The Long Dark Creator Raphael van Lierop on Blackrock and the future of Survival mode

Raphael van Lierop talks about the new Blackrock region and what players can expect going forward.


The Long Dark added the Blackrock region to the Survival mode today, bringing the total number of playable regions to 12, not including several transitions zones. Since its early access release on Steam in 2014, The Long Dark has evolved in not only how much content it offers, but also the gameplay systems at work. In the lead up to Blackrock’s release, Founder and Creative Director of Hinterland Studios, Raphael van Lierop, took time to answer some questions about the newest region added to the Quiet Apocalypse, as well as the future of The Long Dark.

Shacknews: The Long Dark has some iconic in-game locations, like the Summit of Timberwolf Mountain or the Riken in Desolation Point. Where does Blackrock Penitentiary rank among the more iconic places you can visit?

Shacknews: How would you describe Blackrock to someone who has never been there before?

Shacknews: Can you talk about the inspirations behind the Blackrock region and the penitentiary?

Shacknews: When Blackrock arrives in Survival mode it will be the 12th fully developed region for The Long Dark. When you first launched on Steam in 2014, did you ever think you'd get to that number?

Shacknews: Looking at the world map there doesn't appear to be many spots left to fill on Great Bear island. Do you have more regions planned going forward?

Shacknews: The Long Dark is out on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Any plans to release versions specifically for PS5 and XBS X|S?

Shacknews: You put out a questionnaire to poll your players on what they wanted to see from The Long Dark and Hinterland going forward. What can you tell us about the coming months and years for The Long Dark?

We’ve given away seven years of free updates to Survival Mode and while that’s been the backbone of our community growth, it’s not necessarily a sustainable business model as we also try to grow the studio to create new things, so I think we’re at the point now where we feel like it’s ok to create a paid upgrade path for Survival Mode specifically (all Story episodes will continue to be free for current players). Now our focus is figuring out how to do that in a way that is sustainable for our team and also feels very fair to our players.

We know there’s a lot of greed in the industry right now and it’s very important to our studio that we feel good about our approach to business and our ethics around how we treat our customers. Profitability is not the priority; creating a sustainable long-term business is. So our entire approach to making games and growing our studio is informed by that philosophy. It means we’re growing slowly and carefully, but we’re coming up on nearly 10 years in business so hopefully that also means we’re doing something right. All that said, things change quickly in the games business, and I don’t take anything for granted. We try to focus on creating quality experiences and making good on our promises to our players, and hopefully the rest takes care of itself.

Image Credit: The Long Dark

It appears that The Long Dark has quite the future in front of it. Blackrock is the exciting new toy for fans of Survival mode, but it’s not going to be the last. You can read more about the future of The Long Dark with the December 2021 developer diary, and we’ll be sure to keep bugging Raphael with questions as the game evolves. You can track all The Long Dark coverage we have via the topic page on Shacknews.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

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