The challenges of balancing levels in a procedurally generated game and what is next for Behaviour Interactive
Two years into its lifecycle and the team behind Dead by Daylight are as enthusiastic as ever about the game and its future. We had the opportunity to catch up with DBD Level designer Matt Walker who shed some light on the future of the franchise, level design, and the challenges balancing a game like it.
Just last month Behaviour Interactive secured the publishing rights to DBD giving them complete control over the future of the franchise. They are committed to adding more content and continuous refinement. Year 3 officially begins in June and players can expect four new chapters. That means four new killers, four new survivors and four new maps
They have already teased their next killer. While Matt was coy about details the art suggests survivors may be heading for the big top.
Behaviour Interactive has already worked with a number of iconic horror franchises and Matt says that the team is open to new ideas and working with other horror franchises. What interests him the most what a new killer means for level design. The design of Killers and maps goes hand and hand for Behaviour Interactive. Matt is eager to work on a map that allows a balanced combination of indoor and outdoor play. One particular inspiration for him is the Antarctic research base from John Carpenter’s The Thing.
For now, Matt is in the process of overhauling the game’s tiles. The first priority of the dev team is making sure players can play. Connectivity and preserving saved games are a top priority but the team is also always reviewing and refining the game.
We asked Matt what strategies Behaviour Interactive used for balancing and he said the biggest tool was simply letting people play. Players, some of whom pour hours upon hours into the game, sometimes know the game better than the developers. They help the team identify pain points in the design so they can be addressed.
Of course, not all problems are easily fixed. Matt explained some of the challenges working on the level design in a game that is procedurally generated. At the core of it is a series of rules controlling global counts, line of site, proximity of objects and so much more. These dictate where Matt’s assets land. When the rules work its great but when things get placed poorly the team has to analyse the whole ecosystem to find out what went wrong.
The second issue is an economy of time and distance. Every decision in designing a level has to consider this economy. How much time can the player gain leaping through a window compared to the chase time of a killer? There is an equation for building and releasing the tension in DBD. This is why the designers make decisions like making windows only one way or balancing a killers speed with map size.
At the end of the day, it is a team effort. Level designers and programmers working together to refine the algorithm. Sometimes players may not even notice the changes Matt makes, one less pallet here or an extra rock there. It may seem insignificant but it is part of a much larger ecosystem designed to make sure you have fun, even if you are being hunted.
What is clear is that Matt and the team at Behaviour Interactive are still very passionate about DBD. They are bolstered by the community and committed to ensuring the game’s lifecycle is as long as possible.
This article first appeared on DVSGaming.org.