuy:

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Regarding the Hinterland Store... Are you guys planning on bringing back the Wetterling's hatchet? Or what about the Region posters? I always wanted one of those...

We have a new Hatchet yes and it should be up in the store soon, along with some other new merch.

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Question from @ibloud:

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Have you thought about approaching #Netflix for an interactive episode based off of some of the best player tales?

Would you consider building this on #SpatialOS so it can become multiplayer?

 

1) We're developing our own linear content around The Long Dark.

2) No.

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Question from @SpanishMoss:

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First question, Would you consider sending the game to YouTubers (like gtlive) so you can increase revenue and get the word out?

We do sent keys out to YouTubers and Twitch/Mixer streamers all the time. We ask that they request them through Keymailer so that their identities can be verified because there are tons of key-scammers out there. We only give out keys to people who have over a certain number of subscribers/viewers, and only if we think their content is in line with the way we'd like to see The Long Dark shared. 

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Question from @Themadlad94:

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A few mailbags back, you said we would be getting a new region after the update after steadfast ranger. I don’t like to be the one to ask, but can you give us any hints on the new region?

I'd love to, but I won't. :) 

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Question from @Annette:

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Do you plan to add more feats to survival mode ?

Yes.

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Question from @TheUnknown:

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Hey Guys.

2 questions for ya 1 ties into the other.

1. Was there anything you added/made that you wanted in the game but after added it into the testing phase you realized it doesnt fit right or just doesnt seem right for what you are aiming for?

2. The things that dont fit right or seem right for what you are aiming for has their been any thought after removing them like making them into a mini project or possiblely become games themselves in the future?

 

The main one that comes to mind is the Trust system we implemented in the first versions of Episodes One and Two. We didn't achieve what I was going for with them so we pulled the system out for the Redux episodes. I'd like to go back to the Trust system some day. I still think there's a lot of potential there.

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Question from @Jendo:

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Have you ever thought about adding, er... "toilet" mechanics?

Honestly? Not once.

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Question from @Pan Pastwa:

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What is your vision of Hinterland in 5 years from now? :)

Same vision as today but with 2-3 original IP games live and in the wild, 2-3 original IPs in incubation, 2-3x the team size, and 2-3 linear projects based on our original IP. 

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Question from @Azdrawee:

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Clothing items (and maybe some other items as well, I'm not sure) change their appearance based on their condition. Have you ever considered adding this feature to more items? I think that it would be nice to see the condition of food items for example, because as it currently is, you have to wait a few seconds before seeing if the food item is safe to eat.

Yeah we have some tech to add damage to labels and cans and I'd like to see it on other things as well.

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Question from @punklor:

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Hello everyone. I have the following question: will you still do some kind of game / DLC in this universe? Will we see any other project in the universe of The Long Dark?

Could happen at some point, yes. Right now we're focused on Episode Three and the remaining Episodes to finish WINTERMUTE.

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Question from @EfoDom:

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I'm not sure if this has been asked before but have you ever thought about adding real winter constellations to the game? Right now in the game the night sky is just speckled with stars and there are some 4 bright ones making a square (the little dipper I guess?) and something that looks like a galaxy. Adding actual constellations would greatly improve navigation at night. I'm sure there are a lot more important things to add to the game but I think many players would like this addition.

Yes, accurate constellations and navigation is on my internal roadmap, but I have no idea if or when we'll get to it. That was the original intention for the night sky -- that you be able to use the stars to navigate.

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Question from @jkripper:

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I notice that I often scare wolves, but then they stop running away, turn around and come back to eat my face.  What is the reason for their behavior?  

There are 100 different reasons why this might be the case, but if you think something looks like a bug, please report it to: hinterlandgames.com/support

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Question from @Moll:

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Any use for car batteries in the near future?

Perhaps some day -- "near future" is a bit vague, so I won't promise that.

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Question from @MarrowStone:

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How has the new mapmaking technique been treating you guys? 

Not sure what you're referring to here -- can you elaborate?

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Question from @TheRealPestilence:

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We're approaching three weeks since the last hotfix and the release candidate (test_rc) depot on steam hasn't been updated since then.  To me, this implies that you don't intend to release fixes for the remaining bugs introduced by Steadfast Ranger.  Is that the case?

I find it's best not to jump to conclusions and also best to give people the benefit of the doubt vs. trying to find fault or something to be upset about. I also find that if you find a way to ask questions that doesn't sound like you are attacking people, you have a better chance of getting the information you are looking for.

I'll give you an example:

"I notice it's been a few weeks since the last hotfix and the depot on Steam hasn't been updated -- just wondering if you'll be releasing more fixes for the game before the next major update. In particular I'm curious about [bug X]. Thanks!'

Feel free to use that as a template in the future.

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Question from @melcantspell:

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I noticed that several regions are naturally rich in certain resources. This pushes me to travel to specific regions, which is one of the mechanisms that keeps the game interesting. 

Is the quantity of resources the foundation or the consequence of region design?

 

Yes, it is. And this is something we'll be pushing more in the future.

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Question from @Cairngormless:

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I enjoyed the notes left behind, particularly in 'following' a group of survivors.  But as the long dark is a game meant to be replayed, they lose interest.  Would you consider adding different 'sets' of these to make multiple playthroughs more interesting?  And it could be a good way to involve the community (as there's lots of good stuff already out there).  Thanks

It's a cool idea for Survival Mode. For Story, the notes are built around the story itself so we wouldn't add sets there.

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Question from @Faithful Cartographer:

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Hi Raph! Happy Birthday, Milton Mailbag!

What are your impressions of E3?

 

Thanks! Hard to believe it's been a whole year since we started this!!

E3 was...loud. And flashy. As E3 is. Walking the floor was pretty overwhelming, but keep in mind it's been 4 yrs since I've been (last time was when we demo'd The Long Dark in the Xbox booth at E3 2015) so I've been re-sensitized. I saw some cool stuff but mostly games that have already been announced or are expansions/seasons/DLC/etc for existing games. It felt like the E3 before the E3 where major new hardware is announced/shown. It's also very clear that E3 doesn't really represent the majority of what the industry has become, and to be honest feels like a bit of a relic of the "old industry". The business has changed so much since E3 started and having the big expensive flashy venue to show off your game isn't as important as it used to be. I think the smaller consumer-centric shows like PAX, or the developer-focused conferences like GDC, are a lot more relevant, but that's just my opinion! A lot of people still love E3 and I think if it's your first or second time at the show it can be really exciting and make you feel like part of a bigger thing. For me...it just made me feel tired, to be honest. :) 

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That's all the time for Mailbag this week. Thanks for the questions. As always, if I missed yours it might have been because it was something I've already responded to 100 times, or maybe you wrote it in a way that felt snarky or rude, or like you're trying to score points by showing how clever you are at our expense, which I don't have time for. Remember that the Mailbag is something I take time out of my work-day to do, it's something I do to show appreciation to the fans. It's not your punching bag for me or the dev team. Be considerate, or go post somewhere else where rudeness is more accepted. (Better yet, don't post anywhere, because the internet doesn't need more assholes.)

Have a good weekend.

- Raph

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Raphael van Lierop said:

As for the Flashlight -- I think the Battery continues to work once the aurora ends but it will gradually deplete on its own.

So far as I've experienced, the moment the aurora is over... the flashlight stops functioning and the battery is back to 0% immediately.  If it's intended to be useable for a short time after the aurora is over, that is definitely not happening for me.  A bug then maybe?

Either way I like the flashlight just fine, no complaints here. :) 

I always just told myself that the flashlight's "capacitance" was entirely aurora dependent... and since it's so uniquely useful for traveling during the aurora, I never thought to question whether it was meant to be useable when the aurora wasn't active.

Edited by ManicManiac

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Thanks for answering my question, Raphael. Have a good weekend. :-)

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32 minutes ago, Raphael van Lierop said:

Same vision as today but with 2-3 original IP games live and in the wild, 2-3 original IPs in incubation, 2-3x the team size, and 2-3 linear projects based on our original IP. 

I will keep my fingers crossed! Have a nice weekend.

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24 minutes ago, Raphael van Lierop said:

(Some players feel the Rabbit kill already crosses a line.)

I for one really appreciate it.

Not only do I think it's a nice touch thematically, but also a poignant reminder of our fundamental relationship with our food.  We have nearly an entire generation, who if you were to ask where their bacon comes from... they will tell you, "the store."  Which to my mind is unfortunate.   

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Raphael van Lierop said:

the Late Game "problem"

I personally don't think there is a late game problem.  I do think there might some issues with late game "expectations."  Which to me is not the same thing.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me (and that's fine) but I just ask those folks hear me out:

I think anyone that has spent long periods of time in isolation/lone subsistence will attest that coping with the mundanities of survival can be your biggest challenge.  There is no "happily ever after" or "congratulations you win!" in survival mode and I would suggest there shouldn't be... After all death is the eventuality, no mater what.  Be it because we've given up, or due to tragic circumstances (most often brought on by our own bad decisions).  I really like the idea that once we get proficient with our survival tasks, that it's really up to us to find creative ways to just live in Great Bear on our own terms, and for how long.  If one really feels the need to face the near death struggle again, we can always start a new run... or walk away from our "comfy" set up and go on a death march to some other desolate zone and work on getting set up again (only this time without the luxury of finding all those lootables - since we already took them all). :D 

Now to reflect on those other points of view... for those who do feel, "I'm good at survival, but there is nothing left I can think of to do..."  Perhaps one solution for the "maybe column" might be to have the Old Bear make an appearance in survival mode (after 500 days or 1000 days or whatever) and be that "Tireless Menace," constantly hunting us down... where our only viable defense is to evade, to run for our lives.  Maybe just like in The Hunted challenge, occasionally cross our path to harass and try to eat our poor survivor...  I don't know, it's just a thought.  Like I said before, I really don't see any "late game problem," but I guess I just have a very different way of looking at the whole picture of Survival Mode.

This game is a lot of things to a lot of people and I respect that, this is just a little bit of my point of view. :) 

--

(Addendum - Hey come to think of it... has anyone ever tried to survive 500+ days in The Hunted Challenge?  If I remember right, I don't think it had a time limit.)

Edited by ManicManiac
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If I were to send you some fried chicken, would it convince you to add the Canadian goose as an animal in the game ? A huntable one, harvesting eggs, feathers, oil and meat from ?

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7 hours ago, ManicManiac said:

So far as I've experienced, the moment the aurora is over... the flashlight stops functioning and the battery is back to 0% immediately.  If it's intended to be useable for a short time after the aurora is over, that is definitely not happening for me.  A bug then maybe?

Either way I like the flashlight just fine, no complaints here. :) 

I always just told myself that the flashlight's "capacitance" was entirely aurora dependent... and since it's so uniquely useful for traveling during the aurora, I never thought to question whether it was meant to be useable when the aurora wasn't active.

I would agree that the flashlight's function ends abruptly when the aurora ends. There is no depletion phase, such as the capacity bar emptying quickly, to serve as a warning that the light is about to go out. Perhaps Raphael is thinking about the depletion of the flashlight capacity while it is in use and the aurora is active. Then there is a period where it can recharge back up to full as long as the aurora is still active.

I have been exploring a building to suddenly find my light is gone. Others have been using the flashlight light to fend off a wolf or wolves when suddenly their defense is gone. 

I would not mind having a flashlight that dies pretty quickly when the aurora ends even if that takes a few of game minutes, say no more than five game minutes then its dead again. No sticking a "full capacity" flashlight in your pocket for use later on. Otherwise there should be no time limit to ordinary flashlight use as long as the aurora is active - no capacity depletion as currently exists. 

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Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. :coffee:

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Great replies! Really glad too see it has survived a year. Excellent question @Vagabond. And I hope @MarrowStone follows up... I am curious. I look forward to many more hinterbags of replies.

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5 hours ago, slvrsrfr said:

And I hope @MarrowStone follows up... I am curious

Thanks for reminding me, things were a little hectic the past few weeks and I wasn't able to ask a proper question along with proper clarification. :painkillers:

On 6/21/2019 at 5:26 PM, Raphael van Lierop said:

Question from @MarrowStone:

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How has the new mapmaking technique been treating you guys? 

Not sure what you're referring to here -- can you elaborate?

Yeah, I'll try to be more specific the next time! I think the confusion comes from me calling it "Map-making" which was probably confused with the player's in-game action of mapping, not the studio's process of environment creation. In the Februrary Dev Diary (https://hinterlandforums.com/forums/topic/18557-dev-diary-february-2018/) You mentioned streamlining a new workflow and pipeline for regions along with this .gif:

 Tools_001_small.gif.9d6619ab7ac0c01f1d0a04b3a6297f59.gif.f8442a898120eb6ea709160d5e816f07.gif

Just was curious as to what your thoughts were on it now that the team has probably used it for a few months. Has it given you less/more control over your maps? 

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On 6/22/2019 at 8:02 AM, UTC-10 said:

Otherwise there should be no time limit to ordinary flashlight use as long as the aurora is active - no capacity depletion as currently exists. 

Or it could only deplete when you're flashing it to scare off wolves.

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Having the capacity become depleted when used on high (to scare off wolves) was one way. Another way would be the use of high beam would cause damage, perhaps a relatively large amount of damage,  to the flashlight and necessitate repairs using metal scrap and a tool kit. 

Any kind of intermediate condition, especially with a dimming flashlight, would probably be a fair amount of trouble for the devs to implement, so I am not too hopeful.

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Posted (edited)

El personaje de Jeremiah se basa en la película Jeremiah Johnson, ambos comparten un nombre, eran soldados y cazadores, además de que en la película este desierto de la guerra (y se especula que Jeremiah era militar), por lo que los papeles que tuvimos que quemar antes Sé evidencia de tu deserción. ¿Podrías confirmar esta teoría por favor?☺️

Edited by mateosega

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