My involvement in Dying Light has its roots in Prototype 2, a game developed by Vancouver-based Radical and published by Activision. I was lead writer, and one of the producers was Anthony DeLuca, an awesome (and awesomely tattooed) fellow who always made sure I was well-fed during my numerous story-conference trips to Vancouver.
Some time after Prototype 2 shipped, Anthony left Activision and took a job at Warner Brothers Interactive. I stayed in touch with him—perhaps dropping the occasional broad hint that I’d enjoy working with him again—and went on about my business, writing other games and comic books and such.
Fast forward to November or December of 2013, and Anthony reached out to me. Warner Bros. would be publishing a game called Dying Light, he said, and he thought it would be right up my alley. Techland, the developers, were looking for an American writer, and Anthony wanted to know if he could put me in touch with one of their producers, a guy in Vancouver named Marcin Chady.
“So it’s a Canadian studio?” I asked, revealing my shameful ignorance of all things Techland-related.
“No, they’re Polish,” Anthony said. “But the work could be done remotely.”
That was music to my ears. The only thing I love more than writing is writing in my pajamas.
So I got on the phone with Marcin and had a great chat. He worked at Techland’s Vancouver studio, but the primary studio was in Poland, six hours ahead of my East Coast location. The Techland brass had decided it would be easier for Marcin to talk to me from three hours behind than for them to make a trans-Atlantic call from six hours in the future. I don’t guess I can fault their logic, but it turned into a literal game of telephone; I’d talk to Marcin, he’d relay information to Poland, they’d tell him what they wanted me to know, and he’d get back to me with it.
It took a while for all the ducks to get in a row, is what I’m saying.
At one point, Anthony asked me in an email if I’d be okay with doing a bit of work on-site. I said, “Sure, I love Vancouver!” And I do—I’ve often thought that I could live there without much trouble. The whole city just looks so clean. As if the citizenry regularly goes outside and scrubs everything with toothbrushes.
When Anthony wrote back, I was having dinner at a restaurant with my wife and my parents. “No no,” Anthony said. “Not Vancouver. This would be in Poland. But it probably wouldn’t be for more than two or three weeks.”
I was not expecting that.
A little background on me: I grew up in a tiny little rural Southern town, and while I’ve spent a decent amount of time in big cities, I’ve never lived in one. Part of me always feels like the country mouse when I’m in New York or Los Angeles. And while I’ve traveled to Canada on numerous occasions, up until that point I had never been overseas.
But I’m a freelancer. And freelancers have a really freaking hard time saying no to any job, much less one that might let them go on what felt like an honest-to-God adventure. Plus my wife Tracy, who is perfect, said, “When else are you going to get to go to Europe on someone else’s dime? Of course you should do it.”
So I told Anthony and Marcin that sure, I’d be willing to spend two or three weeks in Poland. “What’s Warsaw like this time of year?” I asked, because I had seen something on-line about Techland being in Warsaw. “Oh, it’s not Warsaw,” Marcin said. “You’ll be going to Wrocław, which is good, because it’s nicer there.”
The trip didn’t take place immediately, though. Techland’s brass (in Wrocław) still had to figure out how to fit me into their apparently quite intricate workflow. So I waited around for another two or three weeks, and then got another email: “Hey Dan! Would you be willing to do a couple of months over there?”
Now, my wife and I have a deal, which arose from a trip I made to Novato, California in 2012, working for 2K on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. I was out there for six weeks, and Tracy and I realized the length of time we can spend apart before we both start to go a little nuts is four weeks. So I told Techland that, sure, I could do two months, but I’d need a week’s visit home in the middle of it.
They agreed, and I started packing.
Completely inappropriately, as I would come to find out.