People who play video games generally love a good mystery, and that’s exactly what they’ve got on their hands with a new countdown clock that recently popped up on The Long Dark‘s official website.
The Long Dark, for those not in the know, is a Kickstarter-funded survival game set during the aftermath of a geomagnetic disaster in the frigid Canadian wilderness. We’re talking end of times, north of 60-style. It’s been under development for the last few years by Hinterland Games, an independent studio founded by veteran game maker Raphael van Lierop. He established a headquarters on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island, with collaborators distributed around the world.
People first got their hands on the game back in 2014. Its unique, painterly art style captured the bitter Canadian cold like few games before, while its survival mechanics – players need to scrounge for the necessities of life, build fires to keep warm, and protect themselves from occasionally aggressive animals – proved both unforgiving and addictive. For many players it’s not so much whether you can survive but rather how long you can keep from dying.
However, it was first made available as only half a game via Steam’s early access program. Players were free to play around in its big sandbox world, but there wasn’t a narrative path to follow. Fans were told a story was coming – and van Lierop was busy fleshing out his team with recognizable industry talents who would help him build it – but months slowly turned into years. Some, understandably, wondered whether the fabled story mode would ever arrive.
In the meantime, the Hinterland team did a good job of appeasing The Long Dark‘s sandbox players with regular updates. They added new regions to explore, introduced new features and tweaked old ones. And van Lierop let players know late last year that story mode was still coming, noting in a frank post on the company’s website that he’d rather the game suffered delays and eventually arrive fully formed than launch prematurely.
Then nothing… until now.
From out of the blue on Wednesday came an enigmatic countdown on The Long Dark‘s official home page. At the time of this writing there was around three weeks left, meaning it will wind down to zero at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time on May 4th.
Thing is, there’s no word on what it’s counting down toward.
The smart money among The Long Dark‘s many followers online suggests that when the clock strikes zero we’ll finally gain access to the game’s long awaited story mode. At the very least, most people are expecting the timer will result in an official announcement about when or what to expect of story mode.
I think it’s best for me to stay silent for a bit longer. We’ll have more to talk about shortly
Of course, it could be that it will just mark the arrival of a major update to sandbox mode. Though if that turned out to be the case it might be the tease that broke the camel’s back for some of the people who’ve been waiting years for a chance to survive an apocalypse story set in Canada’s cold north.
We reached out to van Lierop in hopes he might reveal a clue or two about what to expect. He responded, but – given that the whole idea behind the countdown is presumably to generate some excitement and mystery about what’s to come – it should surprise no one that all he had to say was: “I think it’s best for me to stay silent for a bit longer. We’ll have more to talk about shortly.”
(I tried to work out whether there was a hidden message buried somewhere in those two short sentences – perhaps an anagram – but without a “d” I couldn’t even spell “story mode” or “The Long Dark.” Alas.)
Regardless, we’re bound to know more about what’s next for this Canadian indie darling in three weeks time.