Game - Dying Light
Released on January 27, 2015
Developed by Techland; Published by Warner Brothers
IGN’s Wiki Team - Max Roberts (Me); support from Jon Ryan and Brendan Graeber
My contributions - Full main written and video walkthrough, collectibles, side quests
Pay - $750; early copy of the game provided by IGN
Time Spent: 110 hours, including The Following DLC. Estimate 80-90 hours for the base game
When I started Wiki Stories, I knew I would hesitate approaching Dying Light. I thought this letter was going to be “scary” to write. My memories of Dying Light are sort of like looking at emails and documents in a spy movie. There are big blotches of text blacked out, REDACTED stamped across the pages. For seven years now, I have looked back at Dying Light as a slog of an indoctrination into the world of guide writing.
Sitting down to approach this letter and going through my emails, I was not conveying what I remember. Digging through the thread of 40 or so emails was like erasing the redacted stamps. Opening my original guide document was like peeling off the black bars covering the text of my memories. My memories haven’t done a complete turnaround. The surrounding context has come into focus. My own choices on how to work impacted my quality, which in turn impacted my memories over time.
“I could help out with Dying Light. I am a big fan of Mirror’s Edge and zombies.”
I still am a fan of those two! 1 This response kickstarted my working on the wiki. I also asked about Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, but that obviously never panned out. My generic, but apt comparison was genuinely all I knew about the game at the time. 2 Four days later, I was sent a code for the game on PlayStation 4 along with a layout of what I was being hired to create.
“It’d be a full video / written walkthrough - similar to what you did for Borderlands wiki, but a bit more involved. I’m cc’ing Brendan Graeber, another one of our GuidesTeam gurus who will be helping you out during Wiki production. Basically, we’re looking for:
- Full campaign walkthrough (with video)
- Side Quest walkthroughs
- Tips / Tricks
- Cheats / Secrets / Easter Eggs
Basically, it’s a full-scale guide - feel free to use some of our other guides for examples. The Last of Us, Sunset Overdrive and of course Dead Island should give you a pretty decent idea of how our larger guides get structured…
I had never done a guide with that scope. Jon knew that. I knew that. He and the IGN team were patient with me: That is clear to me reading these emails now.
“As far as content goes, you feel comfortable with all that? Again, Brendan and I are here to help if you want/need any guidance or assistance.” - Jon
“I’m comfortable with all that. I definitely will reach out when I need help. Thank you guys for the opportunity!” - Me
I promise I’ll write about the experience in a few paragraphs, but I was shocked to see my schedule at the time written out when Jon asked me.
“As far as my day-to-day schedule, I have school Mon- 10:30-4:20, Tues.- 12-9, Wed.- 9:30-4:20, Thurs.- 10:30-2:20. All those times are in EST. I’m free on Friday, Saturday until 4 (I have work Saturday evening), Sunday.”
When on Earth did I have time to play, write, edit, and produce this walkthrough? Reading this alone opened my eyes up to how dense my schedule was at the time. Looking at the creation dates in my files, I was working on this guide through mid-March, clocking in eighty or so hours of gameplay alone. I wish I tracked my work time like I do today. I can’t imagine the time spent writing, chopping up videos, uploading said videos, etc. I was burning the candle at both ends. I guess I was far more spry at twenty than I am now.
I may not have journal from this period in my life, but the emails have been somewhat close to one. Being my first major solo effort, I was asking tons of questions and trying to learn from Jon. I wanted to tap into the years of experience and become better. The real gem for this particular job was describing my workflow, asking for input.
“So this is my pattern for creating content for story missions right now. I’m playing the story mission on a primary file and figuring it out. I record that for reference and such. Then I switch to a second game file and do the mission again, this time recording for a guide video. Then I am going to write up each mission, grab screenshots, and make the videos. I’m on the Air Drop mission now.
How does that structure sound to you? Any advice or different direction you could offer me?”
I cannot fathom playing a game like this today for a guide. Playing the entire game—twice—at the same time. Of course, multiple saves is a life saver. Miss something? Reload a save or checkpoint. Want an earlier save to capture an alternate choice? Bingo. This is different though. These were, for intents and purposes, two identical saves played back-to-back for the sole purpose of clean video capture.
In my naïveté, it never occurred to me to just edit out mistakes with fades and transitions. Jon would point this out in his reply. This now obvious technique saves countless hours. It would be essential to my work on future games like Celeste and Cuphead. 3
“I think that sounds like a great strategy - though if you want to save yourself some time you can just edit your deaths or mistakes out of your initial captures. However, I appreciate the initiative to want clean capture… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up re-capping an entire game because I was just dissatisfied with the footage I had.
Sounds like things are going smoothly so far - let me know if I can help with anything else!” - Jon
I was trying to be a perfectionist with my output. I did not want IGN to see me in mediocrity. I had worked my way into opportunity and wanted to launch into a career. That has not come to pass by my own choice.
Looking through the guide, this is far from my best work. Granted, I’d learn and grow over my time writing. The design I used here is barebones; a few paragraphs followed by some screenshots. None of that color-coding we used in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze or branching narrative paths like Tales from the Borderlands.
The real slog I recall was the collectibles. After beating the thirteen main missions, I was instructed to focus on the various knick knacks that were scattered across Harran. These varied from weapon blueprints to useless gold statues. It looks like I found one-hundred and thirty items in total. This was before the interactive map days of IGN’s wiki platform. I was finding and writing about the items. I never ended up making videos for the side quests or collectibles.
There are 100 of those gold zombie statues plopped around the game. There is no reward or trophy for finding each one. All a player gets is the satisfaction of a percentage reaching one hundred. Jon gave me a digital code for the BradyGames player’s guide to help in my quest. These guides are written while the games are in production. Around fifteen statues were not in the listed locations.
I was surprised to received a copy of another guide. It felt like copying homework. I was always adamant about using other work as little as possible to create my own guides. This was an early lesson in the desire to satisfy search engine results. The crucial factor was having the answers readily and freely available so our result was the first result. If something trends, we want an answer to that trend. Where is this blueprint? Where are the zombie statues? These needed answering to generate traffic, which leads to ad revenue and engagement.
The power to tell what people are searching for will alter a guides path real quick. If going into the weekend, the hot question is “how do you get a gun in Dying Light?” you best believe there is a page result for said question. 4 This mentality is a cornerstone of online media today and has been for decades. What are people talking about? What are our competitors reporting on? How can we be first? If we aren’t first, how do we draw the attention over here? Time is what companies are fighting for and this is part of how they learn to take yours.
Apparently, I was loving my time with Dying Light. Perhaps I have revisionist glasses on, but reading some tweets during that period of time come off to me know as said through gritted teeth. Not that I didn’t enjoy writing game guides for my dream company (I wouldn’t be doing this series now if I didn’t). The fact of the matter is Dying Light was a hard game to handle. The learning curve was steep and the hours were long. The corpses of zombies I slayed though would become the foundation for my open-world guide work. Behind every Witcher 3 or Horizon Frozen Wilds is a mound of zombies I parkoured over to get to the top. I needed it too. If I though Harran was big, I had zero clue what the lands of Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige had in store for me just two months later.
Dying Light, to me, is a whole lot of fine. I’m far more impressed with the legs the game has had over the years. The longevity honestly reminds me of Skyrim. Techland’s continued support for the first game is astounding.
A fun part of the job was always when you got to play a game before it became popular. Not in some hipster-sense of discovery, but in a “I can’t wait for people to play this” way. For Dying Light, it was more hindsight surprising me how many folks loved the game. I walked away cool.
In part, that feeling was because of working on the game. Coming off the frustrating statue hunt, Dying Light was dead to me and has stayed dead. While friends grew more and more excited for Dying Light 2 (especially when it was aiming to be this narratively sprawling interwoven game), I had no inkling of interest.
Working on a game, at least for myself, almost always ends up with me taking an extended break from it or the franchise. I haven’t touched any Witcher property since working on it. Hitman and I have a very strenuous relationship. There are exceptions; Zelda, Celeste, Cuphead, and some more. Dying Light falls squarely in the “no more” zone.