Update: Techland’s Senior PR Manager Ola Sondej took to Twitter in an attempt to dispel some of the reports coming from the article, saying that the translation is “totally inaccurate” and that the game is “in good shape.” They did not go into any additional specifics.
While I have your attention, development of Dying Light 2 is moving forward, the game’s in good shape (and in good hands), so worry not. It IS coming.
— Ola Sondej (@olasondej) May 6, 2020
Original: Perhaps one of the more ambitious projects announced in recent years, a new report claims that Techland’s Dying Light 2 development isn’t going all that smoothly, and a 2020 release might be too much to hope for. Polish website polskigamedev.pl talked to a number of Techland employees who revealed the reported issues with the first-person parkour zombie title, which include internal disagreements among management about the scope, direction, and constantly changing fundamental elements.
Twitter user Lotte May (@lottemakesstuff) posted a translation of the article’s main points, which detail turbulent development, high turnover among Techland employees, and last-minute design changes that “blow up” what everyone has been working on.
An article about Dying Light 2 came out in Polish and my wife’s translated it for me. Techland employees are calling it “a total mess” and leadership “making people work to 9-10pm at night” and “calling people in pre-prod morons” https://t.co/CzqfbY6haY https://t.co/vdhFfhc1of
— Lotte ‘just an idiot’ May (@LotteMakesStuff) May 6, 2020
According to some of the employees spoken with, Techland leadership is mandating intense crunch for the development team and creating a hostile work environment “calling people in [pre-production] morons.” But that crunch and toxic work environment might be coming because of disagreements among leadership about core design elements and a lack of organization in high-leadership, which have created doubts that the game will be ready to release this year.
“Dying Light 2 is a total mess, first we had focus on story, then focus on gameplay…non-stop changing game mechanics. Morale is at an all-time low, leadership has no idea what they’re doing,” developers at Techland report that a constantly shifting focus means the company doesn’t even have a current vertical slice of the game, despite showing off the game multiple times at previous events. “We had 5, 6, 7 vertical slices of the game and none of them are representative of what we have now, the game is changing all the time and nobody is able to say its good enough.”
Dying Light 2 Leadership Conflicts
Some of the reported turbulence comes between writer Chris Avellone and Creative Director Adrian “Pyza” Ciszewski. It’s reported that Avellone has been handed too much responsibility. “Chris is a person that has done good for Techland. Leadership trusts him, and has given him a role with a lot of responsibilities that he’s not very good at. You need a specific mindset and skillset, that he does not possess. He’s not stupid, but he bears too much on his shoulders.”
“Avellone had given quest guidelines for one region, but none of them were appropriate for our game. Chris wrote it like he was designing tasks for [Fallout] New Vegas.”
On the other side, Pyza is reportedly stepping in and “messing with the story.” Developers say there is “war” over character development, factions and their motivations, and even specific quests. “Our creative lead has coined the philosophy ‘design through iteration’ Every time he made an apparently ‘final decision’, it was reverted. People have worked really hard thinking they’re almost finished, but they never get to reach the finish line. It burns them out a lot.”
One developer said that the disagreements and changes have caused the depth and nuance to be absent from the game’s narrative elements. “Story won’t be good, everything looks to be pretty scripted. Bring this, talk to him, kill here and there. Depth has all but disappeared from Chris’ work. He wanted the game to be empathetic, psychologically extensive, and multifaceted.”
There’s a certain trust in Pyza, however. Some developers assert that the core elements of Dying Light, including the parkour, day/night activities, and chase sequences all came from Pyza or the employees that he empowered.
Dying Light 2 Developer Turnover
These conflicts are causing people to either be fired or leave the company in droves. It’s reported that over 50 people have already left Techland due to the toxic work environment and poor leadership. Still, others are staying on with the company because they want to have a the massive title in their portfolio, and many bonuses won’t get paid unless they stay through the end of the project.
Techland PR responded to the article asserting that the vertical slice from four years ago is still viable. “We have vertical slice. We created it four years ago and you can still play it. The vision was created before we even started production, thanks to Adrian [Pyza], lead writer Pawel, and later Chris. It hasn’t changed since.”
Other employees are understanding of the sheer amount of work and occasional conflict, ultimately thinking it will be good for the game’s final release. “There are constant discussions about iterations, but the game is stable and the team has done a good job – which you will see after the release.” Another said, “We don’t want to do anything that other people have done. We want something innovative while preserving the legacy of Dying Light. Thing about innovation is that it requires research, trial, and error, which can be felt during change of direction. But we have a formula which is tested and functional. Now we’re implementing and balancing it.”
“Games are a living organism, not like you can create an element – put it on a shelf and call it ready… there are a million variables. When adding swimming suddenly we realize we need swimming enemies. Or when we add a car and we need to change the levels for it,” he said. “We are iterating on Dying Light 2 all the time. But that’s just how the games are made.”
The ambition behind the game is clear, but it remains to be seen whether or not the team will be able to realize that vision, as many within the studio seem split on if it can come together. The game has received multiple delays, though Techland has claimed it will be a cross-gen release. The team already has extensive post-launch plans for the Dying Light 2, and if the current support for the five-year-old Dying Light is anything to go by, they’ll have plenty of content for the sequel for years after release. Whenever Dying Light 2 finally releases.