Techland On Dead Island’s Development, Escort Missions

There are few things I love to read about more than video game postmortems. For years and years, these developers hide away their deepest, darkest secrets, safe from the prying eyes of the curious public. This naturally feeds into basic human psychology: we want what we can’t have. The studios have the information. We don’t. Now we want it.

It’s nice, though, that once we do get the little morsels of knowledge, a bit of wonderment takes hold as our inquisitive minds are sated. Take for instance, this postmortem from the Vox Games (still in their alpha digs over at the Verge) with Techland, developer of last year’s open world zombie game Dead Island. Editor Russ Pitts talks shop with senior level designer Piotr Pawlaczyk and writer Haris Orkin of the Poland-based video game studio, covering topics like entering new territory, living up to expectations, and balancing fun with realism.

Prior to Dead Island, Techland had been mostly known for the Call of Juarez series and the 2010 racer Nail’d, neither of which, you’ll notice, are open world or free roaming in the slightest. This posed a problem for the studio as that was exactly what Dead Island was supposed to be. It’s a classic problem in programming: you are supposed to know how to do things that either you or no one else in the world has ever done and you’re supposed to do it quickly, competently, and efficiently.

The problem compounds with when the game’s first trailer—the first anyone had heard about the game in over three years—came around in February of 2011. It was beautiful, poignant, moving, and basically everything that a zombie game is not, especially this zombie game. It was created by an outside animation studio in the UK called Axis Animation and set the bar unfortunately and impossibly high for Techland.

Of course, this is all without mentioning the usual development problems with balancing weapons (especially those of a free roaming game with player leveling and a crafting system), keeping the co-op balanced and entertaining, and making ally AI suck the least amount possible. Given that a sequel is rumored to already be underway, it’s not so surprising most of Techland is eager to repurpose what they learned from Dead Island. Pawlaczyk even manages to sum up the takeaway in a single sentence: “avoid escort missions.”

Word, Pawlaczyk, word.

Source: Vox Games

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