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THE LONG DARK is a first-person post-disaster survival experience set in the Northern wilderness. How far will you go to survive?
THE LONG DARK is a first-person post-disaster survival experience set in the Northern wilderness. How far will you go to survive?
6,966 backers pledged CA$ 256,217 to help bring this project to life.

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Dev Diary - March 2019

Posted by Hinterland (Creator)
28 likes

Hello community,

The team’s been hard at work since the holidays, which we used to recover from finaling the massive December “Redux” release, and it’s time to update you on some of the things we’ve been doing in the meantime.


EPISODE THREE


The team’s been working hard on Episode Three this year. We’d started work on it in 2018 and then put it aside to finish up Redux and work through all the tech and pipeline improvements we wanted to use for the remaining Episodes of WINTERMUTE. One of the first things we did after coming back from the holidays was re-evaluate our plans for Episode Three scope based on the lessons we’d learned from building and shipping Redux. 

A key lesson there was the importance of having enough gameplay and narrative content to “fill the space” of the game, to avoid the feeling of senseless backtracking or the world just feeling too empty, as it sometimes did in the 2017 Episode Two and Three release. Building Redux provided a fresh perspective on how to better balance our narrative and survival experiences, as well as how to better write for narrative flow in our open-world survival experience. These key learnings let us review our plans for Episode Three to ensure we would hopefully avoid making some of the same mistakes we’d made in the original 2017 releases, which we weren’t super happy with (and nor were many of you). Based on how we feel Redux turned out, and how you also seem to feel about the improvements, we’re confident we’re on a much stronger path now.

Building Redux also showed us that the “ideal length” for a WINTERMUTE episode is about 5-7 hours. This gives us enough time to present a few interesting story threads, some compelling open-world survival gameplay, and enough narrative momentum to keep the story moving. It’s also an amount of content that feels substantial -- these aren’t throw-away one or two-hour experiences -- but they are compact enough that you can finish them in a weekend if you like. 

In our original planning, we had considered building the episode around three major story “hubs”, each in a different region, but that episode would have ended up being larger than Episodes One and Two combined, and amount of content that just isn’t sustainable for our team size. Just the testing on an episode that big would be a hugely daunting task, nevermind populating it with enough interesting narrative and mission content to “fill the space”. The Redux knowledge has helped us focus Episode Three down to a tighter experience that takes place in a single region.


Therefore, Episode Three is the story of Astrid’s survival after escaping Milton, and takes place entirely in Pleasant Valley. As you probably know, Pleasant Valley is a *huge* region, with a lot of scope for interesting environments and some great story moments. We’ve been updating the region to freshen it up for the story, while adding some new landmarks and locations that are introduced in Episode Three. I’m really excited about how it’s all coming together, particularly in how true to Astrid’s character and background the episode is.
 

COMMUNICATING FUTURE RELEASE DATES

As you know, hitting publicly announced release dates has never been our strong suit. 

As an independent studio without a huge marketing machine behind us, we count on our relationship with our community to be positive so that you’ll help us spread the word about the work we’re doing. We know we harm this relationship when we promise to deliver things to you and then, for whatever reason, they fail to happen.

Unfortunately, project planning and game development as a whole is not an exact science, and while we are ready to work really hard to hit our goals, I’m not willing to crunch my team to do so. In order to be more fair to the community, and also more fair to the development team, I think the best approach for us is to refrain from offering any more public release dates. 

So, moving forward, we won’t publish release dates around any of our content, whether that be full Episodes or Survival Mode updates. We’ll keep working towards internal deadlines, of course, but we won’t share news on when we plan to ship updates until those updates are essentially finished. That way, when you hear a release date from us, you know it will happen.
 

SPLITTING THE TEAM

One of the things we’ve been working towards this year, with the development team, is hiring enough people with the right skills to be able to create two separate teams -- one to focus on Survival, and the other to focus on Story. We’ve made some great progress towards that goal and we’re getting very close to having all the people we need to accomplish that. Once we’re there, it’ll become easier for us to make consistent progress in both areas of the game, so that we can ensure a more steady supply of free Survival updates, as well as ensuring the Episodes get the resources they need. We still have a few positions to hire for to have full redundancy across both teams, but I’m hopeful we’ll get there within the next few months. If you know any great developers with experience crafting memorable and award-winning interactive experiences, please send them to our careers page!
 

SURVIVAL MODE UPDATE

Last year, we put a ton of effort into Redux and solidifying our foundation for the future Episodes, so this year we’re working to get back on track with producing more frequent Survival Mode updates. To that end, we’re working on a bunch of new features and content for the 2019 Survival releases. As per my earlier point about release dates, we won’t be sharing any tentative release windows for the next Survival release, but I will say that we’ve already done a fair bit of work on the new systems and content that will comprise the core of the next free update.


A few things we’re working on for the next Survival update include:

  • Adding the Revolver to Survival Mode.
  • Overhaul of the aiming mechanics for the Rifle, Bow, etc., to do a better job of integrating Fatigue and the breathing cycle, and making aiming less frustrating.
  • Adding a new Food item.
  • Adding a new Clothing item.
  • Fixing the Sprains system.
  • ...and more!

One feature I can confidently say *will not* be added in the next Survival update is the Bear Spear. This has turned out to be much more challenging to integrate well into the core Survival experience, so we’re taking a bit more time with it to make sure it’s a solid and promising addition to the Survival toolbox. It will eventually make its way into Survival mode, but it won’t be ready for the next update. And speaking of the Spear, we know that some of you [SPOILERS!] have been finding the Spear gameplay in Episode Two to be quite frustrating, particularly the last section in the Bear Cave, so we’re working on improving that. We’re also hard at work on a new Survival region, but that won’t be ready until (most likely) the update *after* the next one. 

As you know we always like to keep a few surprises in our back pocket, but everything will be outlined in detail in the traditional Update Video we launch on update day. If you aren’t already doing so, it’s not a bad idea to subscribe to the Hinterland YouTube channel so you get notified when the update video goes live.


MOTION-CAPTURE SPACE


In a previous dev diary I mentioned that we’d been able to get our hands on the motion-capture gear from Capcom Vancouver’s now closed dev studio. We’ve been using the equipment and we thought you might like to catch a glimpse of the current set-up; this image is from the camera test we did to check out 18 of the 36 cameras. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space in our current studio to set up all the cameras, but we’re looking for some overflow space so that we can set up all 36. In the short term, we’re going to remove the built-in desks and set up the gear in-house so that the animation team can very quickly and easily iterate on narrative scenes or gameplay animation in support of our Survival and Story goals. The animators whipped up this simple little animation to show you how well it works -- all told this took about an hour or so to shoot and integrate. It’s only a quick test and obviously not something we’d ever ship, but it’s fun as a proof of concept and, let’s face it, Jeremiah has some sweet moves worth sharing.




NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION


We get a lot of questions about when The Long Dark will be brought to the Nintendo Switch. As you may know, we spent some time last year trying to get the game up and running on Switch devkits and ran into a lot of performance issues. 

The latest version of Unity -- which we’ll be rolling out as part of our next Survival update -- does offer some performance improvements (which should also make the Xbox and PlayStation versions of the game run more smoothly), but we still don’t find the Switch performance to be at an acceptable level yet. We’re going to keep working on it alongside our other priorities, but I want to set reasonable expectations around this -- not every game can run well on the Switch, and if we’re not able to get The Long Dark running at a level of performance and visual quality that I’m happy with, we won’t be shipping it. All that said, I’m still hopeful that we can find solutions to the current issues, and we think The Long Dark would be really compelling on this portable platform, so we’re not giving up!

***** 

Thanks for reading this update, and if you’d like to share your thoughts about the contents of this developer diary, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to join the official The Long Dark community, as well as following us on Twitter. If you haven’t already done so, and you’d like to be kept up to date on project announcements outside of general development updates -- for example, sale events, new merchandise, and information about the studio -- please consider signing up for the Hinterland Newsletter. And if you’re interested in more regular, bite-sized responses to community questions, make sure to check out the (almost) weekly Milton Mailbag

See you where we see you!

- Raph

DEV DIARY — NOVEMBER 2018

Posted by Hinterland (Creator)
33 likes

Hinterland Growth, Episode Three Delayed, WINTERMUTE Redux + Survival Mode in December

Hello community,

I have some news and a progress update to share on how things are going with various parts of the game, and the studio. Some of it is good news, some of it will be disappointing. I hope that for the vast majority of you, the news is mostly good.

Jackrabbit Transport
Jackrabbit Transport

Hinterland Growth

Some of you might be clued in to recent industry turmoil and a spate of closures, Telltale being the highest profile of these. A bit lesser known, but really big news for our local Vancouver game dev community, was the complete shutdown of Capcom’s Vancouver studio. About 200 people lost their jobs, and in the weeks following we scrambled to interview people to see if we could help them, and to see how we could build up our own development strength.

Fortunately for us, we already had several ex-Capcom Vancouver people in the studio, so we were able to identify high performers who would fit in to our culture well. As a result of the Capcom situation, along with some other people we were interviewing at the time, we’ve hired six new team members in the last month. This is Hinterland’s most significant growth in the past five years.

One area we were really able to bulk up was animation, which has always been a challenge on this project. Our current animation team of three has been able to do some truly incredible technical and creative work over the past 18 months, but we’ve always been limited on how much content we could produce and that’s held us back in some areas of the project. For example, the decision to ship unvoiced dialogue scenes in the original Episode One and Two. We just couldn’t produce all the animation needed to support full voice over.

For Redux, we adopted some new facial animation technology, and things have improved significantly, to the extent that we’re able to ship Redux Episodes One and Two with full voice-over and fully animated characters. I think this really elevates the quality of the narrative presentation in the game.

Broken-tipped Bear Spear
Broken-tipped Bear Spear

 We were also able to purchase Capcom Vancouver’s nearly new motion capture studio (or the equipment from it anyway). This purchase gives us a 36-camera set-up which will be more than enough to carry us through the next few projects. Having our own motion capture equipment means we no longer have to plan our production around a motion-capture studio’s availability, which will give us a lot more flexibility to shoot, iterate, reshoot, etc.

In addition to the two animators, we also hired two new programmers, a new user interface/visual effects artist, and a new tester. We’re also interviewing additional people who may end up joining us, including some folks from Telltale and other studios that specialize in narrative experiences, all people who’ve been recently let go and are looking for a new home. This is a great opportunity for us to build up our team in anticipation of future work on The Long Dark, and our next game.

This team growth means we’re big enough to seriously consider splitting the current team into two production teams — one focused in WINTERMUTE, and another focused on Survival Mode. We’ve long struggled with trying to produce enough content to keep both Story and Survival sides of the project fully resourced. So I’m feeling pretty hopeful for the future of The Long Dark, and our update progress moving forward. Being able to have two dedicated teams will help ensure we can make more consistent progress in both areas of the game.

Methuselah by the Campfire
Methuselah by the Campfire

Episode Three Delayed

Suddenly having access to all this new development talent and the motion-capture gear makes a huge difference to what we can accomplish in Episode Three. I’ve decided that I’d like to be able to use these new resources — along with the new motion capture equipment — to add more content and polish to Episode Three. This means it won’t be ready for us to ship in December.

There’s not much more to say about that at the moment. I know this will be disappointing.

Episodes One and Two “Redux” for December

This may be bittersweet after the Episode Three delay news, but we’ll be delivering the updated “Redux” versions of Episodes One and Two in December.

While the high-level narrative of these episodes remains the same, the details and the implementation of the missions and narrative content is significantly different from what you played last year. Everything has been re-written, re-recorded, and re-animated. There are also new mission beats that didn’t exist before, things that flesh out the experience and story of WINTERMUTE. In December, you’ll be able to play these Redux episodes and get a great sense of what to expect in Episode Three and beyond, as these now serve as the template for how we’ll approach all our mission and narrative content moving forward.

This also means that with the December “Redux” update, we’ll be deleting your old WINTERMUTE saves. They will no longer be compatible with the game after the update, as so much has changed. So, if you haven’t already started playing WINTERMUTE, we suggest you wait until our December update. And if you really want to finish your current WINTERMUTE playthrough, we recommend you do it soon! If you finished the original Episodes One and Two and want to roll right into Episode Three when it launches, you can also do that, although we hope you’ll go back and experience “Do Not Go Gentle” and “Luminance Fugue” again, as they are much changed and improved since their original iterations.

New Craftable Hat
New Craftable Hat

Survival Mode Update for December

Just so that we don’t leave you without something entirely new to look forward to before the end of 2018, we’re releasing another free update to Survival Mode this December.

I don’t want to spoil the contents yet — that deserves its own dev diary — but I can say the update will include the following: New Craftable Hat, New Challenge Mode, New Condition Buff, some UI fixes, some gameplay tweaks, and general bug fixes as well. There may also be a few other surprises in there, if we can get them finished in time.

Story Mode Save Wipe in December

Remember: we are deleting all current WINTERMUTE saves with our December update.

  • If you are just starting WINTERMUTE and don’t mind waiting a bit, we recommend you wait for December so you can play the revised and much improved Episodes One and Two.
  • If you have an in-progress WINTERMUTE game you’d like to finish before we wipe the save, please finish it soon! Pre-Redux (Predux!) WINTERMUTE saves will not be compatible with the game, post-update.
  • If you completed the original Episodes One and Two, Episode Three will be unlocked for you when it releases.
  • This save wipe has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on Survival Mode games. We will not be wiping those. If you play Survival and don’t care about WINTERMUTE, simply carry on.
Buffer Memories
Buffer Memories

 We’ll release more info about the December Survival Mode update when we get closer to launching it. Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to discuss this dev diary with other members of the community, please jump into the conversation here in our official community forums.

Thanks for reading!

– Raph

The Long Dark Physical Discs - Console

Posted by Hinterland (Creator)
0 Comments
4 likes

For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.

Dev Diary - August 2018

Posted by Hinterland (Creator)
33 likes

Hello community!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for:

EPISODE THREE IS COMING!!!

After a long period of you waiting for news about the next installment in the story of The Long Dark, I’m excited to share the news that Episode Three will release December 2018, along with the “Redux” editions of Episodes One and Two, unveiling a whole new experience of WINTERMUTE, The Long Dark’s story mode.

We’ll be teasing out more Episode Three details in the months ahead, but as a reminder: in Episode Three, you’ll play as Dr. Astrid Greenwood, and the story picks up in the aftermath of the events of Milton, as experienced from Mackenzie’s point of view in Episode One. You’ll meet new survivors, explore a new region, and find out more about the events prior to, and after, the First Flare event that engulfed Great Bear Island -- and perhaps the rest of the world -- into “the long dark”.

EPISODES ONE & TWO “REDUX”

Along with Episode Three, we’ll be releasing the “Redux” editions of Episodes One and Two, which we’ve spent the last year reworking in order to set up a stronger foundation for Episode Three and the remaining parts of the five-episode WINTERMUTE story mode. I talked a bit about the reasoning behind the Redux work in our February Dev Diary. Some of the work that’s gone into the Redux episodes includes:

  • More open and flexible mission structure, reducing the forced linearity of the story missions; this includes restructuring the side missions and making more of the content optional 
  • Whole new playable intro sequence for Episode One 
  • All NPC dialogue is now fully voiced and animated using an entirely new animation system 
  • All dialogue and narrative scenes are now presented in first-person, using an overhauled dialogue UI 
  • New major story elements in both Episodes, including a new NPC 
  • Although the high-level episode story arcs remain as before, almost every story beat, dialogue moment, and mission element has been improved, with about 80% of the dialogue rewritten to accommodate 
  • Removed the Trust system as it contributed to the “fetch questy” feeling of the first two episodes (we plan to repurpose this system for elsewhere in the game) 
  • Completely overhauled Bear Hunt mission and added new gameplay (Episode Two) 
  • Improved tutorial presentation 
  • Improved story UI elements 
  • ...and many other fixes and improvements.

The improvements made in the Redux versions are pretty extensive, and most of them were made based on community feedback, so we hope you’ll go back and replay them before continuing on to Episode Three.

Please note that because so much has changed, in-progress playthroughs of Episode One or Two will be wiped when the Redux versions are released in December. Players who have already completed the original versions of Episodes One and Two and who wish to just continue directly to Episode Three will not be affected by the save wipe. So, if you are in the midst of a WINTERMUTE playthrough and don’t want to lose your progress, you have until December to complete it.

So, to recap: Episode Three, along with the “Redux” versions of Episodes One and Two, will all be releasing together in December!

Between now and December, most of our efforts and communication will be around Episode Three, but even though we may not say much about Survival Mode, we’re not abandoning it -- far from it. We just need to hunker down and focus on Episode Three, to ensure it comes out as strong as it can. That said, we are planning to release a hotfix to Vigilant Flame later this month, to clean up some issues with the updated Cooking system.

Thanks for reading, and as always, to stay abreast of the ongoing updates at Hinterland, please sign up for our newsletter, follow us on social media, and join our excellent community at the Hinterland Forums.

- Raphael

The Long Dark Soundtrack (Digital Edition) Now Available for Backers

Posted by Hinterland (Creator)
9 Comments
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For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.