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Dying Light's action-oriented approach to survival horror design

 Dying Light 's action-oriented approach to survival horror design
June 11, 2014 | By Kris Graft

June 11, 2014 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Design, E3

For developer Techland, designing for fear in zombie game Dying Light is less about suspenseful psychological horror, and more about an open world experience with few lulls, and frequent spikes of fear.

“The first thing we want players to feel is that they should value their life," said the game's producer Tymon Smektala. "At the start of the game, we put you in situations where you’re weak — you don’t have a lot of health, you don’t do enough damage to face everything that the game throws at you.”

However, as players develop their character through both a leveling and item system, as well as their own improving skill, Dying Light will aim to give players the feeling of turning the tables.

Even as the player character becomes more powerful, Smektala said Dying Light is designed to provide tense, dangerous moments. This will be done through the orchestrated introduction of more dangerous enemies as players progress (enemies are procedurally placed throughout the world), and a night cycle where you have to be more on guard. A well-done parkour system allows players to evade via rooftops or jump over walls, as the game emphasizes evasion techniques.

Though one of the design guidelines for Dying Light is that players should value their life, there are rather traditional save points. When players die, they respawn, having lost but a few minutes of progression. Don’t save points take away from the fear that survival horror should provide?

“They probably do,” Smektala admitted. “But our goal is to make moments like chases, or the night experience so intense that you feel the second-to-second scares.” Of course, Techland needs to make sure the game is palatable for as mainstream an audience as possible, and permadeath is probably too challenging for what the team is going for.

He said Dying Light’s more action-oriented approach to survival horror is to let the action slow down just enough so that the random enemy encounters will create a many brief spikes in fear. Think more Left 4 Dead and less Amnesia.

That said, Smektala added that the Dying Light team is considering a mode with permadeath, which would certainly contribute to the design guideline of placing emphasis on the value of player life.

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