As most of our readers certainly know, Polish developer Techland released Dying Light 2: Stay Human in early 2022. The long awaited sequel was quite successful right away, and the developer promised to enhance it with a ton of new content and features for at least five years after launch, just like they did with the original game.
So far, they seem to have kept their word, releasing many updates throughout 2022 and 2023. Today, Dying Light 2 players are getting a new (and free) Winter Tales update that adds a holiday event, polearm weapons, nocturnal weapons, new enemy variants, new finishers, and more. You can read the whole changelog for update 1.14 here.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Franchise Director Tymon Smektala for nearly an hour, going into the nitty-gritty of this new update, the past ones released this year, and most importantly, what’s coming next to this popular first-person action RPG zombie game in 2024 and beyond.
Tymon, what was 2023 like for the Techland team working on Dying Light 2?
We set a lot of quite ambitious goals at the beginning of it because we promised our community that we would focus and work on the core features of the game. The Night experience, the Parkour, the combat, and we’d make all those features even better than they were at the release.
I think it’s safe to say that we are very strong in those three fields. This is what makes Dying Light. But we wanted to make sure that we really put a stamp on that and excel in all possible cases and areas when it comes to parkour, first-person melee combat, and the night experience.
We did a few updates that focused on those areas and all of them were very successful. We started with the anniversary celebrations in January, but then we moved on to a combat update, which increased the brutality and the physicality of our combat. Then, the next big update was focused on parkour and night changes, and both of those were received extremely positively by our community, including new players. We saw a visible increase in player ratings and sentiment on Steam. We went from about 80% to 90% in the last 30 days. It was a very visible kind of payoff for this year of hard work.
Another big thing that we have managed to achieve in the second half of the year is that we have confirmed our promise to work on Dying Light 2 for five years and deliver new content, features, and improvements. In September, we announced our plans for Fall and Winter. We are in the middle of delivering everything that we have promised to our players.
Our first big update from this batch was released about a month and a half ago. With Community Update 3, we focused on features that our community requested. Again, it was extremely well received, I think even better than the previous ones because we directly focused on requests from the Dying Light 2 community, proving we very much believe in collaborative community-driven development.
Now, we are releasing our next update from the Fall-Winter roadmap. This will be slightly smaller than the previous one, but still, it will bring a very cool holiday-themed event and some new features, enemies, weapons, and gameplay mechanics.
Obviously, we are also gearing up for the second anniversary of the game, which will happen in late January. It’s something that we are very excited about. I think this is going to be another big one for Dying Light 2, as it looks to be quite chunky.
Overall, 2023 was a great year. Actually, it was quite tiresome because even talking about this made me catch my breath a little. It was a lot. We haven’t had much time to go to the beach somewhere in the Bahamas. But that’s the life of a game developer. You don’t do that much sun lounging. You just make games. That’s our passion, so that’s what we do and what makes us happy.
I can imagine. For the update that’s dropping today, you mentioned some new mechanics. Can you talk about that a bit?
I think the most important aspect of the next update is actually the holiday event since the game will change a lot for the duration of a few weeks. Because it’s a Winter holiday event, players can expect snowfalls, and where there are snowfalls, there are also snowballs. Players will be able to have snowball fights, throwing snowballs at each other and also at the infected.
We introduced a bunch of new enemies that are themed around Winter festivities, so expect our take on Santa Claus. We also introduced something that I think will be very exciting for our players, which is we have invited Santa Claus to the city and he will be performing drops with some sweet loot inside.
The event is obviously a limited-time activity. Aside from that, there’s also content that will stay in Dying Light 2, such as the two new weapon types. We are introducing polearms, which give you a long reach. On the flip side, they have a slower animation, so you have to be able to be more tactical in how you approach situations. They also have a very nice power attack poking move.
Another one is nocturnal weapons. These are weapons that are created for you to use during the night. As long as you use them during the night, you get some additional benefits. They provide buffs against specific enemies. I think this is a very nice tool, especially for the end-game players who would like to maximize their damage output and their gameplay styles.
We are also introducing some new enemy variants. I don’t want to spoil all of them, but my favorite is a guy who carries this big tank of liquid. It is a substance that freezes everything around him. If you hit the tank, the substance starts leaking and you are able to freeze enemies around him. It’s a nice new tool that you can use tactically in combat. There will be a few additional features, but I’ll leave players something to discover as well.
Some of the biggest additions still coming to Dying Light 2 are firearms. Do you have an ETA for them?
It’s coming in one of the next updates. We have announced our roadmap for Fall and Winter. Firearms are also there, so they are a part of this batch of features.
We are in the middle of releasing everything on the roadmap, then the rest will need to happen within the time frame we set. Looking at the calendar, it’s not far away from now.
That goes for Tower Raids, too?
Yeah, everything that’s in the roadmap is scheduled for the same time frame. I don’t want to say any specific dates because we want to make sure that all of those features are polished to the level that we are happy to release them, but all of them are working internally. We just need to distribute them around the updates that we have planned for that time frame.
We are also planning to celebrate our second anniversary with something really nice for our Dying Light 2 players. The anniversary will be big. Anyway, as I said, the whole time frame is until the end of Winter, so we still have some time, but not that much. Players won’t have long to wait for those features.
Just a follow-up question on firearms since they are such a big addition to the game. Did you strive to make it balanced compared to other weapons?
Of course. Dying Light’s DNA is melee weapons. I think this is something that we could say we almost mastered, especially when you look at the games with melee combat from the first-person perspective. But obviously, we understand why players want to use guns in an open world game and why players want to use guns in a game with zombies.
A part of the zombie fantasy is that you have a shotgun, a pistol, or a rifle and you just use those weapons against those monsters. We understand why we need this delivered.
We are still fine-tuning the balance, but I think we got it quite right. It’s something that we already managed to pull off when we were working on 981, which was also a mainly melee-based weapon game that also had firearms.
There are a couple of approaches that we can use. The first one is obviously looking at the damage numbers, the fire ratio, and the reload times. Those elements can be used to make firearms balanced.
But we have also had the noise mechanic since the beginning of the franchise. We are using this to create this very organic but extremely well-balanced game where if you shoot a gun, it may be more powerful than just swinging a machete, but then this gun also makes noise.
So, you can shoot once, you can shoot twice. But if you’re shooting a salvo of bullets, then you make so much noise that you get the zombies’ attention around you, they get to your location, and suddenly you start feeling overwhelmed by them.
The firearms still give you an advantage, so you can try to fight with them, but then you make even more noise, creating even bigger pressure on you. We are actually very happy with how this is balanced. But as I said, we are fine-tuning the balance. We are running internal play tests within the company. We are inviting players to play all of the features that we are releasing. We get feedback from them. We are just kinda turning the knobs to make sure that everything is perfectly tuned and balanced.
Perhaps one of the ways to balance firearms is also to make ammunition scarce.
Oh yeah, obviously, that’s another tool that we can use. But we don’t want to make ammunition to scars because then what would be the reason for getting guns if you can’t shoot them because you don’t have ammo? I don’t want players to worry that we’ll give them guns, but we won’t give them ammo for those guns.
We want to be very considerate about the economic balance for ammo. We want to get to the feeling that you can use guns, you have access to ammo, but there is never an overabundance of it. So you can’t just shoot kind of mindlessly at everything. We want you to be reasonably considerate about when you use those guns. At the same time, the goal is not to give players just three shotgun shells every half an hour. Guns are fun. If players want to have access to guns and if they want to shoot guns, then we should give them ways to do that.
This is a balance tool for us. But I think a more interesting one is the noise mechanic because it really creates a lot of additional emergent gameplay in every place on the map. Recently we have introduced a bunch of new infected that have some additional effects on them, like the Freezing Guy.
Imagine that if we spawn those types of guys at you when you are using guns, then suddenly you can really get into a situation where you are overwhelmed, but you have some additional options that you can use.
If the freezing guy comes at you and you shoot him first, then he freezes the other guys so you can use that to escape. It creates a lot of very interesting situations that are better than players just looking at their gun and wondering, should I shoot? Of course, we’ll have that. But I don’t expect us to be very, very stingy with the amount of ammo that we give to players.
Can you say if Dying Light 2 players will be able to craft ammo or not once firearms have been introduced?
No decision yet. It’s very easy for us to create a blueprint for ammo. I don’t want to say this right now because this is also part of the balancing process. We are considering both options.
I think the core source of ammo will be scavenging. But then maybe, at some point, we’ll introduce an ability to craft ammo as well. But obviously, we’ll try to connect this with some specific gameplay activities that will give you resources that you will be able to use to craft ammo. We want to have control over the distribution of ammo because yes, you’re right with those questions, there’s a possibility that if we give too much, players will just go mindlessly shooting at everything, which would kill the survivor vibe of the game. We don’t want to be overabundant but also not too scarce.
Fair enough. Taking a quick step back, as you said, the reaction to your Dying Light 2 2023 updates has been very, very good, great even, but there was a bit of a setback when you introduced the Dying Light Points. Part of the community didn’t take it too well. What happened there?
I think all of us understand and we also understood that introducing anything related to monetization or virtual currency will be met with some kind of pushback from the community. It’s a kind of reaction that happens almost automatically from players because they don’t know if they can trust the developer, they don’t know if they can trust the tactics behind the Dying Light Points.
For us, it’s very important to keep the relationship with the community very strong and very open, and as I said at the beginning, very collaborative. I think we have managed to convince our players that there’s no wrongdoing. There are no sneaky plans on our side in regard to the Dying Light Points. It’s just a way to make purchases more convenient for them because they can do it from the game. It is also more convenient and more effective for us.
We also have achieved some additional functionalities in-game that wouldn’t be possible on third-party stores like Microsoft Store, PlayStation Store, or Steam. You can preview the items that you’re buying. You can see how they will look, you can read precisely what the effects will be.
Yes, the initial response was, hey, what are you doing, guys? Especially since we were on this run of very good updates that were focused on adding new game features, and suddenly this, so it was also a surprise for players. After some time, they realized that there was no bad intention on our side.
I referenced Steam reviews earlier. We took a hit there and it was very visible. But after maybe three weeks, it actually started getting up and as I said, right now, it’s way bigger than it was at the beginning of the year. It was a bump on the road that we had expected. It was a bump on the road that was probably inevitable. However, it was important for us to organize the access to additional content better and more effectively. We took the risk; we were aware of what would happen.
But I think the community has already accepted this as a part of Dying Light 2, especially since anything available in our in-game store is just optional. It’s not required to enjoy the game. Actually, we give out a lot of vanity items of the same type for free. We have a habit of doing events where you can win some of those vanity items. as well as some of those cosmetics.
But if you don’t succeed in the event, if you don’t want to participate in it, if you want to have a shortcut to just buy that stuff, you can also do that. I think, in the end, that’s something that players very much appreciate and accept. It’s just an alternative for those who want more out of the system.
I’ve noticed that you made a lot of Dying Light 2 collaborations this year.
Yes. For us, it was something new that we wanted to try. We did The Walking Dead, For Honor, Payday, and Vampire: The Masquerade. All of those collaborations have been quite interesting projects for us. I think it also allowed us to open up a little bit more to other developers and also get a lot of positive feedback and energy from them because we realized that Dying Light has a lot of fans in the industry as well. It’s something that will continue moving forward.
But definitely, we learned from all of the experiences that we had this year. I think we’ll probably do fewer crossovers but bigger in scope, like even more interesting for players with a little bit more investment on our side as well. They will be these beefy, interesting crossover events.
We have some quite cool ideas already lined up, discussing with some developers of legendary games. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make those things happen come true. If they happen, we’ll focus on them even more to make sure that we maximize their potential.
I’ve also got a few questions from the Dying Light 2 community. For example, some people would like to know if you plan to add entirely new zombie types, like brand-new models.
I don’t want to confirm anything. I don’t want to say what will happen and when. But as I said, we promise that we will support the game for five years.
We are just in year two, so you can imagine that over the next three years, there will be some new enemies, some of them completely new, but again, nothing to confirm at this point. Stay tuned, but you can expect good things from us.
Something else they’ve asked is whether you could add more flashlight options and generally improve the lighting.
We are continuously improving our lighting tech. In a game that’s called Dying Light, you really need to make sure that your lighting tech is as good as possible, so we are doing that. In one of the next updates, we will implement a slight overhaul of the whole lighting system, so I think there will be visible improvements in the way the game looks, including in the dark when using the flashlight.
At one point, we had some crazy ideas about maybe changing the cone of flashlights so it’s not always a circle. Maybe you can do like a Batman sign or any other sign. That idea has actually been circulating in the office for quite some time. Usually, if we have something like a small but cool idea that people keep repeating for some time, it just happens at some point.
In general, lighting is very important for us, we are working on this constantly in an attempt to make the tech more optimized in terms of performance while improving the quality. In one of the next Dying Light 2 updates, there will be an additional set of very visible changes in that regard.
Is this going to be a new ray tracing feature on PC?
I don’t want to spill any beans, apologies. Something will happen. For us, it’s a part of a continuous process. Whatever will be released in that update, there will probably be something else even further down the line.
Will players ever get to see Elysium?
Keep your fingers crossed. Again, nothing to announce at this moment. We know this is a kind of a dream, a topic that keeps repeating itself in conversations within the community. It’s something that we also discuss internally, but again, nothing to confirm yet.
Of course, one of the big things coming to the game next year is the second DLC. Is there anything you can share about it?
Right now, we are focusing on the Winter updates. The one that’s out today, then the anniversary, then the whole roadmap for the rest of Winter. When we’re ready to talk about DLC 2, then we’ll be way more open about it than we are right now. We just don’t want to reveal it too early. We want to surprise players in a good way.
But I think we have already proven to our players that we are very open to feedback. When the time is right, we’ll definitely invite them into the world of DLC 2 and we’ll be keeping our ears open to whatever they will have to say on the topic.
Do you plan to expand the city of Dying Light 2 with new areas and locations?
Probably, it’s possible. I think this is an obvious direction for us to go at some point. We have already announced that DLC 2 will have a new location. We also did a new location, albeit smaller, for DLC 1 (Bloody Ties). So yes, players can expect that the playable space of Dying Light 2 as a whole will grow.
Will you introduce more building diversity designs for interiors or exteriors?
Yes, we’ll make an effort to add even more personality and uniqueness to our interiors and exteriors. We plan to do that at some point in the future. That’s the most I can say without any date, but it’s something that’s on our list.
Do you have any changes coming to Legend levels?
With the last update, we introduced the re-spec option. If players don’t like how they spread their points, they are already able to redistribute them. Legend levels are also something that we are constantly monitoring and trying to find the correct balance between various sources of those points. We are still analyzing the data coming from the game. We are trying to find the best spot to make the Legend points accessible, cool to get and also to give you cool benefits.
Did you consider introducing some brand new game modes?
We had some discussions that maybe we could introduce a new mode, which could be called Your Game mode, where you can tweak values and just have some fun in the sandbox of Dying Light. That feels quite interesting, but no solid plan to introduce something like that in the future.
Going back to what you released recently, in September, you launched mods for consoles. What was the reception like from console users?
As you can imagine, it’s new stuff to play. It was received very positively. Quite soon we will be releasing some global data coming from the game. There’s a direct answer to your question there.
For now, I’ll say players have spent a lot of hours in those community maps. Obviously, some of them are better than others, which is a given since it is content generated by users. Not everyone has the same amount of dedication to bump the quality of those maps, but there are some extremely interesting maps, very creative and well put together.
We really do see this as an important part of Dying Light 2. We want to put some effort into making those community maps even more visible in-game and outside of the game to promote the best content creators. Also, we are increasing the amount of mod support so players will be able to use not just maps but maybe some other modes as well. We are constantly adding new assets for community map creators to use. Just recently, we have added all of the 3D objects from Dying Light 1. Recently, we have also added some assets from our other zombie game. We also thinking about adding some new assets on a quite regular basis. The library that can be used by community map creators will be growing.
Next year, we’ll actually want to focus on those maps even more and help them really take off, becoming an equally important part of the experience as the core game. It’s already very, very good. Some of the maps are great, they have the atmosphere, the balance, the difficulty. They are comparable to some classic Dying Light moments. Some of them are crazy about what they do. There is a sci-fi-like map there as well.
It’s really surprising what those creators are able to pull off. We are also very active in helping them do better maps. Last month, we did a workshop in our studio. We have invited a group of creators into our office to work with some of the people from the community maps team and the tools team to increase their skills in using those tools.
It’s an important part of our game and also a testament to our dedication to the collaborative development that we have with our community.
Are you going to improve the Dying Light 2 mod tools based on the creators’ feedback?
Yeah, we have a constant feedback loop. We have this creators club where they have their own communication channels, we have developers on our side who work just on the tools. They focus just on this, and they talk with creators all the time.
We also help them to solve some of the technical problems because some of the ideas they have are extremely cool but may not be so easy to pull off because of the technical limitations.
It’s a constant work from both sides, something that we are very proud of and that I think is very beneficial to the quality of those maps.
Do you see Dying Light 2 possibly getting a whole community-made expansion, like those modders create for Bethesda games?
Why not? This is something that is like a long-term goal for this, but it all depends on whether the creators will stay with us and be interested in doing something like this.
But as I said, we really spent a lot of effort, resources, and time into making sure that the mod tools are effective and don’t limit your imagination. We can see that more and more creators are appreciating and acknowledging this and just making great maps using our tools.
Something that’s made the news rounds recently is the biggest developer in terms of modding, Bethesda, reintroducing paid mods to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (the most modded game of all time). There is a bit of a controversy right now because some modders support this change while others feel strongly against it. What’s your perspective? Should modders be able to ask for payment for their work, or should all mods just be free?
I think the final shape of this collaboration will be shaped by what will happen on the market and in the industry, by the various interactions from studios like Bethesda or us with their creators. I think that modders are actually putting a lot of effort and a lot of time into making those maps; this is hard work. They should be able to do it if they want.
I can also imagine that someone will always want to do this just for fun, just for their own satisfaction and sense of achievement. But if they want and if they opt to do this, there should be a way for them to get rewarded for that financially.
I don’t think there is one golden formula for this that’s already been accepted and that will work for everyone. I can’t say we have something like this as well. But I think that this is the direction in which the whole idea of user-generated content will go and I hope that we will be able to identify and understand those trends effectively and quickly so Dying Light 2 can also build on the relationship that we have already created with our creators.
If you look at Roblox or even Fortnite recently, content creators are being paid to create stuff. It doe appear to be the future. Switching gears on another big topic in the industry, generative AI, did you discuss potentially using it?
We are in a transformative moment for the industry, like generally for the whole world, to be honest, because I think AI has the potential to change basically everything that happens around us. So, why wouldn’t it change games? So far, we are quite cautious about using AI in what we do. We have a great team of amazing specialists.
It’s safe to say that we trust our developers and their experience, as well as the human sense that they bring more than any algorithm. But I also think there’s no escaping this; it will change game development and life generally when AI becomes more effective and is present everywhere. We are observing what’s happening in this field with great curiosity and focus. I don’t think we’ll hurry into any solutions here just by ourselves.
I think we’ll just observe what’s going to happen and then we’ll act on it. I think that’s the best answer I can give.
Fair enough. Do you have anything else to share today with the Dying Light 2 community?
We want to take things slow and step by step. The most important thing for us is the Winter update released today. This is the thing that we focused on. It brings a great event and some additional features. It’s a kinda complete holiday package for our players, something nice for them to enjoy at the end of the year. Now we’ll move into the anniversary, which I hope will be bigger than last year, which was actually very successful for us. For the next year, players can again expect surprises from us and a lot of good stuff.
I think we’ll be able to continue on the community-driven aspects of our work because it’s very important for us. It improves our understanding of what players want from Dying Light 2.
I will also use this opportunity to thank our community for being active, for being vocal about the game, for telling us what they like but also what they don’t like about the game, and what they would like to see improved. We are moving into the third year of a bigger plan for Dying Light 2 support. I hope it’s going to be even bigger than the second one. We are in good shape and sentiment. Basically, let’s do this. I think that that’s the message for the end of the interview.
Thank you so much for the conversation and for your time.
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