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The Long Dark’s sandbox success has delayed story mode, says dev


Canadian survival game The Long Dark has slipped another potential release window for its story mode as Hinterlands founder Raphael Van Lierop explains reasons for the delay.

Need some more sandbox games while you wait for The Long Dark’s update? Here are the best sandbox games on PC.

The story mode, which was originally intended to ship in 2014 after the success of a Kickstarter in 2013, has been pushed back multiple times now, with the latest estimate of Spring 2016 now being confirmed as a no-go.

The creative director and founder of indie studio Hinterlands was apologetic in the blog post explaining the situation to backers and players enjoying the Early Access “Sandbox” build of the game who are eagerly awaiting the story mode.

After the release of the Sandbox build to a general public outside of playtesters, the small 27-person studio soon had 750,000 people across PC and Xbox One playing (and enjoying) a separate product to the finished game they had intended.

“Sandbox took on a life of its own,” Van Lierop says in the post. “What started as a test-bed for mechanics became its own experience that stood independent of the Story. What started as a small budget and modest ambitions became something much, much bigger than we could ever have dreamed.”

This served to bolster the team’s creative ambitions for the in-progress story mode, at the same time as keeping up with refinements to what was intended as a tester product but the team quickly realised was an experience other players were looking for in itself.

The result is that story mode will now consist of multiple episodes, however to avoid shipping only a 2-hour experiences for the first instalment, Van Lierop wants to release the first two, along with Sandbox, out of Early Access at the same time with others to follow later.

He also reaffirmed that this is all included in the original price backers and Early Access customers bought in at, with all five episodes coming at no additional cost. He was also wary that people playing the Sandbox version would possibly have fatigue of the areas they have explored for so long, so the first two episodes will be in new settings once they arrive.

The story mode, of a lost Canadian bush pilot in a post-apocalyptic sub-arctic wilderness, has received multiple reworks with Van Lierop’s writing partner Marianne Krawczyk in order to meet the expanding ambition of the project. Due to the increased cost of a longer development being covered by the surprise success of sandbox mode on Early Access, the team wishes to put more effort into the story.

“It’ll let us tell a better story, the story we really want to tell,” Van Lierop wrote. “The second reason is because it’s 2016 and I have a daughter and she should be able to grow up in a world where she has strong female characters to play and look up to. (I also have a son, and he should also have the choice to play a strong female character if he likes. And not in a Mass Effect kind of “be male or female Shepherd” kind of way, but in the kind of way where you play two distinct characters, and experience two distinct points of view.)”

In addition to creating a narrative of shifting points of view between pilot Will MacKenzie and Dr. Astrid Greenwood, the team are also foregoing the motion-graphics cutscenes method of storytelling in favour of full motion-captured 3D animation with facial expressions.

This will all take a considerable length of time to implement, but Van Lierop is not willing to put another date on the calendar after all the missed windows so far.

“I won’t ship it until it’s ready. So, I’m sorry but you will just have to wait,” he wrote. “And I believe, with all my heart I believe, once you get it, you will agree that the wait was worth it. And you won’t get another promise from me about when it will ship, until we are close enough to being done with it that I can say with 100% certainty.”

Van Lierop does recognise that the team’s predominantly triple-A experience of game development has left them unprepared for the type of iteration required in Early Access, but pledges they will do more to keep players abreast of how things are going.

The first step of which is a roadmap to story mode, with regular updates on what’s being worked on, the first of which is in the video above. There will also be a return to Sandbox updates which had stopped to bring team members in to work on story mode.

Van Lierop’s full, and far more emotionally investing, blog post is readable here in which he goes into greater detail of the circumstances that led to the delays.