When Techland set out to make Dying Light, it was meant to be the sequel to their other zombie FPS/FPP, Dead Island. When they realized that the brand new features, massive open world, day & night cycle and design of the zombies were so different, they decided that Dying Light would have to be its own beast.
One of the things people noticed when Techland first presented a glimpse of their their four player co-op zombie apocalypse game at Gamescom in 2014 was that player characters were remarkably skilled in parkour – or natural movement as the developers call it.
This system allowed players to vault over zombies, clamber up walls to get to rooftops to escape them and vault from building to building to reach their objective while avoiding the mindless horde that spilled out of every crevice.
And much like Assassin’s Creed, this system of natural movement appears to be the bread and butter of Dying Light.
In Techland‘s first Dev Diary for the game, subtitled ‘Natural Movement’ the idea in allowing players to engage in vertical and horizontal movement was implemented because they wanted to give FPP (first person perspective) players a break from the more linear type games.
Dying Light‘s producer, Tymon Smektala said that the system was borne out of a want to “create something truly new” which would “surprise gamers around the world”.
“When we took a closer look at other FPP games,” Smektala explained, “we noticed that what they lack is the ability to move freely and seamlessly. We decided we must change it.”
Of course, creating assets that allow players to climb, shimmy, vault, slide and zip line across is never as easy as it sounds. Lead game developer, Maciej Binkowski said that initially, they tried, “placing special objects that let you climb up various structures.”
Unfortunately, even after more than 50,000 of such objects in the game world, it still wasn’t enough.
Realizing that this was a dead end, they had to come up with something new and natural movement, was the evolution of that idea.
As Dying Light is a blend between FPP and RPG, players have tasks and quests to do during the day cycle of the game. Exploring the city and looking for crafting materials are also easier during the day. As such, Techland programmed ways for players to free run and escape enemies. You can slide under obstacles, vault over them, you can climb to a rooftop and then jump down into a garbage container to break your fall – not unlike the leap of fate in Assassin’s Creed.
“We wanted to make chases smooth and exciting to get your hearts pumping,” Smektala asserts.
From the video presentations we’ve seen, Dying Light seem to be on the right track. Rooftops are not as safe as you imagine since zombies can get up there through the building’s stairs. In addition, sometimes, jumping onto a zinc roof means it crashes under your weight and you might get deposited right in the middle of a zombie pack.
But Techland does agree that during the day, “you might feel like a superhero who has an edge over the monsters”.
At night though, everything changes.
Zombies assume their night form which makes them significantly faster and more ferocious. Couple that with other nocturnal predators and suddenly, the game dynamic changes from exploration to frantic survival.
“We’ve seen players who, after playing the night section of Dying Light, wiped sweat off their brow and made a loud, ‘Whew!'”, Binkowski said, grinning.
To Techland, Dying Light is what the genre needs. Smektala talks about the well-known picture of the evolution of ape to men and says that to him, Dying Light is the natural evolution of the other games that came before it.
“We’ve got Wolfenstein, Quake,” Smektala says confidently, “and finally, Dying Light.”
Dying Light is slated to release on January 27th 2015 on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.