400+ hours on the Long Dark - Here's my survivor mode wishlist.


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So I booted up the Long Dark again for once of my twice yearly ? loper sessions. I can never go too long without it. There's ultimately just nothing out there quite like the Long Dark. Got tripped up by a few map changes! And eventually my run ended when I impatiently decided to try and directly attack a wolf. ;-) Bad move. Anyway, after dying I realized I had finally crossed the 400 hour mark. Wow. Outside of city builder type games, I think this is the only game I have played for this long in my steam library.

So, marking this occasion I thought I'd share my wishlist for survivor mode. Keep in mind that this is angled more at interloper play.  My basic starting observation is that the game is in some respects too easy, but this has been addressed with some mechanics that feel unfair / uninteresting.

 

1. Please nerf sprain. Maybe have a mid-tier orange risk for medium slopes. Red for only extreme slopes. Make being overweight required? I don't know. All I know is its just not fun.

2. Please remove cabin fever. There's enough good arguments for this. Surely most players don't like this mechanic?

(I'm going to have to play custom from now on just to get around #1 and #2 above.)

3. Slower item decay. It's a bit too unrealistic.

4. Balance indoor / outdoor temp. If it is -40 degrees outside, and inside there is no fire on, but it is stable at -5 or something... this is for me the obvious starting spot to deal with difficulty. Indoor locations are almost always safe / warm so long as you have a minimum amount of clothing. What I would love to see is some coding of insulation, and different locations given a rating. The better the insulation, the better the location holds warmth. The challenge of just keeping warm in the late game, even indoors, should more than make up for removing cabin fever.

5. Wolf behavior rework. Rather than the currently very specific spawn areas, maybe design a system where the map is painted in different colored zones of likelihood, and allow wolfs to spawn and wonder basically anywhere. Tweak by reducing number in map even more potentially if it is too easy to run into them. But have very few areas where you are guaranteed to not meet a wolf. This could be further fleshed out with some different behavior (stalking / watching?)

 

That's it! The game is great. Basically I think it just needs to be more punishing in terms of indoor temps, with some wolf AI rework, and that would add enough challenge that you could then nerf some of the more annoying / artificial stuff like item decay, cabin fever and sprain.

 

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First three points I’d say likely won’t go anywhere as they are balanced with the game mechanics. Realism to a point but valued as they are for a reason. At least you can mitigate most annoying features in a custom game.

number 4 I do agree having a different mechanic to heat in homes would be nice. Some would warm up more than others if they have more sunlight on them for example or colder because they’re closer to water. Adding this into the temp would be nice.

And I haven’t really noticed anything particularly annoying with wolf spawning. It is centered in spawning zones but I have not seen many redundant spawns other than areas around habitable areas. Like around the lake or along the railroad tracks, etc. Areas of wilderness do feel s lot more random.

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I may be in the minority, but I actually like the Cabin Fever mechanic. It forces me to be more strategic about things like where and when I craft, and to split my time between "safe" outdoor locations (many of which I would never have discovered at all if I hadn't been afraid of cabin fever), and my "base". I have managed to avoid cabin fever (but not cabin fever risk) on all but one Interloper game, and I've played almost 1,700 hours of TLD, mostly on Interloper...

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I maybe a minority too I never felt that effect did any change to my game, I never get it I, feel like Cabin fever isuseless but maybe that is because I have a main base in Quinset Gas Station and I do reguler supply trips to regions

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Everything you posted is pretty much what I would want. I play without sprains or cabin fever too. But I would like sprains to actually get much much worse, as in they could be potentially fatal. The effects could be more worse and last for a week, but I would also like them to be far more rare, as in like 1% or lower of the current system. Having a rare accident significantly changing what you can do would force you to change your plans which sounds enjoyable to me.

Cabin fever for me has always been too gamey, but since I can just turn it off that's fine. It would be cool having it replaced with something I enjoy interacting with, but I am not sure what that would be.

As to house heating, yes for sure that would be great. It would also be cool if we could work on insulating the house. Cat tail heads, animal furs, etc could all line the walls and windows to slow the rate at which a house loses heat. It would give players more to do and a reason to do it.

 

Also I would love it if animals didn't have their little areas that they spawn and stay in. If animals roamed the entire map, were more rare, dropped more meat, and animal tracks stayed as long as the weather allowed them to you could have hunting/tracking trips. On a day that worked out you could get your gear ready and look for deer. Maybe you find a deer, but you could also find deer tracks if you're observant which you could follow to the deer. Since they roam the map finding tracks would be really beneficial since you wouldn't automatically know where they were. You could even have a tracking skill which could simply make the deer tracks easier to see with more noticeable textures or whatever.

It seems more fun than going, oh I need food, I am going to go over that hill to that little spot where deer spawn and stay forever.

 

Anyways yeah, lots of things that could be made more dynamic which they player would have to adapt to. I doubt we will see any of that but if they just made custom games have larger variables that would be cool. So like 0% item decay means they don't decay ever, 100% would be loper acid decay. You could set it to 3% if you wanted. Same with animals. 0% of an animal would be they don't spawn, 1% would be you see one like once every month or less, and 100% would be the current max spawn. You just pick any % you want, possibly even like 500%. That alone would be a huge improvement for me.

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If they decided to create a difficulty mode that is easier to play than pilgrim mode, then this would be it. They might even be considering creative mode. Or some kind of intermediate level between Stalker mode and Pilgrim mode.

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1. your sprain chance is already heavily dependent on how much you are carrying. Random sprains without being overloaded on all but the steepest slopes almost don't happen anymore. This has gotten much better.

2. Yup. Cabin Fever is a relic from a time where it made somewhat sense. If I could pick any one thing about the game I would change - removing cabin fever would be it.

3. Agreed. At least on Interloper it puts a lot more "stress" into the game than needed. Interloper on its own is already a quite stressful experience - so much most people don't play it at all. (Which is also the reason HL doesn't balance against it.)

4. This would be hella neat. Although I'm not sure how tricky it would be to implement. It would also render indoor locations without heating relatively useless, at least diminish them heavily. It should at least be possible since the weather system of the surrounding area is calculated even if you are inside a building - or else you wouldn't be able to hear winds.

5. There are arguments you can make in favor and against this. A big part of TLD is that it is somewhat "predictable", so you improve from session to session without having to give you some arbitrary buffs (even if "feats" completely go against this concept, I know). Also it's probably nice for a player to simply have a break for once. On the other hand I agree that it would make the game more challenging if you simply had to assume a wolf behind every tree, rock, corner or car.

Although I see how technical limitation might make this difficult. Designing an algorithm that prevents 12 wolves cluttering up in the same spot with the rest of the map being totally deserted would have to take the entire map into account at all times, impose limits on wolves for where they can go based on where how many wolves are. Such interdependent systems are pretty hard to balance and get right, and they become exponentially more complex the more moving parts (wolves) they have. Then if you keep in mind that the game has to work on potato blasters like the PS4 and Nintendo Switch .... yeah, this could go wrong real fast.

 

On 6/17/2021 at 1:57 AM, odizzido said:

I would like sprains to actually get much much worse, as in they could be potentially fatal. The effects could be more worse and last for a week, but I would also like them to be far more rare, as in like 1% or lower of the current system. Having a rare accident significantly changing what you can do would force you to change your plans which sounds enjoyable to me.

Not a fan. What you designed here is a "struck by lighting" mechanic. That's not fun for anyone. It might be realistic, but it certainly is bad game design. There are enough "bad luck, you ded" moments in the game as it is and I'm not a fan either. There should be no random "lose" conditions in a game. Life has enough of those.

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4 hours ago, jeffpeng said:

Not a fan. What you designed here is a "struck by lighting" mechanic. That's not fun for anyone. It might be realistic, but it certainly is bad game design. There are enough "bad luck, you ded" moments in the game as it is and I'm not a fan either. There should be no random "lose" conditions in a game. Life has enough of those.

That's fair enough. It might be terrible. I know when I've done some mods before with something that seemed good to me didn't work out and I had to scrap or change it.

What I think I like, and still think could work, is that in TLD you can prepare for things which is something I enjoy. If you're going to be doing something dangerous you can prepare by having supplies at the nearest shelter so that if you do get hurt you will have enough stuff to get you through it. If you're unprepared yes you could die, but if you had a place ready just in case you got hurt then you should be fine.

Whether it would work out I don't know. Perhaps I am trying too hard to make sprains interesting. I simply disable them currently which is a shame.

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I know arguments for "realism" only go so far. After all this is a game and games have their own logic. But still a major part of what makes TLD so engaging is that it is a semi-realistic survival game.

This is my major gripe with mechanics like cabin fever. Right now, for example, I am sitting by my fire outside, at night, in a snow storm, using my fire. The wind is blocked by the building I'm outside of, so the fire is fine, and I'm warm. But... if I was really in a survival situation there is no way I would be doing this when there is a perfectly good stove inside the building that I could be using. The only reason I'm doing it is to control the cabin fever mechanic, spending all time outside just to make sure that it doesnt sneak up on me in an inopportune time. To me, this mechanic stands out as overly artificial when compared to almost any other mechanic in TLD.

Sprains I am not entirely against. The randomness is a risk factor that has to be considered, and it does make terrain traversal something to think about. All told, I think it's not a bad mechanic, it just needs adjusting down more.

With item decay I am of a similar mind. It's not necessary to make items decay in an unrealistic way for the sake of making the game "harder". You could achieve this with item rarity. The degradation of clothing you are wearing in the environment is fine of course. The gradual expiry of canned goods as well. But why should clothing tems etc. stored in containers break down? They should hypothetically last years.

22 hours ago, Pyroxene said:

If they decided to create a difficulty mode that is easier to play than pilgrim mode, then this would be it. They might even be considering creative mode. Or some kind of intermediate level between Stalker mode and Pilgrim mode.

In my opinion cabin fever, sprains, and item decay aren't core to the challenge of interloper difficulty. The real challenge is the temperatures, the item rarity, and the deadliness of wolf struggles. Ramp up the temp challenge even more by making indoor locations require some heating if there is a snow storm outside. Make wolfs more random, and the mode would be a lot harder than it is now, not easier than pilgrim.

 

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On 6/18/2021 at 7:15 PM, odizzido said:

Whether it would work out I don't know. Perhaps I am trying too hard to make sprains interesting.

I see that. And actually: I've had that same exact conundrum. How do you make a game mechanic "not annoying" which is punitive in nature, and tentatively random in occurrence. I mean you can actively prevent it most of the time by not hauling too much stuff and not walking too steep slopes, but there is no "action" involved in it, and there is no way to actually combat them except conforming to said restrictions. There is no immediate reward involved for not conforming, and there is no way to game the system to improve your chances of getting away with it. You just will eventually be punished with something that is not (in itself) threatening but annoying.

If you read the above paragraph you inevitably must thing "weee that's bad game design", and I think I agree - but I have no better alternative, and removal doesn't seem right either. The fact is that when you haul heavy stuff over uneven, treacherous ground you will eventually fall and equally eventually bruise up parts of your body. It's realistic in "that" they happen, and as such they are legitimate.  But it might not be realistic in how often they happens, which, yes, is offset by the fact that the consequences aren't very severe, but that only leads to them happening more often, which is even more annoying.

In all honesty I'm not sure there is a way to make sprains interesting. I do get why someone would disable them. I, however, don't think that's the right idea for the game to pursue.

MAYBE you could prompt the player, in case of a sprain, with a very short "struggle" in which the play can, it they react fast enough, prevent the fall. That's the best thing I can think of - and it's not even halfway good, I'm afraid.

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I really dislike QuickTime events myself. I mashed buttons enough playing Megaman as a kid, I don't need to damage myself playing TLD. 

I have no ideas other than what I've said. I am just glad I can disable sprains.

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I don't blame you! I do on custom mode!

Did notice yesterday I got a sprain warning whilst I was standing on flat ground and as soon as you stand on a step! Bit much!

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I agree with @jeffpeng

Quote

I, however, don't think that's the right idea for the game to pursue.

In fact, since approaching play with the expectation I'll get sprains on any steep slope, I'm find them relatively rare. Fact is, if you want to play the game going anywhere you player can technically walk, you will get lots of sprains. The devs have made some real improvements to the whole system/UI on this front though.

Also agree with @Yolan - Relatively speaking, sprains aren't a challenge in the more challenging modes. But they can sure ruin your day.

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