Choices in video games, rarely pay off. The consequences attached to going against the grain usually feel lacklustre and insubstantial. Where’s the payoff? I don’t want a character who looks slightly more demonic than usual, I want a reflection of the compromises that I’ve made to be reflected in short-term gains that I’ve gone for.
It’s an idea that Dying Light 2 developer Techland is examining deeply with their upcoming undead parkour sequel, as they blend a story of choices with gameplay that complements the decisions that you’ve made. While the Techland team is filled with numerous writers to help flesh out the narrative, the name of Chris Avellone might be the biggest of the bunch.
The writer who made his name known in games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, Avellone is a heavyweight talent whose key goal in Dying Light 2 is to create more than just plausible causality. “Having a reactive world is really important for what we want to achieve. Ours is a game where decisions are made through actions, and not just through which option you choose on a dialogue tree,” Avellone said to VG247.
Do you remember the Peacekeeper occupying the water tower in our E3 demo? You could have pushed him off the tower and that would have consequences.
The big one is learning that you shouldn’t funnel the player – they’re here to explore the space; let them, don’t shackle them. It can be a challenge to tell an open-world story if you’re not considering what the player brings to the equation and allowing them to assume an equal role in the events taking place and even better, causing the events that lead to the story progression.
It’s easy to imagine a story that takes from A to B to C with a set series of events, but in an open-world game, you have to put the player agency and their ability to affect the world at the forefront. So for example, rather than A to B to C, you take a step back, assume the player starts at ‘A’, and then can do all manner of events to cause ‘B’ to come to them through the actions they do in the open-world – or, a number of different ‘B’s, not just one. Or even better, the player creates ‘B’ all on their own, and the entire world reacts to it.
When a player can literally see themselves as an agent of change, it empowers them even more.
All of this helps to create a game where players realise that good or bad, choices will have to be made. Choices that they’ll have to live with in the new feudal state that has arisen in Dying Light 2. After all, morality can only take you so far when you have to contend with hordes of the undead nipping at your heels. In this brave new world, you’ve got to look out for number one whenever you’re given the chance to do so.
Last Updated: July 4, 2018