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How Bend Studio built the merciless world of Days Gone

Get underneath the savage skin of this vicious world – and some essential tips on how to survive it

With the April 26 release date of Days Gone creeping ever-closer, the PlayStation.Blog team took a trip to Bend, Oregon to visit the team behind Worldwide Studios’ next journey.

We spent an afternoon with Jeff Ross and John Garvin, Creative Director / Writer and Game Director on Days Gone, respectively, to learn more about the brutal, unyielding world they’ve created. We’ll have a series of video interviews going live over the next few days, but there’s plenty of good stuff we couldn’t fit into the videos! So, as each one goes live we’ll have an accompanying PS Blog post containing a selection of additional quotes and context from our time with John and Jeff. Watch (and read!) each story over the next few days, and you just might make it out of the Farewell Wilderness alive.

Today, we’re looking at the world of Days Gone — how the team built it, what makes it tick, and how you can increase your chances of surviving in it.

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Remnants of a crumbled society

“One of the things that we decided [about the setting] very early on is that it’s only two years in. We hadn’t seen anything that was set this close to when things blew up. So you don’t have massive forests that have overgrown, for example, and everything around you completely fallen apart. Everything’s still kind of intact. Nothing is overgrown, and yet, everything’s in disarray.”

– John Garvin

“If you ride into Marion Forks, which is a small town, you’ll see that, oh, everything’s been looted. There’s trash everywhere, but the buildings are mostly still intact – that was a vibe that we really wanted to explore, because, again, we hadn’t seen that in video games before.”

– John Garvin

“NERO is the National Emergency Response Organization. It’s a fictional federal agency in Days Gone that, as the world was ending, was trying to keep the pandemic from spreading. You’ll find NERO technology — injectors that allow the player to upgrade either their health, their stamina, or their combat focus.”

– John Garvin

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A test of your post-apocalyptic survival skills

“Days Gone started with us asking questions about what we would do in the apocalypse; what choices we would make to survive. Would we be ruthless enough? Would we have the skills and the instincts to do it?

“What we’ve delivered on is a way for gamers to ask themselves those same questions and put those skills to the test in a world that is constantly coming for them in randomised ways. Everybody has their own unique experience and they’re gonna have to think on their feet; they’re gonna have to strategise. They’ll need a plan A, a plan B, a plan C, all the way down the alphabet… and they’re gonna have to have more plans when those ones all go to hell. It gives players a chance to answer that question; do they have what it takes to survive the apocalypse?”

– Jeff Ross

“We wanted to tell a positive story, so it’s not all doom and despair. For example, clearing out infestation zones is one of the big things you can do in Days Gone, and there’s a benefit to it.

“You’ll unlock safe travel routes, which make it easier to get around. But it also makes the world safer, because there are fewer Swarmers that will spawn in an area if you’ve cleared their infestation zones. The player can make the world safer by taking on hordes. These things kind of tie together in a way to unify who Deacon is. He’s this guy who’s not just gonna stand by and watch the world burn.”

– John Garvin

“The most important thing to remember if you want to survive in a world that’s trying to kill you is to be prepared. Don’t let your gas tank get low and make sure you know where your next fill-up is coming from, pre-craft molotov cocktails or other explosives to take with you and always make sure you’ve filled up with as much ammo as you can possibly carry.

“I think a phrase Jeff Ross came up with a long time ago was “Prepare, go forth and return.” It’s about knowing that you won’t be able to wing it: you’re not gonna set foot outside your safe house or an encampment and hope things work out. You’ve got to be ready.”

– John Garvin

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Time of day has critical strategic implications

“We knew we wanted to build an open world that was alive. That meant it had to have weather, obviously, and it had to have a day and night cycle. Then we decided that we wanted to make sure there were important gameplay differences at night versus during the day. Generally, what that means is Freakers are stronger at night… but they’re worth more experience, so there’s a reason to go hunting at night.”

– John Garvin

“If you go out during the day, you’re going to have to watch out for marauders. They’re gonna try to knock you off your bike, or you’re gonna have to deal with a sniper up in a tree nest. You just don’t know what’s waiting for you.”

– John Garvin

“One of the features we put in recently is the ability to bunk down in your safe house. So, you have a safe house that you start the game with, but you have to earn the rest. If you don’t like playing at night, you can just bunk down and wait until morning to go out — or the opposite. It’s about your play style and what you want to do while you’re in the world.”

– John Garvin

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Know your threats, then burn them

“Freakers are pretty much feral animals. They have some instincts, so they do wind up — they need to eat; they need to sleep. They wind up in a lot of human structures. There’s no real life there, but there’s something that makes them tick. They’re animalistic because they do understand danger. So while they’re pretty mindless, there’s still some root level intelligence there, some animalistic intelligence.”

– Jeff Ross

“Fire is an important element for fighting anything really. But from a point of view of the game mechanics, fire is one of those really cool things when you’re building a sandbox because it’s got properties that we all have expectations for. It leads to a lot of really cool, emergent moments. Fire is one of those things that’s just relatable: we all understand how it works, and it’s really cool to see how the game’s systems play off against a player’s expectations.”

– Jeff Ross

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Deacon is tough, but still human

“Deacon’s not very athletic, which, again, I think is what differentiates him from other video game heroes. He’s not sprinting up walls or sliding down ladders really fast: he’s not a superhero and he does get tired. On the other hand, the guy has got a motorbike and he’s really good at it. As a player, you can even help him get better.”

– John Garvin

12 Comments
0 Author replies
xenokiller90 20 April, 2019 @ 13:17
1

So ready for this??❤️?

2

Er, they did it on Unreal Engine 4 right? But in all seriousness, this should be a good game but I can’t help thinking it would have been better on one of the many PS4 tailored game engines that Sony studios are know for. Nobody has still confirmed yet what resolution this game is going to run at on a standard PS4 console.

MiseryPrincess 20 April, 2019 @ 21:54
2.1

Problem with using a random Sony engine is that they’d likely have no one experienced with it and (usually/typically) documentation is pretty awful for even the best engines. So it might be a bit better in the end, but they’d waste loads of time seeking answers and messing around rather than using what they are experienced with (and it’s going to be way easier to hire Unreal developers).

2.2

Er no, just no. “Random Sony engine” lol. A game engine designed for the PS4 is just that, a game engine designed to take advantage of the PS4 hardware and would be far easier. And Sony Bend are no stranger to proprietary game engines. They did a magnificant job making the engine for Uncharted Golden Abyss that then went on to be used in other PS Vita titles.

With some “random” 3rd party, multiplatform, game engine like Unreal Engine 4, your hands are tied. You can only do what the game engine is capable. Visions are compromised.

2.3

PS4 engines are different to Vita engines, having experience in one special engine means not much in a completely different special engine on completely different hardware.

If you’ve ever worked with it, (which I assume you haven’t from what you said) Unreal ties your hands no less than a “special Sony” engine. Developers have access to everything (including source code) and can mess around with the backend as much as they want and change and add basically anything.

All engines have limitations, but it’s more likely a “special” engine made specifically for one off games would be more limiting than a “general purpose” engine. For example, most the “big” Sony adventure titles don’t have vehicle driving (other than Uncharted, but it lacks other things too), so it’s very likely they’d lack all the backend stuff for such systems. On the other hand it’s exactly something a “general purpose” engine like Unreal does have, so is much less “compromising to their vision”.

Show full comment

PS4 engines are different to Vita engines, having experience in one special engine means not much in a completely different special engine on completely different hardware.

If you’ve ever worked with it, (which I assume you haven’t from what you said) Unreal ties your hands no less than a “special Sony” engine. Developers have access to everything (including source code) and can mess around with the backend as much as they want and change and add basically anything.

All engines have limitations, but it’s more likely a “special” engine made specifically for one off games would be more limiting than a “general purpose” engine. For example, most the “big” Sony adventure titles don’t have vehicle driving (other than Uncharted, but it lacks other things too), so it’s very likely they’d lack all the backend stuff for such systems. On the other hand it’s exactly something a “general purpose” engine like Unreal does have, so is much less “compromising to their vision”.

I think this game looks great, don’t understand the general negativity I’ve seen in some corners of the Internet.

3.1

The negativity from some people is just due to genre fatigue. I can see where they’re coming from.

It still sounds to me like a good game.

MiseryPrincess 20 April, 2019 @ 22:03
3.2

The negativity is probably because the game hasn’t really done much to look that unique.

At face value it’s just some random generic guy fighting generic zombie hordes in a generic open world setting with a pretty typical generic sad story that’s in basically every generic zombie game ever.

So people are probably expecting it to be exactly like all the other similar games, still it’s a bit early to judge.

crafting, gathering, collect&fetch galore….with zombies. That’s why.

JustinJack1221 23 April, 2019 @ 16:49
4

I think survival games are really big right now because it goes to a darker fantasy that we all have — not a fantasy where we want our families to be killed and taken from us, but we all watch this media and say, ‘Well, here’s what I would do,’ right? I think the [DELETED] survival genre gives people the chance to answer that once and for all in an interactive world. I think that’s why these games are so enthralling and so captivating to players.

bhenchod1221 02 May, 2019 @ 14:12
5

A game engine designed for the PS4 is just that, a game engine designed to take advantage of the PS4 hardware and would be far easier. And Sony Bend that operating [DELETED] are no stranger to proprietary game engines. They did a magnificant job making the engine for Uncharted Golden Abyss that then went on to be used in other PS Vita titles.With some “random” 3rd party, multiplatform, game engine like Unreal Engine 4, your hands are tied. You can only do what the game engine is capable.

bhenchod1221 14 May, 2019 @ 06:56
6

Not a fantasy where we want our families to be killed and taken from us, but we all watch this media and say, ‘Well, here’s what I would do,’ right? I think the [DELETED] survival genre gives people the chance to answer that once and for all in an interactive world. [DELETED]

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