Raphael van Lierop

Milton Mailbag -- Dispatch #39

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Hey everyone!

It's been another busy couple of weeks in the studio. The team's been hard at work on Episode Three and a bunch of other things, but you already know that because that's what we're always doing. :) Things are coming along really well, and I and the rest of the team are really excited to get to the point where we can share some more definitive info with you.

You also may have noticed we added some new Merch items to hinterlandstore.com. I know the items are on the pricey side when considering shipping and the power of local currency -- we're doing some work to figure out how we can support our fans in territories where our CAD prices and shipping make things cost prohibitive. 

I missed last week's Mailbag due to workload so let's see what you all left for me to discuss this week. Onward!

*****

Question from @JujuBear:

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Hello! Fairly new to the forums so please bear with me if the question's been asked already.

That said, I'd like to ask 3 questions if you don't mind:

1) I'm curious about your creative process in constantly improving the game. How much of the community's feedback and your own as developers influence in designing levels and adding in feature's?

2) Related to the first question: What is your team's work-flow usually then when applying these changes/updates?

3) What made you decide to replace the brandishing option (specifically with the torch) with having the player be able to throw them instead?

Cheers!

 

Welcome to the forums! I'll take each question in turn.

1) We read everything the community says about the game and use it as a kind of extended "sensory system" to judge game health, quality of life for our players, and what areas of the game might need a refresh. Beyond that, we have an internal roadmap of new things we'd like to add to the game. Often it lines up well with what players are asking for which is always nice, but often we work on things we just believe will make the game a better experience. 

In general I have a big-picture roadmap for where I'd like to take The Long Dark that goes out for years (multiple projects -- far beyond the current game -- I doubt we could ever do it all) so we're just working on layering things, putting the foundations in place for the future, both for the Episodes to come but also for things we want to do in the next standalone game set in The Long Dark IP.

2) Design, implement, test, iterate. Repeat until it's good enough. Release, then repeat again based on community feedback. Iteration is our core development philosophy.

3) We found the Brandishing action was a bit hard for players to understand -- it wasn't a nice discrete action with an understandable outcome, while throwing something and getting it close to a target, then having success in scaring that target, just made more sense. Keep in mind that Throwing the Torch was the original option. Brandishing replaced the Throw, and then we decided to go back to the Throw because it wasn't working the way we wanted it to.

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Question from @Azdrawee:

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When I've first heard about The Long Dark, I thought that surviving for a long ammount of days is impossible - that on higher difficulties, even experienced players die after a few days. However, recently I've been noticing that people are able to survive years in Interloper and that got me thinking: Have you ever considered adding even a higher difficulty than Interloper? For instance a difficulty where wolves would instantly kill you no matter what, or other things that would make the game impossible to survive even for seriously experienced players. I feel like even though I can't imagine myself surviving in Interloper for this ammount of days, some people are capable of it, so there's probably a room for even higher difficulty.

I don't think adding another Experience Mode beyond Interloper is the right approach -- at least, I don't think that yet. My feeling is that if some players are surviving for very long on Interloper, there is something in the XP Mode that isn't quite working. It requires us spending more time analyzing how people are playing it, how some of them are managing to survive for so long, and then tweaking the tuning or revising the approach to make it more challenging. 

If however we felt that we could sufficiently differentiate an even more Survival-focused experience mode beyond Interloper, we might do that. For now, though, I think offering 4 different XP modes that map to different play styles should be enough. We just need to tune them better or differently.

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Question from @Jendo:

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I think this is my first non-TLD-specific question, so here goes: What did you make of No Man's Sky? Broadly speaking, I mean, in terms of how it is as a game, its pre-release hype and post-release backlash, how the team have slowly but surely "delivered on what they promised" etc.

I think I'm asking you because, although they're obviously very different games (albeit both in the survival/exploration mould), NMS and TLD deliver a similar feeling to me: a kind of ethereal, awe-inspiring sense of freedom and wonder, as well as being proud of delivering something different, rather than necessarily bowing to the perceived limitations of what a game can (or should) be.

If I were to get a little more specific, I guess I'd ask... did you feel some sympathy for Hello Games given that a lot of people were angry and disappointed regarding the game's initial state? They were a tiny team at the time, making a game on a quite literally galactic scale with only ten people. Sure, they had the marketing power of Sony behind them, but that came later; they didn't start development as some kind of AAA studio.

Don't worry, I'm not asking in the hope that you're gonna say it sucked or anything haha

Thanks again, and keep up good work!

 

Knowing how hard game development is, I try very hard not to criticize other developers. In terms of No Man's Sky, I think the team delivered an incredibly ambitious experience and it was very hard to see the incredible hate and anger that was channeled towards them at launch. I recall tweeting something in support of the devs on launch day during the outcry, and I think to this day it's the most "popular" (in terms of impressions) tweet I've ever posted -- but it's because I was positively hammered for DAYS afterward, by angry NMS players, for daring to say something in support of the studio. That was already years ago now, but it seems things are even worse now than they were then.

So, did I feel sympathy for them? Hell yeah. I also think Sony should have/could have done a much better job of shielding the developer from the abuse, as it was largely their marketing machine that brought so much attention to the game (and yes, the NMS devs were happy to talk up their game and promote it excitedly and fuel that anticipation, and really you shouldn't expect anything less from a dev -- it's not our business to talk down our own games).

In the years since I think the NMS team have proven that they mean to live up to their promises and their player's expectations, despite maybe not hitting the mark right out of the gate, and I applaud them for that. I feel a lot of empathy for that as it's a very familiar situation (cough), and my hope is that one day when we ship Episode Five of WINTERMUTE, people will look back on the previous years of waiting and acknowledge our own journey, hopefully in a positive way, in the same way people can now acknowledge the good work that Hello Games has done. I'm not expecting any billboard ads singing our praises, for the record. :) 

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Question from @smaointeoireacht:

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First off, not a question but I don't think I've seen anyone comment on it (please forgive me if I missed it) since the Steadfast Ranger update, but as someone who uses the accessible features, thank you so much for the accessible struggle option! It has massively changed my gameplay for the better. I am so very greatful to the team for the work that must have gone into creating accessible struggle.

When creating new regions, how do you link them to existing ones? Do you create a new region, decide what existing region to connect it to and then try and find a cave or something on the existing region at an appropriate place to join them? Or do you decide where the connection to the existing region will be before creating the new one? Or maybe is there a super secret map of Great Bear somewhere at Hinterland with all the regions, existing and yet to come, planned out?!

 

Glad to hear the Accessible Struggle feature has been useful for you! If you haven't also tried it, the Hold to Search (vs Tap) can also be pretty useful, depending on what type of interaction you find comfortable.

In terms of connecting regions -- we know where they'll go and what we want them to connect to, so we'll usually decide up front if we want it to be linked through a cave, a rope-climb, or whatever.

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Question from @rancid0:

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I am wondering if you guys have an idea in mind for the total number of zones there will be once the game is completed? Maybe this is information your not releasing yet which i can understand but any info i could get on this topic would be awesome.

Thanks for all the hard work your team has put into creating this amazing game!!! :)

 

Yes, I have an idea but we're not really sharing info about new Regions because we don't want people to be disappointed if they don't happen, or if they don't happen as quickly as they would like.

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Question from @Themadlad94:

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What made you choose the revolver over other handguns? Did it have some sorta importance like the hunting rifle?

I like the limited aspect of it -- six rounds and then you have to deal with reloading. Most other hand-guns have more ammunition. Also, a Revolver feels like a better deterring to wildlife than, say, a 9mm. And finally, it has a kind of simplistic roughness about it that really suits The Long Dark (vs. something more sleek, more modern). 

I know there are tons of guns out there but The Long Dark isn't really a "gun game" -- for us, a firearm is just another tool. The Revolver balances well against the Rifle as they each have a clear role, and clear trade-offs. It happens to be quite useful against Wolves, but it's even more useful against Timberwolves, which you'll see in Episode Three.

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Questions from @yollarbenibekler:

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I have several questions this time:

-How about adding a moveable metal barrel in the game to store water in it? There are already barrels in the game and storing water in 1lt bottles are space-consuming and not "enviromentally green" :)

-Do you plan to add more tracks to your in-game soundtrack? The world is getting big and for different type of region you could add different music

-Can we use clothes and wearable items as fuel for fire in the future?

-A suggestion for a special day challenge as 4DON: Let us gather loot for 4-5 days for an apocalypse. Spending 20-50 days in an underground shelter afterwards would be a fantastic experience.

 

I'll answer the ones that are questions. :) 

1) Yes, Episode Three has its own soundtrack. At some point we'll create a "Volume Two" that will have more WINTERMUTE music and additional Survival Mode music as well.

2) I'm not sure about using Clothing for fuel but I'll think about it.

Thanks for the 4DON idea.

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Question from @Skelegutplays:

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What have been some of the weirdest/most funny bugs you have encountered during game development?

Ask me again after Episode Three ships. :) 

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Question from @Tohono O'odham Man:

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Hello my question dose hinterland have other types of survival games in the works? Like a desert survival game That takes place in the south west. Because in the lond dark world most of the population of North America and south America will kill it's self and from the nuclear power plant exploding across the western hemisphere. After TSHTF the world will be quiet some what. Just my thoughts to make The Long Dark Universe bigger.

We are currently only working on The Long Dark and have no other projects in active development. That said, we know what we want to make next.

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Question from @Jolan:

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Hi Ralph and the Team!  I've seriously enjoyed the changes made in Wintermute Redeux, I think you did a particularly good job at reworking the characters and their dialog/interactions.  Eagerly look forward to what comes next!  I have a quick question about blueprints. In Wintermute The Dress Rehearsal you could get some blueprints in Episode 2 that you can't seem to get in Redeux's Episode 2.  Did you eliminate some blueprints?  Thanks!

I believe we had more Blueprints as Trust Unlocks in the "Predux" Episodes One and Two. Fewer were needed for the Redux Episodes One and Two. In general we only unlock Blueprints that are relevant to the episode content.

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Question from @SpanishMoss:

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The Go! Energy drink is meant to replace/add a new version to the stim, but the effects are similar to coffee, but coffee doesn’t have the headache effect afterwards, I see the Go! Energy drink as an alternative to a stim, but without the condition boost. So my question is this: would you consider buffing the Go! Energy drink?

The Energy Drink wasn't mean to replace the Stim. Stim, Go!, and Coffee all have different effects, different ideal use cases, and, more importantly, have different degrees of scarcity. You can't really compare things without taking scarcity into account. 

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Question from @Alex Azrael:

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this game is a real masterpiece, tons of work and improvments have been done, since its alpha release;

I never played during so many years on a video game, but with all these adds (and the main theme of survival in north america's wilderness), TLD is still on my top list !

and will be for a long time....

big up HL, keep on the good work !

❤️

Recently, on a previous mailbag, you talked about a map generator. What a good idea, every player has its own preferate maps, and worst one, according to its gameplay/feelings.

my question(s) is/are :

how would you include it?

great bear Island has several weel built/placed maps, I'm so glad to wait for a map generator, but how is it possible to add a random map generator on this awesome world?

Are you planning to release it on a parallel sandbox mode?

(the best solution I think, but Im not in your plans...)

; )

are you thinking to add it as an extra DLC?

You didn't spoke about it in the 2or 3 last mailbag, is it still on project?

will it be soon ? (Next sandbox update? After the 2 next ? (So after chapter 3 of Sandbox?)

I can't wait ! This would be an awesome add

thanks for all that your team have done to improve this game, results are there, months after months, it's perfect.

Best regards

 

You probably know I don't like to comment on release timings or when things might come out, but we have committed to Mod Tools and so you can believe we will deliver them. When we have more definitive news to share about them, we'll definitely post it in a Dev Diary which will end up being re-published here in the forums.

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Looks like that's all the questions for this week's Mailbag! Have a great weekend and keep those questions coming. I'll do my best to stay on top of them and give you good answers.

- Raph

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Posted (edited)

Thanks so much!
These mailbag dispatches really are wonderful to read.  The level of personal interaction, and the time you invest with us is so greatly appreciated.  I can only imagine how busy things are on your end, and to still prioritize carving out some time to spend with us when you can; speaks volumes. 

Edited by ManicManiac

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Agree with ManicManic, I really enjoy reading the mailbag. Not only the topics that deal with TLD itself, but also those that touch on related subjects, e.g No Man's Sky above.

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Posted (edited)
On 8/9/2019 at 8:14 PM, Raphael van Lierop said:

It happens to be quite useful against Wolves, but it's even more useful against Timberwolves, which you'll see in Episode Three.

Hmmm..... 🤔

I'm anxious to dive back into TLD.  I've taken a brief hiatus.

Edited by hozz1235
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