Through My Lens

Photo Mode is a key component to any modern video game. It’s a feature that is used by players to capture their favorite moments, to the smallest detail. Photo Mode gives the players the tools necessary to look at the game in a new perspective and create an image that speaks to them. Photo Mode also helps display all the hard work that the artists achieve when developing a game that many of us take for granted. Taking photos pauses the action to examine the lighting, textures, foliage and details making us appreciate the care invested in a game we love. Days Gone provides one of the best Photo Modes to date with an abundance of settings to really capture something unique. In the beautiful, but dangerous world of Days Gone there are limitless possibilities in taking photos. Open-world games provide you with different landscapes, wildlife, characters, enemies and special locations. You will find yourself taking more photos than actually playing the game!

Days Gone is the game that got me started with Virtual Photography. It got me involved in the Virtual Photography community, which I never knew existed before this. Being a part of this community taught me a lot about in-game photography and how I can improve. Participating in weekly and monthly themes helped me take shots out of my comfort zone and use settings in the Photo Mode I normally wouldn’t. I never knew that I would fall in love with this art form so much. Now, here I am with a whole gallery of photos and holding Days Gone specific themes. It has been quite the journey!

First, I want to say that I am in no way a professional at this art form. I am still learning everyday and hoping to continue to improve. In today’s post, I just wanted to share my experience with Photo Mode and provide you with my personal tips to capture Days Gone photos. This will not be a tutorial but will show you a picture of what and how I think. Maybe you will take something good away from it to help with your own photos!


From the Beginning

Before Days Gone, I would take screenshots here and there in games as more of a memento to myself because I never shared them. I never truly understood the Photo Mode feature and all its settings until now. Below, you can see my very first photos I captured that sparked my interest in Virtual Photography, this blog and all my Days Gone content. These were very basic screenshots with no editing whatsoever in Photo Mode. At that time, I had no clue what to do! It’s funny to see this post now because little did I know what would become of it.

Fast forward six months, I now realize what works best for me and what doesn’t in the Days Gone Photo Mode. My favorite types of photos I love to take are with the motorcycle, landscapes and action. I seem to take more of these types of shots more than anything else. Between the motorcycle, landscapes and action I feel there is a large variety there to play with making each capture feel different. The landscapes prove just how beautiful the world of Days Gone is. The motorcycle is such an important piece to the game and its customizations can always provide a different look. The action is a staple to Days Gone with the slogan, “This world comes for you.” This can create extraordinary shots during fights with a horde, a Rager bear, Runners and other enemies.

As I have invested the past six months into Days Gone, my focus with my photos now looks at shots that haven’t been done before. Not only on a personal level, but things I usually don’t see other players sharing. I try to keep the photos fresh and varied to display the long range of photo opportunities that Days Gone can bring to people. From a design on a rug to fighting a bear, I want to capture as much as I can. As long as I continue to enjoy what I am doing (which I do) my creativity continues to expand.

Every now and then I like to look back at my older shots compared to my newer ones to see my progression, but to also see how I can improve. Some of the shots I have taken I am really proud of, and others I wish I did something just a little different. That’s just the perfectionist quality in me. Here you can see my top 5 most popular photos on Twitter, which correlate to some of my personal favorites as well.


Personal Tips

I would like to share with you some of my personal tips on how to approach your shot and follow through with a good photo. Once again, I should mention that I am not a professional photographer, just someone who enjoys doing it as a hobby. Most of the tips I mention below I learned from trial and error. What also helped me was gaining inspiration from other VP members with their shots from a wide range of games. Learning perspective, verticals, framing were all things that I learned from being involved in the community.

So, when should you take photos? I believe it’s best to take photos as you make your way through the story. This way you can capture certain characters and story points that resonate with you the most. However, I find myself most of the time roaming the map looking for particular themes to capture. Whether that is a community held theme or a theme I have in my mind. For example, when the Horizon Zero Dawn bike skin was released I had a certain picture in my head that I knew what I wanted to do. When I think of Horizon, I think of that beautiful world and the cold and snowy environments. Immediately, I rode my bike to the snowy area of the map and found a great spot with snow covered trees and a small pond of water. I wanted this theme to be labeled after the DLC, ‘The Frozen Wilds.’ The photo I captured fit perfectly with the theme I had in mind. When a spark of creativity jumps up, I roll with it to see what will come out of the photo. Sometimes your photo may not match what you were thinking and sometimes you will capture a great photo by accident!

This Photo Mode includes a lot of settings from basic to advanced, giving you the ability to take a shot and turn it into whatever you want. At first it might look intimidating but honestly, I usually go through the same cycle of settings for each photo. My priority once I enter Photo Mode is composition, focus and coloring. The very first thing I do is focus my shot. From here, I begin to position the screen and play with the Field of View slider, along with the Aperture to get a sense of what I am trying to capture. Once I feel that the composition and focus is right, then I start messing around with the color. At this point, I am still in the Basic settings menu where I navigate to Contrast and Brightness. I find the Contrast setting to be beneficial in a lot of my shots in Days Gone because as I increase the slider (just a notch up or two) it provides the darker tone needed in a lot of situations. Now, I enter the advanced settings to add a certain kick to the photo. Whether that includes Bloom, Vibrancy, Temperature or Vignette. Most of my shots include some sort of combination of these settings.

A couple basic features that is added to every Photo Mode are Frames and Filters. Personally, I don’t apply these that much to my shots especially the Frames. Occasionally, I will include a frame if I think it adds to the photo, but the world is so beautiful I don’t want to obstruct the view. It all depends on personal taste. With Filters, I mainly use three of them; Vintage, Black and White and Noir. I find that the Vintage filter really captures the moody atmosphere. I like to use this filter with hordes and darker areas to give it that apocalypse and desolate feel. A great feature that is included in the Photo Mode is being able to save your own preset. This is something I haven’t really taken advantage of, but I do have one preset saved called ‘black.’ This is a custom preset that provides the all black background. Thanks to @warrior_musa on Twitter for providing everybody with this tip!

The best tips I can give you is to experiment for yourself. Try out all the settings, take photos that you normally wouldn’t and be creative. Most of all, have fun doing it! Don’t worry about the numbers game on social media. If you begin to worry about how many “likes” you’re getting on each photo, your love for the art will diminish. Whatever art style you enjoy, continue with it and be confident in sharing it with the world. I hope this helped some of you out there, particularly the players who don’t know much about Virtual Photography like I did.


If you would like to see all my photos I have taken over the course of my playthroughs click here: Photo Mode, or go to the Photo Mode tab at the top of the page. Remember, you have until October 31st to enter the second #VPDaysGone theme, Freakshow. Let’s see your scariest Freaker photos! For more information on the themes and how to get involved you can find everything under Themes.

Are you new to Virtual Photography and need help getting your Days Gone photos noticed? Check out the following graphic to gain support and enter different themes. The list you see here is what forms the amazing VP community and if it wasn’t for them, Virtual Photography wouldn’t be as big as it is. You will also get the privilege to meet other VPs that are always willing to support and share your photos.

Image credit: GamerGram

Why Days Gone Should Win Game of the Year

It’s that time of the year again where the video game industry begins to ask the monumental question; who will win Game of the Year? As each year passes, the stakes for this prestigious award rises. The winners from the previous three years were God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Overwatch. Each one of these games changed the way we look at games in the future for their respective genres. We look at those games as the pillars for story-telling, action-adventure and first-person shooters. In 2019, what game will become part of that elite club? What game created something original? What game delivered the best experience this year? Here are some of the notable games for 2019 to consider; Resident Evil 2 Remake, Control, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Borderlands 3, Gears 5, Outer Wilds and Days Gone.

Today, I am here to plead my case for Days Gone and why I think it deserves to win Game of the Year for 2019. Days Gone has dominated in sales ranking sixth in the all-time best-selling list for PlayStation 4 exclusives, according to the NPD. That is an extraordinary accomplishment considering the game has only been out for five months. The financial success obviously doesn’t determine the whole picture on why a game should be considered for Game of the Year, but it does show its merit with the gaming society. I want to look past the numbers though and explain why Days Gone rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects. 


If you know nothing about Days Gone and you look at the cover, you may see just see another iteration of zombies. However, that is not the case and my point to this article is to show you the innovation behind it all. The Freakers in this game are not dead. The Freakers are a whole new threat that you haven’t seen in video games. The outbreak didn’t just affect humans, but it affected animals as well and there is not just one type of Freaker like there are with zombies in movies and television shows. Each Freaker type has their own characteristics and behavior. For example, infected adolescents are called Newts. Newts have the physical appearance of young teenagers and will only attack you when low on health. They like to watch from rooftops and crawl to traverse. Breakers are another type of Freaker that play the opposite role of Newts. They are enormous and strong and will charge at you on sight with powerful attacks. There are ten types of Freakers making the game feel fresh throughout your whole playthrough as you learn new strategies to defeat each one. Once the virus spread across the world turning animals and humans into cannibalistic creatures, it didn’t stop there. The Freakers are evolving throughout the story and leaves us questions on this dangerous threat for the future of Days Gone. Each Freaker raises the stake of the last one you encountered never creating a dull moment in the world. This is not just another zombie game. 

I didn’t even mention the innovative horde mechanic yet. The hordes in Days Gone are one of the most impressive aspects of the game. There are 40 hordes ranging in size spread across the map. The hordes don’t just sit in one spot waiting for you to ambush them though. They migrate from their hibernation nests (usually in a cave) to locations of water, or you will see them just wandering around. As you make your way to the next mission, you may stumble upon a horde crossing the road. You either fight or turn around and ride away. Every time you encounter a horde, it’s an adrenaline rush. With the hordes placed in different environments, it allows you as the player to strategize your attack, place traps and create an exit plan. Battling hordes are a fun and addicting gameplay loop always keeping you on the edge of your seat.

New original enemy types, check. New horde mechanics, check. Now, onto the motorcycle which adds multiple layers to the game including the connection to the narrative and gameplay elements. At the very beginning of the game, you start off with a loaded motorcycle to give you a taste of what you can expect as you move forward. Unfortunately, that motorcycle gets taken away from you quickly, and your left with a basic bike with no upgrades. After realizing the potential of your bike, the bare bones motorcycle just doesn’t match up. It’s slow, the exhaust is loud, the tires have very little traction, fuel tank is small and there are no other accessories to protect it from damage. This is when you realize that the drifter bike is more than just a means of transportation, but a whole other character in the game. As you would upgrade your character in other games with better armor, better weapons and your own personal taste of appearance, is how you approach Deacon’s motorcycle. There are certain spots in the world that your basic bike will not be able to get to because it won’t have the engine power to go off a ramp and clear the gap. These spots are called NERO Research Site locations and are beneficial to you for leveling up Deacon to take on the larger hordes later. There are also countless ways to customize your bike from colors, to decals, special bike skins and accessories. Days Gone makes it a point for you to go out in the world and complete missions to be able to purchase upgrades for your bike. Better yet, each mission you do connects to the overall storyline making your time feel worth it. More on the narrative structure later. The post-apocalyptic Oregon is not a place that you want to walk around. Bridges are collapsed, roads are blocked and Freakers are everywhere. Days Gone did a great job in making the motorcycle feel apart of the world. By the end of the game, it will persuade you to start wanting to ride a motorcycle in real life!

Stories are what moves us, inspires us and change us. Days Gone is a narrative focus game that intertwines multiple storylines to the overall arch. The narrative structure is different than most open-world games. The side missions are not just fetch quests or a checklist to mark off, but separate storylines that connect to each other. Everything you do will advance the narrative in some way immersing you more into the world. The narrative is not laid right out in front of you either. In no way am I saying this is a bad thing, but quite the opposite. There is a lot of world-building at play during some of these storylines and its your job to connect them and learn more about the world around you. The player and Deacon are learning together creating a bond between you and the character. The best stories are layered with emotion and Days Gone checks all the boxes with mystery, hope, love, regret, brotherhood and trust. 

The thing that ties it all together between the story, gameplay, and creative decisions is the technical side behind it. Days Gone is one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 4 due to its dynamic weather and the beauty of nature and destruction. (Take a look for yourself at the gallery of in-game photos here: Photo Mode). The audio beats pair perfectly with the visuals adding to the realistic environment. Throw in the score composed by Nathan Whitehead as you are about to encounter a horde and you will soon realize what makes Days Gone so special. The details of Deacon’s hair moving during the gusts of wind, the snow covering dead bodies on the ground, the mud spraying from the back tire as you drift around the corner are just a few details that show the love and care that was put into the technical side of the game. 

Why should Days Gone win Game of the Year? Because it rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects. The gameplay provided me with the most thrilling and fun I’ve had in any video game. The story of Days Gone created an impactful and memorable experience. There has been nothing like Days Gone before. The setting of desolate Oregon, the band of motorcycle riders and the threat of new enemies is original and stands unique among other post-apocalyptic video games. The graphics are second to none with superb lighting, foliage and landscapes. I could sit here all day writing the praises I have for this game, but I wanted to focus on the points that make Days Gone original and unique. Bend Studio achieved an ambitious feat that deserves a lot of recognition. Days Gone is a phenomenal game and is worthy of being crowned Game of the Year.


Remember, whenever you post your photos or videos about Days Gone on social media just add the hashtag #GOTY to give Bend Studio a little boost in exposure for the award season. You can also go vote for Days Gone for the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards right now! Days Gone was nominated for Best Storytelling, Best Audio and PlayStation Game of the Year. Head to the Home page above and follow the link to cast your vote. 

Check out My Thoughts on Days Gone and What You May Have Missed for more in-depth details into some of the topics mentioned above.

Source: NPD via: PushSquare

Virtual Photography Theme #2

Welcome back to another Days Gone Virtual Photography Theme! Thank you all for participating in the last event. This theme will provide you more time to capture those amazing shots, while being perfectly suited for the Halloween season.

The new theme is… FREAKSHOW! You have the whole month of October to share your photos of Freakers. This includes Swarmers, Bleachers, Newts, Screamers, Breakers, Reachers, Criers, Ragers and Runners. The scarier and creepier the better!

Information:

  • Theme: FREAKSHOW
  • Tag your posts using #VPDaysGone
  • All posts suited to the theme will be retweeted and added to a moment at the end
  • Last chance to enter your photos for this theme will be on Thursday, October 31st at 11:59pm EST
  • Hosted by me: @vikingdad278

Looking forward to seeing all your Spooktacular photos!