First off, we’re so happy about the overwhelmingly positive support you’ve given us for The Long Dark and our Kickstarter campaign. Your support and word of mouth is driving this campaign! Thank you.
Many of you have asked for more specific details about gameplay, so we thought now would be a good time to break down the game’s Survival Simulation for you.
As a simulation, there are many individual systems that interact with each other to create an interesting environment for you to play in. For example:
Time of Day: ToD is dynamic which means the day progresses as you play. A day of game time corresponds to a certain amount of actual playing time. Conditions during the day and night are different. For example, at night time, temperature drops suddenly and certain types of wildlife are more active, making it more difficult to be outside. You’ll want to find shelter before it gets dark!
Weather: Weather conditions can change, going from clear sunny (or starry) skies, to windy conditions with low visibility, to quiet blizzards, etc. Travelling in these conditions has an impact on movement speed, wear and tear on gear, caloric output, and visibility or audibility of the environment. For example, you are less likely to hear an animal stalking you in the middle of a windy clearing.
Wildlife: The location, travel patterns, and behaviour of wildlife is completely dynamic. Also, different types of wildlife have different behaviour parameters, and their behaviour can change depending on their state. For example, a wolf in a pack is more brazen than one that’s alone. A wounded bear will behave differently than one grazing, unmolested. Certain bird calls can indicate a nearby predator, or the presence of a nest. Learn to read the wildlife if you want to survive.
Survivors: Many NPC (Non-Player Character) Survivors, like animals, spawn in random locations in the world, which means you never know when you will crest a hill or open an abandoned cabin and encounter a Survivor. Please note that story-specific NPCs will most often be placed in specific locations, in order for us to be able to ensure maximum impact when you encounter them.
In addition to these dynamic “Living World” elements, there are all the player-side aspects of the Survival Simulation, including:
Calorie Burn: This is the total number of Calories you have “burned” over the course of a given day, tallied on short regular intervals. If you don’t take in enough Calories (by eating food) to meet or exceed your Calorie Burn, you will begin to lose health and endurance (Condition). You need to eat to survive, and if you don’t have enough food, you have to govern your energy carefully to make sure you can survive.
Warmth: You need to keep your body warm otherwise bad things begin to happen to you. The right clothing can protect you from the cold -- warm parkas, layers of wool, good footwear, etc. If you get too cold, it becomes harder to complete certain tasks, you become tired more quickly, and eventually it begins to affect your overall Condition. During very cold periods, particularly at night, you’ll need to make sure you have the right clothing to travel, and a good sense of where you can stop for shelter and to warm up if needed.
Thirst: You can live without food for weeks, but you’ll die of thirst in three days. You need water to survive. But you’re surrounded by snow, right? So water isn’t a concern. Except that it is. Eat too much snow to gain water, and you’ll lower your body temperature to the point of hypothermia, and eventually death. You need to collect water, store it, and maintain reliable sources of good-quality water. Sometimes, out of desperation, you might take a chance on a bad source of water, and end up poisoned. Water is a constant concern.
Condition: This refers to your general physical health, and is impacted by things like injuries, illness, poison, etc. Condition in turn modifies attributes like Endurance (how much energy can you expend before you need to rest?) and Encumberance (how much can you carry in your inventory before your movement speed is affected?).
Fatigue: You can eat all day long to maintain your Calorie supply, but at some point everyone needs to sleep. The longer you put off Rest, the more Fatigued you become. At some point, Fatigue begins to affect your ability to employ skills, handle gear and weaponry, etc.
Besides all that, you have three main ways of overcoming obstacles in the world:
Supplies & Gear: Gathering the right supplies and gear can make the difference between life and death. You have to explore the world to find the things you need to survive. You also need to maintain and repair gear to make sure it lasts as long as possible. And sometimes, you need to craft things from scratch, using raw materials and your wits!
Survival Skills: Skills like First Aid, Gear Repair, Animal Dressing, Lock Picking, etc. are all part of how you overcome challenges in the world. Some skills also require specialized gear to work, for example, you need First Aid supplies to be able to use your First Aid skills to deal with an injury.
Direct Actions: Some actions are direct, in-game actions by the player employing their own skills. For example, firing a hunting rifle at a deer in the distance, or cracking a safe to see what it inside. These actions can include a Gear or Skill component (for example, you can’t pick a lock without a lockpick, and if your Lock Picking skill is too low there might be complex locking mechanisms that are beyond your ability to attempt), but the actual action of picking the lock would be under direct player control, and therefore involves the players own skill, patience, and determination.
There's lots more to say about each of those things, but that's probably a good starting point.
Simulations require a greater degree of investment and determination on the part of a player than, say, a more scripted linear experience. We're asking you to think. The Long Dark will not spoon-feed you content. You will have to go out into the world and to a large degree, figure it out. There is no manual. But, our goal is to create a compelling environment to be in so that investing time and energy into the game will return the reward of player mastery and a sense of accomplishment. And you'll want to keep coming back.
Also, as a game, we need to balance the desire to create a deep simulation, with the desire to create an experience that "feels good" to play. This means balancing it and presenting these mechanics in such a way that they are fun. Sometimes that means we will sacrifice a bit of realism to make the gameplay more interesting. We think that's a fair trade-off.
Layered on top of this Survival Simulation is the game’s Survival Story, which is comprised of Episodes of Stories unified by cohesive storylines and narrative themes. We’ll be getting into more details about those aspects of the game in later updates.
Thanks for reading, and we hope this has helped answer some questions about how the survival gameplay in The Long Dark will work!
The Hinterland Team