There are few things quite as exciting for a development team as releasing new content. Months or years of hard work finally bear fruit, and the creators behind it can finally step back to listen to the reactions and feedback from players. Yet how does this process look internally? What is considered when making a DLC for an already released game? Today, I find out through a chat with Philipp Strecker, Product Owner at Avalanche Studios about the latest addition, Parque Fernando, to the open-world hunting simulator theHunter: Call of the Wild for Xbox One.
What is Parque Fernando?
Parque Fernando, inspired by the South American region of Patagonia, marks the 5th reserve in theHunter: Call of the Wild and adds six new species to the animal roster.
After releasing a reserve in the long requested African Savanna, we were faced with the challenge of finding the “next big thing.” For Parque Fernando, this edge comes from the various features we are introducing. Instead of focusing on going deeply into one aspect, we instead decided to take a broader approach, thereby creating a strong foundation that the community can react to, and based on their feedback we can then see which features we develop even further.
What sets Parque Fernando apart from other reserves?
We had a lot of things on our wish list that we wanted to cover during the development of Parque Fernando, but unfortunately due to our limited man power and time, we were unable to do everything. In many ways this reserve offers starting points, and creates a foundation for features that we feel are strong enough on their own to be fun and can evolve even further. An example is the Trophy Collection room, which displays diamond animals (highest difficulty) harvested by the player. This room displays the same trophy model for each species of animal across all players, and while it’s a great way to connect the people’s achievements with the beautiful animals in the game, the logical next step would be to make it even more individual and personal.
How do you pick new species?
Usually, we pick one new species to be the star of each new reserve. The puma in Parque Fernando allowed us to explore more opportunities for predator and prey mechanics, which brings more life, sensation and simulation to the game. We try to balance the animal roster through different means, like size or hunting technique, to ensure that everybody can find their preferred animal on the new map. Often there are constraints to work with, like where in the world the reserve is placed or how many new animations have to be created. Patagonia as a region offered both great native species but also an easy explanation why you can find “imported” animals in this reserve as this is true to life.
How do you decide what content and features to put into the game?
With a diverse and passionate playerbase, you get requests around the clock, which is both fantastic and valuable to the development team. Our job is to identify what fits best with our skill set, what our team can achieve, what keeps us in business and also what people really mean when they want a reserve in Patagonia. Expectations vary a lot so we usually have some lengthy discussions whether a puma or a mule deer is the better addition to the game. This alone can be quite an enjoyable process, since it really makes you think about what fits our players and the game as a whole.
What was the most unexpected bug during development?
Ah, there are so many to choose from! We had pumas chasing birds, other pumas and un-spawned animals. There were ducks taking off like helicopters and flying through mountains, animal dropping clues inside buildings and much more. One animation issue lead to all the animals having really big bellies and breathing in a very comical manner. In short, just your average day in the game development industry. We are happy about every bug we fix in the game and sometimes we say our goodbyes to the special ones.
How do you strike a balance between new content and fixing issues?
While both are crucial and necessary in keeping the game fun and relevant for our players, finding a balance can be hard since oftentimes any decision you make will leave one party disappointed. We are trying out different combinations of both but it can be challenging to effectively show and communicate this to our community. Every release includes game improvements and bug fixes, and we follow up on the community’s feedback. The players are incredibly passionate, supportive and helpful so we always want to return that energy with a good game.