TLD Reddit AMA


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So I thought it would be nice to place the Reddit AMA that was done. However, its huge lol so I'll be posting about half of it as its 4am lol Maybe the rest some other time, however feel free to go to the actual Reddit AMA for TLD and read through it, its great


We're Hinterland Studio, a group of ex-AAA devs working on our first independent title, The Long Dark, a post-disaster game with no zombies. Ask us anything.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio:

Hello everyone,

We've had some interest here in Reddit around our recently announced game, The Long Dark, a first-person survival simulation set in the Northern Wilderness.

We thought we'd jump in here and do an AMA to answer questions about the game, our backgrounds, the studio...almost anything.

We're ex-triple A developers who have founded a new independent game studio called Hinterland ( Between us, we've worked on a hell of a lot of triple-A games, in many franchises you probably know and some you might even love!

Here's more background on the team and games we've worked on:

Today in Reddit, we have:

Raphael van Lierop -- founder and creative director (RaphLife).

Alan Lawrance -- technical director (AlanLawrance)

Dave Chan -- audio director (davecedm)

Emily Claire Afan -- community manager (afantastic)

Please, come on in and Ask Us Anything.


Hello Hinterland Team, I'm very happy to see this ambitious game coming from an independent Canadian studio. It goes to show that you can be the change in the industry no matter where you are. I have a number of questions about the game.

Q1: How are you influencing players to follow your rules of survival? Will players meet certain death if they just sprint to the next story mission?

Q2: What will entice players to continue playing in the sandbox after the “5-6 hour” story is complete? Will there be environmental narrative elements that will provide closure or just back story?

Q3: Your Kickstarter says “Face morally challenging scenarios.” Is this in the style of Red Dead with scenarios being optional? Or like Walking Dead, where they affect characters but not the final story? Or will it be something else?

Q4: You talk about Knowledge as a resource. Will this allow for a combination of player skill and character skill? Will Mackenzie be able to remember things/ will a player’s interpretation/ deduction be an important factor?

Q5: In your prototype trailer, Mackenzie has voice acted dialogue. Will he be entirely voiced, and what about the other NPCs? I see that a stretch goal is all game dialogue voice acted, so if Mackenzie is the only voiced character, would that not create an odd experience?

Q6: Will there be cut-scenes and how will the scenes or lack thereof affect the immersion of the game’s simulation?

Q7: Will players be able to save and quit on the fly? Or will they be forced to find shelter and set up a fire first?

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to seeing what lies in the future for Hinterland and The Long Dark.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Thanks for your questions. Lots going on here so I may have to keep it short.

Q1: They won't meet certain death but success in the game is a balance between exploration and resource management, so if you simply race around without stopping to explore and gather things you need, you won't last long.

Q2: The Survival Sandbox mode will be open-ended, without a narrative. It'll be more challenge based. Should offer dozens of extra hours of gameplay, and can be expanded.

Q3: Sort of of a mix of the two.

Q4: It'll be a balance of player skill and character skill.

Q5: We want to voice the whole game.

Q6: We'll communicate authored story in a way that doesn't destroy immersion.

Q7: Yes to both.

Thans for the questions!

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: Is the campaign meeting your expectations? If not, what would do differently given the chance?

I think I can speak for everyone at Hinterland when I say that the campaign has fallen short of our expectations. When I say that, I mean purely in terms of dollars raised. We're been thrilled with how enthusiastic the community has been, and with how generous our backers have been (we have quite a few backers at the $1000 and above!).

If we could go back in time, I'm sure we would have gameplay footage from day one. We would have made our video shorter (it used to be 10 minutes long). We probably shouldn't have had so many $15 early bird slots.

All that being said, we are really happy with the way things have gone the past few days, and we're optimistic about reaching our 200K funding goal.

The only concern I have is portraying the isolation of northern wilderness accurately. I live in the North and a lot of people, especially urbanites, have a misconception about what it is and how large it really is.

Why did you choose cell-shaded graphics for this title?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: We're not really going for cel-shaded, particularly, but a stylized look. We still have work to do with shaders, lighting, shadows, etc. to really nail the look. What you see in our gameplay video is the first step.

As for food supply, will it be possible to hunt animals? If so, with what weapons or tactics?

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: Yes, it will be possible to hunt animals for food. In fact, hunting will most likely be necessary for most people to survive.

One of the most common ways to hunt will be with a firearm. You will have to be very careful/quiet to approach animals to get a clean shot. If you miss, you will not get another chance (the animal will take off fast). If you wound the animal, you will have to track it down.

There will also be traps you can set to catch game.

It's worth mentioning that the tables will sometimes be turned, and you will find yourself being hunted by hungry wolves, or even other survivors.

Awesome, this sounds exactly like I would want it to be! Any chance of using a bow?

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Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: Using a bow is something we haven't decided on 100%. It really would be a good option though (as gunshots may attract unwanted attention). I would have to categorize this feature as likely but not guaranteed.

What drew you to the subject matter for "The Long DarK' and what do you feel you can do with it in development that may have been difficult or impossible under other studios?

And, be honest, is this really just a game about making it through an Edmonton winter?

Dave Chan - Hinterland Studio: For me it was the chance to do something different and cool. I've worked on AAA and I've worked on mobile. Now I wanted something in between that gave me the chance to sink my teeth into something meaty, without it being a 5 year project. I think The Long Dark strikes a nice middle ground and has a great concept. When Raph first pitched it to me I was hooked right away. We can take chances that AAA can't/won't and have more experience and resources than many start-up indies.

As for the winter, anyone that survives -40C anywhere deserves a game. I have to say I am jealous of Raph living out on Vancouver Island.

I just want to say that you did a great job with the audio for the demo, it would be amazing if that same quality was present throughout the entire game.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Thanks so much! Audio will be a big part of the game. Since there will be minimal UI audio will make up a large part of the feedback from the game. We have also started designing an encounter system that relies heavily on using audio cues to assess threats and possible animals to hunt.

As for the winter, anyone that survives -40C anywhere deserves a game

amen. Are you from Vancouver or do you come from the boonies?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: I've lived in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver Island. I currently live in Northern Vancouver Island, at the foot of a mountain range. The rest of the team are from other locales -- Edmonton (super cold!), Toronto (meh), near Chicago (cows), Vancouver, LA (hmmm), etc. :)

Emily Claire Afan - Hinterland Studio: I'd like to see Raph being this smug on the coldest days of a Toronto winter. (Incidentally, I love winter because I'm a freak who hates super hot weather and loves snow. Guess that makes me a true Canadian.)

Just wanted to say, that I for a long time have wanted to see someone make a game like this. Luckily it was you guys! You see, I spent most of my chilhood in the northern Finland and was a very active boy scout and I always wondered why nobody was developing a game like this.

The game looks great and I'm very interested to see how it will all play out. The market needs more games like this and it's great to see you guys tackle new challenges.

I know that this is all still very early in developement, but already looks very promising. Still, if I had one thing to say, is that you should make the night time much much more darker to bring that sense of dread, especially if the player is lost. I can say from a personal experience that nothing is scarier than that.

I am very interested at how you are planning to control the player. What leads to his next objective? What if the player gets lost? How are events handled? What about the world boundaries? Any event randomization (meaning that there can be some rare events, that happen purely by luck)? Also, will there be cross-country skiing :D?

Good luck with the developement! I can't wait to get my hands on this!

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Thanks for your thoughts. We agree night time should be very dark, except when there is an aurora to light your way. Navigation will be handled through in-world actions and you'll have to rely on landmarks and other tools to find your way. No waypoints or minimap. That's our goal, anyway.

Q1: Is there the possibility of an coop-mode or any chance oy multiplayer gaming? I would love to explore the world and try to survive together with my friend(s)!

Q2: Will the game be localized in different languages?

Dave Chan - Hinterland Studio: No plans for multiplayer now, but there is always the future. I am a huge fan of co-op games so if it's possible and we have the resources I will add a yes vote for co-op.

For localization, we plan on localizing with subtitles at the minimum for a few different languages and if budget allows I would like to add localized VO, but that's fairly expensive.

With a sandbox survival type world, a lot of joy comes from serendipitous discovery of ... things, mysteries, "ooooh" moments.

Do you have much of that planned alongside the story? Will these things be hand-placed or procedural or a combination? I love this concept so much, and I want to get lost in a world that keeps giving up its mysteries.

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: Exploration and discovery is at the heart of The Long Dark. There will be many "ooooh" moments for players (we hope!).

The world of The Long Dark is mainly hand-crafted, but will will have procedural elements such as randomized loot and dynamic survivors/wildlife.

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Hey Hinterlanders,

As a survivalist and tracker myself, I'm really looking forward to The Long Dark. Survival with no zombies, robots, or mutant laser antelopes? You won my pledge pretty quick.

I have one thing to nit pick with The Long Dark, and as many of the details of the game are still unknown, I can't help but make a couple assumptions (so bear with me).

"Stranded far from the closest human habitation -- lost, wounded, alone, and with wolves circling -- Mackenzie will have to quickly master basic wilderness survival skills if he's to last long enough to understand what he just witnessed, and how his world has just changed."

With wolves circling… It's that bit right there. A pack of wolves has found Mackenzie and intend to make him their next meal. This is where I get nit-picky, because as someone who has tracked many packs of wolves in the wilderness of North America and knows their habits well, I have to reconcile my first-hand knowledge and experience with how wolves are constantly portrayed by storytellers and the media.

Attacks by healthy (non-rabid) wolves on humans are extremely rare. The 'big bad wolf' obsession that vilifies wolves was well-earned primarily in Europe and Russia, but on this continent, wolves almost never attack humans. The exceptions are when rabies is present, or when a human has done something rather foolish such as harassing or cornering a wolf. North American wolves, for the most part, leave humans alone. Liam Neeson is great, but in reality, there would have been no need for him to punch any wolves in the face.

I'm not suggesting that you take this part of your game out at all, but that you justify it realistically, just as you are going to lengths to give a realistic experience for many other aspects of survival. For instance: if that entire pack isn't coincidentally rabid, is there absolutely no other food source for them in the area? No elk, deer, rabbits, rodents, etc? When our technological world implodes, has that somehow affected the abundant food source of the wolves? Has Mackenzie been hostile to the wolves to agitate them? Whatever the answer to that question is, I really hope you explicitly explain what's driven them to a rather dire last-resort action. I hope you state it explicitly, because perpetuating the 'big bad wolf' stereotype, while possibly titillating and exciting, often directly leads to one thing - fewer wolves. Particularly in the United States, where they are likely going to be removed from the endangered species list and largely wiped out a second time.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Thanks for your notes. We'll do our best to portray wolves realistically and respectfully. "Wolves circling" was a bit of a metaphor in that case. We also have a survival expert consultant to help us avoid making mistakes in our portrayal. That said, sometimes we'll make choices that are good for gameplay that might not 100% jive with the real world.

Hello! You know I have a lot of love for The Long Dark. Can't wait to see where it goes. In your Kickstarter pitch, you describe it as not being an action game, then mention that hostile survivors do exist. Does that meant there's some sort of defensive combat system? Or is it more about avoiding confrontation? What is the overall approach to conflict?

Dave Chan - Hinterland Studio: Hey Steven! Because you don't have an unlimited supply of ammo and for the most part you have to treat your own injuries it would be wise to avoid combat. However, there will be circumstances where confrontation is unavoidable. It's not to be taken lightly as the end result will most likely be lethal to the player or the NPC.

Hello Hinterland team! Super excited for TLD.

1. Which came first, Hinterland or the idea for The Long Dark?

2. How did the Hinterland team come together?

3. If you could pick three words to describe how I should feel after I've finished The Long Dark, what would they be?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio:

1) The game and studio originated at the same time.

2) Mutual love of making great games and wanting to do something different.

3) Mesmerized. Breathless. Changed.

Hey! First of all, I'm already a huge fan. You might have seen me post quite a bit under the name "ETD" in the comments on Kickstarter.

Now, I have a few questions for you guys:

1) As far as I can tell none of the games you all worked on were survival-oriented, so why did you choose to go that way? Did you just want to try something completely new for once?

2) What's up with the aurora borealis in the screenshots and gameplay video? What is the "whirl" we see? Personally I prefer the more realistic look from the concept art, unless you can convince me with a really good reason for it to be the way it is :D

3) Will the state of the character only be relayed through voice? I was thinking it would be great to have that kind of stuff impact gameplay. E.g.: The player is starting to freeze to death. This could cause vision to be impaired (to show the pain) and possibly make the player move more slowly (although I imagine that might be annoying).

4) How will the episodic story work in the game itself? Let's say I finish the last bit of Episode 1. Can I just keep playing on that savegame and try to survive, or will I have to play in a sort of sandboxmode with another save until Episode 2 comes out and I can start my main save up again?

5) In addition to 4): Will there be a sandbox mode, where we can just try to survive without having a narrative to follow as well?

Last but not least I wanted to say that I really trust you guys to make an awesome game. You have the credits to show that you're all great at what you do. Have fun with my 80$!

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Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Thanks for your questions.

1) Yes, just wanted to do something different, and have always been a big fan of wilderness survival stories, movies, etc. Also post-apocalyptic/post-disaster stuff, and this was a way to bring the two together.

2) The art direction is intentionally stylized. We're still working on the aurora effect so it might change. But I like it!

3) Not only through voice, you will be able to get the low-level info from your Survival Diary.

4) Just think about it like the mission structure in a game like Red Dead or Fallout 3.

5) Yes, there is a Survival Sandbox mode.

Thanks for your support and we'll do our best to live up to your expectations.

How prevalent will First Nations culture be in The Long Dark, if at all?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Hello, thanks for the question. We actually have a major character with a First Nations background. We'll be talking more about that later.

What are your tv/film/book/game influences for the dystopian future genre and will they come through in your game?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Books: The Road, The Dog Stars, The Earth Abides, and many others... TV: Jericho, The Walking Dead, British TV with 90-minute episodes... Flim: The Road, The Edge, Into the Wild, Ultimate Warrior, so many great post-ap and post-disaster films from the 70s and onward...

1)Will there be a viewable character model which changes with the collection/acquiring and use of different gear?

2)Will there be a limit to the amount of stuff we can carry in game so players are forced to choose what to take and what to leave behind?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Hey Logan!

1) Yes, this will be in your Survival Diary.

2) Yes, you will have an inventory and how much stuff you can carry will be impacted by other factors like your level of fatigue, general condition, etc.

Above you state that a safe house is a possibility, perhaps you could give the players the option to store items in their safe house but maybe add a chance of other survivors (NPCs) raiding the house while you are away as a consequence.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Logan -- yeah, that's the idea. We're wary of making the safehouses feel too "unsafe", because the player needs somewhere to lay low now and then, but we're still exploring these ideas. You'll definitely be able to store supplies and gear in your Safehouse, as well as other Supply Drops/Caches along the way.

How has the adjustment been coming from AAA teams with shared responsibilities to being entirely responsible for your own discipline as well as wearing all the extra hats that come with starting a new studio?

Dave Chan - Hinterland Studio: Well, the audio department in most companies, even the big ones, is relatively small in comparison to other disciplines. So, I am used to wearing a lot of hats. On Knights of the Old Republic I was a producer, content maker and implementer. However, the biggest difference here is that Raph runs the studio very flatly and democratically and takes input on pretty well everything from all of us.

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: For me, switching from AAA to a small independent team has been very refreshing. I can't see myself going back to AAA ever again, to be honest.

One thing I particularly like is that I get to code all the time!

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: I think we can all answer this, maybe slightly differently. Working with a small team is very rewarding on many levels. You are more dependent on each other which makes it all that much more important that everyone is really good at what they do. This is why I love what I do. The team is amazing. :)

Will the character have a permanent "camp" or "home" in the game, or will it be a more nomadic experience where you just sleep where you find a safe place?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: You will have a safe house but you might have to change it at times based on progress or world events.

Any idea how big the game world will be? Will there be a potential to get lost in it? What navigation aids will you include: map, compass, signage, etc?

I'm an early backer of your game and really hope you reach your goal. Love the idea of exploring a post-apocalyptic world in a virtual version of my own country!

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: We're going for as much in-game navigation as possible, putting the onus on the player to learn to read the environment. We won't be using the minimap for navigation. Compass, in-world map updated by hand with info you find in the world, stars, landmarks, hobo signs, etc. Not sure how big the world will be yet, as big as we can make it with the resources we have.

Have any of you ever played the old DOS game Wilderness: A Survival Adventure? I get a lot of vibes from The Long Dark that make seem very similar.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Nope, haven't played it. Sounds like we should!

Hey guys, i'm one of the game programmers at Hellbent games. Just wanted to say that your work looks super impressive and I really hope this kicks off and does well. It seems to be something that everyone secretly wants, there just hasn't been much talk about it until now. Although there's been a lot of talk about this game here lately (also helps that a bunch of our devs know Dave Chan). Keep up the great work =D

Dave Chan - Hinterland Studio: Thanks so much for your support. Chris and Steven are great guys and have really been spreading the word about our project. It means a lot that so many other developers are rallying behind us. It shows there is an appetite for original content out there.

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How did you come up with the idea of doing a post-disaster game with no zombies? That seems so far out of left field and out-of-the-box. Is the market ready for such a radical idea?

A more serious question, what are you doing with the survival aspect to give it depth?

Is there any RPG (stats) or management (rebuild a colony) to this game?

Some of what I enjoy in a survival game (like Minecraft) is creating a home base from which to explore and recuperate. Will there be anything like this? Not a voxel-like crafting system, but having existing buildings that can serve such purposes. Find an abandoned factory and sleep in one of the offices or something.

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: The no zombies thing was about trying to be different and take a fresh approach to the post-disaster setting.

We will have crafting and would like to include a safehouse customization element to the game as well. Love the idea of the abandoned factory!

Hello! Will there be much of a hunting element to the game, a la Red Dead Redemption? I'm curious about the various methods of 'resource capture' that are available to the player; will it be mostly passive (e.g. foraging, salvage?) or will there be the likes of hunting? Fishing?

Also, how persistent will the world be? Will the player be able to create their own persistent 'landmarks', carve signage into trees etc. to help them retrace steps and aid with navigation? Will e.g. cadavers/dead animals stay where they fall?

Raphael van Lierop - Hinterland Studio: Re: Hunting -- yes, there will be hunting in the game. I think Foraging and Salvage are are pretty active ways of getting resources, too. :)

Re: Persistence -- good question. We intend to make the game as persistent as time and technology will allow.

On very semi-related note to the above questions, will foot prints in the snow be visible?

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: Hey Logan -- yes, foot prints (from the player and other survivors/wildlife) will be visible in the snow. They will fade over time.

To build on the persistent world question, will things change while the player is not in the game a la State of Decay?

Alan Lawrance - Hinterland Studio: We are not planning to have persistent simulation a la State of Decay. As the tech director, I feel comfortable saying we'll have persistent cadavers/dead animals, and persistent dropped items.

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