The Long Dark is a wilderness survival game that was funded on Kickstarter way back in 2013 and many backers have been waiting for the story mode for some time now. Originally the game was intended to be released in early 2014, however, The Long Dark is far from being a MIA horror story. Over the years it has kept its backers updated and added more and more features to it’s Early Access release. Yet still it hasn’t left Early Access or gained a story mode. Believe it or not the cause of the delay seems to be the games popularity on Early Access.
Reading through a recent backer only update I get the impression that the devs had an idea for a story, but no clear plan. They simply knew they didn’t want to make something cliche, but of course despite it being a story heavy game they still had to work on the mechanics. They recognised that their backer pool was too small a test group which lead them to release on Early Access. The problem was since the game was story heavy and the story wasn’t up to snuff yet they had to do something. Enter the sandbox mode. This is what caused story mode to be delayed since the sandbox mode became super popular and devs shifted focus making the world bigger and better. This seems to have lead to the world outgrowing the story and despite multiple reworks the developers are not ready to release it till it’s ready.
I find this a sort of dangerous mentality in development. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to release the game before it is good and ready, but if the sandbox keeps outgrowing the story will it ever be ready? Perfectionism can be pretty dangerous for indie devs, it’s not as if there’s an unlimited amount of funds behind them. All this deliberating has also lead to another problem, the Steam landscape has changed a lot and the original 1 hour story mode will not be good enough for trigger happy refunders. They stated that when the story mode would be released it would include new mechanics and take place in a new region. They will no longer make promises about when it will be released, they’ll just keep working on it.
Personally, I’m a little on the fence about this, afterall if they wanted to add additional stories they could sell DLC. With no release date in sight I wonder if getting to play story mode any time soon is a shot in the dark. What do you think? Should the developers forget expanding the sandbox mode and work on the story or carry on as they are?