|Studio size 400+||Game title Dying Light 2 Stay Human|
|Game genre Survival horror||Platform PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
Dying Light was released in January 2015–and over seven years later, it’s still going strong. Over the years, the game has been a permanent resident in the Steam top 100, and it still receives regular updates. “Those updates are down to one of our core values,” explains Dying Light series producer Aga Kaczmarek. “We really care about players. We listen to what they want, get as much feedback as possible and act on it.”
During the process of getting Dying Light ready for release on the Epic Games Store, one such piece of player feedback was a demand for PC crossplay. Although the studio was busy working on a sequel at the time, implementing crossplay in the original game quickly became an obvious choice, according to Techland Business Development Manager Hubert Marczak: “You have to make smart decisions about where to invest, and it was clear showing players we care and listen to feedback was the way to go –especially with a sequel on the way. We wanted to assure people we support games long-term.”
Techland also wanted to explore how crossplay worked and use the experience to inform Dying Light 2 Stay Human. But there were problems in making the game storefront-agnostic: the Epic Games Store did not exist when Dying Light was released, and crossplay was not the ‘standard’ it is today; also, the sequel had tied up Techland’s resources. “So with everyone fully involved in Dying Light 2 Stay Human, we decided the smart choice was to find an experienced external company to implement crossplay, rather than looking to extend and train internal resources,” explains Hubert, adding that expanding Techland’s internal team and tackling the project in-house “would have been more expensive anyway and cost us time we didn’t have”.
Another challenge for Techland was that Dying Light used a proprietary engine and had integrated several platform/store-specific online service SDKs for metagame systems like leaderboards and achievements that didn’t support crossplay. This meant the codebase was large and complex and far from straightforward to modify. Techland was keen to deal with this legacy code that was causing a maintenance burden. Initial talks between Techland and IMS therefore concentrated on what Techland needed and the best-fit solution that would help the studio overcome its challenges. “IMS gave us a roadmap with different scenarios, because what works for one game or studio won’t necessarily work for another,” elaborates Hubert.
Ultimately, the decision was made to migrate Dying Light to Epic Online Services, which offered key benefits in being free to use and enabling Techland to unify several different integrations with store-specific back ends into one. After quickly familiarising itself with the game’s proprietary engine, the IMS team got to work rewriting a lot of its code. “This was necessary because it was built when there were fewer options for cross-platform online services,” explains IMS Software Engineer Patrick Hansell. “We had to reconsider some of the engine’s key abstractions, and it was great to unify all the integrations into one, because the outcome was a massive reduction in the amount of code. This eased Techland’s load for maintenance, QA and updates.”
With everyone fully involved in Dying Light 2 Stay Human, we decided the smart choice was to find an experienced external company to implement crossplay, rather than looking to extend and train internal resources.
Given the project’s complexity, there was a need to be agile. Scope changes and discoveries along the way presented further challenges. Issues were swiftly resolved and requirements for additional features addressed. “For example, Techland decided it would like to add cross-platform voice chat,” says Patrick. “Because we have a lot of engineers with many different skill sets, we could bring people in and out when required, to specifically take on certain parts of the project. This enabled us to deliver what Techland needed in the most efficient way.”
Furthermore, there was a conscious decision from both parties to have IMS operate in a broadly autonomous fashion, primarily because Techland was so heavily focused on Dying Light 2 Stay Human. “Throughout, we were very aware Techland’s people were all incredibly busy, and so wanted to minimise how much of their time we required,” says Patrick. Firm emphasis was therefore placed on efficient meetings to unblock problems.
“I always outlined the reasoning behind certain timeframes and deadlines. IMS understood these restrictions and delivered on time,” says Aga. “IMS always acted autonomously, communicating with us as needed. We kept in touch through weekly status update meetings and Slack channels for issues and testing sessions so IMS programmers could work with our testers. Communication-wise, everything was flawless and smooth. I really appreciated that.”
IMS always acted autonomously. Communication-wise, everything was flawless and smooth. I really appreciated that.
“Being able to just give a load of work to IMS, knowing it would get done, helped me sleep well–and so that’s a nice thing,” says Aga. But this hasn’t always been her experience when working with external companies: “Sometimes, you must look closely at what they are doing and keep your eye on the track on a daily basis. Working with IMS was really amazing. There were weeks where we didn’t need to talk at all, because we knew the work was getting done and could focus on other things.”
For Patrick, all this comes back to the nature of the IMS team. “We have great expertise in crossplay and have helped other studios with similar problems. So working with Techland on Dying Light was an ideal fit,” he says.
“We have engineers but also account managers, project managers and other resources required to succeed in a complex project.” The depth of the IMS team’s engineering experience and the autonomy that comes with that also proved to be a major plus when working on a very complex codebase and the various online services used, including Connect Interface, P2P Interface, Leaderboards, Friends, Lobbies and Voice. “The breadth of our expertise in Epic Online Services meant Techland could trust IMS to just get on with the project and never have to spend the studio’s own in-house resources,” says Patrick.
Perhaps the biggest indicator that the partnership was a success is that Techland didn’t really feel like it was working with another party. Hubert elaborates: “I was really happy with IMS. Everything was timely and the communication was great, but most of all it really felt like we were working with our peers–people we’ve known for some time–rather than an external company.”
Echoing Aga, Hubert says Techland’s team could “sleep easily, trust who we were working with and have confidence the IMS team knew exactly what it was doing”. Aga concurs: “We’ve worked with many other external companies. IMS is one of the best. It felt like we’d known these people for a longer time. The relationship was friendly and it was cool to have that and trust the job would be done by specialists.”
As a final word, Hubert adds that the initial cooperation work on adding PC crossplay to Dying Light led Techland to make a “natural choice to work with IMS more on Dying Light 2 Stay Human”. He thinks this “has to be the best proof that the project went well and Techland was very happy with everything”.
Find out more about Dying Light and sequel Dying Light 2 Stay Human at dyinglightgame.com
Working with IMS enabled Techland to bring PC crossplay to Dying Light and make the game available on the Epic Games Store. This was achieved in a timeframe the studio wouldn’t have been able to meet while also working on the sequel.
Proprietary engine code was rewritten and integrations with multiple back ends were unified into one with Epic Online Services, reducing future maintenance and QA burdens.
In having engineers with varied skill sets and a team that can work in an agile manner, IMS brought people into the project as required, to efficiently and effectively address scope changes and implement new feature requests.
IMS engineers worked in an autonomous fashion, minimising how much of Techland’s time they took, so the studio could focus on the development of sequel Dying Light 2 Stay Human.