Lead Open World Designer Eric Jensen Rides The Broken Road

Days Gone is known for a harsh but beautiful world that is unforgiving and will push you to its limit. You must adapt to your surroundings if you want to survive. Whether that’s a horde of Freakers, enemy marauders, infected animals or a roided out Freak as Deacon likes to call them, they are all coming for you. That’s one of the mechanics that sets Days Gone apart from other games. The open world is full of life and it doesn’t allow you to take a breath. The game wants your heart to race, it wants you to use your whole arsenal and it wants you to use strategy. That’s when you know you are playing something special. So, how does a big open world like this come to be?

I spoke with Lead Open World Designer Eric Jensen, who oversaw and worked on creating the open world design in Days Gone. Eric is a huge part of Bend Studio’s success over the years. He started his career with Bend over 14 years ago where he worked as a QA Analyst for Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. Now, he and the rest of Bend Studio produced their biggest game to date last year and it displayed the type of incredible talent that is located over in Bend, Oregon. It’s always a pleasure to learn more about their development process and gain an understanding of the type of hard work that went into it all. Eric shares plenty of interesting insight here, including his role in Days Gone, crafting the open world and those sweet PlayStation trophies.


The Broken Road: As a Lead Open World Designer, what were your main responsibilities in Days Gone?

Eric Jensen: I worked on, oversaw, or collaborated on most systems, content, and interactions outside of missions. This included all of the Ambush Camps, Infestations, NERO Checkpoints, Hordes, Encampments, camps jobs, dynamic encounters, open world population, and collectibles. I think that’s everything… 🙂

The trophy photos relating to the storyline were all scripted by you to capture a cinematic moment that tied to the trophy itself. Usually in games, our trophy photos capture a blurred picture or even a black screen. Hopefully, this kicks off the new norm for trophies in future games. What made you choose to do it this way?

Yes! I absolutely hope that more people adopt this technique. The best thing about Trophies is they offer a record of the games you have played, for better or worse. When you think back to all of the games you’ve played in your life, for the most part the only proof of those accomplishments are your own memories. I see Trophies as a cool opportunity to both show off those accomplishments but also to remember them yourself. That’s where the Trophy screenshots come in to play.

I’ve always loved the idea of capturing the moment when you accomplish something in a game but quite often they end up as black loading screens, some menu screen, or an in-game shot with very little context of what you achieved. Apparently it’s a little known feature, but the PS4 has a screenshot cache function where you can trigger a Trophy screenshot in advance of the Trophy unlocking. Insomniac’s Spider-Man used the same technique with their story act and boss Trophies.

Since Days Gone was a story heavy game I chose key moments within the story to tie Trophies to and then found the coolest frames within the cinematics tied to the moments. I would add a key frame to each cinematic then when it was hit it would capture that screenshot. When the mission was complete and the Trophy popped, it would then attach that previously captured shot to the Trophy. My hope is to continue this technique and advance it in the future so players have something cool to look back on after they have completed their favorite games.

You oversaw the trophy names too, correct? That must be a fun job to have! Tell me, how many references do you initially try to throw in?

I did! Myself, David Lee (Community Manager), and Elyse Lemoine (Senior Narrative Designer) worked together on all of the Trophies. Jeff Ross knew how passionate David and I were about Trophies so he gave us the opportunity to lead the charge with them. Looking back at Trophy lists from some of our favorite games we noticed it’s always been an opportunity for developers to have a bit of fun that may not always fit the tone of the game.

Very early on we knew we wanted to have references to other games as well as some of our favorite movies.

We have references to Die Hard, Shaun of the Dead, The Fast and the Furious, GTA IV, Ghost of Tsushima, Burnout, and even Syphon Filter. I also snuck in SpongeBob Squarepants and Wu-Tang Clan in to a couple Trophies.

It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work to try and come up with clever names that also made sense to what the Trophy was. I think my favorite was “Days Gone in 60 Seconds” for defeating a Horde in under a minute in Survival Mode.

Many people may not realize it, but the open world of Days Gone was designed by only 5 to 6 people and you were a big part of that. How did the team accomplish such a great feat?

Yea, the open-world design team was at its peak 6 people. I will note though, that we absolutely could not have accomplished any of that without the help of other designers, artists, animators and programmers.

With such a big world, and such a small team, we had to go about everything a bit different than what we were all used to or even comfortable with.

Everything we created needed to be built for versatility and adaptability. This allowed us to spend a good amount of time designing and polishing a piece of content that could be used all over the world without feeling repetitive or too copy pastey™.

We also built a lot of dynamic systems that would adapt to the state of Deacon or how the player was playing the game so that no two experiences would play out exactly the same.

Think smart, work hard, and you can do a lot with a small team.

You seem to have your hand in a lot of the development for Days Gone. What else did you do for this game that the general public may not know about?

I helped out a bunch with the UI. I designed and implemented a lot of stuff on the Map Menu including the Region panel that shows all your progress in each location, as well as the Fast Travel system.

I helped design and maintained most of the Inventory, Crafting, and Collectible systems.

I designed and helped implement the Trophy menu that shows all of your progress on unlocking Trophies.

I came up with almost every fake brand or business name in the game. I also went to Garvin with the name for the town of Farewell and NERO, the National Emergency Response Organization.

Name one thing that you are most proud of working on in Days Gone.

It might sound a bit obvious, but I’m incredibly proud of the Open World and the team that built it. We had never built an Open World game. We had a small team. It may have taken a bit longer than we originally expected. It really seems to have resonated with people and it’s the thing that nearly every player spends the most time engaging with. So, for that I’m very proud of the Open World we built for the players of Days Gone.

‘This World Comes For You’ holds very true to the dynamic of Days Gone. It’s more than just a saying, as it is the core for the open world gameplay. Was this always the vision, or was it an ever-evolving door to try and set it apart from other open world games?

We knew very early on we didn’t ever want the player to feel comfortable just standing around in the world. We knew we didn’t want traditional slow-moving, shambling enemies, which meant they would likely always be chasing after the player. Then you throw in hungry animals that aren’t too picky about what they eat anymore, and a bunch of ruthless Marauders that are going to kill anything that gets in their way of surviving, and you have a world that is always coming for you. When we first got a version of the open world population up and going and some of our dynamic encounters triggering, it was brutal. It was very clear that we were headed down the right path. After probably 1000’s of hours of play testing and user testing we dialed it all into what shipped with the game.

Was there anything else that you wanted to throw in the open world that had to be cut for some reason? Whether that is a certain style ambush, an additional animal to hunt, different collectibles, etc.

From the first day we knew we were going to have the game take place in our homeland of Oregon, I wanted a Freaker sasquatch. Myself and Greg Callahan (who sculpted the incredible Deacon vs Freaker statue) talked about it from the beginning. Bigfoot is kind of a big deal in Oregon and we both thought that it would be awesome to have one in the game. It would have been so cool but unfortunately, we didn’t get the idea of the ground. Or did we? Maybe there’s one out there somewhere that hasn’t been found. There isn’t. Or is there? There isn’t. =(

The world is constantly alive. When I’m riding the broken road, I will come across wolves chasing deer, Newts crawling off rooftops, bears attacking Freakers and so on. When creating this interactive and seamless world, what is the biggest challenge you came across during development?

Making the world feel alive, lived in, and active was quite difficult. You can’t just throw population in the world and hope that it looks real. We had to create rules and mark up a bunch of stuff in the world with information that we could read in order to produce the correct population. The Hordes seek out the nearest food and water sources. Deer are going to be attracted to water and seek out the same plants that Deacon can collect. We tried to give everything a purpose and a goal in the world, in order to make it as believable as possible.

I saw your name a couple times up on the leaderboards in the challenges as they released in the summer. What was your favorite challenge, and which character would you usually choose to play with?

Haha, Lord knows I tried. I think I was only ever near the top of the leaderboard a couple times and it didn’t last long. Man, the Challenges were so much fun. Both to work on and to play. The Horde challenges are always a blast, but I think my favorite was the golf cart challenge, Dead Don’t Ride. It just had a charm to it that I hadn’t seen in games in a Crazy long time. Also, we were able to feature songs from artists in the studio which was awesome! While I don’t think I’m at the top of the leaderboard on any of them anymore, I did get Gold in all of them in order to get all the Trophies. =)


You can pick up Days Gone on sale for only $19.99 in North America right now on the PlayStation Store!

Thank you to Eric Jensen and Bend Studio for coming on The Broken Road to help celebrate Days Gone Week! You can catch all the latest news about Days Gone from Bend Studio on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Days Gone Week

After months of planning, I can finally reveal to you the inaugural…

DAYS GONE WEEK

Starting on Monday, April 20th join us as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Days Gone! Fans around the world get to share, connect, create and discuss the game we love. You can take part in the celebration by sharing your Days Gone virtual photography, photo edits, streams, videos, fan-art, discussions and anything else you would like to add to the week. There will be interviews, giveaways, fan-appreciation videos, streams, a photo mode contest with prizes and more! Let’s show Bend Studio how much this game means to us!

What You Need To Know:

  • Days Gone Week will kick-off on Monday, April 20th and run to Sunday, April 26th – the one-year anniversary of Days Gone.
  • Make sure to use #DAYSGONEWEEK on social media to join in on the celebration. (Most of the celebration will reside on Twitter, but please feel free to share on other platforms as well – Reddit, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram).
  • Anyone can join in! Have a walkthrough stream from last year? Or old photos you posted when the game came out? Feel free to reshare it with #DaysGoneWeek.
  • The goal for this week is for the community to all join together to share our passion of Days Gone and show appreciation to the developers behind the game, Bend Studio. Create, share and support to fill everyone’s feed with nothing but Days Gone during this week!
  • Each day will highlight a part of the game to spark conversation, creativity and to give the day a little extra Days Gone. Monday begins with the family – Deacon, Sarah and Boozer.
  • The Broken Road blog is your home for everything Days Gone! Check out interviews from the team at Bend Studio, topics on the game, fan-fiction stories, videos, virtual photography themes/tips and browse a gallery of photos captured in Photo Mode. Plus, all the content being released during Days Gone Week will be posted under it’s own page making it easier for you to view and keep up with everything that is going on. The tab is located at the top of the page.
  • Check out The Broken Road Discord channel where you can talk everything and anything about Days Gone 24/7 with other Mongrels who love the game as much as you do. Join HERE!
  • Take a look at the rest of the event schedule below to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Photo Mode Contest Information:

PicsArt_03-13-10.02.04-01

Celebrating the one-year anniversary, we want to see your favorite moments captured from Days Gone for a chance to win some amazing prizes! Prizes include exclusive Days Gone t-shirts and Broken Road patches courtesy of Bend Studio. Plus, The Art of Days Gone book and a Mongrels patch and Days Gone cosplay photos courtesy of @goosecosplay1. Starting on Monday, April 20th, you are invited to submit a max of four photos. Your entries must be your own work and captured using the Days Gone photo mode feature.

The winners will be chosen by myself, @vikingdad278 and my other Days Gone enthusiast @Sim_nell. We will be looking for unique photos that express your favorite moment from Days Gone. With so many strong and powerful moments in the story, we are looking forward to seeing what you will come up with.

Details:

Submit your entries on Twitter using the hashtag, #DaysGoneWeekContest.

  • Theme: FAVORITE MOMENT
  • The contest begins on Monday, April 20th
  • Submissions will close on Saturday, April 25th at 11:59 PM EST
  • Maximum 4 photos per person. All photos can be in one tweet or in multiple tweets
  • Open to all regions
  • Winners will be chosen impartially and by merit of the theme, not popularity
  • FIVE winners will be announced on Sunday, April 26th at 6:00 pm EST by @vikingdad278 and @Sim_nell
  • Prizing is categorized below:

Grand Prize

Days Gone T-shirt from Bend Studio

Days Gone Patch from Bend Studio

The Art of Days Gone book

Farewell Original Mongrel’s Patch and Days Gone Cosplay Photos courtesy of @goosecosplay1

Second Place

Days Gone T-shirt from Bend Studio

Days Gone Patch from Bend Studio

Days Gone Cosplay Photos

Third Place

Days Gone T-shirt from Bend Studio

Days Gone Patch from Bend Studio

Days Gone Cosplay Photos

Fourth and Fifth Place

Days Gone Patch from Bend Studio

Days Gone Cosplay Photos


Event Schedule:

*Schedule may be subject to change

Monday – Deacon, Sarah and Boozer

The Broken Road InterviewGuest will be announced on this day

Photo Mode Contest Begins

Farewell Original Mongrel’s Patch Giveaway Begins – See @goosecosplay1 for more info

Days Gone Collector’s Edition Giveaway Begins – See @Sarokeye for more info

Take part all week long with your Days Gone virtual photography with @Captured_Collec. See them for more details on how to take part.

Share as many Days Gone shots as you want with @VPinspire Monday through Friday. Check them out for more information.

Join @MagGamerInc at 10 am EST on his first playthrough of Days Gone at twitch.tv/maggamerinc.

Watch @cubsfansolo over on twitch.tv/cubsfansolo at 2 pm to 5 pm CST for some horde hunting.

Come watch @Undead_Kirsty in her first playthrough at 7 pm GMT on twitch.tv/undeadkirsty.

Join @MollyzxGames on twitch.tv/mollyzxgames at 8 pm UK for some horde hunting

Tuesday – Supporting Characters

Fan-Appreciation Video by @OCDeidre

Fan-Appreciation Video by @slasher_jpc

A Look at the Other Side: Entry 1 – Written by Kevin McAllister (@vikingdad278) will be narrated on the @BlueFunkPodcast by @Lady_SnipeShot at http://bluefunk.buzzsprout.com/

Join @MagGamerInc at 10 am EST on his first playthrough of Days Gone at twitch.tv/maggamerinc.

The voice behind the Breaker in Days Gone, @Kato__Gaming will be playing Days Gone at 1 pm EST on twitch.tv/kato__gaming.

Join @MollyzxGames on twitch.tv/mollyzxgames at 8 pm UK for some horde hunting.

Wednesday – NERO

The Broken Road InterviewGuest will be announced on this day

Fan-Appreciation Video by @YourHostNick

A Look at the Other Side: Entry 2 – Written by Kevin McAllister (@vikingdad278) will be narrated on the @BlueFunkPodcast by @Lady_SnipeShot at http://bluefunk.buzzsprout.com/

Watch @StonedDropBear on twitch.tv/kwola420 play Days Gone at 12 pm PST.

Watch @JoeyImageTV on twitch.tv/joeyimagetv at 7 pm to 10 pm EST for another playthrough of Days Gone.

Thursday – Oregon

Fan-Appreciation Article by @IrishSoul81

Fan-Appreciation Video by @NickStotch

A Look at the Other Side: Entry 3 – Written by Kevin McAllister (@vikingdad278) will be narrated on the @BlueFunkPodcast by @Lady_SnipeShot at http://bluefunk.buzzsprout.com/

Watch @StonedDropBear on twitch.tv/kwola420 play Days Gone at 12 pm PST.

Come watch @Undead_Kirsty in her first playthrough at 7 pm GMT on twitch.tv/undeadkirsty.

Join @MollyzxGames on twitch.tv/mollyzxgames at 8 pm UK for some horde hunting.

Friday – Freakshow

The Broken Road InterviewGuest will be announced on this day

Live Challenge Modes Stream at 12:30 am EST with @vikingdad278

Come watch @Undead_Kirsty in her first playthrough at 7 pm GMT on twitch.tv/undeadkirsty.

Join @MollyzxGames on twitch.tv/mollyzxgames at 8 pm UK for some horde hunting.

Saturday – Motorcycles

Fan-Appreciation Video by @Sim_nell

An interview with @vikingdad278 on vpvibrancy.blogspot.com about Days Gone

Days Gone takes over the virtual photography weekly theme, #SnapSaturday! See @snap_vp for more details on how to join.

All-Day Live Stream from 12:00 pm CST to 8:00 pm CST with @YourHostNick. Plus, free copies of Days Gone will be given away!

Live Stream at 9:00 pm EST – “I Remember” with @vikingdad278

Watch @StonedDropBear on twitch.tv/kwola420 play Days Gone at 12 pm PST.

Join @MollyzxGames on twitch.tv/mollyzxgames at 8 pm UK for some horde hunting.

Come watch @Undead_Kirsty in her first playthrough at 7 pm GMT on twitch.tv/undeadkirsty.

Sunday – Happy One-Year Anniversary Days Gone! Go send some love and thanks to everyone at Bend Studio today!

The Broken Road Blog Post

Photo Mode Contest Winners Revealed at 6:00 pm EST

Days Gone Collector’s Edition Giveaway Winner Revealed – See @Sarokeye  for more info

Farewell Original Mongrel’s Patch Giveaway Winner Revealed – See @goosecosplay1 for more info

New Cosplay Photo Shoot from @goosecosplay1

Live Stream at 9:00 pm EST – “I Remember” with @vikingdad278

Come watch @Undead_Kirsty in her first playthrough at 7 pm GMT on twitch.tv/undeadkirsty.

See you on the broken road soon to celebrate Days Gone Week!

A Different Perspective

As I learn and grow in virtual photography, my techniques continue to evolve. The more I invest my time in Photo Mode, the more I feel comfortable with all its settings. Trying new things will help you think outside of the box to capture photos you wouldn’t have thought of before. Since I wrote “Through My Lens” back in October, my perspective has changed on the photos I take in Days Gone. I try to get more in-depth with my shots today by seeing through the photo. What kind of story am I trying to tell? What subtle object is in the image that provides that extra punch? How can I capture the dynamic lighting, the atmosphere or manipulate the distance to grab that extra detail? What can I do to bring something new to my shots? These are the things that run through my mind with each photo. Every snap I take, I try to outdo my previous best. I love creating things within Days Gone and my goal with this virtual photography series is that it may inspire you to create and try something new.

Storytelling Through Photos

A good habit to create when entering Photo Mode is to ask yourself, what story am I trying to tell here?  Asking yourself this simple question will help inspire you to look for new angles, to capture that subtle detail in the background and end with a photo that you will love. And that’s what it’s all about right? Enjoying the art form and loving what you create!

Here is an example. These two photos may not be flashy, but it’s the story behind it that made me capture it. “Before Death and After Death” shows the state of Boozer at two points during his story. On the left, he’s lying on the ground badly wounded on the verge of death. On the right, he’s a new man with a new outlook on life.

An Extra Punch

So, you have a photo all lined up with the settings exactly where they need to be, but after looking at the final product you realize there’s just something missing to give it that extra punch. I have gone into Photo Mode more times than I can count without actually saving the image because I wasn’t happy with the outcome. Maybe the composition wasn’t right, the lighting, or I missed getting a detail in the right spot to put the image above the rest.

Days Gone is filled with details waiting to be captured, and sometimes that extra Freaker in the shot makes all the difference, or a shooting star in this case. Look below at this photo I captured recently. I loved how it came out with the low angle of Deacon on his bike and having the night sky provide a canvas for the backdrop. To give it that extra punch I’ve been talking about, I was lucky to get a shooting star on the left of the image. It might not be much, but it puts this shot at a different quality level than one without that small detail.

Dynamic Lighting, Atmosphere and Distance

These three components are something I’ve been trying to work on a lot recently with my shots. If you can incorporate one of these to a shot, along with providing a story and an extra punch I can almost promise you that you will have an extraordinary photo that you will love. Everything I talked about so far go hand in hand with this. For example, by focusing on dynamic lighting, the atmosphere will creep in, the distance of the shot will be perfectly adjusted giving you that extra punch, all the while creating a tone or story within the picture.

Dynamic Lighting – You can use anything as a light source such as fire or a flashlight. Look at the image below where I used the motorcycle headlight in a dark tunnel to capture this shot. I focused on the lighting to hit one side of Deacon. There I can adjust the contrast and the angle to highlight the part I want, while disguising the rest in the shadows.

Atmosphere – Honestly, this may be the “easiest” to capture because all of Days Gone is atmospheric. The way the world moves, the chaotic nature, the haunting caves can all be used as atmosphere. In this shot, I went with the foggy graveyard in the Survive challenge mode. My subject I was capturing that day was Carlos, so I was looking for a spooky scene and found it! Look at the fog, the gravestones, the night sky and how the bare trees provide that atmosphere I’m talking about.

Distance – There are many ways to interpret distance, but I look at it as layers. What’s in the forefront that you are focusing the picture on, what’s right behind it to provide that extra punch and what’s further out in the distance that ties it all together? In this photo, Deacon doing the wheelie is the focus. The next layer includes the lumberyard where Freakers roam and you can see how the train fell off the tracks. The third layer includes the criers in the sky and the mountain in the distance bringing the “wheelie” photo to more than just the bike itself.

Something Fresh

Taking the same type of photos every time will get old and will drive you to stop taking photos all together. That’s why its so important to try new things, to experiment and share photos that may not be your normal technique. You may find yourself a style that really speaks to you! Enjoy the creation process of the art form!

As for me, I experimented enough with the advanced settings in the Photo Mode that I found a way to capture the black and white silhouette shots that I absolutely love to take. I wasn’t the first to figure this style out, but I had fun learning how to do it. So, for the people who have been wanting to try it out I have provided you the steps to create the silhouette preset so you can take your own shots. Enjoy!

Lastly, here are a few of my recent shots that I am proud of, and in my opinion displays my progression of virtual photography within the past year. Maybe they will inspire you!

The Initiation

A white tattered cloth punctured through a jagged wooden stick hangs overhead like a proud banner. The cool night wind gusts through the tears of the dirty white cloth creating a flapping noise snapping it back and forth. The wrinkled letters begin to unfold as the cloth catches the wind and sways upward, revealing the sloppily written letters of R.I.P. The red lettering looks rough and jarring exhibiting that blood was utilized in the propaganda. The crackling and popping sound from the large bonfire acts as a song to the terrifying noises and cries of the people dancing around it. A ritual of acceptance and fearlessness soothes them to their soul.  The fire provides an orange glow underneath the radiant stars and luminous full moon hovering over the chaos of the infected world. The screams and moans of Freakers in the distance add to the ambiance of their ritual.

“Get Low!” one calls out in low a gravelly voice.

A large bald man gets shoved from behind toward the fire and thrown down to the ground forcefully by two other Rippers. The ritual around him continues to proceed as the people dancing are blinded to their surroundings. Both Rippers resemble each other along with the people around them with their shaven heads and covered with slander and scars all over their bare bodies from self-inflicted cuts. One mark is distinctive on each person, the letters R.I.P engraved onto their foreheads. The Rest in Peace cult began growing and making a name for themselves after the outbreak. They worship the Freakers and believe that becoming infected is a gift. Most of these Rippers were junkies, criminals, people with schizophrenia and suicidal in the previous world. Some however, were people that could never get their head above the poverty line and struggled in multiple areas of their life causing depression. Now, they feel more alive than they ever felt.

Another bald man, this time leaner with multiple scars covering his body heads toward the man being pinned down. His scars seem different, like they have been there longer than the others. The word “sacrifice” is cut into his arm starting at his shoulder and running down to his wrist. As he reaches him, the scarred man holds a bloody machete in his hand and hovers over the unscathed man on the ground. Drops of blood slowly drip off the sharp tip of the blade and onto the man’s forehead. The light from the fire reveals the letters R.I.P on the scarred man’s forehead with the shadows concealing the rest of his face. The man reaches in his pocket and shoves his hand up to his nose taking a deep breath, releasing leftover white particles floating in the air around him. The noises that come out of his mouth next sound animalistic as if he just regained life. He begins to clench his fists and pound at the air like he is preparing for a boxing match. He holds the machete right up to the middle of his face seeing the blood trickle down the shaft and the reflection of the flames on the steel. He bends over the helpless man on the ground staring into his soul for a moment with a slight grin on his face.

“Lost One, I see your pain, but I also see your want to let go of your ego. Don’t struggle because here you will find peace and you will be Free. Your sacrifice comes at a cost – but you will know Freedom the way we do,” explains the confident leader.

The large man on the ground screams out in pain as the scarred man begins to engrave the letter “R” onto his forehead with the blade of the machete. The blade cuts into the flesh as blood erupts from his forehead and trickles down the corner of his right eye. The letter “I” is carved next with a quick vertical slice in the middle of his forehead. Lastly, the letter “P” is cut above his left eye with the stem of the letter reaching just above his eyelid. Blood flows down the man’s face like a slow-moving waterfall. The man continues to kick out of instinct but is held against his will while the leader pursues to cut the flesh of the man in several other places. Some damage has already been done to the man’s body from his initial visit to the Ripper camp. Other Rippers tortured him and shaved him prior to this night to make sure he was ready to go on the Path. Before he continues, he blows more of the white powder into the wounded man’s face to lessen the pain.

“Time to get low,” the leader shouts.

Next, he cuts his arms – flashes of his childhood begin to pop into his mind. A quick slice to his chest – brings him back to the playground with his father. A slash to his stomach – he feels his mother’s hand stroking his hair as she reads him a bedtime story. Finally, multiple small slices are done to the top of his head – he hears his guardian shout his name repeatedly, “Justin! Justin!” At this point, the large man has gone unconscious with blood spilling out from several cuts on his body forming a large puddle of blood encircling him. The leader holding the machete screams out to his fellow Rippers sending their chants even louder. With each cut inflicted on him, it motivated the others to inhale more of the powder and use their own blades to create marks to celebrate. They take pleasure in the pain with the extra dose of powder kicking in. They kick, and they leap as they dance overtop of the unconscious man’s body. They begin to lose control of their bodily movements during their ritual causing them to eventually collapse staring up into the night sky.

The flames seem to mimic their dance and their shadows come alive. The haunting sounds of Freakers play as a lullaby in their heads and the blades of their weapons act as their lovers. The tall pine trees of the Pacific Northwest unroot and shoot up toward the sky like rockets. The stars spin around and around to form memories and future thoughts. So many names bounce around in their heads, but they can’t place them. Maybe it’s their friends, family members, themselves? The ground begins to shake creating a vortex in the Earth sucking anything in its radius in. The Rippers fall into the fiery abyss where they reach out with hope calling for the Freakers to join them in their eternal home. Bodies of the Lost are lifeless and tied up as sacrifices with their feet dangling and their wrists bonded by jagged wooden sticks. Ragged t-shirts are balled up in their mouths causing suffocation. The sacrifices are lined up forming a long and narrow path leading to a dark cave. The Rippers begin to shuffle down the path grouped together like a horde as their bare feet drag across the gravel. Once they reach the cave, screams of monsters become deafening and their minds become distorted. Thousands of Freakers come barreling out of the darkness and engulf the scarred Rippers until each one of them has been devoured piece by piece.

Then, the world turns black.

****

The rain rapidly taps at the large man’s head slowly waking him up. He tries to adjust his eyes by blinking excessively but his focus is lost with the bright morning sun trying to peek through the trees. He struggles to lift his head up from the soaked ground trying to look down at the damage of his body. Dried blood sticks to the back of his shaven head as dark red gooey strings dangle to the ground. He stretches his fingers to feel every cut laid upon his arm. He tries to push off the ground with the palms of his hands, but loses traction sinking into the mud causing him to fall back down. He attempts to sit up one more time using a little extra movement from his sore body and successfully gets upright. His throbbing head hangs down with his chin touching his chest. He slowly lifts his head to scan his nearby surroundings and sees the other Rippers lying passed out on the ground with their weapons placed next to them.

His focus starts to become a little clearer the more he squints and moves his head. Sitting there in an unusually peaceful moment, he realizes that he isn’t Lost anymore. Last night was his initiation and waking up this morning proved he has reached Freedom. This realization hits him right in his stomach. He doesn’t feel a sense of fear or remorse but feels a sense of purpose and strength. He takes his finger and gently outlines each of his new cuts given to him by the leader himself. He traces the “R” engraved on his forehead and releases a slight grin. Flopping back down to the ground with the puddle of rain and blood splashing up on his bare back, he looks up to the sky and shouts, “get Low!”

****

The old world was never for him. Surviving out in the shit for over a year now has made him realize that he hasn’t lost anything. He didn’t have a family, a career nor a home. He was in-between homeless shelters and sleeping outside at parks just trying to get by, conning people in town along the way to get some extra cash. At 13 years old, both of Justin’s parents died in a car accident and was given up to foster care where he remained until he was 18.  Due to his parents passing and his living situation, he never seemed to fit in anywhere. He could never make friends in school because he was always being bullied by the rich snobby kids. Whether they would make fun of him for living in a house full of kids that no one cared about or being the loser that no one sat with at lunch, the harassment continued his whole middle school and high school career until he dropped out. From there, Justin went down a lonely path of recklessness and lost any ambition to make something of himself. He tried a few times to take his own life, but never had the courage to completely go through with it. So, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol and drugs to escape society.

Fast forward a couple years and the world went to hell. Luckily enough for him, the day the outbreak occurred he was sitting on a bench at the park looking out toward the mountains just before his afternoon ritual of downing a bottle of cheap whiskey. Sirens started to sound, people at the park were scrambling and a loud crash involving multiple vehicles was heard up the road. He marched toward the noise until he saw people running wildly and viciously attacking emergency personal. Justin paused, then immediately began to run the opposite way where he found a group of people trying to flee the area. He was fortunate that day to run across this group who eventually built up a small camp and became sustainable in a world where you count the number of days gone. Nevertheless, when you are a man of little ambition and could care less for the people around you, you don’t last long in a place like this. He used them to survive when he needed it the most, and since that obstacle has passed he was just there to once again get by. Not too long after people started doing jobs to keep the camp running, he was kicked out. Each person needed to contribute, or you were worthless to the camp. One of the campers was kind enough to slip him a few credits before he left, which was the currency used to buy food, weapons, etc. This helped him get to the next camp, and then the camp after where he started to repeat his old lifestyle.

Of course, he had to get his hands dirty by killing Freakers during his travels but somehow, he continued his lucky streak of surviving. He had one poorly conditioned pistol and a hatchet that he received from the first camp to help him survive amongst the vast Oregon wilderness. He would then steal or con his way into getting a little extra ammo here or there at camps to get to the next place. Justin found his way to a camp located in Hot Springs where he stayed for a short time. This was a slave camp where it was required to work each day for long hours for little to no credits. Plus, the so-called “security” would beat on you if they felt bored. To bide his time, Justin volunteered to do supply runs to get outside the gate because it felt freer to be out in the shit, then stuck working in the camp. The crazy old woman in charge was happy to use him as an errand boy because right before he came in their supply group was ambushed and killed.

During the night before falling asleep on his thin cot underneath a small tarp roof, Justin would eavesdrop on stories being told from campers around the fire. Multiple stories were told about a group of people called the Rippers, or the Rest in Peace cult. He would hear snippets of their conversation before dozing off:

“They all follow their leader Carlos…”

“They live as a unite of some sort and wish to be Freakers themselves, it’s crazy…”

“I saw them cutting themselves with machetes man, and then dancing like a possessed person…”

“The Rippers take some sort of PCP drug I think, sending them all bat-shit crazy…”

From the moment he heard these stories, he became fascinated by how they lived. Surviving wasn’t living, and he was ready to move on once again but this time to a place he could call home. A place where people are like him, a place where you can start anew and a place where the meaning of home could be something he hasn’t felt for a very long time.

One morning, a drifter came into camp to take a job. As Justin was walking by him, he overhead the drifter talking about a location of a Ripper camp nearby. Immediately, he knew what he had to do. He quickly met up with Brad, the other guy who does supply runs with him. Brad is a good guy who wouldn’t even hurt a fly. A goofy looking man with a tall and slender build, legs longer than his torso with a bad receding hairline making you think he is bald by looking at the front of him. He takes any shit given to him and always tries to look at the positives of a situation. How the man survived until now is a mystery to Justin. He also knows how to ride a motorcycle, which comes in handy for longer distance supply runs and – for this situation. Justin convinced him that they need to hurry and follow the drifter because he overheard him talking about an abandoned camp with loads of supplies. Brad went along with Justin’s plan in hoping to gain some extra credits and trailed the drifter out of the gate. They followed him all the way until they started seeing the sigils of the Rippers, then pulled the bike over.

“Ok, that’s far enough man. I’m not going into Ripper territory,” said Brad.

“Let me just get off here then,” said Justin.

“Are you crazy? Those supplies aren’t worth it. Let’s just get back to camp,” suggests Brad.

“I can’t go back. I can’t stand it there. I’m not being a slave for that woman anymore. Leave me here, I’ll be ok. I’ve survived out in this before,” said Justin.

Brad didn’t take no for an answer and shut off his bike. He unmounted and approached Justin to talk some sense with him. Gently, he nudged Justin toward the bike to insist that they start moving before Freakers come around.

“I said no! I’m not like you people. I’m looking for more and staying at the camp isn’t it. This is how I want to live, so please let me decide my own fate,” Justin pleads.

“This is a suicide mission, you know that right?” says Brad.

Both men pause, look down at the broken road, look toward Ripper territory then back at each other. Justin’s mind is already made up with one foot pointed in the direction of the sigils. Brad can tell in his eyes how determined he is to move on and try whatever he is going to try. In Brad’s heart, he can’t seem to justify leaving this man to venture into Ripper territory alone. If he died, it would haunt his conscious for the rest of his days.

“No man, I can’t let you do this. I’m sorry but if you die, which you most likely will that is on my hands. Now, I need you to get back on the bike,” begs Brad.

Freakers begin to roam toward their direction from the top of the tree covered hill. Their voices carried through the desolate air now capturing the Freaker’s attention. Justin and Brad look up to see about ten alerted Freakers running wildly down the hill letting out their haunting screeches. Out of instinct, Brad lunges toward Justin and grabs him by the arm to try and pull him toward the bike.

“We need to move, now!” yells Brad.

“No!” screams Justin.

Brad doesn’t let up on the grip he has on his friend’s arm. The Freakers get closer to them, chopping at the bit on their next prey. Their hands spread wide with pointed black fingernails reaching toward the men. The smell starts to become intoxicating with the combination of rot, blood and shit. Eyes bloodshot and bulging from their skulls seem to be staring into the men’s souls. The pattern of their feet sounds unorthodox with a fast and rapid pace as they come stumbling down the hill. Justin looks at the Freakers, then looks down at Brad’s hand grasping his arm. He realizes this man won’t leave him alone and if he doesn’t go with him they both will die. In a spark of rage, Justin grabs his hatchet from his belt and swiftly chops down on Brad’s arm slicing it in half. The hand loosens its grip and slides down Justin’s arm and plops on the ground. Blood sprays from the decapitated limb directly onto Justin’s face. Brad screams out in terrible pain and drops to the ground in shock looking at the other half of his arm on the ground. Justin stands still for a moment, looking down at all the blood. The noises of the Freakers and Brad’s screams are completely blocked out as he stands there shuddering. This was the first human being he has ever killed. He dropped the hatchet that was dangling from his shaking hand. His vision was fuzzy with adrenaline and remorse. Out of survival instinct, he jumps out of the way from the impending Freakers. They go straight toward Brad and begin devouring the man’s body. Justin peeks back and realizes that Brad is a distraction for him to get away seeing the group of Freakers piling around his now dead body. Justin looks forward and shambles through a new world of meticulously placed jagged wooden sticks, bonfires and banners of Ripper propaganda.

****

“Welcome friend,” a deep voice rings out from behind him.

He gradually turns his head and shields the sun with his hand trying to look up at the man walking behind him. The leader crouches down in front of him to meet him eye to eye, like a catcher waiting to receive a pitch. With the bloody machete still in hand, he scans the man’s body and points the tip of the blade at each cut relishing in his work.

“Do you know who I am?” The leader hisses out like a snake.

“Of course, you’re Carlos. I’ve heard many stories of you,” mutters the wounded man.

“And what is your name?” Carlos asks.

“My name? I – I don’t have one,” the man stutters.

“Good. I can see you understand. I have a place for you here, and I am pleased that you chose to come to me. I will show you the Path,” says Carlos.

Carlos stands up and turns with his back facing the man revealing a large burn scar covering his whole back. He raises his arms and looks out toward the other Rippers as a preacher would at the altar in front of his congregation. The Rest in Peace cult give him their full attention. The wounded man finally musters up enough strength to stand on his own two feet to give Carlos the respect as the others do. He stands mere feet away from their leader with a slight hunch in his back due to his injuries. Carlos expresses such gravitas, that it captivates the man the instant he starts speaking.

“My followers! You have given up your names. You have given up your memories. You have all felt pain and life has brought you Low in the previous world. You were Lost, but now you have joined me, each one of you. We walk the Unnamed Path and we do not fear. One Mind brings us together and One Mind keeps us safe. We protect the Free from the Lost, to protect the world. Today, another one is Found and joins us as we prepare for the Rising. It is coming my friends, and our work is not done yet.”

After the speech, the Rippers scatter and the man who once had a name is no more. He stands still looking over his body, each cut he can still feel from the night before. Blood covers his face as the day he chose to go on this path. He looks up at that R.I.P banner flying in the wind and feels proud. He continues this life not as a beaten down camper, not as a lost foster boy or a drunk homeless man. But a man who embraces this world, protects this world and lives free as One Mind.

He can now, Rest in Peace.

Twas the Night Before Christmas: Days Gone Edition

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Lost Lake

not a Freaker was stirring, not even a crier.

The bounties were hung by the merchant with care,

in hopes that Deacon St. John soon would be there.

The campers were nestled all snug in their beds,

while visions of hordes danced in their heads.

And Rikki in her ‘kerchief, and Addy in her cap,

had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out at the gate there arose such a clatter,

Iron Mike sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

gave the lustre of another time to the bikes below,

when, what to his wondering eyes should appear,

but a drifter bike with lots of gear.

With a bounty hunter, so desperate and foregone,

he knew in a moment it must be St. John.

More rapid than eagles, his enemies they came,

and he shot and shouted and threw molotovs with aim:

“Now Runners! Now Rager!

Now, Rippers and Screamers!

On, Breaker! On, Reacher!

On, Newts and Swarmers!

To the top of the mine!

To the top of the distractor!

Now kill ‘em! Kill ‘em!

Kill ‘em all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild Oregon weather fly,

when he meets with an obstacle, mount to the broken road nearby

so up and around the beaten path he flew,

with the bike full of ears, and St. John too.

And then, in a twinkling, Iron Mike heard

The rumbling and roaring of the engine that could.

As Iron Mike drew his head and was turning around,

through the gate St. John came with a bound.

He was dressed as a drifter, from his head to his foot,

and his clothes were all tarnished with muck and soot.

A bundle of guns he had flung on his back,

and he looked like a villain just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they scolded! His chin, how manly!

His cheeks cut-up, his nose seemed untouched!

His upper lip was covered with hair,

and the beard on his chin was as black as the smoked air.

The handle of his bootknife he held tight in his hand,

and the smell on the blade encircled his head.

He had a defined face and a little bandana,

that waved when he ran, like the fields of a savanna.

He was skinny and fit, a right badass drifter,

and Iron Mike laughed when he saw him, in spite of the bitter.

A heroic deed and a plea for help

soon gave Iron Mike to know he had nothing to dread.

He spoke not word, but went straight to his work,

and filled all his ammo, then turned with a jerk.

And flipping his finger to the side of Skizzo,

and giving a nod, he decided to go.

He sprang to his bike, to Boozer gave a whistle,

and away he sped like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Days Gone Edition

You better watch out, you better not run

Better not shoot, Im telling you why:

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.

He’s fueling his bike and revving it twice

Gonna find who he needs to take out

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.

He sees you when you’re hidin’

He knows what camp you’re at

He knows if you’ve stole or killed

So be good for goodness sake

Oh! You better watch out, you better not run

Better not shoot, I’m telling you why:

Deacon St. John is comin’ for you.


Happy Holidays from The Broken Road!

Talking with Paul Deakin the Audio Director of Days Gone

The audio design in Days Gone is one of several reasons why it has been vastly praised by players in 2019. From the authentic sounds of the motorcycle, to the horrifying sounds of Freakers, and the sounds that make up the Pacific Northwest through dynamic weather and wildlife, every component plays off each other to create an immersive experience. Audio is just as important as any other element in the development process of a game. It helps tell the story, while enhancing the gameplay and pairing the music, dialogue and sound perfectly together. The attention to detail from Bend Studio both visually and by sound, created an impressive display of an open-world game.

That’s why I wanted to talk with the Audio Director from Bend Studio, Paul Deakin. Paul shed some light on his role in Days Gone and his responsibility as an Audio Director. He reveals the process of creating the different sounds of the Freakers, including the humming of the Screamer and the ferocious vocalization of the Rager bear. Along with sharing his insight about the ambient wildlife system, the small details heard from the motorcycle and more fascinating tidbits.


The Broken Road: Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions Paul. I’m glad to have you on The Broken Road.

Paul Deakin: Hi Kevin, thank you for inviting me to chat about Days Gone and audio! It’s an honor to be able to spend some time chatting with you. 

The pleasure is all mine. Let’s begin, shall we? First, can you tell us what the Audio Director is responsible for at Bend Studio? What is your day to day tasks during development?

If it’s okay with you, I’d like to firstly answer the question “What is audio responsible for?” because I see that as something much more important than one person’s role. I see the role of audio in a game as a crucial part of the overall experience; but also something with very much the same goals and purpose as every other discipline: to tell an intriguing and exciting story.  More than anything else, we’re storytellers, and it is always my belief that we should keep that at the forefront of our mind throughout the entire development process, and for every decision we make.  More specifically, audio should support and help drive the emotion and tensions of the narrative and gameplay, and complement the art style. It should enhance immersion, be dynamic (constantly adapting to player actions) and have a signature tone that befits the world we’re creating. Part of my job is to ensure the three pillars of audio (sound, music and dialogue) gel together nicely and ‘belong’ to the world that we’re creating. 

I think the responsibilities of an Audio Director vary from studio to studio, depending on the team size and structure. At Bend Studio, my role as Audio Director is to work with each of the three audio teams: Dialogue, Music and Sound Design, and provide direction to help bring the game to life through sound. Having said that, I like to be as hands-on as possible and work alongside our amazing audio folk. I love being involved in the creative and technical processes just as much as being responsible for shaping and defining the overall tone. For example, in Days Gone, I designed our ambient wildlife system (The Deaco-system™ ☺) and took it from raw recordings to scripting, and through final implementation and tuning. The implementation and scripting of game audio, is just as much fun (for me) as designing, say, Rager Bear vocalizations (those were a lot of fun, too! ☺). I really love every minute of my ‘job’ and look forward to what we strive to accomplish on a day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year basis!

How did it feel to be nominated for Best Audio for the Golden Joystick Awards this year? Congratulations to you and everyone at Bend Studio!

Thank you! It’s exciting and such an honor to be a Golden Joystick Awards finalist! We’re a relatively small development team and so there were plenty of long days during the last 6 months or so of production. Seeing audio receiving a mention (on social media, by folk like your good self – thank you for your thoughtful and kind words on Twitter!) and nominated for awards is very gratifying. It’s great to see all the hard work pay off.

*Days Gone did win PlayStation Game of the Year and Best Storytelling for the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards.*

Hearing the Freakshow track come out of your speakers immediately gets your adrenaline pumping because you know a horde is nearby. How closely did you work with composer Nathan Whitehead to queue the tracks from the score to specific gameplay points?

Nathan did a superb job composing the score for Days Gone and it really resonated with fans. He worked closely with our music team in San Diego and Santa Monica to hit all the right notes (pun intended) for the numerous emotional beats and gameplay loops. There’s also a lot of work that continues after the music is written and recorded, in order to make the interactivity of it play nicely with systems and the general unpredictability of an open world game. In Days Gone, this involved other teams (our audio programmer, music editors and designers worked to ensure scripts behaved correctly and the multiple layers of music triggered appropriately to enhance tension and relief at the right moments). As you pointed out, the Freakshow track was particularly effective in creating that sense of anxiety for the player, indicating nearby Freakers or hordes. There are several layers/intensity levels to all the music in Days Gone which are activated and deactivated by game data. In the horde example you mention: values such as number of Freakers in the vicinity, distance between the Freakers and the player, Freakers’ awareness-level of the player which all contribute to creating that contextual tension and anxiety. 

The screeches and screams you hear from the Freakers are haunting. What was the process in creating their distinctive sound?

There were two main goals with Freaker vocals. Firstly, since the fiction states that Freakers are humans infected by a virus, we did not want to over-process the vocalizations and make them sound like ‘creatures’ or ‘monsters’. They are, after all, still humans (albeit infected, feral, and animal-like in behavior). The second goal was to ensure the player would be able to identify the different types of Freakers from the unique sounds they make. For example, a screamer obviously screams, but when she’s not screaming, she needed another distinct sound that would not sound too much like a female swarmer, so as not to confuse the player. One day, while I was thinking about the fiction of the screamer and her role in the story, it came to me that, since she’s a loner who just kind of wanders around (pretty aimlessly), she might hum to herself (like a crazy old lady – is it okay to say that?) – almost as a way to show that the real human inside her still exists and the ‘Freaker’ is fighting to get out (or maybe the other way round? Yeah, that. ☺). The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. But then I realized that a hum alone wasn’t enough. We needed something more; and something in the hum that would sound ‘off’ to give her a special kind of creepy feel. So, after recording the hums, I dipped the edited sounds in a bit of ‘special sauce’ and scripted her vocals in such a way that every few lines of her peaceful (yet ‘off ‘sounding) humming would be interrupted by a sudden vocal ‘tick’ – again, trying to illustrate that there’s an internal fight going on between human and Freaker. Of course, whenever she spots the player, full Freaker instincts take over, and she screams her signature scream to call in a small group of swarmers. The screamer sound design really ended up resonating with players and some did not discover the humming until late-game since you have to be pretty close to her to hear it. If you listen to all the other Freaker types in the game, they all have unique sounds that, once the player has encountered them, are easy to identify. Personally, I love the newts and they were a lot of fun to record in the studio! ☺

At what point did you realize to incorporate the NERO recordings through the controller speaker? Was that always part of the plan to utilize that feature?

Ha! Great question! Simple answer: the moment I saw that there were going to be 51 of them! I really felt they needed that typical Dictaphone/digital recorder vibe. Sure, we could have done that with filters and let them play out of the regular speaker, but I thought this was a nice opportunity to use the controller speaker and separate the recordings from the rest of the game mix. Some players loved it, some didn’t. It’s hard to please everyone ☺

Days Gone is layered in detail. You mentioned to me before about the motorcycle engine pinging as it cools down. Are you a rider yourself to incorporate this type of detail? How much talk was there surrounding the team about making everything with the bike perfect?

I’m a rider of mountain bikes ☺ I haven’t yet taken my motorcycle course (I scheduled it this summer but had to cancel due to other commitments). With regards conversations about the detail that went into designing the sounds of the bikes in Days Gone, there were many, and they continued even right through to the final few weeks of production and into DLC (since we had a number of bike challenges). The engine sounds were recorded first (many years ago, in fact!) and then we set about a plan for the other elements (suspension sounds, damage, road surfaces, rocks being kicked up by dirt, skids, burnouts etc.), making sure we were using game data to drive how the bike sounds respond to player input, terrain, engine load, weather etc. There’s also a ‘wet’ version of most terrain types (e.g. dirt becomes mud, asphalt gathers puddles of water). Knowing that the players would spend a lot of time with/on their bike, our goal was to make sure there was enough variety in the sounds, including some subtle details such as the pinging sound of the engine cooling down after Deacon dismounts. I wouldn’t say it was ‘perfect’ (but thanks for saying that!) but we were happy with the final result. In addition to the different engines, some of the upgradeable parts (exhausts, for example) also had a subtle effect on the overall sound of each bike. I always wanted to add a horn for the player to attract the attention of nearby hordes to lead them into enemy camps, but I think we ran out of buttons on the controller (or at least, that’s what Design told me ☺).

The dynamic weather is something I always marvel at when playing. Not only with the appearance and how it affects gameplay, but certain sounds that play off it. For example, the sound of the motorcycle wheels kicking up mud after it rains. How do these types of sounds get captured and inserted into gameplay?

I asked one of our awesome sound designers (Christian) in San Diego to answer this question. He was responsible for a lot of the bike detail, including the sounds of the tires on some of the various terrain types. Here’s Christian’s answer:

“Using a large bin of mud, and my hands, I performed a variety of behaviors with the mud that I imagine a bike tire would encounter, from slow to fast rolling sounds, to burning out and having sloppy globs of mud getting kicked up. Later that day I noticed that my wedding ring was missing and realized that there was only one place it could be. Thankfully, after spending a relatively short time scooping, and splodging some more, there it was… in the middle of the mud! In the end we were left with a small library of sounds that I used to script different behaviors with our in-house authoring tool. Some sounds would crossfade based on speed, while the rate of other sounds playing would change based on the rate of tire spin or speed of the bike, for instance”.  

What sounds implemented in the game proved to be the most difficult for you to get right?

Haha! I’m not sure how to answer this question because there were a number of “most difficult” sounds to try to get right ☺. Finding the Rager bear voice was a long process and took a number of iterations before we landed on what I really thought sounded ferocious and infected enough to belong to and live in the Days Gone world. The challenge was two-fold: create an infected sounding bear that wouldn’t sound too much like a ‘regular’ bear, but also make sure it does not sound like a ‘monster’ from a fantasy setting. Initially, I began working on some concept vocalizations using bear growls, roars, pants (and so on) as a foundation, and layering in other animals and processing them, in order to differentiate it from a ‘regular’ bear. This never really worked for me because I could still hear too much ‘bear’ in there. Plus, it was challenging to find other animal vocalizations that blended nicely together, without the result sounding like precisely that – a bunch of other animals! No matter how I processed them, I could still hear what ‘went into the sausage’.  

So, back at the drawing board, I started to re-think the approach. I was looking through some folders of “creature sounds” we’d received, performed by various voice actors and, although most of them were men-with-deep-voices-trying-to-imitate-large-scary-animals, I thought it might be a good place to start, provided we could find the right voice. I requested some audition material and received a few back but one really stood out among the others. A great VO artist (Harry Schultz) has an amazing TV/trailer voice (think “in a world…” style); a really clear, deep, bassy tone which I thought might sound perfect! So, I took some of his samples he’d sent and began working with them as a foundation for our Rager. As I processed the sounds he provided with some other animal sounds we had, everything started to come together really nicely. I felt like we had something unique, while still sounding somewhat bear-like: a pissed off, infected, ferocious bear (now and forever affectionately referred to as ‘RFB’). It still took a lot of iteration and careful massaging, but it was such a relief to finally have the beginnings of a unique and fearsome Rager bear. We played a sample of the resulting sounds to folk here and everyone loved it. We hired Harry and went into the studio – Harry was an absolute pleasure to work with and (I’m pretty sure) much easier to direct in the studio than a grizzly!

Are there any other small audio details that you are proud of that may not have been noticed by most players?

Hmmm, that’s a hard question because I don’t really know what players have and haven’t noticed. Off the top of my head, here are some: there’s a very light “sizzle/hiss” layer on some of the larger fires – that is triggered when it rains – to give the effect of the rain extinguishing parts of the fire. The challenge with this was that the hiss scales with rain intensity and with heavier rain comes stronger winds… which means they’re both louder. Since our hiss, rain and wind all sit close to one another on the audio spectrum, it can be hard to hear the hiss. But it’s there! Then there’s the trees which sway and creak slightly in stronger winds, sound of leaves as they blow along the ground, rain on cars as you walk by, over 50 types of surfaces for footsteps, bullet impacts, body falls etc. (many with unique ‘wet’ versions), water dripping off rooftops after rain has stopped, insects that stop chirping if the player gets too close or shoots a weapon, dogs that bark when Freakers screech in the distance, encampment ‘activity’ and walla (my favorites are the yawning and snoring from the tent city areas at night), an eerie drone when the player is near an infestation, rain on Deacon’s leather jacket (best heard when you aim your weapon since the camera is closer). I’m pretty proud of the ambient wildlife system for a few reasons: there are no animal or insect sounds in the game that are not found in the PNW – I carefully researched this and made sure they truly live in the area! There are some very rare animals that are specific to only some areas of the game, and even then, are quite elusive (i.e. may not be heard for hours). Players may not ever hear some of the wildlife in Days Gone. Ambient wildlife is very dynamic and varied, and several parameters affect their behavior. The crickets you hear in Iron Butte are different to the crickets you hear in Belknap. Frogs tend to be heard only in heavy rains and/or near large bodies of water. Those are just a few of the ‘details’ I can think of… there are many more! Can you find them? ☺

Paul Deakin working in his sound room. (1)
(2)
Harry Schultz recording voice for the Rager Bear.
Recording a real bear for the Days Gone regular bear.

Thank you once again to Bend Studio and Paul Deakin for joining me on The Broken Road! You can catch all the latest news about Days Gone from Bend Studio on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

A Beginner’s Guide

With the holiday season coming up, Days Gone will be under a lot of people’s Christmas trees. I figured this would be a good time to write “a beginner’s guide” to Days Gone for new players jumping in for the very first time. Don’t worry, this will be spoiler free! My goal is to inform you of the type of experience you can expect such as playtime, content and other general questions. After completing multiple playthroughs myself and trying different ways to play each time, I wanted to give some advice on how to survive the world of Days Gone with some things I learned along the way.

First things first, let’s get the logistics out of the way. How many hours can you expect to put into Days Gone? If you like to push through the story only, you can expect to finish around 30-35 hours. If you are a completionist looking to get the Platinum trophy, you can bump up that number to about 60 hours or so. This includes completing the multiple storylines implemented in Days Gone, along with finding collectibles scattered in the open-world. Bend Studio, the developer behind Days Gone provided a lot of free content post-launch to give you even more playtime than the 60 hours mentioned above. The new content includes:

  • New Game Plus with three more levels of difficulties; Survival I, Survival II and Hard II.
  • 12 challenge modes to test your skills by fighting unlimited hordes, completing objectives, racing your bike through timed trials and more.

With the new content above, Bend Studio also added more PlayStation trophies to earn through the challenges and new game plus mode. If you really want to invest your time in this world like me, you can be playing well over 100+ hours.

Here is a quick rundown of some other general questions players usually have before purchasing a game:

  • Is there Photo Mode?
    • Yes! One of the best Photo Modes to date too!
  • Is there customization?
    • You can customize your bike with multiple skins featuring God of War, Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn and a lot more. Plus, you can change the colors and accessories on your bike.
  • Is there multiplayer?
    • No.
  • Is it open-world?
    • Yes!
  • Can you fast travel?
    • Yes, you can. EXCEPT, in Survival I and Survival II difficulty modes.
  • Is it a PlayStation exclusive?
    • Yes, it is.

*Days Gone is the winner of the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards for Best Storytelling and PlayStation Game of the Year.*


The world of Days Gone is unforgiving, and any advantages you can get can be beneficial to your survival. There are four important elements in helping you survive the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest; bike upgrades, weapons, skills and boosts. I want to give you some advice on what to focus on and how it can help you gain an advantage early on. Plus, another little tidbit I wish I knew before playing the first time!

First, there is a story point very early on where you will have to choose between camps. (I won’t provide the context to keep safe of all spoilers). It will boil down to what you want upgraded with the in-game currency (credits). One camp supplies guns (Tucker), and the other camp supplies bike upgrades (Copeland). My suggestion here is to choose Copeland because your bike is crucial to everything you do in Days Gone. From your fuel tank, to durability, exhaust noise and speed it will make a world a difference when focusing your credits toward upgrades on your bike. Not to mention, you will receive enough credits at Tucker’s camp quickly to upgrade your guns anyway. Choosing Copeland gives you the most bang for your buck! As you progress through the story, you will be able to purchase more upgrades to your bike and gain better weapons.

In the beginning, your weapons will be weak. One weapon you can get early on that you will continue to use throughout the whole game is a sidearm called the SMP9. You can gain this weapon by defeating any four hordes. In my opinion, it’s the best sidearm weapon in the game and provides a great counterpart to your primary, especially during horde situations. The best weapons in the game are found later and will require credits and trust (you can gain ‘trust’ by completing side-missions in that specific region). More specifically, you won’t be able to reach the best primary guns in the game until after the midway point when you reach a place called Wizard Island. Once you are there, you can focus on purchasing the Chicago Chopper.

Skills and boosts are the two things that improve your character of Deacon St. John. I won’t touch on the skills part because that will vary depending on how you want to play. I do however want to touch on the boosts. You will receive these boosts when you come across NERO locations. Finding an injector will provide you with a permanent boost of health, stamina or focus depending on what you choose. There are 30 injectors in total, making 10 injectors the max for each category. My suggestion is to concentrate on stamina first. Stamina plays a huge role in Days Gone, mainly when tackling hordes. Focus is another boost that will be very important in helping you mow down a sea of Freakers. For example, for your first five NERO injectors you find, I would break it down as 3 stamina, 1 focus and 1 health.

Scavenging for supplies is all part of surviving. You will always need ammo, medkits and fuel to move onto the next mission. Early in the game you will find yourself running out of these supplies a lot. Running out of fuel means walking your bike, or exploring the Freaker infested land by foot. Upgrades will help with managing fuel and your inventory as you progress through the story. Before that, you will need to manage your inventory well to stay alive. A few tips to finding these supplies should make your life a lot easier. Ammo can be found in police cars. Medkits are found in ambulances. Fuel can be found on tow trucks, and believe it or not gas stations. You can go right up to the fuel pump for some self-service!

The last thing I wanted to mention is that there are two points in the game where you will advance the story and you won’t be able to go back (it will let you know when). Don’t worry, this is temporary and once the story is complete you will be able to free roam the entire map! Oh, and here’s that tidbit I mentioned earlier: Try to gain level 3 trust at Copeland’s camp and Tucker’s camp before the endgame mission called, “You Can’t Do This Alone.”

Hopefully, this has provided you with a good idea on what to expect with Days Gone and how to begin your own journey on the broken road.

Scoring Days Gone with Composer Nathan Whitehead

Music plays an essential role in any video game. The greatest games include a unique soundtrack that is woven perfectly together by the story, characters, gameplay and environment. The music is what pulls the emotions out of your favorite characters and into your hearts. When you hear certain tracks outside of the game, it immediately pulls you back into that world and the memories that go with it. The music forms a bond with the player that leaves an everlasting mark and will determine how the player connects to the game. The score to Days Gone provides just that with its gritty, emotional and organic sound as you ride through the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest.

The composer behind the remarkable soundtrack of Days Gone is Nathan Whitehead. Nathan is a composer for film, television and video games. He is best known for composing the scores for the film franchise, The Purge. Nathan is also credited for composing Keanu, Beyond Skyline and Stephanie, along with being an arranger and producer on other titles. I was fortunate enough to ask Nathan a few of my burning questions about scoring Days Gone. He generously shared plenty of insight into his development of certain themes, what attracted him to the story, his creative thought process and connecting his music to the environment.


The Broken Road: Being the primary composer for the first time on a video game, especially a game as big as Days Gone, what were your expectations going into this new project?

Nathan Whitehead: To a large degree, I didn’t know what to expect. I expected it to be a lot of music, games are known for that. And I expected to be on the project for a long time. Both of those turned out to be true!

When the story of Days Gone was pitched to you, what was the first thing that immediately grabbed your attention and got you excited to work on it?

I was immediately grabbed by these universal and existential themes woven into the story, themes about hope and loss and humanity. The story explores Deacon’s motivations and encourages us to look inward and think about some big questions. What is our purpose? How do we move forward in the face of regrets or fears? And especially, why do we want to move forward? What’s the point? I thought this was a surprising and wonderful aspect to Days Gone. The game could’ve simply been blasting Freakers and riding your motorcycle and that would’ve been a fun game, but I felt these deeper layers of the story could take the player to more interesting and surprising places. This got me incredibly excited to be a part of the project.

The music feels so raw and emotional throughout the game. The grounded reality of a post-apocalyptic world weaved with hope and horror. How difficult was it to create this balance?

I love that the score is coming across that way! This is more of what I was so excited about in the previous question and it was absolutely the hardest aspect of the score to get right. It was such an exciting opportunity as a composer to explore ways to combine these worlds of hope and horror, as you so nicely put it. I had a lot of conversations with my producers at Sony and also with John Garvin (Creative Director at Bend Studio) fine tuning these aspects of the music. It was an iterative process as the score progressed and it was always a fine line between being too emotional and providing the appropriate support or contrast to what’s going on in the story at that moment. 

The environment plays such a critical role in Days Gone. What was your main goal in capturing the essence of the Pacific Northwest?

The environment is a huge part of the Days Gone experience and I think my main goal was for the music to feel like it belonged in that environment, that it was believable for this music and this place to exist together. I realize that’s a completely subjective statement but it’s a feel I was going for. I think the environment was one of several elements in the game that called for some rough edges and grit in the music. I wanted there to be textural similarities between the deserts, forests, and mountains and the score. I also felt that the overwhelming beauty that we see all around us allowed the score to often be understated and that really worked in our favor. We don’t need a giant fanfare when we watch the sun setting behind a snowy mountain. That visual is already so big that keeping the score smaller might make the moment even more impactful. Some of my favorite moments in the game are when you take off on your bike and you’re hit with a stunning view as you head over a pass or around a turn. These are often small moments musically, maybe just a little ambient guitar sneaking in, but my hope is that the combination of the awe-inspiring setting with understated music can make these moments special and push the overall tone of the game to have this quiet, meditative layer. I think nature has the power to evoke those qualities and I wanted the music to help those qualities speak.

Two tracks immediately come to mind when I think about your score, Days Gone and Freakshow. These two tracks were the core of the game, ranging from the main menu to fighting the forty hordes spread across the map. Can you tell us more on how those original ideas formed, and how you expanded on them?

These were the first two tracks I wrote for the game. I didn’t start out thinking these are the two primary themes of the game, I just wanted to write a track that connected to Deacon and a track that sounded like the Freakers to me. I think that was a helpful mind game to play on myself as I got started. Thinking of these from the beginning as the two central pillars of the score would’ve been overwhelming! My goal in writing Days Gone was to try and evoke a sense of Deacon’s resolve and hope but with threads of melancholy throughout. I tried to put myself in Deacon’s shoes, being separated from Sarah, not knowing whether she’s alive or dead, yet driven to keep searching and to remain hopeful. This theme was also the first time I started thinking about how the music would relate to the Pacific Northwest setting. Writing Days Gone went a long way toward establishing the palette that I would use for the entire score and, perhaps most importantly, it introduced our main melody that would appear over and over again in various forms and on various instruments throughout the game.

As for Freakshow, I knew the music needed to encapsulate the main antagonist in the game which is the global Freaker infection. The big challenge with Freakshow was that it needed to work in so many different scenarios. The music needed to scale along with the ever-present Freaker threat–sometimes as a low, throbbing sense of dread and then ratcheting up to horde-level mayhem. These aspects of the track came together fairly quickly. As the game progressed, however, I was constantly bouncing ideas off of my producers at Sony and we realized that Freakshow needed yet another dimension to speak to the tragedy of this massive human loss. The Freakers may be these soul-less feral beasts now, but each one is a person we lost to this pandemic. This ultimately led to incorporating the Freaker melody into the throbbing dread and horde onslaught elements. And it turns out this melody was hiding in the track all along. I recorded a lot of sounds and then distorted or manipulated them to create the Freakshow palette. One of these was a gnarly sound where I bowed a cymbal and ran it through some meaty distortion. This distorted, metal-ripping sound had a small melodic arc to it. One of my producers pointed this out and asked what if that was expanded upon? I slowed the sound way down and picked out this seven-note melody hiding in there. That became the foundation for the Freaker melody. I incorporated this melody on strings and piano and instantly Freakshow felt like it could navigate the tragic nature of the Freaker infection as well the dread-filled, pulse-pounding terror of the Freakers.

There are so many distinctive tracks in this score, so I wanted to dive into a few of them a little more. Sarah’s Theme is so beautiful, fulfilling and optimistic. What was your thought process when developing this track?

I think optimistic is a great word to use for Sarah’s Theme and it was something I thought a lot about when I was writing this track. I thought of Sarah’s Theme as a reminder for Deacon of the connection he has with Sarah and of what’s important in life. I wanted this track to say there is a reason to be hopeful even when surrounded by massive loss. Optimism is a powerful part of that and, I think, is ultimately the way our hopes and dreams become reality. I wanted some of that unbridled hopefulness and optimism to come across. I also thought about how our memories stay with us and can become sources of strength and purpose, but they can also manifest in negative ways rekindling old fears and regrets. With Sarah’s Theme, I thought about the magical early days of a relationship, how those memories can stay with you forever. I strove to infuse some of that electricity into the music and make it this bright contrast to the Freaker-infested world around us.

The Rager Bear has a heavy muscular tone to it with a great deal of tension. As you were creating this theme, did you look at gameplay of the Rager bear to realize what you wanted to accomplish, or was it mainly concept art and story that drove your creative process?

This is another example of the amazing creativity coming out of Bend Studio. When I first saw the Rager Bear I thought it was so perfectly terrifying and appropriate for the world of Days Gone. Bend sent me both concept art and some game capture as visual references, but story was always a critical component at every step as well. I think being mindful of how every element fits into the story is a key contributor to Days Gone’s overall emotional impact and that was something John Garvin really reinforced. I wanted the music for the Rager Bear to feel as threatening, massive, and raw as the Rager looked. I wanted it to have these jagged, serrated edges but also feel lumbering and have serious weight. For me, the Rager was the moment where the threat level in the world of the game took a massive leap beyond what I had imagined–if there are infected bears, what else would we encounter?

Every time I listen to Finding NERO, my mind goes back to each encounter I had with them in the game. The way I would sneak around in the bushes to avoid each soldier, while listening for any clues to unravel the mystery. How did you capture that sense of mystery in the melody?

I think one thing that helped with the sense of mystery was that Finding NERO is so unlike any other music in the game. In general, we felt the overall Days Gone sound should not be too rooted in sci-fi and it should be more organic and rough-hewn. But NERO was an exception and I wanted the music to have a precise, high-tech feel that stood out in contrast to the rest of the score. As for the melody itself, I never know where melodies come from! I knew that the tune should be simple, and, for some reason, those four notes seemed to suggest to me that something was going on beneath the surface.

In I Remember, you feel that connection to Deacon’s sadness, especially within the first minute of the track. Then the song begins to elevate filling you with the joy of the happier moments he had. What kind of discussions did you have with Creative Director John Garvin about these moments of the story between Deacon and Sarah?

I think most of my conversations with John were about Deacon and Sarah. We talked about them being, on the surface, a bit of an unlikely pair–the brilliant scientist and the crude biker. But through this contrast we learn that Deacon and Sarah are more than caricatures from these extremely different worlds. These moments show us more nuance and all these little details of their relationship. We start to see this special chemistry between them. I think John’s writing shines in these moments and the amazing performances from Sam Witwer and Courtnee Draper completely elevate these scenes. We also discussed the unexpected, complex turns that pop up between Deacon and Sarah. (Spoiler Alert!) Deacon finally finds Sarah alive and the encounter is not at all what he expected it to be and not what players will expect. I loved the complexity here. It felt believable and was some tricky territory musically. John and I had a lot of conversations about what was going on at this huge moment in the game and how to approach it musically. These were some of the most difficult but satisfying moments to score.

If you had to pick one, what was your absolute favorite track to work on for this score?

It is extremely hard to pick a favorite! If I have to name a single track, it’s Days Gone, the main theme of the game. I remember writing this track and being completely electrified by this story and this amazing setting. I was feeling so fortunate but also completely daunted to write music for this world and I think that is really the sweet spot for a composer.


Go Behind the Music with Nathan Whitehead in the video below:

You can listen to the official Days Gone soundtrack by Nathan Whitehead on Spotify and other music streaming services.

Order the Days Gone soundtrack on vinyl now at mondotees.com.


I would like to extend my gratitude to Nathan Whitehead for taking the time to come onto The Broken Road to answer my questions. Thank you!

Virtual Photography Theme #3

We’re back with a new theme for the month of November! This time the theme was decided by YOU, via the poll from Twitter. The results are shown below. Thank you to all who voted!

The winner is… Deacon St. John! Share your best photos of our favorite drifter and bounty hunter. As long as Deacon St. John is the focus of the photo, you have free range to come up with whatever you like. Want something silly? Go ahead! How about the popular portrait shots? Yes please! Maybe you want Deacon in action battling against a horde, or cruising his bike through the wilderness of Oregon? Let’s see it all!

I wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who participated in last month’s Freakshow theme. There were a lot of entries and I’m glad you took the time to share them! Also, this will be the last theme held in 2019 as we will be taking the month of December off. Due to the holidays and everyone’s busy schedule for this time of year, we will resume with our fourth theme in January 2020.

Information:

  • Theme: DEACON
  • Tag your posts using #VPDaysGone. You can also tag me to make sure I see it!
  • 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 Saturday, November 30th at 11:59pm EST
  • Hosted by me: @vikingdad278

LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ON THE BROKEN ROAD!

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