Dark Light

This is the first trailer for The Long Dark Story Mode and – even better – we now know when it’s coming.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign The Long Dark launched on Steam’s Early Access proving ground on September 22nd 2014, and in the intervening 452 days has shifted over 457,000 units. According to developer Hinterland Studios The Long Dark has sold over 550,000 copies in total, so that puts it close to 100,000 sales under the Xbox Game Preview service. Excluding the Kickstarter monies – and based on some purely back-of-a-napkin mathematics – that puts their gross receipts at close to $11 million, assuming of course every copy has sold at the full price of $19.99.

These are impressive numbers, and while ongoing funding keeps studios running and the iterative user testing process is a great tool for developers to really get things just right before the release proper – The Long Dark has so far seen different 75 updates and versions – there’s a danger that it becomes difficult to plant a marker in the sand for the end of the process. It’s just too easy to get comfortable when you don’t have a final delivery date. Some games (mentioning no names) seem to have been in Early Access for an eternity, but there inevitably comes a time when you have to rip off the band-aid and release your creation upon the world.

For the team at Hinterland Studios that means that The Long Dark Story Mode is coming, and when it does – in Spring 2016 – will mark the end of the game’s Early Access lifespan. Here’s the full low-down from the press release:

The first part of Story Mode’s Season One launches in Spring 2016, with the entirety of Season One being released episodically over the remainder of 2016. Players will take on the dual roles of bush pilot Will Mackenzie, and doctor Astrid Greenwood, as they both struggle to survive the aftermath of the “First Flare” event, which has brought modern civilization to its knees.

Hinterland outlined the Spring launch and post-launch content plans as follows:

  • At launch, The Long Dark will include both the first part of Season One of Story Mode, and the Sandbox Mode. The Long Dark Story Mode content launching in the Spring will amount to 3-4 hours of gameplay, in addition to the freeform Sandbox mode which offers 100s of hours of open-world exploration-survival gameplay.
  • The remainder of Season One will be released in additional 2-3 hour episodes over the course of 2016, until the Season One story arc is complete. The expected play time for the entire Season One Story Mode is between 10-12 hours.
  • Players will experience the events of the Season One from the perspectives of two playable characters: bush pilot Will Mackenzie, and Dr. Astrid Greenwood. The story will unfold as the Story alternates between these two characters, with the player experiencing both points of view.
  • The core gameplay mechanics of The Long Dark Story Mode are derived from the Sandbox, though specifically tuned for narrative gameplay. Story Mode replaces the Sandbox’s permadeath with a progress-based save system.
  • The Long Dark Story Mode will launch with two large features currently unavailable in the Sandbox: Survivors, and The Aurora. Although Story Mode will use much of the existing Sandbox game world, about 25-30% of the Story Mode world will be entirely new areas.
  • Kickstarter, Early Access, and Game Preview backers will receive the Season One Story Mode content automatically as it is unlocked. No additional purchase is necessary.
  • The Spring launch of Story Mode will mark the end of The Long Dark’s time in Early Access and Game Preview.
  • At launch, the current $19.99 USD “pre-release” price will be increased, to reflect the game’s enhanced content value after more than a year of polish and content updates, plus the addition of Season One Story Mode content.

TL;DR on The Long Dark Story Mode?

The Long Dark Story Mode is coming in spring, it’s going to be episodic, and its going to have multiple seasons. The first season will be 10-12 hours long, and will be released in 2-3 hour episodes. It’s got two playable protagonists, and while the sandbox mode mechanics will be preserved permadeath is going to make way for saving in Story Mode, for obvious reasons. The release proper will mark the end of Early Access, and everyone who’s bought the game so far – be it through Kickstarter, Early Access or Game Preview, and probably at a lower price than the final release – will get a ‘season pass’ to the first season of The Long Dark Story Mode.

Anything else? Oh yeah… we’re really quite excited. As is usual when we talk about The Long Dark, let’s finish with some beautiful images – this time some of the wonderful stylised art from the Story Mode trailer.

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