October 2021 Developer Diary


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Hello everyone!

October’s been a big month for Hinterland and The Long Dark. In case you missed it, we launched Episode Four: Fury, Then Silence. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re grateful for that.


Current Issues

With Episode Four, like most of our big releases, we tend to find issues post-launch. I wanted to address a bit about how this can happen. Right now we are tracking 3-4 issues that are impacting a small number of players but in highly visible ways. They include:

  • Windows 7; there is an issue with video compatibility on Windows 7 which prevents certain videos (like the opening credits) from playing correctly. We have provided a work-around here, but we understand that it’s not very satisfying. This issue disproportionately impacts players in parts of the world where Windows 7 is still commonly used.
  • Mac rendering issue; some Mac users have encountered a rendering issue that can result in weird visual glitches, and a separate issue can result in missing geometry. We’ve suggested a workaround for the first issue. 
  • PlayStation Trophies; these were missing at launch but have since been added.

In addition to these, there are other miscellaneous issues that we have been tracking and working on.

I know it seems tough to understand how a studio can release game content that has bugs in it. For some background, we have a full-time in-house Test team who regularly comb through the game and find bugs for the team to fix. We also have a Support team who receives all the bug reports you share at our Support Portal (thank you to everyone who takes the time to do this -- it is extremely helpful!), as well as a Community team who takes note of the issues you flag in the forums and on our social accounts. 

All this information gets put into an internal database that we use to evaluate outstanding issues. We then review each issue and consider how often a bug seems to appear, how seriously the bug affects players, and then we assign bugs out based on priority. The first step to fixing a bug is being able to reproduce it reliably, and this is where getting info like log files, screenshots, and videos can be very helpful in pinpointing the issues. Things like crashes and progress blockers are always the top priority to fix. Minor things like floating items get prioritized last. These bugs get assigned out by the team leads. The development team works on fixing them, and we create an internal version of the game that has all these fixes in it. At some point in the process we have to lock the build so that the Test team can test it all again, because every time something new is added to the build it invalidates most of the testing that has been done. 

For really big releases like our Episodes, we supplement our internal Test team with an external team of about 5-10 testers (depending on the release) who help us review the entire game. Remember, every time we release an Episode, a Survival Update, or a Hotfix, we have to pretty much test the ENTIRE game again, to make sure we haven’t introduced issues elsewhere (it’s common for bug fixes to cause or reveal other issues). This includes all the Survival Mode mechanics on all Experience Modes, all the Regions, all the Challenges, and every Episode of WINTERMUTE. It’s a huge game that requires a massive amount of testing. 

This explanation isn’t meant to sound like I’m making excuses for why bugs end up being released -- as you know we work hard to release a “clean” build and we then work hard to stomp out any bugs that come to light after the fact. But it’s a really big game and every release reminds us that it’s getting harder and harder to ensure we find all the bugs before release. This is something we’re discussing internally to see how we can improve our approach and ensure a better quality product for you, because I don’t think the current testing cycle is sustainable, and it just slows things down too much.

 

Hotfix Work

The development team has a hotfix with our internal Test team now. This hotfix contains fixes for over 200 issues (many of them pre-date the Episode Four release and were held back until post-release). We don’t have an exact ETA for this, but we’re hopeful that we can get it out some time late next week (the week of October 25th). If it comes in too late we may have to push it to the following week because we don’t release hotfixes right before the weekend, since we can’t be around to monitor and help players if things go wrong.

We will be following our standard hotfixing protocol, which is to bring hotfixes to platforms as quickly as we can (rather than holding some to simultaneously ship on all platforms together), therefore the Hotfix will not arrive on every platform at the same time. The typical order is: Steam, Xbox + PlayStation, other digital stores (Humble, Nuuvem, etc.), WeGame in China, and Switch. This order is purely determined by how quickly and/or convenient the hotfixing process is. (For example, on Steam we can simply update the game immediately. On the other end of the spectrum, Nintendo usually takes 7-10 days to review every hotfix before it can be released). Unfortunately, these are not timings that we control, and we apologize if you happen to be impacted by any delays around deploying these fixes.

We’ll share more info on Hotfix progress on our Social accounts and in the Steam and Official forums, so please follow us on Twitter if you want to have up-to-date info. 

 

End of the Year Survival Update & Halloween Event

As mentioned in the lead-up to Episode Four’s launch, the team is working on bringing Blackrock Region to Survival Mode for the end of this year. They are also incorporating the Noisemaker into Survival Mode, and we’re including one new gear item that was not in Episode Four. We’ll share more details about these things in the lead up to launching the update. We don’t have an ETA on the Survival Update apart from “before the end of the year”.

Between the Episode Four launch, the subsequent hotfixing work, and preparing the Survival Mode update for the end of the year, I unfortunately had to make a tough call to sacrifice the Halloween Event this year. I know many of you were looking forward to getting a refresh on Escape the Darkwalker, and we were excited to release a 2021 version, but the team just doesn’t have the bandwidth to produce the Hotfix, release an updated Darkwalker, and also produce a Survival Mode update for the end of the year. In terms of priority, it felt that the Survival Update was more important to you than the Darkwalker event, so we triaged out the event. Apologies to anyone that will be disappointed by this, but there’s only so much development bandwidth to go around and we need to make these calls at times. We’ll try to make it up to you next year.

*   *   *  

I’ll share another dev diary closer to the end-of-year Survival update, and as mentioned we’ll keep you posted on Hotfix progress as it unfolds in the coming weeks.

Thanks for your patience and support of our efforts! We hope you’re enjoying Episode Four, and for those of you who are currently impacted by bugs, we hope to get you some fixes very soon.

 

- Raphael

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Thank you for the update - and for the transparency. I've always been impressed by how much you communicate. Most companies do not bother with that.

Bugs are to be expected as there is no way you can test every single permutation of computer configurations and browser settings. But most people do not know that, so I love that you educate your audience this way. Until you are troubleshooting a problem you cant duplicate, you can not fully understand how hard it is to fix a ghost! What is more important than the bugs, is how you handle them - and you do a great job of prioritizing and implementing fixes. T

I love Episode 4 and am looking really forward to the Survival mode update! Sure, skipping the 4DON is a bit disappointing, but only because it's so much fun. Its a good call though, as the Episode and Survival modes are more important. Maybe someday we will find the old versions of 4DON on the time capsule. :)

Thanks again for all your hard work and the great game!

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It was mentioned at episode 4 launch, we would get some information on proper support for PS5 and XBOX Series S/X, around this time.

Was it forgotten in this dev diary or what are the plans on when we are going to hear more?

 

Thanks

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Yeahh thank you for the information Hinterland Love youu. I hope the year-end update will be a little more comprehensive and plentiful.Now it's time to add additional dlcs such as more food, clothes, equipment that can be added to the game.And finally, I can't wait for the 2nd season of this game to be announced

 

Best Regards   Love Youuuu  :)

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Great to hear that you guys are working on addressing those bugs as soon as possible! (especially the PlayStation disclaimer crash, which is still preventing us from trying out Episode 4 ;w;).

With the new episode & survival region being added this year (along with some exciting new gear!!), I think we'll be content with no Halloween update. EtDW is still a fun mode to play around in during the spooky month as-is for a good fright!

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It's been a long time since I played and I think all the changes are fantastic.  any chance on bringing back the old Milton Mailbag?  I know your busy and all all, but it sure was nice back when you would answer questions on a regular basis.  I came back looking for it but it looks like its been inactive for over 3 years.  I guess I got a lot of catching up to do!  

Either way, great game!

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Athough it's crazy how slow the development is, I sincerely appreciate how qualitious the game is. So thank you, Hinterland. And please keep up with the community updates/diaries!

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". . . but the team just doesn’t have the bandwidth to produce the Hotfix, release an updated Darkwalker, and also produce a Survival Mode update for the end of the year."

It would be better for everyone if HTL spread new releases throughout the year instead everything coming out in a 2 month period before Xmas.  New releases keep players active for a few months then player interest and activity drops off for several months.

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This is what lockdowns actually did. Everyone thought we'd be more productive at home but ended up we were more distracted and productivity went down, causing more delays. But, whatever, we'll take it all... delays and bugs, and new mechanics all in the same bag. The Long Dark is still the best game ever. 

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5 hours ago, peteloud said:

It would be better for everyone if HTL spread new releases throughout the year instead everything coming out in a 2 month period before Xmas.  New releases keep players active for a few months then player interest and activity drops off for several months.

I think you don't actually understand just how much work a new chapter in the saga entails. They are not the kind of thing that can be knocked out in just 2 or 3 months. Not for a game publisher as small as Hinterland, anyway.

Edited by JAFO
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It's fine. Darkwalker was great, but before that I never truly enjoyed the way the special events were implemented. Even then it's something you play just a few times. An update to survival mode definitely has much higher value.

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14 hours ago, Admin said:
  • PlayStation Trophies; these were missing at launch but have since been added

 

not to bemoan the team's efforts but this is kinda downplaying it considering we still cannot play at all

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3 hours ago, Serenity said:

It's fine. Darkwalker was great, but before that I never truly enjoyed the way the special events were implemented. Even then it's something you play just a few times. An update to survival mode definitely has much higher value.

      I totally agree with this sentiment.

     As much as I appreciate the festive aspect of a seasonal event, I would much rather have something new implemented into the custom settings of survival mode instead. 

Just keep working on Survival Mode PLEASE!

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personally i don't care about Halloween or it's TLD event, instead i can concentrate more on E4 and my Sandbox run. Thank you for the update and i'm curious what the new gear item will be. I hope of some kind of waist belt that allows you to keep tools nearby your body, increasing the weight limit also :D

Or a leg holster for a pistol maybe?

Edited by Karl Grylls
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6 hours ago, Cr41g said:

not to bemoan the team's efforts but this is kinda downplaying it considering we still cannot play at all

The issues some players are experiencing on PlayStation are still very high-priority. Thanks for your patience! 

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11 hours ago, Cr41g said:

phrasing...... of the 12,983  owners on PSNprofiles only 21 have registered / played in the last week or 0.16 %...decidedly more than "some"

odd - I've had no issues my only disapointment was I completed Episode 4 without realising so will need to run it again at some point

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